Out here, people are very passionate about living on their boats. So passionate, in fact, that I feel obligated to provide an argument for living on land! That being said, however, the journalist in me has noticed a few differences in life on land and life on the water. Observations that are too powerful to ignore.
Time passes differently
On the water, or more specifically surrounded by nature, your bodies recalibrate to follow the sun and moon cycles. Each day, you wake up at sunrise and each night, you fall asleep not long after finishing dinner. Just the other day, a cruiser came on the radio and said, “Goodnight, Georgetown. Goodnight, Harbor.” It was 8:18pm, and we fell asleep soon after.
I’ve spent the last 3 months pondering and noticing this change in my own body. It’s something undeniable. Previously, waking up at 5:00 am felt like a punishment. It certainly never felt like a gift, and it certainly never came with feelings with excitement or wonder for the day.
Now, I won’t deny, this may be partly due to personal fault (a wrong mentality) or a systemic problem: I previously woke up to work. For money. Only to come home to “live life” that was unspoken for, unscheduled, not mandated for a few hours, only to sleep and do it all again. Or a mental fault with the systemic circumstances. Perhaps, I just couldn’t “get my mind right” with the system. Perhaps, I couldn’t find my personal flow in the required system based on performance, attractiveness and social acceptability.
But out on the water, life isn't based on performance, attractiveness or social acceptability. Life is based on survival, exploring and adventure.
The conclusion I’ve drawn is that my body shifted its waking hours because my purpose behind being awake has shifted. During the daylight hours, I am physically active, creatively producing, socially active with others, that when it’s time for the sun to disappear, I feel that my life has been lived. I didn’t have to “put it off” until after work or on the weekend. Thus, I sleep.
Money leaves us differently
Before, I spent a lot of money on a lot of stuff I didn’t need (another pair of shoes or pants or the latest and greatest of whatever). Now, we spend money only on food that we make ourselves (eating out is too expensive), fuel, cell service and country-entry fees. Sure, we have bills too - insurance, school loans, Netflix - but our bills are far fewer. We no longer have a water bill, a utilities bill, a cable bill, an internet bill, an electricity bill. Those are all gone. We fill our water tanks at marinas; we create our own power with our solar panels; we throw away our trash at the designated areas.
But the biggest change here is in the impulse to spend: it's not part of us anymore. Since we don't have a physical address, Amazon no longer applies to our temptations. We don't need anymore new clothes or gadgets. There aren't malls or movie theaters to spend our money in. There is very little temptation because nature doesn't demand money from us.
We source and make our own food
Prepackaged meals in the islands are ridiculously expensive. This is mostly because the stores on the islands associate prepackaged meals with Americans and the convenience the Americans have become accustomed to. Due to the high prices, we have said goodbye to prepackaged meals and purchase only local vegetables, grains (rice, quinoa, pasta) and fruits. For our protein, we catch fish or search for conch.
I had never genuinely sourced my food. I previously went to a grocery store, saw a thing, put it in my cart, and purchased. But out here, the prices encourage you to prepare your own meals, which also requires of you to search for and find your own food. When you’ve looked your food, literally, in the eyes, it changes food for you. When you’ve pulled your food straight from trees, it changes food for you. When you get bruises or sunburn or cuts or dirty from securing your own food, it changes food for you. You suddenly become acutely aware of your food’s life force, and the transfer of energy from food to body. It is far more special after you’ve spent a day in the hot sun searching for you meal, then simply pulling a plastic sheet off of a prepackaged meal to throw in a microwave. (We don’t even have a microwave, so all convenient eating is not even an option).
We are more community oriented
When you’re living in a boat community, there is something called “Cruisers Net” each morning. This special 1 hour of your day happens every morning at 8:00 am while you’re sipping your coffee or finishing your yoga. During the net, a very special thing happens.
First, community announcements: This is the time of the net where anyone throwing an event or offering a class (for free) announces their occasion. Just today, for example, there is a dinghy race, a class on Greek mythology, a conch horn class, water aerobics and yoga.
