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We almost can’t believe it but it’s a year today since we posted our first blogs!
We started to post six weeks before moving to Bequia, and started by introducing ourselves and sharing our sailing history. Then the blog has become about moving to the Caribbean, adjusting to life onboard, and our adventures sailing the nearly 1600 nautical miles we’ve covered to date.
When we set up the blog and started to prepare for this adventure, we had quite grand plans.
Ailsa’s dream, like many other people’s, was to turn sharing our journey into enough of a profit for us to be able to keep sailing long term. We expected to have a YouTube channel, we set up a store, we got stuck into maintaining our Instagram and Facebook profiles. We commissioned branding artwork by our niece Elena’s very talented boyfriend Dan. We even have a Discord lurking somewhere, and a Patreon.
It took surprisingly little time for all of that to go out of the window. There are a few reasons.
We watched some other YouTube feeds and followed plenty of Instagram accounts of other live aboard cruisers.
One of the key things that stood out was that most of the biggest accounts involve younger, hotter people than us. That’s not meant in a self-deprecating way, we were just never going to provide content that involved lots of frolicking in skimpy swimwear or rippling muscles. That’s not to say that people rely on that content, but it definitely helps. The older YouTubers going down the ‘ look, I’m topless!’ route wasn’t our style.
We could see that a phenomenal amount of footage needed to be gathered to make an episode. You’d have to constantly be filming. Then countless hours go on editing and processing. Not to mention the slightly awkward voiceovers or self-interviews. Within just a couple of days of starting our journey and recording clips, we were over it. It felt like the focus would be so much on capturing moments that we wouldn’t get to live them.
The finished product was also a concern. A few people, who tend to have production support or have turned editing into a full-time job, make beautiful videos. A lot of the others are just cringeworthy. If we were going to do this, we wanted to do it very well and knew we d have the skill or experience. Did we want to spend our time onboard learning that skill when we would be so busy settling into a new lifestyle?
We have a whole two videos on our YouTube feed. We never get round to doing much with drone or GoPro footage, and the exterior boat tour Colin was going to do back in May never happened.
Instagram (and Facebook)
Instagram is solid ground, for Ailsa at least. It’s our chosen method for sharing things because it’s easy and can be spontaneous. And we can cross-post from Instagram to Facebook, which means that along with auto-uploading our blogs, the Facebook page basically runs itself.
A lot of people use Instagram to promote their YouTube feed, which means teaser trailers and clips, careful scheduling, and sharing footage weeks, or even months after it happened. We didn’t want to be constantly making decisions about what could go on Instagram now and what needed to be saved back as a ‘YouTube exclusive’.
We completely understand that some people build in a time lag for privacy. If we had over 1.5 million YouTube subscribers we’d probably value our privacy too. But we don’t. We have 19.
We wanted to be taking people on our journey, as it happened. A lot of friends and family keep up with us on our Mirounga Instagram and Facebook feeds. We wanted them to be with us every step of the way. For some family members, knowing where we are and seeing regular posts helps them to know we’re safe.
Of course, we still have our personal accounts, but why should we be picking and choosing what to post where? Some of the total strangers that follow our accounts are so supportive and engaged. It wouldn’t feel right to deny them the same level of detail friends and family get. And we’re too lazy to post something one week on our personal Facebook, and then two weeks later on our official Instagram.
Living the dream
Finally, there’s a lot of creative editing of this lifestyle on Instagram. Lots of posed smiling photos, heavily processed dreamy underwater shots, carefully curated images that sit well together, signature filters. Posts are either about living the dream or heavy “you’ll never believe what happened next” drama to promote the next episode.
That’s not us. We’re messy and honest. We were always going to share all of this adventure. We don’t do clickbait. You see our life as it happens, good, bad, and mundane. Making a decision to not monetise freed us up to be completely authentic and in the moment with our posts. We have no schedule. No house style. We don’t look at algorithms. You can tell when Colin’s posted to Instagram as the hashtags are usually missing. We’re totally honest about how much time Ailsa lies in bed watching Drag Race. If we’re fed up with the heat and the bugs and can’t find good cheese, you know it. If we have a perfect swim with turtles, you see it.
