Adventure of a Lifetime

On October 29, it will be two full years since we left "home" and started on our "adventure of a lifetime". 

It feels funny typing this somehow, because "home" has been entirely redesigned for us and "adventure of a lifetime" has also become our new normal. It's an amazing thing to have these experiences, and I know they seem wild and crazy to some, but for us, now, it is just our way. We already have three or four different ideas brewing for our next "adventure of a lifetime" - and obviously, how to pull them off.

As big a jump as it is to leave everything you know and step off into a "trip of a lifetime", I don't think it should be "THE trip of your lifetime". It's just one of many trips.

In these past two years, we've seen more places and done more things than I could have ever dreamed up in any of my crazy post-chocolate-for-dinner dreams. When people ask "what was your favourite part of your trip?", I literally scroll through a year of incredible memories and try to pick one distinct place that stands out above them all... it's not an easy task. As I reminisce about any of our adventures, I can fall in love with so many parts of our journey, all over again. It's hardly fair to pick a favourite! 

 

I was asked recently by Sunday Afternoon Hats Canada what my favourite place was, and in the spirit of keeping a questionnaire brief, I said "Scotland". I had the most heart-feels there, for some reason, the most warm-fuzzies (though, it was not so warm there, but there was lots of fuzzy things around!). It will always hold a special place in my heart, as the land of my ancestors, even though both sides of my family are pretty thoroughly Canadian by now that tracing back the history is getting harder and harder. 

 

I dare anyone to visit Scotland and not fall in love - with the scenery, the people, the highland cows :)

 

Even though our year of travel went so much differently than we ever planned, it was perfect in its messiness. We learned so much, packing up our life and stepping out the door into the unknown. It was the craziest thing we've ever done, and there were moments that I would rather forget - but they are outweighed by unforgettable friends and adventures that make it all worth it. 

 

Now we're settled into our new adventure, renovating a small house, top to bottom. We constantly have the ocean in view, our little dreams bubbling and growing as we stare off into the water and wonder where our next "trip of a lifetime" will take us.

For now, enjoy my favourite photos from my "favourite" country, Scotland. 

Our First Summer

We've been told by many, that it is the summer when Powell River truly shines - and this summer did not disappoint! Though I would say we've had a very chill summer at home, we have had some really lovely moments exploring our new town and getting used to daily life here. 

Honestly, we've spent this summer renovating the house (check our Instagram for way more details). We knew we would and that is what we've done. Matt has taken any spare moment to get things done on our little old house and things are slowly coming together (though we've had some dark moments when we were pretty sure we'd bitten off more than we could chew. Nah - we still feel that way. But the chewing is becoming bearable). 

After spending two months in the campground, living beside the house now, in our trailer, isn't so bad. We have full hook up and are really rather comfortable. We have a washing machine still plugged in inside the house but otherwise, we have everything we need in the trailer. The kids jump on the trampoline, we can garden and go for walks and manage little projects as they come. It could be so much worse. 

The weather has been mostly on our side. I  mean, the heat has been pretty rough, but it's better than constant rain, and that is what is coming for the fall, so we're happy to get done whatever we can while the sun is out.

I feel like I need to properly address the house reno and what Matt is pouring into it. Literal blood, sweat and tears - almost every day. I mean, I knew this guy was handy (one of the reasons I married him!), but he has completely out-done himself this time. He is a literal fount of knowledge in regards to all this reno stuff - and he's not a contractor. He's also not a hack, so if he isn't 100% sure, he asks a pro in the field until he gets the answer. And somehow he just knows the rest. It's mostly his dad we have to thank for that - he is the original source of his fount of knowledge. He was able to come up for a few days and install the new windows, and he'll come back soon to help with the exterior finishing. Matt can do a lot on his own, but he sure loves having help. His brother came for a weekend, and some friends who have visited have helped along the way, and also his sisters family were a huge help this last weekend, doing odd little jobs that would take us a whole weekend, but they could manage in a few hours. Wow. 

I can't tell you how many times I've wished there was such thing as a fairy-god-contractor, but friends and family who help you out is pretty dang close.

When we aren't pounding nails, we've been digging holes in the yard, or filling holes - classy work like that. We've planted a garden and some apple trees (which the deer find quite delicious) and learnt a lot about how things grow in this climate (hint: amazing).

Also, we've made it out to Mowat Bay a number of times, and lots of beaches in and out of town. We've shared many a drink with friends old and new and met nearly all of our neighbours. We went for a quick sail on a friends boat, we went to Logger Sports and watched the fireworks for Blackberry Fest (from our deck!). We picked blueberries and ate them all within a few days (not much freezer space in here!).

We're really getting a feel for this town and we're loving it so far. We're not going away any time soon. Sorry Powell River folks - you're stuck with us.

Some other big milestones in our family was two babies being born, which is quite the thing to celebrate. First was my brother and his wife had their second baby (a girl!) and five days later my sister and her husband had their first (a boy!). It was a busy few weeks, but so full of good news and happy babies and mamas. It takes holding a newborn again to appreciate how quickly your kids really do grow up. 


Matt and I also celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary. It involved us sneaking away for some happy hour drinks and a shared dinner of ribs. After 13 years, I've gotten over gift-giving from my hubby - quality time is all I want, and if it happens to come along with good food, even better! It was nice to recalibrate and remember why we are doing all of this, why we've done all of this - we love each other and want to keep building a life together. We like leaving room for adventure but also comfort and security and any bumps along the way. Man, this isn't easy (marriage, life, reno, moving etc), but we really do feel this has been SO worth it for us. We have no regrets. We can laugh about our mistakes and misadventures and we do our best to plan what we can, but in the end, we're always on the same team with the same goal. And that is a good feeling.



Small Town Life

The Best and the Worst of Moving to a New Town

I grew up in Prince George, what I was told was a "small northern town" in our province on British Columbia. It's population hovers around 80,000. It has a few malls, many parks, a ski hill, multiple bridges and stoplights. It has a Costco, people. PG isn't a small town, like I was told.

 

Nearly six months ago, we moved to Powell River, BC, on the Sunshine Coast. It's a really lovely little town of 13,000 people, while the district surrounding it (including Lund, Texada Island etc) brings it up for around 20,000. I know it's not the smallest town (or district), but much smaller than I am used to. There are five traffic lights in town. That's it. I love it for so many reasons, but for some reason, the fact that I can count it's city traffic lights on my one hand is extra special. 

 

It's the little things that count, right? And Powell River is a little place to be, but it packs a pretty awesome punch. So far, here are our favourite aspects of being here:

 

  • Driving time is low. All of our frequent stops are 2-4 minutes drives. We sometimes grumble when people say they are "south of town" because we have to drive for 12 whole minutes to get there. Crazy, right? Matt just texted me to meet him at the plumbing store, and I texted back "be there in 3 minutes". And I was there in 3 minutes. What. The. Heck. Not to mention, we rarely drive faster than 60km/h as well. Needless to say, in our little car, a tank of gas lasts us an entire month. Not bad.
  • The view: from nearly everywhere in town, the view is amazing. Our storage unit had an especially good view for a huge warehouse with peoples junk. The ocean is almost always in sight, and if it's not the ocean, its a craggy mountain, or a lake or a winding forest path with hundred year old trees that reach for the sky. There are times when we're driving to the store and I'm just shouting in the car "just look at that VIEW!". We've been told by people who have lived here for much longer that you never do get sick of it. Amazing. 
  • Community culture: no joke, there is something happening nearly every weekend. Big things, like world class musical festivals that call people from all over the planet, or logger sports, bike races, or a choir festival that knocks your socks off. The city rallies behind these big events, hanging posters in there shop windows and everyone seems to be a part of the fun. And there is often a free component to these big events held in the park for everyone to enjoy.
  • Parking is a thing of the past: I remember asking someone if you had to pay for parking at the hospital, and they giggled at me saying "you don't pay for parking anywhere". Wow. I think there is a lot of accessibility to places, so lots of folks walk (we try to, for every big gathering at the park) or cycle, but there is honestly decent parking in around where you need to be. The hustle and the bustle is somewhat non-existent. People don't feel rushed, they are just going about their day, it doesn't feel like a race.

Of course, there is always the other side. There is always a downside, and though I would say we are still somewhat in a honeymoon-phase of moving here, there have been some distinct cons of living in a smaller community. The biggest/most noticeable have been:

 

  • Rainy weather spots to play. It's glorious and sunny these days, but come the fall and winter, the kids don't have many options to play indoors other than at home and the library. I'm not sure what I am dreaming of, but something like a rock climbing wall, or an indoor gym area for kids to wiggle and get their sillies out during those rainy days. The mall really doesn't get many folks excited (side note: you don't move to Powell River for the shopping), and its a pretty quick walk.
  • Groceries: they seem more expensive and every so often a ferry gets delayed by weather and then that one store is entirely out of milk (or God forbid, my cream-o!). Again, it's rare, but its a possibility. Also, there aren't the big stores that have the super deals like Costco or Superstore, so you just get what you get from Save-on, Wal-Mart, Safeway, Quality Foods and some other smaller, locally owned grocers. I have no complaints on the quality of produce that comes in (we ate such terrible produce in the Caribbean, this all seems glorious over here!), but for the best deal sometimes you have to shop around, which I suppose, is sound logic no matter where you live.
  • Getting out of here: there is always a ferry if you want to leave with your car, though there are flight options now, though only to Vancouver. We personally don't get out of town much (who would want to leave?!), but it is one more thing to plan for. Even, as we dream of future trips, say, the price to fly out of the Vancouver airport might be cheap, but we have to account for extra time (off work?) to get there with the ferries or a fight. So that cheap flight out of YVR just got more expensive. But that is all part of being at the end of the highway. We can deal. We like the one ferry over to Comox, on Vancouver island. We can visit our family over there and stock up at Home Depot or Costco if we really need to. 
  • Theatre is cute but we get the leftover movies: once all of the world has watched the top movies of the year, they eventually get sent over our way and we sometimes get them in our one screen theatre. It's a magical little piece of history, but don't ever expect to see the new Avengers movie on opening weekend. It still hasn't come our way, but I am hoping I'll catch it when it does eventually get over here.

In reality, none of these things irk me enough to pack up and go. This is a really decent place to survive. I really thought I would be needing big things from places like Costco or even London Drugs, but you find that you just don't. All the things you think you needed, you just don't.

It's a nice feeling. Life is really simple here. Our stress level has been pretty low. Matt has had some steep learning curve days with his new job, but he's come out of it on top. We've met so many people who have done something similar to us, years ago, leaving the big city (or lots of people from all over the world: Holland, South Africa, Britain) for a quieter life close to nature. We aren't the only crazy ones! We all just congregate here.

 

I'm not going to lie, though. There are days when I really miss my people. Like, really miss them. I am slowly making friends here, I really am. But it's slow. And now it's summer and everyones schedule is off and different. And gosh, making friends takes work. My introverted self tells me they should be calling me, but I know deep down that making new friends just takes work. But I know it will come, but I miss all my family and my friends some days. So many of them are having babies this month and next and I just break up inside feeling really far away these days, missing these big life moments. I know my people don't hold it against me, for leaving permanently, but I still sometimes feel a little miserable for disappearing. 

In short, it's not all roses and rainbows, but it's still pretty awesome. We wouldn't trade this life for anything, truly. I know as the years go by, we will fit in more and more and this will feel more like our home and all the nervous feelings of "fitting in" will fall away. 

There are so many reasons to look at moving to a smaller town. We aren't the first to have done it, and we won't be the last.

 

Have you ever considered seeking out a small town to live in? Would you ever? These adjustment periods are a little tough, but I feel very confident that the best is on it's way.

Starting Over

A New Town, a New Life.

A quick recap if you haven't been following along on Facebook or Instagram:

  • Matt got a great job in Powell River with Tempco, an HVAC (heating and cooling) company here in town, where his past experience is value added, but he also learns an entirely new trade!
  • We decided to move, and packed up our things, bought and moved into a 5th wheel trailer and took off to the Sunshine coast!
  • We arrived on Valentine's Day, dropped the 5th wheel in the beach campground and began our new life in Powell River!

Looking back, I realize that the last time I really moved away (like away away), was when I was 18, and was leaving home to work as a nanny in Florida. For Matt, besides our travelling year, he has never properly moved away (#surreyboyforever). Moving is a big deal for us. I know lots of people move every couple of years and have become really good at it, but it's not our favourite thing to do. Not to say we haven't moved at all: we've moved plenty in our time together, and then finally, packing up our entire life to travel for a year was our biggest move yet. 

But moving away feels different. 

 

Now that we are here, in Powell River, some people have asked "so, do you have family in town? Do you know anyone?" and we reply with somewhat glazed expressions, "umm, no. Not at all". It's a strange place to be. 

Honestly, it is easier since we've been travelling. We're used to not knowing anyone, or anything about a place, and just exploring at our own pace. This certainly would have been more difficult had we just left Surrey and plopped right into a new town. Travelling the world really has helped us be an adaptable family.

So here we are! All the way moved to a new city, Powell River, up on the sunshine coast of BC. It's a small little place, with about 20,000 people in the district (including Lund, Texada etc), but only 13,000 in Powell River city itself. It's just the right size. They have enough of everything to meet all your needs, but not really anything in excess. 

Basically, you don't come to Powell River for the shopping ;) You come for the views, the outdoor activities and the pace of life.  Those are all reasons we chose to come here. 

When friends from home ask how we are doing, I can honestly reply that we are doing well! Life is really simple here, and it's amazing. The biggest thing we noticed right away was the little amount of time we spend in the car. Everything is so close, we are rarely in the car for longer than 10 minutes. The poor car barely has a chance to warm up! We've filled up once since being here, and still, we are only down 2 bars of fuel on the gauge. It'll probably last another 3 weeks. Crazy.

We've signed the kids up for gymnastics, and they love it. We love it because it's 5 minutes away and it's half the price of the same thing back home. There is a group for everything and the community is out there helping each other every day. We put out an "add" on a local Facebook group, saying we are looking for housing, and not only did lots of friendly faces send us welcoming greetings, but a few recognized us on the street and helped us out. 

I know there will at some point be a drawback of living in a small town, but right now, it's all positive for us! This feels like how living in community should be. Life doesn't need to be so serious and complicated and dictated by copious amounts of commuting and scheduling. Right now, our life is pretty uncomplicated, and we like it that way.

