What is this all about?
This dream came to be a long time ago. We took a trip to the Caribbean in January 2011, and very soon realized that this sailing lifestyle was something that called to us both. We came home, with a meagre tan, and started making a plan. We figured we could make a seven year plan to get our butts back to the Caribbean for a lifestyle change. Meaning, a big change, not just another holiday. We wanted more!
We also came home with a little stowaway, in my womb. Digory was born in October of that same year, but our plans didn't change. We knew at that point, we weren't ready. As much as we loved to adventure with our little family, neither of us were interested in sailing with a wee babe. Our kids are excellent little travellers, but it wasn't our season to go anywhere.
We also felt like it was our duty as humans to see our own backyard and try some adventures that were a little more in reach. We wanted to try some long road trips with the kids and see how we all manage.
First was Southern California, where Matt has a (very cool) cousin to visit. Our kids, 4 and 1.5 at the time managed to travel 7000kms and still love each other at the end of it.
Ok. So we could travel with young kids for great distances. But we wanted more.
I don't know if it's our Canadian nature, but we felt like we couldn't justify wanting to be world travellers without first seeing our own beautiful country. So in 2014, we took off with the kiddos in our tiny little Yaris hatchback and drove 14,000kms across Canada and dipped in and out of the United States.
We. Loved. It. All.
It was starting to feel like all of these trial runs on family travel were working out. So we needed to attempt the last dry run (pardon the pun): a family sailing holiday all on our own.
The first time we went, in 2011, Piper was just barely two years old, but we had four other adults on the same boat to be eyes and ears. We'd grown as a family (hey Digory!) and we wanted to see if we could still manage this dream we'd had for so long.
So we booked a trip on a charter boat company out of Tortola and started saving our pennies (or toonies, since Canada did away with their penny, but you get the idea).
So in January of 2016, we took off the the Caribbean for a trial run of life on sailboat with just our little family.
Granted that two weeks on a boat isn't the same as living aboard full-time, it still gave us a general idea of what life could be like. We knew we had to try it, that it would seem foolhardy if we didn't have any idea of what it could be like. There is no perfect trial run, but we had to give it a shot. With our Canadian dollar at the lowest it's been in a decade, we took off all the same.
We learnt a lot on this trip:
- Matt and I make a really good team. Matt was seriously concerned I would be constantly seasick, a drama case, or just a plain old idiot. I am happy to report he was entirely wrong. We were both able to communicate effectively and keep our cool. We could share the load, get the job done and still have a great time.
- We need a boat that is bigger than 32'. Though it was fine for a holiday, we really need more space for living aboard. And it needs to be heavier to reduce sway, and have larger fuel and water tanks.
- We need to take care of ourselves a little better for long term boat living. We had sorta settled into camping mode of "I don't really care if I'm dirty, I'm in the sun on a gorgeous beach!", but in hindsight, we should have opted for showers and laundry and forked over the dollars to make it a priority.
Once we were home, we were pretty much hungover from stimuli overload. It took us over a week to even properly talk about our trip. It was almost as though coming home was such sweet relief from the long travel days that we figured we were never ever going to leave our home again. If home felt this good, my bed this soft, my routine this predictable, why would I ever want to throw it all in the blender?
We made a decision: "three more years, and then we'll go".
But that hung over us like a depressing blanket, almost suffocating us. In the back of my mind, I was terrified that three years would pass and we'd say "let's just wait one more year", and then "just wait until next fall", "just one more month or two". We'd never end up leaving.
We were held back by money. It costs a lot to fly, buy a boat and live without an income for a year. Yes, we'd been saving, but it felt like we would never have enough. But just like deciding to get pregnant, there is never a perfect time. We'd be waiting forever if we were waiting for the perfect time.
This dream of ours was starting to hold us back from life: some friendships felt half-hearted because they knew we could be leaving in a few years, opportunities at work were passed over Matt because he wasn't worth training if he wasn't there for the long haul, and we were just plain antsy.
On an evening in June, we printed out a calendar for the next year and started looking at what times of year are better for sailing through or when to see certain creatures in certain countries. We were drawing it out, little notes here and there and Matt was updating our little spreadsheet of savings (our only Type A trait). Turned out, we could leave in the fall with good timing for adventuring to the places we wanted to go. And the more Matt played with the numbers, the more we could save quickly.
And who cares anyway, if we don't have a huge savings account? You spend what you have. You use what you've got and you make it work. We've done it before and we could do it again.
We're choosing to just go for it. We can always make more money, but right now, we're interested in making memories.