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.
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.
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:
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.