 

So, to answer your top questions:

  • how are you settling in?: Very well, thank you. We are finding the grocery stores, the library, the recycle depot and the biking trails. None of it is very far, and everyone always has a recommendation for us :)
  • how does Matt like his new job?: So far, so good! He has a great team to work with, all with great attitudes and a good work ethic. His work load changes every day, so there is lots of variety, which he enjoys. He sees lots of good things to come in the future.
  • what about the kids?: They are doing pretty good. Sometimes, they are a little sad to have left their friends and family, but there are kids out here all the time and they make friends fast. They have found a few buddies and have had some play dates. It'll take time, but they are starting to see all the resources for kids in this town (bike park, music groups, kids play areas in restaurants). People like kids in Powell River. It's refreshing.
  • how is house hunting going?: really well actually! The real estate market is pretty bleak right now, but we've been asking around if anyone would sell privately and that got us into 5 different homes that we would have never seen otherwise. One, at the moment, is showing a lot pf promise. I don't want to share too much, just in case it doesn't pan out. The market here has changed rather quickly and is mirroring the lower mainland market, with the speed at which homes sell (luckily not the prices, but they are creeping up fast!), so we have to be aggressive - not really our  nature, but this mama doesn't want to live in a 5th wheel forever!
  • when can we visit?: soon, friends! It is warming up here and it is apparently gorgeous in the summer! We are at the campground right now, and I can imagine this being an awesome little retreat in the summer. It is unlikely that we will have a home ready for guests in the near future, so if you're coming this way, bring your tent/trailer! It'll be worth it.

So for now, we are just jumping into everything this community has to offer. That means looking for social occasions and actually going, even if I don't really want to. It's fun to meet all the quirky and fun people who live here - because we're gonna be  them soon enough. 

We haven't regretted this change, if anything, we wish we'd done it sooner. Every time that sun sets into the ocean and paints to sky with the most beautiful colours, we feel like we've made the best decision for our family. This feels a little like a perfect compilation of everything this last year has been to us: an adventure near the water, while exploring new places filled with amazing people. 

Shouldn't life always be like this?

 

(also, we've lived here for exactly 1 month today!)

In Limbo

Waiting For Something

I know in a few months I will have a chat with my past-self and say "why were you so stressed out in December? Why didn't you just enjoy that time off?"... but for now, my present self is having a hard time relaxing as we float a little longer with no job or home. I know this won't last much longer, and I know that there are some really great opportunities around the corner, but waiting is the worst.

 

It's slightly ironic that all of this waiting has happened around Christmas. I mean, all of Christmas is surrounded by waiting, waiting and more waiting. It's all about being patient, believing and trusting that it will all be wonderful. So, we are waiting some more, while Matt sends out more and more resumes and we hunt for the best place to put down roots.

 

I was challenged not long ago by a friend's blog post that encouraged me to not make any New Years Resolutions, but to choose one word to hold fast to throughout the year. The premise, or at least as I understood it, was to set a simple yet powerful word, a single word, to set the rhythm of your year. I can't explain why, but this struck a cord with me and I really had to think about it and make sure I did it right. I took my time and made a list. I'll be honest and share me list with you all.

  • brave
  • endure
  • trust
  • dive
  • leap
  • explore
  • roots
  • commit
  • plant
  • create
  • delve

I settled on the word TRUST. As brave as I want to be, as much as I want to explore and dive deep into a new adventure (whatever it might look like), I know at the heart of it, I need to just trust and let go of all my worries and "what-if's". Stress won't help, worry won't move us forward. I know there is a perfect plan set out for us, and we are working towards it. Things are still a little fuzzy and unclear, but every day we are getting a little closer to a plan we can get excited about.

So into this new year we fly! 

We are looking at homes and jobs in Nanaimo, Powell River and any places in between (well almost, but Pender Harbour was really too small). Prince George is always on the list, too, as is the Okanagan.  Matt is a pretty versatile guy with a varied skillset, so I am sure something will materialize soon. (I mean, he has had some really great job offers, but none have been the right choice just yet. Yes, we are being a little picky, but we still have a little time to be so.)

AND people will be getting back from holidays this week and next so we can finally start hearing back from possible employers. We are still living in my mom's place, but we really don't want to overstay our welcome here. We are trying to find something temporary for the near future.

 

I shall remind my future-self  that looking for a place to live and work right around Christmas is not ideal... it's nearly impossible. So, we are being patient, and trusting that just the right opportunity will come at the right moment.

For now, we are embracing this slow time in our lives (it might never happen again!) and doing our best to trust this process and know that soon things will solidify. 

So in the mean time, we bake cookies, we read books and spend some really great quality time together.

 

Happy New Year!

Reflections

Deciding our Fate?

I am not even going to apologize for not posting more often. It just wasn't in the cards, people, but I'm here now.

 

It's been an emotional kind of week, with lots of highs and a couple of lows. We have been home for about 10 days now and I would say we are "back to normal" (don't even get me started on what the heck "normal" is). We are staying at my mom's place, in Langley, BC, and we are able to stretch out and slowly collect our thoughts and our things and try to plan out some next steps for our life.

 

Being that it is December, we are not expecting much. Everyone is in holiday-mode and nothing quite feels normal in December. I don't hold it against anyone ;)

Still, Matt has pursued a couple of job interviews and opportunities. We have the mentality of "pursue every avenue!" so we haven't said no to anything. After an interview, we really weigh the pro's and con's of what that life might look like and we make a decision together to move forward. So far, nothing has seemed the right fit. It's this funny place to be: this next interview could determine our fate. No pressure or anything. I have such confidence in Matt's skills and abilities, I'm not truly worried there won't be work for him, but it's hard to let those fears go. 

These last 13 months have been a series of ups and downs. This isn't a surprise to us, but it is wearing on a us a little. We are all craving some roots, to set them deep and to relish the experience of staying still for a while. We've known this day would come where life would finally catch up with us, but when it finally hits you in the face, well, it's still considered a punch.

For us, it's felt strange how NOT strange it has felt to be back home. Things are as we left them, mostly, and it (mostly) feels good. But as these days wear on, and reality creeps closer and closer. Matt and I are giving each other side-glances with raised eyebrows, words without words, saying "maybe we really have changed?". Our priorities have shifted dramatically this past year and so have our dreams for the future, so it only stands to reason that our present has to shift as well. We've been grappling with that this week: we don't fit into our hometown anymore. We've caught up with some friends and family and that is all solid and wonderful, but we aren't sure where we belong anymore.

 

So with that slightly depressing and confusing realization, we've decided to go explore a little. This weekend we will be heading towards the Sunshine Coast of BC and then over to Vancouver Island so fill our inspiration-buckets. We've always loved the Island and the Sunshine Coast but have never really looked at it as though it could be a place we could call home (deep down, we want to live in BC). Maybe the pace of life there is a little calmer, life a little more suitable for a single income family who doesn't want all of their dollars going towards paying off a mortgage for the rest of their living days. Maybe the fresh air away from everything we know will give us some clear insight as to what is truly important in our lives. I mean, we just had a year of that, I know, but coming back home and seeing and wanting all the things has skewed our judgment. 

 

Growing up is hard, making decisions is hard and change is definitely hard. We are trying to take these next steps with grace and patience, trying to weigh the good and the bad, and always moving forward together as a family. 

 

Some Catch Up.

Catch up.

So things have been quiet over here for a while, but that is mostly due to all the crazy things that have been happening, not due to lack of things to do. These last few weeks have been sorta (very!) crazy and we are just finally sorting out some thoughts and feels about whats happened and what is happening. 

I've given a quick point form summary for those of you with a short attention span for blogs (like me):

  • We put out boat up for sale 
  • Our boat had a lot of interest
  • Sailed boat to Florida for easier viewing/selling
  • Sold boat 
  • Wondered what to do next
  • Had some spare cash and time
  • Bought plane tickets to Europe
  • Found our sailing friends in Germany 
  • Bought a caravan/trailer and a car in Germany
  • Took off to see as much of Europe as we can before Christmas.

Ta-da!

 

I have talked a bit about our reasons for selling the boat here, but I can mention them again.

There wasn't a pressing reason for us to sell the boat, as in we didn't like it anymore, or kids were sick or anything. Truth be told, some of the magic had worn off, but we were still usually having a good time. The main reason was that we were in the Bahamas and it was coming up to hurricane season and we really didn't want to park the boat for 3 months. It would mean paying a  lot of money to let her sit, and then what to do with us? We felt like our timeline only had about 4-5 months left and we didn't feel it made sense to waste 3 of those months paying out the nose and moving the boat in and out of the water.

This adventure with the boat has ALWAYS been a temporary endeavour. My hat is off to the families who do this long term, but we knew fairly soon in our adventure that this lifestyle was not a forever thing for us.

We felt our timeline was changed a little with the path we took while sailing, which was fine, but it did have it's constraints. So instead of flying home early (which we really weren't ready to do), we took what we had leftover and stretched the plan a little further.

 

We've always wanted to explore Europe: I mean, who doesn't? We understood what it took to pack up a life and move across the continent, and we didn't feel up to doing that again anytime soon, so we figured: we already know how to live small and slightly nomadic - let's just convert that to caravan camping! 

 

It sounds easy, right? It sounds like a perfect plan, right? Well, as anyone who has ever made a somewhat large and hasty plan will tell you: it's never that easy.

 

There was about 1.3 million hiccups with the boat sale, and then about the same while trying to find/buy a car/caravan. We had a stressful few weeks where we really looked at each other and said "we've just made the stupidest mistake of our lives".

Thank goodness for hindsight. I mean, we're ok. Looking back now, there wasn't a whole lot we could have done differently. Life is just complicated. Uprooting is complicated. Travelling is complicated. 

We knew what we wanted to do, it was just a bit tougher to get there and start doing it.

 

The best part about all this stressful time was that we were with our German sailing friends (who are home for the summer in Germany, returning in the early fall back to the boat!) in their home. They had lots of space for us and mountains of patience. It was a gift. 
Our first week was wiped out  by jet-lag and we weren't quite ourselves. We had to shop for new clothes for a new season (I mean it's summer, but it ain't the Caribbean!), keep an eye on our Schengen visa days, make a travel plan, buy a car/caravan plus insurances. Oh, and all of that in Germany where they speak German. 

Yeah, we would have been lost without our friends. Literally, lost. We worried for a while that we overstayed our welcome, but our good friends believed in us and pushed us from the start to get the ball rolling and not to quit (when we really felt like we should). I'm glad we didn't quit. It's been worth it now.

 

A friend reminded me that even back home, with school drop off or a 9-5 job, there is still drama and still hair-pulling stress and still times when you want to quit. It's all the same, just a different scenario. Everything was new in our scenario which makes it hard, but with some help and encouragement, we figured it out.

We bought a Toyota Rav4 Diesel (2001) and a Dethleffs 4.6m caravan. Neither are too new or shiny, but they both do the trick quite nicely. I'm having issues posting the right photos right now (wobbly wifi), but keep an eye on Instagram for up to date shots.

 

And now, we are one month into our caravan Europe adventure. We have seen a bit of Germany, then we were off to the Netherlands, and then took the ferry to the UK. We are currently in Scotland.

 

Things we have loved:

  • food is excellent and cheap (a litre yogurt for $0.75? Hello!)
  • seeing the country via car feels like we really get to properly see places
  • travelling at our own pace
  • having a warm and dry place to sleep no, matter what

Things that have been a struggle:

  • new road rules (nasty parking tickets in the NL and driving on the left side of the road in the UK in a left hand drive vehicle. Special sort of torture)
  • finding the right place to camp
  • not going crazy with 4 people in a tiny camper.

 

We're still happy to be on this adventure but we both take turns being homesick. There are still a lot of question marks in our future, but we're trying to be present where we are and not to worry about our futures back home. Right now, it works to plan one week at a time. 

This week, we are in Scotland, maybe heading north from Edinburgh and eventually coming back down the english coast on the west side (as we went up the east side).

 

I'm finding it hard to find time to update our adventures on the blog, but I do almost daily on my Instagram feed. Check there if you are looking for updates (they show up on our home page, too).

 

On that note, if you have suggestions of places to visit in the UK or Belgium or France of Italy, PLEASE let us know. Either comment below or send an email to francesvantol@gmail.com. We'd love to hear from you. 

what is next

So What's is Next?

So, yesterday this happened and sorta took our day by storm. We never dreamed that selling our boat could happen so fast. We really buckled in for a long drawn our ride. We got some really great advice from Let It Breeze Sailing and Monday Never and Sailing Salty Kisses, which essentially all came back to the same point: photograph it beautifully and price it to sell. 

Done and done. 

I wonder now if we should have sold for more. But then I think about all that came our way and I feel it was because it was a great price on a clean boat that is ready to go with tons of useful items already on board. And this way, with a quick sale, we won't waste anytime in marinas or on the hard waiting for her to sell (which really gobbles up your money fast).

So we're happy! The interested buyers will fly to Florida around July 14 to get the process started.

So what happens after that?

 

Well, we have been feeling like we've reached the end of our full-time sailing dream yet are still eager to travel a bit more. This sailing part has always been a short term thing, leaving ourselves wiggle room to stay longer or shorter. As the pages have turned and as the season has gone on, we've felt that the best thing to do was to sell the boat and move along. Part of this had to do with turning around in Puerto Rico, part of it was just timing, part of it was the magic wearing away. 

We've loved this adventure and it has been more rewarding than we could have ever imagined, but Matt and I are on the same page and wanting to try a new adventure.

 

We've been saying for so long "it all depends on how the boat sells!", but we're dreaming big again. With this time in our lives (no jobs, no home, no commitment), we would love to explore Europe as a family. We've always wanted to spend a good amount of time there (not a 2-3 week holiday) and this is our best time. 

Even some days I get so exhausted thinking about that adventure but then I remember what it takes to get out the door and pack up a life and go adventure. It's hard work. Right now, we are already out the door and literally living a floating life and are as flexible as we'll ever be.

In our biggest, bestest dreams, we fly to Europe for August, maybe start in the UK and move south as the season change. Maybe buy a car and get around that way, maybe buy a caravan, maybe airB&B it across. Again, we are good at rolling with it. There is so much to see and we don't have a route, but we'd love to catch up with our German friends and Matt's cousin in London. The rest is open. Dubrovnik in Croatia? St.Petersburg in Russia? Brussels in Belgium? Venice in Italy? (Venice is non-negotiable: Piper has been dying to go for a long time now)

Sure! and everything in between. We hope to travel at our own pace and spend more time in places we enjoy and zip through the spots we don't (like, we'd rather spend a week outside of Paris in a smaller community and drive into the city for a couple of days to get a feel for it, but come back to a quiet life in the country to relax). We'll have to play by the Schengen rules, but we'll work something out.

 

If Europe doesn't pan out, we can travel back across the US and Canada (a trip we loved!), and go from there. At the end of it all, I REALLY want to be back home for Christmas. Really, really bad. 

