Friday, August 02, 2013

Yes, I live in Paradise and Sometimes I want to Complain

Cry me a river, why dontcha?
Bust out your teeny-tiny violins folks (or ukeleles if you've got 'em), because you're about to play 'em for can also feel free to file this post in the cabinet labeled "first world problems".  You've been forewarned.

You know what really bugs me?  The fact that, because my husband and I live on a boat in the Caribbean, I have no right to complain about anything.  Because, obviously, our life is "perfect" and because of where our GPS coordinates place us on the map, we are allowed to be nothing more than grateful for the sweltering heat, torrential downpours, our ever growing project list and any other slice of life pie that doesn't sit right in our bellies at any given moment.  I mean, how dare we complain about these things, right?  We're living a life that most people dream of!

When I say that it's hot, I get emails and comments saying, "Well, it's certainly better than shoveling snow!" or if I mention I've been busy, I get a snarky "please" from someone who is (obviously) busier than I, or... when I complain we have a lot to fix, I get "well at least you have a boat to fix!"  I'm all for looking on the bright side (I mean, have you read my blog?) but sometimes, the dark side wins and a grievance slips out.  Once, when I lamented in a tiny Facebook update about the non-stop rainy and stormy weather in the BVI's, one follower called me "spoiled".  Whatever, I get it: we put our story out there for all to see and this gives people the right to talk back.  This goes with the territory of having a blog with a large audience.  People think our life is a dream and we should be nothing but appreciative for it.  Every. Single. Second.  After all, they are the ones who sit in traffic every morning, drinking stale coffee and commuting to the job they despise.   They are the ones who actually suffer (suffer being a very relative term here).  People like us?  We just sit around, twiddling our thumbs and wonder what tropical slushy rum drink to order next while we hang out in beach bars yucking it up with colorful folks like Jimmy Buffett.

Um...not so much.

First of all, I would like you all to know that just because we live on a boat in the Caribbean does NOT mean our life is "perfect."  Okay, so our backdrop might be a little more dynamic and dramatic than the average midwestern suburb, but that doesn't mean it's always beautiful.  Sometimes, islands are a mess... garbage is everywhere, heartbreakingly scrawny stray dogs play in the gutters, and buildings are anything but "quaint".  We've visited places where we wouldn't even jump in the water.  And, despite what it might seem in the brochures, not every local is welcoming us with open arms and big toothy grins.  Some are mean, rude, and don't enjoy our presence.  This is still real life down here, complete with good, bad and ugly influences.  People imagine that our life is one huge extension of their last all-inclusive vacation in St. Whatever-it-was.  Negative, Ghost Rider...  Rarely, if ever, are we in the manicured areas of the resorts.  Rarely, if ever, do we eat at the five-star buffets offered to week-at-a-time tourists.  We take public transportation, not just for a "thrill" or an "experience", but because we have to.  We eat at local places not just to be "adventurous" but because that's what makes sense for our budget.   I'm not complaining, it's just how it is.  We actually prefer it this way.  But I promise you,  not all of you would enjoy this view.  Travel the way we do it is an acquired taste, it's polarizing and not for everyone.  Sometimes, it's not even for us.  Sometimes, it sucks.  Sometime, (GASP!) it's boring.

The majority of our days are not spent lounging under waving palm fronds listening to waves lap up against the shore.  Despite what you might think, we work and those days spent hanging on the beach drinking cocktails are the exception, not the norm.  I spend a terrific amount of time on our blog and sponsorships and Scott is the relief captain for Island Windjammers.  "But your husband only works for one month every three" you say, rolling your eyes at the ease of this schedule.  This is true, but the reason this works for us is because we probably SPEND A LOT LESS THAN YOU.  We don't have cars, we don't have mortgages, we don't buy fancy clothes and shoes, we don't have school loans, we don't pay for daycare, our social calendar is collecting dust, we have hardly any bills, we don't pay nearly as much for gas and utilities...the list goes on.  We don't NEED to work as much because we live on a boat and have chosen to live with a little less than most of our landlubbing peers.  This was all part of our plan because to have me "stay at home" with Isla and not have to work was a priority for us.  What's more, when the "paid" work is finished, the unpaid work begins.  We maintain our boat almost exclusively by ourselves and this is no walk in the park.  Ever take apart a toilet and get human excrement on you?  If you sign up for this life, I assure you - this is in your future.  And that's not even the hard work.  Get excited, people.

The truth of the matter is, while many of you look at full-time cruisers and think "How nice! I wish I could live like that," I'd be willing to bet that only a very small percentage of you would actually WANT to live on a boat full-time when push came to shove.  In fact, I'd be willing to bet that after a few weeks of living on a boat as we do; dealing with the never-ending upkeep, living in cramped quarters, sailing in nasty weather, struggling to get the lay of the land, sweating your ass off in some dingy harbor, constantly dealing with broken systems and the fact that even the most menial chores take two or three times longer than they do on land - I probably couldn't pay some of you to live on a boat.  It is hard work and, while we might make it look easy, believe me - it is not.  Life on land is much, much easier.  I'm not trying to dissuade anyone, because most people who are gearing up to cruise full-time already know all this (at least, I hope they do) but - as incredible as this life is (and, yes, it is incredible) - it has its...moments.

