Exploring the Freedom of Maritime Living

7 min readMay 16, 2023

Thanks to the ever growing popularity of alternative living and flexible work schemes, the boat life movement is fast on the rise. Whether it be spending the summer on the Mediterranean or a weekend in the Caribbean, people are choosing to escape their stressful life on land for a simpler and more mindful world on the water. We spoke with explorer, entrepreneur, journalist and co-editor, Katharina Charpian, about her experience in creating this latest gestalten release.

Hi Katharina, can you provide a short background about yourself, and how you came to create Boatlife?

Hi! I am Katharina Charpian, an explorer, entrepreneur, and journalist. In the past I worked as an editor for well-known publishing houses, until I co-founded the first German fem-power magazine femtastics.com in 2015, where I was the editor-in-chief until spring 2022.

Today I am living and working as a freelance journalist and book author on my floating home, a 34 ft monohull, currently sailing along the northern Spanish coast. Not only am I on the lookout for dolphins, orcas, and anchorages in the middle of nature, but also for new zeitgeist topics. People and their alternative life concepts, founders that have an impact on our beautiful planet and adventurers, that wander, drive, ride, or sail along their own path inspire me for new stories for various lifestyle, travel and outdoor magazines.

I previously discovered the coasts of Europe with my old camper van, a VW T3 vanagon from 1982. With almost no sailing experience, in December 2020, I embarked on an adventure of a lifetime: A six-months sailing trip through ice and snow from Germany to the North of Norway with my boyfriend and my terrier. A year after returning, not only did I move onto that boat full time, but I have also dived deeper into the subject of living on board and had the idea to write a book about boat-life, a trend that was slowly emerging and is now fast on the rise.

What can readers expect to see from Boatlife?

The book Boatlife visually explores a nomadic and sustainable lifestyle on the water filled with mesmerizing landscapes, cultural experiences and endless adventures. Through beautiful photography, maps illustrated by the artist Lucy Engelman, almost 30 unique stories about ocean nomads and features about minimalism, sustainability, and remote work, I hope this book will inspire people all around the globe.

(Photo: Courtesy of Allison Medeiros & Denis Dowling, Boatlife) Do you have a favorite story featured within the book?

Each story inspired me in its own way. I have a fascination for animals, so my eyes were sparkling when I heard a sailor talking about his dives with orcas in the fjords of northern Norway, a captain rhapsodizing about curious penguins surrounding the bow of her boat in the ice universes of Antarctica or the adventures of a couple sailing and diving several months far away from civilization in the coral gardens of the Great Barrier Reef.

I am also very proud that solo sailor Liz Clark is part of my book. She is a role model in the boat life world and has inspired many women all around the world to do the same — even women featured in my book.

The prejudice that you need a lot of money to buy a boat is refuted by stories such as the sailing couple from Haiti and Canada, who bought their boat for 3.000 dollars and upcycled it with a second-hand electric motor to an outstanding cruising yacht, or the young Californian, who got through his curiosity for sailing a self-made boat as a gift by a lucky coincidence.

What would be your top 5 tips for someone considering an adventure on the water?

There are many ways to get a feeling for life on the water: Rent a canal boat or raft via Airbnb, join a sailing trip, do a course at your local sailing club, hitchhike across the ocean or charter a boat yourself with friends. But beware: seeing the Milky Way above the mast, jumping right off the boat into the water in the morning, or seeing the coastline from a whole new perspective can be addictive.

What makes Boatlife unique, in comparison to other escape or adventure titles?

It is the first book to focus on today’s boat-life trend, which I am very proud of. As a journalist I am deeply immersed in this niche and in all the unique adventures of sailors from all over the world. You can dive deep into the individual stories of the live-aboards and get additional tips on how to throw away your inner bowlines. It’s a book about an alternative lifestyle that I think will grow even more in the coming years. There are still so many stories I would like to tell the world — especially about women in the world of sailing. Ideas are already floating in my head.

In light of the pandemic, do you think there has been a rise of individuals seeking a ‘non-traditional’ mode of living? If so, how do you see this movement evolving within the next 5–10 years?

Definitely. Boatlife brings together so many current trends. It’s tiny living, it’s slow living, it’s sustainability, it’s working from anywhere. I see this movement evolving within the next years. Because many people had to work from home during the pandemic, remote work is now much more commonplace than it was a few years ago. You can already find many digital nomads working from their vans or shared spaces worldwide — and the boat office is becoming popular now. More and more people are looking at how they can combine slow travelling and working without leaving a big carbon footprint, especially the younger Generation.

(Photo: Courtesy of Arnoud Apituley, Boatlife) As someone who spends their life on the water, what advice would you give someone considering living on a boat?

Stroll through the book and see if your heart beats faster. But honestly, if you weren’t privileged to be born into a sailing family or boating community, don’t let others keep you from your dream of living on the water. Everyone started small — in sailing you learn from day to day, over years. Stay flexible, be prepared for the unpredictable beyond your comfort zone, and for the magic of the ocean. Being so close to nature is addictive and between all the highs and lows you will get to know yourself even better.

Why did you decide to create Boatlife in collaboration with gestalten?

It’s been an honour that gestalten shared my vision on this zeitgeist topic. Their delicate and unique sense of aesthetics and beautiful illustrations captivated me since years, and working with their network of world-class creatives, illustrators and distributors was the ideal foundation for my passion project. I am very happy that the book is not only published in German, but also translated into English to make it accessible to ocean lovers worldwide.

What do you hope readers will take away from Boatlife?

On a visual level, I would like the readers to (re)discover the beauty of our blue planet and the freedom of life on the water through the book. Each of the 27 stories in Boatlife are about people who dare to live their dreams, leave their comfort zones, and free themselves from the ideas of others — from a sailing family in Greenland to digital nomads in the Mediterranean and a solo sailor in the Pacific.

My book is meant to inspire people to dream and to go their own way — whether it’s life on the boat or something completely different, whether it’s just a small change in everyday life, a tiny or big adventure. A quote in my book from sailor Janke Kingma sums it up: “Of course, it’s a great adventure to sail to Antarctica, but for me hiking in a forest in the Netherlands, one I’ve never visited before, is an adventure, too.”

In the western world, which revolves much around consumption, performance, and perfection, we have often lost the relationship to nature and sight of what is essential. When you live aboard, you quickly realize how little you need and that it’s not things that make you happy, but the small moments of everyday life.

(Photo: Courtesy of Nate Stephenson, Boatlife)

Through photography, illustrated maps, itineraries, and background information, will inspire your own adventure, while taking you on a journey across bodies of water from The Americas and Europe, to voyages alongside Scandinavia and the Arctic Circle. Discover more today.

Originally published at https://gestalten.com.




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