A simple life. Maybe it’s because I had to analyse people and words for so many years, but something doesn’t sit right with me about this phrase. Over a bottle of wine, Captain Cool and I discussed this.
Firstly, I would like to say that I think this is the best way to live in order to find peace. Forget happiness. You will never achieve happiness 100% of the time, whereas you can with peace.
To me, a simple life means taking the focus away from material possessions, status and technology, and bringing it back to being connected with nature and humans (yeah, remember them??).
My argument was that calling it a “simple life” takes away the power of this kind of lifestyle. After all, we call people “simple,” which is usually an insult related to their intelligence. The more we talked about this topic, the more I realised that “simple” people are probably way more intelligent than those who are considered not simple.
In high school, I spent a couple of summers working at a centre for people who were mentally and physically handicapped. As my Mom had worked here since before I was born and sometimes took me to work as a child, this was nothing new. I loved this job. My clients weren’t concerned about what college they were going to (because you are a lesser person if you go to certain places you know….), how much money their families had or wearing designer clothes. In fact, many of their families had deserted them and the only people who cared for them were the ones who worked there.
My job was great! I was a recreational therapist assistant. The clients couldn’t talk or walk, but they could smile, laugh and cry. They could express their emotions through their eyes and I felt a connection with them. They smiled coming into the recreational room and their beautiful faces often fell when their time was over. How beautiful to be an adult and so happy with playing! This to me is not simple, it’s going back to the times when we had to truly fight for survival and enjoy the fun times when they lasted.
I mean, sure it’s great to have money and a great big house, cars, and whatever else your heart desires, but does that really give people happiness? Not me. I feel way happier when I am talking to people and have time in life to enjoy the moment. I always used to worry about the next moment and often wasn’t mentally present with whoever I was with. I had to work more and more to live in a nice part of London, go out for dinner and drinks with friends (who sadly rarely had my full attention), buy new clothes, new shoes and travel. Working this much didn’t give me peace and I also allowed it to take my attention away from the people I love the most. I know now, they are what brings me peace.
I digress! I now live an adventurous life, because simple it is not. I have no money. I have very few clothes to choose from and it doesn’t bother me. I’m not competing with other people, trying to fit in or look the best, so there is no need to have a wardrobe full of clothes.
When we are in the islands, I wash my clothes with rainwater (in the rainy season!) and dry them with the glorious sunshine. Sometimes I have to hang them up and take them down in between raindrops and they can take days to dry. That’s ok. I need rain and sunshine to survive, why be annoyed or angry about it? I would’ve been a couple years ago. “What? Rain!? I have to do a million things you know, I don’t have time for this!!” The things I have to do now can wait because I have no schedule, no deadlines, no authority to answer to. Only the wind.
If all the transport systems stopped and we couldn’t transport food, I wonder how many people would be able to grow their own food and butcher meat. I can’t even keep a basil plant alive so I would starve pretty quickly. Although I have talked with various people on my travels on how to slaughter a pig, so maybe I could survive enough to learn how to grow vegetables. I kind of hope I never have to test that since I’m a vegetarian… Lifestyles in which we use our hands and the land are often considered a simple life. I find nothing simple in this!
I don’t grow vegetables on my boat, although there are many sailors who do! However, I do have to fight for survival. This took some time to learn and is an ongoing process. I go back to the knot saga. I know two knots really well, but there are many more I need to know. Let me tell you, when the wind is blowing very strong, the sea is rough, it’s night time and a knot needs to be made on the bow, it can be a situation of life or death. In my non-simple life, my work wasn’t life or death and I could look up the answer, ask a colleague or wait until tomorrow. On the boat, I can’t exactly pull out my book of knots to see how I do it. Asking the captain for help would only get me an angry glance and orders to take the helm while he does it. Then I have to worry he may fall overboard and I would be in charge and then we would really be in trouble! Tell me, what’s simple about that?
What I do know is that I wake up every morning to the sunshine peeking in the hatch, the gentle rolling of the boat helping me out of bed. I stop what I’m doing to watch the sunset and notice other sailors doing the same. CC and I give thanks to the sun and the day we had as we welcome in the night.
Every night we lie on the deck and watch the stars and the moon. Even though I do this every night, I am still awed by the beauty of the stars. I mean, how bright is that light for us to see it from so far away!! And take out a pair of binoculars on a clear night in the middle of the ocean and you will see a whole new world of stars. There are so many I don’t think there is a number to count them all.
In my land life, the sun peeking through my window made me crabby because I was once again having to face a busy day. I only noticed the moon when it was street level and the stars rarely came to my attention unless I was on holiday. Over time, I had completely lost my connection with nature and was starting to lose connection with humans. I was not enjoying life. I was not at peace. I was a shell who’s soul was slowly being murdered. Luckily I realised where my life was going and made the decision to change.
Now I eat fish and shellfish from the sea. We catch the fish ourselves and support the local fishermen in their business of catching shellfish (that requires special talent!). I went from refusing to eating a fish who still had it’s head in a restaurant, to catching, killing, gutting and preparing a fish. With or without the head! After all, we are hunters by nature. As a sailor, a fish is one of the greatest gifts of the sea and helps us live cheaply. Not to mention they give endless hours of snorkelling entertainment! The underwater world is stunningly beautiful.
I guess I have answered my own question on what to call this kind of lifestyle. A peaceful life. Yes. I live a peaceful life.
It’s not only the sailing lifestyle which offers this. I know plenty of stay at home mum’s, farmers, hunters, retirees who now fill their life with meaningful activities they didn’t have time or energy for before and yoga teachers, to name a few, who live a peaceful life too.
The key to this lifestyle is to disconnect from the virtual and material world and connect with people and nature. Something all of the above can easily do because they work with people or nature.
To some it may be a simple life. To me it is the most beautiful and peaceful lifestyle I never knew existed.