What we share is far more representative of the life of all of our cruiser friends than many of the Instagram feeds we follow. We’re all for providing some escapism and admire those shiny aspirational feeds and the people that create them. But it’s been done too often and we had no interest in squeezing into that mould.
All the rest
Without the big following on YouTube or Instagram, the sources of income were never going to emerge. We were never going to have brands lining up to help us renovate Mirounga with their products. We weren’t going to get a loyal Patreon following large enough to pay our food bills. Our Discord exclusive chats would be pointless because we don’t want to charge people for access to us. The stickers and business cards we had made go mostly unused. And we weren’t going to have people around the world proudly sporting our T-shirts (though they have reached North America!).
Yes, it meant we would need to work. But that’s not all bad.
When we were in our early days onboard and Colin got an opportunity to extend his programming contract, it was a no-brainer. We knew we’d be between St Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada until at least September and our ‘real’ travel wouldn’t start for months.
Working and sailing
Ailsa worked for the first 5 weeks or so we lived in the Caribbean, and then the plan had been to find freelance part-time editorial work. In the end, after a few weeks of unemployment in the same anchorage, she was going stir crazy. She found more consistent contract-based work, and it was a lifesaver. Getting Mirounga up to live aboard standard was expensive, and had we not both worked all of our savings would be gone by now. We also both liked having a life beyond the boat, other goals to achieve, and work chatter.
We were lucky that we still had enough savings to take a 6-month career break while we moved around more. Working regular hours and doing this would be impossible because of the connectivity alone. But, we’re both agreed that we worked in great teams before moving out and that we miss them. Ailsa is looking forward to picking up a few more weeks of work with her most recent employer soon. And, in all honesty, we miss having a disposable income. We took our diving qualifications in June hoping to dive in every country we visited. We’ve gone on one dive because we just can’t afford $200 a pop.
Had we tried to stick to monetising our social media, we would have been so busy trying to balance that with work that we’d never go outside. We couldn’t have afforded to upgrade the boat on an early-days social media income. And Ailsa, who would probably have done most of that work, would have been lonely and frustrated.
But one thing has worked out for us, and that’s thanks to you.
The blog was always the thing Ailsa was most excited about. And let’s face it, you know who is writing this – it’s time for some first-person.
I had no ideas about what this blog ‘should’ be. I had no plan, beyond the weeks where we shared our sailing experience before we moved onboard. All I really knew was that I had two aims – to create a fairly full account of our time onboard in terms of movements and activities for our own records and to take readers with us on our journey.
I had some fun writing reviews. I’ve always been the person that will leave a detailed TripAdvisor review, and having my own place to really go into detail was great. I wanted to support the businesses and people that made us feel at home when we first moved out, and give them something to share. The neurodiverse side of me absolutely loves to read detail on somewhere I’m staying before I go, and I wanted to use that passion to shout about beautiful places to stay. I’d have loved to turn that into a career, but where on earth to start?
We had thought we might have some more technical blogs about Mirounga and maintaining her. She’s a fairly rare boat, and that kind of content would be appealing to Prout enthusiasts. Those would be Colin’s thing though. He’s a perfectly good writer, but he takes far more joy in doing than writing. That’s logical – even though software development is effectively writing, it’s also creating action by doing so. And in all fairness, I never wrote the technical blog about whipping the steering wheel I intended to.
Exploring my brain
It wasn’t long before I also started to explore the emotional aspects of moving onboard. I honestly hadn’t expected to go on quite such a journey with my mental health. When I was feeling overwhelmed and homesick in those first few weeks, the blog was cathartic. It gave me a place to express myself in detail. It also allowed me to be completely raw and honest. The support I had from readers from those first few emotional blogs was unexpected and buoying. I’ll never forget lovely Drasi in Bequia introducing herself to me with a much-needed hug after reading an early blog.
Blogging has helped me to process and understand a lot about myself and the way my mind works. When I write about my experiences, I can more easily see patterns of behaviours and emotions. I’m finally admitting to myself that I may have ADD, or be on the Autism spectrum. When you have a record of all the made-up rules in your head, or the sensory reactions you have, or the rabbit-holes your brain sends you down, it makes things clearer. So many of the things I had blamed on work, climate, ‘normal’ life, are things that will always be with me. I can move forward knowing this. But I can also take some pleasure in the laser-focus I get from blogging that few other tasks give me.
