Tell us your story. Who are you and what do you do?
We’re Alex (English/French) & Lars (Norwegian/English), and we’ve been living aboard our Tayana 37 ‘Navika’ for almost two years now. We met in France 14 years ago and in our previous lives Alex worked in recruitment and Lars worked in consulting.
Both of us had corporate jobs for a few years, but we realised that we wanted to live a life more aligned with our values and passions. We discovered yoga & meditation in the midst of our busy city lives and started anchoring more and more into our practice. We then decided to complete trainings and we now teach as well. Lars retrained in neuroscience, focusing particularly on the neuroscience of meditation, and also teaches meditation, and Alex teaches yoga and is also a singer.
We’re sailing full time with the plan to cross the Atlantic this winter. We make videos of our journey, life on the boat and the places we get to visit along the way that we share via Youtube.
We absolutely love being on the water and what the lifestyle allows for – living sustainably, being autonomous and being close to nature with access to amazing places you can’t otherwise get to.
We absolutely love being on the water and what the lifestyle allows for
For us living and traveling on the boat is about learning and growing through exploring. It might sound a bit abstract but when we think about why we chose this lifestyle, it comes down to pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zones, reaping the benefits of challenge by discovering amazing places on this planet and getting to learn about ourselves in the process.
We’re still figuring out exactly what this lifestyle looks like for us – it’s an evolving process as we learn more about what’s important to us as we go – but that’s ultimately what we’re here for anyway!
Why did you decide to start sailing?
Sailing and living on a boat is something we talked about doing for so long. We’ve been together for a while, and sailing around the world was one of the early dreams that we had together and have always had in the back of our minds. We were both lucky to get into sailing pretty young, Lars grew up sailing with his family and Alex learnt in Brittany as a teen.
Sailing is one of the few things that we felt can give you a feeling of freedom and empowerment. We realised that sailing taught us many new skills and helped us grow. So we wanted to choose a lifestyle that would bring that as well as being close to nature. We knew that it would be both challenging but also incredibly rewarding. Not to mention, sailing is probably one of the only things you can do in this day and age that’s still pretty raw and exploratory: it’s still the Wild West in a lot of ways – and it’s all down to you. You can go wherever you want but there’s also a risk involved. Safety is all in your own hands.
Sailing is one of the few things that we felt can give you a feeling of freedom and empowerment.
Back in 2015, Lars bought his first boat Lacuna, a Westsail 32 from 1971 off Craigslist in California. Alex flew out and we both spent a few months doing her up (she needed a lot of work and could have had lots more). We did the bare essentials and sailed down the coast of California.
The plan was to sail across the Pacific, but the boat still needed a lot of work. Lars had a job to go back to in London and also ran out of money so probably for the best that the ocean passage wasn’t made! He made it down to Baja California in Mexico and cruised the sea of Cortez instead. This experience taught us so much, about sailing and boat owning. We later sold the boat but the sailing bug came back again quickly and next thing you know we’re thinking about how to save up for our next boat.
About 4 years ago we left our corporate jobs in the city and took some time to figure out what life we wanted to create together. Each idea we came up with we ran into the same problem: that we probably couldn’t do it from a boat.
So after a while we decided that if all we really know is that we want to sail. Let’s start there and do what we need to do to make it happen. We could feel ourselves falling into the trap of wanting the timing to be perfect, to be completely ready, completely sure, etc. We were basically afraid to commit. But we knew the timing was as good as we could hope for.
We could feel ourselves falling into the trap of wanting the timing to be perfect, to be completely ready … We were basically afraid to commit.
So without a real plan for how it would work out in the ‘long term’, just knowing that it felt right, we took a leap of faith and bought Navika!
How were you able to buy your boat?
Alex was working full time in a big tech company before we decided to commit to buying a boat. Lars had gone back to academia to retrain in neuroscience so he didn’t have an income.
Looking back, it was a pretty bold decision as we weren’t that financially comfortable when we made the decision to get a boat but we went for it anyway! We kept it simple and looked for boats within our budget that could go to the places we wanted and could cross oceans and the Tayana 37 was perfect for that. We were able to afford the boat just from Alex saving hard for a couple of years and bought the boat outright.
