Wednesday, April 18, 2012


Elias is loving school.

This is him the Monday after his Easter holiday was over.  Freshly showered, in uniform, and wondering when he can go to school already.

One of the attractions of a season in Hobart was that Elias was so obviously ready for a year in school, ready for a peer group, ready for teachers who aren't named "mom" and "dad".

He was asking me the other day when we would leave for New Zealand.  Sometime after Christmas, I said.  After school is over for the year.

Oh, he said.  And when we get to New Zealand, will I go to school there?

Well, I don't think so, honey.  We're not going to be there long enough.

Disappointed look.  Moment of thought.

Will Stella and Lucia be in New Zealand?

Well, no, honey, they'll be here.  But we'll meet some other good friends in New Zealand, just like Stella and Lucia here.

Not quite a thoughtful look - more of a blankness in his eyes, as he thought, but couldn't quite process.

Who do we know in New Zealand?

Well, nobody, honey.  But you'll see - we'll get there and we'll meet some new friends.


Sigh.  I can already see him crying as we sail away from this place.

I can't for a moment shake the empiricism of my science background, so I hesitate to draw conclusions about how living on a boat for most of his life has shaped Elias so far - it's an uncontrolled, very poorly replicated experiment that we're running here, after all.  But if I had to guess, I would say that some of the magic that is Elias comes from the way he has grown up with both of his parents always around, the three (and now four) of us sharing a family life that is a lot more intimate, and fully immersed, than the American-suburban model of family life that Alisa and I both come from.  When we're sailing, we're a family, full-stop, sharing everything together, and I think the benefits for our boys are immense.

But because this seeing-the-world-from-the-decks-of-our-own-boat business is such an actively chosen sort of life, any perceived downsides for the kids are bound to weigh on our parental consciences.  Downsides like, taking the little fella away from the formal schooling, and peer group, that he obviously loves.

I am forever remembering that I have no absolute answers for these sorts of big-picture questions.  But I think the answer likely lies in that great oxymoron about how to prosecute a life - that true freedom comes only when you have no choice in what you do.  That is, if you are so passionate about some pursuit or another that you can only dedicate yourself to it, then lots of the niggling little questions that come from endless choice suddenly become moot.

And so, I hope, it is with us.  Alisa and I have decided that, given what we know about the world, and how short a time any of us get to be here, that ranging wide and drinking deep are what we want to do.  If that is a settled decision, then we can trust in the knowledge that the young adults we have met who grew up the same way that we're raising Elias and Eric all seem to be...wonderful.  And in spite of the disappointments that Elias will doubtless feel at one time or another about leaving good friends behind, this life we're sharing together will turn out to be the best thing for him, too.

At least that's my hope.

[PS - Another delight of Elias' time in school is how he is becoming so acculturated to all things Australian. Here's Alisa making his standard lunch the other day - a butter and vegemite sandwich.  She still can't belive she's sending her first-born out into the world every day with the dubious sustenance of vegemite in his lunch box.]


  1. I lived a peripatetic childhood and, although I too found moving on difficult, I treasure my amazing experiences. I lived in and learned from cultures far from my parents' Midwest childhoods. I gained a great appreciation for languages, cuisines, arts and people from many countries. I wouldn't trade my childhood for any suburban (or urban) intransience. I believe Elias and Eric are very lucky.

    1. Hey Jac - thanks for that. Sometimes the benefits for the kids seem abstract, while the drawbacks can seem more concrete. So it's good to hear a positive take from someone who's been on the other end of the traveling family equation...

    2. Just to add in my 2 cents...

      I am also a grown up "boat kid", and now I like to tell people that I'm a second-generation-cruiser too :)

      Looking back on the 4 years we spent circumnavigating (I was 11 when we left), leaving new friends absolutely stands out as one of the hardest parts... but I'm also happy to say that I have kept in contact with probably 95% of those friends, have visited them in their home countries years later, and have retained the ability to make friends quickly!

      Dad used to say to us, "I know it's hard to leave, but remember... you had to leave Katie to meet Lindsay, you had to leave Lindsay to meet Alizee, you had to leave Alizee to meet Jens, you had to leave Jens to meet Allison..."

      And in the end you get to keep them all :)

      PS - Your blog is an inspiration. It is my favourite sailing/cruising blog out there!! Thanks for continuously finding deep wonderful stories to share!

  2. Hi Leah - Thanks for that, it's really helpful to hear from people who grew up this way and are grateful for it. And I'm REALLY glad to hear that you're enjoying the blog - it's great to get feedback like that...tell your friends!

  3. G'day Elias - nobody has yet commented on your vegemite sandwiches and your cricket! Wonderful to hear that you enjoy both. Make sure you leave Oz with a plentiful supply of Vegemite since you can't afford to run out. Can't wait to play some cricket with you and Eric, and to share a Vegemite sandwich later in the year. Granddad

  4. yeah, he's getting pretty Australian - if you call his hat a 'cowboy hat' he get's all kinds of upset. It's a 'kangaroo hat' (because it's made from kangaroo hide, of course). Don't think the Australian accent is making any inroads, though.