by EMILY ORTON
A few weeks ago I wrote about drinking the Kool-Aid and how we can leverage our natural inclination to conform by deliberately choosing who we want to follow and then giving them lots of space in our brains. That’s what we did with Totem.
In early 2014 our family of seven moved out of our small Manhattan apartment into an even smaller boat where we lived for most of that year. We did lots of two-steps forward one-step back preparations. We’ll tell more in our upcoming memoir available March 2019. Nothing beats just starting, but one of the most important steps for facing our fears was finding mentors.
Some of our most influential mentors were a sailing family aboard s/v Totem–s/v stand for sailingvessel. Sailing families adopt their boat name as a pseudo-surname, so I’ll use it that way here as well. Behan and Jamie Totem quit their jobs and sold their belongings in Washington State and moved aboard with their three young children. Their life was good, but they wanted something different –a different good, a different pace, and a different focus. Their plan went as far as heading south, towards Mexico…maybe the Pacific Islands.
When we found them online, they were in Papua New Guinea and had been sailing for six years. Erik reached out. Whenever Totemhad Internet access Behan answered specific questions and gave general encouragement. We saw their family thriving at sea.
Last year we got to hang with them twice in person as they meandered the east coast. Our kids walked barefoot together in Mystic Connecticut and we had an amazing brunch aboard Totem while she was docked on the Potomac River.
Now, the Totem family has been sailing for 10 years. They have circumnavigated the planet. They are sending their oldest child to college. AND they were just on the Today show!!! I’m so proud! I want to share:
Their story is inspiring to anyone on a journey –and who isn’t? BUT especially if you want to specifically live on a boat, Totem are amazing ambassadors, coaches, and mentors. Behan, along with some other extremely experienced sailing parents, made a how-to book just for you called, Voyaging with Kids.
While you’re on Amazon.com buying their book, check out this mini-documentary about this friendly, purpose-driven family. You may be shocked by what Behan says at minute 3:34. Time is a great luxury and it doesn’t take a lot of money to get a lot of time. Jamie and Behan are also doing coaching now and you’d certainly be in sturdy, but gentle hands with them.
As we were packing for our life on s/v Fezywig, Totem posted about observing water samples under their onboard microscope, which attached to a laptop. First, I was inspired then obsessed. The kids and I had already moved out of our apartment into my in-law’s basement where we were staging the leap from land to sea. Erik was renting a room while he wrapped up his desk job in Manhattan. I remember calling him to tell him that we needed to reevaluate the budget to make room for an eight hundred dollar microscope. Totem had one and used it. As far as I could tell, their kids were basically becoming home-study marine biologists. If we didn’t get one, our kids could never become a marine biologist.
Erik pointed me towards lighter weight, lighter on the wallet options. I was preparing for a standoff. We needed that microscope. I reached out to Behan for validation. Instead, she spotted me some wisdom. She told me that they generally used the microscope, in it’sheavy box, as additional seating. She said they used it so rarely that she commemorated the event with a blog post.
I stopped reading microscope reviews. I bought a full-color Caribbean fish guide and got back to packing and weighing Rubbermaid bins full of books and snorkel gear.
Whatever your journey, I hope you’re finding mentors to buoy you up, straighten you out, and cheer you on.
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