Sunday, November 29, 2015

There is Beauty in the Ordinary when You Carry it Within

As I prepare our girls for our move back to Tortola, my mind a frenetic ticker tape of thoughts, reminders, to-do's and lists, I also find myself reflecting on our time home and thinking of all the things I will miss. There seems to be this overriding thought in the cruising community that land life is sub-par in many ways; that it's predictable, mundane, lacks 'adventure'...etc. I've probably been guilty of perpetuating this idea as well and I'm sorry for that. I've even heard some cruisers say they'd "rather die than move back ashore", which strikes me as a tad dramatic. As someone who has had the luxury of being able to keep one foot in both worlds, I have a unique perspective and have learned that there is, indeed, beauty in both if you chose to see it that way.

Don't get me wrong, I can't wait to get back to our boat, it is what I prefer. I love living a 'life less ordinary' in a sailboat on the ocean and living in the sunshine amongst other cultures where the pace of life is slower. But I also understand that it's not the only way. I know for a fact some people couldn't be paid to live on a boat like we do, that many people really enjoy their 'ordinary' lives and the communities around them, and that many landlubbers might go positively mad living on 'island time'. A friend came over the other day and was so excited for us to head back to the boat. "It's great what you're doing!" she said. "It's such a better life!" she exclaimed. "You'll be so much happier!" she continued. It was obvious she had romanticized living aboard and, being the kind of person I am, I had to stop her and remind her that our life on the boat is far from perfect. "Oh, I know" she started, "But don't you think people here are just so...miserable?"

I didn't want to squash her obvious excitement or be rude, but I also had to be honest. "No" I answered. "I don't."

Because what I have learned after spending this past summer home is that 'ordinary' life is beautiful too. Sure, the scenery might not be as dynamic as that of a tropical paradise, but true beauty is so much more than a visual. It's making connections with like-minded moms who I meet during swim lessons, at the park, or in the library. It's seeing the excitement on our kids' faces as our neighborhood "big girls" come over, load our littles into the wagon, and take them all to the park trailed by giggles. It's old friends who, when they hear your kids don't have winter clothes, get together and collect some for you. It's packing a cooler of beer for an afternoon beach outing with family. It's spontaneous drinks with neighbors during a power outage. It's getting together with old girl friends and gabbing about life over wine and dinner. It's play dates with cousins who turn into best buddies. It's backyard bonfires with close friends and s'mores. It's rigging up a tire swing from the old black walnut tree. It's having a slumber party with your best friend of almost thirty years and laughing and crying about the craziness of life. It's a walk in a forest preserve to see the fall colors. It's skipping stones onto Lake Michigan. It's grandma and grandpa showing up every morning for coffee and playtime. It's the holiday traditions, village tree-lightings, toddler reading groups, summer concerts, and the birth of your dear friend's baby. It's about family and friends and fun and love. 

Right now, our life is taking us to the islands very much by choice. I do prefer to live somewhere warm and visually spectacular. I do prefer to avoid a Chicago winter at all costs. I do prefer to live on a boat as opposed to in a house. Believe me, there are absolutely elements of a suburban land life that are not for me, but there are elements of the island-hopping cruising lifestyle that aren't great as well. We make the beds we lie in and everything is a trade off. Community, friends, proximity to nature and honest relationships...these are the things that really matter to me, and as long as I can find them - I know I will be happy wherever I roam.

One things for sure, I will always, always enjoy coming home.

Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not. 

-Ralph Waldo Emerson


MaryJo Boyle said...

So absolutely true; you always nail it, Brit!

mudmaven said...

Such a wonderful comment on finding balance in one's life! Thank you! ~chris

Will Marks said...

Great insights, Brittany. Throughout my life I've been guilty of romanticizing everywhere else. By the time I get to the greener pasture I'm already scheming to find another one. It's something I've had to make a conscious effort to tone down and appreciate what I've got, particularly now that I'm cruising and have reached what I had assumed is the pinnacle.

Discussing this with an older, wiser friend the other day, he simply said "wherever you go, there you are."

s/v Paradox

Brett Anderson said...

The grass is always greener..... When my cruising plans never materialized, I was bitterly disappointed at first. I was upset that I had given up my boat for a relationship that did not pan out and I was upset that I wasn't going to live that "life less ordinary". But then, I realized that maybe it was me that just didn't want it enough. I could've given up the relationship, rather than the boat. I could've just done it. But I didn't. I had to analyze myself and what I really wanted. Truth be told, I didn't want to miss my granddaughters growing up. I didn't want to live where it is hot all the time (I sweat way too much, even when its cool out). I didn't want to never work again, as I kind of enjoy my job. As time went on, after I sold the boat, I started enjoying the "normal" things. I enjoyed having my kids and grandkids over to my house, and doing things with them. My career became more satisfying as I started enjoying the benefits of seniority. Money ceased being a worry as I lived a simple life, just on land instead of on a boat. Now, as much as I still wonder "what if", I don't think I would sail off into the sunset forever. I can be happy with a long motorcycle trip. I can see myself buying another boat and cruising part-time, using it as a second home, but having a land-based home near friends and family to come back to. There are benefits to each kind of life, and downsides as well, but I think the big secret to being happy is to accept where you are in life and not constantly be wishing you were somewhere else. Find the joy in the life you have, and stop wishing for something you don't have. The title of your post says it perfectly.

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