Yesterday, we were both wearing our wetsuits with snorkels and fins in hand, readying the dinghy to go exploring, when a couple that was staying at one of the villas at the resort stopped to chat. People are so often curious about how we live this life afloat, and we never mind answering their questions. He had dreams of doing what we’re doing at some nebulous future post-retirement time, and we assured him that it was every bit as glorious as he’d imagined.
She asked me what I did about jewelry. Eh? Her question took me aback, in all the conversations I’ve had with people about living aboard, no one’s ever asked me that before. I took her question at face value first: I wiggled my fingers (empty except for a plain silver wedding band) and explained the practical reasons to do without jewelry: that sharks are drawn to the flash and sparkle and we were on our way to go snorkeling. And even if sharks weren’t a concern, things on fingers and ears were all too likely to slip off while swimming and get lost. I told the story of a divemaster we’d met in Aruba who claimed he never “shopped” for jewelry, he just dove looking for it.
It struck me that jewelry was an odd thing to worry about first, when contemplating moving aboard. Often other women ask me about how I deal with giving up my house and possessions. Answer: grandma’s quilt and my parent’s wedding album and our diplomas and other sentimental stuff is stored with some very special friends in Pennsylvania; the rest was sold at a garage sale because after all, a sofa is just a sofa, and I can always find another. This question always saddens me. There are many reasons people have to delay or deny their dream, finances or health or family obligations, but possessions? Truly, then, your possessions possess you, rather than the other way around. The other question I get a lot is whether I miss my family and friends. Answer: we have no aging parents or dependent children, and for everyone else there’s email.
I wondered what the context for asking about jewelry was. It couldn’t really be size and storage, could it? Jewelry is small and easy to store – compared to, say, spare engine parts or an extra anchor. I keep mine in a plastic box with compartments originally designed for fishing lures. My friend and fellow liveaboard Brenda even makes jewelry in a workshop in the aft cabin of their boat. Maybe she was thinking about theft and pirates? The answer for that is insurance, but of course if you don’t have it aboard it can’t be stolen. I forget that people don’t understand how simple this life afloat can be if you choose, how many status symbols and society things you can do without. Most of the time I live in t-shirts and shorts or chinos, and most of my “jewelry” is silly fun stuff made of seashells or resin beach glass so I can flaunt my retired/cruising/unconventional status. I don’t need to get dressed up very often. I do have one serious dress-up outfit and a couple of nicer shirts/blouses, (and even a bit of nice jewelry to match) but only one. Probably the next time I need to get dressed up, I’ll be on a different island with different people and they won’t know I’ve worn my one outfit before *wink*.