We don't have a home to go back to, in reality, but we do have our families and they will take care of us for a while, too. And so many friends' couches to crash! Watch out, people! (I take milk and sugar in my coffee, thanks for asking)

We are still processing this whole thing a bit. I know that this boat isn't sold until it's sold, and so much can happen between then and now, but we're looking forward to this next chapter. We have no regrets and really feel like we have done what we set out to do. This year of adventure has morphed somewhat, but we've always been open to that. By the end of the year, we will come back with a slightly new perspective on life, and living in general
As much work as it is to turn a page in the adventure, we're excited for what is coming next. Like, really excited. Like, we don't dare get excited excited. Here we come!

 

(here we are with my Mom visiting us in the Bahamas)

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turning back

When Plans Change.

We made plans, we prepared, we got excited, we set out, we turned back. Sometimes things happen to change plans.

 

We had set out on Saturday the 13th of May (Piper’s 8th birthday!) to sail towards Panama, from Puerto Rico. We had spent the last week stocking up our boat, driving all over the island collecting food and packages and getting the boat ready to roll across the open seas for 7-9 days. We were mentally prepared and actually pretty excited about it. This was always one of our plans, to head towards the pacific coast, it’s always been an option and we finally felt ready.

 

 

So with our dear friends, on the yellow and blue boat Abeona, we left the gas dock around noon and headed south! The winds were fair and we had a great time setting up the new spinnaker and enjoying a lovely sail towards open ocean and watching solid land recede. We had dinner and even got the kids to bed in good time and got ready for our first of many night watches. I know for myself that I sleep poorly, if at all, on a night sail, but Matt is even worse (clue: during our 14,000kms across the country, I only drove about 400 of those kilometres and even during that time, he would barely rest his eyes). He likes to see and know what is going on. He’s not a control freak, he just feels better knowing what is happening. Maybe he is a control freak...

I took the first watch, from about 8pm - 12am, and watched the moon come up out of the horizon, orange and bulbous, looking like a glowing hot air balloon as it took it’s place in the sky.

We were making decent time, maybe 5.5 knots steadily, with the main and the head sail up. It wasn’t too bad. 

I was relieved  when Matt came up around 12:30am and I headed towards Digory’s cabin to have a rest (it’s always easier to sleep in the kids’ beds in the back of the boat). I dozed here and there, hearing Matt adjust the sails a bit and hearing the steady beat of the water on the boat.

 

Around 2am, there was The Noise. One small bang quickly followed by loud BANG. I heard Matt say something slightly sailor-ish, and I quickly dashed up on deck to see what was up.

What I found was that one arm of the dinghy davits (the metal arms that hold the dinghy up and out of the water while we are under way) had been broken right off, and the dinghy was pretzeled and hanging only by one arm of the davits, the motor end sloshing around in the dark sea.

I saw Matt running around, getting a knife and trying to contain this situation

 

Remember, this is 2am in the morning. It is dark out, we have no lights on deck during watch and both sails are still up: we are moving and everything is black around us. 

 

If I remember correctly, Matt quickly put the head sail away and turned into the wind to slow us down and then said “I gotta contain this situation”. I need to give him some credit: he was cool about all of this. Though his eyes looked a little glassy, Matt moved quickly and steadily with precise movements. Honestly, there was nothing I could do in that moment except for shout every so often “did we lose anything?!” Yeah, not that helpful.

(sorry, my internet is crap and I can't upload these photos again with the correct orientation. Turn your head to the left and you get the idea)

It might not sound like much, but in the moment, this was huge. If we lost our dinghy, along with the bins inside of it (yes, we sometimes use it as a shed, and put our snorkel gear bin in there), it would be a huge loss and it would be unlikely that we could recover it in the dead of night. Our dinghy is like our car, and is a pretty hefty investment and just so bloody useful!

Not only that, but the davits that holds it up are attached to the fibreglass of the boat on the stern, and also holding up the solar panels, which are also connected to the bimini (shade cover). By this one davits arm snapping off, we could have a good portion of our boat stripped in seconds, floating away from us in the Caribbean sea.

 

For the moment, it was just the motor end of our dinghy that was splashing, being dragged in white water as we tried to secure the dinghy with new lines, while cutting the old ones. Somehow, Matt did all of this (life jacket on, of course!) pretty quickly and soon enough our dinghy was being dragged behind us safely in the inky black sea.

From the looks of things, we hadn’t lost anything in the dinghy (amazing!) and there seemed to be no damage to the fibreglass of the boat. The solar panels were being help up by supports on the other side, and though the life raft we had recently attached to the back of the boat was scraped by the davits, it was still on and secure. 

Keep in mind, the wind never slows down, the water never stops and our little Luci lights are hardly enough to properly light this situation. 

 

With the dinghy now following us along like a faithful puppy, we had some time to think what is next. 

To tow a dinghy behind your boat for any amount of time is rough: it slows you down, it jerks on the back of the boat, jarring you, and it’s a liability. Matt hates it when we drag it, hence the davits that he worked hard to install early.

Towing the dinghy 8.5 more days to Panama was out of the question. Passages are long and painful enough, but to drag that thing would add salt to the wound (pardon the pun!). The logical thing was to turn back towards Puerto Rico, where it would be easy to fix. We knew PR a little by now and knew someone would be able to weld it back together. 

 

But to turn around meant a lot of things: we had waited for this weather window and we were already pushing the timeline late for hurricane season. By turning back, we were in a way saying “we aren’t getting to the Pacific”. By turning around we were closing a door indefinitely. By turning around we were admitting that this big passage wasn’t happening, maybe never. Neither Matt nor I really want to put the boat up on the hard for a season and wait around, we want to keep sailing, but the weather is chasing us out of certain areas. It was now or never.

 

When Matt first mentioned turning around, I felt a rush of relief, I won’t lie. This passage so far wasn’t the worst but imagining 8 more night watches wasn’t a welcome idea in my mind, especially when I was right in it. Turning around was the right choice, and it didn’t  even really feel hard at the time.

 

We quickly radioed our friends what happened. They made sure we were all right and said they were turning around with us. I made it clear that we did not expect that of them and they were free to make their own choices, but as it turns out, they were relieved, too. We were glad of the support. Cruising friends are just The Best.

 

Now, we had plenty of time to think and talk and formulate a plan

Maybe the Pacific wasn’t for us, or at least not right now. Maybe this was the best time for this accident to happen. Imagine this happening in another 3 days?! That’s too far to turn around but still a bugger of a time forward. We would have gone crazy. This was a great time for something terrible to happen. We were trying to see the silver lining in this dark rain cloud.

 

At the moment, we are thinking to head north, via the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas and then up towards the east coast of the USA. This wasn’t my first choice for some reason, but the more I think of the Bahamas, the more excited I get. 

We could also make a straight shot towards Grenada to be protected from hurricanes, but its a 5 day sail and then hanging out in a hot HOT place, waiting for better weather, which could be 3+ more months. That wasn’t ideal for us. We want to keep moving, we’re not done sailing, but the idea of sailing towards home, even if its the east coast, is actually a really comforting idea.

 

Matt and I have been missing home the last while. I don’t know if Puerto Rico has us in a funk or it’s just getting to be a long time without our family, or that we’ve had to say good bye to some really great friends that has us all sad about what we’re missing at home. Or the fact that before we set sail for Panama we literally called every member of our family to say goodbye for a while, so they were all fresh in our minds. Oh man! Maybe we’re just emotional suckers!

 

It helps that our friends on Abeona were thinking of same plan. They have sailed this route before and it is a totally manageable route with kiddos.

I mean, I don’t want to blame the kiddos, but it is hard to sail long distances with them sometimes. It is two more mouths to manage, things to clean and entertain and clean up after. They aren’t miserable, but they aren’t all that happy underway. There is only so many games on the iPad, and it does eventually run out of batteries, and no one should stare at a screen for 9 days straight! When the seas get rough and when we get stressed out, they start mentioning all the friends they miss and all the things they are gonna do once they’re home and how they don’t like this, that or the other thing about boat life. There is only so much pep-talk you can give, especially when, in the moment, you feel the EXACT same way.

 

Our kids do great on one overnight passage. We can all manage and get through but are all happy to see land within a day or two. This is where we are at right now. I know some families to do long passages with their kiddos, they manage and make it and love it. And I am so happy and proud of them. Seriously.

Right now, that isn’t where we are at. 

 

 

For now, we are still focusing on the present and moving forward a day at a time. We don’t regret turning around, changing our plans: this was the best choice for us, we all feel that way. When we turn one direction we are saying “no” to some things, but it also means we are saying “yes” to something else. 

We are all eager to see what comes next. Who knows, plans could change again, or morph into something new. This entire journey has been that lesson over and over again. We’re happy to roll with the waves and see where the wind takes us. We’re happy to be together, exploring and learning as a family and making memories that will be priceless in years to come.

 

 

And, today is my birthday and maaaaaan am I happy to not be rolling around in the middle of nowhere! ;)

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six months

Six Months In!

Somehow, we’ve been on the boat for 6 whole months now! It feels like so much longer than that, but at the same time, it hasn’t been that long at all. Maybe it doesn’t help that the seasons really don’t change much here. It goes from hot to really bloody hot, to not so hot anymore but bloody windy, back to bloody hot, or some variation of that.

 

 

In the past 6 months, we have bought a boat, outfitted a boat, registered said boat, named the boat (Sea Spice!), fixed the boat, sailed the boat, motored the boat, washed the boat, broken things on the boat, laughed and cried on the boat, read books on the boat, learned to read on the boat (way to go Digory!), seen countless sea creatures (dolphins, turtles, rays, too many cool fish to name, lobsters) - you get it, right? We’ve really be living on this boat. And I mean reeeeeeeally living.


Our life during these 6 months has been extremely simple. We eat, we school, we eat some more, sometimes we swim, sometimes we explore and then more eating, usually followed by books and bedtime. It’s nothing fancy. It’s been a gift to keep things simple, to not have to do much, to just take things a day at a time.

 

Our life during these past 6 months has also been extremely complex. We’ve had some paperwork issues with registering our boat, we’ve been filing our taxes from afar, shipping necessary boat items via cargo ship, trying to harness enough solar energy to keep us going, trying to keep the water maker going so we can all have enough to drink... again, you get it.

 

It hasn’t all been a honeymoon, that is for certain. But with 6 months under our belt, I can honestly say we have had no regrets in following this dream. I feel like it has taken 6 whole months to finally really get into a proper rhythm with all of this (read my last post about how the boat now feels like home). I am so glad we’ve had this time. I’m so glad we didn’t have a timetable to beat, or deadlines to meet. We’ve needed these 6 months to find ourselves in this adventure, and it was been worth every sunburn, rolly anchorage or long passage that has come our way.

But what will the next 6 months look like? What more can we possibly learn? I don’t even want to think about it sometimes.

At present, it’s looking like Puerto Rico is next, for a big-time grocery stock up before we continue heading west on our way to Panama. We are aiming to get to Panama before hurricane season truly hits in the Caribbean sea. So we do have our first little timeline. We’re still keeping things simple and we’ll always keep safety and security at the top of our list. 

 

 

We’ve been so happy to have our friends and family follow along through this blog. Though I’m rarely able to post as much as I’d like, I’m sure glad you stopped by. I read every comment and think of you all fondly. Thanks for taking the time, and for being such awesome cheerleaders!

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feeling at home

Home and Feeling at Home

I am sure you have all felt it, that magical feeling when you walk in your front door and step into your house/condo/cabin and say to yourself “I’m home”. It’s a glorious feeling, to feel at home, whatever that home might look like.

 

For me, it’s taken nearly six months to finally feel at home on our boat. I don’t know if it’s a mix of missing our previous home (we really loved our condo) and friends or the fact that our current home literally rocks and rolls, but it makes me feel a little unsettled. 

But it has happened at last: we’re feeling at home on the boat.

 

I think I’ve actually forgotten what normal life was like for me. I’ve forgotten that we had a car and we could go places quickly whenever we wanted. I’ve forgotten that I used to do laundry whenever I felt like it. I’ve forgotten that I used to have pleasant little weekly routines that I could rely on. I’ve forgotten that I used to have information, music, friends and family at my fingertips with the help of technology. It was a beautiful life and I loved it. I miss it dearly when I think of it, but it seems too far away now that it doesn’t seem real anymore.

 

I often go to bed with no idea what tomorrow might look like, or where we might end up. That’s normal. I know that would drive some people bonkers (and sometimes it does me) but it has become what we do. I don’t always handle a change in plan all that well, but when it happens enough, over and over again, it doesn’t ruffle my feathers like it used to. I feel like that is a huge part of this travelling lifestyle: letting plans trickle through your fingers and watch what happens after. And we always have our boat home to come back to, whatever our plans turn into. It has become our safe place.

 

For me, home happened when I sorted through my pantry. I could finally find good spaces and places to put all our stores of food. Maybe it is a deep-seeded maternal instinct that I’ve given up fighting, but to know that I can tear up a floorboard and feed my family is a comforting feeling. Perhaps, after we did a huge stock up shopping trip before we left St. Martin, and I squirrelled away hundreds of dollars and pounds of shelf-stable food, I felt safe. We hid all sorts of good food all over our boat and we are still eating through it (but man, I miss some of those delicious things we only found in St. Martin!). There is no wasted space on a boat. It’s incredible how routine it is now to tear apart half of our couch to reach that extra bag of granola/wraps/beans/chips (let’s be honest: I’m always going for the chips!).

 

It’s all become a little easier, it’s all become a little less stressful, it’s all become a little more like home. I am happy to spend a whole day on the boat, doing schoolwork or cleaning or cooking or reading: just doing home things.

 

 

Though we can’t zip around in our car to the store, we can pull out our sails and head to an entirely different neighbourhood for the weekend. Though grocery shopping is a full-on marathon every time, I am exposing my kids to new cultures and methods of transportation. Technically I can do laundry anytime of the day I want (we use a Scrubba bag), and I am more aware of how few articles of clothing I need to be happy. Though I miss my instant technology, those moments when you are unplugged and have no option but to spend time together, those moments turn into really sacred memories. 

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cruisers solidarity

New, Solid, Forever Friends.

There aren't really adequate words to explain how it feels to buddy up with some cruising friends after a lovely evening at the beach, and all form a conga line of dinghies to ride back to our boats together. There have been many evenings when we don't have the best flashlight or our batteries have run out, and we're worried about making it back to our sailboat safely. There is always a friend who says "just follow me back, I'll lead the way". And off we go.

 

Now, if you haven't had the chance to dinghy through a crowded anchorage in complete darkness, it is a special challenge. Some sailboats have their outdoor lights on, some not. Some dinghies have their lights on, some not, and then there are the buoys in the water or channel markers (or in the case of the St. Martin lagoon, garage floating). I find it enough of a challenge to navigate during the daytime, so once the sun goes down, it's all inky dark water marked by flecks of light here, there and everywhere. You can't go too slow because you tend to get wet with the waves lapping at the dinghy, but you can't go too fast either because there are moments when you can't tell what is in front of you. So we push the throttle and follow the light ahead of us.

