What do cruisers panic about?
People that don’t live on a boat probably think that the biggest worry for a full time cruiser, commonly referred to as a ‘live-aboard,’ is about the boat sinking, getting caught in a hurricane, smashing into a whale, getting lost, dragging into the sea or rocks from a mooring or being gobbled up by a giant sized squid. And let’s not forget to mention pirates!
Although these worries may exist, they’re often temporary and short-lived.
There’s another worry that seems common, especially amongst the women cruisers that I’ve been privileged to befriend.
What is this cause for panic?
Let me tell you about my personal experience. Last night I woke in a panic – an event that happens a few times every month. I opened my eyes; looked at the few stars I could see through my open hatch and felt my stomach gnawing away with what? Was it dread or guilt or fear? I couldn’t quite tell.
The panic attack seemed to have strange timing. Earlier that day I explored an island in the Caribbean called Bequia, for the first time, with friends and family. We enjoyed the colorful pink, blue, orange and green Caribbean houses and shops, took in the sparklingly clear turquoise waters, devoured chicken roti’s and ran into good friends we met in Europe (it’s a very small world in the cruising community).
The day was perfect so what caused me to wake in the wee hours of the morning in a state of panic?
After I opened my eyes, heard water splashing along the hull and felt the perfect breeze sweep past my body. Then all hell broke loose and I could feel my stomach churn and heard my inner voice say:
“What the heck am I doing?”
“What am I doing sitting on a boat sailing around the Caribbean after two years of sitting on a boat sailing around the Mediterranean? Who do I think I am being able to constantly enjoy one big vacation? And how can someone actually enjoy being on a permanent vacation – my love for this life can’t last forever. THIS can’t last forever. When it ends what am I going to do? And what’s my purpose anyway? I go from place to place ‘living’ but I’m not ‘serving’…I’m not contributing to the world.”
And then another voice in me pipes up and says,
“What’s the sense of worrying as it totally tarnishes the whole experience. Why sell up and sail away if you’re going to allow your thoughts to overtake your mind and temporarily ruin the fun?”
And just like a program, my mind then goes into overdrive trying to plan, organize or visualize a solution for the future. Unfortunately, however, the gnawing in my stomach is so strong that it drives my thoughts into doom and gloom mode and I envision us sailing until all our money runs out, our daughter is sent to live with relatives and hubby and I end up in a tent alongside a desert road. I can even visualize the two cactuses, a small fire pit and a beat-up harmonica!
My panic attacks are not an everyday occurrence, and for the most part I carry on with life in quite a positive manner, however I feel that instead of coming to terms with my issues I just keep pushing my fears to the side. For weeks I can ignore the fear but eventually it pops up again and again.
What is my purpose? Is that the issue?
Back on land, I ran a company and felt a sense of purpose – I contributed to society, gave employment to many people, unleashed my created mind in a way that made the world a better place (or at least, that’s what I told myself)…
That said, even though I had a purpose I felt as if it wasn’t good enough. During my childhood I always thought I’d not only make the world a better place but I’d do it in a certain way. I dreamed that my contribution to the world would be more like Mother Theresa however I accidently went down the capitalistic Donald Trump road… Financial achievement was my main motivator and it eventually left me feeing very empty.
Hence, my action to sell up and sail away!
I figured that life on the sea would help me get back to nature, gain stronger family bonds, learn how to make real friends (instead of making work my family and friend base), provide me the ability to slow down and eat a real meal (not peal off the plastic wrap and microwave), remove myself from over-capitalism…and ultimately lead a simpler life.
Everything I wanted came to fruition except for life becoming simpler, but that’s okay.
Being a full time live-aboard is nowhere near simple. It’s actually a lot more complicated than I ever envisioned. That aside, I must profess that I have definitely become closer to nature, my family bond is amazing, I have loads of real friends, I have no space to buy anything so money is only needed for food, fuel, insurance and boat repairs and I’ve definitely slowed down in terms of how I think and the pace of work I uphold. (Read any of my past ‘Journey’ articles and you’ll get information about how sailing slows one’s thinking and way of life – in a good way).
The benefits of cruising have been incredible but why is this need for a sense of purpose still waking me up at night? Where is this drive coming from? Why do I feel like I must be contributing to the world and I’m failing?
Is it simply a sense of too much good will create a lot of bad?
Why do I feel like I need to go out and get a job? Why do I wake in a panic thinking, ‘what am I doing out here on a boat?’ I don’t know where I’m going. I don’t know how long I’ll be able to do this. I don’t know where this is going…
There’s such a conflict.
As I mentioned earlier, these thoughts are not constant. At least 90% of the time I’m having a whale of a time. But out of all the worries I have, aside from my desire to not screw up our daughter, is my lack of purpose, direction, planned future…
There’s no moral to this story (yet). Perhaps you can help provide one?!