Monday, November 19, 2012

The Two Most Common Questions We Get

Our lifestyle is a little different than most, so it's only natural that we field a lot of questions from curious/interested/bewildered people.  By far the most common questions we get are (in this order): "How can you afford this?"  and "How long will you do this?"

The first question, though I have come to expect it, always catches me off guard.   Have you ever walked into someone's house and said, "Wow! Beautiful home!! How much did this cost and how EVER do you afford your mortgage?!" or when you first meet someone do you ask, "Really?  An investment banker?  Interesting.  What are investment bankers bringing in these days?"  I realize the question is innocent and I understand that people are curious about our lifestyle.  The fact that we live a pretty publicly documented existence (thanks to this blog) outside of what is "normal" seems to trump social mores and give people a free pass to ask personal questions that most would never dream of asking in everyday situations.  Even knowing this I am still caught off guard when someone asks us about our finances.   I've touched on it before, but without getting too specific, the success of our lifestyle is heavily attributed to five things:
  1. We had/have zero debt 
  2. We had a nice little nest egg to start off with (thanks to our wedding) 
  3. We owned nothing of any real value on land (like a house) 
  4. Scott is a working captain on a steady rotation so we have a reliable income stream 
  5. We live a relatively "simple" life and spend significantly less on day to day life than our land-lubbing counterparts
These five things are hugely impactful in allowing us to live the way we do.   That and the fact this is the way we want to live, of course.  Where there is a will, there is a way.  I've said it before and I'll say it again, we have met people doing what we are doing on much, much less, and people who are doing it with much, much more.  If you want to live a certain way (be it on land or sea) get out there and do it your way.  You will have to make sacrifices regardless of your financial situation; you might not be able to have the fancy boat you want, will probably have to sell your house and you might be limited to coastal cruising - but the truth is there is no magic number that I can give you that will guarantee you will get out here and do it.  There are just as many "rich" people as there are "poor" not doing what they want to do.  Whether or not you are going to live the way you dream is up to you, and our financial specifics aren't going to change anything for you.

The other question we field all the time is "How long will you do this?" It's another one we never really have a concrete answer for because, honestly, we don't know.  People jump right in and ask us about homeschooling Isla inquiring whether she'll go to a public high school or not.  High school!? She's not even out of diapers yet.  Truth is, we haven't really thought that far ahead.  I've never been much of a "planner" and instead tend to live my life by putting one foot in front of the other, ceasing opportunities as they present themselves.  If we are still cruising when it's time for Isla to go to school (which I think is age 5?), we will absolutely homeschool (to be honest, I believe very strongly that Scott and I would provide a far superior education for our children than any conventional school would).  As far as high school is concerned, well, if she's anything like her mama we will most likely be shipping her off to military school (I kid...sort of).  We'll just have to cross that bridge when we come to it.  So, back to the main question... how long will we do this?  The bottom line is that we plan to live like this as long as we enjoy it.  When we bought this new boat (being that it was a significant investment) we committed to five more years.  That said, we might sail for five more years, ten more years, or we might cut that short if need be - we have no idea.  We definitely plan to have more children (see, I do plan!) and we'll be making trips back home to have those.  Or maybe we won't.  Maybe we'll have them in Australia or Panama or somewhere else.  We don't really know.  But as long as we all enjoy what we're doing out here, we'll keep on keeping on.

What other questions do people have out there?  Feel free to ask us on our Facebook Page where I post and interact daily!


Ken said...

Well said! Thanks so much for your thoughts.

Anonymous said...

Good on you guys - no need to worry about it now. We've been doing something similar for a while and didn't really take schooling into account when we left. Now, we call it 'Road Schooling' (there must be a similar catch phrase for sailors) and make up daily lessons on the fly. You can always make a lesson out of what is in front of you (swimming with sea turtles makes a great biology lesson)!
Later, because English-language school materials aren't always easy to find abroad, you may end up stocking up for a year's worth (or more) whenever you've visiting back in the U.S. A small price to pay for such an amazing and unique childhood.

Carolyn Shearlock - The Boat Galley said...

So many times we've heard "I'd love to do what you're doing, but we could never afford it." WRONG. It's just that our priorities are different and we make a conscious decision where we'll spend our money.

How many couples do you know living in a 750-square-foot house with only one car? And happy with it? A lot of our friends don't really think about that.

As you said, it's all about making decisions as to what your life will be . . .

Tom W said...

I think the reason a lot of people ask about how much it costs is not because they're trying to be nosey, but because they're trying to find out how to do it.
A bit more guidance would be helpful, though I totally get the point about people's priorities.
It doesn't have to be about you guys in particular. It could be just "Cheapo cruisers spend probably X in a month, whereas DeLuxe Gin-sippers burn through Y a month".
But those of us who wonder about such a lifestyle do need some numbers to give us a guide - it makes it more likely we'll get out there and join you! That's why we keep asking!


Ben Eriksen said...

I think the question people really want the answer to is -- what are the expenses?

Land life has the well known list of basic expenses...

But what the Boat Life basic expenses are remains elusive and mysterious to some.

I did a few posts on this topic a while back...

Unknown said...

So how do you deal with the mega pissed off grandparents? We have one of those here and she won't let up with the comments. "I'll never see my grandkids again". Shouldn't have to feel so guilty about giving your kid the most crazy exciting future ever!!!

Windtraveler said...

