Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Just add Water: Eleven Ways Cruising Friendships are Different Than Others

One of my fundamental beliefs in life is that people need people. We are, by nature, social creatures and making real and deep connections with other human beings goes down as one of the most rewarding gifts of life. I have been very fortunate in my life to have always been surrounded by amazing friends. I have high school friends, college friends, sailing friends, mama friends, blogging friends, older friends, younger friends and Scott and I even have what we call "couple friends". My best friend and I go all the way back to first grade (she knows me better than I know myself and I literally thank the Universe for her daily.) Friends are friends and, to me, each "type" of friendship is purposeful and meaningful, with every person bringing value, experience and perspective to an individual.

Since leaving on our boat we've even added a new category of friendship to our repertoire: the one which we call "cruising" friends

These friendships are very, very different from any other type I've experienced. Scott always says, "There's something special about friendships formed on water" and it's true. Don't get me wrong, not every cruiser is an immediate friend - just like on land we "click" with some people and not with others...but when you *do* make that 'real and deep' connection with someone on the water, a little bit of magic happens. In an effort to explain what a cruising friendship looks like, here are eleven ways in which I find they are different than others:


1) They are formed fast and furious. Friendships blossom fast on the water, one minute you are helping someone rescue their dinghy from floating away, the next you are sharing cocktails in the cockpit like old friends. There is an instant familiarity between cruisers and, even if you only spend one evening together, you usually cut right through the small talk and get to the meat of the matter. It takes almost no time for cruisers to start acting like old friends, despite only spending a few days together. Just as marriage in a boat is amplified and condensed (1 year on a boat = 4 years on land) so is friendship. When you click, you click and that is that.
Jost Van Dyke, BVI 2015. The McGuire Family are blog-follwers turned friends who we were lucky enough to cruise with for a bit during their epic 5 month charter. We love them like crazy and there is not a doubt in my mind that we will be friends with these people FOREVER and because they live in the midwest, we know we'll be seeing them again.
2) Time spent together is intensified. Because most cruisers are retired and/or semi retired, we don't have the rigorous work and social schedules that are common on land. As as result, when you do find those people that you connect with, you spend a lot of time together. When we cruised with our best buddies, the Soeter's family ,we spent no fewer than three hours a day together for months and months. That's a LOT of quality time! To this day they are still some of our very best friends and we consider them more like family. Stay tuned for our epic reunion in a few weeks! (They are moving to Tortola on their boat where we will be living too!!! GAHHHH!!!)
Lee Stocking Island, Bahamas 2013. These two have a very special place in my heart. Genevieve, one of my very best girlfriends, of s/v Necesse (currently in the USVI) and Karina of s/v Kazaio (currently in the South Pacific)
3) You help each other out. I think I've driven the point home pretty well on this blog, but in case it hasn't gotten through: boats break a lot. Ninety percent of the time you will be trying to fix and/or diagnose your boat woes with your cruising buddies. We pool our supplies, tools and spares and do whatever we can to help a fellow cruiser out because a) you never know when it will be your turn to need help and b) the cocktails afterward are that much nicer! Out on the water we can only rely on ourselves and our friends - and the cruising community is unrivaled in it's ability to rally for one another.
Tortola, BVI 2015. Eben of s/v Necesse helping Scott install our new battery bank.
4) You are "like minded." It takes a certain type of person to live on a sailboat. While we cruisers are all different, there are definitely some core values that almost all of us share: a love of travel, an appreciation for the "tiny house" movement, a love of simple living, an eco-friendly mentality, a desire to ditch the 'rat race' and a hefty dose of self-reliance to name a few. We're a tough bunch and when we get together, connections are not hard to make and the conversation is often easy and interesting. We're all members of the same tribe and proud of it.
Georgetown, Bahamas 2010. In this bunch are our very first cruising friends and what an epic group it was. Brian and Lara of Forest and Fin, George and Kelly of Earthling Sailor, Sarah and Miguel and Jay and Nicole.
5) You probably "know" them before you meet them. This is a new one since the world of 'cruising blogs' has literally exploded in the last couple years. When we started blogging I would say there were maybe one tenth of the blogs that are out there now. Today it's rare if someone doesn't have a blog or website. This is an interesting phenomenon because it's made the cruising community that much smaller. I'd say there's no more than two degrees of separation between cruisers and chances are, you 'know' fellow cruisers through their websites and/or niche Facebook groups before you ever meet in person. This has been a really neat development over the last few years and adds some depth and ease to making new cruising friends because we already know so much about each other by the time we meet.
Tortola, 2015. Carly of the fantastic blog, Salty Kisses (they just competed the Northwest Passage!!! INSANE.) We only hung out together a short time but have spoken via email and chat a BUNCH of times. Her little boy, Crew, is only a week apart from the twins so we have a lot in common dealing with our little ones on board. 
6) You get unusually comfortable together. Our closest cruising buds have seen us at our best...and at our worst. They've witnessed the tense and stressful moments where we are most raw and celebrated our victories with us. They've been privy to our domestic disputes, wiped our tears when we're overwhelmed with our kids, hugged us when our boat's give us another doozy of an issue and, more likely than not, have seen our nekkid bottoms when showering off the back of our boats. My girl Darcy (of the Sunkissed Soerters) has undressed me, put me in bed and held my hair back as I puked after consuming one too many Killer Bee's on the island of Nevis - not my proudest moment, but boy was I glad to have a friend like her. You go through a lot with your cruising buddies and, as a result, become more like family than friends.
Our very best family friends, the Sunkissed Soeters. We have spent so much time with this family and get along with them so well that's it's almost bizarre. We love them like family and we'll be reuniting with them in a few weeks!! GAH!!!
7) You will have incredible photos together. Palm trees, epic sunsets, island tableaus, and crystal clear water are the usually the backdrops of our photos. The scenery make the memories that much sweeter.
Gerogetown, Bahamas 2013. This is where Genevieve and I first met and formed our awesome bond. We reunited three years later in the Virgin Island after a LOT of trying to convince her to head that way on my part. Those of you that love her blog can thank me, I helped convince her to write one - probably not long after this photo was taken ;)
8) Everyone has a story. They are often very interesting. We've met so many incredible people since we left, and I mean really, really cool people doing some really incredible things. They are writers, photographers, single-handers, mountaineers, activists, botanists, researchers, fisherman, surfers, kite boarders, extreme minimalists, chefs, and philosophers. We've met people who've been held at gunpoint in Columbia and others who have been shipwrecked on the Indian Ocean. This lifestyle tends to bring a certain personality type out of the woodwork and it's often very adventurous, well-traveled people who do things on their own terms. We also tend to imbibe quite often which is always great for story-telling.
Tortola, BVI 2015. Maggie and Wiley were just making the transition from live-aboards to full-time RV'ers (Harmony on Land). I still laugh at Wiley's stories and we love this couple a LOT. So much fun and we wish they were still floating!
9) They cross social, cultural and economic boundaries. Our cruising friends run the gamut and while we do tend to stick with fellow kid boats for obvious reasons, we have made friends from all over the world that cover every social class and represent every age group. The only other time in my life when I felt like friendships crossed these barriers was when I was an expatriate living in Tanzania. There, we were all "outsiders" and that fact alone was enough to bind us together. My core group of friends and I would most likely never have met in the 'real world' but there, in that little cowboy town that was Arusha, we bonded. The same holds true with cruising. A cruiser's get together will host a whole slew of nationalities, and our friends are French, Iranian, Canadian, Argentinian, Australian, Dutch and British (to name a few). We have a virtual United Nations of friendships and this really expands our worldview more so than almost anything else I think.
This is our beautiful French-Canadian friend Karin. We first met her and her husband Mario in Ft. Lauderdale, and now they live in the BVI and run a luxury charter boat. We've run into them on and off over the years and now we all live in the BVI's. They are some of our best friends and even though English is their second language, we understand each other completely.
10) They get "it."And by "it" I mean everything. Fellow cruisers just get it. The ups and the downs and everything in-between. You don't need to explain to a fellow cruiser how shitty it is to lose your engine/blow a mainsail/kill a dinghy motor/drag anchor...etc...because they can empathize. They understand what it's like to be stuck somewhere waiting for a part, they feel the pain of trying to diagnose a mystery problem and they know the hell that is a rolly anchorage. Adversity brings you closer. Cruising is a wonderful lifestyle, but it can come at a price. Complaining about these things can seem unappreciative to our land-based friends, but cruisers know and understand that the downsides of cruising are all too real. They also know how amazing it is to have a 'perfect' passage, finally fix that mystery leak, discover a great new "galley hack" and capture that incredible sunset. No matter how hard you try to explain your life to land-lubbing friends, they just won't get it. Just as parenthood cannot be fully understood until you yourself are a parent, the same holds true with cruising.
St. John, USVI 2015. Jody of the awesome blog, Where the Coconuts Grow, and Genevieve again. Three peas in a pod!
11) Goodbyes are inevitable and hard. This is, by far, one of the hardest aspects of the lifestyle. Because of it's transient nature, your friends will come and go and parting is such sweet sorrow. I'm emotional and wear my heart on my sleeve, so when I say 'bye' to our very best cruising friends, there are ALWAYS tears. Always. Luckily, with Facebook and blogs it's really easy to keep in touch with one another, watch each other's children grow, follow awesome adventures and plan those epic reunions. It's never "goodbye", but "see you later!" the world is round, after all.
Scott with Mike and Melanie (blog followers turned friends), me and my super girls, Lisa and Nicole (an arial acrobat!)

