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Common Reasons Why People Fail to Adapt to Life Aboard

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 4 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Failure To Adapt To Living On A Boat

Both via the media and perhaps by even having taken short boating holidays and sampled the lifestyle, the prospects of living permanently on a boat can often seem so idyllic and so stress free that the temptation to make such a radical lifestyle change to how you’re used to living means that you eventually succumb to the temptation and buy or rent a boat which you intend to live on.

Some people adapt to the changes quite naturally and once they’ve made the jump, many people would agree that they could never envisage going back to their previous lifestyle. However, for many people who expected it to be fulfilling a long-held dream, the reality can often turn out to be very different when living on a boat becomes permanent and, ultimately, some people decide that their decision was, in hindsight, a bad one and that they have to admit to failing to adapt to life onboard and abandon their plans.

Although there are many reasons why this happens, some of the most common factors mentioned include the boating lifestyle being:

  • Unsuitable for bringing up children
  • A sense of isolation and an inability to forge new friendships
  • A lack of opportunity of putting down roots
  • A restrictive lifestyle in terms of lack of space and creature comforts
  • Missing too many aspects of their previous lifestyle
  • Problems with the boat and the venture proving more costly than they expected
  • Problems with regards to employment adjustments and children’s schooling
  • A gradual dissatisfaction with life on the water and seasonal changes

These are just some of the most common reasons given for a person’s inability to adapt to living on board a boat but these issues are often part of a much greater ‘picture’ which are likely to be interlinked to the dynamic of the people living on board.

Shared Values

If people have very different values and opinions about how life onboard should be, then inevitably rifts will occur. Because families, in particular, are ultimately living in a much more confined space with often less opportunity to escape from the pressures of that, it can create problems.

For example, one person may be very routine-oriented and regimented in their approach to life whilst some prefer to simply allow life to evolve on a boat and, in essence, prefer to ‘go with the flow’ and enjoy the relative freedom that boat life offers.

Therefore, if there are conflicts between boat dwellers on the same boat this will inevitably impact upon a person’s enjoyment of this particular kind of lifestyle.

Inability To ‘Escape’ From One Another

When you consider family life in a conventional house within a community, for example, you might be surprised to realise that, although you do enjoy each other’s company or, if a family, you enjoy spending some time together, the actual reality is often that the number of hours you’re actually spending together in total are probably far less than you think.

People have different social activities they pursue separately or different friends that they socialise with separately and in most houses, especially those where it’s a family with children, there are lots of comings and goings and time and space to do your own thing.

And, whilst you can, if you work extremely hard at planning it, achieve something akin to this living on a boat, it is far more difficult to manage and many people simply find that everyone ends up living in some kind of restrictive ‘bubble’ from which there appears to be little escape to be oneself and to enjoy separate activities and friendships.

Space, Storage & Creature Comforts

These three aspects are all common reasons for people failing to adapt to life on a boat. Whilst some people may claim that they want to strip down and simplify their life which they think boat living can offer them, they’ll often discover that the amount of compromises they need to make once they are living on a boat are just too many to have to cope with which causes stress and eventually means that they’ll hanker for their previous type of lifestyle.

There may be other issues too. Perhaps, you were looking at boat living as a way of reducing your household costs yet you may find that whether it’s problems with the boat itself or other costs that are associated with living on a boat, that all of the adjustments and compromises you’ll have to make simply don’t seem to be worth it in terms of any cost savings and, in some cases, it might even turn out to be even more costly than your previous lifestyle.

Seasonal changes, especially when summer turns to winter can often add to a person’s misery and dissatisfaction about life on board and logistical difficulties with work and schooling issues might also cause problems. You might also feel that you have no real sense of laying down roots and of a community spirit that you were able to enjoy back on land.

For many people, they will not experience any of these difficulties or they’ll simply overcome them and the pay off will be in the positives they can gain from living on a boat. It really boils down to a person’s own perspective in the end and in their ability and willingness to adjust.

But remember, if you have tried it and decided it ultimately wasn’t for you, do not consider either yourself or the experience as a failure because the reality of life is that we often need to pursue certain courses and follow certain ‘dreams’, in order to find out whether or not they truly meant that much to us after all.

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Space can be the biggest problem. Most people won’t have lived on a boat before, although they might have taken holidays on one. Adapting to those cramped conditions can be very difficult and some will feel claustrophobic, as there’s really nowhere to enjoy any privacy. That’s especially true with a family, and if you have teenagers the problem becomes even greater.
Trevor - 4-Oct-12 @ 10:17 AM
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