I’ve found myself having rather candid conversations about our finances lately. Inevitably I find myself saying “we’re skidding sideways into each paycheck.” Indeed last month we made it across the line by searching pockets for laundry money. It would, if I were inclined to look at it that way, be a realization of one of my worst pre-cruising fears.
Over the last week I conducted an informal survey of cruiser friends on Facebook. Of the 16 respondents 10 cited money as one of (if not the most significant) reasons that people fail to launch their cruising dreams. In About the Crew I described how we chose to throw financial responsibility to the wind, and I thought it suiting that I take a minute to let you know how that all shook out.
When we were making the decision to cast off the dock lines we had seriously awesome friends cheering us on and telling us their success stories of finding better jobs on the other end, or taking back their old jobs with more flexibility and higher pay. It seemed almost as if it would be stupid not to go. I faced the anxiety of leaving a stupendously great job, with stable pay and benefits, head on. I stared that fear down and cut the lines… and had the best 18 months of my life.
Here I am on the other side of the Pacific. Working again, and able, finally to let you all know if those fears were ill founded. Well, here’s the hard truth folks. In my case, they kinda weren’t. I did land a fan-freaking-tastic job. Cool boss, great office environment, great clients, the whole nine yards. That said my salary here is 15% lower, add to that 5-13% exchange rate , and maybe 20% more in taxes and my take home is about 40% less than what I used to make. Subtract from that another 30% that goes to the credit cards and IRS every month (penalties for early withdrawal), and allow for the fact that everything here costs about 2x what it cost in the US, and you’ll start to understand why I’m scratching my head at the end of every pay period, wondering where all the money went. That’s about as much detail as I’m comfortable sharing with the Interworld, but suffice to say, we’re close to broke. And I feel fortunate to have any job in this economy.
This is a pretty stark contrast to the “build it and they will come” sentiment that I had been planing on. I have, in fact, burned through much of my net worth and managed to land squarely in a completely different socio-economic strata than I had achieved shoreside. And while I promise there’s more to this story, I do want, at this very moment to impress upon you how precisely not like the story book, this particular tale is.
So here’s the million dollar question; would I do it all over again? Knowing that I’m lucky to be working at all, much less to have a great job that pays (net) something like 40% less. Knowing that we may be in Australia for an extra few years just to scrape together enough money to visit family in the states before continuing on this epic round the world trip, would I tell the me of 2 years past to “just go for it?”
I sure as hell would. This has been, hands down the best experience of my life so far. Traveling the world with my kids; being with them 24/7 for 18 months; hearing all of their funny, weird, creepy and enlightening thoughts; seeing the world through their eyes; being afraid (sometimes solo, sometimes as a family) and working through that; realizing how incredibly competent we all are; and most importantly doing something that is inarguably fucking amazing™. These are things that money can not buy. If this experience has taught me nothing else about life it has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that stuff that does not directly enable experience will never make me happy. Experience is what makes life rich and gives it value, and experience is something that we have in buckets.
Our morning starts like any normal American or Aussie family. Breakfast, kids squabbling, rush to get out the… (and then it starts to be an experience) companionway, and into the dinghy to get to shore to take showers in the semi-public city owned, local hotel chain operated bathrooms. Miles makes some loud comment about something inappropriate while we are showering and one of the OGs laughs in the stall next to us. We catch the bus to school and then I go off to work with some awesome artsy hippies at the co-working space. Every little aspect of our day is slightly different than the last, and packed with moments to remember. And this is just the “boring” part of the trip compared to the 18 months of P
acific crossing behind us or the years of international destinations ahead.
So in case the message hasn’t been delivered, here it is, in digest form. All those yay-sayers were wrong (for me at least) in fact, but so balls on accurate in spirit. Cutting the lines and embarking on your dream is incredibly risky. You may well fail, you may never rise to the socially accepted measure of success that you currently “enjoy.” But on the other hand you might just find that your former measure of success is just wrong and that an experience that allows you to spread those wings is worth any price.