One of the biggest misconceptions of cruising is that you have to be rich to realize the dream. It’s just not true. Sure, it can be very expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. There are cheap ways to go as well, but most importantly: anybody can do it. It has far more to do with making a choice to be different, to sticking with it while lining up your life to make it happen.
In early January, the question, or assumption, of personal wealth was posed to me four times in the space of a week. That’s enough of a personal zeitgeist that some rumination was in order, and the result became our article for the February issue of 48 North (available at chandleries and boaty places around Puget Sound, or online the 1st of the month).
Most people are too polite to ask. The people I wished would ask usually didn’t. I’m afraid a lot of them are making incorrect assumptions. We have no trust funds fueling our journey. We planned, anticipated, and made choices that weren’t always easy. Some bets paid off (thank you, turn of the century real estate market). Others didn’t (same to you, Wall Street and currently screwed up economy). We often lived differently from others around us. One modest car, no annual ski trips, no seasonally refreshed wardrobes- unless thrift stores count. Out here, we have some very big fixed costs that we can’t do much about, but our daily living needs are minimal. Groceries cost a fraction of what they did at home, and we have beautiful fresh fruit and vegetables readily available. But those fixed costs? Mortgage, insurance, that kind of thing? That’s just us. They’re not part and parcel of a cruising plan or budget. We spend a small fraction on daily living, even compared to what felt like a reasonably conservative lifestyle before cruising.
Still, we didn’t talk outside a circle of very good friends and family about our cruising plans until they were very close to becoming reality. As a life choice, it’s a little too different for some people to grok- especially when we share our goal to make it a way of life as long as we can, and not a short sabbatical. My absolute favorite contrary reaction was from the parent of one of our children’s schoolmates. In telling her that we wouldn’t be around much soon, her face opened into one of surprise, shock, and ultimately dismay. “But what about the WASL?” she cried (non Washington residents: this is the state-mandated standardized learning test issued at regular intervals to those unfortunate to be in a school requiring compliance. It’s a total waste of time). Well, gosh, maybe we should forgo the opportunity for our children to learn through travel and unique experiences, and stay here so they can prep in a Quonset hut for a meaningless test. Um, no.
But I’m getting off track. This was about money.
Culturally, in the US, we define ourselves by our possessions. Sad, but come on…how many people can honestly say they have not fallen into this trap? The obsession we have with material things limits us in realizing our full potential. Anyone following me on Facebook knows I have gone through some gyrations recently, debating the purchase of a Kindle eReader. It’s over. A lovely piece of unnecessary accoutrement, it would cost us most of a month’s worth of groceries- our highest variable cost of cruising. That’s not worth it! I’d rather stay out here one more month, even if I have to read a few crappy pulp mysteries from the book exchanges instead of more rewarding or current content. Jamie will just have to deal with the port list we have from the weight on our bookshelves…let’s face it, I probably wasn’t going to shed any of those books anyway.
I don’t want to be defined by what we have. I want to be defined by our courage to take the less traveled road, and live every day to the absolute fullest as a family.