I could not possibly capture ALL our cruising friends in this one post, so to all of you who we love dearly who are not pictured, sorry!! I was going bug-eyed looking through photos and it was SO hard to just chose these few!

Monday, October 05, 2015

How NOT to Buy a Cruising Boat: A Review

NOTE: Giveaway at the end of this post!

When Scott and I set out cruising, we made one glaring, huge, and pretty colossal mistake: we bought the wrong boat. Don't get me wrong, our first boat, Rasmus, will forever have our hearts and souls tied up in her - and she was in every single way a fantastic boat (strong, sturdy, beautiful, and a steady and patient 'teacher'). But - in hindsight - she was not the "right" boat which was why, not even two years after cruising with her, we found ourselves in the market for another boat.

When Deb Akey of the blog The Retirement Project, shot me an email to see if I was interested in reading and reviewing her book, "How Not to Buy a Cruising Boat", I jumped at the chance. Not only was I very interested in the subject matter considering our first 'mistake' (no regrets!), but knowing that we still do not have what we would consider our "forever" boat, I thought that perhaps I could learn a thing or two. (Universe, we would *love* a three cabin Hallberg Rassy 46, just in case you are wondering!) 

I started reading and after two chapters I felt compelled to write Deb this email:
Hey Deb! I am plowing through your book - just wanted to let you know that I am THOROUGHLY enjoying it!!!! I will probably have a review up in the next week...I'll give you a heads up, but - wow - so impressed!! I love it! You and TJ are great writers (odds of BOTH of you being equally entertaining?!?!) and there's so much good knowledge in there - can't wait to share my review. Thanks again for the great read. xo
If that doesn't tell you how I honestly feel about this book, I don't know what will.

I would absolutely put "How Not to Buy a Cruising Boat" on the 'short list' of essential reading for any aspiring cruiser. And, believe me, I have read a LOT of great books about cruising. This book has earned a place at the top of the ranks. Why?
  • It's a quick and easy read, yet full of fantastic tips. They truly cover all the bases with enough info to make you 'dangerous' but not too much information that it becomes a tome. For example, they ask the question: Are you really going to "sail around the world" or are you content to island hop around the Caribbean? Making a sound and realistic decision on this can save you many thousands of dollars on the boat (and gear) you "need".
  • It's written from a "his and her" perspective. One thing that amazed me the most was the fact that both Deb and TJ write this book, and both authors are equally knowledgeable and entertaining. They alternate perspectives and chapters and it makes for an interesting read. I wasn't expecting that and was pleasantly surprised by this unusual style.
  • They walk you through it all. Deb and TJ began from zero. No sailing background, no family boating ties...they did it all from scratch. From searching for boats on Yachtworld.com to your first survey, they'll walk you through the entire process of buying a boat and yet it doesn't feeeeeel like they are walking you through the entire process of buying a boat. They're just friends telling you a story. How did they do that?
  • It's based on experience. Next time Scott complains about our boat, I'm going to make him read this book. Holy hell. It's really quite amazing that Deb and TJ have not a) thrown in the towel or b) gotten a divorce as they seemed to be living the "Marley and Me" of boating life. Learn from their mistakes.
  • They keep it light. This is not your average, dry, "how to" reference-style book. More than once I laughed out loud at their recounting of a mishap or experience. As a fellow cruisers, these two speak the truth and with a great sense of humor.
  • They are thorough. Deb and TJ are cruisers who went "all in" and by that I mean, they are really, really well researched. TJ also comes from a long line of mechanics and was an airplane technician in his former life so these two know what they ar talking about from a maintenance/mechanical perspective.
  • They Keep it Real. For better or worse, they really drive home what it means to be a cruiser in this book; the good, bad and ugly. Anyone thinking of jumping into the cruiser lifestyle will not only find this book to be a treasure trove of great information on boat buying, but a really good glimpse into what it takes to live the lifestyle. Deb and TJ ask tough questions that will have you taking a good, hard look at what you want to do and why.
  • They mention us. Okay, this is no reason to buy this book, but holy cow was it crazy fun to see "www.windtraveler.net" listed in print as one of twenty blogs singled out as helpful to them in their preparation! Not gonna lie, I squealed, took a screen shot and sent it to my best girlfriends. Big honor. Hugely flattered.

