The Minimalist Sailor

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HoMe EcOnOmIcS

I know I’m probably starting to sound like a broken record, like an annoying salesperson, but man am I excited about this new lifestyle I’ve just discovered! I guess I’ll have negative things to say later but right now it’s all yeeeepeee and yahooo and hurraaaay…

Apart from the delights of our daily life floating on the Caribbean there’s a very important element why we love it here: Alex and I are spending, together, less than 300 dollars a month, living in one of the most beautiful places in the world, in a beautiful boat, enjoying lots of free time, exercise and eating like kings. I couldn’t spend that little even when I was camping sometimes. It really is incredible. The first night we had dinner on the foredeck, under the stars, warm breeze on our face, a glass of red wine, I turned and told him “This is like an American Express commercial. But without the money! You really found a way to trick the system, didn’t you?” He nearly choked laughing.

The thing is, I’ve never envied the people in those commercials. I’ve never liked money. I’m quite particular about it. It has always made me feel like a slave. As soon as I buy something, I have to start taking care of it, make sure it doesn’t break, that I don’t lose it, that it doesn’t get stolen. The more things I have, the more time and energy I need to invest in these objects. I need a place to store them, I need to carry them when I go somewhere, they start owning me. I just keep giving everything away and keep the basic things that I love, which fit in a box. And all the people I’ve met who look like those in the commercials seemed to have stressful lives running their companies and their employees, checking their smartphones during the weekend or at night, getting lots of “important calls”, bank transactions, piles of bills, being afraid of getting robbed. I don’t have a bank account or a cell phone or an employee or a car and I don’t want any of that.

I have often wondered if it was possible to live without using money at all, I did some research on eco-towns and communities who use it only to a minimum extent but did not think it would be right for me, I am always on the move, I would have been a tourist there too.

This has nothing to do with sailing, though. It’s a choice that you make no matter where you are. I’ve always tried to work as little as possible to have a simple life with lots of free time and little stress. I worked only to pay for those things I considered important: a small nice flat as empty as possible, cinema, concerts, wine, chocolate, martial art classes, bus or plane tickets to go somewhere. But then most things I loved were free: visiting friends and family, drawing, going for a hike or a cycle in the mountains, a camping trip to a lake during the weekend, a walk around the city in the rain, having friends over for dinner, dancing with them at some small underground club, having some off-road adventures in a friend’s jeep, reading a book, playing the guitar…

I have never liked service either, I don’t like the idea of people working for me, I love to learn and do things myself much better. I like simple things, I’m not a fan of taxis, hotels or restaurants. Even when I was living and working in the city I loved taking buses, I would finish a novel in two weeks, I read on my way to the bus stop, waiting for the bus, during the whole ride, and walking to my destination, no distractions. It’s funny, I can actually read while I walk, I have a lot of training. Sometimes I’d be late to work because I just could not stop. And if I was going somewhere less than 2 or 3 miles, I would walk and look at the scenery. When I was out of the house at lunch I would never sit at a restaurant. I would always have my own water in the bag, find a little vegetarian take-away and eat at a park while I watched the birds, listened to music or read some more. I would sometimes even take a little nap and set an alarm for whenever I had to go back to work. I like being outside in the sun and around the other people who sit at parks and look at the birds. I keep telling Alex that my life on land was easy and beautiful. I worked few hours, had long holidays, great friends and a hundred hobbies.

So, even before I ever found out anything about sailing I was already living the same hippie natural lifestyle. The problem was that I still had to work for someone else on a regular basis. In a city, no matter how hippie you are, you have rent, bills and taxes. If you are more of a money person then you have to multiply your responsibilities and obligations exponentially. If you’re a traveler like me, you have to save a bit before you can take off. Traveling without money is absolutely possible, you can hitchhike or use programs like Couchsurfing or Wwoof, I’ve done it and know many people who have as well, it’s a wonderful experience, with its ups and downs like everything else. But there is always the discomfort of not being able to choose where to sleep, having to share sometimes with people you don’t like, not being able to choose where you wanna go but rather go where people take you, things like that. You need to make a good amount of money to save to go traveling.

