How Josie Strategizes
When I met my husband, Christian, in 2009, he lived on a boat. This was fascinating to me. At the time, I lived in Santa Barbara and he lived in San Francisco. So when I came to visit him, my daughter and I would spend five days at a time living on the boat. I loved it. It took me back to camping as a kid where life was really simple and cozy, and I just really loved the lifestyle.
We took our first big, month-long sailing trip together while we were dating. We each had a young daughter, Ella Mae (then 2.5) and Nina (then 7.5), and we sailed with them on a month-long trip to Mexico. The weather was terrible—cold and rainy—and Christian was apologetic and a little bit miserable. I was having the time of my life.
That’s when we both knew—we were a family. We were on a boat in the Pacific, there was nowhere to go, and we had a really good time, despite the weather. Our girls loved each other. We knew it was time to get married. And we knew we wanted to do this kind of a trip again with our kids—hopefully all the way around the world.
I moved to San Francisco, onto the boat, we got married, and we officially became a family. A family afloat.
Lauducci Family Culture
Christian has actually spent more of his life living on a boat than off. When people ask him what it’s like, he says, “I don’t know, what’s it like living in a house?” He moved onto a sailboat with his dad and stepmom, Lucille, when he was 12. Her theory was that one year of marriage is like seven years of marriage on land. You can’t escape—you have to face conflict and communication head on. There’s a boatload of togetherness.
So even though we got married after seven months, it was really like a couple of years because we spent so much time together on the boat. And the same went with our relationship with each other’s daughters. The girls got along really well. It was as if they decided, “We’re in this really small space, we should be friends. Let’s make the best of it and play together.” It was really fun to see them get along because we knew many blended families struggle with that. It just felt really good to be close and love each other as a family from the very start.
We lived in the San Francisco area for six years. I worked as a nurse and Christian worked in construction, until we decided it made more sense for him to care for the kids full time in 2011. When we brought our son home from the hospital in 2013, we brought him straight onto the boat. He’s never lived anywhere else.
In 2014, we decided it was time to live our dream of long-term sailing. We bought the necessary supplies, charted our course, and set sail on our boat, the SV Shawnigan, on August 2015. Ideally, we’ll sail all the way around the world, but our plans are flexible, depending on our family circumstances.
This decision was based on more than our sense of adventure, although that certainly is a factor. We had met other families that went sailing with their kids and were really impressed with their ability to communicate with adults and really all age ranges. We wanted our own kids to have that same comfort level communicating with people of all different ages, cultures, and beliefs. We also wanted to avoid getting caught up in the pop culture and FOMO (fear of missing out) that’s so prevalent in our culture today.
We loved the idea of defining our family culture on our own terms, based on our own core values—togetherness, outdoor activity, global citizenship, hands-on education, minimalism, and environmental responsibility.
Quality time together was a big part of choosing to make such an ambitious trip. Even though we already lived on a boat, we left each day for work and school. We decided we wanted to be together in the way that we had been on our trip to Mexico, without the distractions and stress of “normal life.” We also didn’t want to get into the trap of having other people raise our children through school or social groups because we were working and away from them most of the time.
We wanted more togetherness, and we got it. Even when we arrive at a destination, we discover it together as a family. We have adventures as a family. And we are never more together than when we make long passages.
Our two longest passages were nine days from Mexico to Costa Rica and 21 days across the Pacific, from Galapagos to French Polynesia. Not everyone likes long passages, but they’re actually my favorite because just day in and day out and you’re together and the whole world is doing its thing. There’s chaos happening in the world, but our family is on a boat figuring out what to eat for breakfast and what to do for school today. We’re very present and in the moment, and it’s hard to be otherwise. If you have conflicts, you have to work them out, because you’re in such close quarters.
If you’d like to know just how tightly we squeeze onto our boat, watch this video tour:
I was really nervous to start home-schooling our children when we started sailing full time. It’s a lot of pressure to be responsible for their education. We home-schooled (or boat-schooled) our children for our first four years of sailing. At first, we over-prepared and over-scheduled, but soon we developed a rhythm that really worked for us.
One of the things we’ve learned is that this whole education thing all works out. The more I relaxed and stopped stressing out about it, the more it just worked. We have figured out what learning styles best suit each of our children, and how to incorporate learning into our daily routine, whether it’s on the boat or exploring a new country. To read more about our daily schedule on the boat, read “How Josie Creates Routines.”
