by Karen Davies | Sep 15, 2017 | Guest Blog, Travel Blog
Stepping off the Treadmill and sailing the Dream
By Jenevora Swann
A former MD of an international travel PR agency shares her experience of stepping off the treadmill to begin a new life exploring the world on a catamaran.
Falling off the Treadmill
I lost the will to continue the struggle
Call it madness, but in February 2014, I stepped right off the proverbial treadmill and, along with my husband Fergus and six-year-old cocker spaniel Molly, we bought a boat in France with the view of sailing around the world. There was only one major flaw to this plan… I didn’t know how to sail!
This wasn’t my dream, but one that Fergus had harboured for a while. For three years, we talked daily about sailing off into the sunset but when you run your own business and there are staff involved, it wasn’t an easy decision to make.
And then after one too many incidents of staff throwing their toys out of the pram and clients demanding the impossible from their PR campaign, I lost the will to continue the struggle. I was stressed out beyond belief, had misplaced my mojo in the monotony of the business and our work-life balance was being tested.
So there we were with everything we owned up for sale; the business, the motor boat, the house and the car. And in their place, we purchased a 2008 Lagoon 440 catamaran, which was sitting pretty in a marina near Toulon in France.
Two Drifters Rig
I was so unprepared for what lay ahead. While we had enjoyed holidays motoring around the south coast in our Sunseeker Portofino 32, we had never actually sailed a boat together by ourselves. While Fergus was an accomplished RYA Yachtmaster, I was about to endure a complete baptism by fire.
Perhaps taking a sailing course would have been a good idea – if I’d have had the time.
At this stage, I have to be honest in that selling up and repositioning to the south of France was a nightmare. I had absolutely no idea how stressful it would all be. Everything that could go wrong did. The tip of the iceberg was the self-drive van we arranged to transport our worldly goods to France, which promptly blew up 48 hours before we were due to leave the country. With no replacement van available, no refund given and the fact that new owners were moving into our house, we were left to our own devices to resolve the issue. And fast!
Thankfully, we had left selling our car till last minute, and so having arranged for our boxes to be transported the following week by courier, we piled everything we could into our car. With the dog on the parcel shelf and the car full to the gunnels, we left Lymington one miserable Sunday afternoon and headed for the Eurotunnel.
View from the mast
This was the first time I’d seen it. While I’d been on a Lagoon 440 before, I hadn’t been able to take the time away from the business to view this actual boat, so Fergus made the decision it was the one for us when he took a fleeting day trip to France to view it two month’s previously. That took some trust on my part I can tell you!
Our first night just so happened to be on Valentine’s Day and it was far from romantic. The boat was freezing; the heating didn’t work, rain was coming in through the hatches, there was no gas to light the stove with and the bilge alarm kept going off, alerting us to water inside the bottom of the boat. We had one sleeping bag and a pillow between us. Not the best start to our new dream life.
Living the Dream
And it’s not just the weather; living on a boat isn’t easy.
Truth be told, had we not sold our house, I would have driven back to the UK there and then. But this was a life-changing choice, there really was nowhere to run to so I had to meet it head on.
And meet it I did. That was three and a half years ago; during which time we have endured so many amazing highs as well as some stupendous lows. We’ve navigated bad weather and found ourselves dealing with more than our fair share of ferocious storms. The Cat’s nine lives are now down to six!
Top Dog Molly
And it’s not just the weather; living on a boat isn’t easy. Right from the start, I quickly developed my mantra which was to cope with ‘a challenge a day.’ Whether it’s running out of milk and unable to quickly pop to the shops; the generator breaking so we can’t use the washing machine or worse, make water, or quite simply the wifi not working when you really want to get online; just one expected challenge each day is manageable. This, and a good dose of gumption, has saved my sanity at times when I might have thrown the towel in on the adventure. It’s also helped others around me who have adopted this moto too.
Skipper and First Lady
While I still don’t consider myself to be a great sailor; through blood, sweat, tears and lots of laughter, I’ve got to grips with handling the boat and working as a team with Fergus. In the last few years our job roles have totally reversed as on the boat he’s the Skipper – although I insist on being the First Lady!
We’ve sailed around the Mediterranean, lost our hearts in Greece where we spent two years exploring and earlier this year, I took the biggest challenge of my life and we crossed the Atlantic from Tenerife to Barbados.
Atlantic Crossing after 18 Days At Sea
But the highs totally eclipse the lows. Arriving in Barbados after just under three weeks at sea was such an amazing feeling of accomplishment. I didn’t agree lightly to sailing across the Atlantic, but to have done it and actually enjoyed it surprised the hell out of me!
Sometimes I have to pinch myself as to how much our lives had changed. No more Monday morning-blues, a different view every day, new places to explore, local foods to enjoy and with all the benefits of all the sea air around us.
We love seeking out all the local markets in the places we visit, taking in their amazing selection of home-grown fresh fruit and vegetables. Catching fish for supper in the form of grouper, bream or tuna is a way of life. Thank goodness Fergus is also a dab-hand with the fishing rod as well as a spear gun – he’s even conjured up a lobster or two!
We’ve sailed with dolphins, whales, seals and turtles; seen fantastic sunrises and sunsets; anchored off deserted islands; paddle-boarded the dog to a beautiful Caribbean beaches and very recently cruised up the East River in Manhattan and past its iconic skyline. Each day we are creating so many amazing memories and are very, very lucky to have this opportunity to travel, learn and explore this amazing world.
Living the dream comes with a multitude of challenges, but it’s so worthwhile taking the large leap off the treadmill and embracing it.
Jenevora Swann is currently sailing the east coast of the USA with her husband Fergus and dog Molly on board Two Drifters. They return to the Caribbean in November.