I loved this book and I think it's a really important read for anyone in the market for a boat. Your vessel will HUGELY impact (and I mean "make" or "break") your cruising experience, so this is a purchase that should be taken very, very seriously from the design to the integrity, from the mast head to the keel. There may not be such thing as the "perfect" boat, but there is definitely such a thing as the "wrong" boat and this book will definitely help steer you clear of mistakes that many cruisers make to end up there.

Deb and TJ: Saving potential cruisers from headache and heartache one crappy boat at a time.

****Now for the fun part!****

Would you like to WIN A SIGNED COPY of this book? Tell me why you need it in the comments and I will choose a winner based on plea that speaks to me the most!

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Cruising Perspectives: Fourteen 'Side Effects' of Living on a Boat

Note: I was invited to write this post back in June of 2013 (!?!?!) by the lovely Tammy of Things we Did Today for the great 'hive mind' site, The Monkey's Fist. I am only now getting back to it with the time to flush it out. Check out other blogger's takes on this great subject here.

Living on a boat: it doesn't take a genius to realize this is very different from living on land. There are a million ways in which the cruising and/or live-aboard lifestyle differs from that of a land-lubbing existence, too many to list in fact. Living on a boat is certainly no utopia, but it can be pretty great - and many of us find that we have strengths we never knew we had, hobbies we never knew we loved, and skills we didn't think we possessed. These are great perks of the lifestyle. Then, there are some other more unexpected things we get from the lifestyle, I call these: side effects.

Here are 14 "side effects" that I have experienced from five years of boat life:

1. Water usage: Sure, we have a high output water-maker and carry 120 gallons on our boat. But still, even that is a finite and limited supply and must be monitored so as not to run out. Remember that time I carried 60 gallons of water to refill our tanks? I have not forgotten it. Even on land we use water sparingly and letting a tap run for any extended length of time feels wrong. Letting it run while you don't need it, i.e while brushing teeth or in-between doing dishes? That's just criminal.

2. Storage Envy: Houses are full of pretty right angles and nice, square (or rectangular) storage spaces. THIS IS A LUXURY, PEOPLE. Boats have none of those things. We have oddly shaped 'cabinets' and 'cubbies' which make general storage annoying, difficult and - in some cases - impossible. We have gear stuffed so deeply in the rabbit-hole recesses of our boat I'm pretty sure we'll never see them again (in fact, we never did find that spare mast-head light in our last boat...). Gear is stored on a priority basis because you simply have no other choice - which means items used daily or regularly are semi-easy to get to, and things that you don't use daily or regularly require blood, sweat and sometimes tears to get to. All those years of playing Tetris paid off. Luckily, our Brewer has a ton of storage - but even still, it's a struggle to get to and when I see boats with nice, big closet-like spaces (cough-catamarans-cough), I get a little twitchy.

3. Everything is a Compromise: I just mentioned that our boat has a ton of storage, and it does. But guess what? It comes at the cost of living space. The sides of our boat are so chalk-full of cubbies and cabinets, that our living area is significantly more narrow to accommodate it. Boats who are smaller in size, can end up feeling much bigger than ours because of this. That is just one of a MILLION examples I could give you. Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING on a boat is a compromise. You install a freezer, you become a slave to your generator. You spring for the wind generator, you get the noise. You re-configure for more galley storage, you loose your microwave. And on and on it goes. Be prepared. Nothing comes on or off the boat that doesn't have a price, both literally and figuratively.

4. Spacial Awareness: When you buy anything for your boat, the first things you will think about is, "Do we have room for this?" and secondly, "Where will this go?" because, at least on our boat, the golden rule is: A place for everything and everything in it's place. This comes very easy to me because I am by nature an incredibly OCD 'tidy' person, but for those of you who are less inclined to put things away, going sailing will be a messy ordeal because, NEWSFLASH: boats are prone to rocking side to side and items not stored properly can and will go flying. 

5. Power Struggles: When you are not concerned with space, you will be concerned with power. Amp hours are another limited commodity on a boat, and even though we have a nice array of solar panels and a decent sized battery bank, we still need to run our generator from time to time to keep up with our energy needs. Rare is the boat that has all their power requirements met by sun and wind day in and day out. Want to bring aboard that Vitamix blender that you love? First of all, see #4 (space) and second, better check out how much juice that thing will suck out of your batteries. Before you buy that system or appliance, you will (or should) be wondering "What does this draw?"

6. Hoarding: I realize this sort of contradicts #4 (space), but hear me out...Living on a boat where simple chores like grocery shopping can become one hell of an ordeal, not to mention the fact that certain places don't have certain things, mean that you try to stock up when and where you can. The Exumas in the Bahamas had grocery stores that looked like they came right out of socialist Russia and the grocery stores in the smaller islands of the windwards had cans on the shelves that were over ten years old! When you get somewhere with good bounty, you'll want to stock up. The same applies to boat parts/supplies. If we order a new "O" ring for our generator's heat exchanger, you better believe we're ordering an end cap, gasket, cover and capscrew as well, and two of each!

7. You Wait for the 'Other Shoe to Drop': I wish we could say we were in the types of cruisers that falls under the 'minimalist' category, but we are not. While Scott could probably swing that way, I like certain creature comforts. I love our water-maker. I love our generator. I love our engine. I love our cockpit speakers. I love our refrigerator. I love our AC (at the dock.) These things make our boat more comfortable and livable for us but, sadly, they come at a price (see #3 - compromise).  As much as we appreciate these systems, they are prone to breaking. They say a cruising boat is in good order if 80% of it's systems are running and truer words were never spoken. It is ALWAYS something. ALWAYS. From the mundane (polishing ever-rusting stainless) to the disastrous (a leaking fuel tank) you will never not have something to fix.  As the 'worrier' of our duo, I'm always looking ahead and wondering, "What's it gonna be next?" The windlass? The stereo? The main halyard? The autopilot? Scott always says, "We're always just one ring-ding away from disaster!" Sad, but true. Boats break. A lot.

