How We Do This: The Moxie "Secrets" of How We Afford to Live on a Boat and Travel Full-Time, Blog Post by Trav

Just a little light reading on navigation while simultaneously brushing up on our German.  You know, just an average Tuesday night. ...

Just a little light reading on navigation while simultaneously brushing up on our German.  You know, just an average Tuesday night.

Back in Grenada after 3 months in Maine.  We saw 62 degrees on the thermometer and we had to skedaddle out of that place.

200 years ago, St. George, Grenada needed a tunnel to secure their "thoroughly modern island" status. Today, if you dare, you can walk through this tunnel alongside the cars that like to maintain full speed.  It is advised to hug the wall if you value all of your appendages.

Waterfall of chocolate milk.  If that's fresh chocolate milk (no salt), we will happily take a dip.

Waiting for a $1 bus that never came.
Prickly Bay Lemonade stand crew.  Guess what parent got to corral this posse.

When a dinghy approached the dock, the lemonade sellers descended on it like a pack of wild dogs, making their fresh-squeezed pitch.

When water costs 14 cents a gallon and you're on a budget, you take advantage of the rain. "Kids, grab the shampoo and head up top....shower time!"

Serendipity continually rocks our world.  This boat, "Poco" was anchored right beside us in Prickly Bay.  We met it's owners and discovered that they met and lived in Chamonix (yeah, THAT Chamonix, the one we are spending the winter in) before going sailing.  Their little boat is home to their beautiful 3 year old daughter, their happy 4 week  old baby boy, a dog and 3 kittens (they wanted only one).  And by the way, they had their baby on their boat while at anchor in Carriocou.  Pretty badass, you must admit. 

Cero Mackerel! This kid loves to catch himself  a fish.  Shortly after this photo was taken, a rude barracuda with large teeth stole his beloved pink and white lure and the boy was almost brought to tears.

Local juices!  Soursop, Golden Apple, Tamarind, Passionfruit, Guava...these things all grow here.  A major perk of  Caribbean island life.

Write on the wall at a restaurant?  We are in.

When Andrew of SV Waveriders pedaled by Moxie on his water bike, he offered the kids a spin.  The sailing community os so kind.

Sunset off Grand Anse, St. George, Grenada.

Hud and Viv splash around at Calabash Beach.

Our mermaid.

If the surf is up, this crew is hitting it.  We load the boards into the dinghy and off we go.

Big museums.  Little museums.  Tiny museums.  Funky museums.  Decrepit museums.  Weird museums.  ALL museums.  That's how we roll.

The Grenada House of Chocolate looks, smells, and tastes incredible.  Lots of top-shelf chocolate is made in  Grenada and we have been doing our enthusiastic part to support the industry.

Frozen mocha, chocolate banana shake, and a nutmeg & chocolate truffle.  This was round one of our multiple chocolate rounds that day.

A police officer directs traffic on a narrow corner at the top of an impossibly steep hill in St. George.

         Trav is the best Dad ever.  He will surf with Viv for hours on end, pushing her onto the big          waves (she can catch the little ones herself now) and encouraging her.

Viv swings around on Hog Island with her pal Claire from SV Clarity.

Here's Hud, paddling a SUP in the pouring rain to visit some friends on another boat.  The independence and freedom that the sailing life affords our kids are some of he most amazing, wonderful aspects of this journey.  

Viv enjoys her favorite spot on Moxie.

Docking the boat, we all have jobs.  Here you see Viv ready with a fender to stick between the boat and the dock while Hud ties off the bow line on a cleat (just prior to this, Hud was at the helm, and expertly steered our 30,000 lb boat to the dock).  It's amazing how much our kids have grown and matured in the last 2 + years, taking on big responsibilities like these.

This tree spilled some beauty.

The most common comment that we get from people on land when they discover that we have been traveling and not working for the last two years is, “Must be nice!” followed by, “How do you pay for your traveling/ lifestyle?” or the less direct version, “So what did you do for work prior to sailing?”.  My friend Jimmy recently asked us “How do you do it? Are you selling drugs?” And his question was 50% joking and 50% legit. So sit up, pay attention and focus because here I go with the secrets of our traveling lifestyle.

I am a ridiculously financially savvy individual who not only is strong and good looking, but if you hand me a quarter when I wake up I can turn it to a hundred dollars by the time I go to bed.  I can make a castle out of a grain of sand. I rock a wallet like Vanilla Ice rocks a mike. Things are just that easy for me. Send me some of your money now and I can get you on a boat by the end of the month.  What are you waiting for? Go get an envelope! Ok...I wish this was all true, but it’s not. My ego would like to think that I have really good money skills but realistically I think my financial skills are more in the realm of average.   Many people can live the way we do, if they so desire it.

