I’ve found a few blogs of people that are living the dream and I’ve poured over them, reading each entry and trying to put myself in their position to see how I might imagine I’d “cope.” At times, I even felt like I kept reading because I was eager to find a list of reasons…justifications, even…to support continuing to cling to my “comfort zone” of Marysville, Pennsylvania (and the 20 mile radius surrounding it, of course). But, the more I read about life aboard, the more I fall in love with it. The spectacular connection with nature. Meeting like-minded new people. The simplicity of living a life less full of “stuff” and fuller of experiences. Try as I might, I’m struggling to use other people’s experiences as deterrents to jumping in, head first. For many years, I’ve been convinced that I am living a life that I love – a great job with a pension, a beautiful home on a fantastic property, an incredible husband and a combined nearly six-figure income that allows us to pay our bills and have plenty of fun. I’m proud of us for many reason, but, mostly because we’re young. My husband will turn 35 in less than a month and I just turned 31 in March of this year. And we’ve put together a life that’s capable of sustaining us, very comfortably, with no adjustments necessary, from now until retirement in 24 years. I’m very proud of where we’re at in our young lives. I absolutely feel blessed with the life that we’ve created. And I am very blessed to have put together a fantastic life. But, I’m left wondering if there isn’t just a little bit more living out there than the 9 to 5, working for the weekend life. Is another 24 years of coming home from work thoroughly used up 5 days a week worth it? Is spending time away from my husband because he’s working out of town for days on end worth it? Is getting up every morning and driving to work just to be counting down the minutes until Friday afternoon and “freedom” worth it? And then there’s the even bigger question…what happens if something happens between now and 24 years from now when we retire and actually have the time to enjoy living life? What happens if we are robbed of our retirement years together…the years that we will have worked so hard to prepare for? My father died at the age of 48. Seemingly healthy, very active, still working full-time at a job that he enjoyed. But, there he was. Still preparing to actually have the time to enjoy living life when he was robbed of enjoying the fruits of his labor. I try to put it into perspective. For me, 48 is only 17 years from now. And in 17 years, I will be very much still preparing to have time to enjoy living life. Working full-time, contributing to my pension and getting up every morning to spend time away from the person I love more than anything in the world. I guess that’s when things started to change for me. The realization that if something happens tomorrow, I want to know that I’ve taken 100% advantage of today. And sitting behind a desk for 40 hours a week, waiting for Friday, and waiting for 2041 when I’m eligible for retirement isn’t taking advantage of today.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve used seemingly every “free” moment to keep teasing out this idea of selling everything and starting over. On a boat. Miles away from where I’ve lived all of my life. With essentially very limited financial security. Josh and I have talked, nearly non-stop, about the idea and have agreed that we’re going to move forward with really living, not just existing. Here’s the plan we’ve come up with: I will be vested in my pension in 2021, five years from now. Sticking out the next five years in order to secure a pension and health benefits for us many years down the road seems like the responsible thing to do. It also seems like a lot of people work with a “5 year plan” when they’re selling everything and moving aboard. So, working for the next five years while we get everything straightened out and prepared for moving aboard while securing a pension and health benefits for us down the road seems like a pretty solid idea. It’ll also keep us from making any quick decisions. Five years gives us plenty of time to research, ask questions and make informed decisions instead of feeling pressured by time. (This is HUGE for me.) So far, we’ve agreed to two main steps. 1 – Stop buying STUFF! We’ve decided that we’ll break our addiction to the materialistic consumerism by asking one question about everything we lay out money for – does buying this get us closer to our goal of living aboard in 5 years? [So far, so good! Josh was somewhat interested in purchasing a new motorcycle after we returned from Bike Week a few weeks ago. We talked about it and determined that we have a perfectly good motorcycle (which we’re still paying on) in the garage and purchasing a new motorcycle (which we’ll have to pay on for another 5 years) isn’t going to get us close to our goal of living aboard. So, the plans to purchase a new bike were abandoned without a second thought.] 2 – Use the money we save from not buying stuff to eliminate debt. We’ve decided that we want as little debt as possible (hopefully NONE!) when we move aboard. So, we’ve focused our attention on eliminating debt by snowballing payments. [So far, so good here, too! This weekend, we paid off our Visa card that had a $7,000 balance. I was paying $425 on the Visa each month, so, now that it’s paid off, we’ll be putting that $425 toward the next debt on our list PLUS what I’m already paying on that debt each month. For us, the next debt we’ll be working on is our Lowe’s credit card which we use to purchase items for renovating home. I’m already paying $185 on it each month. But, now, because of that extra $425, we’ll be paying $610 on it each month. Whatever we don’t have paid off by the time we get our income tax return next year will get paid off with that money. After that, I’m thinking we’ll focus on the motorcycle debt. But, we’ll have to reevaluate that once the time gets closer, as it will depend on the remaining balances.] I wrote a few weeks ago about the idea of being debt free in a few years being “nearly impossible” unless we won the lottery, but, after doing some serious looking at the debt we have, it’s not so impossible. And, actually, it appears as though five years should be adequate time to get us into a nearly (if not completely) debt-free position, other than our mortgage. Very achievable, as long as we stay focused, and perfect timing!
