A few days ago we paid rent for the last time. Because we bought a narrowboat. And on June 15, exactly 5 years since we moved to the UK, we’ll jump aboard to start a new chapter of our lives.
In the summer of 2016, we decided to adopt a more minimalist lifestyle. We started like everyone else – decluttering our home. We documented everything on the blog, so if you want to read how that went, start here. A simpler home made our lives simpler too. We noticed that the less we have, the less we worry and the less we care about what other people think. We started applying the same principles to our activities and our budget.
I suddenly had more time, more space and more energy to do things that matter – for myself and everyone else. Fewer distractions meant more focus, more productive days and more creativity. Fewer things meant less to clean and less to organize. I finally understood that happiness can’t be achieved by buying stuff, but by being grateful for what you have, especially the people you have in your life.
Not long after this, we moved to the countryside. We love London, but it can get overwhelming after you’ve seen everything. It’s loud and crowded, oh so crowded. If you get off the train at Liverpool Street Station in the morning rush hour, you have to follow the flow of people going towards the business buildings. If you want to go in any other direction, that’s too bad. Try it. I dare you.
But a countryside house comes with a price, and I’m not only talking about money. Cleaning and gardening took a big chunk of our free time because it was a large area to take care of. There was space for everything we wanted, including a Yoga room, but I often found myself practising in the living room instead. We had a guest bedroom that was only occupied by my mom, just a couple of weeks in the 15 months while we lived there.
It was just too big for us. In a country were small apartments are shared by 10 people, using a three bedroom house for 2 seemed unfair. I’m going to miss having my own bathroom though!
Looking for alternatives
Minimalists at heart, we were following alternative lifestyle YouTube channels for a long time, including narrowboating channels. And we were living very close to a canal, which was a favourite walking place for the dogs. So we got to see what that looks like in real life.
Romantic, simple, quiet – that’s what it looks like.
We decided to browse for offers – not necessarily to buy now but to give ourselves the option. We eventually moved to the next step and went to view a few of them, different makes and sizes. But then one day, we fell in love. The boat was perfect for us, and the owner inspired so much trust and kindness, that we made an offer later that same day. We didn’t even negotiate and if you know the internet meme that says “shut up and take my money”, you can understand exactly how we felt.
Tipsy Gypsy is now ours. We spent the last bank holiday weekend aboard, and we even moved it a few times, going through 2 locks and a few embarrassing beginner moments along the way. But is it still romantic, simple and quiet? YES. When we went to the house at the end of the weekend, something inside me was screaming “I want to go back!”. I was also balancing back and forth on my feet uncontrollably. It was funny and slightly worrying. It has a name, however – disembarkment syndrome #RandomFact.
The narrowboat life
Here’s what we love about it:
- We’re as close to nature as we can be and we can live a simple and sustainable life.
- We get to explore new areas every 14 days (that’s the number of days we’re allowed to stay in a place).
- There are no bills. Water is free, electricity comes from solar panels, and everything else is pay as you go.
- No. more. rent. Licence and insurance are the biggest expenses, paid once a year.
- Because the space is small, we get to be extreme minimalists – shopping is 100% intentional and functional.
- Cleaning takes 10 minutes, so I’ll have more time for everything else.
Ironically, some of the things that make the boat heaven make it less appealing too.
- If it’s very hot outside, the boat becomes an oven.
- We HAVE to move every 14 days unless we want to pay for a marina.
- All the resources are limited – we need to refill with water and gas and top up with engine power during the winter when solar energy is not enough. And let’s not forget about the toilets! They need emptying, but having witnessed it once, it’s easier than you probably imagine!
- It’s 57ft long and 10ft wide (hence NARROWboat). There is enough space for all the necessary items, but nothing more.
- We have no address, which makes home deliveries impossible. Goodbye, Amazon (again)!
Restarting life with almost no possessions
It’s the best opportunity we have to start from scratch. We obviously have to sell or donate all the furniture we have because the one on the narrowboat is built in. We thought we had decluttered 2 years ago, and we did a pretty good job, but we still have too much for the boat. So we are now ruthlessly going through everything to only keep what both matters and fits.
We considered renting a storage space for the rest, but doesn’t that defy the whole purpose? If we don’t use those things, why pay to keep them safe, but away from us? Plus, knowing that everything you own fits on board and you can move neighbourhoods almost effortlessly whenever you want to, feels extraordinarily freeing.
We have 30 days left to complete the move. We’re looking forward to exploring the country, mile by mile, on the canals and rivers. This summer will be life-changing and the most exciting one we had in a long time.