I just love this incredible story from Dawn Nicholson at 5 Lost Together! Thank you Dawn for sharing it with us. It's just fascinating how do-able things are when you start researching and learning - I never would have known that there is a community of sailing kids out there.
When I was 13 my Dad was made redundant at his management position and instead of hurling back into the rat race, we set off to fulfill his dream. For one-year we sailed from Canada to the Bahamas and spent that year island hopping, meeting interesting people and spending lots of time together as a family. That year profoundly impacted my outlook on life and drove my desire to travel. It opened my eyes to different ways you can live your life and completely shaped my priorities in life.
After our kids were born, we continued to travel with kids, but yearned to travel longer. We dreamed about buying our own boat and sailing away and giving our kids the experience I had. I wasn’t intimidated by pulling the kids out of school or asking our employers for leave. I had seen what was possible and I knew we could overcome any potential barriers to make this dream happen. My Dad offered to let us use their small 40 foot sailboat in the Bahamas as a trial run and in 2015 we took off on our six-month career break.
The kids were 3, 5 and 7 years old and we spent the most amazing five months sailing the beautiful Bahamian waters. The beautiful beaches and gorgeous turquoise waters were incredible, but what made that trip so special was the lifestyle it allowed us to have. Time slowed down and we lived simply and fully. We didn’t have to rush off anywhere; we explored at our own pace. This took some time to get used to and there were times when we were all bored. Our brains have become wired for constant stimulation and we had to re-learn how fill empty space and time.
We were self sufficient and had to create our own electricity, fetch our own fresh water, navigate tricky passages, and monitor the weather. A boat requires a lot of maintenance and you need to learn how to repair the engine, electrical system and even the head (toilet)! There was a lot to learn for my husband who didn’t have a sailing background and a lot for me to freshen up on.
We spent an incredible amount of time together as a family because let’s face it, there really is no escaping each other on a small sailboat. We spent our evenings without electronics not necessarily by choice, but simply because it wasn’t available. We would hoist our mobile phones up to the top of the mast daily to try to receive a signal and download our emails. In the evenings without all the distractions we had in our regular life, we played games as a family or read books.
You might imagine that our kids lacked for playmates, but there are other families out there sailing. These “cruising kids” are amazing and learn to connect quickly with kids of different ages and backgrounds. Our kids still had sleepovers, playdates where they snorkeled coral reefs and created forts made out of washed up rubbish. They didn’t have many toys on board, but they didn’t miss them. They did what kids do best: play.
Many people considering long term travel as a family worry about schooling on the road. When I was a teenager in the ‘90s on our year away, I followed a curriculum from Canada where I completed workbooks and mailed my lessons back home. Luckily, nowadays unschooling and world schooling are in our lexicon. As an educator myself, I did do some organized learning with the kids, but that was merely an hour of our day.
The rest of the time was for exploring where the most organic learning takes place. Kids are naturally curious and I firmly believe that a formal classroom is not the only or even the best way to learn. Our kids learned about slavery, democracy, global warming, astrology and physics from sailing and so much more. They learned about these things because they were happening around them; a much more authentic way to learn.
It was hard re-entering our regular way of life after those incredible months together in the Bahamas. We vowed that we would go sailing again for a longer period of time before our kids grew up. An opportunity to spend two years in Australia came up shortly after our return and that is where you can now find us. We are exploring this amazing country while we dream of a time when we will sail away again as a family.
Check out all our posts from our Bahamian adventure
Dawn Nicholson loves traveling and blogging about her adventures traveling and living overseas with her three kids (ages 5, 7 and 9 years old) at 5 Lost Together. Dawn has visited over 50 countries and believes strongly in traveling now with kids by whatever and any means possible – backpacking, sailing or living as expats overseas. You can follow her adventures and musings on: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest.