Posted on February 24, 2016
Let’s talk about privilege. It’ll be fun!
We’re still thinking about how to discuss money on this blog. When we were in the early planning stages, we searched everywhere for budgeting advice more specific than, “It’ll cost whatever you have.” We found some helpful info here, here, and here, and we’d like to throw in our two cents about how we’ve made things work for us, but without disclosing all the fine details of our cash situation. Suffice to say, for now: we’ve pulled together enough to purchase our boat, outfit it, and sail for two years on a very middle-class income, with a little outside help from family.
That might lead you to think that anyone can do this. And we’d like to agree! Downsize, sell your stuff, pinch your pennies, live your dream! But I’m not entirely sure that’s true. Maybe I’ve spent too much time reading blogs by owners of 50-foot catamarans complaining about being overcharged cab fare by $2, but I’m feeling a little snarky about unacknowledged privilege this week, and I want to take a moment to mention ours.
I’m very attached to an article I read in the NY Times a couple of years about poverty. The article interviewed Harvard economist Sendhil Mulleinathan talking about three different types of scarcity: poverty of money (cut and dried, right?); poverty of time (most of us can relate to that); and poverty of bandwidth. That last one is something I’d never considered when internally ranting about people who never volunteered for the PTO, or being pissed when people show up 15 minutes late. But we ALL experience decreased bandwidth at one point or another. There is no other possible explanation for Dancing With the Stars, other than reaching the point where you just flop down on the couch and say, yes: this. Fine. Whatever is on this channel is what I will watch, because I Just Cannot Deal.
Having more money means you can outsource to gain time–babysitters, takeout dinners, housecleaners, personal chefs if you’re in that much-maligned one percent. Having time but less money means spending some of that extra time to save cash by organizing a babysitting co-op, cooking from scratch, growing your own food, and scrubbing the toilets yourself. (That’s how we roll, for those of you keeping score.) But both of those things impact your available energy for doing fun things or making smart long-range plans–bandwidth. And if you lack both money and time, forget about it–you’ll be lucky to leave the house.
So here’s how our bandwidth has been increased to fit in our audacious plans: we are healthy–no doctors’ appointments clogging up our schedule, fights with insurance companies, exhaustion from ailments or worries about illness; we were both born to educated parents–giving us a huge leg up in terms of wealth, health and stability when we were kids, and supporting us into adulthood as well; we were born in the United States of America–one of the wealthiest countries in the world, where we received excellent medical care, education, safe homes and good food throughout our lives; we are white–and haven’t had to deal with overt racism or the kind of microaggression that can wear down your day and your life; we are in a stable marriage–and able to take advantage of the institutional benefits therein. There’s more, but I think I’ll stop there.
While a few of the things in the above category have been influenced by our personal choices, most of them are luck–things we were born into, the code of our DNA, chance of place.
I was talking to a friend not long ago, and mentioned that we’d never be taking this trip if I hadn’t been able to be a stay-at-home mom. I hope I didn’t offend my friend; she’s an artist with an amazing career, who raised a great family, and I don’t want to malign anyone’s choice about whether to work or stay home; but FOR OUR FAMILY, it couldn’t have happened otherwise. If I were working, I would have been focused on my career and my family; there would have been no leftover energy for planning something like this. Restaurant work is not lucrative, for the most part; our money would have increased a bit, our time would have decreased a lot, and our bandwidth would have dropped to something less than zero.
So: it is possible to ditch everything and go sailing if you have a ton of money, and can pay for comfort and convenience, having the work done for you. It is possible to ditch everything and go sailing if you have the time to save every cent possible and do the work yourself. But it is probably not possible to ditch everything and go sailing without that precious bandwidth to plan and dream and act, and we are incredibly lucky to be able to make the cruising life work for us.