The following article is based on an interview with Laura Woodley, a 35-year-old TikToker who lives on a boat.
I have always been an unconventional person. A static, formulaic life has never appealed to me. So I decided to look for alternatives as the rent increase made it impossible for me to live in London.
Many people in London live in narrow boats on the canals around the city. Boats are usually 2m wide. Whenever I walk along the path near the canal, I always see this aquatic community.
I saw people sitting together on boats and realized that I wanted to be a part of this world.
I spent a lot of time on the internet wondering what it’s like to live on a boat and watching videos of people living it. The more I learned about it, the more I liked it.
So I decided to take a loan and buy a boat.
This move coincided with the outbreak of the epidemic and caused stress. I was away from friends and family and had to learn to do many things on my own, but this experience helped me become more confident and self-sufficient.
I started posting about my yachting life on Instagram and TikTok to connect with like-minded people. I love living on a boat, but I want to make it clear that this lifestyle is not for everyone.
The first months of sailing were a trial
My experiences with roommates were great, but when I turned 31, I got to the point where I wanted to live alone.
Living on a boat seemed like the obvious next step. It was hard at first. I’m afraid of fire, so using a gas stove was a challenge for me. I’m afraid of machines and it seems silly because I live in a machine.
After a week of living on a boat, England was locked down. I bought a boat in Northampton, 60 miles from London, and hoped to bring it back to the city, but I did not make it in time. I was cut off from family, friends and my entire community and no one could visit me due to travel restrictions.
It was very painful at the time. But looking back, I think it was a positive experience. Knowing that I could handle it on my own helped me gain confidence.
I started making videos about life on a boat to connect with like-minded people
I work on social media every day, so shortly after buying the boat, I started posting videos on Instagram. I loved the sense of community that came from connecting online with people doing similar things. After about a year of making videos on Instagram, I also started making TikToks, showing what the inside of my boat looks like, answering questions about my work, and explaining everyday things (usually at friends’ houses) like doing laundry.
I didn’t expect my posts to be so popular, but some of them became hits.
After reading the comments I found out that there are many misconceptions. Some people think it’s a very cheap lifestyle, others think it’s very expensive, and many feel that living on a boat means I’m not working.
Many people think that living on a boat means staying in one place forever. But I don’t have permanent ferocity, which means staying in different corners of the canals every week and moving often.
Living on a boat is not as easy and cheap as many people think
People were especially interested in my video explaining how much I pay to live on a yacht, which has been viewed by more than 1 million and 300 thousand people. People.
A lot of people think I live on a boat to save money, but even though I now live alone and not with roommates, I spend more than I did when I rented a room.
Life on a yacht isn’t as easy as keeping your monthly expenses in check. I took out a loan to buy a boat, which I repay around £650, which is PLN 3,500 a month, but I hope to pay it off at the beginning of 2025.
The other major cost is the licensing required in the UK to keep boats on canals and rivers. That’s around £60 a month.
I don’t have access to utilities, but other bills like laundry (when I don’t have access to friends’ houses), coal and heating wood and the cost of flushing the waste from the toilet are around £. 190 per month (approximately PLN 1,000).
Maintenance is approximately £175 per month. However, this can vary and I keep the savings in case something goes wrong.
A few winters ago half of my chimney fell off and my heating broke and I had to pay £700 to fix it.
If something goes wrong, I often have to fix it myself because there is no one else to help me. It’s hard because I’m not the best at DIY. I can’t just call the owner.
I’m a pretty good boat operator now, but it still makes me a little nervous because every time I move the boat, I’m moving the whole house. I don’t want anything to go wrong.
Other activities involve unexpected amounts of time and effort. Sometimes one has to walk three kilometers to dump garbage.
Sometimes you run out of fuel and need to go to refuel. It doesn’t happen often, but you should be prepared.
Many sailors tell stories about trying to make tea only to have a bad day and no gas.
Sometimes the toilet or heating system breaks down.
Taking care of everything can feel like an extra part-time job. Before I lived on a boat, I rented a house, so I wasn’t used to this kind of responsibility.
There are times when I think of giving up on this life, but the sailing community makes it all worth it.
I had some difficult moments on the boat. I even thought of giving up completely because it was too much work. But society keeps me going.
I have found the people who own boats and live around me to be supportive, helpful, friendly and incredibly diverse. We all care about each other, help each other and spend time together.
You can stay in your own little bubble while living at home, but on a boat you have to be kind, because at some point you’re going to need help too.
However, it is important to approach this with realistic expectations. I wouldn’t tell people to go for it because it’s a tough life.
From the outside, it may seem very peaceful and unattractive, but this is not always the case. There is a lot of stress. One of the reasons I wanted to live on a boat was to build my courage, and it did.
I had some difficulties, but I think they all yielded positive results. I am braver than I was before I bought the boat.
Translation: Mateusz Albin
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