Thursday, November 14, 2013

When Are You Coming Home? Lies Cruisers Tell

Q: Do you have a planned end to your cruise? When you get to a particular place? After a set number of years?  When you (or the girls) get to be a particular age?

A:  It is barely mid-November, and already I am getting reports from home about snow.  I sit in the cockpit reading my email, and when a chill wind blows and the temperature plummets to 24 C, I put on a fleece.  I can't even handle the suggestion of snow anymore, much less the reality.  Perhaps these notes are my family's passive-aggressive way of keeping us out at sea.  So if you ask me today when I'm going home, I'll shout out, "Never!  Not in a million years!"

Which is a lie.  Of course we're going home again.  But the problem with asking about The End is simple.  It is the absolute, number one, gold medal, top-ranked worst question to ask a cruiser because the answer you get will be worthless.  Because nobody really knows.

When we started out, we knew we would be gone for two years, maximum.  Maybe less.  I had never set foot on a boat before, so we took a "try it and see" approach to the cruising life.  But we had a fixed best-before date, and it was summer 2012.  Home in time for grade three and junior Kindergarten.

And then we decided to cross the Pacific.  We needed more time - another year, at least.  And then we were in the Pacific.  So much to see, such great distances to travel - one year more.  And we needed money, which involved a work stop, which ate up a few months more.  Plans flexed and morphed.

When I went home for a visit in April, we had one year to go.  That was it.  Erik and I had talked it through, built an Excel spreadsheet, looked at family ages, individual needs, finances and a host of other relevant factors.  One more year was all we could squeak out.  That's it.  And, like a fool, I told people that.  I believed it sincerely.  We were wrapping up.  One last tour of glory!  The kids loved being back home, and I thought that would be that.

But when the girls and I arrived back in New Zealand, they announced that another five years on the boat would be about right.  Erik and I raised our eyebrows at each other.  Five might be pushing it a bit, but two.  Two we could do.

I still honestly believe that we have two years left in us.  But I know perfectly well that I might be a great big lying liar on this point.
Am I ready to say goodbye to this?  Not yet.
Cruising isn't like a vacation - you don't go in with a set schedule.  And that means you don't have to think about the end until you get there.  Because once you step off the boat for the last time, it's over.  You are making a total lifestyle change.  And that is wrenching, even when you are ready for it.  Even when the time is right, and you give your boat a fond pat and a thanks-for-the-memories, you are breaking up with a life you might truly have loved.  All of your days and nights from this point on will be different.  Maybe equally satisfying, but of a different character.

So the most honest answer is: I don't know when we are going home for good.  And I won't know until we have actually bumped up against the end.  We aren't ready to stop yet.  We know what we value, and we know what will tip us back into a land life at some point.  But it won't happen today.

And, if I have any choice in the matter, it won't happen in the middle of a Canadian winter, either.


Amber said...

We got that question all the time when we started our family "so far from home". We finally told everyone, definitively, that this is where we live, that the Marshalls are home now. We talk about moving back to America, but in a someday kind of way, and remembering crying kids in carseats while driving in a snowstorm helps to keep it at someday!

Karen (Mrs. M) said...

Well said, Amy. 'Home is where the heart is' an old saying for sure but one I believe in and seems to fit this discussion. As always wishing you all the best. Hugs to Indy and Stylish.

Tamara said...

This might be your most beautiful post to date. If only we all looked at life with the same humble openness. Thank you for sharing your heart and your adventures with me!