When I’m not traveling I live on my boat in a marina south of Los Angeles. Through the middle of our town runs Pacific Coast Highway. It is a six lane boulevard where cars flow solid from 7am to 10am north into L.A. and again southbound in the evening. It is an impressive sight. As a kid I remember seeing the twice daily parade of cars and I wondered what inspired those people to want to do such a thing.
The Mexican Fisherman
An American investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellow fin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.
The Mexican replied, “Only a little while.”
The American then asked, “Why didn’t you stay out longer and catch more fish?”
The Mexican said, “With this I have more than enough to support my family’s needs.”
The American then asked, “But what do you do with the rest of your time?”
The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos, I have a full and busy life.”
The American scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing; and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat: With the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats. Eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor; eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then Los Angeles and eventually New York where you will run your ever-expanding enterprise.” The Mexican fisherman asked, “But, how long will this all take?”
To which the American replied, “15 to 20 years.”
“But what then?” asked the Mexican.
The American laughed and said that’s the best part. “When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions.”
The American said, “Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”
— Author Unknown
It is a story that has been circulating for years. It’s a story I save for friends who may be caught up in the “work harder to purchase more” culture and who look at me funny for suggesting that happiness can be found in simple pleasures.
Cruising is a great way to experience those magical places on the planet where the people blissfully live off of seemingly nothing. I first discovered the appeal of the small town when I cruised with Bob and Jody on Lost Soul. On our way to Europe, via the canal, we spent some time in Latin America. Like the fisherman story there was something interesting going on in those very small towns far removed from big cities. There was less traffic, less noise, the gaps left by these seemed to be filled with quality, family based activities, more strolling and community interaction. Those people were, more than not, sincerely happy. How could that be though, those people were poor.
Across the Atlantic we ventured into the Med where more surprises were in store for me and my warped perception that value was measured by money. In the Med you go stern-to an ancient low sea wall and, more than not, you’re greeted by a local wanting to help you secure your vessel and welcome you to their village. You head ashore and people you don’t know smile and nod hello to you. Fishermen, after their day at sea that started before sunrise are merrily cleaning their catch and chatting, in a language you’ll never know, over tables at the water’s edge. People, young and old, are seen hanging out in the middle of town enjoying each others company. Instead of rushing you out to ‘turn’ a table, the restaurants expect you to spend the evening with them just as if you were part of the family.
During the day I would walk the meandering pathways, most every town had them, that wound along the coastal hillsides through shops and inns and open air cafés and tavernas. The locals walked everywhere. If they wanted bread they walked to the bakery. Vegetables? The vegetable market, and so on. There were no cars. The towns were built before them. If you wanted to move goods you brought them in by burro and cart. Could a town survive without motorized vehicles I wondered? They can and they do and it is in these motorless havens that bliss thrives.
From cruising with Bob and Jody I went straight into yachting: privately owned luxury boats ‘cruising’ with paid crews. I quickly learned that millionaire yacht owners stressed over the same petty things as normal people. To be near airports and infrastructure and to secure parts and maintenance yachts had to spend a lot of time in marinas and big cities – for the most part, places that lack personality.
Yearning to get back to the basics I got my own cruise organized. The girlfriend and I would do it on my own boat. There would be no complicated, high maintenance systems and we would sail when and where we wanted to. And it worked. I got clear of cars and rent and bills and the rest of the mania that we all participate in when we are home in the states. Life slowed down and quality increased. The world opened up and revealed a thousand great experiences. I was back in the land of showering off the swim step, hiking waterfalls, getting to know the locals and enjoying three stop shopping: bakery, fruit stand, vegetable market.
The cruising community operates a lot like a small town. Cruisers quickly learn to be more independent and resourceful than their city bound brothers and sisters. Finding themselves in more isolated environments, cruisers aren’t afraid to get to know their neighbors. When there is a big project, a vessel aground or a rebuilding of the school house in the village ashore, cruisers lend their time freely and aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty. In the evenings cruisers gather to socialize and get caught up with the events of the day, often for hours. A cruiser can be independent while still having a strong sense of community.
I think our society could learn a lot from cruising and village life. Is there hope for those people commuting their lives away? I like to think so. I see a time when more of our streets will be transformed to green belts traversed by foot traffic, bicycles and silent shuttles. More people will work from home spending the time they save by not commuting on higher quality experiences like getting outside and saying hi to the neighbors, spending quality time with the very important next generation and walking to their local shops where goods were brought in from sources closer to home. For the rest of us it would be a nice place to visit between cruises.
Note: I want to thank my seven fans for sticking by me, understanding that in my pursuit of the American dream (for me it was funds to cruise on) I had to cut some corners on the things I would have preferred to have been spending more time on ie: getting out sailing and writing about it. For better or for worse I’m back and penniless but hungry to get out there. Have a cruising leg that you’d like some company on? Look me up, I’m cheap right now.