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How to Move onto a Boat; part 3- Lose the Attitude

In previous posts we discussed how to make the transition from a land based home to a floating home.  The first and obvious step is to reduce your belongings to dramatically downsize from 1500 feet or more of living space down to a boat sized 3-500 square feet.  Losing the stuff is critical from a practical standpoint but also from a philosophical perspective.  Coming to an almost Zen like understanding that your possessions hold you back like a fouled anchor can free you to enjoy the mobile nature of living on a boat without the necessity of a flotilla to carry all your worldly possessions.

The next important step to moving onto a boat is reducing your overhead.  It’s easy to slowly and subconsciously fill your time with gadgets, monthly subscriptions, 5 year leases, 30 year mortgages, and a lifetime of expenses that keep you chugging away in the rat race for toys that are long gone.  By systematically eliminating unnecessary overhead and resisting the urge to add new overhead you can simplify your life and start spending your time just living instead of working for a living.  For every dollar you spend it costs you in precious time to conversely earn the money to pay for that momentary pleasure.  For every dollar you save it entitles you to spend your time however you wish.

Ultimately your either spending or saving the time of your life.

The third important adjustment necessary to successfully transition from a world on land to a life on a boat is changing your perspective and attitudes towards life and work.  Certainly the desire to move onto a boat in the first place signals a need for change.  You can start on land adjusting your perspective to better prepare you for the laid back attitudes and lifestyle you’ll find many enjoying by living on a boat.  It’s not all cheeseburgers in paradise however, a big turning point for many is coming to a real understanding that this one life you have is your life and the loyalty you owe is to yourself and your family.

Contrary to popular belief, your loyalty, efforts, and the sweat of your labor are not for the benefit of some social doctrine, government ideology, or corporation mission statement.  This simple change in attitude may seem simple enough to understand but we see the masses working nights and weekends not for personal satisfaction or gain but for the benefit of a nameless, faceless objective.  This subconscious acceptance is instilled by a social ‘guilt’ that harkens back to our youth and bringing an apple to teacher in an effort to be teacher’s pet.  Yet, people do this increasingly in our country under the guise of ‘getting ahead’ and being recognized as competent, hard working, and reliable.  Which, in reality, has very little to do with the true definition of any if those ideals.

This ‘new’ social contract mirrors the now famous philosophy of ‘J Wellington Wimpy’ from the popular Popeye cartoon series first invoked in 1934,

I’d gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today

This ‘promise’ has been adopted by large organizations nationwide in exchange for an almost mythical ‘someday, one day’ of fame and fortune which has been diluted to mean a secure middle management job title, two weeks paid vacation, an office with a window, a parking spot close to the door, and a retirement account leading to a fulfilling new ‘afterlife’ of peace and happiness with sandy beaches and lush green golf courses sprinkled into this fantasy like confectionary sugar on top of a hot donut.  This promise is exchanged for the workers daily toil despite the evident reality indicated by the recent (and ongoing) economic turmoil, corporate corruption, and endless broken promises by the nameless, faceless organizations.

I’m not suggesting you don’t work for said organizations.  I’m not even suggesting that said organizations are intentionally deceiving you.  I am, however, suggesting they are making promises that they cannot hope to keep.  The breadth and width of the fantasy is beyond their capability to provide.  Market forces, global economies, and political ideologies make it impossible for organizations to fulfill on promises made 50 years prior to a work force that is now edging into their golden years.  A clear example is the pension funds of the former automotive giants in the US.  The pensioners from GM, Ford, and Chrysler are facing the reality that while they have lived up to their end of the agreement and worked loyally day in and day out for 25 years plus, their employers can no longer fulfill on the promise of a safe and secure retirement as a reward for their labor.  A lifetime of service for a promise of security is taken away right as age and economy make it impossible for this population of  ‘senior citizens’ to recover or even maintain their lifestyle from this financial blow.

Ultimately, the lesson is to change your attitude.  You can shake your fist in the air and cry, “No fair!” for all the good it will do you.  Or, You can stick you’re head in the sand and ignore the reality.  BUT, You are the president of ‘You’ Inc and you are responsible for the No. 1employee and his or her family of ‘You” Inc (that being YOU, of course).  While you may have a contract to provide labor for other organizations, you ultimately are responsible for your time and your future.  DO NOT be disillusioned, economies change, organizations ‘re-organize’, priorities shift.  If you provide your loyalty to your employer above your self and your family, who will console you when you are laid off as your position one day becomes redundant?

You’re human.  An average male has a lifespan of 77 years.  Of which, hopefully 65 (or more) of those years will be lived in health with strength and vitality.  A government, a corporation can survive forever.  The goals and objectives of the organization can outpace your lifetime or change a dozen times or more during the same period.  Who truly values your life and what do you hope to accomplish during your stay above ground?

While being ‘on the career fast track’ seems to have become as important to the human condition as eating was to our caveman ancestors, a change of attitude and reprioritizing your goals can provide you an excellent opportunity to take off the blinders of conventional occupation and add some color back to the dreary asphalt jungle many embrace 50 weeks a year.  If you think you want to move onto a boat, chances are you want a taste of freedom.  Just knowing you can throw off the bow line and head to a new exotic location anywhere you want is more powerful than a dozen expensive cars or lavish homes.

