Thursday, May 26, 2011

What If...
By Michael

What if the cruising life doesn't suit our family?
Windy aboard the first Del Viento, arriving Acapulco, 1997
With a For Sale sign in front of the house and having given notice at work, I am sharing our cruising plans with strangers, acquaintances, or friends for the first time, more than ever before. At least half of these folks respond with some variation of, "You're so brave." I always dismiss the comment, usually offering that we've done this before, so we know what we're getting into, et cetera. And I think this is true, for the most part.

But in many very significant ways, this radical lifestyle change we've put into motion is completely new and foreign to us. We were unmarried, childless twenty-somethings the last time we did this. How relevant can that experience be? We are pretty far removed from the couple who sailed the first Del Viento.
I don't think we are brave as much as we are willfully ignorant, willing to accept the unknown. There are a hundred valid concerns that could be used as arguments for not up-ending our stable, middle-aged lives. They all stem from questions like the following.

  • Will we spend a lot more than we anticipate, running out of savings?
  • Will I really be able to earn enough writing to make a difference?
  • Will we be forced to return to "land life" for financial reasons, deeply regretting the financial toll this whole radical "experiment" will have taken?
  • Will our old boat require more money to maintain than we are budgeting?
  • Will health care be as inexpensive as we have budgeted?
  • Will living together in tight quarters adversely affect our relationship with each other and with our kids?
  • Will the girls lack or miss the strong social connections they have today?
  • Will the girls really get an education sufficient to give them the choices and opportunities we want for them later on?
  • Will the girls fail to appreciate the lifestyle we anticipate and pine for the DC life they remember?
  • Will our families not visit as often as we anticipate and connections weaken?
  • Have we forgotten or underestimated the hardships associated with the cruising life and instead allowed the years to exaggerate the highlights?
  • Will it get "old" quickly?
  • Will we feel the urge to constantly move on to the next port, missing the opportunity to make the kinds of friendships that would enrich the journey?

Del Viento departing Cabo San Lucas anchorage, 1997
Of course, as I wrote each of these questions, I affirmed my own feeling that none of the negative things they allude to are likely to come to pass. Windy surely feels the same. But I acknowledge that none of these questions can be answered now, not a single one. Some we will not be able to answer until we have been out there for a good while. And this is okay, with us.

But why is it okay?

I don't know. I think part of it is who we are, together and individually. I think a bigger part of it is that we feel we've mitigated our risks so that they are not as large as they may otherwise seem. We certainly have a better sense of the cruising reality than the average couple or family heading out for the first time. We have read enough about the successful experiences of the other families out there now, and who have been out there before, that our unanswered questions surrounding the girls do not keep us up at night. And finally, we are confident that we've saved enough in our retirement accounts that after 20 more years of growth we will be in good shape. This is a big factor and means that we have only to provide for ourselves and the girls for the next 20 years, day by day, without regard for the longer term.

Some folks don't call us brave. They instead offer encouragment, usually along the lines of, "Do it while you're young," or, "You only live once," or, "You're so lucky." I agree wholeheartedly with these sentiments, but they leave me feeling like I have to counter the reckless connotation of these phrases. I didn't have a bad day at work and decide to chuck it all. We are not impulsive in that way. Our decision to do this, while reliant on our willful ignorance and nurtured by the, "you only live once" sentiment, was deliberate and is coming to pass only after years of careful planning and focused saving.

So if the cruising life doesn't suit our family, all of our family, despite our massive bet that it will, we may return to the types of lives we left, or try something altogether different. You do only live once.


  1. This is not something that you are doing on an impulse. You have thought about it and planned for it. You are experienced sailors. You will not know whether you've made the right choice for your family until you do it but I am willing to bet that everything will work out just fine. We took our young family on a two year odyssey around the US in a land yacht (RV!) and despite the fact that we were 'going against the grain' of what our friends with their young families were doing, we did it anyway and had the BEST time. I am so glad we did it. Our adventures are still a main source of laughs, memories and tall tales and I would have to say that the adventure is one of the things about which I have the least regret. We were all 'out of the house and living life' and it was highly enjoyable. You are all going to have a fantastic experience I'm sure! We talked about sailing around the world and maybe we still will .... until then, I'm living vicariously through you guys LOL

  2. If you ask those questions again in 3 mo, 6 mo, 12 mo, then you have a chance to renew your committment to the new way OR make some change. Especially because you must choose for your children also, not just yourselves.
    It is when we feel stuck in our situation that misery accrues.

  3. There will be, without a doubt, challenging days. But there is also one guarantee: You will NEVER regret it. Onward!
    -Barb (s/v Whatcha Gonna Do)
    P.S. We try to catch up on your blog whenever we can - short period of internet now but will be without for the next few weeks. Good luck with everything!


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