SimplySailingOnline.com shows by example how easily you can eliminate stress, become more independent, raise your children in a safer environment (while spending more time with them, instilling values not based on the mighty dollar) and avoid the traps of commercialism. Because we live and sail simply, we have been wandering for 11 years with no intention of stopping. This is not a trip for us; it is our life, and I hope to share our success with stories of laughter and tears, as well as how-to tips and DIY projects for preparing, sailing and making a boat a home, so that others can join us.
At some point we all have to do it. Whether it's a short trip for a family wedding or a complete lifestyle change, we all eventually try to go home again. "Home" here is defined loosely. It can mean your mother country, the town you grew up in, the house you still own but rented while you were cruising, or just a return to land dwelling life in any location. Each scenario has its own challenges that can best be met if you know what to expect.
After living and sailing around the Caribbean for most of 7 years, circumstances conspired to make a return to the States our best option. Not necessarily one we were looking forward to, however. We dropped our anchor off the continent for the first time in many years off Bahia Honda in the Florida Keys. On Memorial Day. As we stood on deck, staring at the largest group of Americans we had seen in years, we were appalled. Were we really the same nationality as these large, pasty, white, loud, beer guzzling, hot dog eating, obnoxious blobs on the beach? Since we had not yet cleared in, we had no intention of going to shore, but even if we had, this sight would have changed our minds instantly. Our teenage son turned from his perusal of shore and nearly whispered, "Is it too late to go back?"
There is nothing like exposure to other cultures and peoples to make you see your own with more clarity, and what you see is often not what you were taught to see when you were living within the culture and exposed to constant bombardment by media and peer pressure. And often what you find on your return is less than pleasant. When you've been removed from mass media, separated from the hype and glitz and the advertisements, a return can be jarring. The best way we found to deal with this is to continue to minimize your exposure to it. We still avoid television at all cost; we question everything we read with a new eye toward hype and flat out lying by the media; we avoid situations where we have to be around too many people who are still trapped by the confines and expectations of our society.
Friends of ours left to cruise the Caribbean with a limited amount of funds, knowing that rather than work along the way, they would be required to return to the States and the house they still owned when the money ran out. What they hadn't anticipated, however, was just how hard that was going to be. They, too, first made landfall in the Keys, but the mother and the two children wouldn't go to shore. Just seeing it from a distance was enough of a reminder of the stress, hustle, and pressure that they had so gladly sailed away from. They sailed up the coast, headed toward north Florida where they would store the boat and return to their land life, but it wasn't until Ft. Lauderdale that the whole family finally went to shore. It was as bad as she had anticipated, but by delaying her exposure to it for longer she was better prepared than if she'd gone ashore in the Keys. Today they are back in their house in their old neighborhood, working real jobs, and missing their mote more than ever. The constant requirement of human interaction is taxing on your time and mental resources. They are unfortunate in that they had to return to people who knew them "when" and so are expected to be the same people they were before they left. That is impossible. Any travel changes who you are, and cruising, with its ability to let you become part of foreign cultures, not just see them from your hotel room, changes you more than you may expect. If at all possible, it is best to cut all ties when you leave to go cruising. Sell the house (rather than renting it), resign from your job (rather than taking a sabbatical), give away or sell all your stuff before you go. That way, when you return, you can live a life appropriate for the person you have become and not have the constant expectation that you will still be the person you were before.
Upon your return, don't let those around you minimize what you have done and what you've experiences. We once went back to our old neighborhood after we'd been in the Caribbean for a few years. I stopped by the school where I had taught before we left, bringing pictures, wearing a sundress, and sporting a Caribbean tan, so excited to show my colleagues, who had endured the year of planning before we'd left, that it had all been worth it. Look at what we've seen! Listen to what we've experienced! We are doing it, and it is so worth it! What greeted me was hostility. When Dave tried to dry my tears that evening he said, "You know, it's not you, it's them. They see in you someone who had a dream and followed it, while they're still working the same jobs in the same town, living the same life, dreaming the same dreams they'll never fulfill. No wonder they resent you." I haven't tried to share our cruising world with non-cruisers since. Instead, we tend to hang around other sailors, in harbors where at least some people have been somewhere, seen something, and have stories to tell.
Most importantly, don't change who you have become through your travels. Don't bother trying to fit in anymore, because if you do, you risk becoming the person you used to be and all your adventures and exploration were for naught. We still greet people when we get on a bus or pass them on the sidewalk or enter a store. Our "Good marnin'" is usually greeted with a scowl or by mothers grabbing their young children's hands and hurrying past. But it is who we have become, and we will continue to hang onto our Caribbean ways for as long as it takes us to get back "home." Because as you know, home is also where the heart it and my heart is in the trade winds.
You've run aground. Now what? MONDAY we'll share some hints on how to undo the inevitable.
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