One year ago this week the world shut down.
I shared this quick little blurb on my Instagram account last week detailing the initial day(s) our world started changing. In case you missed it:
One year ago, Brent and I woke up in a hotel in Nashville, Tennessee. We were there for an event with my publisher. On our early morning Starbucks run, I tried to convince Brent that I should skip the event and go home. He convinced me to stay.⠀
I spent the better part of the day in a small hotel conference room with my publishing team and other authors who’d flown in from all over the country. In conceding that we could stay, Brent promised to go buy toilet paper and bottled water. ⠀
During my 45 minute lunch break, we went to a notary and signed papers to buy our boat. It was during this time that Brent admitted to having gone to several stores, only to find all the shelves cleared. ⠀
I remember looking at him with big eyes saying “so we can’t buy toilet paper, but you really think it’s a good idea to buy a boat today?”⠀
We went out in Nashville that night to a big party thrown by my publisher celebrating authors releasing books that spring. We ate off of a fancy buffet. Even though Morgan James rented the space to make it a private event, it wasn’t necessary. There was no one else around. Nashville was a ghost town.
After 1 more day of meetings, Brent and I headed back home to a new normal. One that included words like social distance and quarantine. Online church. Remote work. And a really empty calendar. Oh..and keys to a boat!
One year ago we walked into West Marine as first time boat owners.
The kids and I thought it was fun for about the first hour. But our enthusiasm dwindled as Brent began talking very technical boat things with the employees. We were the only shoppers in the store, despite the fact that it was a Saturday. We bought new life jackets and a handful of other things Brent deemed ‘necessary’ that day.
This was the last store our family would all go into together for months.
Brent decided to work from home on Monday March 16th, 2020. It was an optional decision that morning. Given the fact that we’d been traveling the previous week- he did it more for others, than himself…just to be safe.
That afternoon, one year ago, Brent got the call that would literally change our life. Working from home was no longer optional. It was required.
Immediately, Brent made plans for our family to travel to our brand new boat. Saying that I was reluctant would be an understatement.
It sounds a little silly now, but our boat was foreign territory to me. I’d spent less than an hour on it the day we made an offer. It was also located out of state in an unfamiliar (to us) city. Additionally, no one seemed clear on what a “lockdown” would actually mean. We had to prepare for the very real possibility that if we made it down to the boat, we may not be able to come back to Charlotte.
The media made it sound like all stores and roads would close at some point within the week. Would we be able to get gas? Or food? Leaving the comfort and resources of our home and city felt completely irresponsible. However, the excitement of a new boat and the opportunity presented by an empty calendar was just too much to resist.
One year ago on March 17th we loaded up our car, Beverly Hillbilly style, headed for Brunswick, Georgia.
As we hit the road, I remember being so aware of how surreal life felt. The same week we were celebrating two of our biggest dreams coming true (releasing a book and buying a boat), we were acutely aware of fear and suffering spreading around the world.
During our drive I got 3 emails and a phone call about book signings being cancelled. If I were a cryer, I would have cried. Brent shifted out of manager mode and into the role of counselor. He spend the drive talking with each one of his employees, making sure they had everything they needed to work from home.
Against my better judgement, we stopped at Chick-fil-A.
Have you ever seen one this empty during dinnertime?
With much anxiety, we stopped. We needed to stretch our legs. We also reasoned that if the country did go into some sort of lockdown, we would want to have as much food stored as possible. Most naively, since the country was only reporting a low number of cases, we hoped it hadn’t made it to small town Georgia yet.
Around 8PM, one year ago, we arrived to our boat for the first time: on St. Patrick’s Day and amid a worldwide pandemic.
I’ve already written a post detailing the first 24 hours. If you haven’t seen it yet, check it out at: The One With 24-Hours of Bad Ideas. As you might gather from the title, the first day wasn’t without a few hicups.
For the sake of time (and honestly, it’s probably not all that interesting…) I won’t include every detail. But here are a few highlights that came along with our crazy decision to purchase a boat as the world shut down:
- The vibe around the marina our first month was bizarre. Close friendships formed immediately. And other people wouldn’t let my kids pet their dog. Boats poured in from the Bahamas and the Keys. Some appreciated docking help, others requested that you not touch their lines. Happy hour in the clubhouse officially shut down, but unofficially kept right on going. We were invited by many- told it was BYOB, but to bring an appetizer to share. We were a HARD PASS.
- People’s initial concerns were that marinas would shut down. Our first week owning the boat, we motored down to the fuel dock to top the tanks (just in case…although I’m not sure where we thought we would go with that fuel!)
- One week we needed to run to Jacksonville to pick up a part. It was a quick drive from our marina, but it did require crossing into Florida. All traffic on 75 was being diverted into a rest stop. The police asked where we were from, and then waved us on. I assume a more official screening was actually taking place, but the whole thing seemed like a huge waste of time.
What a year it’s been!
After initially feeling like our boat purchase occurred at the worst possible time, we soon felt ahead of the game. In the summer of 2020 boat and RV sales skyrocketed as many people sought alternatives to their houses or to other forms of travel.
It’s amazing to me how many people reach out to me on a weekly basis to ask questions about pursuing a similar lifestyle. While there isn’t a one-size fits all answer, here are a few things I’ve learned over the last year:
- Find A Way To Make It Work: Yes, there will be obstacles. Lots of them. Do it anyway. Find a way around the challenges.
- Yes, We’re Safe: By nature, boating (or RVing) is a pretty socially distanced activity. We’re able to interact with the world as much or little as we choose.
- You Can Work Remote Anywhere: From a work standpoint, there is really no difference between a home office in Charlotte, and a boat office in the Keys. We set up a good internet connection (read more about that HERE) and it allows us to work anywhere.
- Our Kids Are Thriving: They’re learning more than I ever thought possible. The creativity they’ve tapped into while living with very few toys has been fun to watch. We’re able to expose them to people, places and concepts that they wouldn’t have access to prior to our boating adventure. And, best of all, they’re so happy.
I’ve always been a big believer in sitting down to reflect on the past. A year ago I never would have been able to script all the incredible moments of the last 12-months.
So now the big question is…what will life look like one year from now????
As always, thanks for following along on our crazy adventures. Special thanks for allowing me to share in this post all the things I couldn’t share a year ago! Here are some other posts you may be interested in reading:
The One Where We’re Featured In A Magazine