You and your family are priority NUMBER ONE.  Rich or poor, your freedom is more valuable than a lifetime invested on the clock.  You work for You.  You work for your goals not the organizations.  That thing you do all day and the tasks you fulfill are part of your employment contract, but they are not who you are as a human being.  You are not defined by the job you perform for money.  Your loyalty should be reserved for you and your family, not an artificial objective instilled by a nameless faceless entity.  If you can accept the idea you are not defined by your occupation the changing of occupations or the thought of quitting a job becomes significantly easier to imagine without a perverse guilt or fear of loss creeping in to strangle your psyche.

Living on a boat embodies freedom.  To embrace this freedom and truly be able to capitalize on the experience of moving onto a boat, a change in attitude can be the difference between another home and a new life.  As a parting thought, consider this quote by Aeschylus, a Greek dramatist and playwright who pondered similar thoughts over 2500 years ago,

Destiny waits alike for the free man as well as for him enslaved by another’s might.

Clocks ticking.  Who do you work for?  You can get rid of all your stuff, cutup all your credit cards and cancel all your magazine subscriptions.  Until you start making your life a priority, living on a boat is just another home not truly a life.

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14 comments to How to Move onto a Boat; part 3- Lose the Attitude

  • Davina and Matt

    Great thoughts! Thanks for this post..

  • Nicely written – summed up things I hadn’t even specifically thought, just instinctively knew. Wanted to thank you for the comment on the mahogany on the lifeonkj blog. And then I discovered your site – WOW! Will be adding to my blogroll so that I don’t forget to indulge and read sometimes. Warm regards, Jamie

  • big cheese

    Thanks for the comments.

    As you know, living on a boat while having similar rituals as living on land entails a very different mindset. It’s a life and pace that I find very fulfilling and question why we waited so long to try it for ourselves.

    warm regards,


  • Tom H

    Thanks for a great blog! I really love your thoughts and your presentation. Keep up the good work.

    Just one tiny thing. Our english language is eroding. The internet is accelerating the process. Please help me stamp out bad spelling and bad grammar on the internet.

    “Ultimately _your_ either spending or saving the time of your life.”

    Good luck with the Lil’ Orbits Doughnut Maker.

    All the best.

    Tom H.

  • big cheese

    Thanks Tom-

    I know, I know… I miss some spelling and grammar. Sometimes I run out of time for any draft revisions and there’s no one to edit. Thanks for the comments and I appreciate pointing out the grammatical error.


  • Tom H

    Hey Big Cheese,
    I’m glad you took the suggestion in the spirit in which it was intended.

    Thanks for sharing. Good luck with everything.

    Tom H

  • Tom P

    Well written. I yearn for the freedom you speak of and will be there with you one day soon I imagine.

  • big cheese


    Certainly there are compromises. One important note; If you CAN simplify your life and get unplugged you can always plug back in ‘if and when’ it suits you. On the other hand, if you get entrenched to the point where you’re trapped by the ‘golden handcuffs’ or the bill collector it is INCREDIBLY difficult to find your way out.

    Good luck, it’s worth the effort!


  • Tamera

    Wow! Thanks so much for this amazing blog! My husband and I have a 5 year plan to liveaboard (after 5 years when our daughter has gone off to college & hubby retires) in the Florida Keys, and your insight and perspective is so helpful to us. We have always known this would be our plan, and are starting to downsize out possesions, as you metioned in Part 1. I too am knee deep in the world of real estate (for 14 years now) and cannot wait to say goodbye to my land-based home. Thanks for helping us keep the dream alive, and for validating the coolness of it for us! :) All the best to you and your family. Tamera

  • big cheese

    Cruising, living on a boat, stepping outside of the conventional cycle- whatever you want to call it, can truly be a profound life altering experience. A couple who lives on their catamaran in Miami told us;

    “Dropping out is easy, dropping back in is really the hard part”

    I really believe that. Once you get a taste of freedom it is tough to forget.

    Thanks for reading,



    i am in the process of doing this.i have to make up for lost time.please keep in touch

  • big cheese

    A little encouragement for you Jim-
    I’m not sure there is such a thing as lost time. That time and experience brought you here, now. I’m not sure there is any other path that you could have taken. Call it fate or destiny- your future is as bright and glorious as you can imagine.

    The little mishaps in life called breakdowns, setbacks, crises, and possibly even tragedy have the possibility of opportunity and re-creation if you’re open to that sort of thing. Personally, I’d rather be optimistic than be down in the dumps all the time. I’d rather believe that ‘breakdown’ is really an opportunity to hit the reset button with all the accumulated knowledge I’ve acquired and do something completely different.

    That’s exciting. As Monty Python says, “Now for something completely different”.

    Best of Luck-

  • Chris Smith

    I just stumbled on your blog while googling composting heads.

    This is a great read. I couldn’t agree with you more about why I live on my boat, where I live doing what I do. It was the very same realization that had me pack-up the kids, sell the house and its contents, and move 1500 miles. So far I haven’t regretted it for a second.



  • big cheese

    Thanks Chris-

    It’s a constant push and pull. I’m working now making some cash doing the fair and festival gig and I have to focus on the real objective of why we moved in this direction in the first place. In a matter of days, we’ll head back to Mexico to the boat and I hope the following three weeks will reinvigorate us before we go back to work.

    Thanks for reading.