Finding my voice
I don’t work to a schedule, really. I try to capture our life with a snapshot every few weeks, more often when we’re busier. As soon as the week is done I can’t wait to record and share it – see, this is why I could never do the time-lag, YouTube thing. Blogging is technically simple, and I can manage it with a fairly basic internet connection. It gives me chance to do something I love – writing. I’ve always written professionally, but so rarely in my own voice. It’s always been shadow-writing for parliamentary committees or analytical and tightly researched publications on bills or local government finance. There’s always been a style guide and the ever-present need for impartiality. I haven’t been writing as myself.
Now I get to be myself. Feel my emotions and share them. Live my life and take you with me.
I have considered that writing is a form of art, and I do think that art is worthy of remuneration. I know a lot of people that release blogs only to paid subscribers or through Patreon. But I enjoy writing enough that I don’t see it as work and have no plans to try to make an income from blogging.
As happy as we are, this is the thing we’ve been dreading saying out loud for months.
We’re selling Mirounga.
A hard decision
Way back in June when we were just finding our feet onboard, we had a hard decision to make. We had to decide if we were going to give up our beloved cat Schödinger permanently, and never be her humans again. Her foster home just wasn’t working, so whoever she went to needed to know if this was a temporary or permanent arrangement. We agreed that it was temporary because the thought of never having her back was too heartbreaking. We decided, however, not to set anything around moving back to the UK in stone until we’d experienced living onboard without employment and explored more of the Caribbean.
And a harder reality
In the end, the time we’ve spent onboard has taught us that this isn’t a lifestyle we can afford to sustain without full-time work. Even when we were both working (albeit with a massive pay cut for Ailsa), we were eating into our savings. We don’t have enough left to go much beyond the 6-month career break we planned. As much as we found some balance, working and sailing became hard to maintain. You can’t work regular hours without regular reliable internet, and with regular hours you miss out on so much. You can’t take advantage of midweek weather windows, Tuesday night beach parties, or morning group hikes. You can’t sail from place to place on a whim, or decide to spend a week on an island with no cell signal.
We never wanted to just live on a boat in one place. And maintaining a boat is so expensive that we couldn’t afford to spend some of the year working and static, and the rest not working and moving. Even if we did that, it would be hard to travel beyond the Caribbean. We’ve now seen all of the Eastern Caribbean, and can’t see us wanting to restrict ourselves to here alone.
Some people are lucky enough to be able to spend some of the year on land in their home country, working and earning, with the boat safely tucked away in a boatyard. We don’t have that option, because we put all of our money into Mirounga. It’s her, or a house. We’re 15-20 years younger than friends that have both a boat AND property.
It’s a difficult decision to make because we really have fallen in love with Mirounga and this lifestyle. We’re having a great time. But it’s not sustainable. The longer we stay out here, the older Schrödinger gets, the harder it is for Ailsa to get her career back, the more house prices inflate making it impossible to get back into homeownership. And to us, it’s better to end the journey on a high before we get bored or empty our pockets completely.
Mirounga is now officially for sale, please look at and share the listing.
Our hope is to ideally sell late-April in Grenada so we can move back to Scotland in May, in time to celebrate Ailsa’s 40th with friends and enjoy a Scottish summer. We’ll move back to Kelso at first and take on another renovation project for Ailsa’s dad. Then we hope to find our own project house to buy, another big adventure…
Until then, we’ll keep going as we are. A year in, we’re not going to change up anything we do on social media. And the blog will be what it’s always been – a record of our journey, and a brain dump for Ailsa when she needs it. Blogging has given Ailsa the confidence to consider writing a manuscript that’s been kicking around her head, but honestly, there’s a certain impetus lacking.
Dear reader, it’s you.
We don’t look at analytics, impressions, subscriptions… But you still let us know you’re reading. You let us know you want the blogs to keep coming. That you enjoy the read. We want to make sure you finish the journey with us.
The support and kindness you’ve given us has been overwhelming. We like to joke that the only people that read are Ailsa’s Dad (he loves to flag up the typos) and her old boss (hi Allan), but we know that we have readers who have only met us in passing, or never at all. The joy that comes from knowing that people who have never met us have found our little corner of the internet and are following along is insurmountable. It keeps us going, keeps us posting.
Hi. Welcome. Thank you. All of you.