The Best and the Worst Parts.
After being on the boat for nearly three months now, I can definitely say there are some really great things about this lifestyle... and there are some real bummer things about this lifestyle, too.
I can't state enough that uprooting your entire life and routine isn't easy, that we really aren't on a year long holiday and there are days that I want to transport (Star Trek-style) me and my family back home to "normal". Then there are other days when I can't imagine going back to "normal" life - what is "normal" anyways? No one really knows, and those who think they know, are liars!
Here are some of my best and worst parts of living a nomadic life on a sailboat with wee kiddos in one of the most beautiful and sweaty parts of the world.
- Our home is mobile: the BEST part about this is that traveling to new and different places is a breeze (especially nice with a downwind breeze). No need to pack too seriously, we can just go. So easy, so lovely. The downside of this is, obviously, our home is mobile: it floats, it bobs, it sways...it basically never STOPS moving. To fill it with fuel, we have to take our WHOLE HOME to the fuel dock to fill it up etc - Oh the joys of a sailboat.
- The weather: We are in the beautiful Caribbean. The poster you see when you walk by the travel agent's office, those white sandy beaches with the umbrellas and the beautiful couple in the white bikini and linen pants? Yeah, we've been there. We've practically been the poster (minus the white bikini - how on earth do you keep that clean?! Never sit on the sand, or in a dinghy or at the bar. White bikinis are overrated. So are white linen pants, or pants in general in the caribbean). The posters don't lie. Truly. It is a special paradise here. We've loved it. The parts the posters don't highlight are the parts when you're sweating through your second pair of underwear before lunch, or when you get drenched by a squall unexpectedly or the humidity that seems to bead off your skin constantly. We are pretty dang close to the equator, hence, nice and cosy with the sun, and friends: it's hot. And it's temperamental (emphasis on "mental") and it's so different than home.
- The people: The people we've met on our journey have been nothing short of INCREDIBLE. I don't make that up. As soon as you meet people who have chosen to be on a boat, they are almost immediately your best friends because you already think so many of the same things. People on boats aren't petty or self-involved or close-minded. They see the world as open and inviting and can't wait to see as much of it as they can. So when we roll up with two kiddos and wanting to chat, they open their arms and their hearts and we immediately bond. I feel like we've already met some lifetime friends on our journey, the kind you keep in touch with forever. We all "get" each other, no matter what our journey looks like. It fills my heart to the brim. The downside of this is that, eventually, you have to say goodbye. That is maybe the worst. I hate goodbyes. I don't always cry when I actually say it, but it comes out sooner or later. And I weep like a baby, or my mother on my wedding day. It's bad. I've said to Matt, after saying goodbye to some really awesome cruising family "that's it - no more friends! I can't keep having my heart broken like this!". He understands, but he looks at me as if to say "if we're not here to meet incredible people along the way, why are we here?". Community makes life better, I know this. But every time I have to say goodbye, I hate it.
- The foods: I really struggled with what to eat when we first arrived in the BVIs. For one, none of us were very hungry (due to heat mostly) and then we had to track down stores, which was a real treat, and then cooking it on the boat (don't forget hauling it back to the boat, via dinghy). It felt like too much effort. So we ate out a lot, or ate a lot of sandwiches. I sorta hated it, though I'm sure we all lost of bit of weight those first weeks we were here, because we honestly ate about 2.5 meals a day: breakfast, lunch and then Happy Hour, which was normally just chips and drinks before we all gave up and went to bed. The food out this way is often very expensive, poorly kept and strange. After three months of being away from home, we have found a balance or some easy foods that we can often find just about anywhere (eggs, oats, bread, chips). Now that we are in St.Martin, the euro-feel of things is awesome, in that there is lots of good food all over the place and it's easy to eat well and cheaply (and often!). It hasn't always been nice or easy, but we're getting better at it.
- The normalcy of daily life: getting rid of a schedule or expectations has been a funny transition. There has been days when I am staring at Matt at 10AM in the morning, neither of us doing much of anything and thinking "this is ok, right?". It's a funny feeling to shake off the need to go-go-go. It is not in our culture to take a break and relax and have no expectations for the day. Piper, every night when I tuck her in, she'll ask "what do you think we'll do tomorrow?". Most nights at home I could list 2-3 things that HAD to happen the next day that we were expected to do. Most nights on the boat I can usually honestly say "you know, what, I have no idea what will happen tomorrow". It's a great thing, and a slightly strange thing. I like to know what is coming up, as I don't always like surprises, but letting each day form as it is coming towards us is ok, too.
- Family time: Oh, there has been so much family time. It was actually one of my biggest fears thinking about aaaaall that time we were all gonna spend together. Day. And night, and over and over. I was most worried about seeing Matt around every day. Does anyone else have those weird Sunday grumpy days when you are SO ready to see your spouse go back to work on Monday? I felt like we always did. I wanted my rhythm back in the house. So I was slightly worried that Matt wouldn't magically disappear for eight hours Monday to Friday. But I can honestly say (and there is no sugar coating this!) that this has been the best thing for our family and our marriage. There has really only been a handful of times that I really want Matt to get out of my hair, and I can usually tell him that. In fact, I have a couple of times, in which he promptly jumps off the back of the boat and goes for a swim. Conflict resolution: complete! He gets some exercise and I get some quiet time. We all win in the end. The kids have seen us parents deal with issues and they can encourage us and help us laugh it off: "Mom, can you stop being so dramatic?" says one cheeky kid, and you can't help but laugh and forget about whatever the issue was. I sometimes miss my autonomy of running errands solo and doing an entire day on my own with the kids, but as our routine ebbs and flows (and as I get more confidant with the dinghy!), we'll see what comes! I feel best when we're all on the boat, together. It isn't perfect, but it is the area I dreaded most and it's been the easiest.
This has been a huge change in our life, but there have been no regrets. We have moments where we miss our family and our friends and I so badly want to be back where they are, but life keeps happening, no matter what. We have all said we want to go back home, but none of us has bought a plane ticket yet. We are not sure what our actual course will look like, but we certainly feel that this is a journey we are meant to be on.