 

I don't know what it is, but when you're trailing behind a friend (or two) through the darkness, all with keen eyes for keeping each other safe, it's this fierce togetherness, this solidarity that warms my heart to the brim. We follow their light and their wake and trust as they lead us through the waves until we reach our own floating home. Then there are farewells in the dark, headlamps shining in faces, kids trying to hug over the pontoons of the dinghy, and I just can't stop smiling. Remember, these are all people we've met a few months, weeks or days ago. But they take care of us, and never leave us hanging in the dark. 

ps: we now always have a spare flash light and spare battery with us, and usually pack another light just in case. And then, Matt bought me this. Romance looks a little different while you're sailing ;) 

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route options

Planning a Route, but Which One?

** don't take the red lines as literal stop points. I just scribbled in Photoshop a general direction. We might skip an island/coast line here or there. It's just a general idea of how things might go. **

As we've been travelling around (well, not so much these days), we've been altering or adding to our journey destination ideas. It's actually mostly by the people we meet, that our plans change or expand. We've met all sorts of people on the trip so far, and we've gathered some really fantastic ideas on how the rest of our trip might go. 

The people we have met have either done parts of the journey already, or have heard a lot about it, or have some new information to contribute that we knew nothing about. It's stuff you don't even think to look up on Google! It's been quite illuminating.

Here are some of our favourites, and who knows, maybe we will add some more as we continue onward! 

Our original plan, which is still on the table, can be found here.

The Ultimate Route: To Australia

This is an idea that we've come across through our journey that we never even really thought about at home. The more and more people we have met, especially in St. Martin, we've heard that Australia is a really good option for the end of our trip. Apparently, boats sell very easily in Australia, even our very basic "production" boat. This route would be an incredible option to end our trip, as we could sell our boat for a decent price (according to all the lore!) and easily fund our plane tickets back home, and get a trip to Oz out of it. 

Obviously, this is also the most extensive travel option. Look at that route! It's insane. It is also a little more time sensitive than others, too. We have to watch out for bad weather around Australia and New Zealand, which means we would have to leave French Polynesia at a decent time, which means we'd have to get through Panama at a better time and on and on the timeline goes. It could start to cramp our style, to have to hustle to get somewhere for a certain time. We don't ever want to rush through rough weather if we don't really have to, to not have the flexibility to wait it out. This route could easily take much longer than a year, as we would likely have to wait out hurricanes somewhere (our friends from Sailing Salty Kisses are thinking to wait it out in San Blas near Panama and that sounds like a nice idea!).

So we'll see. This would be SO incredible, but I'm not holding out for it. We aren't on this trip to make our money back on our boat, we are fully planning to lose a lot of what we've put into the boat, but this option would hopefully give us some financial wiggle room. But again, none of those are concrete promises. But seriously: sailing around NZ and Australia?! How cool would the be?!

Caribbean only - x2 seasons

This route has always been an option. We've heard from our friends that we could cheaply put our boat up and away for the hurricane season in St. Kitts, which could give us a chance to go back home and work and recoup somewhat. It would also give us another season (or more!) with the boat, as we could come back down in the fall/winter and do it all over again! or at least re-evaluate and see what we want to do.

The downside to this plan is we would likely have to live somewhere temporarily back home, which isn't always the best. But it's an option. I personally like thinking that we could get back home sooner, but I know leaving a boat to sit is never good and is a lot of work and is a lot of money, even if we get a good deal. 

We have friends here who do six months on the boat and six months at home and just make it work. It's all about perspective. I do see us making that work, but I also know when we get back "home" (wherever that might be in the end), we wanna settle down somewhere and plant roots.

Original to Alaska plan

This was a new discovery for us, as well. According to the wind and weather, it would be much easier to leave Hawaii and head further north to Alaska (instead of a straight shot for Vancouver) and then come down the West Coast of Canada to home. Again this is a bit of a time constraint as we really don't have an ice-breaker on our Beneteau, so it would be done in the summer. But what an incredible coastline to see! To come from the tropics and all the way up to the far north? It's a really lovely idea and we've always loved the idea of getting the boat back home. The idea of getting the boat back home gives us so much freedom to relax and make a plan but still have a home to live in while things fall in place. But this is also a huge route. This involves some pretty huge passages, but gets us home with our boat. Deep down, I think this is a better route than our original plan, as we've heard more and more than the leg from Hawaii to Vancouver is likely to be the worst passage imaginable. So I would prefer not to sign up for that. Alaska, ho!

Caribbean and East Coast

Again, after meeting people who have done this trip, it's an option that we hadn't thought of too hard. But it is a lovely option. This way, we could see the Bahamas and the East Coast of the USA (I've always wanted to see that coast! So much history!) and then up the Canadian coast or inland through the Great Lakes. This route would end us up in Canadian waters where we could easily work and live and either sell the boat or get it ready for another trip. The downside here is obvious: winter! I have NO desire to strap on those huge saran-wrap style boat condoms that people use to winterize their boats on cold weather coasts. And again, that is a bit more adventure than I'd like. Maybe I am a fair weather cruiser ;) I LOVE this plan, because as much as Matt cringes, I have always wanted to live in a French-speaking community with my family. At some point in my life, I would love our family to experience that (granted, we are getting a bit of that in St. Martin). But, as with all plans, it comes with pros and cons (taking the mast down being one of them).


So for now, we keep floating in St. Martin, getting work done on the boat and waiting for the right window to head south. As much as I really want to set a plan in stone, I know this has to be fluid and ever-changing. It's the best and the worst part. I haven't been as home-sick these days and I am happy to dream about cruising longer, rather than always making a plan on what home life will look like once we get back. I think that is a good thing.

This trip might take us longer than one year, it might take us two, or we might be home for this summer. Who knows. We shall take it as it comes!

 

We welcome any new ideas or thoughts. Have you made route plans that you think are great or exciting? What would a dream route plan be? Feel free to share! I would love to hear what your journey would look like!

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best and worst

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.

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January passage

Thoughts on Our Passage

I’ve tried to start this post a hundred times. I thought of something like:

  • We completed our first passage! or,
  • We’ve done it! We’ve done a passage, or
  • look at us! we made it!

 

after which I would babble on about details about how things went and how we were fearless and how we are much better sailors now and… but in reality, I want the post to go something like this:

 

A family walks into a bar.

The bartender asks “why the bedraggled looks?”

The family mumbles “we survived our first passage. That is all”.

 

 

It’s not very funny, I know. And neither was our passage.

Long story short: it was 14 hours of upwind motor sailing. Anyone who has had to sail upwind for any amount of time will groan a little and immediately feel pity for us (thank you). The rest of you will cock your head to the side and think “well, 14 hours of anything can’t be all that much fun”. (thank you, too)

 

The fact was, that we had to get to St. Martin from the BVI in good time and we had a small weather window open and we had to go for it. Matt and our friend Ron kept an eye on the weather, wondering to leave in one day or a week. It’s a game, and a bet and at a certain point, you just need to run for it. We did have my mom coming to visit in a week or so, in St. Martin, so we really didnt want to wait for the clearer weather window that was possibly coming in a week. The weather was going to get worse in the next few days so we opted to leave a littler earlier rather than wait another day or so. 

I wouldn’t say it was a bad choice, it was just a tough choice.

 

We had prepped the inside (snacks, pre-made dinner, put things away that would fly under way) of the boat and the outside (strapped things down or taken things off, hoisted the dinghy on the deck) and were as ready as we could ever be.

 

We left around 1:30 PM from the Bitter End, and started pounding into the waves as the day slipped away on us.

 

It was beautiful, truly. It was also long and hard.

To go down into the boat was risky, and we didn't let the kids do much of that. You would hold on for dear life to heel back and forth to go and get water or the bathroom (the worst) or grab some food or iPads. It just didn't let up, and I think it just got to us after a while. 

We did know this passage wasn't going to be a dream: it is well known that this passage is usually a pain, so I was mentally prepared for that. Still, I can say now: it wasn't the best experience, but it wasn't the worst either.

The kids managed really well, considering. They were both a little green (which they haven't really been before), so they both had some medicine and slept for lots of the the daytime hours (in curious spots, like Piper, on the floor of the cockpit). After the sun went down, we ate a pasta salad (light and easy on the tummy, though we weren't really all that hungry) and watched the first stars come out. We kept our eyes out for our buddy-boat on the horizon (SO happy to not do that passage alone!) and eventually pulled the iPad out up on the deck and we tried to watch a movie. The kids enjoyed it (I think?) and then we sent them down to try 

and sleep. But somehow it just turned into them playing on the iPads until almost midnight. We had no problem with that: they were calm, happy and not getting sick. I eventually turned the lights off and they fell right asleep soon after. Then it was the rest of the hours into the night, just Matt and I, motoring away into the darkness. We would radio our friends every couple of hours, or if we ever lost sight of each other. I can't tell you how nice it was to hear a human voice going through the same things we were.

 

At the time, it was entirely bearable. I tried to sleep once or twice, to no avail and tried to give Matt a chance to sleep. He wasn't interested in being anywhere but the helm, which I can understand. It's the same on our road trips. Out of 14,000 kms we drove across the country, I drove maybe 500 of them. He doesn't complain and I do my best to take care of him and the rest of us.

 

We could eventually see the faint fog of city lights on the horizon, but would look at the clock and know we were still six hours away. Oh, those hours felt like eternity. We could see the destination, but were still so far from it. We tried to eat a bit, drank Coke and tried to keep things bright. I listened to an audiobook. I eventually couldn't keep my brain together anymore and went down to sleep a little. When I woke up, we had an hour left and St. Martin was definitely in our sights now.

 

We pulled in, with our buddy-boat at around 4 AM, dropped our anchor, and tried to relax. We both needed a shower (some of those waves were crazy!) and to just chill out for a bit. We eventually went to sleep, but I don't think it was very good. Maybe we took medication to help us sleep? It's all a bit of a blur.

 

And in reality, that first passage was just a blur. We are both a little discouraged by how it felt and have needed some time to recover. We've been told that every passage after this will be much better, it's just island hopping, down wind from here on in. I really hope so, and I am starting to believe it, too. I have faith that a good passage has our name on it, one of these days. For now, I have feelings of "we made it - and that is all", not a proper celebratory hip-hip-hooray. That will come.

 

For now, we certainly did survive our first passage, we have no regrets on doing it, but we are eager to have many more magical experiences nothing like that last one ;)

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December update

Holiday Adventures with Friends

So the holidays are past us now, gone too quickly and too slow at the same time.

 

We had friends visit from Canada over the Christmas holidays, for 15 days total. It was a bit of an adventure, with 3 extra kids and 2 extra adults, but we made it work. It helped that they are a trailer camping family and they fully unsdestatn the quirks of living in a small space with not all the same amenities of home. The kids were all around the same age and were able to play together full time. They loved it… for the most part. Everyone has their limits, but I would say that overall, we all had a great time. By day 10, we were all a little spent, but still had some incredible adventures. I think Christmas day was around day 12, so we had that to carry us through some grumbly attitudes.

 

I have to say that it is a little strange to celebrate Christmas without my family. I have done it before, being away from my parents or siblings, but there has always been someone related to me close by to celebteate with. Having friends was so lovely, to share memories with and collaborate ideas and traditions, but I did miss my family. There was just something odd about not having them there. It makes me wonder how people do this all the time.

 

We’ve run into some really great boating friends, from Germany, and they have been cruising for four years (6 months at home in Germany, 6 months on their catamaran in various places in the world), and she had mentioned that the first Christmas away from home is always the hardest. I braced for that, and it really was great, but when my mom sent me a photo of what her christmas morning looked like, it tugged at my heart and I felt guilty/jealous (I just want a croissant really badly and Mom always has those ready!). Being away from what is precious and important magnifies what really matters to you. As much as I love adventure and change, I sure to love my family, immediate and extended. These are just thoughts, not worries, just reflections on what it felt like to celebrate a pretty big holiday without our family.

 

Our friends who visited made it a great time and we really did enjoy ourselves. They treated us so well and took such good care of us. Seriously. Matt and I maybe washed dishes a handful of times and only cooked anything 2-3 times. It felt like we were swept off our feet a bit, though it was a little crazy with all the little people running about, but we really did get some good vacation time.

 

These past weeks, though I haven’t posted too much (mostly for lack of dependable wifi - ok, I’ll stop complaining), I have been doing a lot of soul searching and deep thinking. I am slowly falling in love with our boat, every time we personalize it, or give it a really good clean and are carried through some rough weather with her. Then I realize we are already almost two months into our journey and I can’t imagine getting rid of this boat! 

I also can’t imagine crossing great bodies of water with her. I’ll admit, I am a total chicken about taking this boat all the way back tp the west coast of Canada. One, I feel like our timeline is too short, and for another… ummmm… I’m just plain freaked out to go all that way in this little boat.

Matt is really good about reminding me to take it a step at a time and that nothing is set in stone and we shall just take it as it comes.

 

So we are, taking it as it comes. Today we are sailing across the BVIs to Soper’s Hole (once again!) to check out and head towards the USVIs. We have a large shipment of equipment for the boat to pick up there and it has finally all arrived (such a hassle, but I think it’s all settled… oh, please let it be all settled). We could soon have solar panels, a new mattress and new batteries, to name a few of the goodies we are waiting for.

We are underway as I am typing this, on nice calm seas, with some sun and some music and the waves gently clapping at the boat. Right now, I never want this journey to end, I want this to be our reality. Give me ten minutes and I’ll be dreaming of wallpapering our next home ;) 

 

Wishing you all a beautiful day and a continued lovely holiday, whatever that looks like for you. 

 

 

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early days

Finding a Groove

How are we?

 

Things are starting to come together on our boat. There have been some times when we are leaving a beach or marina or somwhere and saying “are we ready to head back home?”, meaning, back to the boat. It just comes out. It’s just as natural to say “are we ready to head back to the boat?”, but “home” usually comes out first.

I wouldn’t say that our boat feels perfectly like home, but it is certainly on it’s way. I remember a friend of mine telling me weeks after she had moved her family to a new city saying “I go through moments of feeling like we’ve done the wrong thing and we need to head back to our old place, and moments of feeling this is exactly where we need to be”. I feel those same feelings just about every day.