Second, “boaters in need:” This section is where a very special question is put out to the community. “Any boaters in need?” Following the question, each boat will list what they’re in need of or what they’re seeking. It can be various things such as: knowledge (needing to know where to dispose used oil), tools (ranging from very specific items to general generators), advice (for the boat, on the weather, in life), help (physical assistance, emotional support), medical consultations (dermatology, vets, ophthalmologists, physical therapists).
Third, buy-sell-trade-giveaway: This time is a moment to put out to the community what you have that you no longer need, or what you have that you’re “in excess of.” Again, this ends up including knowledge, tools, advice, help, or special skills.
Fourth, thought of the day: Any motivational quotes or funny jokes or inspirational stories are welcomed here.
We once put a request out to the community for assistance on our diesel engine. Within 30 minutes following the conclusion of the net, we had 3 people at our boat helping us. The charge? I took photographs of their children surfing.
You start to feel yourself growing closer to your neighbors (who actually change every time the wind changes). There’s an air of helpfulness, togetherness, positive vibes. There’s a comforting feeling of knowing that every day you’ll be asked, “What do you need?” and know that you’ll receive a response.
What would happen, on land, if we connected with our neighborhoods at the same time every morning before heading off to start our days?
We create more
With more unclaimed time in our days, our creativity has flourished. I write every day, Ryan draws, and we’re both learning how to play the ukulele. This special energy - visiting us more frequently now - is something we honor. If inspiration visits, we serve as a vehicle for its expression.
As a result, our communication and our own expression within our relationship has changed, deepened, grown.
Our stress has changed
Now, I don’t want to suggest here that we live entirely stress-free: we don’t. But our stresses are different, more oriented around life-and-death scenarios instead of “Have we done a good job?” “Did we impress the right group of people?” “Am I wearing the right thing?” Our stresses are more about safety concerns, which can easily be prevented by proper research and planning, thus limiting our stresses to… very few!
We are offering more
We are far more giving when it comes to our time, energy and skill sets. I believe this is because, out here, there is no “vibe of business.” People aren’t trying to sell you on anything. We are all just here on this planet trying to survive on the water, together. Without the vibes of business, people are far more giving.
Classes are offered every day, skills are exchanged every day, tools, items, supplies are spread among the masses every day. What we have too much of, someone may need. What we need, someone may be offering. Eventually, the needs and wants and offerings settle into the flow of the day. This is entirely refreshing! Money is only used when it’s absolutely necessary, but it’s not the first thought or priority on anyone’s radar.
Nature is our gym
We don't have to schedule time to "go to the gym" or "workout." When your time is spent out in nature, our gym is: snorkeling, swimming, running, yoga, surfing, hiking, walking, climbing, pulling sails, sand traveling. We have a life full of opportunities to move, use our muscles, apply gravity against our bones. It's beautiful, it's challenging and it's free. It fits seamlessly into our days and our ways because we aren't being asked to sit down in a chair for 8+ hours a day, and sit down in our cars for 2+ hours of commuting each day.
These observations are true. I have been watching them grow and expand in the last 6 months of living on a boat and the last 3 months of actual cruising on blue water.
There are certain aspects of living on land that we miss and look forward to when we visit home or stay at a friend’s home. But they are mostly convenience related. (Though, I will mention here that nearness to our families is something we miss deeply and cannot be fixed by living on the water).
But behaviorally, life is different. The expectations, the requirements, the conversations, the vibes are all different.
It’s a different flow, a different rhythm, and a different way to move through the hours of our lives.
This comes down to lifestyle. What kind of lifestyle do you want to live? What kind of boundaries do you set on your time and your energy and your skill set? What are those things worth to you?
You can certainly create a lifestyle on land that feels empowering and good for you! But I am learning to ask the questions of WHY?
Why is life on land the way it is? Why does it "have to be that way?" Can we create something that is kinder, more well-sourced, healthier, happier and easier to maintain?
This life is showing me that it's possible.