Why “Sailing, Simplicity, and the Pursuit of Happiness?”

Teresa Carey Words 25 Comments

Sailing, Simplicity, and the Pursuit of Happiness plays on one of the most famous phrases in the Declaration of Independence that states that three of our unalienable rights are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. Through my journey and time spent writing on this blog, I hope to examine my life dreams within the context of American culture and the so-called “American Dream.”

My original goal was to fill the blog with discussions on Voluntary Simplicity and how current cultural issues play a role in a sense of liberty or happiness. But, if you have been following, then you know that I’ve taken a deeper interest in only sharing my experiences with you and how I feel about them, nothing else involved. I regret that I haven’t even mentioned “Voluntary Simplicity,” a topic that interests me.

Here is a brief history on Voluntary Simplicity:

Voluntary Simplicity is a lifestyle that is characterized by living with only the essentials. The various ways people determine the essentials in a simple lifestyle differ as much as the people themselves. It is not how much money you have, earn, or spend, but rather a values-based lifestyle that cannot be measured by any standard metric. People choose Voluntary Simplicity for all sorts of reasons including; spirituality, environmental protection, freeing time to enjoy life, social justice, conservation, reducing consumption, and personal taste.

“We can describe voluntary simplicity as a manner of living that is outwardly more simple and inwardly more rich, a way of being in which our most authentic and alive self is brought into direct and conscious contact with living.” Duane Elgin

The name “Voluntary Simplicity” was first given to this lifestyle in a book written by Richard Gregg in the mid 1930s. Almost fifty years later, Duane Elgin published his book by the same title, which became highly influential and a main source about Voluntary Simplicity.

I wrote to Mr. Elgin last fall and asked if I could speak to him for a few minutes, but he said he didn’t have the time. So, instead, I’ve turned to a few of the many other great models to learn about this way of living such as; St. Francis, Budda, Thoreau, Abby, or the Nearings to name a few.

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler.” Henry David Thoreau

Comments 25

  1. Bill Bailey

    I know little about “Voluntary Simplicity”, but I would like to share a story about a man I met several years ago. I was on a bicycle trip from Niagara Falls to Concord, Massachusetts with some friends, both of them professors at the University of Michigan. On the way we visited a colleague of theirs who had retired a year or so earlier to a cabin in the Green Mountains (Berkshires) of western Massachusetts. Ed chose to live very simply. His cabin didn’t have electricity or a modern bathroom, and the only running water was piped from a stream above his house and moved by gravity to a kitchen sink. He heated water and cooked his meals on a wood burning stove which also heated the cabin in the winter, oil lamps were used for lighting. There were no clocks or mechanical devises that contained gears or machinery of any kind in his house. He told us a story about an egg beater he once had. While using it one day he looked at it, decided he didn’t need something with gears, threw it away, and bought a whisk. Of course, he had a garden where he grew most of his food. We were quite hot and sweaty from riding all day when we reached his cabin, but he didn’t have a shower for us to clean and cool ourselves. He told us of an old mill pond nearby we could use as a bath. There was a waterfall at the pond from where the mill used to be, fed by a very cold stream. The water was freezing cold but I was so hot from bicycling I stood under the waterfall to cool off. It was the best shower I ever had.

  2. Lee

    Cute berry. One of my other favorite quotes comes from Henry Ford, “If money is your only hope for independence, you will never have it. The only real security that a person can have in this world is a reserve of knowledge, experience, and ability. Without these qualities, money is practically useless.”

    For me, living simply also means much more self reliance. I buy tools and materials instead of finished goods, ingredients instead of prepared foods, and it all leads to a simpler life of things I know myself and can maintain. It also eliminates waste. I can’t in this moment put my finger on a direct connection, but it seems with increased self reliance comes a simpler life. Or maybe that just pertains to this crazy boating life we’ve chosen?

  3. Matt Lamphere

    This makes so much sense. The universe seems to operate with a beautifully sublime sense of equanimity. Simplicity is at the heart of complexity.

    Rock on with your bad self, sister. Speak the truth.


  4. Michelle

    Simply put and yet so profound! You look incredibly happy in that photo and genuine. It is not often people are so willing to give up their creature comforts to look deeper into what a life aboard can really offer. Some may say no thanks when others like myself can’t wait for the opportunity to present itself.

  5. Post

    I have learned that opportunities don’t often present themselves. At least not the really good ones. You have to create them! I say, go for it!

    I think you would love living on a boat. My Daphne, is very much like that man’s cabin. Only my shower is a little saltier!!

    Darn it! Money was my only hope!

