One of my greatest joys in living on a boat is sailing into port and getting to know the people who live and work in the community.  They teach me things.

Take this man in Miami for example.  I met him while waiting for a rental car pickup.  He greets me in Spanish as he drives by in a golf-cart, pulling security detail for the marina. I reply in Spanish without thinking.

“Oh, tu habla espanol!” he says.  (You speak Spanish!)

In Miami, if you want to get around and indulge in its unique culture, you have to speak Spanish.  It’s a real delight.  I feel like I’m in a foreign country without having boarded a plane.

Golfcart begins to tell me his story: How he ran away from Cuba forty years ago, brought over extended family members, and established a life for himself.

“I have a house, a job, my family.  Cuba couldn’t take care of me: no food, no housing, nada,” he says.  “America took me in.  I love America!”

Later in the day, while driving through a quaint Cuban neighborhood, the streets are empty of playing children.  It’s Saturday.  Where did they all go?  It looks liked a nuclear bomb site.  No structural damage, just psychological damage.  It is eerie.

When we reach the parts supply store, my husband Peter engages in conversation with a young Cuban father.

“Where are all the kids these days?” Peter asks.

“On their phones,” says the clerk with a grimace.  “They can’t live without them. It’s horrible.  Back in my day we played in the woods, but there’s no trees anymore.  The kids get bullied at school if they don't have fancy gadgets or cars.  I hate that.”

“I can imagine.  I grew up playing basketball in the streets,” Peter says.  “It was great fun – exercise, laughter…”

“I know.  Today, kids remain behind locked doors, lost in solitude with devices and computer games while the parents are at work.  Then we are shocked when a school shooting happens.  This is why,” says Clerk.

The man looks at Peter. “All the kids want are a phone and car when they reach high school.  ‘Must haves’, they wail.  Then all they do is stare at the phone all day, every day.  I know when it’s a Teachers Day because the streets are crowded in the middle of the afternoon.  The kids jump in their cars and drive around all day, texting.”

I ponder the impact of this digital age.  Its collateral damage are the lessening of quality time with kids.  This is why we chose to live a simple life and reared our kids on a boat.  Our two sons could handle a Hawaiian sling better than bicycle handlebars. They could spear fish from as young as six years old.  They didn’t need a car or phone.  A vhf radio was their phone-line and their friends were all around - on the beach, in the water.  A drivers license didn’t land in their hands until in they reached their mid-twenties.

Today, they are thriving adults and actually act like they like us.

When our kids adopted lives of their own, they chose the simple life: bare feet, sun and sky, board shorts, and a boat.

© Tina Carlson-Dreffin 2015-2017