And before I go any further please consider this: We do not have all the answers, this is what works for us. And maybe someday we'll look back with the benefit of hindsight and find that we made a major financial and/or life planning mistake by going sailing (but I doubt it).  Disclaimer out of the way, here we go.

The key to how we do this is less about money and more about an outlook on life.   We have always questioned the standard, current American approach to life. Why is it the status quo to work 5 or more days per week? Why do you retire at 68?  Why do you need to memorize what year Jamestown was founded? Why do you sit in rows in school? Why do you “need” a new car, kitchen, or handbag? Why, why WHY? I am guessing the answer to all those questions is, that it benefitted someone somewhere down the line, and that's why we all are expected to do it.  Is it right? Maybe, some of the time, but in our case, no and NO.

We’ve always craved something different. I am fascinated by people who live their life to the max, people who give their lives, their jobs, and their passions their full attention and energy.  Maybe it's someone who climbs and skis the world's highest peaks or a guy named Jim who works in Telluride’s small town post office and greets everyone by their first name and is so friendly it inspires even the most hopeless of cases.  I am sure there is a Vince Lombardi quote that could illustrate what I am trying to say here, something like “Live a life that makes a story worthy of telling.” Vince did not say that (I did, actually) but I think he would have liked it.   Whatever your outlook on life and the hereafter, I can not think of a circumstance where after we depart this world we’d be happy about saying something like “I’m glad I really didn't apply myself and settled on a ho-hum existence”. So I guess some of the answer to “How do we do it?” it is more of “How could we not do it?”  I hit the jackpot when I was spit out of my mom in Skowhegan, Maine. Being born into a country that allows for freedom and the financial possibilities is a tremendous gift that should not be squandered. A few years ago I read “I Will Try”, the true story of Legson Kayira, a Malawian boy who traveled on foot in 1958 at age 16 from his village in Africa to the United States to pursue a college education.  His mom packed him a lunch. She had never heard of the United States so she figured it must be a long walk and he might get hungry. This boys village consisted of mud huts and there was no electricity, running water or communications with the world outside. I read that book and here’s what I took from it: If he could take his challenging circumstances and by the sheer force of his own determination make his life so extraordinary, shouldn’t I, who was born with so many advantages, have an obligation to put forth a decent attempt with my own life? The wonderful thing about making your life extraordinary is it is all based on your own interpretation. What rings true to you?     

One early spring, Jen and I took a long road trip from Victoria, BC to Maine, and ended up camping for a few days down the road from the ski area of Crested Butte. We camped in the freezing cold so that we could take advantage of free skiing CB was offering at the time.  The resort was hoping people would stay in their big new hotel and spend a bunch money… but we were just using them for their free skiing. Our camping neighbors had the same idea. They were driving a 25 year old beat up camper with the word “Aussie 2’s” sloppily painted on the side (presumably done by the unsteady hands of their two children).  Our first night at the campsite we sat by the fire, ate some way overdone pasta (thanks to me), and listened to the song Mmmbop  over and over again, compliments of the pre-teen kids in the Aussie 2 camper.  (If you’re not familiar with the 90’s catchy Hansen tune, here's the link to enjoy (I recommend playing about 25 times in a row ) While we assured our new pre teen friends that yes, MMmbop was the best song ever, the Aussie 2 kids shared with us what their family was up to.  In a nutshell: Their parents had said “No” to the status quo. They were on their SECOND multi-year tour of going around the world (thus the “2” in Aussie 2s), this time they were going with their second batch of kids (the first batch were at college).  They weren’t rich, they just spent less and choose to spend money on time and experiences as opposed to new kitchens (and certainly not new campers). They rocked our world (not just the Hanson). “How could they be doing this?” we asked ourselves. “This kind of thing is a possibility?” Meeting the Aussie 2s was mind blowing for Jen and I. We had never been aware of this kind of family vagabond lifestyle.  But even though these wanderlust ideas thrilled and excited us, we didn’t go any further with them. We stored the ideas away and got on to the goals we had at the time: to secure jobs, to make money, to try to live in a cool place. But we never forgot the Aussie 2s.

