On Getting Out of the Rat Race

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.


adjective \sə-ˈba-ti-kəl\

1 : of or relating to a sabbatical year
2: of or relating to the sabbath <sabbatical laws>

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…



8 thoughts on “On Getting Out of the Rat Race

  1. Paul Slaughter

    GOOD JOB Mary & Shane, I am sure it takes a LOT of courage to step out like you have and no doubt a lot of criticism and skepticism from your friends, family and co-workers. Most of them probably think you are really crazy and more than a little foolish. I applaud you heartily for being willing, and it seems desirous, of simplifying your life and breaking some of the chains that can so easily entangle us in this American consumerism culture. It is so easy to compare our selves with those around us, so I have faith it will be very refreshing to be around others with whom to compare yourselves. I am confident your kids will look back on this as being a great blessing in thier lives. Congratualtions on being willing to make a break like this, I am sure it is kind of scarry at times. Keep faith.

  2. Martin Levins

    Great to see your adventure unravelling. Had a similar experience recently with reduction of possessions – very liberating.

    Will follow with interest!

    1. marylarson Post author

      Thanks so much for your positive words, Martin! Happy to have you along!

  3. Masha Petrenko

    I am so impressed with you, Mary and Shane. I didn’t have a chance to talk to you when you stayed with us in Seward, (and I wish I did), but I am with you in spirit now. What a great adventure and experience. You are investing in making memories. After all, that is the only thing that matters. Good luck with your adventure, and safe travels.
    If you get too much of sea change at once and feel like you need to talk things through with someone other than your partner, this is what I do professionally (listen). It can be done via skype. (marusechka8888)
    Here is my website for more info: ImagesandMeaning.com
    In any case, I would be happy to meet you when you come back, (if you do). Mary, I have your book on Meditation, and the brown bag. I will keep them safe here, just in case.
    Have a wonderful trip! And maybe you can write all of your impressions here, or even publish them some day (that might finance a trip back) :)
    Looking forward to reading your stories.

    1. marylarson Post author

      Hi Masha -
      Thanks so much for visiting our blog, and for your kind comments. I’m glad you did, because now I have a chance to tell you that we really enjoyed your place in Seward. I found it very peaceful and serene. It was a wonderful space for us in our last days in Minneapolis. I wish I would have gotten to meet you in person. You seem like a really cool lady. Thank you also for your professional information. Who knows, maybe one day I just might take you up on it.
      Thanks again!
      Crew of s/v Sea Change II

    2. marylarson Post author

      Hi Masha-
      That meditation book actually belongs to a friend of mine. I am wondering if I could give her your phone number, so she could arrange to pick it up from you. Would that be okay? If so, could you please send me your #, I’m not sure if we still have it. Thanks so much for letting me know where it is. I had thought Shane had accidentally donated it to Savers!
      Thanks again,

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