Soon Leslie and the boys will be posting their observations, providing a broader perspective of our family’s journey. But for now, it’s still just me. On Christmas Eve, after hearing my views regarding our upcoming trip, a female family friend asked, “. . . and what does she think?” referring to Leslie of course. A husband puts himself at risk when he dares to speak for his wife, but I’m obviously a bit of a risk-taker. You’ll hear directly from Leslie soon. In the meantime, here’s my take on my better half’s feelings at this, the most difficult stage of the adventure.
“We gave up everything for this trip” was her expression last week. “We left our careers; vacated our house; and stored, lent, sold, or gave away our possessions. We left our family and friends, and pulled our boys from school and their friends. We pulled them from their activities: piano, choir, Rock Stars, soccer, basketball, swim team, and Boy Scouts. We moved into an inconvenient lifestyle: a cramped, low-tech, maintenance hungry environment. We’ve spent more money than expected and are taking more time than planned to get ready for this thing.” She’s concerned that at the spending rate of these past two years, we’ll be out of money in another two or three years; thus ending our trip.
Some people, when they ask us when we’re leaving, say it with a knowing tone, implying that we’re either over-complicating the process, or overly concerned about unimportant things, or too inexperienced to leave. “So, what’s the new departure date? Got one yet?” This embarrasses Leslie and the boys.
Last week, dropping Bryce and Trent off at school for what could be our last time for many years, Leslie succumbed to an overwhelming feeling of having to bear alone the responsibility of their educational futures, “You’ll be working on the boat, leaving the burden of their education to fall on me. You won’t do it, so I’ll have to, and I don’t feel capable of providing that type of education that I had without the help of the school system. It’s overwhelming.”
Leslie makes clear tasks take 40% greater effort to perform on a boat as compared to the same task on land. Doing simple daily chores such the dishes and the laundry require much greater effort. Just flushing the toilet is a workout. The living space so small (250 sq.ft.), anything left out quickly makes the whole space a mess. The family will have to be trained to immediately put their things away, contributing to the 40% boat-burden factor.
Some days, Leslie struggles to hold it together. She wants me to have my dream, but considering the high emotional, financial, and professional costs, wonders whether it’s reasonable.
“This is the hardest part of the process,” I remind her. “We’re paying the lion’s share of the cost upfront, with no appreciable benefit experienced. Once we get going, the daily costs drop and the benefits begin to flow inward. The longer we’re out, the less each year costs as the expense of today becomes amortized over a greater period. If we return in two years, then this was stupid. If we return in 10 years, then this was brilliant.” She thinks about it.
“You are never expected to handle more than you are able. You are not alone. I am here. You need to communicate your concerns, your fears, and we’ll find a solution . . . together. I didn’t know of your concern about the boys’ education until now. First of all, we’re not going to worry about the homeschooling process. We’re going to focus on teaching them how to work, how to problem solve, and how to plan and manage the process of sailing a boat around the world, working within the confines of other cultures. Secondly, we’re going to have them study every country prior to arrival, building their awareness and anticipation. Then we’ll have them report on the reality of what they discover. We’ll help them create a presentation, Power Point and all. And we’ll post it on our website for others to see. We’ll teach them to document in words and in video their experiences: cultural immersions, adventures, and nautical life; which we’ll also share with our audience.” I continue, “You’ll teach them music: to play instruments, to sing, and to understand music theory. And yes, we’ll have them work on their math, science, and English exercises—self-paced. Whatever academic/theoretical skills they’re missing when we return they’ll quickly make up in adult-education or community college. Technology is getting more intuitive, not less; so whatever technological solutions are in fashion at the time, they’ll easily pick up. So let’s not worry about homeschooling. We’re taking it off the table—for now.” She remembered that we were planning to do this all along and after hearing it again, her relief was immediately visible.
“I don’t buy the notion that we ‘gave up everything.’ Except for getting back our exact careers, we could get back just about everything else within a matter of a few weeks; back into our house with a refrigerator, dishwasher, and washing machine; place the kids back in school; sign them up for activities; and find jobs for ourselves. So what then have we really given up? That’s like saying we gave up everything to go to college and grad school, to get married, and to have kids; none of which are economically sound endeavors; but all of which enhanced our lives; just like this trip is going to do.”
I went on to say, “For nearly two years, we’ve paid the price without receiving any of the benefit. The ‘delayed-gratification’ equation is burdensome at this, the most difficult stage—the transition and preparation stage. No one we know who has sailed around the world has mocked us for our wanting to get the boat ready to our personal satisfaction. Only those who have never planned or prepared a five-year voyage have belittled our delay. I reject the criticism of those who talk without knowledge or understanding, treating this venture as if it were a six-month journey. What we’re attempting takes much planning and preparation, with the safety of our family ultimately at stake, and I have enough experience to know what’s needed to support a comfortable and safe experience, with the added ambition of documenting and sharing the adventure.” She relaxed.
Leslie is a hard working, courageous, caring woman. I am blessed beyond words to have her as my life partner, but then I knew this within weeks of meeting her 25 years ago. It’s no accident that we’re doing this together. She loves travel and adventure. She trusts my abilities and knows I’ll do everything within my being to make this a wonderful and safe experience for her and the boys. Their growth, happiness, and well being are paramount. I will not fail. These past couple years have been tough on me too. I’ve devoted all my available time to this goal. I near exhaustion about every fifteen days. But I feel this quest is part of my life’s purpose. Everything I’ve done so far, most every decision made since a teenager, has been in preparation for this trip. I cannot control the circumstances that confront us and I cannot control the attitude of others; but I can navigate toward favorable circumstances and I can shape the attitude of others by providing a positive example.
I don’t truly know what Leslie thinks, but I do know what I think . . . that I’m very lucky to have her in my life. Having two awesome sons is my preverbal ‘icing.’ We’ll leave when we think we’re ready.