 

There are moments of beauty and bliss where I can’t imagine being anywhere else, doing anything else. And then moments of aching for home and stability and all my comforts within arms reach. It’s a constant ebb and flow of emotions. These days, it is getting less of a tug and pull, a little easier on my heart strings and my mental state. I literally have dreams of shopping in my old neighbourhood, or walking to the library or just sitting with my mom to have tea. Those are hard moments, especially after we’ve just motored through open ocean waves for two hours just to get to a harbour that has laundry and decent groceries. I remember fondly the days of holding my kids’ hands for the eight minutes it took to get to “our” grocery store, where we would probably recognize someone and have a lovely time catching up. It’s the little things that tug at my heart sometimes.

Then there are other moments, wandering around and I run into these incredible people that I have been following online for months and there they are, right in front of me in line at the gas dock, and they are happy to chat with this fan-girl. Everyone we have met has been simply incredible. Truly. I wouldn’t make that stuff up. We had one new friend mention that “meeting people on boats, it’s as if they have already passed through so many filters already: you are very likely to have a lot in common”. It’s true. Boat folk tend to be easy going, easy to talk to, a plethora of experience and willing to share what they have learnt (good and bad!). Those moments have been good, leaving my heart full and my cheeks sore from smiling.

 

Matt has been in his element, I’d say. He is finding a routine, in which every morning, he needs to be productive somehow. He’ll usually work on a project or two (or seven) and get something significant done before 9am. He needs to work at something and see progress. He’ll have a much better day if he does. He does a great job taking care of us all, especially me, as I ride all these emotional waves. For every time his temper may be short, his cuddles are jokes make up for it. I am constantly amazed at what this man knows, especially to do with boats. We’ve got the best captain on the seven seas with us! I can watch him instal/fix/build something and suddenly hit a wall saying “well, I just ruined that”, throwing hands in the air in defeat. Ten minutes later, I come around the corner and he’s fixed that problem and is working on a way to make it more efficient. When he can’t fix stuff on our boat, he’ll find someone else who needs something fixed, like the crew of a Scottish family who’s dinghy pull cord busted. Over he goes, with his little bag of tools and gets the job done, just for fun. We have very different ideas of what fun is, but I am sure glad.

 

My idea of fun these days has been quiet moments of reading my book (loving my dear Kobo) or sipping some wine in a  good mood. I look forward to bedtime and read for a good long while before sleep. Sleep has come easily, though it is never solid through the night. The nights are long, close to 13 hours and it is not always comfortable. It is often hot, it usually rains at least once and sometimes there are bugs (come and stay with us, really!). We manage, somehow and usually can recover. We are sorta running on those same fumes as parents of newborn. It’s not quite that dramatic, but good sleep, when it comes, is a blessing.

 

Piper is sometimes her best self on the boat. I say sometimes because she could probably use a little more space some days (she’s more like me that way). Normally, she is happy to play with Digory for a good part of the day, but sometimes she just needs some quiet book time, and little brother will rarely accept that. But we are finding that the age of seven is an incredible age for a kid to travel (I remember saying this when Piper was five as well, so maybe she’s just an awesome kid to travel with?). She can read everything and help out and has enough body strength to be useful, like, actually useful! It’s quite nice. She is a great helper, with dishes and some tidying and is happy to put herself to bed. She reads a lot on the boat (send more books!), and we can’t really keep up. I am getting her some books on my Kobo so she can have more, but then we have to share and that doesn’t always work out either ;) Overall, we have had very little drama with her and she’s adapted really well. She is a little more afraid of some fish in the water and of snorkelling, but she is working on her free-diving. She can dive down really deep all on her own, which is super impressive, but she will rarely venture out with us on a small snorkelling adventure. But we think she’ll get there! 

 

Digory has become a good little boat buddy. Of the two, he is the more dramatic and needy one, but that’s not any different from home. He will usually wake up and need a cuddle still and we are happy to give him one. He’s recently started crawling into Piper’s bed in the morning and she’ll read to him. It’s really quite sweet. 

He’s had a bit more of a tough time adjusting to the lack of food choices and availability but he’s getting there. He will eat rice now, which is a huge accomplishment! He is our little fish, willing and ready to swim at any time of the day. This morning he was out swimming before breakfast (with supervision, don’t worry). He is fearless in the water, and will dive down under the water with his snorkel to chase a fish, resurface, clear his snorkel and go and find it again. He’s had one scare when the boat swung away from him after he had jumped in and he had a big swim to do back, with wind against him, but even with his scared little face popping up out of the water for air, he kept swimming and made it all the way back to the boat under his own power. It was a touch scary for him and us, but it was a good lesson at the end of the day. 

Digory would play all day. And he usually does. There is almost always Lego on our table inside, and if not Lego, then Shopkins or Calico Critters or his stuffies. He has quite the imagination, and he and Piper make up the most interesting games. He is a little more reluctant to work on homeschool material, but we are getting there. Once he gets into it, he is happy to try out new words and sounds. 

 

Five weeks in, I feel like we are gelling into our family unit once again. It felt rather stressful for a while, but lately it’s been feeling like this is us. Thanks for your support and prayers and we journey through this adventure. We definitely miss “our people” but we ca hear and feel you cheering for us and it warms our hearts greatly.

 

 

 

 

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first sailing days

Our First Days Adventuring

 So I suppose our journey has begun. Let me begin with admitting that both Matt and I have confessed that at some point already, we've wanted to go back home and forget any of this has actually happened.

Most of it has been plain old home sickness, some of it has been fear of the unknown, some of it has been the fact that sweat has been running down various cracks on my body for weeks solid and I'm not always loving it.

I am telling myself that this is a massive life adjustment and that these things take time. We will adjust somewhat, someday the boat will feel like home and as for the sweat, I will just  make sure to drink lots of water and possibly invest in some sort of electrolyte replacer.

Not to whine while we are in this beautiful spot, but it ain't all a holiday. Our biggest struggle, after we got the boat in the water was to get it registered as a Canadian vessel. We had spent the day roaming around Road Town, tracking down insurance brokers and our charter company we bought the boat from, walking here and there, with the kids all of us on the verge of tears at some point or other, we did make progress. 

 


We now have an insured boat, and we know what to do to get it properly registered now. These things just take time. We were worried we wouldn't be able to get back into the BVIs once we left (to pick up my brother and sister in law who were coming to visit, landing in the USVIs), but as it turns out, things are running on Caribbean time here and rules aren't too strict. We haven't needed the registration number to date, though we continue to work hard filling out the forms to get it and waiting for the emails in return.

We've had some short fits and starts of business or "town days", as we call them to the kids, of getting things done and then to have a nice chill family day at the beach and try to relax. We had a perfect couple days in Leverick Bay, where we quickly met a family with similar kids to ours and we spent two glorious days on the beach with them, chatting about nothing and everything, forgetting about our current drama and just soaking in a new environment with new people. It was lovely. We did laundry, had showers and topped up the boat. Then, back to some paper work or "town days".

Next we began to make the trek towards the USVIs. This is all unknown territory for us. Matt had shipping a huge container of tools and our water maker to an address in St Thomas and we really just had to trust that it would all make it. We were heading that way to pick up my brother, Dawson, and his wife Rebecca, from the airport and to collect the tools. If it were up to me, I would have just fast forwarded the next little while. I will admit that I am a jerk sometimes when I am hot and under -fed and stressed out. I may or may not have been a "good sport" through all of that adventure. 

In hindsight, travelling  to the USVIs went off without any real issues, besides the time it took to get there. It was a longer and a shorter journey than we thought. Some bays we anchored in were delightful and others were rough. In the end, we got there just fine and picked up family easy-peasy (we literally anchored 5 minutes away from the airport: walked up a hill and found Daws and Becca, walked down the hill and went back to the boat).

We had some minor drama at Red Hook in the USVIs, after Matt had picked up his huge box of tools (150 pounds of tools!). Upon paying the cab driver, he somehow left his wallet in the cab, got on the ferry back to the BVIs and called it a day. It wasn't until much later that he realized what had happened. He was extremely put off (his time to be cranky now!). It was a big blow to our confidence and moral in general. We all sorta moped for the day and into the next. We had made it back to Soper's Hole on the west end of Tortola, stocking up in their good grocery store when Matt ran in to find me, with his arms upraised and bouncing. 

"The best news ever!" he kept shouting. I figured we had our boat registry number or something, but he said that the cabby had found his wallet and gotten in contact with him and could meet him back in the USVIs to get it back. We had some serious yeeeee-hawwwwing in the middle of the store. We didn't have to cancel all of his cards and replace them or even remember what exactly was in there. It was a huge blessing. There are still good people out there in the wide world. It's true.

For now, we are playing tourist with my bro and sis-in-law, back in the BVIs and trying to show them our favourite places. I can write more about our adventures later, but we are soaking in all the lovely things. The kids are constantly in the water, we've spotted multiple sea turtles, sting rays, huge fish, little fish, big crabs and little even some squid. I like to think we are still having a good time. I keep cooking and cleaning for us all, trying to stay on top of laundry and groceries and trying to squeeze in some homeschooling (but it is taking a bit of a backseat these days with guests over- sorry Ms. Julie!). It is really much like being at home, just with more sweat and a lot more sun.

Don't get my wrong: we are having a great time. We've had some great time sailing which is a great time to recalibrate - a forced slow down. We've met some INCREDIBLE people already. My heart is a yoyo with all the things it feels for the friends we have at home and these new ones we make. I've had tears over some happy moments, like when the nice lady let us use her scanner and printer. And then cried when I was able to FaceTime with my mom, not realizing I really did miss her face! But happy tears. So many feelings, up and down. But I remember these are still early days, and we are still ironing things out (like where to put 150lbs of tools?). Again, grace all day every day. And then cry when I need to.

 

Thanks again for all the love and support following us on this journey. We truly love having you all along for the boat!

 

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first days

Travel Days, Long Days

Well folks, we've made it. After years and years of waiting and months of planning and weeks of fretting and days of slogging... we are finally here. Here being the British Virgin Islands, where it all started.

 

We landed on the 30th of October, after leaving Vancouver on the 29th for a red-eye flight. We flew into St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands this time, and were pleasantly surprised that it wasn't all that much harder than flying directly to the BVIs (we've found the BVI route to be much more expensive, whereas the St Thomas route got us to the same place, with just an extra ferry in-between.)  We would recommend it, though, as with all things in the Virgin Islands, nothing goes off without a hitch. 

Our travel days were easy enough, as in flights were on time and comfortable (United Airlines took great care of us and the kids) and taxi's were available, but the hard part was our stuff. We had packed two full size suitcases plus six other rubbermaid bins of things to live with for a year. A lot of the items are comfort sort of items (like my cast iron frying pan!) and a lot of homeschool material. We did pack a lot of weather gear (I groan at this because Matt has to pack everything to be prepared, but I glare at these rain pants that I can never imagine needing - I may eat my words... but I doubt it), and decent amount of clothes for each of the kids and ourselves. It's hard to pack for a year of being away! I packed some things for the kids to grow into, or something things for holidays, like Christmas gifts or special Easter books etc. I tried to think of everything we thought we might need and would be tricky to find in other parts of the world. It turned into a lot of stuff.

I comforted myself with thinking that some other people would have packed a lot more stuff. I'm not too sure about that now.

 

So, we landed in St Thomas, hot, tired and sweaty, to a busy airport with free rum samples (welcome to the Caribbean!) and we soon collected all eight of our bags (thank you Lord!) and found a taxi to take us to our ferry. Nothing is very far in the caribbean, but the roads are brutal for pedestrians and especially for pedestrians with close to 400 pounds of stuff to schlep around (wiring that down seems absurd!). The taxi's were happy enough to take us, knowing they could charge us more for filling up their van with our stuff and carrying it in and out. Uhg. 

Dollars were flying all over the place, just to get us to the ferry in St Thomas that would take us to Road Town, on Tortola. There we filled out customs cards (everyone's favourite pastime) and again, carted around our stuff. By now, the kids have been running off of three hours of sleep and odd food for more than 24 hours. It's starting to become clear that we are all running on fumes. As soon as we got on the ferry (think: Super-yacht, nothing like our BC ferries), we found a nice air-condition corner and both the kids fell asleep on me. We literally had eaten all of our food and had limited water at that point (ps: you pay for every ounce of water in the caribbean. It sucks, but I get it) and I actually had nothing to offer the kids. Digory fell asleep crying "I'm hungry, Mama". He broke my freaking heart!! 

What have we gotten ourselves into?! Part of me sorts broke at that point. I mean, we were safe and healthy and really, the kids weren't starving, they were just really hungry for a full meal. We had to get to our hotel, and fast.

 

Again, another cab to take us to the hotel four minutes away, and another wad of cash, and we were finally at our first hotel. We needed to be in Road Town for one day to finalize some paper work and sort out some of the money transfer stuff on the boat. That was most easily done from Road Town. Luckily, we have stayed there before so it felt relatively familiar.

We plunk ourselves down, thinking to just order in food (for my poor hungry babies!), and none of the phone numbers work, or no one delivers or nothing is close enough. More of my heart breaking.

Even though it is raining like crazy, I put on Matt's hoodie, don a backpack we emptied and took all the US cash we had an I literally ran to the closest grocery store. 

In the BVI's, being "British", they drive on the "wrong side" of the road, which really throws you for a loop. So I dodge in and out of traffic, trying not to die, and finally get to the grocery store and feed my family.



With my backpack full of funny food (and I luckily found my favourite wine!), I dashed back to the hotel room, no rain this time. We ate our ramen noodles and watched Beauty and the Beast on the ipad. At some point we all showered and brushed teeth, but it was the first of many times that I shook my head thinking "what have we done?!".

 

There we plenty of little hiccups along the way, as anyone who travels knows, but we did eventually make it to our boat. One last cab ride off another ferry, and the driver takes us right to our boat in the boatyard. It was a strange and anti climactic moment. I mean, we'd seen photographs of it already and so far, it looked exactly as the photos described. But I'm beat and so done with moving here there and everywhere, the magic is minimal. 

But we all climb up the ladder to check out the boat, for the first time, in the flesh.

Like I said, anti-climactic. But still, no immediate surprises. It's not like when you move into a new home, or check into a hotel room, where everything is ready for you to just slip in and start living. For a boat that has been sitting, things need to be tied up nicely. Meaning, they leave the fridge open, they have all the cushions topsy turvy, the sails are brought in. It sorta looks like a mess. But a mess we just bought and paid for, signed on the dotted line and all that. It's not a problem, it's just the presentation of it. Fairytale over, reality begins.

 

As is everything in the Caribbean, things take some time. We still can't sleep on the boat (you really don't want to in the boatyard - it's hot and you're inland so the air circulation is poor), so we stay at a hotel just a block down the road (super dangerous road!), where we can chill in the evenings after days of working on the boat.