Speaking of mortgage, that brings us to our house, which is another big part of the five year plan. Since we bought our house knowing that there was A LOT of cosmetic work that needed done, we need to continue pushing hard on completing that work. We’ve been picking one main project to focus on each winter and we’ve been doing well with that schedule. This winter, we plan to complete the upstairs. (Remove carpet from master and second bedrooms, install laminate flooring, paint and trim.) That lets two more years of winter projects. Finishing the downstairs (guest bedroom – remove carpet, install laminate that we already have, paint and trim) and the kitchen. At this point, the plan for the kitchen is a huge question mark. We talked previously about completely gutting it and starting over (moving plumbing, knocking out walls, etc.) but have decided that we will probably just spruce it up (remove old linoleum, install new floor, paint cabinets and trim) to save money. Since we’re not planning on being there “forever” anymore, I’m okay with a light remodel on the kitchen, as completely gutting it and starting over would have been mucho dinero!). That lets a few more years with winters that are not dedicated to big projects for leftover small projects to get the house ready to be sold in five years. Again, very achievable and perfect timing!
In the meantime, I’ve been making a list of all kinds of small things that I can be doing to work towards our five year goal. And, I’m making progress! Since boats aren’t ideal places for any type of paper, I determined that the HUGE tub of pictures from before the age of digital cameras had to be addressed. I’ve been dragging my feet on tackling this for years for a number of reasons. 1 – Scanning thousands of pictures was going to take forever, no matter how I did it. 2 – My flatbed scanner takes nearly 1 minute per picture to scan it. To an 8.5” x 11” document. And there’s no setting to change the scan size. So, after spending the minute to scan it, I would have to crop each and every picture. Which would take an eternity. So, this past weekend, I made a $115 investment in a portable scanner. (Brother DS-620). And let me tell you, it saved my life. It still took me 13 straight hours to scan the entire tub of pictures while the husband was away at camp, but, it’s DONE! The tub is empty. The pictures are now digital. And I’ve lightened the load by POUNDS! Since I’m also an avid scrapbooker, I have that challenge to conquer, too. About a year ago, I made the transition from paper scrapbooking to digital scrapbooking based on ease, and how inexpensive it is (thanks to lots of free digital scrapbook items on Pinterest!). But, that didn’t help the binders full of paper pages I have from the past five years. So, that’s my current project. Scanning all the paper pages into digital pages and filing them in the corresponding year’s digital scrapbook. This process is a whole lot slower than I anticipated, as I’m having to use my flatbed scanner for a lot of the pages because of the thickness and “bedazzles” that I graciously adorned the pages with.
Moving on to more exciting things…since the first time we went to Kent Island, Maryland for a chartered fishing trip, we’ve loved the area. It’s absolutely beautiful. And, it’s only a two hour drive back to Central PA. So, we’ve decided that, at least for now, it’s a great area for us to relocate to. Opportunities to make money are abundant and the winters are less brutal than Central PA. We’ve revamped our original plan of just selling everything and leaving and determined that at least for a while, we will need to remain tied somewhat to the land. Figuring out how much money we actually need to live. As such, Josh has done a bunch of research about marinas in the Kent Island area that may be possibilities for a live-aboard lifestyle during our “early years.” A few weeks ago, while driving through Kent Island on our way home from Ocean City, I’m pretty sure I fell in love with one. Piney Narrows Yacht Haven. A Condominium Marina. Something about the sign on the building (which of course I didn’t get a picture of) made my heart skip a beat and I’ve since decided that Piney Narrows Yacht Haven would be the focus of my attention. After lots of reading on their website, I mustered up the nerve to send the marina an e-mail, inquiring about their willingness to accept live-aboards before I fell any more in love. My question was fairly straightforward – Are there any restrictions associated with slip holders living aboard year-round? And the answer I received from PNYH’s General Manager made me giddy! “We are available for year-round live-aboards and there is no additional fee.” SWEET!
