The Big Decision Q&A

Should I quit my job and go cruising? Sherry McCampbell 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. Beth Leonard was the first to respond. Here is the second response we received, from Sherry McCampbell.)

EscudoSherry-703770Sherry McCampbell responds:

Hi Judy,

You don’t say what your job is… but I guess it doesn’t matter that much in the grand scheme of things.

To just give you my story… the first time I went cruising, I left at age 37. I gave up a job I really loved (computer programming) and went sailing.

We took along our 5 year old daughter (the only kid I know who ‘withdrew’ from 1st grade) The original idea was to go for a year, but we were having so much fun that our trip through the Caribbean lasted for 4 years.

After that trip, we went back to the real world… put my daughter in 6th grade, and I went back to work. After 4 years of cruising, my technical skills were a little stale. So, to get a job quickly, I offered myself at ‘entry level’ wages. I was snapped up within a week, at a job that was WAY BETTER than what I left (satisfaction-wise). I worked for a year at my cheapo wages, and then easily negotiated (based on the fact that I was now fully up to date on technology, a hard worker, and very competent, etc) full wages as if I’d never left my original job.

I worked for another 9 years at that same company, and then took off again.

My years of cruising actually added to (a) my job ability and (b) my job satisfaction. I was there because I WANTED to be. It makes a huge difference.

Chile2009Bottom line is… life AIN’T about work. Even if you love it, they take advantage of you, and in the end, it isn’t worth what you give up.

Whatever it is you love to do outside of work is better done while you are young. Believe me, as I watch my body fall apart at 50+, and in spite of what I’ve ALREADY done, I wish I’d started earlier.

There’s always the compromise solution… take a sabbatical and go with the idea that you ‘promise’ to come back. But to really experience sailing, this has to be at least 3 month–6 months or a year is better.

If your bliss ISN’T sailing, then skip sailing and go do whatever else (besides work) that your bliss IS before you’re too old to enjoy it. (But giving sailing/cruising a shot, first) You can always work later, or wait til your 70, and done with cruising, and work at Walmart, I can’t emphasize enough that life isn’t about work, and there are so many other alternatives… even doing the work you love… while you are sailing.

Or before or after.

Believe me, this is the best advice on life you’ll ever get.

Good luck!

s/v Soggy Paws

About Sherry (Beckett) McCampbell

Sherry5Yrs2 Sherry has been in, under, and around the water since she learned to swim at 3 years old.  Summers as a kid were spent camping, waterskiing, canoeing, and kayaking.

Sherry started sailing on her Dad’s 41′ Trimaran, Rivka, in high school.  By the time she acquired her own boat in her late-20′s, Sherry had already been several times to the Bahamas and once around the Caribbean.

For 15 years, Sherry worked 60-70 hour weeks as a computer programmer, got married and had a daughter.  It was a fun time, but by 1992, career burn-out was looming.

In 1993, Sherry and her (now ex) husband set out on their 37′ Prout Catamaran, Island Time, for a 4 year liveaboard adventure, with 5 year old daughter Nicki, a cat named Annabelle, and Tramp the Wonder Dog.  Their travels took them first to Maine, and then south through the Bahamas and into the Caribbean.

Fast Lane Once back in the States,  Sherry bought and restored a Lindenberg 28, a go-fast race boat, and then REALLY learned how to sail.  She raced for 5 years in the Melbourne Florida area in her L28 named Fast Lane.

After working full time as a computer programmer/manager for nearly 10 years, Sherry retired again in 2007 to accompany Dave as co-captain on their around the world cruise.

Sherry maintains an extensive website and blog covering their travels aboard Soggy Paws, plus a wealth of cruising information.

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 and Kathleen Watt also responded to Judy’s question. You can read Beth’s response here. We will be posting Kathleen’s response shortly – and others 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.

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1 comment to Should I quit my job and go cruising? Sherry McCampbell responds

  • Harriet Havanich

    Hi, Judy & John,
    It’s probably too early to decide – 5 years is a long time and you may feel differently by then. Or your daughter may get a scholarship or change her path. If you can fit sailing into your current life, that would be a good start to finding out whether you want to even try it. Also, there’s nothing wrong with a “try it and we’ll see how it goes” attitude.
    All these thoughts come from my own experience, since my husband and I left to go cruising at 45 with the idea that we’d do it for 2 years and see if we liked it. Twenty years later, we still consider ourselves cruisers, although we’re ashore right now caring for elderly parents.
    At your age, we both had jobs we loved and our son was in high school. Within 5 years, he got fired by new management and I got laid off in a corporate downsizing, our son quit school and joined the marines and we sold our “weekending” boat to buy a bigger one. So, we sold our house, which was not located where new jobs would have been, stored everything we couldn’t bear to part with in his father’s basement and moved onto our bigger boat for a couple of years of cruising. After that, we never went back.
    The first year we were in shock, but we’ve learned that living with less and having time to enjoy the cruising world really suits us. So, go sailing, see if you like it and reassess it all in 5 years. Meanwhile, save for your daughter’s education, just in case you want to go.
    You only get one life – and only you can decide how to spend it.

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