Thursday, September 24, 2015

What's Your Hurricane Plan?

Lighthearted approach to a serious subject.  (Sign available from Amazon, here)

As we were watching for hurricane Erika's arrival, and immediately afterward, we ended up in several conversations with variations on this theme: what would you do if your house/boat was completely totalled, you had just the contents of your backpack and $80K from insurance? As you rebuilt your life, what would you do?

A colleague on the Galeon said that if we lost Cinderella, we should just stay aboard permanently and live on the ship (interesting, hmm...). I've always been interested in mobile, possession-light living, but maybe not quite to that extent and not indefinitely.  There were certain practical or sentimental or unique objects I had collected over the years that I would definitely miss. And the lack of any control or privacy would get old, too. It was a very flattering suggestion, anyway.

While I wasn't sure exactly what my hypothetical post-catastrophe life would look like, I was certain I would want to still be living in a small space, in touch with nature, mobile, not committed to any one location. That might not be another sailboat similar to our present one, or it might. It might also be a trawler, RV, or tiny house. Or a series of housesitting gigs in interesting locations. My trend was pretty clear.

Several people in these conversations saw the chance to start over as a chance to make a radical change. If they lost their boat they wouldn't buy another one. A woman said if she lost her house she'd prefer to replace it with an RV. Another said if they lost their house they'd take advantage of the opportunity to do something they'd always wanted, build a cabin in the mountains instead of rebuilding where they were.

What some of these folks said made me sad. If they were in a life that doesn't "fit" anymore, unhappy with their present lifestyle, why weren't they doing something to change it? Why did they need to wait for a hurricane to come along and sink their ship/trash their house/whatever in order to make that radical change? Why not just sell it, now, and get on with that "something" they were wishing for "someday?" Yes, I understand that they might not get as much money out of the sale as they would wish, or perhaps as they would get from the insurance totalling it. And inertia is a bitch, and family members that are left behind by your choice to make big changes can play guilt games.  But why, if they are mobile, are they marking time in a place/situation that they don't like and half-wishing for a catastrophe?

When we were first married and living in a townhouse in Boulder, Colorado we had some neighbors who at the time seemed impossibly old and wealthy (they were really middle-class and in their 50s, but we were in our 20s and broke, so by comparison they were old and wealthy). One day they announced a garage sale. They were selling everything -- their 4-bedroom home with mountain view, their two cars, all their furniture and most of their clothing, and going backpacking through Europe. Being newly married and starting a career and in an intense nesting phase, we didn't understand their actions.  Why dump everything they had worked so hard to acquire? We didn't understand then, but we never forgot them, either.  Now, though, we do understand. It didn't take a hurricane for them to break free of their inertia and take action toward their big change.

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