Follow her on Facebook.com/TwoDriftersTravel.
Two Drifter’s Gallery
by Karen Davies | Jul 29, 2017 | Guest Blog
“One day I’m gonna write,
the story of my life,
I tell of the night we met…”
My God, I had the Marty Robbins classic stuck in my head for the whole day after I met Myles and Karen, The Motoroamers, whilst sat on a cliff top overlooking the Black Sea. It one of those infectious songs you just have to hum along to and that can’t be done without a smile on your face.
A few months back I’m not really sure if I had a smile, it could well have been a grimace.
A bout of stress and depression left me jaded towards a job and a life I should have loved.
Michele and I had the classic aspirational lifestyle, if we wanted it, we bought it. We had to have the lot; the sports car, a German Chelsea tractor, a 55” plasma downstairs and a 40” in the bedroom and the Caribbean holiday at least once a year. Come to think of it, I didn’t own any clothes without a brand name on them ( I still don’t, but that is because it will be a long time before I need anything new.)
And to pay for this lifestyle, I worked a 60 hour week, getting into the office at 0630 and leaving 12 hours later, having not even stopped for lunch. Once I was home, I was then plagued by the phone ringing or that annoying ping of another e-mail arriving. The side-effect of being on the go, was that sleep felt like a waste of time. So I was existing on about 3 hours a night; it was normal to wake after an hour or so get up for a bit, potter about and then go back to bed.
Then one day…
Me, of course!
.. it was all too much. I cracked and toys came out of the pram. It was just all too much. Thankfully we had a friendly GP whose only real question was “how long do you need”. That’s not the question you ask a man whose only other time off sick was 6 weeks to recover from an operation, of which I took 2! Apparently I had to admit that I had a problem.
I opted for a week off, leaving that morning with my prescription for a course of sleeping pills. I felt like a failure. One week passed and with loads of sleep I started to feel normal. I went from eating one meal a day to two or three. After the second week, the fog had lifted and I was in need of something to fill my days. At the time we had an old campervan and I threw myself into updating her, on the dry days and, when it rained (you get a lot of these in March) I started to read a travel blog called “Europe by Camper” – a young couple Adam and Sophie had taken a year out and were driving around Europe.
A 5-year Plan was hatched
It was one of those ‘daydreaming – never really going to happen’ type of plans. After a couple of month’s rest I went back to work and I was determined, at the beginning, that I wasn’t going to slip back into the old habits. But as the months rolled on it was too easy to step backwards.
That moment you never forget, happened one Wednesday morning on a cold September day and I pulled into the car park, parked in my normal space and just sat there. I sat and sat. I couldn’t go in. Eventually I manned-up and went to work, but the whole day I was a mess…
Michele and I had discussed my hair-brain scheme, and we decided that we would need 5 years so we could be debt-free, buy a nearly-new motorhome and be able to afford to travel for a year.
That weekend, that plan changed. During a typical trip into town for some retail therapy, Michele pulled off the dual carriageway onto the roundabout and straight off the other side. Not once did she look; not once did she see the oncoming car. Thankfully after a lot of hooting and some angry looking drivers we got back on track. But what had happened? She had suffered a panic attack.
A trip to the GP for Michele left her with more fear, after rounds and rounds of blood tests and high plasma readings – it felt like it would never end.
After a long, late night heart to heart, we decided that we both needed to get out of the rat race – but how where we going to do it? We had originally said 5 years, but now it needed to happen yesterday. So our dear old campervan ‘Roxy’ was sold, the X5, that I had craved for years but only driven 2000 miles, was sold and we started looking for a larger motorhome. Night after night we scrolled through eBay and Autotrader and, eventually. we found the one.
Enter Paloma – it was time to travel
After a bit of haggling, ‘Paloma’ was ours; a 7m, 6 berth, left-hand drive van ready to travel Europe. Just the small question of sorting out all the loose ends.
We knuckled down, choosing rather than to go shopping at the weekends, to work on the van, doing all the bits and bobs to make her ready to be our home for the next 12 months.
The next hurdle was Christmas. This year, like the last, we agreed to not buy presents and, for once I stood by it (last year the diamonds, this year not a bean) – but that meant a whole heap of money directed into our savings for the big trip. We also told all of our family on Christmas Day that we were travelling for a year; they were very supportive and didn’t let on how much they would miss us.
Fast forward to the middle of January 2017, where I’m sat at my computer typing that resignation letter and it was probably the one of the happiest days of my life. Although with only three months to go, we had a lot to do !
With pretty much all the unused stuff we had collected over years, (why had I got so many screwdrivers? Probably because I couldn’t find one, so just bought some more) we were ready. It felt like a long time, almost living a half-life, as the end approached we were trying to live off all the odds and ends in the kitchen cupboards, whilst sitting in deck chairs in our now empty front room, with no tv, no phone and no internet connection.
There’s no ‘going back’
Me and ‘er!
Although the day did come and we hit the ferry port on the 26th of April and we haven’t looked back once!
Someone once said to me that you measure success, by what you had to give up to achieve it, but I now know that I have only given up things that meant nothing to me. We are so rich in time, that we have reconnected with each other and have fresh faces to take on the world. And all because Michele was willing to take a jump out of her comfort zone, give up her cosy life and blindly follow me off into the sunset, with my ‘let’s see how it goes’ type of plan.
A few months in and we are not thinking “This will be over next year.” Instead our mindset is changing to “How do we make this real life last a lifetime?” I’m not sure either of us could ever, wholeheartedly get back onto the treadmill of work, sleep, work …..
Bentley, our travel companion
“So Michele it …..
Starts and ends,
Starts and ends,
Starts and ends with you.”
Paul and Michele Kingston-Ford
Read more about our travels over at; www.ourleapoffaith.co.uk