You Have To Be Happy To Spread Happiness

Over the years we’ve been voyaging, we’ve occasionally heard from people who accuse cruisers of being parasites—wandering the globe without giving back. And, yes, we’ve run across some cruisers like that. We call them “user cruisers”. They come into town, take from the generous locals (sometimes from people who have less than them), and then leave, all the time complaining about how economically poor they (the cruisers) are.

John and I try very hard not to be “user cruisers”. However, according to one friend in Norway, we are sometimes too much the other way. She said that by choosing a community to stop at, we voyagers make that community feel special and worthwhile and our arrival brings a breath of fresh air—novelty, interest, news from elsewhere—and so people want to give us something in return. By being too independent, we deprive people of the chance to share with us. So we’re working on getting that balance right!

The other day we heard from Tassio, who has commented on the site a few times, and I wandered over to their website. Tassio and Claudia are a young couple who have managed to buy and outfit a boat (it wasn’t easy) and are now voyaging, with the goals of creating art, living sustainably, and spreading happiness. But, Tassio says, in order to spread happiness, you have to be happy.

And that in turn reminded me of what our friend in Norway said. So if voyaging brings you happiness, then, as long as you extend that happiness to others and give what you can (tours of the boat, reciprocal dinners, a small thank you gift), I believe that you are giving back—i.e. making the world a better place, even if in a very small way—and you aren’t a “user cruiser”.

The photograph is of Phyllis with Arne and Gunhild, our dear friends who live in Tromsø, Norway, where we spent two winters. They gave us skiing lessons, took us to their back country hut, and introduced us to the joys and pains of aquavit. We took them sailing for the first time in their lives. The result—a friendship that will last a lifetime.

How do you give back? Please leave a comment.

{ 14 comments… add one }

  • don April 18, 2012, 11:11 pm

    it is more blessed to give than receive remember

    Reply
  • Nuno Antunes April 19, 2012, 3:52 am

    Well written. That is why i want to go out cruising again. And why I normally take contact with many foreign cruisers that guest my home marina. It’s nice to make them feel welcome.
    Fair winds!

    Reply
  • David Nutt April 19, 2012, 8:06 am

    One of the primary reasons Judy and I decided to raise our 4 kids on Danza while circumnavigating the blue planet was to meet up with so many of our friends in so many places, so many cultures, so many religions. We had not yet met these friends and we never would have met them if we did not go there with open minds and open hearts. We are still in touch with many of them via email and facebook. The best thing and the most lasting thing we can give and receive are these friendships.

    Reply
  • Viv April 19, 2012, 8:24 am

    Looked into Tassio and Caudia’s website. Very interesting and definitely true to the meaning of adventure and exploration with a small footprint.

    An example of a large footprint on the other hand would be the driving of a 4×4 to the North pole on the show Top Gear. Just a glorified ad for cars and very intrusive. What’s next, a road?

    What This young couple are doing is great and I will be following them with interest.

    Reply
    • Colin April 20, 2012, 7:41 am

      Hi Viv

      One thing that has been a bit of a disappointment for us in our travels so far has been the lack of young crews. Whether that’s to do with the current financial malaise or not I’m not sure, but it’s my perception that there are far less impecunious young couples heading out, which is a shame – so good for Tassia and Claudio.

      The clowns at Top Gear have no concept of low impact and think it’s funny – so best just to ignore them.

      Best wishes

      Colin

      Reply
  • Ben Eriksen April 19, 2012, 12:39 pm

    Interesting topic! I’ve heard of bored cruisers syndrome, but never user-cruisers. It’s curious, that “the dream” can go so wrong sometimes for people…
    Anyways, thanks much for the insight, the blog, and the link to terradagua.com.

    Reply
  • Baxter April 19, 2012, 1:17 pm

    Thanks for the reminder, I need to give back more!

    Reply
  • Dick Stevenson April 20, 2012, 6:32 am

    Phyllis,
    Very nice comments.
    What you are talking about (from my perspective) is character. In 10 years of wandering about the “user cruisers” we have met were not likely to change and they gravitated to the cheaper and more populated watering holes of our lifestyle. Generally, wandering further afield, we do not come across many user cruisers.
    However, in the cruising community in general, there is a bad habit which can feel to be in the same ballpark as user cruisers and is amenable to change; that is a pre-occupation with prices. So often we are in some mildly out of the way place and see in town someone we know is the couple on the only other boat in the anchorage. When we meet & talk, an all too easy icebreaker, is to gravitate to what is cheap and where to get it. I often find myself trying to shift the conversation about how to make our visit to this location as cheap as possible to ones where we exchange information about hikes, local customs, etc where getting to know the community takes precedence. Even in well established cruising communities, the conversation is often pre-occupied with money. It is like there is a competition among the cruisers (maybe everybody) to find the cheapest way to get by. This all too often slides inexorably into practices where the cruisers are attempting to “get over” on the locals. This leads to a deteriorating situation, so common, where the 2 communities do not enrich each other but rather are antagonistic.
    It is quite reasonable to pay attention to the bottom line, but too much attention distorts our ability to get to know the communities we visit. I have often observed that the 2 best ways to join a community are to have children (preferably young) or to be genuinely strapped money wise. Both “conditions” bring out the best in the communities where we spend time. Most of us, however, are not genuinely strapped and should not act as if we were. It is a shame to lose sight of our more generous goals for being on the water. The “user cruisers” are likely a lost cause, as they often are in all walks of life, but shifting the focus from money to re-minding us all why we are out there is not.
    Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

