The Big Decision Q&A

Should I quit my job and go cruising? Beth Leonard responds


My husband and I are thinking of living aboard a sailboat in four to five years from now. His daughter is grown and just purchased her first home while my daughter is a freshmen in high school.

I suppose it is harder for me to take to the idea of living aboard because I have a really great paying job and I feel I need to help my daughter with college. I am only 39 so leaving my career is harder than I thought it would be. Any advice for me? My husband is 47 and more than ready to leave tomorrow. He is self employed and can build or fix anything so he will not have a problem finding work along the way of our adventure.

I look forward to hearing from you if you have time or advice.

– Judy and John

(Women and Cruising sent Judy’s question to several of our friends/contributors for their thoughts. Here is the first of several responses we received.)

Beth Leonard responds:

Beth Leonard in her consulting daysI can really relate to what you are saying – when my husband suggested we sail off into the sunset, we were both working as international management consultants, based out of Sweden.

We were in the partnership window, my job paid extremely well and I loved it – except that it took everything I had and left me no time or energy for other things that were important to me.

What made it possible for me to leave my career and go cruising was figuring out what I was going to get out of it, besides seeing my husband’s smiling face ever day!

For me, that turned out to be writing. I had always wanted to be a writer, and sailing opened that door and allowed me to walk through to a life I had always dreamed of and aspired to.

Beth Leonard nowBut we did give up a great deal financially, and I think I would have felt differently if I had really needed money for something like caring for my parents or putting a child through school. I would not have wanted my choices to limit the opportunities of someone else in my family, particularly a child.

I am afraid that if you don’t have something of your own that you are going to get out of it, and if your daughter may not be able to afford the best school she can get into, then you will end up resenting the fact that this is his adventure and it trumped your own priorities.

Sailing is not for everyone, and don’t let anyone tell you differently.

But cruising is also not something that has to be done in only one way.

We meet lots of couples who have come to an accommodation because one of them is in a very different place than the other with respect to career and caretaking.

Beth and Evans Part-time cruising is a real option today, as is flying in and joining him for a month or so after he has made the passage to the next destination. Flexibility will almost always allow you to find a way if you want to make it happen.

For me and most other women I know, sailing opens up opportunities that can come about almost no other way.

No one can make this decision for you. But bear in mind that there is always a reason not to go. At some point, if cruising is something you want to do, you do have to set all those reasons aside and make it happen.

Good luck!

About Beth Leonard

Evans and Beth Beth Leonard and her husband, Evans Starzinger, have completed two circumnavigations and logged more than 110,000 nautical miles. Between 1992 and 1995, they sailed westabout by way of the Panama Canal, Torres Straits and the Cape of Good Hope aboard their Shannon 37, Silk.

They spent four years ashore building their 47-foot aluminum Van de Stadt Samoa sloop, Hawk, before leaving again in 1999. They have just completed a ten-year, eastabout circumnavigation by way of all of the Great Capes that took them as far north as the Arctic Circle and as far south as Cape Horn.

Beth has written more than 200 articles that have appeared in the pages of the US and UK sailing magazines, including most recently Cruising World, Sailing, Good Old Boat, Yachting World and Practical Sailor.  Beth has had columns in Blue Water Sailing and Yachting World, and Evans has had a column in Yachting Monthly.

Beth has written three books: The Voyager’s Handbook, Following Seas, and Blue Horizons. Her how-to book, The Voyager’s Handbook, is widely accepted as the definitive treatise on bluewater cruising.  Her most recent book, Blue Horizons, won a 2007 National Outdoor Book Award in the outdoor literature category.

About Ask Your Questions:

When we receive a question from Women and Cruising readers, we send it out to women who we think might have relevant experience to share. These women often email the questioner back directly, but if everyone agrees we will also post the questions and answers/responses here in the blog. We may change the name or some details of the question to protect the questioner’s privacy if requested.

Beth Leonard was the first to respond to Judy. You can read Sherry McCampbell’ s response here , and Kathleen Watt’s here. We will be posting others’ responses as we receive them.

If you have thoughts for Judy on her big decision

Email or leave a comment below. We will send your response on to Judy, and may post it here on the blog too if you agree.

Do YOU have a question for Women and Cruising?

Email or leave a comment below.

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4 comments to Should I quit my job and go cruising? Beth Leonard responds

  • Julie Tough

    I enjoyed your website, and I am hoping to join the cruising lifestyle in the next few months. I currently live in the North East of England, but I m flying out to join my American partner, and go sailing. I particularly liked your piece on flexibility, and making it happen. Thanks for the information and motivation, maybe one day we will meet…

  • Should I quit my job and go cruising?

    This the question that only you can ask yourself.

    I can only comment from my viewpoint. I have been cruising for five years now and love it, I am not the greatest sailor (I get seasick and occassionally cabin fever) but I love the fact that I take my home with me, met amazing and inspiring people, see remote and stunning areas and the lifestyle is rewarding.

    I think it is harder for a woman to make the decision as we are the homemakers, the mothers, etc. We look for security, both a home and family.

    Before I went cruising I badgered other women cruisers, sailors and asked lots of questions, especially about cooking, space for me (it is a male dominated world), being scared, handling a boat by myself, beauty and being feminine aboard, etc. I asked everyone who would answer my questions until they were answered-no matter how silly.

    We have three children, we left the youngest when she was in her last year of high school, she had a strong supportive peer group and we had family close by. We talked to the school and they supported leaving her behind rather than taking her with us. The other two were self sufficient. Yes life was difficult having no family home but they learnt a lot. We were only a phone or email away, family support was nearby. My justification was that I was only a phone call or email away and 24-48 hours by plane from anywhere in the world (of course dependent upon if I was mid passage (but how often is that).

    Leaving work was difficult, I had delayed my career due to having children, I was beginning the career progression, getting into management and strategic planning and enjoying it-although the stress levels were not pleasant. I was making a difference and enjoying the fact that I was advancing in my career. My husband;s mother died when she was 45 and we said that we would travel before we got too old and ill. So we set a date and kept to it.

    We need to work as we travel as we are well before retirement age and need to earn our cruising kitty. It is interesting that I have been able to pick up casual and relief work at the level that I left-I thought I would be changing beds, washing dishes or cleaning toilets. I have not left my Country yet but feel that I would pick up work if needed or travel home and find something short term to save money.

    I was very scared about resigning and selling my home-I was giving up my security but the cruising lifestyle, moving about-the gypsy life suits us. As Beth Leonard states it does not suit everyone. All I can say is what you decide is best for you do not feel you need to conform sort our what suits you.

    Kind regards


    Do it and don’t look back. I sailed around the world from 1997 to 2002 with my parents. At the time I was 9 to 14 and home schooled and really did love every second of it. My parents never helped me with my university education and I do not blame them for it one little bit, it taught my financial independence and to work for what I wanted, so whatever you do, do not pay for your daughters education, I know way to many people who take advantage of their parents money.
    Do what you want to do!

    The only problem I have is now I am addicted to traveling! But I did really good in university and recently got my mba and have a job that allows me to travel. Oh and my parents are still traveling the world, and they always joke that they are using my inheritance to do it. And you know what I say “good for them” my goal is to work hard and do the same thing. It truly is a great inspiration to see people doing what they love.

  • Ruth A

    It can be difficult leaving a career one enjoys. It can also be difficult saling away from various other things. You in the end are the only one who can decide what works for you.
    I was able to arrange a year off work to do some sailing away. Would I do it again? You bet!
    I am now back home working, settling in for the dreaded winter, and wish I was somewhere warm on my boat.
    We will go again…just have not picked the date yet.
    Be interesting to know what you decide.

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