In the beginning of our cruise, we were overwhelmed with the positives. The weight of the world had slid from our shoulders and every day we would marvel at our good luck. All of the usual stresses that the average American relates to were suddenly gone. Patrick and Jack saw the biggest changes. Jack was no longer moved to tears almost five days a week by the frustration a dyslexic faces at school. For Patrick the change was remarkable - suddenly no Blackberry glued to his hand morning and night, seven days a week filled with work calls. Today's technology means you are ALWAYS at work. The biggest change for me was losing the hassle of Jack's school and all the hours it took getting him there on time, dressed, with homework in hand and a lunch. (If you have a kid who hates the school experience, you know what I mean!) Let alone all the time spent on extra school activities like sports groups, field trips, helping in the classroom, and fund raisers. Suddenly all those hundreds of hours were free since the demands of homeschooling were negligible in return.
Other things that caused stress that I hadn't even noticed were gone, too. Suddenly I didn't have a huge house to clean, maintain and improve - no huge kitchen with tons of appliances to keep clean, no huge closets waiting for "fashionable" clothes, no daily pile of laundry since we all changed clothes several times every day, no house-cleaner to hire, no enormous fridge and freezer to be filled with food from Costco trips, no servicing the car, no shopping for stuff to fill all that space. Let me repeat that - NO SHOPPING for clothes, furniture, linens, towels, home theatres, decorating doo-dads, the latest "must-have" item, electronics, toys for the Jack, computers - you name it. We didn't need it anymore, didn't want it, and didn't have room for it anyway.
No TV sucking up dozens of hours of "down time", no newspapers, and very infrequent internet made a big change, too. Suddenly, without all that awful "news" of break-ins, violence, murder and rape constantly bombarding us, we lost that underlying sense of fear and distrust that haunts so many people. And more importantly, without all that non-stop marketing ramming down our throats, two big changes happened. First, since we were no longer stressed out and unhappy, we didn't need to buy ourselves some new advertised "treat" because we "deserved it". Second, we didn't need to impress anyone, any more. Sadly, I didn't even realize that we had gotten into the trap of competing with the Jones's. We had to leave the trap, to see we were in it. We were giddy like school girls.
Suddenly our life was filled with something we had kept at bay - nature. The American life does a lot to keep nature from interfering with our lives - air conditioning, lights, heat, snug homes and buildings, and cars all insulate us. You rarely have to even get wet if it's raining. Living on the boat, we became attuned to nature and it was a gift. We rose with the sun, and went to bed with it, too. If it was cold we put on clothes, if it was hot we went swimming. If it rained we got wet. We paid attention to the wind patterns and clouds, analyzed wave/swell directions, and knew the changes of the moon and the tides. We floated on a tiny oasis in the middle of the vast sea and we marveled at the life around us. We caught our own food, went on long hikes, snorkeled for hours every day, slept outside under the stars. We lived in nature, hour after hour, year after year. It is an amazing experience to be so connected.
I don't think we can ever be the same, and we are grateful for it. Our cruise solidified our family into a very tight knit unit. It gave our son a wonderful education in the world, opportunites for great responsibility and the idea that dreams are goals that can be achieved with work. It taught all of us that "things" aren't important. We learned how to repurpose, recycle, make-do or go without on a whole new level. Jack was allowed to grow up and become his own person without the pressures of a relentless peer group forcing him to "fit in". For Patrick and I, it gave us time to discover ourselves, and strengthen our marriage. Every minute of every day we worked side by side on our common goals whether it was anchoring, sailing, provisioning, repairing items, trouble shooting, cooking, or parenting. It was a very fun marriage-encounter weekend that lasted four years. Patrick is my best friend, and this experience cemented the bond, permanently. Another amazing lesson we've learned is to just let things happen and stop worrying about future events. Never having a schedule and being ruled by weather and breakdowns has completely taken away the feeling that we have control over our lives. We don't - so stop worrying and planning. (This lesson would be impossible to live in society, but is still a valuable thing I will try to remember.)
So what could possibly be the down-side of cruising? The negative of cruising is that it is a very indulgent lifestyle. It's self-absorbed and based on pleasure. Get up when you want. Go where you want. See who you want. Move over there. Move over here. Have a potluck. Meet some people, make some friends. Go sightseeing. Have cocktails. Swimming? Read a book? Fishing? Hiking? Whatever feels good, dear. You rarely have appointments to keep, or obligations to fulfill. It's very social, very fun, and with few worries other than keeping your boat working, your crew fed, and the homeschooling accomplished. It's bliss.
What's the negative, you ask again? Honestly, it can be kind of boring. Oh, you're busy all day long out cruising. Your day is filled to the brim with mundane tasks, homeschooling and pleasure. It's just not very challenging mentally, anymore. After several years of this life, we've figured out most of the conundrums and challenges and the newness of life on a boat has worn off. It's boring because it's so perfect, so free of stress, so effortless. It's the boredom of ennui - a feeling of listlessness and general dissatisfaction resulting from lack of activity or excitement. It's a feeling that only a very privileged person (read spoiled) could feel. We still enjoy finding new anchorages, meeting new people, seeing new sights, but.... (I cringe to say it), "The thrill is gone, for now."
Even if we had won the Lotto and money was no object, our time cruising would be ending for now. I think the biggest challenge we'll face as we move back onto land will be to keep what we've learned about living a simple, non-materialistic life, and take it back into America with us. We'll feel bombarded and overwhelmed at first, of that I am sure. However, I have a feeling we won't be feeling bored for quite some time.
And after we've lived on land, restocked our money pile, gotten Jack started on his own road, then.....you better believe we'll be back out cruising again. We love boating, we love the water, we love cruising. Where? Who knows. Mexico is always going to be a love of ours, but we'd love to cruise in the Inland Passage of Alaska/Canada, or maybe the Mediterranean, too. It's all good and it's a big ocean.
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