Don’t Wait


I’m sitting on my boat in Georgetown, Exumas, watching the sun rise. The last time this was true was seventeen years ago. My boat then was Xerxes, a 27′ Watkins that served as my home for five years. I dropped out of college after my junior year and sailed south. It was one of the defining moments of my life, that decision. I’ll never forget the terror I felt selling everything I owned and tossing my dock lines. It was petrifying, but I trusted that the rewards on the other side would be worth it.

They were. In spades. Sailing the islands put me in touch with nature, gave me time to contemplate myself and life, filled me with the adventures that would later fuel my writing, introduced me to a lifestyle that would help me shun possessions and debt for the rest of my life, and imbued me with the larger dream of sailing around the world, which kept me focused and gave me direction.

Here in Georgetown, you meet lots of people with similar trajectories, but their stories are so different and so inspiring. On a hike yesterday, I met three nineteen year old boys who sailed from Maine on their father’s old wooden boat. They took a year off after high school to sail to the Caribbean and back. We talked about where they’ve been and where they are headed next. With just a little dinghy-sailing experience when they set out, these are now three wizened and salty experts. I pegged them as being in their mid-20s before they revealed their age or mentioned school. Their eyes were already older. They stood more upright. They didn’t bounce around like teenagers. They weren’t relentlessly checking their phones. There is a calmness and patience that traveling at 5mph for thousands of miles instills.

On the beach, I met another couple via their awesome dog, Safron. After flopping into my lap, and lots of apologies, and my having to explain that their dog just made my week, I got their story. In their mid-30s, this young couple set off from Canada just this year to sail around the world. But it’s the genesis of their trip that blew my mind. They had flown to Georgetown last February to stay at a resort here. They saw all the sailboats, got to talking to some of the people who lived and traveled on them, and they went home with a plan.

In this, they aren’t unusual. Lots of people hear about living aboard and sailing the world, and they dream of doing the same. They read articles, subscribe to magazines, follow the blogs of those who are doing it. But this Canadian couple didn’t waste time. They sold everything they owned, bought a 34′ Hunter (an imminently affordable boat), and they set off. Like the boys from Maine, they are now experts, even if they didn’t feel like it and are humble about their abilities. By this time next year, they will be wrapping up a Pacific crossing. All because they didn’t wait.

It doesn’t have to be this particular dream. You have your own dream. Of writing a novel. Of learning a musical instrument. Of driving coast to coast. Of moving to be closer to family. Of getting a different job. Of going back to school. Whatever excuses you are using to protect yourself, stop. The beach here buzzes with children who are sailing with their parents. Kids of all ages. Each one is a perfect reason why it would be impossible for their parents to go sail around the world. Instead, they became the best reason to. You don’t think you have time to write for thirty minutes every day? Or practice strumming that guitar? Or brushing up on your French? Or getting some exercise? Or honing that job skill? Or putting that sweat equity into your home? I say you do. You have all the time in the world. As long as you don’t wait.



27 responses to “Don’t Wait”

  1. Always inspiring Hugh. Good luck and keep safe.

    1. You inspired em to write little about the dreams I’ve recently accomplished. I always had fear and doubt in my way, but pushing through all of that I learned is part of the process of accomplishing and owning my dreams. I’m still pushing with novels and kayaking and backpacking Alaska all part of the plan. Keep inspiring people!

        1. I’m so lysdexic, that’s how I read it!

  2. First off, love your books. Secondly, you’re right about dreams. As we get older, it’s not the memories of what we did that occupy our thoughts. It’s what we dreamed of doing and never found time for. Can’t wait to see what stories come from your new adventures.

  3. Lovely post, Hugh. So true. Dreams can become a reality if you take those steps yourself.

    I’ve always written but I didn’t publish a novel until the fall of 2014 when I did it myself. Though I’ve had agents before for my screenplays, I found it was taking too long to get one for my novel. You know how it works. Your manuscript can sit for a very long time while an agent and/or publisher decide whether they want to get involved or not. I came close to getting a very good NY one, but she passed. Not wanting to wait any longer, not with my silver hairs, I decided to go ahead and do it myself rather than keep pitching. I’m not sorry. I’m now about to publish my second. Safe travels. Wishing you the best for 2016.

  4. You have not only taken my eyes around the world, but my heart as well. Keep Sailing. Keep following your dream. Keep inspiring. You are doing more than living your dream, you are inspiring others to live theirs as well.

  5. Congratulations on following your dreams. First with writing, and now with sailing the world. We settled into a small home on the Gulf of Mexico because it was always our dream to have “Flipper” come visit us off our dock.

    I can put my paddleboard or kayak in the water and be out on the Gulf in a matter of minutes.
    We love wildlife and live on the edge of huge salt water park where manatees, coastal dolphins, snook, and a wide variety of sea life live. We built an artificial reef off our seawall, and can go snorkeling any time.
    We’re living our dream (debt free, too) now, because tomorrow is never guaranteed.

  6. Great post. I racked up a fair amount of mileage before I really appreciated the finite nature of time. Even though I lost my parents young, I was shockingly slow in recognizing that whole expiration thing applied to me, too.

    Last year my partner and I figured out how I could quit my good job and begin to build a writing life.

    I’m late to the game and have no pension and no fall back beyond our small home business, but I decided trading security for happiness was worth the risk. It’s not perfect, but I don’t dread waking up every morning to face my “good job”, the one that cost me 12 hours a day and left me miserable for whatever other hours I could manage to stay awake. That’s not a life.

    And inspired by my childhood at the shore and the continuing adventures of Hugh Howey, I hope to learn to sail a sunfish around the little lake near our house. Sooner rather than later.