While boat-schooling, Christian and I share teaching responsibilities, and it’s nice to be able to tag team when a child clearly needs a different approach. We’ve also drawn on the experiences of boat neighbors and taught each other’s kids in our areas of expertise.
We have also learned the value of learning through play. Especially raising our son Taj, a very active boy, we realized the traditional, “sit down and learn this” approach does not work with him.
And of course, the kind of global education our kids are experiencing is something they couldn’t get any other way. It was one of our big goals as we started our journey. We wanted to give our kids as much world knowledge as possible and show them what the world has to offer, in a relatively affordable way. We wanted to show them all the different ways people live and still find happiness.
Our kids have experienced a variety of different belief systems, from super family-oriented cultures to business-oriented cultures that don’t acknowledge the importance of families very much and move really quickly. They’ve experiences friendly cultures who want to speak to tourists to cultures where they speak to tourists only because they have to get their money to survive. We’ve also been to several different churches so they can experience different belief systems.
Arriving at all these different countries by water is really cool, and most cultures are actually more inviting to people who come on boats. They know we’ve made an extraordinary effort to visit their home. We also have more time than most travelers, to get to know each place. The more cultures we experience, the easier it is for us to accept the different ways of living. Everyone is doing things differently and it’s all working out.
In January of 2019, our education situation changed dramatically, as we settled into New Zealand, where we will live for the next two years to earn money for the next stage of our adventure. We enrolled them in public school, and got a good boost of self-esteem, because they were actually ahead academically. They’re loving public school as a new kind of adventure.
Our overall culture has always been very active and outdoor-oriented. It kind of comes with the territory. We start each day deciding together what we’re going to do that’s active and fun. Right now, in New Zealand, one of our favorite and most frequent family adventures is mountain biking together. We’re avid snorkelers, hikers, and kayakers.
Part of why we left in the first place was to get away from screen culture. We never really submitted to it in the first place, but we didn’t want to always be those parents with the restrictions, the ones constantly saying no. Now it’s easy. Because we’ve never relied on screens for entertainment, it’s become part of our culture. We just aren’t on screens very much.
Another thing we love about boat life is the simplicity of it and teaching the kids how little we actually need or require in order to be happy. Sometimes less is more. We experience this by necessity in our small living quarters. In a 40-foot-boat, we have to be pretty selective about possessions. Our kids have to ask, “Is this something that I really want, and if so what am I willing to get rid of to keep equal space?”
But we’ve also learned about living a simple life through our interactions with other cultures and the way they live with so few “things.” Kids in many of the cultures we’ve visited have very few toys, but are still as happy (or more so) as kids with a playroom full of toys.
It’s impossible not to become an environmental activist when you’re out there in it all the time. Being out on the water as much as we are, it’s hard not to be concerned about plastic in the ocean. There’s so much out there we hardly make a dent. But we teach our kids that even our small family can make a difference. Taj especially is always going out of his way to pick up plastic when we’re kayaking or playing on the beach.
As we’ve sailed around, we’ve been able to talk about the environment on a global scale. We can see how straws on the beach are affecting turtles in Costa Rica, and then see how turtles in the Galapagos have the same problem, but with micro-plastics.
Going through the Panama Canal, there was quite a bit of trash in the water. A lot of it is just because of the currents, but it’s very obvious and sad. It’s overwhelming really. How on earth can we get rid of this? And we haven’t even seen the trash island in person.
We probably talk about our family values, culture, and goals more than your average family, because we’re on the move so much, and we have to make more frequent decisions about where to go and what to do. It’s a constant conversation about whether what we’re doing is working for us, and whether everyone as a whole is happy with how everything is going.
For example, right now we’re feeling a little wanderlust because we’re here in New Zealand for what we think will be two years, so we talk frequently about whether this is what’s best for our family. But our choice to establish residency here is what we want to do right now. It’s a bit of a compromise for Christian and I, because we love the sailing life, but right now, Nina is really enjoying going to a public high school. She’s made great friends and loves the social aspect. It will also be good preparation for university. And then there’s the whole aspect of making money so we can continue our adventure.
We’ve always hoped that our sailing adventure will eventually take us completely around the world, but we’re keeping an open mind with even that. We understand that our decisions will depend on how our family grows and develops and what is best for each stage in our life. In the meantime, we hope for fair winds and following seas.
About the Author
Josie Lauducci is mom of three, a wife, and boat-schooler and a nurse, currently living in New Zealand, on her way around the world. You can follow the Lauducci family adventures on their blog: afamilyafloat.com, or on Instagram and Facebook. And to live vicariously through their fun videos, check out their YouTube channel.