8. Heightened senses: An odd vibration under foot, a faint waft of an unusual odor, a dull yet different sound emitting from the engine? All of these things will not only put you on high alert, but set you into action to figure out "why?" You will grow to know every creak and groan your boat makes, you will be unusually familiar with the 'normal' vibrations of your engine and you will know *immediately* if any of your pumps, from those in your bilge to those in your water maker, are acting up. On a boat ignoring these sounds, feelings and odors can be detrimental so you'll be hyper aware of it all. Fun fact: You'll also be able to predict wind speed within a knot or two based on the sounds it makes through your rig. 

9. Resourcefulness: The need to be 'resourceful' has been a bit atrophied in this day and age when we can pretty much have whatever we want or need in a matter of hours, but in the islands this is not the case. Sometimes (actually, a lot of times) we must improvise. Lack of facilities, under-stocked stores, and public holidays are all things that can wreak havoc on you getting that part, talking to that agent, or finishing a project. As such, you need to be resourceful and use what is on hand. Scott has become a veritable McGuyver as a result of living on a boat and his handiness is a mega asset.

10. Hitting the Road (on foot): We walk, a lot. It's so funny to me how little islanders walk or how they seem to judge distance. A very normal conversation will go like this: Us: "Excuse me, but could you point us in the direction of the grocery store?" Islander: "You're not walking, right? It's too far to walk!" Us: "How far, would you say?" Islander: "Oh, I don't know...a really long way." Us: "Okay, well, we like to walk - is is this way?" Islander: (Shaking head with a laugh) "Okay, yes - just up that road there..." And then we walk and it's, like, two miles away. But, yeah, when we're moving around on land we walk a lot to get from point A to point B.

11. Putting it all Out There: Underwear on the line, bras hanging from the the mast, food scraps in a bowl in the cockpit (ready to be tossed overboard later), and sometimes, donning nothing more than our birthday suits, cruisers are not a shy bunch. We tend to put it all out there because, well, we don't really have room to put it any place else. We shower off the back of our boats and sometimes greet our cruising buddies in our underwear. Every year of cruising trades few more social mores/graces for a little more 'heathen' I think.

12. Patience: I am not, by nature, a patient person. It is yet another of my less-than-desirable traits and perhaps the one that I do battle with most regularly as a cruiser because a) a sailboat is S L O W and b) "Island Time" is more real than you can ever possibly imagine. Whether it be having to wait two weeks for your simple package to clear customs (sorry, it arrived during Carnival!) or sailing into the wind and making almost zero VMG for twenty-four hours, living on a boat in the islands will test your patience daily. As a result, you will have no choice but to become more patient or drink a lot to take your mind of the frustration. 

13. Settling for Second Best: When you combine #7 (things break) and #9 (resourcefulness) you sometimes need to settle for a solution that is for sure second-best. Boats are constantly breaking down under the UV of the sun and the corrosion of the salt and unless you have a staff, you will not be able to stay on top of all the work and maintenance your boat needs, meaning you will get used to having certain things not working and/or not looking pretty. Our teak toe rails are a disaster. In fact, all teak on our boat - both inside and out - needs a good re-doing, but we just don't have the money or time right now. And that's okay.

14. Bi-Polar Tendencies: And finally - if you are anything like we are - living on the water will make you bi-polar. You will, at times,  have a love/hate relationship with: your boat, the ocean, the lifestyle, the islands and (most likely) your spouse. High highs and low lows across the board. We can't have it all, right?

Sorry I was so ridiculously late Tammy! Thanks for the great thought-provoking post idea!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Five Year Anniversary: Thoughts, Reflections and Confessions

Five years ago yesterday we untied the dock lines from our slip in Chicago and changed the course of our lives forever. If Facebook hadn't gently reminded me that "Here's a memory from five years ago!" and showed me the above picture, I absolutely wouldn't have remembered it (I mean, I can barely remember my own wedding anniversary), and I wouldn't have spent a large part of the day reminiscing and reflecting on all that has happened. I shared the picture to our Windtraveler Page with this caption:
This was the day we departed Chicago, 5 years ago. We sailed through the Great Lakes, across the Erie canal, down the Hudson River, down the East Coast, to the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, DR, PR and all through the windwards and leewards to Trinidad. It wasn't always pretty or easy (and more times than I'd like to admit we wanted to throw in the towel on the lifestyle and each other) but it was definitely an adventure!
Two boats, over a dozen countries, fifteen thousand nautical miles, three daughters, countless 'wins', an equal number of mistakes and zero regrets. 

When I look at this picture, I am struck by several things. First, how utterly naive we were when we left. I mean, we did not have a CLUE. When we think back and talk about those days, both Scott and I shake our heads in disbelief at how ill-prepared we were and thank our lucky stars that we didn't get ourselves killed. Which tells you a little something about boats (they are stronger than we are), common sense (a little goes a long way), and luck (it was on our side). We made so many mistakes...We sailed right into a terrible storm (still to date our worst yet), ran into a rock in the Erie Canal (it's truly a miracle we didn't sink our boat), took on water (thank God it was fresh) which, subsequently, killed our transmission (hooray for warranties!) And that was all within the first month of our leaving! We had never, ever anchored. We'd never even heard of a GRIB file, hadn't really communicated via VHF before and - aside from one little shakedown sail across the lake - had never sailed over night. I will say this, though, those first six months - as steep of a learning curve as they were - were among the best, most exciting months we've had. The world was our oyster, and everything felt thrilling and new. It was, in hindsight, a pretty magical time. We took baby steps the entire way, and that is a large part of the reason we are still here.

The other thing that strikes me when I look at this photo, is how different our initial agenda was from what has become our reality. We all know that 'plans' are subject to change - particularly for those of us who have the luxury to live on boats with no real agenda other than that which our vessels and Mother Nature dictate... but it's funny how quickly - and drastically - ours changed. Our journey went from being a "3-5 year circumnavigation" to becoming an open-ended semi-nomadic life in the Caribbean. Why? The obvious answer lies in our blissful naiveté, we literally had no idea what, exactly, a circumnavigation entailed and, frankly, we decided that maybe we didn't need to circle the globe to be content (we reserve the right to do this later when our girls are older!) The other answers are tied up in getting work to fill the cruising kitty, taking six to thirteen month shore-side breaks to have babies and getting a bigger boat to accommodate this rapid crew expansion. The other day I ran into a friend from our Chicago sailing days and she said, "Hey! You guys were going to sail around the world, right?" and I laughed and replied, "Yeah, well...we didn't get very far!" But what we didn't cover in nautical miles, we covered in life (three of them, to be exact) and those little girls are our greatest accomplishments. Our's is more of an evolution to a life less ordinary than a journey "from point A to point B," and I'm cool with that.

