In July I left a career I truly loved and took the opportunity to cruise full time on our sailboat with my family. I didn’t know what the future would hold, but I knew I was drawn to this opportunity. About a month after leaving, I had a good friend ask me if I was taking any professional classes. Dumbfounded, I realized that since I left it hadn’t even occurred to me to do this. Should I be concerned? After all, I had made the conscious choice to leave my career, not knowing whether my future plans would entail continuing my professional journey in the same field. I began to reconsider the question which had occurred to me before leaving, but didn’t resonate at the time…Am I going to miss working?
The decision to leave my career was anything but spontaneous. It was carefully considered based on reaching certain professional milestones and recognizing that the clock was ticking on spending precious moments with my kids while they were young. I wasn’t satisfied with the little time I spent truly in the moment with my kids back home. Some are better at the work/family balance, I wasn’t. My decision to take-off did not spring from some extensive background in sailing, that was new, but I quickly grew to see this as a golden opportunity for all members of our family. The kids aren’t old enough to hate us (too much) yet – why not put us all together on a 51-ft floating home and take off to foreign lands? Despite the positive draw, to abruptly leave a lifestyle where I was always “on”, trading it for the peace and tranquility of life at sea – I honestly had concerns with becoming bored. Would this lifestyle provide a suitable replacement for the fulfillment I had received from professional challenges and successes in my career? And despite my noble desires of wanting to spend more mindful moments with my children and give them a well-rounded, worldly experience; would homeschooling my kids leave me feeling professionally satisfied? After almost 3 months of cruising, I have to tell you beyond a shadow of a doubt, there has ne’er been a chance to get bored, I don’t need to look very far for both personal and professional fulfillment and that peace and tranquility -well it’s there – but only a fraction of the time.
There are constant decisions to be made – all of which have the potential to impact the safety and/or comfort of your family: Which anchorage to go to, when to leave for ideal weather and the best chance to enter the port during daylight, is the anchorage reasonably safe to enter at night, how much to push your speed for a comfortable sail with kids and dog aboard or how much to push your engine for optimal fuel consumption, which of the 6 sails to raise and how they should be trimmed, what point of sail will be best -do we choose a course way off land and hope for better wind to tack through or stay tucked in closer to land, do we have enough power to watch a movie (diversion is sometimes critical with kids aboard), is it time to shut down the fridge and freezer to reduce energy consumption, what foods can I pre-cook for passage, which beach is easiest to launch our dinghy on, are the kids being challenged enough in their school curriculum…the list goes on.
I initially struggled with astonishment at how I would find that sense of fulfillment and identity I previously had with a fulltime career….SILLY RABBIT! You SO underestimated cruising and all it entails! Cruising with a family is a dynamic process that involves planning, risk management, sound decision making and being utterly vulnerable to the will of Mother Nature …….what’s not to love? I’m thoroughly enjoying my new job as home school teacher to my kids (that’ll be a whole other post) and Helmsmistress extraordinaire aboard S/V Tulum V. Not to mention, aside from those two jobs, living aboard and maintaining a cruising sailboat is inherently hard work. It takes both physical and mental strength to MacGyver things on the open ocean. Despite not having Richard Dean Anderson’s fabulous mullet (yes, I just dated myself…) Chad has seen us through a lot of challenges and I’m realizing there is much more for me to learn for purposes of redundancy and safety aboard. This goes beyond the mere “What if the skipper gets sick or falls overboard” scenarios to also consider that the further I expand my knowledge base, the more I can contribute to choices made in our journey and towards troubleshooting the many challenges we encounter.
It is a humbling experience to leave a career where one has plateaued and become a mentor for others, only to fully shift gears and become a novice again. I have what somedays feels like an inverse learning curve cushioned only by the treasure of my beautiful surroundings. Other days I pace myself, remind myself why we set out on this journey, and blissfully cannonball off our swim step just to make my kids laugh. Like any life transition, this too takes self-awareness and patience – I keep reminding myself of that. I am happy to have a fresh set of mental and physical challenges before me. I am enjoying my new diverse community of people from all walks of life and all corners of the globe who have similarly rendered themselves vulnerable to the will of the ocean in pursuit of whatever feeds their souls. Knowing myself, in the next several months, I will likely settle into a comfort zone and perhaps seek some different professional challenges – whether in nursing or a new field. For now however, I am gainfully employed with a salary paid in rich moments with my children and the amazing grace and wonder Mother Nature offers each and every day – what a gift. With boredom and self-imposed guilt nowhere in sight, I am grateful for this new chapter in self-actualization.
The author writes every Weds (when she has wi-fi that works) and is the official HelmsMistress for S/V Tulum. As the HelmsMistress…she’s responsible for the actual “driving” and helming of our 51-ft sailboat. The author is also the full-time homeschool teacher to her two children and the on-board medical representative. She writes for the blog from a women’s perspective but also just writes to tell you her side of the story.
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