We moved aboard this week. I’d be lying if I said it was entirely a happy event. In fact, there was hardly any joy in it at all. Unless you just hate your life ashore, getting unplugged can be excruciatingly painful. Some of the discomfort was familiar—we have done this before—but some of it was new.
This particular cruise has had a gestation period of four years, so we should have had ample time to prepare for the transition. That is not how it turned out. For those of you with a cruise in your future, perhaps our experience will be instructive.
Let’s start with real estate. As a general rule, selling a home to go cruising is a bad idea until you have some cruising experience. Most cruises have a life span all their own, and sometimes it is a lot shorter than anticipated. If the reality of cruising falls short of the dream for you, there will be fewer recriminations if you can pick up your shore life more or less where you left off. There is plenty of time to "sell out" after you have some miles under the keel and you have determined that the cruising life is all you imagined and more.
The previous paragraph is offered as a caveat because we had decided to sell our home, a home we had been extraordinarily happy in for 13 years. Our rationalization for the sale was that dealing with the inevitable stresses of landlordism from 2,000 miles away would dilute the cruising experience. The real reason was that this particular home had become a mooring, discouraging plans to live in other places and have new experiences. It is a difficult decision to give up contentment for uncertainty, but if you don’t, your life will never be as full as it might have been. Mark Twain said it best:
"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do."
So we sat around one day a year or so back and decided to "move on." It wasn’t an easy decision, but once we had made it, we thought it was mostly behind us. No such luck. When the day came to actually put our home on the market, we had paralyzing misgivings; do we really want to give this place up? We tried to find reassurance in the promise of unlimited possibilities the sale would enable.
|"Most of us can find ways to get more money, but none of us can get more time. To go cruising is to choose time over money. "|
To add to the turmoil, new realities in America, unimagined back when we made the decision to sell, were making real estate an increasingly attractive investment. This increased the sale price, but the flip side was the knowledge that if this boom continues, we will have forfeited a significant increase in net worth.
How will this turn out? Who knows. I believe strongly that money is unlimited but time is not. By this I mean that most of us can find ways to get more money, but none of us can get more time. To go cruising is to choose time over money.
One manifestation of this reality is giving up a job. If it is a job you hate or one you are, at best, ambivalent about, this can be an attraction of cruising. On previous cruises, Olga and I were sad to leave friends at work behind, but felt little remorse about giving up the daily grind. This time is different. Life goes on while you prepare to go cruising, and in Olga’s case, her professional life had been improving daily until it had reached a state she characterized as "perfect." She had a job she loved, in a terrific organization, working with people who had become family. Now she was faced with giving all of that up because of a decision made four years earlier under entirely different circumstances. Her last two weeks were a continuing series of goodbye luncheons and bon-voyage parties, punctuated by endless e-mails from well-wishers, and a lot of spontaneous tears. (My friends clearly don’t love me as much as Olga’s love her). The sense of loss Olga was feeling left no room for anything else, and her sadness filled me with self doubt.
It is worth noting that while her friends were genuinely saddened by her departure, they all, without exception, reacted positively to her reason for leaving. Sailing "away" is a nearly universal fantasy, and even those with no interest in water could identify with the idea of trying to live life on your own terms, even if just for a while. If we had a bigger boat, we could have easily signed on a full crew.
In the end, we essentially fell back on Thoreau to get through both Olga’s resignation and the sale of our home:
"We must walk consciously only part way toward our goal, and then we leap in the dark to our success."
There were lesser traumas to deal with as well. When you are planning your cruise, you are focused on how various decisions affect you. Not until your departure approaches do you really become aware of their effect on others. You leave a hole in the lives of close family and friends. They are often hurt by what you are doing. There is no solution to this, other than not going, but you can lessen your inevitable sense of guilt by preparing your loved ones well in advance. You can also take advantage of today’s buffet of communication options to fill that hole by staying in touch.
In those last hectic weeks, you are faced with what to do with your "stuff." Maybe you know someone with an empty attic. We rented storage. Wherever your belongings end up, just piling them in will be a mistake. If your cruise lasts, there will be stored items you will want to retrieve. We have learned the hard way to log every item as it goes into a numbered box, then we go one step farther by mapping the storage room. When we want to retrieve the coffee mill, we know it is in box 122, and we know exactly where that box is located in the storage room. How this contributed to the stress of moving aboard is that we failed to allow sufficient hours for this more time-consuming packing process, so the last week we were packing until the wee hours every night, struggling against a closing date to get finished. Even if you’re excited about your impending departure, lack of sleep can leave you feeling overwhelmed.
I cannot end this list of cautions without mentioning health care. If you have subsidized health insurance through an employer, it is easy to shrug off astronomical health care costs as "reality." But when you go cruising, you must look at this issue square on. It is unpopular at the moment to disparage the US, but the reality is that only fat contributions to lawmakers—on both sides of the aisle—keep many common health system practices from being illegal. Nothing keeps them from being immoral. Many cruisers, particularly voyagers, eventually choose to forego health insurance, but this is not a decision you should make hastily or without all the facts. Meanwhile, expect health insurance premiums to consume a significant percentage of your budget. Getting the numbers early prevents last-minute surprises, but it doesn’t avoid the outrage.
The good news is that a month or two down the road, nearly all of these matters are almost certain to fade into the past. During the transition, however, their accumulated effects are easily sufficient to discourage anyone not fully committed to cruising, and the reality of most cruising couples is that only one partner has this level of commitment. To keep your cruise on track, you will need to give these issues attention on par with that given to the preparation of the boat.
One of Olga’s friends gave her as a parting gift a small pewter paperweight engraved with the continuation of the Mark Twain quote cited above.
"So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails.
Explore. Dream. Discover."
Good words to live by.
Developing a Pre-Cruising Agreement by Sue & Larry
From Landlubber to Cruiser by Randy Harman
The Third Essential by Don Casey
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