I'm also struck by how much we have changed both as individuals and as a couple.  There's been a lot of laughter and a lot of tears. There's been some serious soul searching and many, many questions. The emotional roller coaster that is life on a boat has been as diverse as the winds and seas we've sailed in. When we left, Scott and I were newlyweds - and now, after spending almost all of our married years together 24/7 on a (relatively) small sailboat we're... not. There are land-based couples who don't spend as much time together as we have in five years in twenty-five years and that is really something. That much togetherness is intense and, to be honest, it's been pretty detrimental to our relationship at times. In fact, I'm not sure that kind of excessive togetherness is healthy for most couples (sure, there are the "unicorn" pairs for whom this sort of situation is 'easy' but that is not us) and I have many friends that tell me there is no way they'd survive day in and day out with their spouse. We are still very much trying to navigate the ocean that is wedlock and it is challenging to say the least, particularly on a boat. We've learned a lot about ourselves and each other, and it's not always pretty. But we ride the waves; learning, loving, stumbling and growing - trying to stay afloat both literally and figuratively. Some days are easier than others, just like cruising.

We've sailed a bunch of miles, traveled to some amazing places, and done things that most people will only dream of - but, at the risk of sounding mega corny - these things are very much secondary to the journeys that have taken place within. Among other things, we have found our passions on the sea; I have found a voice on this blog and now know my calling is to write and share; Scott got his 200-ton captain's license and has found his life's work on the ocean. We have grown from wide-eyed wanderers to lightly-seasoned cruisers who have decided to make a life afloat, at least for now...

I think that's what strikes me the most about this picture: the fact that we had no idea what was ahead. If you would have told me five years ago all that I have just wrote, I don't know that I would have believed you. I look at this picture and feel hope, excitement, and wonder. I can put myself back in that precise moment five years ago like it was yesterday; the nerves, the butterflies, the giddy excitement, the awe...I can feel the (unusually) warm fall air, hear the gentle rumble of our engine, recall exactly what I was wearing (my SLAM long underwear and Patagonia pants, no shoes) and summon the surreal feeling of being hyper-aware of how lucky we were, of being totally cognizant of a mega paradigm shift and knowing full-well that nothing would ever be the same from that moment forward. I was totally present and grateful. 

And that, right there, is the beauty of the endless horizon. You might know exactly where you've been, but you never know exactly where you are going.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Your Life is an Adventure, But No One Wants to Hear Your Story

I'll never forget the time I came home after living in Tanzania and went to the local bar where many of my high school peers would occasionally hang out. had been gone three years and was dealing with a fair amount of reverse culture shock - and subsequent depressive "funk" - as a result of my return. I self-consciously walked into the bar, saw some people I hadn't seen since highschool and after striking up generic "what have you been up to?" pleasantries with all of them (this was pre-Facebook, people!), I found it a) hard to describe that I had been living in Africa without sounding like a pompous asshole and/or dreaded 'travel snob' and b) interesting that once I did describe what I had been up to, "Err...I've been...in...um....Africa" - no one really cared. Sure, I got a few, "whoa's" and some "very cool's" but, in general, it ended there. No one wanted to know any details about anything I had experienced at all. Zero. 

It was an important lesson for me, and one that I am grateful I learned. While I'm embarrassed to admit I was feeling rather "interesting" and "exotic" coming right off my worldly travels and experiences (I mean, I witnessed a Masai circumcision for crying out loud), the fact that I did not 'hold court' in that hometown bar regaling tales of African adventure served me well by knocking me down a peg. It taught me an important lesson about sharing stories. Namely, that "sharing" plays a huge part in the telling of stories, and if there is not something shared between the listener and the storyteller, the story is irrelevant. A hard pill to swallow for someone who just had the most intense and incredible three years of her life and possesses an almost intrinsic compulsion to share (hence this blog). It doesn't mean that your 'audience' needs to have had the same experience as you, but there must be an interest, a desire...something to connect with. Many of the people in the bar that night had never been out of the country, let alone to Africa, so there was a lack of understanding. Not "ignorance" or "jealousy", simply no frame of reference. It hit me like a ton of bricks: just because you have a story to tell, does not mean others want to hear it. A humbling lesson for a twenty-seven year old gypsy spirit to learn.

Take parenthood, for example. For many of us, our kids dominate our conversations, thoughts, and Facebook feeds. Being parents is the most important thing we will ever do, and those of us who have children cannot imagine a life any other way. We find tremendous joy in watching our children grow and sharing our lives with them. We actively seek out friendships with other parents who understand our happiness and empathize with our struggles. Is parenthood is for everyone? Are people who chose a child-less route are any less fulfilled? Can we no longer sustain conversation and friendships with people who don't have kids? Absolutely not. I believe it's this way with cruising, travel and adventuring. It no doubt enhances and enriches the lives of those that chose it, but it's not for everyone. And that's a good thing.

It's the same now, after having lived on the boat. Rarely do Scott and I talk about our travels or life on our boat when we are out with our friends back home. It comes up almost never, and if it does - it's brief and not something we dwell on. Does this mean we don't love our friends? That we have nothing in common with them anymore? That we feel 'lost' in our own country? No, no, and no. We are blessed with amazing friendships that transcend our need to share our experiences abroad and we connect with them on other levels. The fact of the matter is this: not everyone is interested in travel or sailing or adventure. It might seem shocking to us that are, but people find happiness and contentment in many ways. When we get the pleasure to meet up with fellow travelers, adventurers, sailors or soon-to-be cruisers, the questions come flying. Why? Because these are people with whom we share our wanderlust with. People who possess this adventurous spirit, either in desire or in actuality, will revel in your tales from off the beaten path and you will revel in theirs. Stories have a time and place.

So don't be surprised if people aren't asking about what it's like to live on a boat, what it feels like to sail overnight, or what thoughts go through your head when you sail into a squall.... There's a quote that says, "We share with people who've earned the right to hear our story..." and while, at first, that sounds snobbish, I don't think it is. We are each of us a composite of a million stories, and how we connect truly and deeply with another person is in shared experiences. We are all multi-faceted individuals and most of us don't fit into any one single box, we can connect on many levels. We are a conglomeration of many: Traveler. Poet. Surfer. Musician. Writer. Athlete. Widow. Artist. Botanist. Addict. Parent. Teacher. Sailor. Animal lover. Techie. Husband. Wife. Sister. Brother. Daughter...etc.These shared experiences are what 'earn' us the right to hear, and share in, another's story. If you find that people aren't interested in the story you want to tell, don't take it personally; sit back, enjoy their company, and ask questions. You'll find a story that is shared.

