I am a woman who enjoys comfortable things: a cozy couch to lounge on with a good book, nestled between fluffy pillows and a fuzzy blanket. I enjoy tea, wifi, and Netflix surrounded by cute, matching things like rugs, coffee tables, and bookcases full of books tucked into corners.
I tell you all of this to say, I never thought I would be a woman living on a sailboat. The move onto the sailboat took a lot of soul-searching which required a lot of in-the-moment learning about myself and my capabilities. I jotted them down in a notebook to share with you.
Here are 10 lessons I learned from living life on a sailboat:
1. I don’t need multiples of clothing.
As I went through my closets and drawers with the mission of downsizing on my mind, I found that I had multiples of dress pants, blouses, T-shirts, yoga pants, and sun dresses. Multiples? Was that necessary? Then I remembered my logic when purchasing them: “But they fit so perfectly! I need them in every color. I’ll wear them all of the time.” The truth is, I wasn’t wearing all of them, all of the time. I simply didn’t need multiples. I changed my foundation of logic: Moving forward, I would keep only what I absolutely need. I started with my leotards. Since I’m a ballerina, I had about 50. Each one of them was adorable in different ways (different cuts, different silhouettes, different colors, long-sleeve, cap-sleeve, deep back, sweetheart neck). I kept 3 of my favorites, and I donated the rest. The same rule applied for dresses, pants, shorts, blouses: 3 of my favorites; donate the rest. It felt empowering to clear out the extra, and let go of the need to maintain all of this clothing.
2. I don’t need makeup.
Every morning I would wake up and put on make up. I felt I had to for some reason (everyone else was doing it? It looks “more professional?” It will make me look more powerful or more successful or more “put together” in life?) But after moving onto a sailboat I gave up makeup for 98% of my life (occasionally I’ll revisit my mascara, but that’s it). Before moving onto a sailboat, a fellow female sailor said, “Get ready to embrace your natural self!” I wasn’t sure what that meant. As I passed boxes from land to water, sweating through my makeup I quickly realized, surrounded by beautiful nature, that I didn’t need makeup to impress nature, myself, or the world. I really could embrace and love my natural self while feeling powerful.
3. I abused water before.
Living on land, I would turn on the water for my shower and “let it warm up.” That was my justification. I would leave the water running during washing dishes or brushing my teeth. I used water like there was an endless supply of it, because in my mind, there was an endless supply of it! On the sailboat, we have two water tanks that hold 160 gallons of water. When that water runs out, it is out. We have to refill it with our own hands by seeking out a marina where we can refill fresh water. When we’re out sailing, we will use a water maker, but this still requires effort and time on our end. That is the step that was missing for me on land. Someone else did all of the effort behind making sure I had clean, fresh water and I was abusing it because I didn’t realize all of the work behind securing fresh water. Now, all of my water-usage behaviors have changed.
4. I don’t need to spend so much money.
On land, I felt more tempted to spend money. I would receive e-mails about sales or deals; I would walk past a store with an adorable outfit; I was surrounded by people making purchases, which made me feel like I should be making purchases. On the water, your visions shift from products and updates to sunsets and dolphins. The urge to purchase significantly decreased and I find myself feeling happier with less.
5. I am capable of learning something so significantly outside of my comfort zone.
I’m a ballerina. I’ve never sailed before, so moving onto a sailboat was overwhelming for me. Gradually, with classes and support, I learned how to sail and how to re-organize my life to live freely and happily on a sailboat. My fear of sinking the sailboat has decreased immensely the more time I spend learning the boat and allowing the boat to teach me what it needs and how it works. We trust each other now.
6. I am a local and global human being.
Before, I thought you graduate from college, find a local job, and then settle in for the next 40+ years. I figured I was fortunate to find a job. Eventually, I started to feel stifled and stuck. I remember sitting across from a female sailor and she said, quite simply, “Sheena, you need to start thinking global. You’ll get there.” Global? When I think global, I envision a scene from a movie. The one where it starts as a blade of grass and gradually works its way further and further and further away until you’re looking at the world from space, as a giant green-blue ball with whispy white clouds hovering. I couldn’t see myself in that image. Eventually, I started to change the way I work and think about work. I changed the way I think about people and communities. I re-defined connection. Now, I move forward thinking globally, while honoring local traditions.
7. Wind is an unstoppable force of nature. In fact, all of nature is unstoppable.
We are very, very small human beings, and the fact that we think we have power is quite…funny! Sure, we have the power to make our own decisions, but living on the water which is determined by the moon, the winds, and everything happening around me, has revealed to me how very small I am. I can try to hold a sail but if the wind is going to take it, there is nothing my little body (or a muscle-man’s body) could do. The wind is stronger and it always will be. Humans are smart, and we can learn to harness it, but wind is always stronger. Water is always stronger and there’s nothing I can do to stop it.
8. Surround yourself with nature, and your perspective on everything will change.
On land, I was very disconnected to nature. I couldn’t feel her breathing, crying for help, celebrating. I would wake up in my air-conditioned condominium, go to my air-conditioned car and head to my air-conditioned office. I saw some trees pass me along the interstate. I saw some grass and flowers strategically planted at my office. But I didn’t see nature. I never thought about the tides or the oncoming storms. I never knew you could see rainbows in individual raindrops that reveal upcoming weather clues. I didn’t have to worry about crabs or fish or currents or the rising temperature of the water. Now that I’m more attuned to nature, I feel, hear, see, and experience more.
9. I have the choice to decide what I’m putting into the water.
Since living on a sailboat, I’ve changed my cleaning, medicinal, and sun protection products because I do not want harmful products finding their way to the water. I now cringe at bleach. I started seeing a functional medicine doctor for natural-based, preventative supplements instead of antibiotics. I threw out all of my sunscreen that had oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate, and octinoxate (these are believed to harm ocean animals and to not be so great for humans either).
10. I am stronger than I ever imagined.
Winston Churchill said, “Fear is a reaction. Courage is a decision.” Every day, I had to decide if I’ll be scared (of a storm, of sailing, of drowning, of being eaten by a shark) or if I’ll be courageous. Since moving outside of everything I had previously filed under as “comfortable” and “convenient,” I am realizing that life is possible—I am possible—outside of everything I previously knew of myself. It allows me to keep the good stuff about me, and add on more good stuff!
Here are the key truth nuggets I’ve learned:
- Every woman deserves to feel powerful as her natural self.
- Every woman can make purchases that help the environment.
- Every woman deserves to think, live and feel like a global force, if she so desires.
- Every woman should take time in nature to hear her speak.
- Every woman will thrive outside of her comfort zone.
- Every woman is stronger than she imagines.
Together, we all capable and powerful to change our world one step at a time.
You’ll also like 9 Marks of a Beautiful Woman (on the Inside), I Thank My Twenties for These 10 Lessons, Do Women Need to Be “Empowered” to Display Strength?, What to Do When You Need a Change, and Anatomy of a Strong Woman