Last Day at Home

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Maya Inside the Motor Home

That’s it, we are leaving tomorrow!

After hurricane Sandy, it is our turn to hit the East Coast.

First stop, New Jersey. 

Everyone except me is excited and happy, counting the hours. I am worried and nervous. My stomach has become a nesting place of butterflies since three days now. I guess this is normal…

We have moved our stuff in the motor home. It was like moving into a new house. I was surprised how much space there is inside. We got our clothes and shoes, blankets and pillows, pots and pans, books and manuals, toys and tools, painting canvasses and paints, sunscreen and bathing suits.

Still, there are things we couldn’t take; things we will most probably miss a lot. My piano. Would be fun, though, if we could take the piano, drag it behind us on one of those little trailers people use to drag boats and cars with, or on the roof… I don’t know what I’m going to do with it when we sell the house and have to move on a boat… I don’t want to sell it…We’ll see. I guess it is harder than I thought to detach from certain objects.

Another thing is the washing machine. From now on we will have to wash our clothes by hand or at those public washing places that work with coins. But mostly by hand.

Also, we couldn’t take our bikes, because we don’t have adequate racks for them, so we’ll have to install racks at some point in the United States and buy couple of new bikes there. I’m sure they will be so much more practical for short distances once we are parked somewhere and we need to move around.

But most of all, we wish we could take our neighbors with us. How are we going to live in a new “home” with no neighbors? And ours are no ordinary neighbors. Take Brian and Joyce for example, who moved a few years ago from Saskatoon in the house opposite ours. These guys took charge of the motor home as soon as we bought it in September. We parked it in front of the house and went working the very next day, trucking across Canada. We came back three weeks later, and what do you know, Joyce had cleaned the old Pace Arrow inside and out to the point that I hardly recognized it. I mean, she had washed the windows, polished the walls and the floor; the couch had turned from suspiciously brownish to deliciously pink color. She had even put a new pale green curtain in the bathroom and the whole thing smelled like a spring garden, cleaner than our house. And Brian who has his own wood shop in the garage full of all kinds of instruments and can build you a kitchen “from scratch” had done all sorts of repairs: sanded the wooden cabinets, rebuilt the small table opposite the couch, made new shelves in the bedroom, installed little wooden molding under one of the windows discretely camouflaging some old water damage. He also lent tools to Ivo, helped him with numerous other repairs, and finally, when a week ago our car’s water pump suddenly died on us, he lent us his own car and drove us around day after day, to every place we needed to go.

Joyce and Brian

Joyce, Brian, we are forever grateful to you;you have done so much for us.

Our hope is one day to be able to return your kindness.

Thank you!

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The Money Question

Used clothes and book drop in Vancouver, BC

The other question everyone is asking us is, What are you going to do for money? Meaning: It is fun to travel and all, but to live you need money. And, unless you are millionaires (which we are not), you need:

A: To work

B: To buy stuff

C: To pay taxes

D: To pay rent or mortgage

E: To pay more taxes

This is a tough one. But before attempting to answer it, let me explain what our attitude towards Money and the System in general is. Today, it is believed that money is an element like water and air. We need money in order to survive. Our western capitalist economy needs us to shop irresponsibly in order to flourish, to spend more than we can afford for things that we do not need; urges us to live beyond our means. We are greatly appalled with the predatory capitalism we live in; the excessive taxation everyone seems to hate but accept; the cult for wealth defused by TV propaganda which closes our minds; the unhealthy practice of borrowing credit and paying interest; and all those cruel trick-or-treats that make us slaves in a corrupt system ruled by free market economy and centralized banks. We don’t want to participate in this anymore. We have no credit, no mortgage, no TV, no phone. We have given up many comforts, and are about to give up even more in order to find other things we consider more precious: freedom and independence.

Many think we are insane immature romantics. Others don’t see us at all. I remember, some time ago, the most terrible thing happened to us when Ivo and I accidently strolled into a bank. A small quiet building filled with everyone’s money. There, in a room made of glass and small framed diplomas, waited a human financial adviser.  A serious young man, bigger than life. With trembling voice and out of curiosity, I asked him, “Your bank, what does it do?”

“Oh, it can do anything,” said the financial adviser. “Like the Almighty, it gives and it takes and you shall fear and respect it. But tell me, good citizen,” he continued with a voice full of sweet tapioca pudding, “what can I do for you, what can I offer you, how can I serve you?”