We have our issues, just like you.  We have our bad days, just like you.  We have moments where we wonder why we're doing this, and some days we even wish we lived a "normal" life on land.  It's far from perfect, but it's our life and, for now, it's the life we want to lead because the positives outweigh the negatives for us.  But no life and certainly no person is "perfect" and this is important to be mindful of.  "If it looks too good to be true, it probably is".  I think it's crucial not to idealize full-time cruising because you are in for one hell of a shock if you are expecting your life to mimic a Jimmy Buffet album.  It's like that only some of the, maybe 2%.  If you are childless, you might be able to eek it up to around 8 or 10%. Maybe.

So excuse me if I want to complain about the weather/my boat/my hair/cooking...etc. from time to time, but I'm only human.  And yes, I live in paradise.  But you know what?  I am still waiting for the day when I can waste away in Margaritaville.  So, how 'bout you play that tune for me on that teeny-tiny violin you're holding?  Thanks.


Laurie on S/V MaƱana said...

Amen, Sista! We spend an inordinate amount of time telling people the same thing......and, yes, they all still play the world's smallest violin!

Last Paradise said...

You mean it's not all sailing off into the perfect sunset with a icy rum drink in your hand and perfect conditions all the time? Seriously. One of my biggest pet peeves from talking to people about cruising was this kind of judgement, I made sure to always explain that just like ANY life, some days are great and some days suck. People can be so judgemental... Xoxo

geekclimber said...

Haters gonna hate. All you can do is just keep-on keeping-on and I'll keep-on reading, longing for the day I have your problems and maybe even a landlubber hater or two.

NatGeoWannaBe said...

For what it's worth, we live in suburbia and we get snarky comments from others too. Lately folks from elsewhere in town are waging a campaign against the recently installed speed bumps on our street. why? Because we have them and they don't. We've received snarky comments about our 'nice' homes (which are truthfully just modest in this area) and big yards (which merely adds to the time it takes for maintenance I might add). My point is the grass is always greener, the water always bluer and the problems easier to manage where other people are. A recent quote I read on FB went something like "how people treat other people is a direct reflection of how they feel about themselves". Vent away.

Tony Tassoni said...

There are ripples in life that come to visit us as a result of our own actions. When we begin to step into the water of life these ripples begin. These ripples, the effects of our decisions both good and bad will continue to press against us in an endless reflection of our lives. All of us choose and all of us are responsible and in control of what happens in our lives.

It is clear to me that you and Scott chose a way of life for this time in your life that has both meaning and value. When you three are alone in your quiet moments, you know this without regard to critique. You are living your lives aware of your needs, your objectives and most importantly for each other. Nothing else matters. The toxicity of others can not penetrate a rightchous value system. So whether you are out at sea or in a Detroit slum, it should never matter so long as you recognize that your ripples are the blessings and the fruits of living a good life. God Bless and be safe... And keep on keeping on!

Anonymous said...

Agree with your comments 100%. I have heard it all too. Many times , whether stuck by weather , needing parts , seeking provisions , updating the never ending to do list. laundry !! Ice !! We cruise without a generator. Think about that. Those picture perfect sunsets and sundowners are a reward for hard work. The rewards are wonderful , but the means to justify those rewards are fraught with responsibilities. Great article and to those whole just do not get it , ignore them.

Paul said...

Great post Brittany. There will always be "those people" who have no idea of your reality. I think you do a good job of balancing the "good" with the "not so good" of your chosen lifestyle. Don't let "those people" get under your skin.

Brett A. said...

I hear what you are saying....its the same with my job. Because I'm an Airline Pilot flying international routes I can't bitch about my "glamorous and well-paying" job, except to other pilots that is. People think a 6-figure salary and 15 days off a month is all that, but they haven't landed a 400,000 lb airplane in gusty crosswinds on a slippery runway after being up all night in the cockpit. The constant hassles of airports and security, jetlag, missed holidays and birthdays wear on you after a while. Nor have they gone through the paycuts, loss of retirement, and airline bankruptcies. So when I say I would rather quit my job, live off what I have saved and go sailing, they look at me like I'm crazy. Nobody but those who have done your lifestyle or mine knowwhat it really involves.

horizonstar said...

Hi Brittany,
Life isn't perfect? What a concept!

I've been enjoying this series of videos about expats who have sold everything, moved to the islands, and created perfect lives. (LOL).

Joking aside, its a very nice series of in-depth interview portraits that contain occasional flashes of inspiration. And it doesn't hurt that it is narrated by Samantha Jane Buffet.

Lynn said...

This reminds me of a blog post I read a while back (I'm not affiliated with this blog in any way). It is mainly about parenting but I think it applies to all aspects of life. Kairos and chronos - everyone experiences both regardless of where they live or their life circumstances.

Anonymous said...