  6. Leslie

    Teresa, I love your plan for simple living, low impact on our earth, dollars do not make the person and we can have wealth that is not counted in green backs. I don’t know if you have ever read Don Casey’s book, “Sensible Cruising: The Thoreau Approach” but I would think it may be of interest. You may find it at the library. This is not one of his “fix or improve anything nautical” books, but is an interesting view as how folks can do just what you are doing. It may have been one of his first writings. It was the first book of his that I ever read but it was very inspiration. And God Bless you, girl, you are living it. To be able to find beauty in the world around us, happiness in simple accomplishments and warm friendships when we look for companionship is what brings true happiness. Cherish your time aboard. Fair Winds and be thankful you are not in the snowy north. 😀

  7. des

    Values for sure…..it is amazing to me what has become VALUABLE to so many people…..very sad……however, your values and what you are striving to do makes us proud………..you listened well!

  8. Darcy

    I love Thoreau – I’ve purchased Walden and Sensible Cruising: A Thoreau Approach to read once we’re underway again.

    But I just want to say that on our first (failed) attempt to get on the boat and away from the safety of home, I learned firsthand what the essentials are, and how much everything else just falls away. In an area of snow and ice, we were on a boat without a heater. At a certain point, it stops being fun and starts being about survival, the most basic of human instincts.

    I really enjoy your blog.

  9. Rick Patton

    Teresa, Sounds like reality has set in… unless we are independently wealthy, simplicity is difficult. ie house payment, boat payment, insurance, provisions. Like the retired professor in the woods. He worked for a long time to be able to afford a place in the woods where he could be simple. Sailing, Simplicitly and the Pursuit of Happiness takes alot of work. I’ve never meet you but I’m glad your sharing your journey. Thank God for my wife of 28 years that has put up with my dream of sailing off into the sunset.

  10. Rick Patton

    Fran, I’m guessing your Teresa’s Mom. She’s a very capable young lady I know your proud. I have 3 son’s. It would have been interesting to have had a girl around the house.

  11. Post

    My Daddy has three daughters. I’m sure he will trade you for one of your sons if you want to try it out!
    About reality…it set in when I started living aboard. There is nothing more real than this!

  12. Rick Patton

    Teresa, I guess were all a blended family… Any one of you is always welcome for a visit. As for living aboard I’m sure there is nothing more real then that..

  13. Sonja

    Hey Teresa! I just stumbled upon this blog of a girl who is sailing solo around the world at age 16. Have you heard of Jessica Watson? I hadn’t until now, but I thought I’d send you the links in case you were interested.
    her blog: http://www.youngestround.blogspot.com/,
    and here’s her her webpage: http://www.jessicawatson.com.au/
    I hope all is well with you! I saw your post that you were in MI over Christmas, I think you were only about 30 minutes from me. -Sonja

  14. FRAN

    oops….gave myself away…..3 girls, INTERESTING does not begin to describe it! oh so very proud….oh so very worried/concerned…….but we wouldnt TRADE them….perhaps just take another one on….(ok so maybe there was a time or two I would of traded!)……..are you in northern MIchigan Rick? ….we love visits!

  15. Rick Patton

    Fran, I’m in Las Cruces New Mexico. Great day today sunny and about 60. Annette and I use to live in Oscoda when I was in the Air Force as a matter of fact we were married at the base chapel on Wurtsmith AFB. We have fond memories of Michigan.

  16. Ella

    What’s with all the hullabaloo about sailing off into the sunset? Why would anyone begin their journey as night was about to fall? When I sail away, I want to sail off into a sunrise – I’ll drift from my home port, waving back at my leaving party, setting sail into a day full of promises and a hopeful tune in my ear.
    In case anyone’s curious, I am a sixteen-year old girl who knows ALL about ruts (thanks to high school) and am inspired by your blog, Teresa! I’ve recently become interested in the sailing way of life, and am currently dreaming of it in my near future! As for the whole financial issue that’s been haunting your comments, I think writing computer programs makes the most sense. The magic of the Internet is that you don’t have to go to the same office building, or town, or even country! You just need a laptop and the occasional internet cafe to turn in your work. It will keep your nomadic, whimsical, no-9-to-5 way of life afloat (pun semi-intended). Plus, if I remember correctly, you’ve also put out an interest in computers,no?
    I plan on continuing to read your blog and learn the craft of sailing! Thanks for the book recommendations, hope to hear again from you soon!

  17. Pingback: Simplicity and Technology

  18. Dean

    How ironic. The “guru” of voluntary simplicity couldn’t spare a few minutes to talk about simplicity….. I think it’s easy to be drawn into the rush of our society. Strange as it sounds, simplicity requires deliberate action. Thanks for the post.

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