All my life I have used books (and more recently, websites and blogs) as a way to educate myself and set realistic expectations for what might lie ahead. When I moved to Africa, for example, I read a TON about life in East Africa, both novels and autobiographies alike and when I got there - it was exactly as I had expected and more. I was prepared for the awe-dropping beauty, the hugeness of the sky, the bohemian expats, the heartbreaking poverty, the freedom of mind and soul, and the complexity of life as a minority foreigner. Of course there was a learning curve, but I had painted a very realistic picture of what my life would look like before I went, and while that picture became more focused, crisp and clear as my life unfolded there, it was a pretty good start. The same holds true with our sailing journey. Before we left I read tons of books, magazines and websites devoted to world cruising and again, while the picture has been adjusted, tweaked and enhanced, I feel my research helped me to formulate a very realistic picture of what life would be like.
While I did write a semi-prophetic post about what babies and boats have in common a long while back - here's a slightly different take. Here are the
Top 10 ways that (I think) Cruising Can Prepare You for Parenthood:
- Patience is a virtue. Life at sea can be trying, to say the least. Things break, weather doesn't cooperate, and "island time" is no joke. Cruising takes a tremendous amount of patience and, from what we read and are told, so does parenthood.
- Flexibility is incredibly important. We can all finish the quote "The best laid plans..." and nothing is more true when living on a boat. Scott and I didn't even know we were going to spend last hurricane season in Grenada until about two months before we got there. Sometimes, despite wanting to meet up with friends at point "A", it might behove you to adjust your sails and go to point "B" instead. The ability to change tacks - both literally and metaphorically - will make your life at sea much more pleasant. We think the same probably holds true for parenthood.
- Use good judgement and know that what's best for someone else might not be what's best for you. When we were outfitting our boat, we got a LOT of unsolicited advice from people who had very strong opinions about what we needed and what we didn't. While we appreciated the insight of others, we took some advice and left some on the sidelines. If we had listened to everyone, we would still be at the dock. If you are planning to go cruising, follow your gut and know that what worked for someone might not work for you. We are getting lots of advice these days on everything from birth to college planning and it feels very similar to when we were prepping to leave with our boat. Plenty of people are completely shocked by the fact that we are going to raise our baby on a boat and have very strong opinions on what we "should" do. That's okay. It's not for them...but it is for us.
- Have clear-cut goals and objectives. While it is very important to be flexible with your cruising plans, it is equally important to have plans to be flexible with. Do you want to sail around the world? Circumnavigate the Caribbean? Island hop for a few months in the Bahamas? Cruise the San Juans? Knowing where you want to go will hugely effect how you outfit for your journey because each of those above scenarios require different levels of preparation. While your plans might change in the middle - it's important to have a direction to head in first. Scott and I have talked extensively about what kind of parents we want to be, and we think this will help us navigate these new waters.
- Be willing to make sacrifices. If you want to leave your land life behind and lead the life aquatic be prepared to make a LOT of sacrifices. I know I talk about it all the time, but there is a definite yin and yang to life and it doesn't stop at the seashore. That paradisiacal backdrop comes with a price - and you need to be willing to give up certain things (they are different for everyone) if you want it. We understand that our life is going to need some adjusting the minute our little girl makes her debut and we're 100% okay with that.
- You must work as a team. One thing that every single person who cruises with Scott and I say is how great of a team we are. It's funny because we don't really notice how well we work together because it's so effortless for us. Where I am weak, he is strong and visa versa so there is a very natural balance between us. While teamwork is essential for a successful cruising relationship, we're guessing there is no place where teamwork is more important than in parenthood.
- What you put in, is what you'll get out. Scott and I put a lot of TLC into our boat. We LOVE our boat. We spent over a year outfitting her and we are very diligent about maintaining and fixing her systems. Not a week goes by without someone commenting on how beautiful she is and how well she is cared for. This doesn't just "happen" - you have to work to make your boat great. It's up to you to keep your boat in pristine shape and performing well. Without your care and attention, your boat will quickly fall into disrepair and it can potentially make your life very, very difficult. The effects of neglect in any given area might not be apparent right away, but rest assured - they will show up and torture you. Just like a teen in high school with daddy issues.
- Communication is key. When you are living on a small boat twenty-four hours a day seven days a week with another person, it can get...intense. I know a lot of couples who simple could not do it. Communication is essential to a couple who is cruising and we have heard many stories of happy couples that became very un-happy couples while at sea because of communication breakdowns. You must listen to each other's fears, expectations, desires and wishes to make sure you remain on the same page. From what we're hearing from the trenches, parenthood requires the same.
- Know that mistakes will be made, and that is okay. Nobody is perfect. We all do the best we can with what we've got. Scott and I made a LOT of mistakes in the beginning, luckily they have started to taper off as we become more experienced but rest assured - there are still plenty of mistakes to be made! We learn from mistakes. We should be grateful for them. It is inevitable that we're going to screw up from time to time in this whole child-rearing thing, and we accept that.
- It's all about LOVE. If you want to live on a boat - you've gotta love it. Period. You cannot go into a life at sea half-assed because it just won't work. If you don't love cruising and you are not 100% committed, you will find yourself disillusioned and disappointed. It is not an easy life, it's a ton of work, there will be a lot of surprises and you will make a lot of sacrifices but if love is your main motivator - it's going to be the most rewarding thing you'll do. Lot's of people say the same about parenthood.
So there you have it. While I understand our lives are in for the biggest paradigm shift EVER, I think that having thrived through one huge metamorphosis already, we'll navigate and flourish through this one as well. We cannot wait for the adventures to continue!
Brittany & Scott