Sara's wedding last week made a good reminder to me that I should blog about family contact.
How important is family contact for cruisers? Of course, it is very important, not just for cruisers, but for everybody. I don't think that I exaggerate if I say that isolation from one's family is one of the most self-destructive things you can do. Psychologists can explain better, but to me it is just a simple truth.
When cruising however, we add obstacles that may not be obvious when one starts. First, there is geographical separation. Second, is the shortage of guest facilities at your home. Third is the lack of mobility when you don't have a car. Fourth is the cruiser's life style that resists any long-term planning.
I know for sure that Libby and I failed to fully consider those factors when we first set sail on Tarwathie in 2005. It wasn't until we sat anchored off Yucatan in Mexico en-route to the Panama Canal that the truth hit; "If we continue, we will have little or no contact with family for five or more years." We wisely dumped all those circumnavigation dreams, did a 180 degree turn, and returned the way we came. If we had continued through the canal it could have been one of our biggest blunders in life. Contact with our beloved family is much more important than seeing the world.
Even after that epiphany, our family contact is much less than we would like. Many cruisers (with bigger budgets than we operate on) fly home for the holidays every year. Because of limited room, and limited budgets, our children and grandchildren can not visit us en-mass, they come one-at-a-time. One of them is afraid of boats and never visits. Our grandchildren in particular, were deprived of the experience of "driving to grandma's house" several times per year, so that our house would feel like a second home to them. Because of that, they are less closely attached to us.
Five years ago, Dave and Cathy moved from Fairbanks AK to North Carolina. That made things much easier since all children lived on the US East Coast.
Our recent backsliding on full time cruising, by buying a car and leaving Tarwathie in Florida for the summer, also makes it possible to spend more time with family every year, and that is very welcome.
A guest at Sara's wedding last week remarked on that. She saw how well everyone got along (despite a blemish or two) and said, "Things are not like this in the world of my family." That made a poignant reminder of how fortunate we are.
But not everybody is so fortunate. It may also be true that when you're young you urge to make yourself independent of family, but as you get older and especially when you become grandparents, the urge is to try to cement it closer together. It is no accident that so many circumnavigators are young people, or those with less happy family circumstances.
My advice to aspiring cruisers is to think in advance about family contacts, and to factor that into your dreams.