After spending a couple of years planning to go cruising on a sailboat, we were left feeling a little empty after throwing that idea away. We still had the desire to take a one or two year sabbatical and see the world, but now our future was blank. No plans. No goals. Only desires.
As I was driving home from work one day, I flipped through the radio channels and came across Rick Steves on OPB. He was interviewing a couple from California that sold everything and bought a converted barge in Europe and cruised through the French canals in it. It turns out that France has around 5000 miles of inland navigable waterways that were setup to move cargo around the country by barge. Now, many of these cargo barges have been converted to living space and many people travel around France and Europe on their barges. Inspiration!
I looked into this “barging” thing and it looked like a fun and easy way to see France. I bought all of the books that had been written on it, which is not many, and read many of the online articles about this lifestyle. It seemed simple; you motor for awhile going through locks about every mile and when you came to a town or you wanted to stop for the night, you pull over and tie off to the bank. Travel was slow, but that would give you time to savor the experience. I talked to Kerri about it and she agreed that it could be what we were looking for. Even though we swore off sailboats, living aboard a boat while you traveled offered a lot of convenience. Transportation and a place to live, all in one.
The more I researched this option, though, the more I saw the negative aspects of living this lifestyle. Barges are expensive and boatyards are not cheap if the barge needs work. Travel is really slow through the French canals and the locks can take awhile to navigate. During the winter, many of the canals are drained, which would force us to moor the boat for the winter. And, to be in France longer than 90 days would require us to get a residency visa, which can be a long and difficult process.
Although it would be a lot of fun to go barging in France, it did not seem like it would offer the full travel experience we were looking for. It would be fun for awhile, but we would be limited to France and we wanted to see more than just France. It is still on our list as things we want to try, but it was not the solution we were looking for.