Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, we, a Chilean family of five, were faced with the harsh reality of enduring lockdowns and isolation. These circumstances compelled us to reevaluate our priorities and question the confinement of our lives within four walls. Motivated by a desire for exploration, immersion in nature, and an authentic experience of life, we made a life-changing decision amidst those challenging times. We sold everything we owned and embarked on a sailing adventure that would span a year.
The decision to leave behind the comforts of home, jobs, and possessions was daunting, but it was precisely this uncertainty that ignited a fire within us. We viewed it as an opportunity to deviate from the conventional path and forge a new narrative for our lives – a leap of faith into the unknown.
Our journey began from the bustling port of Piraeus, Greece, where we set sail aboard our beloved sailboat “Raco”. Little did we know that our plans would soon take a challenging turn. The Corinth Canal, which we had initially intended to navigate, was impassable due to a devastating landslide. Undiscouraged, we adapted to the circumstances and charted a new course, deciding to sail all around the Peloponnese peninsula.
As we advanced on this alternative route, we quickly realized that life aboard a sailboat with three children was far from the glamorous portrayal often depicted on social media. Windy weather and rough seas became our constant companions, sometimes for weeks, shattering any illusions of an “Instagram-perfect” reality. Our days were filled with unpredictable winds, unrelenting waves, and trying to find creative ways to make a 14-meter-long boat feel like home for our kids.
Learning to adjust
As one can imagine, living in such close quarters teaches you a lot about tolerance and patience. We learned to navigate the delicate balance between personal space and communal living. Every decision we made, from defining the anchoring spot, deploying the dinghy to get to shore, or getting groceries and fresh water, required a collective effort and constant communication.
The challenges we faced extended beyond the physical aspects of sailing. We encountered moments of doubt and uncertainty, questioning our ability to overcome obstacles and adapt to the ever-changing conditions. Yet, it was through these trials that I believe we grew stronger as individuals and as a family. We learned to lean on each other for support, drawing strength from our collective determination to embrace the unknown.
As the miles passed under the keel of Raco, we soon realized that the value of our adventure extended far beyond personal realization. Life aboard a sailboat taught us invaluable lessons in resilience, adaptability, and the strength of human connections. Each day presented new challenges, from navigating treacherous waters to weathering unexpected storms.
In these moments, the mundane worries of our previous lives became trivial compared to the vastness of the sea and the beauty of the world around us. We found solace in simplicity and rediscovered the profound joy in the smallest moments of life. Additionally, our adventure allowed us to reconnect as a family, sharing genuine moments of togetherness amidst a world often consumed by busy schedules and digital distractions.
While our journey primarily focused on personal aspirations, it unexpectedly enriched our professional lives as well. Sailing demanded unique skills and fostered qualities that transcended traditional work environments. It sharpened our problem-solving abilities, forcing us to navigate with creativity and resourcefulness. Every decision we made, from managing limited resources to adapting to changing weather conditions, required careful consideration and strategic thinking.
Furthermore, our encounters with diverse cultures and people along the Mediterranean coast sparked curiosity and cultural understanding, enhancing our ability to communicate effectively with individuals from diverse backgrounds. These experiences broadened our perspectives, cultivating adaptability, open-mindedness, and empathy.
Embracing the unknown was a powerful lesson, too. Countless situations demanded trust in our abilities and decision-making skills with limited information. In the professional realm, embracing the unknown often leads to innovation and breakthroughs. Stepping outside comfort zones and exploring enables us to find innovative solutions and opportunities for growth and learning, creating value for our family.
A particularly valuable lesson we learned during this year was the importance of work-life balance. In today’s fast-paced world, it is easy to become consumed by the relentless pursuit of success, often at the expense of personal lives and well-being. However, our time on board Raco reminded us that true success lies in finding harmony between personal and professional pursuits.
Living on a sailboat compelled us to simplify our lives and prioritize what truly mattered. We realized that genuine happiness and fulfillment do not solely derive from professional achievements, but also from meaningful connections, personal growth, and the pursuit of our passions. By letting go of material possessions and embracing a more minimalist lifestyle, we gained a newfound appreciation for the intangible aspects of life.
Broadening horizons for our children
One of the most rewarding aspects of our sailing adventure was witnessing its impact on our children. As parents, we hold the responsibility to nurture and empower them to fulfil their dreams. In a world that often emphasizes stability and conformity, we wanted to plant the seed on them that life is meant to be lived to the fullest. Our decision to sell everything and embark on a year-long sailing expedition was aimed to demonstrate to our children that dreams are worth pursuing, even if they require stepping outside societal norms.
During that year, we witnessed our children grow in this unconventional environment. They adapted to life on a sailboat with enthusiasm, embracing new experiences and challenges. They developed a deep appreciation for nature, diverse cultures, and the significance of human connections. We are hoping this voyage had equipped them for the future with invaluable life skills such as problem-solving, teamwork, and adaptability.
I share this story not to boast about it, but with the intention of helping others find inspiration to break free from constraints that hold them back. Life is a game, one in which we have the power to define the rules. I passionately believe that every individual possesses the potential to pursue their dreams but, if unsuccessful, the mere fact of chasing them will have been worth living.
Sterling Hayden, an American actor, and sailor in the 50s, once wrote:
“…And there are those who say, “I’ve always wanted to sail to the south seas, but I can’t afford it.”
“What these men can’t afford is not to go. They are enmeshed in the cancerous discipline of ‘security.’ And in the worship of security, we fling our lives beneath the wheels of routine – and before we know it our lives are gone (…)
“… we end up in a tomb beneath a pyramid of time payments, mortgages, preposterous gadgetry, playthings that divert our attention for the sheer idiocy of the charade. The years thunder by, the dreams of youth grow dim where they lie caked in dust on the shelves of patience. Before we know it, the tomb is sealed.
“Where, then, lies the answer?
“In choice. Which shall it be: bankruptcy of purse or bankruptcy of life?”
I thought of sharing our story because I believe our unconventional journey can serve as a reminder that life is an adventure meant to be lived to the fullest. It’s not just about triumphing on the field; it is also about triumphing in life.