@Bodeswell - Thanks! Yes, we agree - the opportunities for hands-on learning are BOUNTIFUL on a boat. We're excited. Great to know about stocking up on supplies in the future...we'll have to keep in touch with you guys!
@Carolyn - exactly!! I think people make too many excuses.
@Tom - I guess, and I like I said, I get it. But I guess my point is we never asked ANYONE how much this or that costs...we just decided we wanted to do it and went about it the best way WE could, with the budget WE had. If you want numbers, some cruisers sail boats they bought on craigslist for 5K and spend $500 per month, some have boats that are more expensive than houses and spend 5K a MONTH. It varies that much. There is no magic number.
@Ben - yes, people are curious about the expenses, but I'm talking about the people that literally meet us and ask us "HOW CAN YOU AFFORD THAT?!" implying that we're on an endless vacation and we must have won the lottery or something. The expenses questions I don't mind, it's the prying into our financial history that irks me. Great posts and breakdown btw, wish I was organized enough to track that stuff but I am not.
@Carly - ugh. That sucks. Unfortunately we don't have to deal with any peed off Grandparents. Both our families (for the most part) are super supportive and believe that what we are doing is awesome. Wish I could help you out but you will just have to tell them that you are giving your kids the BEST gift in the world and one day, hopefully, they'll understand. I would try to point them in the direction of blogs that cruise with kids and show them how wonderful the lifestyle is for kids. Honestly, cruising kids are the BEST!

Anonymous said...

Ben's comment covers most people's curiosity I think.

For the rest - I guess if Scott actually were an investment banker they wouldn't ask. But as he's a first year part-time sea captain and you run a blog, well, the numbers don't add up. Even with a frugal/spartan lifestyle and no debt. Hence the questions.

Where you get your nest egg is nobody's business. But admitting it's not down to a frugal life alone would make the story actually make sense and raise fewer hackles.

Your implication is that anyone can do it if they just got motivated and knuckled down and worked harder. Truth it takes hard work, as well as luck AND a nest egg from inheritances, family, the lottery, whatever to do it so young. Otherwise it would be a much smaller, older etc boat and/or happen at a much later date. It's why most of the other cruisers have silver hair.

Best just to be happy with your good luck and family support and donations! You have a wonderful life and life is not fair. People will always be jealous.

Good wishes and fair winds.

Windtraveler said...

@ Anonymous - I don't know what numbers don't add up because I don't post numbers on my site ;)

I have always said that, yes, anyone can do what we are doing BUT it may not be in a boat like ours, outfitted like ours, with the gear we have. I have admitted more than once that we have been very blessed and I have never said that the only reason we are able to do this is due to a frugal lifestyle, though that IS (absolutely) part of it. As are the other things I mentioned.

There are MANY young people out there cruising right now on smaller, older boats with very simple tools and electronics aboard doing it NOW. So yes, I stand by my saying that anyone can do this if they REALLY want to - BUT they have to be willing to forego the bigger, shiner boat and go with something smaller that might not be as pretty or well outfitted. There's a couple out there right now cruising on an old, discarded hobie cat they found on the beach. They have a tent and sleep on shore and almost everything they have on their boat (which looks more like a raft) is free or donated. That is one end of the spectrum.

And I am VERY happy and grateful every single day for our life (I think I mention that quite a bit on our blog - in fact, our new boat's name is Swahili for "Thank you"). I count my blessings regularly and try to give back because I feel so blessed.

Mike said...


My wife and I purchased our 1981 48 foot sailboat five years ago at 23 and have been turning heads and bucking the system ever since. I don't get all of the haters that seem to think you got a freebie just for owning such a large boat at a young age. We are now 28 and have in the past five years lived a very low cost and modest lifestyle while we pay off debt and refit our boat. We expect to have all of our debt paid off in the next two years and then should be able to finish our refit and depart somewhere around 32..... At that point we will have been sailboat owners for 9 years! Can't believe it..... But hard work does pay off.

And for luck. I think its all attitude. You put in what you get out. We started this journey with a considerable amount of debt with no savings and are still managing to leave young but in the interim have had to live on the boat throughout the entire refit and in that time needed to complete all of the repairs and modifications ourselves at a high cost to our physical and emotional well being.

What can I say, spending the first years of your marraige living in a pile of fiberglass dust and peeing in a bucket while floating in a sorry looking boat without a rig or engine is not all its cracked up to be. Or are the long nights putting band aids on equipment just trying to make work it long enough so you can afforded the replacement several weeks or months later. And those long nights followed by having to work 14 hours at your real job without a shower because your last gallon of water spilled into the bilge when last weeks patch failed. Some days we scratch our heads and think, what in the hell are we doing !!!!! And then we normally come to the realization that the two of us started with a shell of a boat and have slowly made it a home with our own hands. My wife can grid, re core, and glass a deck like no one's business and I can draw the electrical diagram for the boat in my sleep. Five years ago I couldnt even begin to tell you what ohms law was and my wife cut completely through several areas of deck and even managed to light bala core on fire with epoxy. Go figure.

It's not for everyone and there are SO many ways to do this, but it is possible to make it work at any cost. So please, anyone walking past a young couple on a dock with a nice boat, don't think they had it all handed to them because most of us haven't.

All the best,


PS. I'm still waiting for the freebies, back deck martini parties, handouts, lottery winnings and the inheritance I know my wife is hiding somewhere. :0)

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