Since then, we’ve continued to research life at PNYH and determined that slips can be leased or purchased. Since we’re planning on staying tied to land for at least a while after moving aboard, we’re planning to purchase a slip. Prices right now seem very reasonable and are in line with what we would be willing to pay for a permanent place to call ours and keep our boat. Since we’ll need a permanent address for all-things-government when we move, purchasing a slip also provides us with an address and a place to receive mail, which is great. We’ve picked a slip that is currently available that we’re interested in (I-02). Josh feels like it’s a good slip that should accommodate any boat we chose and will provide easy in and out navigation. The slip is 40’ / 14’5” beam and provides 2-30 AMP for power. Slip I-02 is currently listed at $15,000 (reduced from $32,000) and the marina was able to confirm that it is still available. Insurance and Condo Fees for slip I-02 are $1,732 per year, with a $500 per year fuel dock assessment. Since annual lease rates for a 40’ slip at PNYH begin at $3,470, we feel like purchasing a slip is not a bad investment. Included in the slip fees (and at no extra charge to us) are: cable TV, dockside water, winter bubbling, private air conditioned and heated heads and showers, swimming pool, laundry, Yachtsmen’s Club Lounge, picnic areas with grills, perimeter fence with key card entry, reserved paved parking spaces, individually metered electric and free pump-out. Also onsite is a fuel pier with both gas and diesel (which provides a fuel discount program of $.25 off per gallon for owners) and a complete marina repair facility with hauling up to 60 tons. PNYH also informed me that they will have a stand at the US PowerBoat show in Annapolis, MD in a few weeks, which we had already planned to attend. I’ve been making a list of questions, based on experiences I’ve read about, so that I’m at least somewhat prepared. Josh and I have decided to make a trip to PNYH this coming weekend (while we’re in Maryland for TrawlerFest 2016) to check things out and see the lay of the land. If all goes well, we anticipate offering $10,000 for slip I-02 before the end of October. (I wanted to offer $8,000 and see what happened, but, Josh thinks it may be “an insult.” I’m not even sure what that means, but, okay.) If our offer is accepted, we would plan to rent the slip out for the next few years until we decide on and purchase our boat. The rental income would at least help to cover the condo fees between now and when we move aboard. I think I’d also be inclined to take lawn chairs and sit on the dock, at our slip, having a few celebration cocktails, staring into the empty space that will, eventually, hold our new home. I haven’t proposed this idea to Josh yet.
This coming weekend, we’ll be headed to Maryland for TrawlerFest – Bay Bridge 2016. I purchased our tickets online yesterday and was lucky enough to score a coupon code (Thanks BoatUS!) that saved us $10, so tickets for both of us only cost a total of $20 (when they cost $18 per ticket at the door). We’re pretty excited because there will be a few boats there that we specifically want the opportunity to explore: a Nordic Tug Flybridge 42, an American Tug 395 and a Mainship Trawler 34. Being in Maryland this weekend will also give us an opportunity to visit the marina, do some exploring and see slip I-02.
Now here’s the most challenging aspect of this entire plan. I made Josh promise that we would keep this entire thing “our little secret” for now. Though, I’m not entirely sure why. I guess partially out of fear that we would talk this plan up to our friends and family and end up not executing the plan for some reason. Part of it probably has to do with my fear of what people will say and my being unprepared with responses, too. I’ve only recently really committed to this huge life-changing experience and while I know that I’m committed, I fear that other people won’t be as supportive as I’d like them to be. And I’m just not sure if I’m ready to deal with that just yet. I feel like making some more concrete, tangible moves toward executing our five year plan before we share our news with our friends and family may give me the boost in “this is really happening” that I’m looking for. So, for now, it stays our little (not little at all!) secret.
I’ve gone through some things in the past year that have left me pretty unsettled. On October 12, 2015, while we were in our house, in our bed, sleeping, our truck was stolen out of our driveway. Not more than 30’ from our bedroom. I woke up that night to our dog barking and hearing one of the doors in our house close. We determined that not only did the burglars steal our vehicle but they also ransacked our garage and took a number of things. Before this, we didn’t ever lock our vehicles when they were at home. Before this, we never locked any doors in our house. We live in the middle of nowhere and aren’t even able to see our neighbors homes from our property. And that night, I honestly don’t know how far the burglars ventured into our home before I woke up to hear them leaving. I don’t know if they had been in our home before that night. I don’t know if they were in our home when we went to bed that night. Of course, the burglars were never caught and the police appeared to doubt that the event even occurred. Which has been a constant source of stress and anxiety for me since that night. I feel like I’m never quite sure if I feel like it was “just kids” looking for a thrill or if it was an adult criminal that found an easy target and will return when times get tough again. Nearly two weeks later, our truck was found, abandoned in the city of Harrisburg. The day we picked up the truck, we drove it straight to the dealership and traded it in on another truck. Who knows what the criminals might have done while driving around in our truck and I was petrified of someone seeking revenge, based on the visual of the truck, and my husband being the one driving it. So, that was that. I still lay awake at night, struggling to fall asleep some nights. Worried that someone is in our house. Worried that someone will enter our house while we’re sleeping. I still startle awake some nights, swearing I heard something. I’m still petrified when I hear our chicken pecking the front door in the middle of the night, eating bugs that have collected under the porch light, fearful that it’s someone trying to break in. About nine months after our truck was stolen, I was involved in a situation at work that has left me equally distrustful. More about that later. Suffice to say, administrative remedy is currently being sought on my behalf by the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission against my employer. All of this leaves me wondering what I’m doing. Why am I still here going through all of this stress and anxiety and fear when life has the ability to be much more simple? Why am I not making a change? Why am I not identifying the things in my life that produce so much fear and anxiety and stress and distrust and eliminating them, like I do in every other aspect of my life? Because I’m scared of the unknown. Because I’m scared we “won’t make it.” Truth is…we will ALWAYS “make it” as long as we’re together. No matter where we are. No matter how many pennies we have. No matter if we make a combined six-figures each year and live a cushy life, full of stuff or live a simple life, full of experiences and rejecting the overwhelming stress that accompanies the “norm.”