Though we were told our boat would launch on the 31st of October, we were promptly told it wouldn't happen until the 2nd of November (welcome to the Caribbean, baby!). Well, we take it all in stride, this is just part of the plan, and we run with it. 
It worked out rather well actually, because we did have some time on the hard (on land) where we could sort out a bit of the boat stuff, clean it a bit and get it ready to get wet. In hindsight now, we didn't do nearly enough. We were still exhausted and I wasn't sleeping all that well and the kids still have to have their needs met and we need to constantly eat and drink (more water we have to pay for!).

Soon enough, it was the 2nd and we actually got an earlier launch time than expected (8:30AM which sorta turned into about 10AM, but who's watching the clock anyhow?). Once all the right machines got rigged up and could strap our boat up, we were on our way. That was maybe a little surreal. I remember seeing it finally slide down into the water and watch Matt hop onboard to help with something and it really did look like a boat, finally, a real live sail boat.

 

 

Matt was in his element, finally. He knows boats and how things go, so once that boat was in the water, he could finally feel like he knew what was happening. So much of this boat process has been out of our hands and we've just had to trust that things will work out, and it seemed, finally, it had.

With the boat in the water, we fuelled up (sweet! it came with a full tank of fuel!) and topped up the water (yay for huge tanks so we can shower without freaking out about not having enough water for coffee the next day - real issues, people). It's sorta that feeling when you walk out of high school for the last time: you feel like there really should be someone official there, pointing you which way to go for the best results, but instead, you just head out the door with your backpack and bad taste in clothing and just hope for the best. It was like that, like we just graduated, and no one once asked "you sure you know how to make this thing work?". They just let us go. (and I still don't have great taste in clothing, but no one cares anymore)

 

And off we went.

 

Crazy, right?

 

Those first days weren't exactly like how we imagined they would  be: so many things were tied to other people's schedules, everything was more expensive than we'd like, the weather was off and on torrential rain... lots of things. It felt like we were trapped in this funny limbo - again! So close and yet so far. I yearned to badly to just shake free of these limitations and finally be out on our own, doing what we came here for.

But with time and patience and a lot of grace given and received, we got our boat out on the water, and our adventure has begun.

 

We start these first days staying in the BVIs, learning the boat and moving our stuff in (oh my gosh: so much stuff), and then we will begin meandering our way back towards St Thomas to pick up my brother and sister in law for their visit. 

 

I am super impressed if you've made it this far, reading. I'll be honest and say that I rarely read long blog posts. I like to see lots of pictures and few words, and if there are words, they had better be witty and to the point. I hope I have gotten close, though sometimes there just needs to be a long blog post.

Just for those of you who read to the end, I'll have you know that I just had the most fantastic shower off then back of the boat, in the dark, with crickets and frogs chirping all around. I feel incredibly fresh and brand new. And while I have been typing out in the cockpit of the boat, while the kids are falling asleep and Matt is probably sleeping, too, by now, I can hear tons of water creatures splashing here and there around me. It's pitch black out but it is alive out here! So many strange splashes going on. I am slightly freaked out, but I sorta want a flash light at the same time. I think ignorance is bliss and I shall leave the sea creatures to their evening rituals.

 

 

Thank you million for your encouraging words and support while we take off on this endeavour. We love to hear from your all and cherish every note you send. 

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almost there

Two More Sleeps

photos by the always incredible Rebecca Sehn.

 

We're sitting on the edge of something awesome, but I still have to clean the toilets. I'm packing up my entire life and that of my family, but my kids still need to eat lunch. Life just keeps happening and no one is putting it on pause for me. If I want that box meticulously packed, no one is going to hold my hand and help me do it. Don't get my wrong: Matt is a great help, but he's got his own lists to check off and his own tasks to conquer (and I really don't want to take care of some of the items on his list).

So I tackle all my items on my own, swerving around kids who still want to play with those toys I am trying to pack away, or just peed the bed causing an unusual amount of laundry, and no one else is going to make this happen.

 

This morning, I set my alarm for early, enjoyed a quiet breakfast on my own and got to it. For the first time since when we started planning this adventure, I am actually getting really excited about what is coming. As I pack box after box, I can actually almost imagine pulling it out in the boat and storing it away. It's becoming a reality, or a closer reality at any rate.

 

We have a lot to be thankful these days: our money is moving around just as it should (Canadian dollars, to US dollars, in and out of various bank accounts), we've had some incredible moments with our closest friends and we've been surrounded my supportive family. Things are starting to settle in. It was most notable at 9PM last night, as Piper was wailing leaving her cousins house, "was that my last time seeing them?", that Matt and I realized it might be us wailing like that come Saturday. The kids are starting to feel it, Piper more so, feeling like things really have snuck up on her. She's really feeling like she's going to miss out on a lot of birthdays and special friend times. I am trying to remind her that right now, it's sorta the worst part because we have to do all the sad part, but once we are in the Caribbean, with out boat, out adventuring, we won't be so sad about all the things we're missing. I've been comparing this period of goodbyes as a slow band-aid pull: ripping and pulling, good and slow. It has to happen, but you just want it over and done with, but you gotta endure the slow painful part first. Ouch. 

 

We are savouring these last days with our peoples, and treasuring them. I say a lot of "I love you"'s, which isn't something I throw around too often. But I truly mean it. I love these people who are journeying with us, full of encouragement and support. Even when we sound crazy or tired or totally beat, we're loved and we feel it.

 

Thank you all, for sending us your love. We're so excited to adventure along with you. I mean it when I say I love you.

 

If you want to keep us in your thoughts and prayers, we fly out of Vancouver around 8PM on Saturday, October 29. We will do our best to keep you updated. Most likely, our Instagram and Facebook account will be the best place for current info, feel free to tune in there.

 

If you want to take a peek at our most recent video, where we do more preparing and running around, take a peek below. We love your comments and thumbs up :)

6 Comments

leaving

Leaving a Good Life

Close friends of ours recently had their first baby, a lovely baby girl. Matt and I have been surprised how immediately in love we were, with this little lady, her not technically being a niece, but pretty dang close. It's been so long since our own babies were that small and needy. We've forgotten all the long nights and tired eyes, the utter exhaustion and fuzzy brain. We just love looking at the little baby girl, finally on the outside for us to love.

My heart aches a little for things we'll miss in this year we will be away. When we come back , this sweet little baby could very well be walking and talking. So much can change in a year, not just with the babies, but with everything. I think of our other friends with their children and how much of them we'll miss growing up, or our families and the milestones they'll all be reaching over a year.

I know I probably sound like a whiner because "oh, poor soul, she'll be out in the sunshine with sand between her toes!", but it is never easy leaving a good life. In these final days before take off, the realities of being away are finally starting to sink in. Dates come up in the calendar and I realize "we won't be here for that". Perhaps my mind is just a little extra squishy and sentimental these days, but as much as this trip has been our dream for a long time, the departure sure makes all these feelings a little more real. I do feel that once we are off and away, a lot of the hardest "feelings" will be over, and we will be wrapped up in our adventure and I won't be as sad, but for now, I'm feeling it all!

 


I moved out when I was 18, and that goodbye wasn't too hard. Perhaps because I was still so young and there was so much adventure ahead of me it didn't matter that I was leaving my only childhood home. But I think that might have been the last time I have had to say a goodbye like that. I've stayed in one spot for a long time, and Matt has stayed even longer. He's probably always lived within 20 minutes of everywhere he's ever called home. This is a big step for him, too. As much as we're saying "of course we're coming home", which we do plan on doing, I can't help but think we might come back slightly changed, slightly different. I expect our perspective to have changed, our priorities to have refocused and our goals to be slightly altered from what they are today. These sorts of adventures change people, and maybe sitting on the cusp of all this change (and having the time to consider all these things) makes me a little nervous.

 

What we do know is that we are settling into a period in our lives of uncertainty and of the unknown. We accept that. I feel like I've shared that a lot here, so I do apologize if I sound redundant, but change is hard, even if the change to come is exciting and adventurous. Closing chapters in ones life is not an easy thing. We navigate these last days before we leave with grace, and doing our best to be at peace with how everything is going. Bear with us if our responses are a little short, or our faces a little weary: we are packing up some baggage, literal and physical. There is a great journey on the way, but as everyone knows, packing is just the worst.

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countdown is truly on

Less Than Two Weeks

The countdown is truly on now. We have less than two weeks left before we take off, and we are starting to feel it. (we take off on October 29) 


We repack our bags every few days as we are constantly trying to play Tetris to get all our favourite things into our limited number of bags. I am trying to imagine us actually one day unpacking these very bags in our boat, putting some of these things away. It seems like a long ways away right now, but I know this time will go by quickly.

I have long since stopped having good quality sleep. It has nothing to do with our accommodations. I have slept well here for the past two weeks, but something has twigged in my brain and now I toss and turn for hours before I eventually fall asleep. It feels like hard work and I do dread it sometimes. I am exhausted during the day and am happy to crawl into bed early, at the kids bedtime, but I just don't fall asleep. So I read, sometimes watch a show on my phone, listen to a story or eventually just have to try and calm my own thoughts down. I don't feel stressed out, but I think that is what I shall attribute this lack of sleep to: stress.

 

We've also started our first "lasts". Last time at church, last time seeing these friends, last time seeing those friends, last this, last that. It's odd.

I mean, I know we aren't leaving the planet, never to return, but it still feels monumental. The emotional weight is starting to get to me, too, I think. We have lots of people cheering us on, but soon, we will have to wave goodbye and as it turns out, that part is hard. We've planned a good send-off with our family's right before we go, and that feels right.

Lots of deep breathing happening.

 

So for now, we are trying our hardest to use up the food we have on our shelf and in the fridge, we are trying to keep up with the laundry (as we all only have limited fall clothes - poor Piper only has one pair of pants somehow!) and try to not lose our marbles all over the place. Matt is working hard on figuring out the shipping of his tools and some of our bigger things and I am trying to get all the appointments done before our take-off date (here we go to the dentist!).

 

We're really excited to get this party started. We just want to get there, but first we gotta climb these last few mountains before we start.

 

Thank you all for cheering us on, for your thoughts and prayers. We need them all, and keep them coming :)

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moving and packing

All the feels of moving.

** pardon the shift in formatting. It's driving my bonkers. I know it's a simple fix, but as with lots on the inter webs... this time it isn't. Carry on! **

So, it’s happened: we are officially homeless. I mean, don’t worry about us or anything: we have a place to sleep and eat and relax, but we don’t own a home. Matt reminded me that it’s been over 11 years since we’ve been in this situation. We don’t live under the bridge.

 

I’ve had friends ask how I’m feeling. I tell them that I’m feeling a lot. I can’t quite identity what my feelings are exactly. I think overall I feel sad, because I sometimes want to cry and I sometimes want to go back to our condo and start over and I sometimes wonder if we’re doing the right thing at all.

 

I have to remind myself that we had indeed out grown the condo and our time had come to move on anyways. It was a really happy space for us, compared to some of our other homes, so I suppose I wasn’t prepared to feel a sort of grief in leaving. Our other homes I was happy to move along (drop it like it’s hot!) and get going on the next thing, but as a friend reminded me, we don’t really have a place to move onto yet. I mean, we do, but everything is still sorta cloudy in my mind, I don’t have real things to grasp onto yet: it’s all just photos and dreams.


For now, we are safe and sound and I have to remember that. This is all we need right now. We've known all along that this is a time of unrest and unknown. It's hard to stomach every single time. I will get better at this! I'm going to have to.

I've told a couple of people "preparing for an adventure is hard work!", and I truly mean it. The dreaming stage is easy-peasy, and it's the best part. This stage of legwork is hard and tiring, but we're getting through. I know soon enough we will be on our way and this time will be far away in the background of my memory.

 

Take a look at our latest video on YouTube of some of our latest plans and updates on all the upheaval! Enjoy and share and send us a nice thumbs up! :)

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update

What's Happening Next?

September has truly flown by, somehow, and October is right around the corner. Anyone else feeling totally flustered in this new fall routine? I'm feeling totally bull-dozed by all that is going on.

 

Just to keep everyone abreast (how often do you get to use that word?!), we officially purchased a boat! We've signed papers and lined up money transfer dates and all that jazz. I'll update our boat page with Matt one of these nights so you get all the details right. But we are thrilled. The boat is currently on the hard (out of the water, up on stilts) in Virgin Gorda in the BVI's, just waiting for us. We get our paws on her on the 31st of October (trick or treat!).

We also officially bought plane tickets! Yay! This is a huge weight off of my brain. We fly out of YVR (Vancouver) on the 29th of October, and then we are on our way. So we are packing up our entire life into boxes to store, donate or take on the boat. There are piles everywhere in our little condo. It's crazy, but we just need to power through this week and things will settle... won't they?

 

You'll probably notice that our move out dates don't perfectly coincide with our boat dates, and that is because we are staying local for one month still. The weather isn't quite ideal yet to be cruising in the caribbean, so we figured to stay close to home for a little longer, for Matt to keep working, but have a little less house-payment and hassle. We have lovely friends with an empty basement suite close by who invited us to use it for the month. This is more than perfect and such a gift. It'll be an odd transition, to be living out of our suitcases, but still doing so comfortably. And we'll have a month to shake all the hassle of moving off of our backs. We're hoping October will be a month to figure out some of the finer details of our trip and to have adequate time to say goodbye to all of our people here. I am not looking forward to all the goodbyes. That is probably going to be the worst part of taking off on a grand adventure. 

 

So for now, we pack more boxes, clean our condo and close one chapter of our lives. It is all bittersweet, but all part of the process. Coming up in our lives right now is:

 

  • moving on the weekend of the Sep 24-25
  • officially selling our condo on Sep 28
  • a number of photoshoots for Frances
  • celebrate Digory's 5th birthday 
  • all of us visit the dentist
  • Thanksgiving with family
  • kids finish up skating and swimming lessons

And somewhere in there we have to take some deep breaths and try not to go crazy. I know that this next little season is going to be intense, I am mentally preparing myself for it, but I still feel a little on the edge most of the time. So many things are changing at once and it starts to take a toll on your heart! I like to see things planned out and that we are making progress, a day at a time, and soon enough, before we know it, we'll be settling in to life on our boat!

 

Remember to check out or Facebook page for more updates and Instagram for more photos. I'd love to hear from you :) And check out our latest video below about packing... toys... the best and worst part.



Check out where the boat is and a quick pic!

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parenting

Digging-in instead of Peacing-out

Have you ever had those parenting moments when it's been a long day (yes), the house is a mess (yes), you are dead tired (yes) and sick of all the drama the kids are raising (yes)?

It feels like it's nearly every day. Those bittersweet hours at the end of the day are just the worst. Matt sometimes just puts his head in his hands and says "can't we just fast forward?". 

