I am on SV Elizabeth, cozy inside the cabin while Teresa reads in her bunk behind me. The sun strobes on the teak woodwork, having been dispersed by the sea’s surface and sent through a small porthole. It finally feels like summer on the trip that I have been fortunate enough to be asked to join and we sail today from the colorful town of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia around Cape Sable and across the Bay of Fundy to Jonesport, Maine.
In some ways, I am sure my friends and family imagine me enjoying a pleasure cruise, sailing from place to place, sampling the local fare. In some ways, it is a pleasure cruise. It is pleasurable to sit in enshrouded in fog, admiring the smoky quartz of water on an overcast day. It is pleasurable to move silently propelled by the power of the wind.
In other ways, the curiosities of sailing at sea have become commonplace and even wearisome on occasion. I’ve found it difficult to convey to my friends the nuisance that is attempting to cook when the boat is heeling over and taking waves to the beam. Or the way seasickness creeps its way back in after too many days at anchor. Or the lack of fresh fruits and vegetables that inevitably strikes when the only stops are in tiny Newfoundland villages that seem to subsist entirely on fish and canned and dry goods. Or the way my back aches after sleeping through a night underway, my muscles tense throughout in an effort to stay in my bunk. I think all of us aboard Elizabeth look forward to summer days in Maine, mostly anchored, during which we will actually live. Sailing continuously may be fascinating, but it doesn’t quite feel like living to me.
The unique experience of living aboard has impressed upon me a number of ideas that I will take home with me to my small landlocked home in St. Louis, Missouri. Other ideas have sprung from sampling Teresa’s ample supply of simplicity literature including works by Scott and Helen Nearing, John Robbins, David Shi, and Jerome Segal. After three weeks aboard, I finally compiled a list of goals influenced by my time aboard Elizabeth with Teresa and Ben. I wouldn’t go so far as to say my life has been tainted by the last three years of city living, but I do feel that I have consumed more and spent more than I ever did during my years in more remote homes like Lake Placid, New York, Becket, Massachusetts, or Limestone, Maine. The city presents more opportunities to lavish oneself with products and services that one otherwise might never think of. With these reflections in mind, I present to you my theoretical recipe for a simpler existence, effective immediately:
- Reduce debt as rapidly as possible
Debt seems like an unnecessary impediment to true freedom. I don’t feel liberated by my ability to spend money I don’t have. What seems more liberating is living owing as little money to others as possible.
- Set a household budget
In said budget, restrictions on how much money is spent dining out and on needless things will be critical. Budget will be designed with previous goal in mind.
- Restrict hours of TV watched to specific amount per week.
This goal was created recognizing that I will inevitably have days during the school year in which I will want to lay on the couch to be idly entertained, but that there should be limits to this sort of unconstructive entertainment.
- Go on an internet diet
If I had the wherewithal to log all of my time on the internet and what I did exactly, I’m sure I would see a depressing pattern of wasted time. Internet should largely be used to be constructive and creative.
I look forward to unpacking these goals along with the rest of my belongings when I return to the Midwest and I especially look forward to sharing them with my partner James, who has only ever been an enthusiastic supporter of my sometimes sudden and new-fangled ideas. Some of my goals will be instrumental in working toward the tiny sustainably designed and constructed home in mid-coast Maine that I’ve dreamed up for myself in the last few years, or in saving more money for a blissfully uncertain future. All of these goals, however, will help me lead a more fulfilling, creative, and constructive life. The cramped but serene spaces of Elizabeth are yet a daily reminder until my time aboard draws to a close and I know that inspiration will stay with me long after I disembark.