Welcome to this part of the blog. Once a month I’ll be sharing an interview with a fellow SALT. What’s SALT I hear you ask? Well it’s someone that’s seeking or found a Simple Alternative Lifestyle Transformation. They’ve salted the situation, they’ve added flavour to their lives…they’ve…ok enough of the jokes…
This week I’ve been chatting to a couple who have been sailing around the mediterranean for the last 3.5 years with their two cats! Currently they’re sailing around Greece, so I’m hopeful that at some point I’ll get to meet them and jump on board for a spin! To check out my last SALT interview, have a look here. Without further ado, let me introduce them…
What are your names, ages?
Nina (44) and Ralf (47) Karla & Lily the cats (4 years old)
What country did you move from, where do you live now and when did it happen?
Originally I (Nina) am from the New Zealand and Ralf is from Lindau, Germany. Nowadays we live on “FRIDA” our beautiful Catana Catamaran with our cats and have been sailing and living around the Mediterranean for the last 3.5 years. We are currently sailing around the Peloponnese and surrounding islands of Greece.
What made you want to change your lifestyle? Was there a catalyst? Was it something you’d been thinking for a while?
Ralf always had the dream of sailing around the world. On his first day of school, at age 5, he sailed himself and his mum there! Ralf was already sailing by himself, self taught, at the age of 4 years and then at 5 years old he had his own small boat and sailed to school everyday (even in the winter.) Everyday he would watch out the school window, and if the wind was blowing, he’d skip school to sail. In the end, the teachers made him face the wall so he couldn’t see the lake anymore!
Then after he’d completed his studies, he followed a career into designing beach catamarans, building houses as a carpenter and then studied engineering, finance & architecture. He worked long stressful hours for a company and then became self employed and worked for himself. Sadly, all of his family started to fall seriously ill and he spent 10 years working long hours and caring for his Mum, Dad, Uncles, and Grandmothers who all passed away over the 10 years. With no family left, the desire to get out and live his life became a possibility; his dream of sailing the world was calling. Consequently, he closed down his business and found his dream catamaran for a good price. It needed work, but with time and effort, he knew he could bring back to life. He added solar, wind and other important living off the grid parts to FRIDA, our catamaran home.
Meanwhile, I had been travelling for 2 weeks every month for the last 12 years for my Events and Marketing Manager role for a top IT Tech company around NZ, Australia and Asia. While I loved my career, I started wondering what “climbing the career ladder” really meant.
I love adventures, but after my 5th House renovation in 10 years (whilst travelling and working a corporate job) and another breakup with a long term boyfriend, I decided to make a change. I rented my houses, bought a big van and renovated it into a little self-contained home. Loaded with a mountain bike, surfboard and sea kayak as my companions, I travelled around New Zealand. I needed that time for myself, I had always been busy “doing things” but now I was finding out who I was through adventures.
“I needed that time for myself, I had always been busy “doing things” but now I was finding out who I was through adventures.”
During my travels I also sailed with the famous SV Delos crew in NZ, Australia and Asia. Over a period of three years, I joined them from time to time and ended up appearing in their youtube videos.
Meanwhile, Ralf had been watching Youtube videos of other sailors travelling the world. He watched the famous SV Delos youtube series and saw a “nice” lady in some of the videos. Something inside him made him reach out and find me and send me a facebook message. His message wrote: “It looked like you had a great time sailing with the Delos crew, I hope you keep sailing and have a great life.” I had received some other messages from guys, but I always deleted them. This time, something felt different. I had a nice feeling about him and I decided to reply. We talked and messaged each other for a while, and then, as the timing was perfect, Ralf invited me to come sailing with him for a few weeks. The rest is history; we are now married and live a simple adventurous sailing life.
The great thing about living on a boat is that the less you carry with you on the boat, the faster you go. This means there is more time to have fun and adventures. Also, the sailing is more fun when we can do a bit of fast race sailing on our way.
We could have both kept on working and renovating houses, but we didn’t want to wait until we retired at the normal age of 65 years old to live out our dreams. If we’d waited until we were older, then we wouldn’t be able to truly enjoy energetic activities, such as: going mountain biking, mountain hiking, running, windsurfing and strength-yoga. We also love finding rock jumps to jump into the clear blue water.
“We didn’t want to wait until we retired at the normal age of 65 years old to live out our dreams.”
Having time to enjoy the simple pleasures and living in nature are the most important thing to us. We enjoy the challenge of fixing everything on our boat ourselves to save money, and we also cycle longer distances to do bulk shopping at cheaper supermarkets and local village markets. After we’ve carried all of the food back home, we really feel like we’ve earned it. We buy lots of wholesome foods in their raw form, and we’ve become experts at cooking beans and pulses, and sprouting them too.
Why did you choose the country/area/location that you live in now?
