Minimalism on a Boat
July 7, 2016
I was reading a blog about living a more minimalist life and realized that a lot of the writer’s ideas about minimalism overlapped with our goals in taking this journey on our sailboat. That got me to thinking about putting down in writing what some the goals were and what I have learned so far. Traveling and seeing the world by boat might sound like it would be the sole reason for doing this, but we actually came up with quite a few other things that we think will make this adventure, and our lives, more meaningful. So, here goes…
Getting rid of all our “stuff.”
Do you know how much “stuff” you have? Downsizing from a house to a 41 foot boat will be a wake up call for how much “stuff” you have that you really don’t need. Mike had already decluttered his stuff years ago when he moved onto Adagio. He literally moved into my house several years later with just one bag of clothes.
But, I’m the one who had to seriously purge my stuff last fall. It was a fascinating exercise in having to decide exactly what was necessary or important to me. I actually found boxes in my garage that hadn’t been opened since I moved into the house seven years earlier. I found files with old bank statements from the 90’s. WTF? Why was I holding onto that junk? There were other things that I know I had thought were important at one time, but when you really think about it, do you NEED it?
I think getting rid of my stuff has been one of the most freeing things I have ever done. And the thing is, there is nothing that I miss! I don’t have any regrets of selling or donating any of the items I got rid of. Even if you don’t get rid of all of your belongings like we did, the next time you are out shopping ask yourself if it is really something you need before you buy it. I wish I had done more of that when we were land based. The consumerism mentality in our country just wants you to SPEND. But, think about what else you could do with that money – send your kids to college, go on an exciting adventure, donate to a worthwhile charity… You get the picture. You really don’t need all that STUFF!
Be less busy and more purposeful
How busy are you, really? Between working full time jobs, hobbies, social commitments, etc. (and those of you with kids have even more commitments), how busy is your life? I think we all get over scheduled. It is so easy to do! Do you ever have that feeling that time is flying by? That would always happen to me. I swear every year at Christmas I would think, how is it Christmas again already?? I think when we are too busy, sometimes the world just flies by us.
When you live on a boat and are out at sea, things just slow down. You can’t be in a hurry. And, you can’t do things on a whim. Little tasks take much longer to do. Getting anywhere takes much longer when you only go 5-6 knots. Even when we are in port (with no car), things take longer. A trip to the grocery store on the bikes can take a couple of hours.
But, the upside in everything being slower is that we really have to think about what we need or want to do. We don’t just go on autopilot; we have to be purposeful in choosing what to do each day. As a consequence of that, I think we get more out the experience, whether it is a menial chore like grocery shopping or something fun like diving. And, you know what, things are not flying by! We left California almost four months ago, but that seems like it was a year ago!
Experience nature and be environmentally conscious
If you live in a city and spend most of your day inside an air conditioned building with artificial lights, you are really missing out on nature. I think it is easy to also roll your eyes at news reports on climate change or pollution or damage to some ecosystem when you never get out and see it. If it doesn’t directly impact your life, why should you care?
Ok, I know a lot of you do care, and so do we! We live on a big planet, and most of that planet is ocean. We wanted to get out and see it all. There are so many beautiful places that are still raw and untouched by humans, and many that you can only get to by boat. We’re just starting this journey, but hopefully we’ll get to see much more than we ever imagined. We’re also having to learn a lot about weather systems, the wind, the ocean, tides, currents, etc. It is actually really fascinating.
One of our goals is to be as self-sufficient as possible. That is the best part of a sailboat – it is powered by wind! We also have solar panels and a wind generator on board to power our electrical equipment. Of course, we do have a diesel engine in the boat, but we’re trying to use it only when necessary. That means that sometimes when the wind dies down, we’ll just bop around not going anywhere until the wind picks back up again (see above re not being in a hurry). We’re trying to use as much renewable energy as possible rather than rely on fossil fuels.
We’re also having to learn to really conserve water. We carry 80-100 gallons of water on board. Do you know how much water you use? I don’t think I paid that much attention to water usage on land. But you know what, you can really conserve water if you want to. Mike and I have estimated that together we can get down to four gallons of fresh water a day. Of course, that means washing a lot of things (including ourselves) in salt water. (I’ll let Mike post later about our water maker…)
We tried to eat healthy and work out regularly before we left. But, one of our goals was to have a really healthy lifestyle on the boat. We occasionally eat out to experience the local cuisine, but most of the time we cook on board. When you are busy (see above) it is sometimes difficult to always prepare a healthy meal at home, but we have more time to think about that now. We don’t eat processed foods and try not to eat anything artificial. We also stay away from a lot of unnecessary starches and breads. Fresh home cooked food really is the best!
We are also a lot more active on the boat. Even if you go to the gym an hour a day, most people spend 8-10 hours sitting at a desk and are very sedentary. Pretty much everything we do now has some activity, even if it is just walking or biking into town. Sailing, swimming, hiking, diving, paddle boarding, biking, boat projects, cleaning the boat, etc. have added much more activity to our daily routine. I think overall this lifestyle is healthier than the one we had back at home.
Minimizing screen time
How many hours a day do you watch TV or play on the internet? It was funny to me how many people asked me if we would have cable TV when I moved onto the boat (uh, no.) We do actually have a TV that we can use to play movies, and we do occasionally but not that often.
I can remember watching TV my entire life. (I was a big Scooby Doo fan as a kid.) It was really exciting when we first got cable TV and all of the sudden had more than four or five channels to watch. But you know what, I don’t miss it. AT ALL. Why the heck I ever spent hours watching TV instead of getting outdoors or even reading a book is really beyond me.
Right now, in La Paz, is the most internet that we have had since we left California. (I’m on the internet right now in the Cruiser’s Lounge while I’m waiting for my laundry to be done.) But, I’m ready to be free of the internet again.
It is great to stay in touch with friends and family and keep up with what is going on in the world, but it will suck you in! We read a blog recently that talked about getting the “clicks.” You know what I mean…when you start to click on things on the internet with no real purpose and then you realize a couple of hours just went by. Yeah, we’re trying not to do that. I admit that it is a bit of a challenge.
We were biking back to the marina last night around 9:00 pm, and I commented to Mike that I was surprised at all of the people out. The malecon was full of people out for a jog, riding a bike, or just strolling along the waterfront. Young people, old people, families with kids, it seemed like the whole town was out on a Monday evening. It just seemed so different, and Mike commented that it was different from back home because they all weren’t at home watching TV.
This journey is about learning. We want to experience different countries and cultures, read some good books, learn a new language, meet new people that come from different backgrounds, learn about nature, perfect our sailing skills, and ultimately come back enriched by the whole experience.
Share our experience with others
That is the purpose of this blog! We know not everyone can (or wants to) do what we are doing. But, we hope to share our experiences with everyone else. We don’t just want it to be a travel blog, but a blog of our experiences, thoughts and feelings along the way. I’m still trying to figure out what to include on the blog, so I would love feedback from everyone who reads this (all three of you??). Let us know what you would like to see on the blog.
We also want to share this experience by inviting friends to join us for a leg or two of our journey. So, give us a shout if that is something you are interested in.
We’re leaving La Paz today and will be out of WiFi range for a while, but we hope to have lots of pictures and video to share with you of our exploration of the islands when we get back into WiFi range.