We’ve just finished 5 months of travel, and in many ways it was every bit as life changing as our 6 months of sailing prior to that. The things they say about travel are true: that you’ll never regret it, that the world is a very big place and if you only see one part of it you’re missing out on a lot.
It’s also true that it’s not as hard to travel as most people think. Most of South and Central America are not dangerous places (as many Americans seem to think). We heard more scary stories when reading our hometown news than the local news. And you can travel on the cheap in many areas of the world, having a far lower cost of living (COL) than high COL U.S. cities.
But it’s been 147 days since we’ve slept in our own bed, and towards the end we started to miss our sailing home. Travel is hard and eventually you crave having a consistent place to sleep each night, and more than what you can fit in a carry-on suitcase + daypack. And there’s nothing we’ve found that quite compares to the beauty and tranquility of sailing the Pacific Northwest.
Despite traveling far and wide, we have no horror stories to tell. We didn’t get stuck in an airport for 24 hours, robbed, or lost in the Costa Rican rainforest. We visited 9 countries: Fiji, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Peru, Costa Rica, Mexico (spending the most time in 4 of those: Australia, NZ, Argentina and Mexico).
Some things we learned:
- The world is a really big place, with more people than you can imagine.
- We really like New Zealand. And Mexico.
- Tourists are everywhere, and are changing local economies and the travel experience. The Instagram view of a place is often misleading.
- Americans have lots of stuff, convenience, and products of incredible variety and quality. Many people have far less but seem to still live happily. Makes you wonder whether all that stuff is really necessary.
- Pollution is a big problem, especially in the less wealthy countries. There’s a lot of smog and plastic waste / garbage out there.
- The “go slow” style of cruising works well applied to travel too. Staying in one place for a while is more relaxing and allows you to experience the culture on a deeper level.
Returning to Our Boat
We’re a bit nervous about the return to our boat. We know we’ll have a lot of cleaning to do (mildew, dirty decks) but hope there’s nothing worse in store. We’re going to dewinterize it (see how we winterized in September), get back in the water, and then sail down to Seattle.
The cold weather will also be a big adjustment. We went from Seattle’s summer to spring and summer in the southern hemisphere.
What We Missed the Most
Our 6 months of cruising + 5 months of travel made us poignantly aware of the sacrifices you make for cruising or extended travel. There are tons of wonderful things about it, but you also give up many things.
I think for both of us we missed seeing our friends the most. Life moved on at home, friends had big life events like new babies, holidays passed us by, etc. People say you meet friends while traveling, but we’ve found that’s only true in an ephemeral way – you meet cool people for very brief periods of time and then go your separate ways.
The next thing I missed the most was sailing of course. The joy of wind in a boat’s sails pushing us quietly across the water really has no comparison, and by the time we return I’ll have a big deficit. The quiet moments immersed and connected with nature are also something I missed – much of our travel was in noisy, chaotic cities. Fortunately we’ll remedy this soon!
Surprisingly, the 3rd thing I missed the most was a relatively small thing – my bike. Biking was a big part of my life for quite a while – I wrote about giving up my car in 2015 to switch to bike commuting (and help save money for cruising) and since then biked nearly every day, about 300 days per year.
To go on our cruising adventure at the end of March 2018, the bike went into our storage locker and I haven’t touched it since. We’ve biked occasionally while traveling, but usually on heavy, poorly maintained tourist bikes. I’m looking forward to biking as much as I can in the coming month of March.
Oh, and we miss Trader Joe’s! Access to a crazy variety of high quality groceries is something we take for granted in the U.S. but isn’t how most of the rest of world operates.
And I’m excited to be back in the land of good beer.
March is Project Month
We’ll be spending March catching up with friends and family and doing projects on the boat to get it ready for another season. I’m pretty excited to see how much work I can get done because this is the first time I’ll have full weeks just to work on boat projects, without a job or cruising taking up the day.
The #1 project is figuring out if we can install a better electric autopilot. On our miserable crossing of Hecate Strait last summer it was clear that our wheel pilot can’t handle serious waves, and the one thing that might have helped would be a good autopilot. This is a tricky install though because the C&C LF38 doesn’t have much room on the rudder shaft.
The next thing is installing a bit more solar – 200W isn’t quite enough to keep our 200Ah of batteries healthy when we’re not motoring much. I’m hoping to add a 100W rigid panel to our radar pole at the stern. If that doesn’t work I might consider mounts on the lifeline rails, at the stern. We’re running out of room for good solar panel placements.
The awesome thing about solar is it keeps getting cheaper and cheaper – a 100W rigid panel is only about $100 now. So there’s no reason not to have plenty of solar.
We’ll be getting back to sailing soon, and I’ll share more later on our plans for the 2019 season (which will start for us sometime in April). On March 15 we’re giving a talk at the Puget Sound Cruising Club about our 2018 cruise to Haida Gwaii and the Central coast of BC, so if you’re in the area feel free to come! (more info here)