A few springs later, Jen and I  were living in Telluride, CO, amassing as much responsibility as employers would entrust to us as we tried our best to keep up with the Joneses. As we worked our butts off, I incredulously noted that a bunch of my starting-wage seasonal employees who worked for me at the ski shop I managed were headed to the Baja of Mexico to surf and camp for TWO MONTHS during the off season.  What?!? I was the guy with the year-round “good paying” management job with benefits. How was it that a bunch of goofballs who couldn’t even make it to work on time were now spending the next two months drinking and surfing? We watched others make traveling and free time a priority, and we took note.

The safe choice for the American Dream is to assume the worst at all times, limit risk and be thankful that you have a job and work harder than the person sitting next to you.  And that's a solid plan, it actually worked ok for us for the last 20 years. But as the kids grew older and life kept wanting more and more of us (jobs, school, activities, random responsibilities) we began to question: Was this the best plan for our family? Were we living a life that inspired?  It was the safe bet that's for sure, but sometimes a living a life worth living requires more risk. We decided we were ready to take more risks.

And here is how we it all unfolded:
  • On June 13 2015, after a weekend of camping and mountain biking and not wanting to go back to our busy lives, Jen and I had a sudden epiphany. It was like a light switch was tripped in our heads. We decided that in one year from that date we wanted to be living on a sailboat with our kids and not working (people considering a similar life choice might consider a five year plan to make this happen, one year to get from regular life to boat life is pretty aggressive).
  • We made a budget on our way home from camping. We immediately cut our living expenses in half (no more expensive clothes, meals in restaurants, vacations, or other luxuries) and started saving the difference towards sailing.  We only spent money on food or our absolute bills. No wants, only needs.
  • We sold almost everything; kitchen gadgets, clothes, cars, toys, tchochkes.  We kept only things that really matter to us.
  • Before we sold our cars I filed insurance claims on all the small dents and scratches that we had accumulated on them.  Three different claims later, we had an extra $5k and a letter from our insurance company that informed us that, in light of all our recent claims they were cancelling our policy at the end of the year.  Great! We wouldn’t need it where we were going.
  • We own our home, and we have been renting our house (partially furnished) since we left Colorado.  We are extremely lucky that the real estate rental market is very strong in Telluride, and we are able to rent our home for more than our monthly mortgage payment.
  • I liquidated a bar that I had owned for over twelve years
  • I own a property management company. I took on a managing partner and sold 49% of my business.  
  • We took out a home equity loan on our house.  With about $100k, we purchased a boat and equipped and fixed it in order to go sailing.  The line of credit is interest-only so the payments are less than $300 a month. We rent our house for $1000 more than our mortgage.  We apply all the difference toward slowly paying down the loan.
  • We consolidated savings and all our cash.
  • We made a budget for sailing, and a separate “re-entry-fund”, money we retained for our return to civilization.
  • We made a three year sailing budget with the funds we had amassed, not knowing if we would be gone six months or three years.  I know you are wanting to know how much but that's personal and trivial.

Our budget reflects how we are comfortable living our lives, and also reflects the kind of boat we that we could afford and feel comfortable on.  It is so, SO possible to do what we are doing with less money. We’ve met families that are larger than ours who live on less then $25k a year. We know of people cruising the Caribbean in boats worth less than $20k.  Once you are on your boat, it’s possible to live quite simply. Heck, you don’t need a boat, you could walk, bike, drive around the world or wherever adventure lies for you. The lifestyle needs only the will, not means. And this is where Vince will come in... “The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will”.

 I know you are adding it up, and you’re like, “How does this work?”  Well, the freedom that we have comes with risks. For most of the first two years we had no health insurance (not required if you spend more 320 days out of the USA). We eat very healthy food and we exercise daily. Was it a risk to go without health insurance? Yes. But I would offer this: a friend of mine from college who is my age (45), had a massive heart attack and needed surgery.  He had always worked like a horse, had the stress of owning his own business and paid his insurance on time. We live with less stress, have time to exercise and to prepare healthy meals. Will that make the difference? I hope so. We also travel in places where a broken bone might cost us $200, opposed to several thousand in the US. The last time the kids had their teeth cleaned by a dentist, it cost $15 here in the Caribbean.  On that note, on our last dental check up the kids were given the all thumbs up. (Which never happened in the US. At our old dentist’s office, on any appointment our hippie kids who consumed no candy or refined sugar, who drank virtually no juice and brushed twice a day and flossed would always have a problem that required money.) With our plans to go to Chamonix skiing this winter, we picked up disaster travel health insurance so we are presently covered for $2 million worth of damages per person but that cost us $1500 for 10 month of coverage.

