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downsizing to 54 feetWhat is it that makes people leave their homes and all the trappings of comfort that they worked their entire lives to obtain? I can’t answer that question for others, but I know that for me, I was ready for adventure.

My husband and I have been living on a 54 foot sailboat for a year now, and I don’t see us ever going home to our old life.

I was connecting with a friend from home last week and updating her on our travels. This life aboard a sailboat is foreign and hard to comprehend for many people, especially those with limited exposure to boating. My dear friend explained to me that she could not be confined to a boat and that she needs the comforts that only a house can provide.

I used to feel that way as well. I couldn’t imagine a life without fresh flowers on the dining room table, throw pillows on the couch that reflected the seasons, a set of china for special occasions, and an attic full of Christmas decorations.

But things changed, my priorities especially.  Fresh flowers growing on shore have replaced the flowers in a vase. The throw pillows are limited to two now, their covers reflecting the décor of the boat. China has been replaced with everyday melamine, with curved edges so that food doesn’t fly onto the floor when the boat pitches.  But we have the stars above us, the ocean before us, and shores of unique islands to explore.

Our lives are no longer about things, and more about experiences.

I’m often confused by some reactions we have received.  The most often asked question is, “What about your house?”  Well, it’s a house and I suspect that it will still be standing when we come back in a few years.  The basement is still waiting there to be cleaned and the Christmas decorations are still in the attic. We’ll find homes for the china and special silverware. After living a scaled down version of living, we really don’t need those things.

People ask about our kids and grandkids, and it tugs at my heartstrings.  Of course we miss them. But airplanes fly in and out of many of the places we visit and stay, and I have visited them and my son has stayed with us, and of course there is Skype. We aren’t falling off the face of the earth, just exploring it, and we love to share those explorations with our kids.

My feeling is, I could sit at home and knit sweaters for my grandkids that they will never wear, or I can be the mom and grandma that is living her dream.  I would think that my kids and grandkids are proud to say that their parents/grandparents are confident sailors and are out on an adventure.  Our decision to cruise is a choice, and the implication that it’s a selfish choice is far from our intention. There comes a time in everyone’s life when they must make a choice as to what makes them happy and feel relevant and alive. This is our choice.

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Others ask if I am scared. This has made me laugh, made me re-think my pat answer of, “No”, and do a lot of honest soul searching. I’ve fielded questions about weather and hurricanes and pirates and broken masts and drowning and going overboard, sharks, bad people with guns, and poisonous fish (the list is endless)….and yes, I was scared before we left. But after experiencing some hair raising conditions and frightful passages, I’m a little less scared now.

Fear is just vulnerability.  We’ve all felt vulnerable at one time or another. The emotion can cause some of us to crawl into a shell like a turtle and retreat into what we know that will keep us safe and free of criticism or harm.  Or we can embrace our vulnerability and trust our skills, learn along the way, and take the risk or not.

Before we left a year ago I answered these questions for myself:

Will there be bad weather and heavy seas?  You can count on it.

Will there be bad experiences with fish or people?  Most likely.

Will there come a time when we doubt our skills and heat of the moment decisions? Absolutely.

But there is no certainly without risk.  There is no joy without first facing fear.

Will there be sunny days and cocktails, meeting pleasant people and learning new languages and cultures?  Yep.

Will there be days when the wind is right and miles to go and not a glitch is even considered?  Absolutely.

So, my answer to the question of, “Aren’t you scared?” is Yes.  Yes I’m scared. I’d be stupid not to be.  We are vulnerable to the weather, our skills, other people.

But I’m not scared enough to stay home. I can’t imagine not experiencing what lies before us due to a case of vulnerability.

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