We chose to live on our boat and travel around the Mediterranean, and later onto other destinations. This year we had planned to continue our journey across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans to New Zealand. However due to the corona virus, and countries we wanted to visit being closed to travellers, we decided to return to Greece and see more of the country. We love Greece and will spend the winter here looking for some land to buy. Although we want to continue our journey to New Zealand, the lure of finding some land and growing our own vegetables and fruits is strong.
What was your old life like? Give us an idea of a typical day.
In Ralf’s old life he had two cellphones that were constantly ringing from his housing project contractors. Meawnwhile, he needed to concentrate on designing new house projects. After work he would eat a quick processed meal and fall asleep. He enjoyed the work, but it didn’t leave anytime for sailing or mountain biking. He was constantly stressed and lonely, especially as all of his family had passed away.
In my old life I was either packing, unpacking or travelling to another country to run an executive event. Then, after being inside the whole day running the event, I would entertain customers at a restaurant and then sleep in an air-conditioned hotel room with no opening windows for fresh air. When I was home in New Zealand, I worked in the office all day and then worked on renovating whatever current house project I had on the go. I loved travelling and knew that I was lucky to have such privileges, but the constant travel, house projects and a succession of broken relationships had left me with no time to get to know myself, or to evaluate what success really meant to me. I had no alone time to reflect, heal or live my own adventure.
What was the reaction from friends and family? Was it positive or negative? Did other peoples opinions make you question your decision?
For Ralf, a lot of his friends where jealous. They said that it was okay for him because he’d inherited so much money that he could just go sailing around the world. They didn’t see how much work he’d put in, or realise that he’d lost the people he loved. This is sad as it means most people think our lifestyle is unattainable for them.
When I left my high flying job, rented out my house and went campervanning around NZ, most people were afraid for me. They said that a woman shouldn’t be doing such adventurous things alone. I think this was because they were fearful of the unknown.
What is your new life like?
Nowadays life is completely different. We rent out our properties in NZ and Germany and have lowered our mortgages so they will be paid off by “retirement age.” This gives us just enough income for boat parts, winter marinas, food, gas and petrol.
We love the challenge of only anchoring for 8 months of the year and not going to expensive marinas, and we fix everything on our boat ourselves. Ralf is like a “Mr Macgiver” and has even been known to fix a €200 part with a bottle cap rather than buying a new one. We have a sewing machine and repair our sails, cushions and clothes ourselves. Also, we catch fish when we can, and cook on our boat as much as possible. From an environmental aspect, we use the wind to travel, and the sun and wind for our power, plus we use a minimal amount of water.
Over the winter we need the marina for safety from strong storms and for doing repairs. Ralf always finds jobs repairing boats for other people, but our own boat repairs, and having the time to do the things we want to do, alway come first. I teach yoga in whichever marina or town we are in, as some extra money for a restaurant treat.
What do the cats think of living on board a catamaran?
We always say they must be the most well travelled cats around. We take them for “walkies” or “beach days” everyday when we’re moored up and they love to explore new places. We’ve trained them to walk like dogs and they follow us and come to our calls. Also, on the occasions that they’ve fallen in the water, they can swim and jump back into our boat. They’ve only been seasick and afraid once when we where in a thunderstorm and struck by lightening, otherwise they love it. When we catch fish, they get their share. They have also caught fish off the back of our boat a few times.
What challenges have you faced?
The weather is sometimes unkind; a lovely little calm bay can turn into a washing machine upon arrival. When the weather is bad or the water is rough, you don’t get much sleep as the sea tries to toss you from bed. But most of the time the waves just gently rock you to sleep. We miss our friends, family and a community; constantly travelling makes it difficult to put down roots. Sometimes we have issues with our rentals back in Germany and New Zealand. They are too far away for us to fix the issues, so we have to pay for expensive tradesmen. But we run some Airbnb on our boat which makes up for some of the losses.
What are your favourite things about your new life?
We love learning about new cultures, feeling free, waking up to a new trail to run, hike or bike. Doing what we love everyday. Waking up in natures rhythm to the sunrise and watching the sunset everyday.
Time to slowly cook together and make interesting new dishes and eat in the best water view restaurant…Frida our boat home. We love having the time to have physical adventures, and the time to reflect and be in the ‘now’ so we can discover more of who we are inside.
Is there anything you would do differently in hindsight?
Nothing! We love that we broke away from “normal” society and will keep it this way. By living simply, we now have time for adventures rather than living to make money.
Do you see this as a permanent move?
Yes! Completely! We will stay living simply. The only thing we are looking to change is to find some land so that we can build a small home and live sustainably from nature. We will continue to sail of course, but just not the whole year.
What would your advice be to others considering a change of lifestyle.
Anyone can do it. Listen to what you really want. Listen to your inner voice. Write down your goals and everyday make a step towards that goal. Move through your fears and fears of other people.
Is there a way that people can follow your journey further?
What do you think?
Is this a lifestyle you dream of? Do you have sea legs? I’d love a taste of the sailing life, but I suspect sea sickness would get the better of me! Let me know your thoughts below.
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