This year we are celebrating the holiday season in new and different ways; ways that do not include huge amounts of stressful preparation culminating in an avalanche of activity of seismic proportions. This lack of hurriedness gives me time to reflect and be grateful on this day of Thanksgiving.

Looking forward to more of this.

This is a time of deep, lasting change for us as a couple, as individuals, as a family. Anyone who is considering taking up cruising should read that sentence again and let the meaning sink in.  It’s not something to skim over.  The depth of the change is something to realize and hold; to observe and accept with as much grace as possible. We are saying ‘goodbye’ to what we know in almost every way on almost every level. While that is exciting, it also fills me with awe for the power of the hold our comfort zone has over us.

It’s very easy for people to say, ‘ Oh how exciting for you! Just do it! Go Now! Just drop everything and go! Just sell the house! Just trust that it will work out! Just…just…just.’.  But when you have worked a lifetime creating a life you already feel good about, disentangling oneself from that life is going to take time and perseverance. I get frustrated when other people minimize the physical and emotional toll this life change takes. Then I get frustrated with myself for making this harder than it has to be; at least I think I do that sometimes. This is not about complaining, or wishing we’d made another choice or not believing it’s worth it. It’s just about being real about it and not sugar coating it and acknowledging how hard it is. Want to go cruising? Have a traditional home and family life you’ve invested in all your adult life?  Don’t have 30 more good years ahead of you where you have time to regroup if you make a mistake? Get ready to ride those waves of uncertainty and fear for a long time.

I’m writing this so that in the future, when another middle aged couple meets us and says, ‘We want to go cruising, too.’, I will treat this wish of theirs with the respect it deserves and not short change their experience by denying the depth of it. I don’t ever want to say to someone, ‘Just drop everything (you’ve ever worked for) and go.’ Because on some level that denies how rich and wonderful the life they’ve already been leading has been; as though they have made some kind of mistake by living it that way. If your life sucks, it’s going to be real easy to say goodbye to it. But if your life is good, don’t expect it to be that easy until you get to the other side of the divide.

No life is perfect, but we’ve had it pretty good. For me, the gratitude I feel is in direct opposition to the emotional roller coaster. I’m ready to get off this thing.  I’ve never been crazy about roller coasters. They feel dangerous to me. Still,  as we near the end of our 5 year cunning plan, it sometimes amazes me how far we’ve come and all the things we’ve accomplished. I still get astounded by the prospect of actually pulling this off. Also terrified. Astounded. Excited. Terrified. Happy. Grieved. Exhausted. Ecstatic. Over and over and over.  Can I just stop already? It’s bloody exhausting having all the feels all the time.

My dad as a child, with his toy sailboat.

My dad as a child in east Texas, with his toy sailboat. He was fascinated by sailing.

As we gear up to move aboard the week before Christmas, I am soaking in the goodness that is being home with our kids for one last holiday season before the big transition to the cruising life. We have both of our offspring home with their significant others. The house is crowded, but happy. The sounds of laughter, the jokes, the cuddles on the sofa, the walks with the dog, snuggles with the demanding cat, the cooking of food, the view from the windows as late season light filters through leafless branches, the sheer beingness of togetherness… all these things and more I want recorded permanently on my soul.

That time we rented a pony to welcome Claire home from her travels.

I am so grateful we have the freedom to make this change, that we are some of the lucky few in this world who have the resources, both external and internal, to go and explore. I am grateful for my hard-working visionary husband, without whom this would absolutely not be happening. (Can I put that in all caps?) He’s a brave renaissance man. Without his sticking it out at his job for over 20 years, we would not have the money to go cruising until social security kicked in. We don’t want to wait that long. Life’s already a gamble.

To be free of jobs to go sailing at this point in our lives does not come without risk. I am grateful that we’ve both had careers that, for the most part, we’ve enjoyed. I’m trying to be brave in the face of a considerable decrease in income for some years, and trusting it will be enough. I recently let go of my professional website, which went without much fanfare but which marked a considerable turning point for me. We’re both ‘short timers’ now. It feels weird. You don’t want to be in my head on that one. I’m just sticking with the gratitude on this and ignoring the chorus in the background.


A favorite photo of Galapagos in a fjord. We learned so much on that trip.

I am grateful for my family, who is supportive and understanding of the fact that we need to do this. I am grateful for my mom, who wants us to go because she didn’t get to and she understands what drives this dream. I am grateful for my sister who also understands and has plans of her own to live on a boat some day. I am grateful for our children, already world explorers themselves, who have led the way for us and keep us assured they will be alright. I am grateful for their partners, Dan and Jill, who give them love and companionship in what is sometimes a hard world.

I am also grateful to the Universe for providing us with the lovely, sturdy, safe S/V Galapagos. She’s an awesome boat and she already knows her way around an ocean or two. Truly, when we were looking at boats, a boat like Galapagos was beyond my wildest dreams. Some days I still cannot believe it.

I am also grateful for Foss Harbor Marina, a place we will be calling ‘home’ shortly. I am grateful for the friends we already have there and look forward to being their neighbors. I appreciate so much that the marina folks have found a spot for us just at the right time. Mike’s commute will be so much easier from Tacoma, and I won’t have a commute at all since I work from the boat.