Amen.

 

Last night was like that. We'd actually had a pretty good day (yay for swimming lessons!) and dinner went down without too much complaining (yay for bribery with ice cream #noshame) and there was lots of time left for the kids the play in the bath, which they love. Off they went, filling that sucker up as high as they could (groan).

As Matt and I are milling about and trying not to look like we're avoiding the obvious housework ("ummm, yes, I actually really do need to organize these sheets of scrap paper. Jeez"), we can hear Piper in the tub pulling her best "bossy boots" attitude. She's a first born, I have to keep telling myself that, but it drives both Matt and I crazy (being a third and fourth born, respectively). After a calm warning, and then hearing the same attitude still (reminder, our home is 900 square feet. You hear everything happening in the tub), I tell (command?) her that her time is up, to get out, dry off, brush teeth and head to bed.

Tears, gnashing of teeth, more tears and then stomping off, hair all askew. 

 

So. Many. Eye-rolls.

Another amen, please?

 

My gut said to just let her go to bed, wet and angry and probably fairly confused. She was being a big-sister turd, and could use a night to think it through. But then I remember that I know my kids, and I know myself: we were all gonna be miserable for it. With a sigh and another eye-roll, I made a plan.

When my gut rolls so far one way ("let them rot in their prison and think upon their misdeeds!"), then my instinct sometimes chimes in and tells me to roll in the opposite direction. Like, a very sharp left turn: it's gonna take all my time, and attention and effort.

I felt, more strongly than other nights when I do let them rot (guilty), that this was my time to dig in: not in the argumentative way, but in the enriching way, like turning and churning tired soil. The kids needed some evening "compost", some rich and vital nutrients that help them flourish. Instead of peacing out, which was all I wanted to do, I decided we needed a good and long story time. And I wasn't thinking about a dozen of those (laaaaame) early readers that they so love, I opted for a real book. The only problem was that I had packed pretty much all of the good books. Luckily, I had put a couple books on my Kobo e-reader that might work. Turns out the only book that came remotely close was the first book in the Harry Potter series.

 

Now don't start lecturing me on my kids being too young for that book, I know they are. But this wasn't about age-readiness in reading, we needed squishy-close-snuggle time and Harry was coming along because, well, Harry was the only one available.

After a talk and a cuddle, and us all apologizing for having lousy attitudes, the kids and I climbed into their bed, filled it with pillows and started reading. We could have been reading Les Miserables (the other option on my Kobo), I actually don't think it would have mattered. We were all up in each other's grill, breathing in our (thankfully) clean smells and bodies pressed close. We read and read and read. Piper read right along with me, and caught every word I missed. Digory got his back scratched just about the whole time and I got to practice my various english accents. We were all having our tanks filled. (Matt was blissfully cruising the internet, interruption free, for all the cool boat gadgets without me breathing down his neck = his tank filled, too.)

 

As we were reading in that tiny little bed, meant for one child, I figured this might be a lot like our boat adventure: we'll be in each other's face without an option of storming away, and we'll have to make a choice over and over on what is the best way to shut the day down. It might not always end in two hours of reading Harry Potter, but there will have to be those times when I dig in and cultivate deeply into the kids' needs, and leave my own aside. I won't always have the option of peacing-out of parenting and discipline. I'm sure sometimes I will, or Matt and I will have to resort to the dreaded "tag-team" parenting, but I can see the value in sowing deeply into what the kids need, even at my own expense. 

Don't get me wrong: I am not a fan of the martyred-mother: I strongly believe in self-care and pursuing your own passions outside of home-life, but the fact is, that my kids need me now. I can spare an evening to feed their little spirits, to show humility and compassion and forgiveness, despite the fact that they might have well deserved a night of silence, I probably deserved a quiet night, too. And I found my quiet night, surrounded in a squishy little nest on the lower bunk, with my little kiddies sprawled all over me, utterly rapt in a make-believe story.

 

I think we all made amends yesterday. I would have never admitted that after a day of full-on kids, that I actually needed to spend more time with my kids (I homeschool, yo - I see my kids plenty!). These rich moments are one of the reasons we are going on this adventure: to dig deeply, not miss a moment or opportunity to remind our kids over and over "we love you, we love you, we love you". 

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update

Being Vulnerable.

This entire adventure so far has been a stretch, in all kinds of ways. 

Lately, I'm finding that it's a stretch on my comfort zone, especially on the "putting myself out there" zone. I've put myself out there a couple of times this past week (online garage sale and video update) and have been graciously rewarded. This reminds me that confidence is key and that people will continually surprise me. I forget that we have incredible people in our circle, that just keep coming around us and supporting us in our most vulnerable moments. 

We've also made some shirts to help support us, and to dress the world alike. Do take a peek at our online shop- they are a work of  heart.

 


Our Latest YouTube Video!

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Kids

This is the right time for our kids.

We've had a couple people, and even ourselves, wonder if this is the best time to take off on this adventure with our kids. 

 

"Don't you want to wait until they are older, and can remember more?"

"Aren't they too much work at this age?"

"They'll have more fun when they're older!"

 

Yes to all of those things. We have thought those over, truly. But this timing does feel right for our kids' ages. We knew we didn't want to try this adventure when they were diaper age, or even toddler/naptime age. We wanted our kids to be able to contribute somewhat, communicate and be active decision makers in our adventure plans. Their ages now, (almost) 5 and 7 seems like a good fit. 

 

As we were driving around the interior of BC last weekend, Matt and I were glaring at each other thinking "how did we ever drive the whole way across the country a couple of years ago, with these crazy little people?!". Our kids are not at the best age right now to be in a car for 6-12 hours a day. They were when they were 5 and almost 3. It worked. It was perfect timing for us all.

Right now, that isn't their jam.

 

I can foresee them in just a couple of years being too old for this next trip! Having commitments and friends and connections that would be heard to sever. It is just around the corner, those moments when they stop leaning into us so much and start spreading their wings outwards and away. 

It hit me when I took this photo of Piper recently. The way she moves her little body, angles her head and tilts her hips: she is growing up, and even if she doesn't feel it everyday, it's happening.

 

I'm happy to seize this fragment of time to be together and share these memories while we can. Who knows what another year will look like, and who we will become. Our time is now, and the kids are at just the right age for this adventure. I can't wait to see how this trip transforms their young perspectives on the world around them and brings them into themselves. Even though they would likely remember more in a couple of  years, these years here and now matter so much still, and we can't let them pass with regret. 

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update

Summer Update

All of a sudden, we've been swamped by summer! We held off on holidays until the end of the summer and somehow they just crept up on us and took us over! We had planned a trip to Shuswap Lake in the interior of BC months and months ago with close friends and there was nothing that was going to cancel these plans! It was an easy, relaxing time, watching the Olympics or sitting around a campfire in the backyard (we stayed at a lovely vacation rental home - no tenting for us this summer!).

After that, we decided to take the trip further north up to Prince George, my home town, to visit my brother and his little family. More driving and then busy days and we were starting to feel like holidays were hard work! We loved our days of catching up and seeing all the lovely things, but we were starting to feel a little helpless to move any of our upcoming travel plans further. We don't have a laptop and there is only so much you can do (or want to do!) from your phone. Finally, after a busy and beautiful day spent in Barkerville, we drove the eight hours back home, where we promptly collapsed and slept deeply. 

I remember thinking "all I want to do tomorrow is watch Downton Abbey all day and eat chips", but once we woke up and were sorting out our packs, both Matt and I realized we actually don't have a lot of time to be idle right now. We had emails to get back to, contracts to sign, cheques to track down, people to call and things to sell! On Sunday alone we:

  • sold Matt's last (and most impressive) boxbike/cargo bike
  • sold my bookshelf (to the hippest craigslist friend ever)
  • packed a bunch of Rubbermaids
  • signed a contract for the sale of our condo
  • dropped off silkscreens at my super-friend's house (more to come on that later)
  • picked up stuff at the library (my second home)
  • emailed boat broker and surveyor about inspection coming up
  • and finally... started watching Downton Abbey season 6 (don't tell me anything!)

Where the heck are my chips?! I'm exhausted all over again just typing that.

 

You get the point. We've reached a point in this adventure where it is go-time, nearly all the time. There is always something to get done. 

This is super exciting, but we all really value our slow days and quiet lifestyle. Sometimes I look over at a Matt, with my most pathetic-whiny-wife face saying "I just want to be there already"... meaning our adventure, meaning our boat, meaning... let's just go already! I know this is all part of it, but I am just doing a lot of fast little eye-blinks to make sure I am really still on this planet and I haven't been transported to another dimension. 

 

Anyways, this week and next we are focusing on the boat survey, which will be happening on the 30th of August (later than we wanted, but we really aren't in control of a lot these days). Keep us in mind. This "limbo-land" as I've been calling it, is a hard place to be. Nothing and everything is happening. While we wait for the boat inspection to happen, we pack another box or two and try to imagine our life away from where we are right now, though still feeling strange/sad/excited at the prospect of actually leaving.
I find I am processing a lot of feelings, which will probably come out later, but trying to keep perspective and focus on heading forward. We never picked this path because it was easy, we understand that: changes are hard, transitions are hard - this growing up business sure ain't easy, but we're trying to keep looking ahead and trying not to linger on what is bogging us down right now, and accept it all as part of the journey.

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reactions

Reactions to Adventure.

I was at the bank earlier (if you follow my Instagram, you know why) and was finishing up some paper work pertaining to our trip, when one of our long-time "bank-friends" (meaning an employee of the bank) happily came up and was asking a little more about what was going on. I briefly explained "we're buying a boat in the Caribbean and plan to sail around for a year". I said this very casually as if I could have been saying "after this, I'm running to the store to get some bananas".

The strangest thing happened next: I think I actually saw the colour of her face change. I think she actually paled: she actually lost that healthy colour in her face, you know, blush in her cheeks, red in her lips. 

I repeated myself, with a couple of new adjectives and (as anyone who knows me will attest to) with lots of hand gestures. But alas, none of her colour came back. She could still smile, but she could almost hardly mutter "well, can the kids swim?" to which I replied that yes, they are in fact very good swimmers. She sighed heavily and started to breathe again (and blink, too: I think she had stopped blinking entirely).

 

 


"Oh, good, good. Well, if the kids can swim, well, well... good", stunned, she wandered away.

I was legitimately afraid that she was feeling genuine fear and trepidation for our survival during our trip.

 

I also fear that she is not the first, and won't be the last. People's reactions sway between fear-of-the worst-case-scenario, to the bad-longterm-financial-decision to that's-cool. And everywhere in between. As much as I welcome people's questions and remarks, I am slowly having to brace myself for them as well. I am not used to having our life decisions critiqued. There is nothing normal about these decision, I suppose: I can't expect normal reactions.


I was recently grilled by a well meaning friend about all of our financial upheaval and "how are you going to re-enter the market?" and "have you thought about X, Y and Z?". I say "grilled" though I actually felt slightly accosted, but they were all good questions to ask, and yes, we have thought it all through. 
The truth is, this won't make sense to a good chunk of people. The truth is, that this probably won't be a good long-term investment choice for the current real estate market. But the truth is, we will probably come back with an entirely fresh perspective (even if it is with zero dollars) because, the truth is: we don't care.

We will be experience-rich and house-poor. But we'll have spent a year building deeply into each others lives and living richly while watching our money slowly blow away. 

But it's just money. We can make more. But I can't relive my daughter's eighth year of life or my son's fifth. These moments are sacred, and this is a dream we have shared for a long time. We have thought out every angle, and there is a pro and a con for every way you slice it. As is everything in life, right?

We've truly felt the hand of God weaving us through so many of these processes and we do not feel alone in this. Also, we have felt the love and support of those close to us and that counts for a lot. Even though the choices we are making sound completely crazy to some or just plain foolish to others, we're so glad to have you along for the journey. Truly.

 

PS: For those of you who might have lost some colour (or just plain old respect for me), just know our children't post-secondary eduction is paid for and we still have a solid downpayment for a home in the future. And for all of my friends who are asking, I am keeping my Vita-Mix: hence, we can totally survive for a long time.

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packing

The packing begins

Thus begins our packing in earnest. Who doesn't love packing?

 

Ummm... no one loves packing. I actually thought I did for a couple minutes this morning, and then I attempted to pack up my bookshelf. It's easy enough to put things in a box, but then you realize that this book doesn't belong to me and I have to put it in a pile over there, or else these items should be donated, thrown out or packed on our trip. Soon enough, there is a massive explosion in my room where once was a neatly organized bookshelf. Why did I bother trying to pack that bookshelf? I should have left it to the servants. Wait: I don't live in a Jane Austen novel. 

 

This past weekend we went through our downstairs storage room. It's a small  wire container that we can keep things like our christmas gear and camping stuff or old photo albums. It is super handy to have this on-site, even though we only access it every couple of months. The most entertaining part is to guess which storage locker belongs to which neighbour - checking out people's belongings is almost as much as fun people watching: you create all sorts of stories just by observing. As creepy as it sounds, we all do it.

 

We took everything out of ours, and immediately made a "donate" pile, and then a pile to keep or give back to people and then one to take with us on the boat. This sounds simple enough, but for some reason my attitude goes down the toilet during these endeavours. I snap at the kids as they play on the "storage room skateboards" and glare at Matt as he says he "definitely needs to keep this wetsuit forever" (he hasn't used in three or more years). Why didn't we store wine in this storage locker?!

 

We packed our little Yaris FULL with garbage bags of things to donate and another bin or two to hand back to friends or family. We made a neat stack of bins that will eventually go into storage when we move, and put the rest of the things that we don't need to deal with right away, back into the storage locker. We locked it up and walked away. Our hands were filthy with dust and grime and our kids needed a bath from rolling around on that floor. We can check one item off our list: "conquer storage room". Done.

 

We've been living in 900 square feet for four years and now have felt slightly victorious at the amount of stuff we haven't collected. But it turns out, if you have space, you'll fill it. If we lived in 300 square feet, it would still be stuffed to the gills, and I believe the same would be true if we lived in 3000 square feet. Its the same with money: you use what you have, and there is never quite enough. If I just had a little bit more, everything would be easier.

 

My biggest take-home lesson has been to cherish what we do have, to use it well or else to give things away without guilt.  "It's just stuff" we conclude, and in no time at all, no matter what life throws at us, we'll collect more stuff and squeeze it into whatever space we occupy at that moment. 

For now, we want to make sure the stuff we are keeping is quality and significant, brings us joy and brings us closer to our present selves, not the selves we once were or the selves we wish we could be.

 

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Update

Update on How Things Are Going

So since we have now told our world that yes, we are planning on taking this big adventure, I should probably keep you updated on what I can.