Now, when you choose to move to a boat this changes right from the start: you can have no expenses other than food, you can still travel as regularly as you want to, but you get to sleep in your own bed every night, alone or with your favorite people. Owning a sailboat is not a big deal either, it can be much cheaper than an average car. And then you can live in a free anchorage in most countries, get a cruising permit for the year, which is not so expensive, and you’re sorted.

And, as you have no services (running water, natural gas, cable TV, etc.), you have no bills. You’ve got no commitments with any company or corporation.

If you’re clever with water, it can be free. A tank of gas for the stove is 5 dollars in the city (around 20 if you don’t want to move from the anchorage) and it lasts us for five or six months. We all have pay-as-you-go sim cards, if we got money, we talk. If we run out or want to use it for something else, we don’t. Internet is 15 dollars a month. And as for cable TV, we have no interest in it. All cruisers have got huge film and TV series collections and we exchange them often. So there’s always something cool to watch when we feel like it. We get together with friends here or on their boat and have a movie night with popcorn, beer for the boys and wine for the girls under the moonlight.  We snorkel together, the boys go spear-fishing, we swim, we cook for one another, exchange books and recipes and we travel the world in our homes. We certainly do not feel like we are missing out on anything other than stress.

Yachties also need to do some kind of work of course but the difference is that we do it when we need to and independently. Some captains do deliveries (bring other people’s boats from one place to another) and many boats charter (bring passengers from one place to another). These two options leave good money, you don’t need to do it very often and you can get by. Other people in our community sew (cushions, sails, sail covers…), do mechanical work for other boats, teach languages or do some work online (in my case, I do translations for a news agency twice a month, our neighbor is an architect and works a lot through email as well).

But there is really no need to work too hard because there is not much to spend your money on. We mainly do groceries and buy fuel for the dinghy. Our other expenses are usually related to fixing something on the boat (parts, screws, bolts, paint, brushes, wire, etc.) and if you do things yourself it doesn’t really mean that much money either. The difference is shocking, just to give an example: having your hull painted professionally can cost around 6,000 dollars, we will do it ourselves and we will spend 300 on the paint we need. Sure, it won’t look as shiny, and it will take us a couple of days, but, here lies the basic question again. What things are really important to you?

You don’t need to live on a boat to be free from banks, debt, out-of-hand consumption and brain-wash. Back home in the Patagonian mountains, many young people in their 20s or 30s are buying a small piece of land with no services and learn how to grow their own vegetables, and cereal, buy a few chickens for eggs, pigs for meat and get fish from the rivers and lakes. They get the cleanest drinking water from the streams, make firewood from their backyard, build their own homes gradually. They only need to work now and then to buy clothes, to travel, etc. And they have children who have lots of room to play, no TV but lots of children’s films, no videogames but bicycles, building blocks, drums and kites. (Alex says that if for any reason he had to live on land, he’d be heading straight for the Patagonian mountains)

These are often strange times to me. There are people who work all day and use nearly their whole salary to pay for a nanny, who ends up raising their children. Wouldn’t you rather be home with them and watch them grow?

Even if you feel living in nature is a bit extreme for you and you like the city, if you feel you are working too hard, worrying too much or part of a system you don’t agree with there’s plenty you can do. Start little by little. Stop paying for things that are not important to you. Work less. Walk. Spend more time with your loved ones. Cook your own meals. Turn off the TV and get out of the house. Start doing all those fun things that are free. Get closer to people who also want to go back to a simpler life. Don’t wait until you retire to have free time and sleep like a baby. Start “retiring” now : )

 

Note: Soon we’l start sharing our “Splendid recipes”, lovely meals we are preparing with very little money and the basic ingredients that don’t go bad on a boat without refrigeration.

