My first post on this site is going to be for those readers who are just beginning to look into life aboard a boat. You have a wondrous dream of casting off the lines and gleefully sailing to exciting and exotic destinations. Having this dream is great, I have it myself, but you need to be aware of some obstacles you’ll want to conquer before that exciting day comes. If you’re a citizen of the United States, like myself, you will quickly learn our entire society is built around keeping you securely landlocked where you can easily be accessed; the government, businesses, marketers, friends, social obligations. Disconnecting yourself from land and getting out to sea is like trying to remove gum from a wool sweater.
Having a dream is wonderful but in order to make that dream a reality you will need a financially viable and logistically attainable plan. I started with a rough draft spreadsheet and added, prioritized, and deconstructed items as I went along. At the writing of this post I’m not 100% complete but I’m really close and haven’t had to make a major edit in months .
Getting ready has taken me over three years, and that valuable spreadsheet became my best friend. There were times when I wasn’t sure if I was just spinning my wheels or even heading the right direction. Being able to refer back to the plan kept me focused and on track. I can’t oversell the idea of having a plan and executing it. Believe me, life will throw obstacles in your path and if you don’t have a well maintained game plan, your dream will remain just that, a dream.
Build your fan base, once you have decided to ‘go for it’ and you start announcing your plans to people at first you’ll be faced with two reactions; “That’s awesome!” and “You’re an idiot…”. There’s also a third reaction that you’ll need to be on the look out for, ‘the passive aggressive saboteur’. They will act like they support you however they are actually trying to derail you. Keep an eye out for these people, because once they get into your head they tend to fuel your self-doubt and erode your determination.
To defend myself I started avoiding the cynics and surrounded myself with friends and family that I knew were on my side and rooting for my success. I don’t think I could have done it with out their support.
Now comes the 300 pound gorilla in the room, the government. Washington does not favor having citizens frolicking around the world having fun. Taxes, Boat documentation, jury summons, voting, driver’s license, are all factors that require forethought. All these touch points are relatively minor on their own, yet having an action plan to manage them is key to keeping Uncle Sam from showing up unwanted on your cruise.
I also want to touch on a new issue for the modern traveler. The FACTA laws that the Washington DC’s brain trust came up with to generate more revenue. Many foreign banks are now refusing to conduct business with Americans because of these burdensome laws. You may get turned away at the worst possible time, like facing a large bill from the boat yard. My advice does not go as far as this whole law/banking mess, just to forewarn you so you will have a backup plan in case you run into the new law.
The most surprising hurdle for me has been mail. Yea really, you’d think something as simple as mail would be a no-brainer, you’d be wrong. There are mail services which forward mail and there others which scan all your mail and email it to you, but these solutions come with a cost. It’s up to you to determine if these services are worth their expense. To compound this issue is the amount of unwanted junk mail we all get. I’ve tried to get off these mailing lists, but I haven’t seen a significant reduction in volume yet. My final solution was to sign up for electronic billing from everyone who offered it and have a friend stateside who is collecting the rest.
Have you ever looked around your home and wonder; ‘where did all this crap come from?’ For most of us getting ready to leave land and live on a boat will require some major downsizing. For me I cheated! I picked up a book from Amazon “Throw out fifty things” . I have to credit this book for every clean nook and cranny of my house and life. I was shocked at the amount of life lint I had collected.
Through all this, my biggest revelation is the effect on my shopping habits; now I only buy ‘quality’ items that are of use and solve real problems (don’t let marketers purpose problems that only their widget will solve). Have you ever heard the saying “The things you own end up owning you.” I never truly appreciated it until I felt the liberation of downsizing. Now I’m not going to say this step was all rainbows and unicorns, I had to let go of some cherished items that realistically no longer had a place in my new life, it was a little painful.
If there is one thing I want you to take away from this is that in order to reach your awesome goal of sailing the world on a boat it’s more than just loading up and shoving off. You will need to organize and clean your life. It will be a marathon and you will need to jealously protect your dream while trying to achieve it. People, institutions, and the universe will attempt to knock you off course. Get a plan in place, execute that plan, make daily progress, and one day you’ll be sitting in the cockpit of your boat with a margarita watching land slowly sink below the horizon behind you.