Sliding in Sideways…

September 26, 2013

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.



  1. Comment by Cindy

    Cindy September 26, 2013 at 5:18 am

    So honest and well thought out Tucker! More people need to write honestly about this. So many others say they just “live simply” without mentioning that business they sold or that brokerage they used to run or that house they liquidated. It’s hard for regular people like us to get a real perspective.

  2. Comment by eric

    eric September 26, 2013 at 5:47 am

    Thanks for sharing Tucker. As someone dreaming of a similar adventure I greatly appreciate your honesty and the facts not just a rose-colored glasses view. Best of luck.

  3. Comment by Ed Robinson

    Ed Robinson September 26, 2013 at 6:14 am

    Nice read. My wife and I did the same thing three years ago and now we are broke. (I mean really broke) We’ve landed in Punta Gorda to look for work. If I get the job at the tackle shop I’ll make 8 bucks an hour, as compared to the 80k I used to earn. Wouldn’t change a thing. I’ve had three years of the greatest life that’s ever been lived. I wrote about it in my book; Leap Of Faith, Quit Your Job and Live On A Boat (available at Amazon).

  4. Comment by PJ

    PJ September 26, 2013 at 6:58 am

    Well said and well balanced piece. We, as Americans especially, have such a perverse view of risk and work so hard to avoid it that we easily lose sight of the fact that there are definitely risks worth taking. As with beauty, failure and success are in the eye of the beholder. The gift have given yourself and your family is invaluable and not even available to those who choose to stay in the rat race.

  5. Comment by Livia

    Livia September 27, 2013 at 12:33 am

    Nicely said

  6. Comment by Michael Robertson

    Michael Robertson September 27, 2013 at 4:29 pm

    Very nice, thank you. Michael

  7. Comment by Christopher Dean

    Christopher Dean October 6, 2013 at 7:15 pm

    Thanks for keeping it real and for the open hearted sharing…without a doubt these experiences will do more for you and your family than any 3 years accumulating assets and standing on a treadmill of other peoples dreams. And you will rise as far as you want…remember we choose to be where ever we are. You are certainly no victim and if you decide that wealth really matters you will make that happen too… And i want to be on your boat next riverfestival. Great meeting and hope to meet again….the pictures worked out great as a montage..excellent Checkout Or as it is now . Cheers. Christopher Dean

    • Comment by Tucker Bradford

      Tucker Bradford October 6, 2013 at 7:26 pm

      Chris, It was great to meet you too. I checked out last night actually, still haven’t read the paper, but it looks intriguing! I’m sure our paths will cross again!

  8. Comment by Pat Schulte

    Pat Schulte October 11, 2013 at 9:18 pm

    Nicely put Tucker. The last paragraph says it all. It’s a great feeling when your measure of “success” is no longer benchmarked by other people or a particular dollar amount.

    Hope to cross paths again somewhere down the line.

  9. Pingback: The Worst Thing About Cruising – Sailing Wondertime

Comments are closed.

Go top