Since cutting the dock lines in April, I’ve met up with three cruising families, as well as some older couples and young couples without kids. I intentionally shy away from commitments, but these are people who have made serious commitments in their lives, life on a boat being the least of them. I can’t help but wonder, “What is their secret?”
The secret is that they have no secret. They are simply doing the best they can, comfortable with the knowledge of their own ignorance, confident that they’ll figure out a way, as a family, to surmount or avoid any obstacles they encounter. I’ve learned this more from observation than direct questions, trying to find a common pattern that ties these individuals together.I’ve been searching for ‘the good life’, first postulated by Aristotle. He had some good ideas. His ideas are complimented by some of the revelations coming out of modern positive psychology. My own experience has taught me to value leisure time above money. It’s shown me that wealthy people are often victims of their own success.
I believe these cruisers have found ‘the good life’. In all things, including finances, fear, and family, they seek Aristotle’s Golden Mean. None are wealthy because they know when to quit and enjoy their leisure time. Their entire world exists on the boat. Possessions, food stores, and family. If their little floating oasis is safe, then the world is copacetic. They put all their eggs in one basket, and then watch that basket very carefully.
All the cruisers I talk to seem to have an extremely healthy relationship with money and ‘stuff’. They are used to money coming into their lives in fits and starts. They’ve learned to manage their financial lives accordingly, stashing money away when it comes and using it sparingly at all times. The source of their healthy relationship to money is their comfort in controlling costs. They can scale their life down when times are hard, and scale it up when times are good. They are used to the swings, usually seasonal, and roll with the punches. These people don’t let money get in the way of living.All three of the cruising families I spoke to were led by strong patriarchs, who through equal parts luck and intention have established a profession and income that allows them to work infrequently or remotely. The cruising couples without kids were either retired, craftsman, or worked seasonally.
They all live anti-consumerist lifestyles. They don’t consume mass media and the advertising that goes with it. They don’t live near Walmarts or shopping malls. They spend a lot of time outdoors, especially the ones with children. Nature is their playground, and play they do. Think of how much a modern, middle class person’s income gets devoted to entertainment? These people don’t pay for nature’s entertainment. These people buy experiences instead of possessions. They have found ways to travel, socialize, and entertain themselves that minimizes the influence of money and advertising in their lives. They’ve learned the value of ‘enough’.It’s taken me the better part of a decade to realize the truth that these people have shown me: 1) Wealthier people do not live better lives. 2) Poverty is not binary. Wealth is a spectrum. It can be managed through True Wealth. ‘Poverty’ is not to be feared.
At the end of his book, Geography of Bliss, Eric Weiner concludes the following about achieving happiness: “Money matters, but less than we think and not in the way that we think. Family is important. So are friends. Envy is toxic. So is excessive thinking. Beaches are optional. Trust is not. Neither is gratitude.”
He also points out that there are times when happiness is subsumed by love. He writes, “Ask a single, working mother if she’s happy, and she’s likely to reply, ‘You’re not asking the right question.’ Yes, we want to be happy but for the right reasons, and, ultimately, most of us would choose a rich and meaningful life over an empty, happy one, if such a thing is even possible.”
The cruising couples and families I’ve met seem to have achieved both rich, meaningful lives as well as happy ones. I plan to mimic their success.