There’s something quite whimsical about life on the canals. You and your boat are a part of the setting and scenery of the canal, but you’re an impermanent part all the same.
A sense of permanence is something I seem to have a distinct inability to achieve, and I think that does come from growing up moving a lot and never quite belonging within the culture of the city or country I was in. That underlying discomfort, almost like an itch you can’t scratch, has chased me since I moved back to the UK to make it my home as an adult. This everlasting feeling that I don’t belong here.
And it’s true!
It’s aggravated by the sense that as a quiet, extremely reserved person, I struggle to make new friends and my existing ones are spread far and wide across the planet. It’s lonely, and often it’s made me wish I had a different, more outgoing and immediately likeable personality. One that wouldn’t be misinterpreted quite so much. It’s an uncomfortable and all too common human trait to not want to be yourself sometimes.
However, the beauty of the boat is I don’t have to have my roots and my friends in any one place to be home. Home is wherever the boat, Chris and I are. Further to this has come the realisation that when it comes to ‘belonging’, we now belong to the community of boaters who come from all walks of life with their own quirks, differences and stories. It’s a fiercely proud community and one so often misinterpreted externally. Yet, it’s in this community that I’ve seen the most incredible acts of kindness and awareness that seem so hard to come by elsewhere.
I might not belong to a place, but I certainly belong to this and that’s all I need.
(Even if it is a community with a penchant for toilet chat.)