Looking back, it was a pretty bold decision as we weren’t that financially comfortable
We’ve always tried to live a pretty simple lifestyle, trying not to have big expenses and save money along the way. We’ve always put aside money, knowing that there would be something worth spending it on some day in the future, even if we didn’t know what that might be at the time.
We find living on the cheap pretty easy to do. We both mostly eat a plant-based diet (which believe it or not reduces your grocery expenses quite substantially!), we cook most of our food at home, we moved out of big cities where rent & transport were extortionate as we took our jobs remote and we didn’t go on holiday abroad for 2 years (which wasn’t too hard to do when we lived in the South of France)!
How do you afford to travel and live on a boat?
At first, the plan was to travel until we ran out of money. We had a spreadsheet with our income and outgoings and had a date 2 years down the line when we would have to find a way to make some money. Since being on board, we’ve been able to get creative and weirdly also had quite a few remote work opportunities presented to us (thanks to Covid) so that most months we’ve had a solid income coming in.
At first, the plan was to travel until we ran out of money … but most months we’ve had a solid income coming in
We’ve been able to create a flexible set up regarding work. During our first Summer season in the Mediterranean, we were running our e-commerce business selling sailor bags from the boat, along with Lars working part-time towards his PhD. In the Winter months (and after deciding not to cross the Atlantic last year), we decided to slow down and both focused on work projects. Lars picked up his business teaching meditation courses to businesses, and Alex taught yoga classes, both online and in person. In Summer 2021, Lars ended up continuing to work as we sailed, working part-time as a developer at an AI start up.
We’ve been lucky to be able to flex up our work/income streams when works best for us. We’ve now put a lot of our activities on pause while we focus on the biggest passages we’ve done to date and get the boat ready to cross the Atlantic (eek!).
But the plan is to go back to our work projects again once we’re a bit more settled and when we need to fill the cruising kitty! In the meantime, we make videos of our journey on Youtube and have recently started a Patreon account – which doesn’t bring in a huge amount today but is something we could potentially grow more if we invested more time in it.
We also have some money in crypto which is basically our emergency fund!
What’s an average day like for you?
No two days look the same on the boat, which is one of the things we like so much about this lifestyle! You can have a vague plan formed, but then all sorts of unexpected things could happen (good and bad) and life can take its own course (which also has its challenges if you struggle to go with the flow!).
In the Summer, when we’re not on the move as much and not working as much, we try to get into a morning routine. We get up, have a quick dip in the sea to wake up, meditate, yoga and/or swim, then coffee! Then it varies. Our days could be spent focusing on our outstanding boat projects, or sailing to the next place, visiting the area, going for a hike or hanging out with friends. Usually it’s a mix of all of these. It really depends where we are, the time of year and what we’re feeling!
But whilst we were working most of this year, Lars would have full days of working online from the boat which leaves much less time for exploring and being on the move (especially as you’re seeking 4G!) so we’d end up travelling much more slowly. Also Alex can’t really teach classes as easily whilst on the move.
How much does living on a boat and sailing cost you?
At the beginning of 2021, we started keeping a track of our monthly expenses – thanks to your tip @From Penny to Many! It really depends on what we’re hoping to do with the boat. Last year in the Mediterranean, we learnt that we spent on average about 1500€ per month between us. We would anchor 24/7, go grocery shopping once every 3 weeks and not eat out very often.
Last year in the Mediterranean, we learnt that we spent on average about 1500€ per month between us
Now that we’re looking to cross an ocean with the boat, our expenses have gone up a lot more. We’ve had to spend quite a bit on equipping the boat for longer passages and more remote destinations, so some months look more like 3000€+ as one single piece of kit can easily cost 1000€. As one wise sailor said “sailing is the most expensive way to travel for free”!
Other months we can spend half that if we’re on passage or living on anchor off grid!
If you think about what we were spending on rent back in London, we were paying about 1500€ per month between us – so everything is relative.
What do you spend most money on?
