How quarantining on a sailboat has helped this psychotherapist become more productive than ever

Psychotherapist and international bestselling author Amy Morin shares what she has learned during her atypical quarantine and says the same principles can apply to anyone, no matter where they live.
Psychotherapist and author Amy Morin on her sailboat.
Psychotherapist and author Amy Morin on her sailboat.Courtesy of Amy Morin.

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By Amy Morin

When it became clear that we were going to be placed under a “stay-at-home” order, the decision about where to “shelter-in-place” was easy — I was going to stay home. And for the last four years, I’ve called my sailboat “home.”

Six years ago, when I took the plunge to become a full-time author, I gained the freedom to work remotely. And without a traditional job holding me in place, living on a sailboat in the Florida Keys sounded more enticing than enduring the cold winters in Maine.

So, my husband Steve and I packed up our dog, cat and a few belongings, and we made the move. I knew nothing about living on a boat and had no idea what to expect.

Boat Life

Most people imagine living on a boat means I’m bobbing around in the ocean or sailing between tropical islands every day. In reality, our 53-foot boat is tied to a dock much of the time.

Living on a boat is a bit like living in a floating apartment. I have electricity, running water and high-speed internet. I also enjoy air conditioning and hot water. The boat has an oven, two showers, and many of the same necessities you’d find in a small apartment.

In some ways, life on a boat is easier than living on land. With built-in furniture and few possessions, life can be pretty simple.

In other ways, boat life poses some challenges. Boats leak sometimes and rely on several hoses, pumps and engines. And you can’t always call a traditional repair person to fix things.

Amy Morin on her sailboat, which she has called home for about four years.Courtesy of Amy Morin.

Quarantine and productivity

Quarantining on a sailboat also has some advantages as well as challenges.

Following the “stay-at-home” order isn’t as much of a hardship when your home is mobile. We can take our home to lighthouses, coral reefs and sand bars while still social distancing.

On the other hand, there are also a few complicating factors that make sailboat life a little tougher than usual while under quarantine.

There isn’t a lot of storage space, so we have to go to the grocery store fairly often. And with fewer stores open, it’s harder to get boat supplies when we need parts — like when our bilge pump (the mechanism that gets rid of any excess water in the bottom of the boat) suddenly stopped working.

Initially, quarantine presented me with some pretty big obstacles in regard to my work as well. My schedule had been filled with speaking engagements that all had to be rescheduled, canceled, or turned into virtual events.

But this also means that I’m not spending any time on the road right now. So I’m able to turn what would have been “travel time” into “writing time.”

Amy Morin working on her sailboat during the COVID-19 quarantine.Courtesy of Amy Morin.

One of my employees is also quarantining with us on the sailboat too. Being in the same place at the same time with fewer distractions has helped us be more productive than ever.

I spent the first couple of weeks writing my next book “13 Things Mentally Strong Kids Do!” I’ve also been writing more articles and doing more interviews than usual.

I am finding that boat life is helping me be more productive. And I suspect some of the strategies that help me on the boat can be helpful to anyone living on land as well — not just during quarantine, but at any time.

Here are some lessons I have learned:

Get rid of things you don’t need.

Sailboats have limited space. So if I choose to buy something, it means I often have to get rid of something else to make room. This helps me value what I have a lot more.

During quarantine, I haven’t missed shopping, and I’m not distracted by unnecessary “stuff.”

Fewer things also means less stress. I no longer feel guilty for having closets full of items I don’t need or for not having time to clean junk drawers overflowing with stuff.

Psychotherapist and author Amy Morin on her sailboat.Courtesy of Amy Morin.

Find pleasure in life’s simplest things.

Living on a sailboat gives me a chance to enjoy some of life’s simplest pleasures. Fortunately, I can still do most of these things while social distancing.

I find joy in watching sunsets and in learning about the direction of the wind and the height of the waves. A rowboat ride on a starry night is our definition of excitement.

Manatees swimming up to Amy Morin's sailboat.Courtesy of Amy Morin.

While there are plenty of days when absolutely nothing happens, there are other days when I feel like I should be paying admission to see such beautiful creatures swim around the boat — like dolphins, sea turtles, and manatees. But simply enjoying the world around me keeps me entertained.

Cut out activities that drain your time.

Before I lived on a sailboat, I was really “busy.” But I often couldn’t tell you where my time went.

I had a lot of “hamster-in-a-wheel” kinds of activities that kept me more busy than productive. And I went to more social events and meetings than I needed to attend.

But life on a sailboat in a new area has done away with a lot of those unnecessary extras. It gives me a chance to really think about my priorities and how I want to spend my time.

Amy Morin and her dog enjoying life on the water.Courtesy of Amy Morin.

Do what energizes you.

Being outside energizes me. But it was nearly impossible to spend much time outdoors when I had a traditional day job in Maine — especially in the winter.

Now, I can use the outdoors as my office if I want. And some days I do. On other days, I take walks at sunset or go for an evening run.

I know what types of things charge my batteries now. And I try to look at these things as investments that help me feel my best.

If there’s anything I’ve learned as a therapist, it’s that when you feel better, you do better. So during stressful times, it’s especially important to practice self-care so you have the energy to tackle whatever challenges life throws your way.

Amy Morin is a psychotherapist, mental strength trainer, and a psychology instructor at Northeastern University. She's also an international bestselling author whose books on mental strength have been translated into 39 languages. She also gave one of the most popular TEDx talks of all time.