5 Traits of Sailing Families

5 Traits of Sailing Families

In this post I outline 5 traits that I believe are consistent among most sailing families. These combined traits are what set them apart from a typical American family, and make them suited to live a life that is quite different from the norm.

  1.  Adventurous.

    Jobs fill your pockets, but adventures fill your soul.” – Jaime Lyn

    I like the urban dictionary’s definition of adventure: “A word describing someone who looks for that extra something out of life; who is never happy with the standard or normal and always wants to explore a little further.”  Cruising families have embraced their desire for adventure.

    If you’re reading this article, you might be looking for something new.  Maybe you don’t even know what it is yet, but you’re seeking it out.  Sounds like the beginning of an adventure.  They all start somewhere, and maybe this is the start of yours.

    From one of my favorite children’s stories: ”As soon as I saw you, I knew an adventure was about to happen.” -Winnie the Pooh.  Why do adventures appeal to children so much?  I think its because they are untainted with adult fears and the assimilation into our culture that happens slowly over time, and prevents us from thinking outside the box.

  2. Willingness to take risks.

    1. Risk of Death or Drowning.

      When you think about crossing the ocean in a sailboat, your first thought is probably the risk of sinking to the bottom of the sea.  Its my personal belief that if you purchase a seaworthy vessel, your risk of being taken to Davy Jones’ Locker is probably less than of you dying on the freeway during your commute to work.  People die in cars every day.  Death in a sailboat is less common.

    2. Financial Risk.

      The other risk that you must be willing to take to live a life at sea is a financial one.  In our society today, we are encouraged to throw most of our savings into a retirement account that is locked up until retirement age.  Often you’ll hear that you need an “emergency fund” in a personal savings account, but rarely will you hear anyone encourage you to invest most of your wealth into a personal brokerage account that is not subject to early withdrawal penalities.  If one did manage to save $350,000 in personal brokerage account, most financial advisors would encourage you to grow that until retirement, and not touch it.  We intend to do just the opposite.

      We are taking a financial risk by using our $350,000 non-retirement nest egg to buy a boat, quit our jobs, and spend a year or more living on the water.  We might spend it all and have nothing to show for it.  We might lose our boat, and have to start over completely.  We know these are real risks, but believe that in our journey of leaving corporate life behind and living a leaner life on a sailboat, that we will be fundamentally changed by our new lifestyle.  This change will allow us to transcend normal American habits and see life in a new, freer way.  I don’t believe we’ll ever go back to corporate life indefinitely.  I might be wrong, but this is a risk I feel we must take.

  3. Willingness to change.

    In reading about the experiences of numerous liveaboard families, I see the same patterns emerge time and time again.  The new lifestyle changes them in fundamental ways.  They never return to their old lives.  They are happier, more independent, and in general, live more fulfilling lives than they ever could have in their old lives.  Here are some examples:

    There are five ways I believe the sailing life will permanently change us.

    1. Become more frugal.

      Do we really need a huge house, expensive furniture, luxury cars?  After living in the small quarters of a sailboat, I doubt we will ever go back to needing the enormous space that we are currently accustomed to, and the stuff, the endless stuff that typical Americans buy.  I’ve already seen this change in us, as we have transitioned from acquiring nice things to scavenging every penny possible into our investment accounts.  The things we do buy to get us through the next three years are purchased with the understanding that we won’t need them forever, and so we won’t buy the most expensive item we can afford.  We have already transitioned to living well below our means, and while you’d think this is constraining, it actually has the opposite effect.  Being on a timeline to our new lifestyle keeps us in check daily, and I find it to be liberating.

    2. Become more adaptable.

      Learning to live a less structured life is scary to some, and freeing to others.  Most of us live on such a day to day routine that we can’t even fathom not having to show up for work, have the kids to school at a certain time, pick them up, take them to practice or other activities, attend church at a set time.  These types of routines aren’t always negative, but they lead us to daily lives that rarely venture far from the track.

    3. Learn from other cultures.

      I was raised in a xenophobic environment, which tends to be the prevailing American attitude toward other cultures.  Learning how to exist in other cultures stimulates the mind and forces us to think in different ways.  We may discover that the American way of life is not always the best – there are other ways to live.  It also helps us to develop empathy for other people.  We tend to care about those who live within our culture and border, and resist influence from the outside world.  By immersing ourselves in different cultures, we break this barrier, and begin to understand peoples from different parts of the world – what their struggles are, their history and influences.  This type of education is vital to developing an accurate big-picture view of our world.  Its an area that I’m excited to grow in, not just for my kids, but for my own understanding as well.

    4. Become conservation-friendly.

      The footprint you leave as a sailing family is much smaller than that of a typical suburban family.  You are burning less fuel, using solar and wind for power, creating less garbage, using less water.

    5. Give up most television and constant access to the internet.

      I see social media consuming teens these days and its not healthy.  They’ve been raised on the internet and many of them don’t know how to live without it.  I want my kids to learn how to make friends, have conversations with actual people, make eye contact, and live and breathe in a real world before they are lost in the virtual one.  Television is just a time and productivity killer.  A limited amount of TV entertainment is fine, but the problem arises when you’re constantly watching it because there’s nothing better to do.  It zaps motivation and creativity.  Living on a sailboat will limit exposure to both the internet and television.

  4. Desire to learn and grow.

    Can we learn and grow as landlubbers?  Sure, depending on what kind of challenges we seek out that test our fortitude, skillsets, and comfort zones.  If you have a strong desire to learn, grow, and push yourself and your family in challenging ways, the sailing life will definitely do that.

    We will learn so many things – From how to check into a foreign port to how to navigate around a reef.  From how to wash clothes on limited freshwater in the middle of the ocean, to how to tack upwind in rough seas.  Navigation, fishing, first aid, biology, ecology, geography, sociology, foreign languages, conservation, the list goes on and on of skills that we will organically learn while living and traveling on a sailboat.  The ways in which we will grow, such as adaptability, empathy, fortitude, innovation, endurance, perseverance, diligence, are also too many to know or count prior to starting our journey.  These are all skills and traits we must be ready to embrace.

  5. Ability to work as a team.

    This includes making decisions together.  The captain is not a dictator – he is the leader of our crew, and will rely on all crew members to make our new lifestyle functional, safe and fun. It is an ongoing quest that requires a group working cohesively together.  In order to succeed, we all have tasks and roles to fill to make it work.  Real life questing.  If the thought of that thrills you, like it does me, then this big idea of living and traveling on a sailboat is starting to sink in.

May we embrace Resfeber,  the restless race of a traveler’s heart before the journey begins; the tangled feeling of fear and excitement before a journey begins.

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Shel

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