As we are both not working we owed zero in taxes last year.
We do have life insurance, and we have boat insurance. The boat needs repairs from time to time and we need food, fuel for the boat, and we spend money on traveling  back to the US once a year and we stay with family. We obviously are not saving for vacations. At this time we don’t have car payments or car insurance. No utility payments except for a cell at $75 a month. We don’t pay for any child care,  we are with our children all the time. We used to pay for dance classes, hockey, ski club, gymnastics, soccer, summer day camps, mountain biking and all the gear that went with those activities. Now we surf for free and live in our bathing suits.  We spend maybe 5-10% of what we used to on clothes compared with our old lives. We do spend money on occasion on entertainment, such as a island tours, museum fees, car rentals and going out to eat. Jen keeps track of all that we spend in an old school paper journal so we can track and manage our budget.  If we buy a pack of gum, Jen writes it down.

The prudent follower of the American Dream is probably thinking, “They are not making contributions to their retirement funds or kids’ college funds, and their gift giving and donations are most likely crap”, or, “They are eating all of their acorns and not saving much for the winter”. Or maybe, “They are living a risky stupid selfish life, and putting those children at some sort of experimental lifestyle risk ….”

We live a life that focuses on the now. We live in the now.  Is it foolish? Well, I can tell you that we are all happier and less stressed today than when we were doing what we were supposed to be doing in our old lives. Our idea of the future has completely changed. We used to crave all the junk like new cars and granite countertops in the kitchen.  I don’t need another new car in my life. While in Maine this year we bought a used Volvo for $2300 and it worked fine all summer. The old me would have wanted a new or near-new Volvo and that would have cost us $50k. I would have looked good in that new ride and the Joneses would have been impressed. But I now know that my family could live for a solid ten months on the the difference between a new Volvo and a used one.  The American Dream is generally a good provider for tomorrow but it comes with a huge price for the now. My maternal Grandfather was a disciple of the American Dream and he was dead at 56 from a heart attack. Jen and the kids and I are together as a family 95% of the time. Hud and Viv are being exposed to an incredible adventure. Their world is a constant learning experience, one that affords them the potential for tremendous growth (hopefully the type of growth that colleges grant scholarships to).   We value the joys of today and live a life that is not solely focused on providing for tomorrow. We consider it a better balance for us.

I will leave you with this: Jen and I spent six weeks in Europe in the summer of 1995.  When we returned I stopped by my grandparents’ house to share my experiences with them about our trip.  When I stopped in, my paternal Grandfather, who had done well by the American Dream, and his good friend Mickey Marden (who had aced the American Dream test by starting a chain of discount department stores) were hanging out.  When I finished telling about our trip, my Grandfather turned to his friend Mickey and said, “What would you give to be 21 again and spend six weeks in Europe with your girlfriend?” Mickey just stood there, befuddled by the question. He was so out of his realm, he just stared.  But my Grandfather had grasped the significance of our Europe trip and what it meant to us, how it had enlightened us. He got it. And he wished for it for himself. The message here is: take a trip to Europe (or wherever), and do it now. Tomorrow you will be older and you may have a crap-ton of money and all the time in the world, but there are no guarantees.  If there’s something you want to do, and you can do it now, do it now.

If you seek more financial info, we do not have our expenses on a fancy spreadsheet.  If you are interested in cruisers and their budgets, here is a great link:

I am sure you can Google how much it costs or how to hike the Appalachian trail, bike across Asia, swim the Nile, ride every roller coaster in Ohio, drive across the country, ski 100 days in a season, build your own rocket ship and use it to explore deep space (let me know if you choose the last one as I will so want to follow you on Instagram). Your dream could be anything. One of our big influences in taking this trip was meeting the Lighthiser family. I saw them riding their bikes a few years ago down the bike path in front of our house in Telluride, with the Mom towing two of the kids and the Dad towing their son and all their gear (and an 80 lb dog) behind their bikes. They biked as a family from southern Colorado to Montana to find adventure and a life that inspired.   

Whatever the story you want to live, get crackin’. Time is ticking.

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  1. As always, I just can't get enough! Your family constantly inspires, rejuvenates and impresses me! I love you all so much and am always cheering you on (and living vicariously through you) to live to the fullest! Way to stick to your dreams. xo

    1. Julia, Thank you so much for the support and for reading. Hope to see you in Chamonix!

  2. WOW! Inspiring, Trav! Much love to you all!

    1. Thanks for reading. Looking forward to seeing you soon. Cheers

  3. Loved reading this. Thank you for sharing. Although I have never sailed before, I am fascinated with the cruising family lifestyle. Love your outlook on life and living for the now.

    1. Thanks for reading and the positive thoughts. There is always more room for more sailors or travelers. Cheers Travis


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