As of right now, there isn't a whole lot to report as we are still really in a big waiting period for the most part. Both Matt and I are afraid to get our hopes up as things can change really quickly at this point.

 

Currently, we have an offer in on a boat in Antigua (yay!). I want to be super excited to get this ball rolling, but we haven't had a survey done on the boat yet, so that can change a lot. As of right now, there is paperwork in the mail from the boat broker in Antigua on it's way to us. It should be here in the next week or so. 

 


Once we have filled out that paper work, we send a deposit (totally scary!) and then the survey (like your home inspection - remember in the olden days when people would get those done on their homes before they bought them?) gets done on the boat. Once we get the survey back, we might adjust our asking price and then make a decision. 

I'm afraid of:

  • what they might find that we couldn't see from photos (could be a lot!)
  • not being able to physically see the boat and all of it's question marks (this is killing Matt!)
  • realizing we are in way over our heads
  • having to start the boat search all over
  • realizing our hearts are broken...

But I'm getting ahead of myself. There isn't anything to report, except my (mostly ungrounded) fears. We still have plenty of time to find something if this one falls through. Just... so many feels.

 

Speaking of paperwork, we have some friends of friends who are looking at our condo to buy (more yay!). Again, I don't want to get my hopes up as life happens so fast and so many things can change, but we are waiting for more paperwork/financing from the interested party. All of these things take time, so here comes more waiting. We have a few other leads if this (totally perfect and delightful) family doesn't work out. But again... my heart can only take so much ;)

 

As much as I can say I don't really feel any stress, my body is feeling it. I am really tired these days and somewhat foggy brain (could be the heat?), and Matt is feeling the same sort of things. We are trying to focus on what is actually in our power to change and it isn't much. So last night Matt washed the floors and I went to bed early and surprisingly, we're feeling a little better. 

We are settling into a time of upheaval and it's just taking some getting used to. I truly feel that once the condo is sold and the boat purchased (preferably in that order), we'll be in full go-mode and can really start moving forward.

 

But for now, it's a large cup of coffee. 

Thanks for reading, friends! Your encouragement has been so heartwarming. 

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Trust

Being Patient and Trusting.

So far this endeavour has been an exercise in trust and patience. We have a lot of unanswered questions and a lot of things on our "to-do" list that are vague and nebulous. We find it hard sometimes to be looking ahead when we still have so much holding us down.

 

I got a text from Matt the other day saying something along the lines of "I'm feeling the weight of all of this and it's starting to feel like a lot to juggle". I know this is a "Matt-overfeeling" thing, which is not a bad thing at all. He tends to care A LOT, and he carries a lot of other people's cares as well, so it eventually all catches up to him and he feels pretty blue.

When he got home, we had a good sit down and talk about letting a lot of these worries go. So much of this adventure is going to be out of our control and we need to be ready to do what we feel is best and then just wait and see. 

We're realizing we are stepping in a zone of uncertainty; knowingly setting ourselves up for upset and unknown. We understand the end result, but we also understand what it will take to get there. There will be a lot of moments when our only option is to sit back and trust that this will work out, being patient waiting for an answer or result.

 

So we are taking a deep breath, knowing full well that we are not alone in all these wild crazy dreams and adventures. 

 

"Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don't try to figure everything out on your own" Proverbs 3:5 (MSG)

 

Photo credit - Rebecca Sehn (she's just the best. Truly. Check out all her lovely work)

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Not a year long holiday.

Expectations for a year "off"

A lot of people might think that we are going on this nice big adventure so that we can chill on a beach for 8-10 hours a day and eventually come home with fresh perspective

As much as I'd like that to be true, I fear that there is going to be a lot of work before we get those sought after beach hours. We are starting to mentally prepare for that part, and the fact that it most likely won't be comfortable, will be filled with uncertainty and the outcome might not be what we had planned. But doesn't that sound just like your own life right now? Like every life, every day? We will have just shaken up our location and our creature-comforts and be living a little leaner than normal.

We want to treat this time much more like a sabbatical, which in its purest form is a ceasing from work, to take a rest, to recalibrate.

 


Yes, this sounds like just the thing for us, though don't think we're expecting an easy ride. We understand that parts of this adventure will be hard work and look nothing like a "break" at all! But it will be a change. It will be an upset in our schedule, shedding light on our priorities. It will be a time to weave our family closer despite all the ups and downs. For us, that is worth it, that's the point: to take a rest from normal and see what else is out there. 

Life can't be just about finding the partner, getting the house/job/kids/car of your dreams and then burning your days away paying it all off... can it? There has to be more than that.

 We are going to use this year to test the theory, to work hard at taking a break. To dig deep into the idea of "rest" and what God meant by the idea. Is this a concept our western culture has lost? Is it worth pursuing? Can it actually change a person's perspective on life?

Let's find out.

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Our Condo

Selling the Condo

One of the first questions we are asked after we say that we are going on our big adventure it the fall is "what are you going to do with your place?"

 

We like to think we've thought through all the options:

  • rent it 
  • sell it

Look at all those options! 

 

We really tried to work out the renting option, as we understand that real estate is a good long term investment and as we've only been here for four years, it could be wise to keep it and cash in later. The thing is, that even though our mortgage is small, it still costs us just a bit too much to rent it out and make money off of it. With strata costs and property management etc, the costs just get too high and it starts to cost us to keep our condo while we are away (which isn't the point. We want to have as few expenses as possible while we're gone).

 

We feel that the best option for us is to sell. The condo market in the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD) is not the same as the housing market (emphasis on "house"), but it is still fine. We haven't lost money on our condo, but we haven't made a whole lot either. In our plan A, we would like to try and sell privately, to a friend of a friend, or a word of mouth sort of thing. I am sure realtor folks are rolling their eyeballs right now, but we've gotta give it a shot. As we've kept an eye on our market, we know what places like ours are selling for and we can do the math on the commission the realtor is collecting. The realtor fee, close to $12,000, could sustain us as a family for a year on a boat! We need to at least try to keep that money in our pocket. Every dollar we save fattens up our cruising-kitty, which means we can adventure for longer.

 

I feel as though I'm making excuses, and I sort of am. I have no idea what we're trying to do, but we're going to try and see what comes of this! Plan B is we list it with a realtor and they sell it for us and we get what we get ("and we don't get upset!"). As of right now, we have a bit of time on our side and would love to see what happens. We feel we have a great little condo that would suit a lot of different types of peoples needs. It is entirely desirable.

 

It would be a huge help to us if you could keep us in mind and if someone in your world thinks about buying a lovely condo in Surrey, we could certainly hook them up ;) Seriously. 

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How?

How can you make this work?

We dream!

We wouldn't have started any of this adventuring if we first didn't get out there and dream. We saw cool places, did cool things and had cool ideas and let them grow.

 

We plan!

After we had a wild dream set in our hearts, we took steps we needed to get there. We made a seven year plan and immediately started taking itty bitty baby steps in that direction.

 

We save!

The worst (and best) part. I wish this part was easier. We are admittedly not very good with our money, so we had to be really diligent, which we weren't always, but once we had a plan it was much easier to see the end goal and strive towards that.


In reality, we've had to sell just about everything we own, downsize to a condo, and live frugally for a long time. We've lived in the most expensive place in Canada right now (Vancouver) and it's sucked us dry. The best choice for us was to stick it out and just do the best with what we have. We continued to focus on the things we do  have like:

  • our health
  • family living very nearby
  • a strong community of friends, old and new
  • access to the ocean (for impromptu sailing experience)
  • the ability to work well together 
  • healthy/happy kids that roll with the punches
  • enough drive to keep us looking forward, but not so much that it is crippling.

So, this didn't happen overnight.

It's taken us time. But money isn't everything and like someone reminded me, it is a renewable resource. We can always make more. We've made this work with what we have, and we just ran with it!

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Why?

Why the big adventure?

Oh the reasons. So many reasons why. The biggest being, why NOT?!

 

Some reasons behind deciding to do this trip are things like the pace of life of living in a city, the cost of living, the rush of it all. Our spirits feel like they need a rest from the mayhem. A proper rest, not just a three week holiday. We need more time. Lots more time.

Right now, our bodies are strong, and our worries are relatively few. We've had nightmares of waking up and being 70 years old and realizing it was too late to go through with our dreams! We can't let that happen. Our time is now, and you never know how long you have left.

 

In the summer of 2014, my (Frances) Dad passed suddenly from illness, and as much as I don't want to admit that his passing was a catalyst, it just has to be. My Dad was a go-getter and had so much left to do on his list! I know God has a plan for all of this loss, though it's rarely clear. But we've decided to not waste any time in living with what is in front of us right now. Right now we don't have much money, but we currently have our health and we have time on our side. We've just gotta run with it. 

 

Some other catalysts were that we just want to travel with our family and we don't want to wait until "they can remember it properly". These years when they are young count, too! We want to see a lot of places and sailing seems like the best way to do it, and instead of fits and starts of short little trips, we feel like a good long travel experience would serve us better. 

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When?

When is this starting? Ending?

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 (around 4300 miles) 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.

A Canadian Roadtrip.

I don't know if it's our Canadian nature, but we felt like we couldn't justify wanting to be world travellers when we hadn't even properly seen our own country. I had ventured as far as Quebec City (east coast of Canada) in my travels, but Matt had only made it as far as Edmonton, Alberta (one province away from home). We needed to paint more of our own picture of why we were proud to live in such a beautiful country.

So, we decided to drive as far as we could in our wee little Toyota Yaris hatchback. With the kids aged 5 and almost 3, we took off on a cross-country adventure that would eventually gobble up 14,000kms (about 8700 miles) and three weeks of our lives. We made it as far as Halifax and Prince Edward Island, then down through the US, past Boston and into New York City and onward home through Laura Ingalls Wilder territory, and finally home to "Beautiful British Columbia" (it's on our provinces license plate, so it must be true). 

Again, we made it home and had an incredible time. We learnt a lot about each other and about what really matters to us all. Like:

  • we don't need much to have a really great time all together
  • we love audio books
  • Matt and I do some of our best dream-scaping conversations while in the car
  • we can all survive in a small space for long periods of time
  • coffee and cookies can make just about anyone feel better

We realized that maybe, we could do even crazier things. Our friends and family really thought we were crazy for going across the country with little kids in a tiny car, and granted, it wasn't all sunshine, rainbows and unicorns (saw two out of three of those), we would do it again given the chance. We loved adventuring together. Truly.

Making an Adventure Plan.

Alas, we are close to take off! We set this timeline over 5 years ago and we are finally here.

 

We plan to leave in the fall of 2016. Hopefully in October, to catch the tail end of hurricane season in the Caribbean. We assume that the boat buying process will take some time and then outfitting the boat once we purchase it will take even more time. We'd love to be sailing before Christmas.

 

We know that setting a firm timeline with sailing is pointless as there are so many unknowns heading our way, so we want to keep things loose and flexible. So keep in mind that none of these are firm dates, just approximates.

Depending on where we purchase our boat (somewhere between Florida and Grenada?), we'd like to sail around the Caribbean until around March or April, when we'd head through the Panama Canal towards the Pacific Ocean. From there we'd love to get to the Galapagos by June or July (for some humpback whale sightings and maybe whale sharks and blue footed boobies!), and then onwards towards the south Pacific to the French Polynesian islands. Then we could head up to Hawaii where we would head back home (Vancouver BC, Canada) for the fall of 2017.

 

Again, keep in mind that the timing is just a mere guideline. We take weather into consideration all the time, and if one area is too crazy for a time, we can skip it or wait. We aren't doing this for any kind of speed record. If it takes longer than we expect, so be it. If we don't see all our destinations, so be it. You'll find out rather quickly, we are fairly laid-back people and we leave the Type A tendencies to the firstborns out there.

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Where?

Where did you go?

The Route

This was never how we had things planned out, but this is the general route we took on our year long adventure trip. Looking at it now, it really doesn't look like much, but man: we felt every single kilometre some days. It was all worth it in the end - big adventures always are.



Our Journey Highlights.

The Caribbean

This was always on the list, where lots of our early dreaming started. We purchased our boat in the BVI's (British Virgin Islands) and started from there. We went back and forth many times to the USVI's, as they are quite close and both offer some great sailing and provisioning. It's truly some of the most amazing sailing in the world, and the best place to begin.

Then we spent two months in St. Martin, the French and Dutch island east of the BVIs. We really enjoyed our time there and made some solid friends whom we would cruise with for the rest of our time on the boat. 

Then, we set off towards Puerto Rico, with many adventures on the way, the biggest of which was our intended plan to head towards Panama, but turning around when our davits broke. 

But it brought us towards the Dominican Republic and then Turks and Caicos and then the Bahamas. These were all places we never really thought we'd get it. We wouldn't trade these adventures for anything. We learned a lot through these months heading north and saw some stunning scenery we'll never forget. Oh, and barracudas, and a ton of sharks. So yeah, unforgettable. 

As hurricane season approached, we set off towards Florida to get safe and decided to sell our beloved Sea Spice. It was an interesting process, but filled with positive experiences, which lead us to keep dreaming towards our next adventure... 

 

** also, keep in mind: my map route is not perfectly accurate... sorry those who have an extreme attention to detail. I did my best ;) **


Europe

Europe has always been a dream, especially for me. It was one of those decisions that we made on the fly: our bags were packed, we had money in the back and our wanderlust had not given out yet... so we just went for it. 
Looking at this map, I can still remember so much of every little twist and turn of this trip. We'll never be able to fully share the whole experience, but it was amazing. Coming from the west coast of Canada, the oldest building we have is from around 1902, and our country really only celebrating it's 150th anniversary, we don't see a lot of old stuff. So Europe sorta knocked our socks off, in that regard. We saw castles until we were sick of castles, we drank cheap beer, we window-shopped, we took the tour buses and we walked and walked and walked. I regret not bringing a step counter of some kind. 

We started in Cologne, Germany, where our dear friends we met in the USVI's live. They helped us register a vehicle and a caravan and send us on our way. From there, we went somewhat counter clockwise through Europe and the UK. Netherlands, to England, then to Scotland, back to England. Then on to Belgium and the West and South of France, to Barcelona and then back to France. From there, we ventured into Italy and then made our way all the way to the north of Germany to see other German boat friends who help us sell our vehicle and caravan. Then we finished our journey in Paris.

 

This takes no time to type, but it took four months of steady travelling to conduct. It seems like a long time, but it was mostly a whirlwind. To travel via caravan was an adventure of it's own, and I'm not sure everyone is cut out of it, but it was the best way our family could travel cheaply and efficiently. Caravanning was similar to the travel in the sailboat, but so different at the same time. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, but we certainly took advantage of every opportunity we could along this journey. 


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What?

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 2016, 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.

 

Read more about where our path lead us here.

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