What have I been up to this past 3 months?
This time of year for me, is always a transitional period between my winter life and my summer work on a pair of canal boats. This year, so far, is shaping up to be a good one, full of a new sense of productivity and focus.
For the past four years I have worked, from April to October, on board a pair of canal hotel boats.
I’ll give you a moment to process that, and then try and explain what on earth I mean. They are two full length (72 foot) narrowboats, named after the Indian states of Kerala and Karnataka. There is one boat with an engine, and one without an engine (called the Butty) which is towed. Working a traditional pair of canal hotel boats involves using heritage boating skills, cooking top class grub (3 full meals a day, plus freshly baked biscuits and a cake every day), navigating locks and other boaters, providing guests with a lovely holiday, and above all else, working hard within a small, close knit team. We live together, we work together, we spend most of our free time together, and we have become a rather unusual group of ‘bargies’ (canal boat folks!).
I could spend all day talking about the boats. I love my job, and am proud to be in the minority of people that can say that. It is all encompassing, and time off can be thin on the ground, but I don’t feel like I’m missing out when I’m surrounded by the duvet of the British countryside, great people and living a very wholesome lifestyle.
A perk of the job is the six months on, six months off, working pattern. I have the whole winter to play with. Having travelled for the last few years over winter, I decided that this year would be a good time to stay in my home city of Bristol, and be with family and friends.
I had such a lovely winter, just being in familiar surroundings, and discovering new ones within them. It was a sincere luxury being able to settle into a pattern of spending time with my family, and getting to know and love old friends even more than I did before.
Above all I learned the irony of travelling all over the world to find experiences, when satisfaction was always so close by. I guess I had to go a long way away to learn that.
Every year for me, spring is a time of packing up the winter and preparing for the boating season. I love the excitement and regeneration of these months. It feels like a time to tie up the ends of the winter, pack up my current life, and repack it all into a new one. It is sad to say goodbye to the people and things you have come to know, but thrilling to know that bountiful new experiences are on the horizon.
Working 9-5 / The Weekends
One thing I don’t miss about living back in the city is the working lifestyle. I know it’s a necessity for many people, and I am extremely fortunate to be able to opt out of it, but I think that this makes me be able to see the negatives of it more clearly, as I know there is an alternative. When I worked 9-5, the months absolutely flew past me. The following was how every week played out:
Monday: Day after the weekend; adjusting to being back at work.
Tuesday: The day after Monday. The week is setting in but at least Monday is over.
Wednesday: Midweek, one day closer to the weekend.
Thursday: Almost Friday! Only one more day to go!!
Friday: Hell yeah. Weekend here I come.
Saturday: Productive day getting stuff done I couldn’t do during the week and seeing family.
Sunday: Slight lie-in and then try to have a day to relax some, but always over too quickly.
And then it all starts again. Although my work on the boats is much tougher, longer hours and more responsibility, I enjoy it. Often, we will only get one day off every 16 days, but every day you are in a new, beautiful part of the country, blanketed by countryside, and the work is very rewarding. I also work for people that I trust, love, and enjoy the company of. We are a tribe and a family, and we grow exponentially together.
I am not sure what the impetus has been, but I feel like I have gained a superpower of productivity this winter. In April, as soon as spring kicked in, I felt re-energised and desperate to just get stuff done. I am doing my best to capitalise on this, and hopefully it is a permanent new attitude. Everything comes in peaks and troughs, but I’m determined to keep this peak going!
Getting into the rhythm of productivity is difficult, but as with all good things (exercise, good diet, lifestyle) starting is the hard part. Once you get in the groove it becomes enjoyable and not so much of a chore, and you wonder what on earth you were doing with your time previously!
The Next 3 Months
I will look deeply into my crystal ball and see what next three months holds for me….
I see boats, and rope-worn hands, and fingers in plaster and bad hair. I also see delicious food, and a team working slickly as a single cell. I see spatterings of rain, and baking summer sun, and sunburn. There’s fun and frolics with beautiful people in the English countryside. I see tears, and smiles, and bumps, and bruises, and swimming in rivers and occasional city life, where everything is fast and overstimulating, so you dash into it, and dash straight back out again.
All these things constantly strengthen me and help me grow towards community, and prepare me for the lifestyle I am aiming for.
And here’s to you too! And all the things your summer may hold. I wish you many sunny days, and socialising outside, and eating great food! Enjoy! It’s gonna be a good ‘un!
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