And if that doesn't do it for you, find another outlet for telling your stories and start a blog. Worked for me ;)

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Living Legends: Ten Questions with John Kretschmer

We actually have a little bit of history with famed sailor and author, John Kretschmer... When we were first getting ready to sail from Chicago back in 2010, a friend of ours told us that a client's brother was a famous sailor, that he'd be speaking at Strictly Sail, and that we should meet him. Scott and I, total greenhorns and eager to soak up any knowledge from anyone who'd 'walked the walk', went to his seminar and met him afterwards. He was easygoing, unassuming, and kind. Totally relaxed despite the fact that he'd just come off an ocean passage and was now on his feet all day doing seminars and entertaining questions from (possibly annoying) newbs like Scott and I. Yep, it was instantly apparent that John Kretschmer was not only a class-act and a super nice guy, but the real deal. Afterwards, we devoured a few of his books, and loosely kept in touch via email over the years.

Fast forward to 2015 at Nanny Cay, Tortola. Scott, never forgetting a face, had seen John at the bar and struck up a conversation. He learned his was there on one of his sail training passages and invited Scott and I aboard his boat, Quetzal, the following day. Despite being a tad on the shy and easily intimidated side, the next morning I approached him and said, "Hey John, not sure if you remember me but..." and with a friendly smile he replied, "Windtraveler! Sure, Brittany! We have a lot of passengers who love your blog, you're inspiring a lot of people... Come on aboard." He's the kind of guy who is devoid of ego and will make your day with a passing compliment like that. We chatted with him and his crew in the cockpit and got the grand tour of his beautiful boat. "What seminar is this you're doing?" I asked him. "Heavy weather training," he replied, as casually as if he were selecting a dish soap. This man is one with the ocean and if he smiles at you just so, he even looks a little like the real-life Popeye.

Here's our interview:

#1. How did you know that sailing was going to be more than just a hobby, but a way of life for you? 

My father died when I was 16 and that had a profound impact on me, and my decision to make sailing my life.  I already leaned toward the existential idea that life was what you made of it, your choice to live an interesting life was yours alone to make, and take responsibility for, but it always backed up to idea of time, time was the x factor, there wasn’t time to mess around because life might be snatched away at any time.  I wrote in Flirting (With Mermaids) that my dad’s death drove me to sea, and in a circuitous way that was true. Also, I loved the freedom ocean sailing seemed to present on one hand, and the raw challenge on the other. I never wanted it to be easy.

#2. You sail predominately long distances - ocean deliveries and training passages - this is obviously very different from the traditional “cruising” (i.e island hopping) that many people dream of - why do you love it?

I guess I touched on this a bit in the first answer but crossing oceans presented the sense of adventure I was looking for.  I had been an athlete, a pretty good pole-vaulter alas, and while I never viewed ocean sailing in a competitive way I really responded to the idea of personal challenge.  I grew to love passage making when I learned that there is no “personal challenge,” at sea, that notion is actually absurd. The sea is dispassionate, storms are not personal, small boat seamanship is a matter of figuring out how to fit into the ocean environment. There’s no room for chest pumping at sea.  
Image courtesy of the John Kretschmer sailing Facebook Page
#3. You’ve sailed with a lot of different people and personalities - is there one glaring character trait that you think does not jive well with the sea?

Hubris, and a lack of respect for the sea, not good traits at all for it is (pathetically to paraphrase my own book,) a serious ocean out there.  But it is also a beautiful environment out there too, and you don’t need to be afraid and drape yourself in the latest safety gear.  The safety scolds are rather sad folks and I am sure you have run up against them for taking, Neptune forbid, your young children to sea. Screw them. Also, a lack of irony is not a good trait, you need to be able to laugh at the vagaries of the sea.  

#4. Sailing on other people's boats can be risky business, you are - in many ways - putting your life in someone else’s hands (by trusting their boat) what’s your “ritual” before you take off on another boat? Have you ever turned a delivery down due to the boat’s condition?

It usually depended on how much I needed the money, referring to deliveries.  I have delivered some sad vessels in my day. I am pretty good about sussing out a boat quickly, I have come to know what is important and what isn’t.  Things I check are the through hulls, not just where they are and if they work but more importantly if they will be prone to back siphoning underway. I check the rig, a quick check is to see if the turnbuckles have ever been adjusted, tells you a lot.  The sails are often in amazingly poor conditions, especially on boats that have not been used in a long time, sitting in the tropical heat deteriorating.  The engine is also essential, and I probably spend more time making sure it’s ready to run and collecting spares than I do on anything else.  
Image courtesy of the John Kretschmer sailing Facebook Page
#5. What are three things you would not go offshore without?

Charts, my sextant, and a basic toolkit.  Sounds crazy, but everything else can fail but I can always find my way. I am big on notion of finding my way. I’ve logged a ridiculous amount of miles, and I love GPS and all the accouterments there of, really I do, but many of those miles were done pre GPS and they were, in a weird way, more satisfying.  I don’t like the idea of being lost, just being hard to find.

#6. You are the author of several fantastic books and you are clearly a gifted writer. When did you discover this talent and would you say your passion for writing is greater than your passion for sailing, or visa versa - and/or do they share a symbiotic relationship in you?

You know that these days I conduct offshore training passages, and funnily enough my old high school English teacher signed aboard a few years ago. He amused the crew, telling them that he thought there was a remote chance I might make the Olympics as pole-vaulter but would never have believed that I’d write a book!  Actually books have been my friends forever, longer than boats.  Peter Freuchen, the great Arctic explorer and voyage wrote the he “discovered the ocean in his imagination.” I did too, in books.  I wanted to be an explorer and when I realized that explorers had a hard time finding work in the late 20th century, I decided I wanted to be a sailor and write about my adventures, and I made this decision when was 13 or 14.  Thanks for the kind words about my books,  I still feel exposed when I write, if it’s not emotionally honest it’s no good, that’s my motto I guess. 

#7. As someone who’s husband worked term charters for a while (being away at sea for weeks at a time), I imagine that your roving lifestyle can be difficult on your wife. How do you two make it work?

This has been a very difficult thing for me to balance.  My wife Tadji is incredibly understanding, independent and super capable on her own, but still it is hard for us to be away from each other for long stretches. In some ways I have two worlds, home and at sea, and keeping them both going is not easy.   The ability to leave my boat all over the world has been quite liberating.  Indeed, Quetzal is in St. John’s Newfoundland and I am in Ft. Lauderdale now, and I’ll head back in a couple of weeks, pressing on for Nova Scotia, and then later in October for the Caribbean  Also, now that 3 of 4 kids are either on their own or in college, and the last is a senior in high school, we are able to spend more time together.  (Sorry to make you envious!  Not really, these years with your kids aboard are to be  treasured. My girls still tell sea stories.) Tadji and I have a plan to be on the boat together most of the time in the future, with Tadji accompanying me on some training passages, and leaving me to do my thing on others.  But we will definitely be in more of a cruising mode between passages than I’ve ever been before and I am really looking forward to it.
Image courtesy of the John Kretschmer sailing Facebook Page
#8.What is something that people might find surprising about you?
That I am really easy going on the boat, that I am not all a stickler for rules and rote learning, that I am flat out ok when folks make mistakes.  That’s probably not right, people already know that. Hmm what else, that I love the Miami Heat and that I know more about books than boats. 

