Cruising, culture shock and questioning “Why?”

We’ve been cruising for a year. My first serious thoughts of “Why am I doing this?” occurred about two weeks ago. I was sitting on our back transom (deck), baking in the sun, and cleaning a toilet with muriatic acid. It wasn’t the first time that I had rolled up my sleeves. But, it was a most unglamorous act, and it seemed counter to my (unrealistic) expectations of life as a cruiser.

Then, I was struck by homesickness. I watched as Canada was brought together during a single evening with a farewell concert from the Tragically Hip. The concert was broadcast across the nation and was watched in large community parties across Canada.

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Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, embraces Gord Downie, lead singer of the Tragically Hip. Downie has terminal brain cancer.

I enjoy this band and have seen them play live in concert. But, from the depth of my emotion and patriotism you would have thought that I was running for office. I wanted to be home.

And, of course, here I am living out the dream of many. I live on a catamaran, and we are currently in Luperon, Dominican Republic. Cruisers around me do yoga and martial arts in the mornings. Yet, despite the sunny skies, a balloon had burst. I was full of inner conflict that, for me, is best soothed by rigorous exercise.

But, instead, for two days, I lay in our saloon and read society gossip in England’s Daily Mail. When I wasn’t surfing about on the web, reading about people’s thin pins and pert posteriors, I slept. Meal making was a struggle. I was completely self-absorbed and felt near depressive.

It turns out that I was experiencing a completely predictable part of cultural and lifestyle adaptation. In fact, I’d hazard to guess that every cruiser in the harbour has or will experience a similar sort of funk, albeit with different coping strategies.

How’s that for being positive?

The good news is that the funk is part of a predictable pattern of reactions to new surroundings. In my case, I’m adapting to living aboard a boat, sailing, homeschooling, and my new environment in the Dominican Republic.

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Scene from Luperon, Dominican Republic. A dog on the roof often barks as we walk by.

Broadly speaking, the stages of cultural adjustment include: the honeymoon, culture shock (which involves lots of niggly irritation), adaptation and mastery.

Princeton University provides a nice description in a document called “Four Common Stages of Cultural Adjustment“. In fact, many universities provide this sort of information to help foreign students with their cultural transition.

I like the detail in this diagram:

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So that is my message to new or soon-to-be cruisers: expect to feel some highs and some lows. It’s all good. I’m focusing on the positive, reading less of the Daily Mail, and fitting in some exercise.

2 comments

  1. On this note just remember that not many people wold be so brave and aadventurous so pat yourself in the back and say “Hey! I’m amazing!
    Besides…Canada is about to get cold 😆 enjoy and live in the moment!

    Liked by 1 person

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