We started answering questions. As time went by, he became worried and anxious. “Do you have a mortgage with us?” he asked firs.

“No, we paid off the house, we don’t have a mortgage at all.”

“Do you have any investments, a business?”

I felt something cold and disgusting gnawing on my foot.

“No, sir, we do not.”

“Do you…” here he paused and he waited a bit. “have credit cards?”

We shook heads. He leaned back in his chair made of human hair and bones and with an almost imperceptible voice concluded, “I’m afraid, dear clients, you don’t exist…”

We might not exist for some institutions, but we still eat food and wear clothes. So the question remains, What are we going to do about money?

It was much easier to write about our seamanship expertise than to answer this one. But I will try…

We would like to defy the vicious circle of work-watch TV-buy stuff-pay taxes-need more money-work more-have no time-get tired-get sad-retire by alternative living. Here is how we are planning to do it, first in a motor home and after that in a boat:

We will work whenever and whatever (as little as possible and only if needed, and hey, thus we will not have to pay much taxes!).

Let’s say that we got to Australia and we have spent all our savings. Well, then we will have to find a job in Australia (maybe trucking again for couple of months) and save up some Australian money! Here you might attack us saying that as Canadian citizens we can’t possibly just show up in some country and work there without a proper permission. Well, we will probably have to apply for such permission. There is also the possibility for freelancing as well as short period cash jobs. We’ll find out. Any ideas or information are welcome.

Next, we will only buy the stuff that we absolutely need.

Actually, we have always done so. We are already experienced in the art of defying consumerism by limiting our shopping urges, by budget tracking, and by adopting some money-saving techniques, without living like “hobos”, as some might assume.

For example, we have been scavenging secondhand clothes in church basements for 12 years now. Thus, we are not only saving on money, but also recycling cloths that would otherwise end up in dumpsters and landfills. Besides, It is fun to find some really expensive good quality item and pay for it 0.50 $. It is also fun finding someone else’s old undesired dress, or t-shirt, or pants and give them another chance.

Same goes for other things too: books, furniture, household, anything. We pay full price for new things only if there is no acceptable alternative. Like my photographic equipment for example. Digital cameras and lenses could be very expensive but I wouldn’t risk buying them used, as their quality deteriorates with time and this is something I can’t compromise with.

Finally, we also save on food by shopping responsibly and preparing our own meals. I love cooking! And by this I don’t mean opening cans or reheating frozen meals. Growing up in communist Bulgaria, I didn’t know what the expression “to cook from scratch” meant until recently. For me there has never been any other option; in Bulgaria to cook always implies “from scratch”. Moreover, we take our health seriously, so we try to eat healthy. Thus, we never step in fast food joints and we rarely go out to eat in restaurants, except when we visit a new place. Experiencing local food is a major aspect of travelling and we are determined to enjoy it at any cost! Luckily, in most places we are planning to visit, the food is a lot cheaper than in Canada, so I don’t think trying local delicacies should be a problem. And, of course, once we move in the boat, we will have the ocean with all its fishes beneath our feet. And we love fish!

Our biggest expense will be the boat. We will try to find a cheaper older one. Selling our house in Canada should be enough to cover the price of the boat and get it ready for cruising: fix whatever needs to be fixed and upgrade it. A couple of things we will have to have are reverse osmosis (a machine which transforms sea water into fresh water), as well as enough solar panels to produce all the electricity we will need. We decided against a small wind turbine, because it is noisy. Ivo is hoping to install an electrical engine powered by solar panels, if this is at all possible, so that we will be completely off grid. But before starting to think about solar panels and reverse osmosis, we need to find the right boat…

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Our First Sailing Experience: Memories

Ivo and Mitko aboard Outsider, June 2006

Every journey begins with an idea. The idea for this one was born a few years ago in the middle of a bitter Canadian winter at a dinner table. It sounded something like this: Get a sail boat and travel all over the world. And it wasn’t even our idea, a friend called Mitko (who could drink alone a bottle of any hard alcohol known to mankind and ask for another) one day just dumped it on us  with a conspiratorial smile on his face. But ideas and dreams, like germs in the right environment, can be dangerously contagious. They can awaken blinded minds and activate conciousness.  Immediately, the idea begun growing and taking shape until it became our incurable goal: To get a sail boat and travel all over the world.