Our plan is to begin our move aboard on December 21, the darkest night of the year; the winter solstice. It’s a significant day as each day after that sees more light of the sun. I always think of this as the start of the new year, a chance for a new beginning, regardless what the calendar says. It’s fitting that we make this move on such a night, when the shadows are strong and dark and filled with possibilities.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you, wherever you are, however you celebrate. I really appreciate you, the people who willingly take time to read our blog and say hello.



17 thoughts on “Gratitude

  1. Your point about how much harder it is as we grow older to regroup after making a mistake is one we (unfortunately) fully understand. And I love the fact that you’re moving aboard on the 21st of December. It’s one of my favourite days of the year and you put the reason why into words perfectly. Happy Thanksgiving!

    • Same to you and David! I love December 21. Every year I do my best to fully absorb the experience of the darkness because I know the next day will be that much longer. Yippee! Then it’s spring, then it’s summer!!!

  2. Wow! This has certainly been a year of growth and change for you and your family! Change is always hard and yours has occurred over such a long period of time. My hope is that your grieving turns to joy when you finally get your wings and take off to see the world. This is an opportunity that few people have and besides preparation, it takes courage as well and you and your hubby have that! I’m proud you have all come so far! You are an inspiration, we all can learn considerable from you! Life is so short, I’m so glad you are seizing it by the horns and following your dream, Melissa. Your sense of adventure and your determination are admirable! I’m grateful to be able to share in your journey through your delightful notations! Enjoy your thanksgiving and keep moving forward, no matter what obstacles come your way. Thanks for sharing your growth with all of us! Mary

    • Hello dear friend, and thanks for keeping up with the blog! I certainly do feel the joy in what we are accomplishing here, and there are times when I’m not sure if we are brave or stupid or a little of both. But in the end, we get one life. There is a lot I want to see and do before my body wears out and my sense of adventure wears thin. So onward we go!! I hope you are having a wonderful holiday with your own family!

  3. This is one seriously great post! Time for you to start writing a book 🙂

    This is the line that really got me – “Don’t have 30 more good years ahead of you where you have time to regroup if you make a mistake?” Now that I’m 50, I’m really conscious of the fact that life is short and that how I spend these remaining years is important.

    • Truly that is the biggest thing, isn’t it? I’ve got a few years on you. The pressure is on to use my time wisely. There is no possible way a young couple in their ’30s or ’20’s, or even their ’40s can understand how that feels. It’s comparatively easy to quit your job when you are young and can come back and work more. It’s much more of a gamble when you get older. The leap of faith is considerable , whatever the age. I don’t mean to minimize the work that younger people have to do in order to save up money to go cruising. Theirs is a different path. But knowing that your best years are behind you is both a blessing and a curse.

  4. Ahhh I love this. Not just because of the wise words – reminding us how important tradition is – it really must be or why would we continue these things year after year -for our children? Yes but for ourselves as well. Like you said. Comfort. But also it reminds me of how you kept the tradition for ME – allowing me the comfort of your couch on Christmas morning to withness two small blubs and their Christmas magic…how you managed to pull off a spectacular birthday for mom (complete with the Village People’s limo driver – who knew?). You have been the keeper of tradition. Is this the oldest childs thing? I don’t know. But I do know that the traditions will continue. They will evolve, but they do continue. And they will be grand. The space will be different, some of the people will be too. HOW. EXCITING! And the children, when circumstances might not allow them to be on Galapagos, will always have a home base here. Because I have your couch.

    • Thanks, Amy! Yes, well I will pass the torch to you, as well as the couch. The traditions we have cannot be minimized. They give us a thread from the past to the present, regardless of our location. It’s a good thread. I have German rolls for tomorrow’s soup!

    • Thank you, Claudia. I think you asked a long time ago about our dog, Skippy, and what would happen with him? I think that was you…but he will continue to live in his house and have his yard. Our son and his girlfriend will lie in the house with some friends and keep him safe, loved, and happy until he is gone. We’re glad of this and will miss him deeply.

  5. Wonderful post and congratulations for facing the demons and making the choice, not only for you but also for those of us who waited too long . . .

    • Aw, Thom, I’m sorry to hear that. I hope you will keep reading as we go. I hope you also know that we realize how very hard it is to make this choice, and that it always means you have to leave other choices on the table. Some of those are pretty hard to walk away from.

  6. What a beautiful post (my husband just forwarded to me).
    We are planning, planning, planning because we are old, old, old in years, BUT we are dedicated to selling our (too big anyway) house and having this liveaboard sailing adventure in the last part of our lives – he is 67 and I am 70.
    It’s terrific to read your thoughts and feelings about your adventure. Thanks.

    PS We’ve made our mistake, regrouped, and feel “re-kindled” …and grateful.

    • How wonderful! You give me hope and inspire me. I hope you have a grand adventure! Thanks for reading. If you do any kind of blog please do post the address here. I’d love to follow along.

  7. Pingback: Best of 2016 | Little Cunning Plan

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