Earlier today I posted about the tragic death of one of the bright young lights of the cruising community - Bethany Smith. It is such a tough subject but one that I felt I needed to talk about. It got me thinking about other tough things in the cruising life.
Cruising is freedom. Cruising is living a life outside the norm. Living life on your own terms. However, there is NO free lunch in any life. There are trade offs, payments, blood, sweat, tears....whatever you want to call it. This is true for the cruising life as well. Besides the lack of basic land life norms and conveniences, there are some really harsh, harsh realities.
I have told you many times, cruising is not all pretty sunsets, sandy beaches and lovely drinks with little umbrellas. I won't repeat it again....oops, too late
However, there is more. Tough things I have not shared with you. We need to go deeper. We need to talk about the really tough stuff. If you think you want a life of cruising, you need to really think about these realities. There is separation, loss, expectations vs reality (aka my dream/your dream), and guilt (aka massive guilt).
Separation - Separation from family and friends is tough. For some, it is tougher than others. More than one cruising dream has been crushed by grandkids. Actually, in certain demographics, this is THE reason people stop cruising. Missing births, graduations, engagements, marriages, deaths....major life events are part of the separation anxiety. In the USA today, often it goes beyond missing "major" life events to missing regular involvement aka band concerts, little league games, and such.
Illness/Loss - Not being there when someone important gets sick and or dies. Grandkid with a serious illness. A best friend with cancer. A parent that falls and breaks a hip. A sibling going through a painful divorce. An uncle, aunt, or cousin dies. Or simply the wide array of aging parent challenges.
Expectations vs Reality - It is very, very rare in cruising couples/partners that both are onboard with "the dream" with the EXACT same conviction and expectations. In some cases, it is because expectations were not set correctly. Or rather, they were incorrectly set by one or BOTH. Lack of real expectations and preparation causing what seems like insurmountable challenges (to them) can play a part. Many, many cruising dreams die a quick and painful death because of the valley between expectation and reality. Some rocksolid land relationships don't survive on the water in close, confinded spaces with 24/7 contact. Or under extreme stress of bad weather, or broken boats or repairs. There are well known places to pick up terrific cruising boats for pennies on the dollars because of this very thing. "Broken dream boats" as I call them. Harsh but true. Money issues can play a big role in terms of expectations vs reality. Cruising is not an extended holiday. It is a way of life and as such money is usually budgeted very closely and for many, tightly. Some do this well, others don't.
Guilt - A BIG one! THE big one. So big it probably deserves it's own blog posting. I don't know if there is a cruiser out here that hasn't had to deal with guilt in some form or fashion. It is very rare that a cruiser's land family is completely onboard with the whole "sail off into the sunset". For those "left behind" it can be simple fear for the cruisers but more commonly, it is fear with regard for themselves (although they usually don't see it this way). Often it is more along the lines of some sort of abandonment issues. This might be from grown children, grandkids, siblings or parents. With elderly parents, it might be directly from them or from siblings. Misunderstanding of the cruising life (all umbrella drinks and sunsets vs exploration, growth and learning) can lead to bad feelings and jealously in some cases.
Many of the above crossover and go together. Missing the death and funeral of a close friend or relative can lead to guilt that can lead to unrealistic expectations between the cruiser, possibly spouse/partner and family back on land. Hurt feelings are usually not far behind. Technology has certainly helped us all stay in touch more frequently than in the past but it can only go so far as it is not a hug in person.
Why am I sharing this all with you? Because it is important to talk about not only the good (sandy beaches, wonderful people, pretty sunsets) but also the bad, ugly and really tough stuff (the above) of the cruising life.