Lessons from the Nomadic Lifestyle

{via Bethany Rosselit}
{via Bethany Rosselit}
This is a post from guest contributor Bethany Rosselit of My Journey to Ithaca. Enjoy, and learn more about her fascinating life at the bottom of the post.


My name is Bethany, and I practice minimalism. But I am not a minimalist. I am a sailor.

Every summer, along with my husband, daughter, and cat, I make my home aboard a 29-foot sloop. Last year, we lived aboard for 91 days, with no home port and no destination. We simply took in the sights, forged friendships, and followed the wind.

Our “home” contained less than 200 square feet of living space. We cooked with propane, on a camp stove, often went without refrigeration, drank lake water on more than one occasion (we did have the added benefit of being on the Great Lakes, so it was fresh water), weathered our fair share of storms, bathed in the lake when public showers weren’t available, and shared one tiny, “hanging locker” for a closet.

And it was perfect. We could have stayed there 91 more days.

When you embark on an adventure with someone – or many someones – the way you see society, daily life, the world, and each other will forever be changed. Sailing, and living nomadically, taught us many lessons that we brought with us when we returned to our life on land for the school year. And those lessons are what I would like to share with you today:

1. Living in limited space, with limited possessions, limits the amount of time you spend managing your possessions. “Housework,” on the boat consisted of a 5-minute clean-up, first thing in the morning. We had time to do what we wanted to do.

2. Not walled in by possessions, you become a part of the community. Things we normally did at home, we now needed to do in town. We visited the library. We went to the Laundromat. Even our home, when we were in a slip, was in a public venue. As we ate our meals, played with our daughter, or grilled, we met runners, salespeople, and other travelers, who were happy to hear our story and share theirs.

3. Children can have more fun in a great town, without toys. My daughter (known as Jelly Bean) had much more fun jumping off the side of the boat (with a life jacket and a line!), playing with the other kids at the park, and simply interacting with passers-by, than she ever has had in her well-stocked playroom. Interaction, new sights, and family time can replace a huge toy collection, easily.

4. Without all the distractions, you have real conversations. We haven’t had a television for 9 years (or so – I don’t remember!), but my husband and I still find ways to be distracted from each other at home. He’ll play a video game or surf the Internet; I’ll read an e-book or write a blog post. On the boat, we have much LESS of that. We interact with each other, and discuss our hopes and dreams in ways we never do at home.

5. Problem solving together helps you to grow closer. You will have problems. And you will have to work together to solve them. But facing a seemingly impossible task together will create a bond. Our first summer, we worked together to get our boat off of the rocks, then to motor it, six hours, to a safe port while it was taking on water. Last summer, we dealt with engine failure while motoring into unbelievably heavy winds. Being able to toast each other and say “we made it!” will bring you closer to each other.

6. Being out of your “safety zone,” you learn to weather unpredictability. When living nomadically, you’re out of that house in the suburbs. You’re out of daily life, with its script and predictability. Random things can happen. They can be either great of horrible, but you learn to deal with them. This is a tremendous lesson, because the predictability of daily life is only an illusion anyway.

7. There is freedom in not having a destination. We’re a goal and end oriented society. We like to talk about “where we’re going.” And, last summer, it kind of bothered people that we didn’t have that “where.” We weren’t going anywhere – we were sailing! When you enjoy the process – the journey – and take in all that it has to offer, you gain something much more valuable than any destination.

You don’t need to live aboard for 91 days to experience the joy of a nomadic lifestyle. Just going on a weeklong – or weekend-mini-adventure could teach you a great deal. But, beware – one adventure almost always leads to another, even greater adventure.


About Bethany Rosselit:
Bethany writes about her family, adventures and worldview at MY Journey to Ithaca. SHe is mindful, funny, intentional, inspirational and a fabulous storyteller. Read more about her adventures in sailing and minimalism here.




8 Responses to Lessons from the Nomadic Lifestyle

  1. What a lovely guest post to read. I identified so much with what Bethany says. My family and I lived on our 28 feet boat for 14 months 2011/2012 travelling around the Mediterranean. I also found the simplicity of life afloat very rewarding and miss it. I think that experience is one of the main drivers for me simplifying life ashore. I wrote a blog at http://www.28feetafloat.com. X

  2. When I was in high school I often dreamed of doing this. I bought books upon books on sailing, and spent most of my time studying them.
    Then college came and it never really happened.
    But a month ago I discovered minimalism, and it’s all coming back. So thank you for this reminder of what I’ve always wanted to do. A great inspiration.

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