#9. You’ve had countless adventures at sea - what is your mantra when the shit hits the fan?

To be active, not to assume that the weather will suddenly improve or the problem will somehow fix itself.  I have well-honed instincts, mostly because I have made a hash of things so many times that I’ve finally learned to listen to my hunches. If I feel a hint of being over canvassed, I reef.  If I suspect conditions are going to deteriorate I prepare.  I almost never go into bunker mode, I believe that storms require action, clear thinking, collaboration when possible, and engagement as conditions change.  

#10. What is one thing you haven’t done yet, but wish you could?

Hmm, can I have two? Although I have sailed a lot of miles, I’d like to do a trade wind circumnavigation with my wife and occasional friends/crew.  And, I’d like to write a good novel.


Thank you, John, for that insightful and thoughtful interview! Can't wait to catch up in person again soon!

Want more John? Check out his website and Facebook Page, and be sure to check out some of his incredible books:

Flirting with Mermaids: The Unpredictable Life of a Sailboat Delivery Skipper - this was the first one Scott and I read, it's a great collection of tales from John's life at sea full of adventure, romance and wry humor. A good laugh and an enjoyable read for anyone cruising, or dreaming of sailing off into the sunset.

At the Mercy of the Sea: The True Story of Three Sailors in a Caribbean Hurricane - this book is insane. It's the true story of three Caribbean-based sailors (one who was a personal friend of John's) who got caught in they eye of Hurricane Lenny in 1999.  John tells this story with incredible accuracy, precision and care, and brings you right there into the storm with them. It's harrowing and tragic, but a fantastic - and important - read for any boater. I loved this book.

Sailing a Serious Ocean: Sailboats, Storms, Stories and Lessons Learned from 30 Years at Sea - this is one we have not read, but it's on my Kindle! "Tales of storm encounters and other examples of extreme seamanship will help you prepare for your journey and give you confidence to handle any situation―even heavy weather. Through his personal stories, John will guide you through the whole process of choosing the right boat, outfitting with the right gear, planning your route, navigating the ocean, and understanding the nuances of life at sea."

Cape Horn to Starboard - "Legendary account of the author's voyage around Cape Horn in a 32-foot sailboat, sailing east-to-west (thus the Horn is to starboard, or on the right). This is a notoriously difficult and dangerous passage, especially in a boat this size." - Amazon


Enjoy this series? Check out my other interviews with awesome sailing people:

Living Legends: Ten Questions with Cap'n Fatty Goodlander
Living Legends: Ten Questions with John and Amanda Neal
Living Legends: Ten Questions with Former US Sailing President Gary Jobson
Awesome Sailing People: The Delos Crew
Awesome Sailing People: Katie and Jessie on a Boat
Awesome Sailing People: Ten Questions for Distant Shores
Awesome Sailing People: Q & A with Solor Sailor Emily Richmond

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Road-Tripping with Three Toddlers: Tips for Avoiding Highway Robbery

To say I was 'anxious' about our first six hour + road trip of this season with our three girls (ages three and eighteen months) would be a huge understatement. While traveling with our children is par for the course with our semi-nomadic lifestyle, most of our traveling is done in our home (aka our boat) meaning moving from point A to point B is relatively easy (barring no mechanical breakdowns or bitch slaps from Mother Nature.) Traveling by car? This is not something we are used to. The first time we pulled it off without me having to pop a Xanax and/or tuck-n-roll out of the vehicle I chalked it up to luck, but after three more successful six hour road trips (complete with major buzz killers like flat tires, traffic jams, and Ark-inducing downpours) I think it might mean we are doing something right. Maybe.

Before I go on, you need to know a few key pieces of information: we drive in a (borrowed) SUV with only one row for the girls, meaning they are jammed in the back seat like sardines. We also do not have the luxury of any sort of portable (or built-in) DVD players, and - while we have been blessed in many, many ways - we were not blessed with good car sleepers. To add insult to injury, our girls despise their car seats (what kid doesn't?)...so we weren't dealing with the greatest of odds going into our travels.  Knowing this, I prepared for the worst and spent many a night laying awake dreading these car trips. I did a lot of worrying beforehand and this list is for fellow mom's and dad's embarking on similar trips in the hopes that I can alleviate some of that stress for you. I hope it helps another family hit the road because, for us, it was so worth it...


#1. Relax on the Rules. When we are road tripping, keeping the peace is our number one priority. I cannot tell you the hell that is being enclosed in a car on a highway with three screaming kids. We now do everything in our power to avoid this. Don't get me wrong, toddler anarchy does not ensue in the car, but our strict rules on sugar consumption, constant snacking, and watching electronics do not apply when road tripping. For example, I'm a total 'neat freak' in our home, but that flies out the window when road tripping. If playing the iPad longer than usual keeps Isla happy and quiet, then the iPad she shall play. If sugary snacks (I'm talking yogurt melts, not Twizzlers) are what keep Haven from having an epic meltdown, then sugary snacks she shall get. If a cheap, blinking and beeping toy keeps Mira from screeching in her highest Mariah-Carey octave, then that toy she shall have.  Keep. The. Peace.

