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The Joy And Challenges Of Living On A Canal Boat For Midlife Women | CrunchyTales

Finding Freedom on the Water: The Joy And Challenges Of Living on a Canal Boat for Midlife Women

4 min read

Have you ever dreamt of trading in your hectic life for a simpler, more serene existence? For many midlife women, that dream takes the form of downsizing and living on a canal boat. It’s a lifestyle that’s both romantic and realistic, offering a chance to reconnect with nature, embrace a more minimalist lifestyle, and explore the world at your own pace.

Downsizing Dilemma? Embrace the Freedom

Downsizing to a canal boat can free up not just physical space but also a significant amount of time. No more wrestling with a sprawling lawn or spending weekends cleaning. This newfound freedom allows you to pursue passions that may have been placed on hold. Perhaps you’ll finally have time to write that novel, delve into pottery, or volunteer for a cause you care about. The world is your oyster, and your canal boat is your launchpad.

Canal living offers an escape from the trappings of consumerism and frees you from the burden of maintaining a large property. It’s a chance to embrace minimalism and focus on what truly matters: experiences, connection, and self-discovery“, says Nikki C., from Chester, who enjoys the beauty of life on the water, but also the challenges of limited space, maintaining the boat, and finding mooring spots. “I also feel like the ever-changing beauty of the waterways is a mirror of myself through stages of life“, she adds.

Reasons why midlife women are drawn to canal boats can vary. For some, it’s about financial freedom. Downsizing a home can free up capital, while the cost of living on a canal boat can be significantly lower than a traditional house. Others crave a more minimalist lifestyle, with less stuff and more experiences. Living on a boat forces you to confront what you truly need, fostering a sense of contentment and connection with nature.

But perhaps the biggest motivator is a yearning for adventure. Canal life offers a chance to explore hidden waterways, discover charming villages, and become part of a close-knit community of boaters. 

While the stereotype paints canal dwellers as solitary souls, the reality is far more social. Canal communities are known for their welcoming spirit. You’ll find yourself sharing tips with fellow boaters, mooring up for impromptu picnics with neighbours, and participating in lively gatherings at canalside pubs. There’s a strong sense of camaraderie among those who’ve chosen this alternative lifestyle.

Every day can be a new destination, a chance to discover hidden gems and immerse yourself in different cultures.

Meet the Women Who Took the Plunge

Despite the challenges, numerous women are thriving on the canals. Take Shirley J., from London, a former marketing executive who ditched her corporate job at 50 to live on a narrowboat with her daughter. Another example is Angela R., from Liverpool, an empty nester and retired teacher who sold her house and now explores the canals in the North of England with her two cats. 

There are women like Brenda F., from Manchester, who after her grey divorce has decided to enjoy the self-reliance that comes with living on a canal boat acknowledging the need for DIY skills and the importance of feeling comfortable living in close quarters.

Stephanie C., from Perth, after being made redundant at the age of 55, moved to France and now cruises the waterways of Languedoc with her dog. Stephanie finds solace in the peace of the water and enjoys the challenge of maintaining her floating home. 

In contrast, Tom N. and Debbie D., a childless couple from Oxford, have transformed their narrowboat into a luxury vacation rental. They split their time between cruising the canals and managing their successful business, proving that canal life can be both idyllic and entrepreneurial.

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And how about Suzy W.? She used to live in a cottage in Sussex with her 16-year-old son, then moved to a canal boat in London and now running a community project called The Alnwick Story Fest, a festival that celebrates the power of stories to light up our lives.

Living on the Water: The Romance and the Realities

Let’s not sugarcoat it too much: canal life does come with its own set of challenges. It requires a certain level of adaptability and a willingness to embrace a more rustic lifestyle. 

Winters can be chilly and there’s limited storage space, so meticulous organization is key. Mooring fees and maintenance costs – from engine checks to battling the elements- can add up, and navigating narrow canals takes practice (and perhaps a good dose of patience). Also, depending on the canal system, finding a mooring with amenities like laundry and proper waste disposal can be a challenge.

Be prepared to become adept at multi-tasking and minimalism. There’s the physical aspect of manoeuvring the boat to consider, which can require some muscle and practice, too.

But these are small hurdles compared to the sense of liberation and connection that comes with living a life less ordinary. Canal life offers a unique sense of empowerment and self-reliance for the midlife women who embrace it. It’s a chance to rewrite the script, to trade expectations for experiences.

Is Canal Living for You?

So, is canal life for everyone? Maybe not. But for midlife women seeking a fresh start, a chance to reconnect with nature and themselves, and a simpler, more social way of life, it can be an interesting option. 

The canal boating lifestyle tends to be favoured more in Europe, you can find people enjoying it not only in the UK but even in France, Belgium, and Holland. There are also other places and options to experience living on board. For instance, if you live in the United States, you may consider areas like Tampa Bay, Corpus Christi or San Diego. 

Before setting sail, however, carefully consider your needs and limitations. Research the legalities and costs involved in owning and operating a canal boat. Perhaps even rent one for a trial period to see if the nomadic life truly floats your boat.

It’s also a good idea to talk to people who live the lifestyle and learn about the different types of canal boats available. There are also canal boat communities,websites and online forums where you can connect with other women who live on the water and learn from their experiences.

So, how do you know if canal boat life is right for you? Consider these factors:

  • Do you enjoy spending time outdoors?
  • Are you comfortable with DIY projects and basic maintenance?
  • Can you downsize your belongings and live minimally?
  • Are you financially prepared for the costs of boat ownership and mooring?

If you answered yes to most of these questions, then canal boat life could be an exciting adventure for you.

Setting the sail on a new adventure

Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to live on a canal boat is a personal one. But for midlife women seeking a life of freedom, simplicity, and adventure, it can be an incredibly rewarding experience. So, set sail on a new chapter of your life, and discover the joys (and realities) of living on a canal boat.

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