Live your retirement dream today: Lessons gleaned from a year-long sailing trip
John Schulman and Cassandra Bluethner recently returned from a year-long sailing trip which saw the couple travel from Montreal to the Caribbean islands and back. (Photo courtesy of John Schulman)
When John Schulman turned 30, he decided he'd like to one day retire on a sailboat in the Caribbean. But he didn’t necessarily want to wait until he was in his 60s to live out that dream.
Last summer the Montreal native, his girlfriend Cassandra Bluethner and her dog Dexter set out on a year-long sailing trip.
The trio travelled from Montreal, along the U.S. East Coast to the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, Dominican Republican, Puerto Rico, the Spanish Virgin Islands and back to Montreal again.
Now, back on solid ground, the couple spoke to CTVNews.ca about their epic adventure and how it is possible to live out your retirement dream today.
Step one: Commit
Once Schulman decided how he'd like to retire he then moved on to a more difficult task – learning how to sail.
It took the aerospace engineer about a year to save up enough to buy the boat, and another couple of years to learn how to sail.
Once they were ready to take off, more than four years had passed.
"I wanted to leave a year earlier, but at that time my crewmates deterred me from leaving. They felt I didn't have enough experience and, frankly, when we did leave they still felt we didn't have enough experience," Shulman, 35, told CTVNews.ca. "But by then there was no holding me back."
When asked about what moment about the trip stuck out most to him – Shulman said it was the moment he left the Montreal marina on his 35-foot boat.
"After having planned this and dreamed about it, literally and figuratively, that moment of departure when it was actually becoming a reality was really moving for me."
Step two: Plan
On top of saving to buy a boat, and actually learning how to sail, financing the trip took a lot of planning.
Schulman, who describes himself as a "big spreadsheet analyst," said he had the entire trip budgeted before setting sail.
"We tracked our expenses very closely down to the cent," he said. "Overall, I was pretty impressed at how little two people living this adventure actually cost."
The duo saved for a couple of years before the trip, which Schulman said cost a total of about $35,000.
While Schulman and Bluethner didn't make an income for a year, living on a boat meant that their expenses dropped dramatically.
"Life on a boat ends up being cheaper," Bluethner, 28, said. "We don't have our bills and our rent that we're paying. No insurance, we're not paying for a car. There are a lot of expenses that don't exist anymore."
Food on some of the islands was very expensive, as was drinkable water -- something both Schulman and Bluethner said as Canadians they took for granted.
"I missed unlimited hot running water," Schulman said, adding that the trip taught him to be sensitive about resources.
"Especially when we got into the Caribbean islands where fresh water was very rare, we had to really ration it."
Step three: Go now
When asked about what they're dreading the most upon their return to Montreal, both Schulman and Bluethner said "a schedule."
"'Nine to five' general land life will be an adjustment," Bluethner said, noting that the pair had been making their own schedulesfor the past 11 months.
Actual "land life,” however, is not in the immediate future as the two will continue to live on the boat at a Montreal marina until Schulman secures a new job and Bluethner begins a graduate program at Concordia University .
"It's a little less exciting when you live in a marina and are anchored," Bluethner said.
Schulman, meanwhile, said he's dreading Montreal traffic.
"I heard a traffic report for the first time yesterday," he said while making his way towards along the St. Lawrence River.
The couple's advice for those looking to live out their retirement dream a bit early is not to be complacent.
"I know that some people over-plan it and never actually realize it, which I think is really unfortunate," Schulman said. "So I would go simple: Go small if you have to -- you don’t need a huge boat -- and go now."