Setting Sail
August 11th, 2010

What do you value more in your life: Experiences or belongings?  Adventures or routine?  New and different or known quantities? 

When we’re speaking abstractly it’s easy to say that we care more about having great experiences in life; that we aren’t attached to our belongings; and that we are always up for something new.  It’s quite another thing to live out those statements for seven years on a sailboat with your family. 

That’s right.  I said seven years on a sailboat with your family. 

The Crafton family, whom I find simultaneously inspiring and full-throttle bonkers did just that, and apparently they’d do it again.  The nuts and bolts of their story go something like this:

  • Family of five decides to ditch everything (literally – homes, careers, property, cars, etc), buy a boat, and sail the world.
  • Two of the kids had speech delays which were better addressed without typical peer pressure.
  • Everyone got along better without the distractions of material belongings and adolescent angst.
  • They stayed on the water for seven years and only returned when it was time for one of the kids to start college.
  • They don’t regret a moment of it.

As I read the article about their experience a strong sense of ambivalence hovered over me.  I love the idea of giving it all up in favor of a life un-tethered by convention.  Yet in the same moment I felt intensely protective of those same conventions.  However would I survive without Bobbi Brown face wash, or my KitchenAid mixer, or my king size bed?  How would I incorporate some of my favorite things into a life on the open sea?  Could I get satellite internet service?  How many books would I need to pack?  How would I manage to log four workouts per week? 

Then I kicked myself.  I realized that the purpose of a decision like this is absolutely NOT to create a portable version of your existing life.  The purpose of a decision like this is to turn away from your existing life and take on a life that looks entirely different.  And doing that means giving up things that may mean a great deal to you.  Fresh herbs, air conditioning, a social life, and countless creature comforts would be left behind on purpose.  (Also little things like scalloped tomatoes, television reruns, and flirty nightgowns.) 

And that scares the bejeezus out of me.

By why?  Why do I cling to these things so fiercely?  What do I think will happen to me in their absence?  Will I become unhappy?  Do I measure myself in some way against these benchmarks of convention?  Would I completely lose sight of myself and my priorities in the absence of typical guideposts?  And most importantly, if any of these things is true, what on earth does that say about me? 

I know that I am more than my home, car, wardrobe, and hobbies.  But if that is true, then shouldn’t I be willing to let any of them go?  I don’t necessarily think so, but I can’t place my finger on why. 

PS – As a completely unrelated aside, this is my one hundredth post.  I can hardly believe that after just seven months of blogging I’ve reached an actual milestone.  Thanks for reading and commenting and being a part of these little mental exercises of mine.

6 Responses to “Setting Sail”

  1. TheKitchenWitch Says:

    Happy Hundredth post! Yes, that family *is* stone-cold bonkers, in my opinion. Life without fresh herbs? Sacre bleu! I’m a homebody, so the thought of leaving it makes my toes curl.

  2. Anne Says:

    Congrats on the hundredth post! You go girl! I love the IDEA of such an adventure, but in actuality, it would be hard for me. I’d miss my dogs. My friends. I think I could easily go without many of the trappings of my existing life, and I do think experiences that teach you how to live with less are important. But I’ll always be someone who likes to travel for a bit, then head back to home-base.

  3. Cathy Says:

    Oh I can totally relate. I often wish to sell everything and move to a shack on a remote beach, with my family. The hustle, the schedules, the TV, video games, the “keeping up with the Jones’” I hate it all and would gladly give it up for a MUCH simpler life.

  4. Eva @ Eva Evolving Says:

    I read this article with great curiosity too – and I’m with Anne. The idea of it is great, but in reality I wouldn’t want to do it. But I think we can still take the concept and apply it in little ways to our lives: cutting back on possessions, keeping the family schedule uncluttered and more open than full, spending more time together doing simple things like board games or walks in nature. I like all of these, even though I’d never live on a sailboat.

  5. BigLittleWolf Says:

    Happy 100th (now past), and I can’t believe I missed this thoughtful post!

    I think this is a great question, provoked by a pretty extreme scenario. One year on a boat? That’s almost borderline for me to imagine. Seven? That’s nearly half the lifetime of one of my kids, not to mention removing kids from an extraordinary amount of day-in day-out life experience that they need (convention aside). And that’s not considering the adult perspective.

    Obviously, for this family, there was an exchange of more conventional experiences for some extraordinary ones – and no doubt they will serve the entire family in unusual ways.

    Still – for me – I can’t imagine it. Maybe it’s the length of time. Maybe it’s the sailboat (no thanks). However, I can imagine picking up and choosing a new country for a year or two, and making that work. But that’s me, and my inclinations and version of “adventure.”

    There’s also a stage of life factor at play. When we’re younger, it’s easier to do these things. Not so much because we have fewer possessions, but because we have greater stamina for what we may encounter, and perhaps greater resilience for re-entry into whatever lifestyle we choose.

    As for experience versus possessions, that’s not a spectrum I operate on. I’m not especially materialistic, but I need to feel a certain comfort in my surroundings. I need to be able to make it “home,” even if every home is really only temporary. The real home? Who we’re having those experiences with.

  6. Gale Says:

    Thanks, BLW. I think you’re right about the stamina thing. There’s a lot that I can fathom for my life right now, but I can sense how with time that energy might fade. I think you’re right about the concept of home. My mom once knew a woman who grew up in a military family who abided by the philosophy “home is where your dirty laundry is.” I can conceive of a sense of home less permanent than my hometown or similar. But I need something with deeper roots than dirty clothes.