#2. Organization is key. My list-making has become something of a joke around here, but being organized makes what can be a very hectic day less hectic. That means prepping for the trip in advance (buying the snacks, selecting the toys, deciding what needs to come and what doesn't...etc). We pack up our clothes, tick items off our list, and try to have the car packed the night before. I load up our SailorBags backpack /diaper bag with everything I might need handy (diapers, wipes, spare clothes for each girl, Tylenol, and snacks) and keep it with me the front seat for easy access. Traveling with three little kids can be stressful so doing whatever you can to alleviate the stress ahead of time is worth it. Tip: I make a list with categories for myself, the kids, the diaper bag, baby gear, medicines, last-minute packing reminders, electronics and car entertainment so we don't miss anything important.
This list is one of about 100 that I have on file. Crazy, I know. This simple template is built into Mac's version of Word
#2. Dramamine is your friend. Yes, I realize this is probably a little controversial because I am basically saying "drug your child" but, hey, if you have ever been in a car with three crying, screaming, and very unhappy toddlers then you know you would do just about anything to avoid it. People have suggested Benadryl to me but I've heard it can have the opposite effect on some children and I don't want to play those odds while contained in a car for six or seven hours. I do, however, have experience with Dramamine and know that it makes my girls drowsy. As I mentioned, none of our girls are good car sleepers and sleep is your friend. Before departure, I give the twins 1/2 dose of children's dramamine and Isla a full dose (one pill). This guarantees at least an hour and a half of sleep once we hit the highway and when the girls wake up semi well-rested, they are 1000% more pleasant for the rest of the trip. Note: Children's dramamine is not recommended for kids under the age of two. I used it at my own discretion and you should do your own research. I am NOT a doctor!
This moment is brought to you by Dramamine.
#3. Try to time the trip around naps and/or sleep. As I mentioned, car sleep is your friend. Many people suggest driving overnight to reach a destination of over five hours or more so the kids sleep the whole time, and this is a great option for those who can swing it. Unfortunately, Scott fell asleep at the wheel as a teen and got in a horrible car-wreck so he understandably is against overnight driving. What we do instead is try to schedule our departure right before nap time. We eat lunch at home around 11am, I dose them with Dramamine right after, and we hit the road by noon. The girls usually are asleep within thirty minutes and we have anywhere from 1.5-2 hours of blissful quiet. We also try to time our trips so that only one "sleep" is interrupted, thus leaving before nap so that we can arrive at our destination in time for dinner and bedtime in a proper bed. Once, we woke the girls at 3am to arrive by noon and despite the fact that the girls did not sleep at all in the car (this was before the Dramamine lightbulb went off for me), it was a good trip and they fell right back into schedule upon arrival with zero issue.

#4. Make them comfy. "Comfy" is a relative term here. Car seats suck. They are constrictive, awkward, and a (very) necessary evil. We do what we can to make our girls comfortable in the car. We travel in light jammies and take our shoes off. While we usually don't let the twins use their paci's for any time other than sleep, for road trips they can have them all day (see #1.) We also bring their "lovies" and blankies for them to snuggle. Note: YOUR comfort will 100% be compromised as a result of trying to keep your kids comfy (hashtag 'parenting'). The person in the passenger seat will need a chiropractor by the end of the trip from having to twist and turn and retrieve and pass and wipe and give... All. Day. Long. But the peace will be worth the neck and back ache, trust me.

#5. Have dedicated "car entertainment." Before our first road trip, I went to Target and got a few super cheap toys and dollar books to have in the car. Knowing that we had three girls and knowing that the attention span for each toy was about twenty to thirty minutes, I got six toys to rotate between them. This worked well. They made noise and beeped and flashed lights and all that stuff that I tend to avoid in our kid's toys, but they did the trick. The best part? Each one was equally appealing so there were very few jealousy "I want that one!" issues. It was all "Yeah! Something new!" The toys now stay in a bin in the car, only to be used when in the road so they don't lose their luster. Also, the iPad is a lifesaver for the three and older set. Isla is a piece of cake to travel with because she can easily entertain herself with it. Tip: Try to stagger the introduction of new toys to once an hour, that way you don't crash and burn with the "newness" too early. Always have something left in your "bag of tricks"!
Our "car toys". A small shoe bin of dollar store toys and a small backpack of dollar store books.
These are the toys. They make noise and light up and are, for all intents and purposes, crap...but they do the trick.
Dollar store books and the Melissa & Doug Water WOW Kit.
#6. Snacks, snacks, and more snacks. When the toys no longer cut it, it's time to bring out the snacks. We load up on snacks for a road trip like preppers load up on freeze-dried food for the Apocalypse. It's better to have too much than not enough and the key is in variety. Each of our girls has a snack catcher that I fill with finger foods like cheerios, raisins, popcorn, and goldfish (I refill and rotate as needed). I also bring things that are easy for the girls to eat with their hands, such as: graham crackers, animal crackers, cheese sticks, bananas and yogurt pouches. Grapes, apple slices, and oranges are also great. My piece de resistance, however, are the sugary "organic" yogurt melts that you can find at any grocery store. Sure, they are more like candy than a healthy snack (remember, normal rules do not apply for road trips! The goal is to do anything you can to stave off mayhem!) and I bring no fewer than five bags of these things (they'll go through a whole bag in ten minutes). I try to save these as long as possible for when meltdowns are imminent. Tip: Save the good snacks for when you need them the most!
A small sampling of the types of snacks we load up on.
#7. Include a well-timed pit-stop. We stop only once for a six hour trip and drive as long as possible before taking a break. Psychologically, it feels better to stop after 3.5 hours and say, "Phew...only 2.5 more hours to go!" While Isla is potty trained, we put her in a pull up for the car trip, just in case. But even if a potty break isn't necessary, it's nice to stop for a ten to fifteen minute break and let the kids stretch their legs, change diapers, and get a cup of coffee for mom and dad. For most of our trips, we stopped at rest areas that had green space. But on our last drive home, it was pouring rain so we let the kids run free in a grocery store. They loved it (and the fruit samples in the fresh market department!). Tip: Your kids will NOT want to get back in their car seats after this break. We bribe. Here is a good opportunity to use the "good" snacks. See "yogurt melts" above.
This particular stop was a good one, these were outside the grocery store they ran around in.
#8. When all else fails, distract. Scott and I have become master toddler distractors. Music is a good one, and our girls are big Taylor Swift fans. Busting out a little "shake it off" will have them car dancing in no time. Other good distractions are simply excitedly talking about what is going on outside, "Look!! A red car!! Oh. My. Gosh! A RED CAR! Yeeeessssss!" and asking the kids to look for things like bears, giraffes, hippos and deer (I know, we're evil). Scott's claim to fame is opening and shutting the back windows and/or the skylight. That, too, will usually stop them in their tracks for a bit. Tip: When we are getting super desperate with the twins, our final "Hail Mary" is to give them our iPhones (which have LifeProof cases on them). We don't do it a lot and haven't had to resort to handing them over in a long time, but in dire straights, they do the trick.

#9. Xanax, for you, to 'take the edge off' I kid, I kid! .... (Hushed tone) But, really, do you have a script for Xanax? You *might* want to bring it just in case.

Carseat tip: If you, like us, don't have a minivan and need to fit three kids across one back seat, the Diono Radian Convertible Car Seat is a great option and will fit three in one row! (We use two bucket seats right now for the twins, and one Radian for Isla but as time goes on, we will have three Radians as a minivan is not in our future right now!)

What are your tried and true tips and tricks for road-tripping with toddlers? Please feel free to share in the comments!
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