Things we didn’t expect: Reflections from our first year as cruisers
We spent our 1 year “Nomadiversary” in Massachusetts visiting friends and picking up new refrigeration parts for Litha. We didn’t plan to go back to the US but circumstances just aligned for a flight back “home.” We realize now that it was really important for us to go back and remember why we chose this cruising lifestyle in the first place. And, more importantly, to go shopping. Which leads me to things we didn’t expect:
1. Grocery shopping is weird. We expected we wouldn’t find many of our favorite foods from home, but some items we got used to buying in Mexico can no longer be found in Central America. For instance, frozen fruits and vegetables are something I really miss right now. The kids are great at adapting to not being able to find a favorite snack, always finding a new favorite. Did you know there are no lemons sold south of the US? Only limes. Oh and watermelons have seeds, which makes me really concerned as to why they don’t have them anymore when sold in the US. Eggs are not refrigerated which is amazing because we have the smallest refrigerator ever and we eat a ridiculous amount of them. Also, fresh milk is hard to find. I haven’t found half n half for my morning coffee since leaving Mexico. Milk comes in boxes, which is actually really nice when we live on a boat and can store them for later.
2. We didn’t know we needed a lifetime supply of coffee filters and trash compactor bags. Here in El Salvador, we can not find the cone shaped coffee filters that our coffee pot takes. When visiting Massachusetts, we stocked up on a Costco pack of 400 of them. Also, no one has a trash compactor. (Yes, our boat has a trash compactor, which is essential when we aren’t able to dump our trash for long periods between ports.) I couldn’t even find bags for it in stores in the US, but of course, Amazon has them. We miss Amazon so much.
3. I don’t wear makeup anymore. When we used to watch sailing YouTube channels before sailing away ourselves, I saw a lot of women saying things like, “You’ll never need to wear makeup out here. Don’t even bother bringing it on board.” And I thought, “Um, no way. I will bring my makeup. I have to at least wear mascara.” Well, I’m here to tell you that all those women were right. I’m a salty pirate now and all of us cruisers have the same natural look, no one wears makeup. On another note, a bra made of lace is horribly scratchy and uncomfortable in the tropics. Who knew I’d need a plethora of bikini tops! (Me. In bikini tops! Seriously I don’t even care. It is too hot for a one-piece.)
4. Showering rarely happens. Speaking of being a salty pirate, we went from being super clean hygienic people who showered every single morning on land or we couldn’t function throughout our day, to “When was the last time I showered?” Most of the time, a swim in the ocean with a quick freshwater rinse (sometimes not even that) is good enough. Also, fresh laundry happens much less frequently now too. Wearing something one time and washing it is a complete waste of our precious fresh water!
5. The sound and feel of the ocean. I never realized the ocean has such a unique personality day by day. We have sailed in so many different sea conditions that I find the ocean even more fascinating and beautiful than I could have ever imagined. However, I always had this idea that we’d be spending our days playing in the waves and anchoring out to listen to them crashing on the beach at night. We honestly don’t visit many beaches with waves. We anchor in calm protected bays that are great for paddle boarding but we definitely haven’t learned how to surf. Also, we have so many fans going at night since it’s so hot that we wouldn’t be able to hear the crashing waves anyway. It’s great for snorkeling and diving though!
6. Our electronics are prone to death. Salty air ruins everything. Our iPhones and iPads will spontaneously stop charging sometimes, and everything seems glitchy. Also, everything rusts. Zippers don’t zip, and even my can opener ceases up after a while and I have to oil it.
7. We can’t use cloud storage on our phones anymore because we rarely have WIFI. We have to manually download our photos/videos to our computer every week or two. And because we take so many photos, we cleared up space by deleting a lot of apps on our phones that we didn’t think we’d need. However, who knew that other countries used things like Uber (and UberEats!), Waze, and Limebike, and we’d need to re-download them!
8. Our computers and phones think we aren’t American citizens anymore. For example, we can’t download some Netflix shows because they “aren’t available in your country”. And facebook shows me most ads in Spanish (Even when we were back in Boston!) We need to look into getting a VPN so that our devices think we are still in the US.
9. The language barrier is harder than I was expecting. Our Spanish is getting much better, and I’m definitely able to do things like order at restaurants, buy my meat at the deli counter at the grocery store, ask for directions, etc. But it was especially hard when we needed to make doctor appointments for Evie. I don’t know medical terms at all and that was pretty stressful. A sick kiddo in a foreign country was no bueno. When we were in Mexico, there were plenty of people who spoke English in tourist areas (in Guatemala too) but not here in El Salvador. Also, we’re pretty much an anomaly here. There is no real cultural diversity, and very little tourists. We get stared at like, “What are those gringos doing here?” everywhere we go. (It might also be because Justin is 6’3” and that makes him the tallest person in this entire country. It could also be that I have purple hair.) However, when we do meet the random English speaker, they’re so excited to talk to us and help us find what we’re looking for. They’re very proud of their country and they always want to know what we think of it.
10. Everyday tasks take forever. I knew that tasks like grocery shopping would take longer than when we lived on land, but I really didn’t understand just how long. Appreciate your cars people! Sometimes it takes me an entire day to buy groceries. For instance, I walk from the boat to the road, wait 30-60 mins for a bus, take a 1.5 hour bus ride from Costa del Sol to Zacatecoluca. Next, walk to the mercado to buy produce, and then walk to the supermercado to buy the rest of our essentials. Then carry heavy canvas bags back up the road to wait on a hot bus until it’s completely full, and then drive the 1.5 hours back, and carry my bags back to the boat to put everything away. And then, “Oh shoot. I forgot rice vinegar.” Repeat steps next day.
11. I don’t have the free time I thought I would. I guess I thought I’d be bored sometimes and the sailing life would provide the relaxing atmosphere to learn to play the ukulele, or learn new cooking methods, or just sit and read books all day. Accomplishing everyday tasks, homeschooling, building my online business and seeing clients, blogging/vlogging/podcasting for Life off the deep end, doing boat projects, and socializing with our friends… there’s absolutely no time to take up a new hobby.
12. The sailing community is even more amazing than I expected. It is really rare for us to have an entire day without spending time with friends. Tyler had over 20 boat kids at his birthday party back in La Paz. And even though we don’t have any kid boats here in El Salvador anymore (We’ll catch up with some when we head south), we’ve made amazing friends here and the kids learn to have adult conversations (and adults learn to have kid conversations.)
Going back to the US, the kids have a newfound understanding of how fortunate they are to have this unique lifestyle. Cruising has become normal everyday life for them and they tend to forget what we’re giving them. They complain when it’s time to do school work, they complain when we have to walk in the heat and spend all day looking for some item dad needs to fix the boat. But even though Massachusetts was a nice break seeing their friends and ordering their favorite foods at restaurants in English, they were glad to be back home on Litha. We have traveled 2750 nautical miles so far and visited 4 countries (plus our own) We are excited to see where year 2 takes us.
To see and hear more about our travels from the past year, subscribe to our YouTube channel and listen to our podcast!