The biggest expense by far for us has been boat upgrades and maintenance. Navika was not cruising ready at all when we bought her. She’s quite an old boat (40 years), so there were a lot of things we needed to fix to get her ready for long-term cruising.
Some of the biggest projects included: installing solar panels, new batteries, water tanks, hot water, a shower (!), a water maker, a wind generator, new dinghy & outboard, new anchor, spinnaker pole, new fridge, new sail, new alternator… This doesn’t include any of the regular annual maintenance that comes with owning any boat.
We’ve had a fair share of projects to tackle – and nothing on a boat is cheap! We were prepared for these costs though when we bought the boat. And the plus side is we now know the boat inside out. We have been able to set things up the best way for us and to our taste.
Do you see yourself savers or as spenders?
I’d say savers! (Although at the moment prepping for the Atlantic I feel like we might be turning into spenders!) No but we usually save, even if there’s nothing we are saving for in particular. We see saving as a gateway to freedom – in whatever shape or form that might be for what we might want to do next.
We do occasionally eat out (but being veggie the best food is usually home cooked anyway!) and most of the things we enjoy doing the most are free anyway (swimming, free diving, sailing, snorkelling, yoga, hiking & enjoying the most beautiful sunrises & sunsets ever)! But we also try not to limit ourselves too much as we’ll only be in each new place once. So we do occasionally rent a car, pay for a tour, check out the local hotspots (for that overpriced cocktail!).
We see saving as a gateway to freedom for what we might want to do next
Are you satisfied with your financial situation?
I’d say overall we’re pretty satisfied with our financial situation at the moment. We’ve been really lucky that the world has gone online since Covid and remote working is more widely accepted now. This flexible set up isn’t something we’d thought would be easy to find before but we’re so grateful we’ve been able to have that this year and can now trust that we’ll be alright. It takes the pressure off and allows us to enjoy the lifestyle even more in a lot of ways.
We’ve been really lucky that the world has gone online since Covid and remote working is more widely accepted now
It’s also nice to know that whenever we want, we can slow down our traveling and go back to our work projects, offering yoga & meditation classes (virtual & in person) and even start exploring new income streams.
If you could change one thing about your finances, what would it be?
To have income that’s less reliant on our time. Something like passive income would take the pressure off even more. Property would be nice… or an asset of some kind. At the moment the way we make money is mostly by trading our time in various ways. Real financial freedom would be something that earns in our sleep! One day, one day…
Lastly, what is your best tip (or two) for someone who wants the same lifestyle as you?
Try before you buy. Take some time to live in a boat if you can. Crew a friend’s boat or even charter for a few weeks before committing to buying. You learn a lot about what’s important for you in a boat. And whether this lifestyle is for you in the first place.
If you’re buying a boat on a budget, then expect more costs down the line AND a lot more time preparing for cruising. Don’t fall into the trap of buying a really cheap boat and thinking you’ll quickly do all the work yourself. It really does end up costing twice as much and taking 3 times as long. Next thing you know you’ve been in the marina for two years, fingers bloody and no money… There’s a middle ground to find a boat that allows you to get on the water with limited cash flow without forcing yourself into a money and time sink.
There’s a middle ground to find a boat that allows you to get on the water with limited cash flow without forcing yourself into a money and time sink
Expect it to be hard as well. This lifestyle is so raw – the highs are amazing. But there are also lots of lows, that are quite difficult to capture or express. It pushes you in ways you couldn’t have expected before doing it. So be prepared for that and know that no life comes without its challenges. We made the mistake at times of comparing this to a ‘normal’ life on land. This made it harder to be OK with issues and discomfort that inevitably crop up (like living in a small space, rolly anchorages, anxiety around the anchor holding, etc).
Trust that if you want this lifestyle enough, you will find a way to make it work. Trust your own skills and be open to opportunities as you go as well. There’s a thousand different ways to live. Think outside the box and you’ll realise there’s actually so many things you can do to make money as you go. Don’t be afraid if you haven’t got every detail worked out yet. Almost no one out here has but be flexible and be ready to slow down!
Trust that if you want this lifestyle enough, you will find a way to make it work
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