You might ask in alarm, as so many before you have already done: But do you know how to sail? What are you going to do about money? And the kids, you can’t possibly stop them from school? What about pirates and storms, seasickness and sharks,  giant squids and  wrong waves, whirlpools and sea monsters? And although the short answer to most of these questions is No or I don’t know, but we are planning to learn or find out, let me try to defend myself.

About our sailing experience.

In June of 2006, the kids, Ivo and I spent two unforgettable days and nights aboard this same friend newly acquired sail boat in Rhode Island. Our first and only sailing experience, if we exclude that time when we went canoeing on a river and took an umbrella with us. (If this is enough information for you to form an idea of how good sailors we are, then don’t read the rest of this post)

The boat ironically called Outsider, was a beaten old fibreglass 40-footer unquestionably unfit for living aboard or cruising (not even for short periods; not even for two days), used only on weekends for racing and who knows what other suspicious activities. It was a fast boat with the tallest beam in the whole region, attached to a buoy away from the docks in order to avoid paying the marina’s fees.

Mitko, proud owner of Outsider, June 2006

Maya, rowing the dinghy early in the morning, June 2006

After an hour of rowing in a dinghy with a broken engine, we found ourselves in a space with no inside walls and floor, without a stick of furniture, except for the two narrow rotten beds on both sides. The kitchen, or galey, was a small portable gas stove which we brought with us and used to make instant noodles and coffee. Oh, and in the middle of the saloon (I don’t know how to call it, so I call it a saloon, but this word sounds far too spacey and clean for the crawlspace bellow deck I am referring to) there was a small nasty toilet seat. No walls to separate it, no door, just a seat. I don’t want to describe the smell of this space, as I don’t want to remember it. I don’t want you, my innocent reader, to have to imagine it. And if today is your birthday, I wish you never ever to have to inhale such a thick horrible stink, a mixture of mildew and human shit.

Maya below deck, June 2006

So, if one of us wanted to use the toilet, or the head, as our friend proudly called it (a valuable item in his view), everyone else had to go up and out on the deck, so the whole saloon turned basically into a toilet. And anyways, we didn’t mind being out on the deck. Seen from the vantage point of the stinking down-below, the deck and the cockpit seamed much more appealing and breathable. Thus, the first day, sunny and fairly calm, we occupied ourselves with all kinds of outside activities: playing with ropes, hinges, and sails. We even sailed for a while and it was wonderful.

Maya and Viktor practising knots, June 2006

Maya and Viktor being creative with the ropes, June 2006

By the second day, as you might have guessed, after a sleepless night in the stale air and wet beds, things started to deteriorate dramatically and our sailing ordeal began. The morning skies were suspiciously calm and dark clouds have already gathered. A storm was brewing on the horizon, but Mitko and Ivo were determined to sail again. At this time of the year, storms come up quickly and experienced sailors make sure to check the weather forecast at the marina before setting sail. We weren’t experienced sailors. So we took off gracefully for open sea and soon enough we regretted it.

We were already far away from the harbour when the wind picked up and the waves begun to gather, growing big and nervous. Me and the kids left the two skippers to deal with the boat and took cover bellow deck. There everything: bags, food, coolers, the little gas stove and the pot we used to make coffee in, started to fly around us like in a washing machine. But what really frightened us was the sound. Not the sharp shrill of the wind trying to tear off the sails, nor the violent thud of the waves smashing the hull, no. The sound that I will never forget was the paranoid hysteria of the two men running above us in a frenzy, screaming delirious commands and insults at each other, at the boat, at the sea, and basically at everything they could think of. It was as if they were deliberately destroying the boat and killing each other . Years later, when Maya who was 3 years old back then, remembered: It somehow felt like the first day of my life.

We made it back miraculously in one piece, after we almost lost the main sail, almost broke the mast, and Mitko almost vanished overboard trying to save the sail. Having finally arrived at the docks, we felt incredibly proud. Wrapped in our blankets, we could now do anything.

Having written this account of our first and only sailing experience, I realize it doesn’t sound much fun, and I wonder why we all loved it so much. We couldn’t wait to get back at sea and do it again. But our friend abandoned his boat because he had some personal problems, and we never got another chance. Until now.

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