    Don’t die at your desk. (Which is what my blog is called – at the moment, anyway).

    “You only go around once, but if you do it right, that’s all you need.” – Joe Louis

  7. Hi Hugh,

    We’ve never met but I stumbled across your blog a little while ago and have been very inspired by your journey, both in the writing and sailing worlds.
    This latest post struck a huge resonant chord with me.
    Thank you so much for taking the time to put those thoughts into words.

    Chris Amson.

  8. Alright Hugh, you got me, I’m going out and buying my powerball ticket right now.

  9. We did it on land. Sold everything. Lived out of our van. Our families called us crazy. We were the black sheep (or the hippies). We are now 35 years older and do not regret one second of that time in our lives. The living and learning was unsurpassed. We passed that “make a plan but do not be afraid” on to our own kids who now change jobs and move across the country without fear. One of the greatest legacies we could leave them.

  10. Dear Hugh! Thank you for inspiring us to pursue our dreams. I had a dream of writing a novel, about my solo travel in South America. While I was contemplating on writing and publishing the book I got to know about you through the internet. I checked out many of your talks and I was thoroughly impressed and inspired. I really liked your approach of taking writing as a passion instead of a mean to earn money or fame. I learned how to love writing for the sake of it and not worry about other things so much. I was very impressed by your humility and generosity. Thanks to you, my dream came true, I published the book. Thank you for teaching me how to be humble and pursue my dream with passion!


  11. Yeah, I’m a big believer in this philosophy! I waited perhaps a tad too long before I began my journey, but I’ve been travelling now for almost twelve years…
    Writing came along more recently, but has dovetailed nicely, providing the perfect way to earn just enough cash to keep my wife and I afloat on our travels. Figuratively speaking, of course – she’s not much of a sailor! Yet… :)
    I’m always advising people to follow their dreams, and to do it now – tomorrow can quite easily become next year, and I’ve recently discovered that next year is too late for some people. So! Do it today. It’s my mantra. Now if only I could apply it to sending emails on time…

  12. Good for you, Hugh! We set off 6 years ago to travel the country by RV, with my 4 kids in tow. We did some of that and we had a great time. Then my children discovered their own passions, and I could not deny them for the sake of living my own. I wasn’t sure what to do with myself for awhile, but then lately I rediscovered my love for all things mechanical. And for programming languages, which I never stopped using entirely, but haven’t focused on in years. My life does feel more rich. I tried to be the good woman, and fit society’s standards of woman, but I shed that nonsense. Here’s to living life!

  13. I have always been on board with selling it all and sailing around the world. It was my Dad’s dream to do that when I was a child and sadly he died before ever even owning a boat. So I get the lack of time. But how do you sustain income while traveling? How do you pay for gas for the boat? Docking fees? Food? Repairs? Medical bills if something happens? If you are a best selling author okay but what about regular people who have 4 kids and wanderlust but $80,000 in student loans, a combined salary of $75,000 before taxes and bills, and $20,000 in random debt from fixing cars to houses and everything in between. I rack my brain daily on how we can do what we want but we, like many, truly are stuck.

    1. Katie,

      Become a best-selling author. Simple. You’re welcome:)

      1. Thanks! ;)

  14. Dear Hugh, thank you. I too sold everything and am living my dream. I did it a while ago (before finding your blog and books), but am deeply edified by your approach to life. We waste too much time on things that might happen, that it stops us from “living” our lives in the now. Oh, I love to plan, but the “do” is the most important part of the plan. I look forward to reading more of your updates, reading your books (most I now currently own…just haven’t got to them, yet…since I am so busy living my wonderful life). I promise I will make the time, for I enjoy the way you look at life. Stay safe, but take risks. Thank you for being you.

  15. Hugh,
    Found you through Kindle Unlimited and Indie from the Other Side. So glad I did! Loved Wool and can’t wait to read everything else you’ve written. My husband and I live aboard as well as truly enjoyed selling everything and heading out. Currently in Key West and loving life! Keep writing and thank you for sharing your talent.

    1. Awesome! Maybe we’ll bump into each other out here.

  16. You’re really making me think about my decision to wait it out for another couple of years before joining Ren on Guinevere! Glad to hear you and Wayfinder made your way safely to Georgetown. Enjoy!

    1. Hey Tracy! I’m glad you’re mulling it over. So cool to see Ren these last few days.

      1. Ren says Wayfinder looks awesome. Hope to see you when I visit in March. If not, happy adventures on the high seas (maybe Annapolis to Bermuda?).

  17. Abstract Proforma Avatar
    Abstract Proforma

    Was thoroughly enjoying your thread of Cruiser Forum then noticed you haven’t been back since October 2015 just after the splash down. Completely puzzled about that. Any particular reason? Your photos and information provided there was keeping my interest in their product. Now I fear I will go with my primary choice a Leopard. Is everything alright with the vessel and service from St. Francis?

  18. Particular two tips in this post are surely the simplest we’ve had.

  19. Fantastic advice! I’m lucky – I already travel for work, so I’m partway there. I bought an RV two years ago and have lived in it most of the time since (It’s too cold for the RV where I’m working right now, so it’s in storage in Austin). I’m writing a novella series that I will start publishing it this summer. My first goal is to make enough from my writing within a few years that I can make do with only working two 13 week assignments each year and spend the rest of the time touring the national parks (and writing!) or building a cabin on some land I own. If I can get to the point where I only have to do one assignment a year, that would be fantastic. None and I would probably go stir crazy, and lost all the great anecdotes I get story fodder from. :-)

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