This post is an excerpt from Voyage of the Rascal. It has been edited for length. Check out the original post from May 23, 2015 at www.voyageoftherascal.com
18 months ago, I quit my job, sold all my possessions, and decided to buy a sailboat. It was the hardest decision I’ve ever made and it took me almost a year before I finally built up enough courage to take the leap.
Have you ever thought about quitting your job for the trip of a lifetime? Here is the road map that will guide you to the good life!
Step 1: Save Some Moolah
A good place to start is your bank statement. How much do you spend a month at coffee shops? How much is your cell phone bill? Do these financial expenditures bring you proportional amounts of happiness? Fulfillment?
Once you have a good understanding of where your money goes, you can start making decisions on where you can spend less. Try to cut out all of the expenses that don’t truly enrich your life! Find a balance between austerity and happiness and don’t lose sight of the light at the end of the tunnel.
Step 2: Make a Plan
Do some serious research, develop a budget, come up with a timeline, and really know what you’re getting yourself into.
There are so many inspirational stories out there. Read books, send emails, and learn as much as you can about your new life. People are always eager to share their experiences, so take advantage of that.
The next step is cracking open a spreadsheet to figure out the financial realities of your dream. What will your living expenses look like? Will you have any residual income from investments? How much does food cost in Tibet? How many kilometers can your motorcycle go on a liter of fuel?
Once you know roughly how long you’ll be gone, give yourself some milestones – things you want to accomplish and a date to accomplish them by. My initial milestones involved buying a boat and learning to sail and eventually evolved to things like sailing to the Sea of Cortez before hurricane season and arriving in Chile before winter set in.
Step 3: Retire with Tact
What you’re doing isn’t “normal”, so people won’t necessarily understand or agree with the decisions you’re making. The research you’ve done, the plan you’ve developed, and your realistic budget should help to persuade your friends and family that you haven’t totally lost your marbles. If they truly love you and care about your happiness they’ll support you and help you succeed.
It took me a long time to build up the courage to actually hand in my resignation. It can be a really, really scary thing and the finality of it is resounding. After you quit, there is no going back. You’ve got to take a step back, however, and think of all the experiences you’re not having as you continue to amass your savings. You can’t put a price on your time.
Deep down inside, everyone is thinking (or has thought) about doing something like this and when they see you doing it, a little piece of them rejoices and they applaud you. It’s like a switch has flipped and the entire universe is conspiring to help you towards your goal. People will come out of the woodwork to lend advice, or introduce a contact, or just give you a pat on the butt when you need it.
Step 4: Live the Dream
This is the easy part. Go out and put your plan into action! The first few weeks are kind of a rush as the truth of your new life sinks in. You’ll end up with some growing pains somewhere along the way, so try to remain flexible. . The most important thing, in the end, is to have fun, and enjoy yourself.
Take plenty of pictures and make sure you don’t forget to sit back and smell the roses occasionally. Try to include your friends and family in your plans, as sharing your adventures always makes them sweeter and more memorable. It might be important to you to break away from your old life, but don’t lose touch with the things from your past that are important to you.
Step 5: Reap the Benefits
Each adventure will teach each individual something different. I chose cruising on a sailboat for a number of reasons. A sailboat seemed like it would allow me to explore some beautiful parts of the world. I figured it would challenge me and stretch me beyond my comfort zone. I also reckoned that it would reduce my impact on the world around me. These precepts have all proven true over the course of the last year and a half, but there have been other benefits as well.
You frequently hear people saying how unhealthy it is to be constantly stressed out. After making a fairly abrupt change from a stressful job (though not nearly as stressful as most of my friends’) to a really slow-paced, relaxed lifestyle, I can honestly say that there is a night-and-day difference.
When I sailed away from the dock I immediately started losing weight and feeling healthier. I used to come down with a cold or something every 3-4 months and in the last 18 months, I only got sick once.
I think my mental health has improved as well. My sense of self-worth used to be really closely tied to my job performance and I found I’d get really frustrated and anxious if things weren’t going according to plan (even if it was totally beyond my control). I’ve learned a lot about what really matters to me out here and I think I’m a more confident, balanced person because of that.
I’ve met some fantastic people during this voyage and built some friendships that I really treasure. There is a lot that you can learn from living in foreign countries and when I eventually head back to the states, I’ll have a different perspective, for sure.
I’ve been lucky enough to have several friends and family come down to visit me over the course of the last 18 months. There is nothing quite like spending a week or two on a 30ft boat to really bond with someone. I’ve built memories and relationships that are so much richer than they would have been with the occasional long weekend back in the states.
Sailing across oceans in a small sailboat teaches you a lot of skills. There are obviously the hard skills, like learning to be a diesel mechanic, an electrician, or a navigator. But more important than these hard skills are the intangibles that build within you along the way. It took a long time to cultivate my will power, manage my fear, and focus my concentration enough to convince myself it was a good idea to cross the South Pacific in a 30 ft boat.
I truly wasn’t sure if I’d be able to make it to Chile. I haven’t let on to many people, but there have been times along the way where I came really close to giving up and there have been times along the way when I’ve been truly scared. In looking back on these last 18 months, it is exactly those experiences that have helped me grow the most.
Go big, you won’t regret it.