    Reply
    • Colin April 20, 2012, 7:37 am

      Hi Dick

      I’m in total agreement with you. I once went to a talk by a well known long distance sailing couple, and it seemed to me their entire frame of reference for wherever they went was how cheap it was – not that they were poor, either (financially, any way).

      When we were in Morocco recently, we shopped where the local did, in the local markets, and it was great fun, as many of the traders tried their best to help us choose. A far cry from the horror stories we heard from others of being ripped off – for pennies.

      I’m sure that this attitude is one of the causes of much of the resentment you see in places like the Caribbean. After all, their idea of hard-up and your own are very, very far apart.

      Best wishes

      Colin

      Reply
    • Phyllis April 20, 2012, 9:05 am

      Great comment, Dick. I think that if we can’t afford to maintain our boats and live simply while cruising and so must rely on the generosity of the people in the places we visit, then we should either get a less expensive boat, or work for a few years until we can afford it. I don’t believe that it’s fair to descend on waterside communities and expect them to fund our sailing lifestyle! But, then, as our Norwegian friend pointed out, if people do offer to help, there’s a certain amount of assistance that it is good to accept before it becomes using.

      To act poorer than we actually are in order to get a “good deal” is not right. But to not flaunt our (relative) wealth in order to connect with the people we visit is probably necessary in some places.

      So, I guess, as you say, it all comes down to 1. being genuinely grateful for having the opportunity to live this lifestyle and 2. focusing on how we can connect and give back to the communities we visit.

      Reply
  • Bruno April 23, 2012, 2:23 pm

    hi, great post indeed,
    i read somewhere that cruisers are just another kind of tourists, and in some way that’s true,
    but each of us chooses the way he wishes to meet the “other one”,
    and respect for different cultures is a basic, especially if you are yourself the “visitor” indeed,
    give before you’ll be given, of course,
    trust before you are trusted,
    i keep thinking 85% of the earth is made of generousity,
    just don’t bother too much abt the other 15%, and you’ll enjoy meetings around the world,
    That’s my life,
    Love from NW India
    Bruno

    Reply
  • Paul Mills April 24, 2012, 10:56 am

    Hi Phyllis,

    This is a really interesting thread, and I am really sppreciating the balance between technical articles and the more human aspects of our chosen lifestyles.

    I often smile to myself about how often I find myself using my porofessional skills with other sailors and people we meet along the way – about how warm people can be as long as you make the first move, and about how much positive difference it makes sailing with 2 young boys.

    We make a point of being sociable, and also inviting people onboard for a cofffee or a meal – which has led to some really nice times. We also enjoy inviting people we meet who are not sailors for a daysail -and entertaining them.

    I agree taht cruising can be seen as selfish and we do need to ensure we contribute to the local economies – especially those aspects that involve nice food and wine :)

    One great time last year was when some of the teenagers in foster care I sail with other the summer started fishing and crabbing off the quay, within a few minutes there were several local guys – old enough to be their grandfathers- discussing fishing techniques and cathes they ahd made, this extended to icecreams al round and a great time was had by all.

    Paul

    Reply
  • Arne Haugli May 30, 2012, 6:25 pm

    Dear Phyllis and John
    I enjoy visiting your website now and then, and today I wanted to show it to a friend. 
    We were talking about the unspoiled area around Tromsø, and the windmills that will affect it. I rememberd our sailingtrip to Toftefjord, showed him the picture Jonh took of us on Morgans Cloud, and that led to the website. Much to my surprise We found the same picture, and your unbelivebly friendly and moving words, Phyllis! This made my day!
    I hope the wind is favourable, and at some point will lead us In the same directon again.

    Arne, your friendly Norwegian skiing instructor ;-))

    Reply
  • Phyllis June 3, 2012, 8:40 am

    Hello, friendly Norwegian skiing instructor! How great to hear from you! That photograph also takes us back to a wonderful time and place! We are working on getting back to your neck of the woods again as soon as we can make it happen. MVH, Phyllis

    Reply

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