The decision to take a few steps back from our “career paths”, in order to pursue the sailing/cruising life, is something that a lot of people seem somewhat puzzled by. After all, we’ve “made it”. We are living the “American Dream”, right? Two professional jobs, income, house, two nice vehicles… Why would we abandon our upper-middle-class lifestyle to pinch pennies on a 34 foot boat?
In short, because we have become increasingly aware that we’re being run ragged by the “rat race” of it all. Once you have all this dreamy stuff, then you are shackled by the amount of work it takes to maintain it. As Shane likes to say, “possessions possess you”. Henry David Thoreau warned us that “most men go through life dragging their furniture behind them.” And so we have toiled.
What’s worse, after the cost of the childcare, transportation, parking, professional wardrobe, convenience foods, time-saving services and the rest of it, it does become questionable whether or not at least one of us is essentially working just to cover the cost of working. Combine the physical health consequences of our high-stress, sedentary jobs with the beer we drink to forget them and the junk food we eat in exhaustion - a recipe for declining health. We’ve come to the conclusion that the health risks of our current routines are truly more dangerous for our health than any of the adventures of our dreams. So, at least from now until Franklin’s start of kindergarten, it is time for a sabbatical.
In researching the concept of a sabbatical, I was interested to learn that the root word is actually “sabbath”. It makes sense when you think about it. Many of the spiritual traditions encourage periods of rest from work for spiritual growth and to re-focus one’s priorities.
And so it is intended that our sailing sabbatical of 2013-2014 will be a journey of the mind a spirit, as much as of the body. We will step back from the vicious cycle of work, consumerism, and more work. We won’t be able to buy much “stuff”, because it won’t fit on the boat. That will be good, because we also will be on a very limited budget. For me (Mary), even more so than for Shane, this exercise represents an important stage in personal/spiritual development. My self esteem has long been tied to my career and material success, and I no longer think this is healthy for me. In the process of getting ready to move onto the boat, I have given away or sold many of my “prized possessions”. Honestly, the sense of relief has been almost immediate, in each case. In about three weeks, my total possessions (aside from the actual boat and its equipment) will fit into two duffel bags. Okay, Okay I’ll admit it. I bought the largest two duffels I could find… but progress is still progress, right?
I know many of you will feel a bit skeptical, even cynical, about this “voluntary simplicity” stuff, without understanding how we plan to finance this journey. This is a valid question. A lot of sailors have written about how they do it, and there are people from a wide range of economic circumstances who find a way to make their sailing dream happen. I promise to write a post on money matters soon.
Until then, sometimes a picture speaks a thousand words…