Updated: January 9, 2015 — 16:00

4 Comments

  1. Carla,

    I Love reading your posts an I am sorry this is the first time I have responded to any of them. Your posts are even more inspiring than Alex’s ” Sorry Buddy ” but every time I read them im like I gone I gotta get going sooner than later. I am missing out on a lot sitting here dreading the fact that I have to go to work tomorrow and you guys are living it up like you said ” Eating like Kings” . I just hope to meet you guys some day. I never met Alex but I do consider him my friend. Ya know I was really looking to go to Greenland because I heard about the gold there, and I was really headed there to try to get rich, but now I think that has all changed. I really want to be down in the Caribbean, enjoying great weather, food and life. So my plan is to save all the money I can and do all of my sailing classes just to say i did it and sell my car, 22ft seafarer, and but the boat I want to take me on my journeys. but most of all I cant wait to shake the hands of the 2 people that inspired me to live free as i can be…. I want you to listen to a song for me that I really like, and also inspires me. its by Zac Brown Band ” Knee Deep” and “Free”

    Take care I hope to hear much more from the two of you.. and tell alex its time for a new post or if he feels up to it to feel free to send me a email it always keeps me in good spirits to hear from you guys

    peace, love, and freedom
    Steve

  2. Wow Steve, thanks so much. We love it when we get comments, it’s so nice to be part of this and know what happens on the other side!! Everybody has something to give, something special, a different point of view, a different experience and personality. In any thing we do, it gets so much better when others take part, we get inspired by each other and projects get bigger, able to reach further. Alex found this way out that gave him so much and decided to share it and now I’m here, harvesting with him, and trying to contribute in any way I can.

    He wrote a new blog two days ago but the webpage has a new server and we are still figuring it out. It was easier to post mine because it’s just text but it’s there, ready to be uploaded!!

    I read the lyrics to the songs you mentioned and it’s exactly what we’re talking about!! Alex says he has them so I’ll hear them later. Yes! Learn the basics and start your journey!! Wherever it takes you, find your dreams and follow them!! Soon you’ll meet people on the same road. Lovely to hear from you!!

    Take care and keep in touch!

    C

  3. Hi Carla – It has been years since I last followed Alex and upon revisiting the site today – I’m thrilled to see your post and interest in sailing for simple living. Thanks for sharing some of what people do to earn money. I’d love to learn more about the various ‘careers’ that sailors enjoy to support their lifestyle. We plan to take off in exactly 8 years but don’t really have a solid plan as to how we could support our cruise and our kids and come back with a little to spare to reestablish shoreside. I’m a massage therapist and my husband an engineer so I figure we are fairly marketable but I find that people are pretty private with how they make their living – save the freelance writers. I’m all for the barter system and anticipate using that quite a bit. I’d be super interested in the results of an impromptu survey of folks your encounter along the way.

    Cheers!
    Michelle

  4. Hi there Michelle!

    I don’t know if I can help you much, because most people we hang out with don’t use much money, like us. The idea is precisely not to have to work or think about money anymore. 100 or 200 dollars a month is enough for one person and there’s plenty of ways to make that, it’s not a big deal (chartering, teaching, fixing things, cooking, helping out in a restaurant or a hotel during the weekends, sewing, going shopping for other people who would rather not leave their boats, etc). Or finding a way to have a little work online.

    It’s a whole different system. Even when people have children, they live on board, they are home-schooled, when they are 15 or 16 they might get a little boat for them to move into and then sail together.

    Most people in our anchorage are retired though and live on their pensions. If they had a house then they either have sold it and put the money away or rent it and use the money every month. If they have children they are independent by then. They live simple lives as well.

    But I know there are other people who spend a lot on their crusing! They stay at marinas, have air conditioning, cable tv, people who cook, clean and fix things for them and spend more than most people on land and then they need to make a lot more. I don’t know how they do it. The only people I’ve met with a big income are the ones who own big expensive catamarans and offer luxury charters. They hire a local person to cook and clean and charge a lot. It’s not easy though, in my opinion, to have people in your home all the time. It’s not for me. I like our silence, our privacy, our hammock time.

    You still have 8 years though, plenty of time to plan and put some money away, even if it’s a little bit, every month. If you will still be supporting your children by then and plan to go back to living on land later, then I guess you will need a good regular income. Keep asking, research. You’ll find your way : )

    Good luck and keep in touch!!

    C.

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