Gotta love the yin and yang of the cruising life! We wouldn't know how sweet the good times are without a healthy dose of the times it's a drag. IMHO, that applies to life in general, on land or sea. Keep on keeping it real, Brittany!

Sarah, s/v Mirador

Anonymous said...

Perfectly said. People will always find something wrong with other folk, because criticizing the choices and attitudes of other people is easier than fixing the things wrong or less-than-ideal about their lives. You guys are awesome, just keep doin'.

Anonymous said...

I feel bad for the people that are obviously so miserable in their daily lives. If you hate your long commute, stale coffee, and miserable job, then do something about it. Don't get mad at those that have. For now, I prefer to live vicariously through you and your family -through the good and the bad- as I sit in my air-conditioned office planning for my next cushy vacation to St. Whatever-it-was (hopefully our schedules will coincide again :)). Kudos to you for making your own choices and putting up with the judgment of us armchair cruisers.

Rachel said...

Yup, I always feel like a freak when I talk about our sailing adventures and tell people we didn't like the Caribbean because it was too hot and the cocktail cruise atmosphere doesn't jive with our lifestyle. No one gets that and no one gets that life on a boat is stressful and uncomfortable at times. The grass is always greener...Oh, and you couldn't pay me to live in a Jimmy Buffet song! Give me real life any day!

Michelle said...

Love this! I hate when people assume that others can't complain. It's very annoying.

jane morejoy said...

I am writing this comment to complain about your complaining about your readers who complain about your complaining. Carry on, Brittany! You're brilliant. Ignore the haters!

Anonymous said...

Love this post. My wife and I have been following your blog from almost the beginning, and to be honest, for a while there things seemed a bit too rosy to be real. Lately you've mixed into the fun posts about joyous moments some more gritty real-world posts about the challenges of your life. We love those honest no-bullshit posts about real life with real problems. They make the blog so much more real and honest and they add substance and depth. So keep up the good work and forget the haters.

David & Elena

Anonymous said...

This is my first comment here, I have been "lurking" here for a while because my wife and I want to do this one day too.

Although there are many such blogs as yours out there, I particularly follow yours (and Zero to Cruising) on a weekly basis, *precisely* for the fact that you are honest about the negatives and the reality of cruising.

Thank you very much for your honesty and keep up the good work.

All the best,

Sixbears said...

My wife and I used to spend winters traveling the south instead of shoveling snow. As long as I could occasionally get on the Internet, I could do what I was doing. My wife would actually quit her job each winter with no promise of them rehiring her in the spring.

We traveled with a canoe on the roof and tent in the back. People would say they'd love to travel like us . . . but they'd need a big RV, or stay in hotels. That's not the way we traveled.

Now we can't afford to live in a tent anymore. Campgrounds have gotten expensive. The last three winters we've been learning to sail on a small sailboat in the Gulf of Mexico. We'd go a week at a time, then trailer to another area. The way we did it, it was much cheaper than living in a tent.

This year we plan on leaving from Oct to May, traveling the west coast of florida, the Keys, and then heading up the ICW back north -all on a 19 foot boat. Because our boat is so small, we can afford to eat out, see interesting things, and occasionally stay in marinas. Our swing keel gets us into places bigger boats will never see.

We looked at a bigger boat, but decided we don't want the bigger problems right now.

Once again, we hear people say how lucky we are (and we are, but we make our luck) Many of them could do what we do, and with bigger budgets too, but they won't. The long list of "must haves" soon make the dream impossible.

Everyone loves the beautiful islands with perfect beaches, sea birds and dolphins playing in the water. They aren't too keen about threading a narrow channel in an unpredicted storm, in the dark, dodging crab pots all the way, while doing emergency repairs on a backstay. (actually, that was kinda fun too)

The Cynical Sailor said...

Hi Brittany - I recently found your blog and have been enjoying reading about your adventures. My husband (also a Scott) and I are getting ready to move onto our boat full-time in NZ and you've got some great advice in your blog. This post in particular is great as it shows the reality of living on a boat. Thanks for sharing!


Kyra and Rick said...

Good one. I have felt that way too!

SV Silhouette said...

Even living aboard at the dock can be a challenge. Coming from the Pacific Northwest and having lived aboard in that climate full-time for years I know what you mean. In the summer when people walked down the docks and remarked on the "perfect life" I lead I always told them to "...come back in January when the the docks are covered with ice and see how "perfect" it is then".

Idyllic at times but far more difficult than most people can ever imagine.

Sail on.

s/v Silhouette
Currently anchored Penrhyn Atoll, Cook Islands

MBF said...

The problem is your backgrounds. You come from an upper middle class lifestyle, thats why you don’t have bills- especially school loans, which most people your age have these days. People get annoyed with you because you don’t seem grateful for your lifestyle, its like you expect it. For most people its NOT normal or common to know anyone with a boat, let alone someone that lives on one. Don’t take this wrong, please. Perhaps you could post more ofter about hiw grateful you are for your EXTRAORDINARY lifestyle.

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