Location: any canal system that has people living on it
I can think of two reasons why canal boaters are like snails, they carry their homes around with them and they take a slow pace of life.
Now what I always told my mum about travelling around on a canal boat when it is your own one is that it is like going on holiday without having to pack! If you are travelling around the system, which I hope to do once I have finished my degree, I will have new sights and sounds to see around me. New places to explore and learn about and all the comforts of home. This is not always a good thing, you can never go off and leave your mess, it will follow you around wherever you go, and you can never leave the housework to someone else like you can do on holiday.
One of the lovely sights that I have seen
Now it is also a good thing, you never leave behind something that is vital for your enjoyment of the holiday, like a camera as it is all with you when you travel. You have so much freedom while having so much security. You don’t like your neighbours then just move on. The cows in the field by where you are moored are intimidating then just move along. And you will always have a place to stay, a place to put your head down at night safe from all the nightly terrors, be they human or animal. You can lock your front door and keep the whole world out. It is your safe space.
A phone box library that I have seen on my travels
The slow pace of life, like a snail, is very relaxing, you find when you are on a canal boat for any length of time that you have time to just stand and stare at all the wonderful scenery around you. You do less time-wasting things like the endless games of solitaire on the computer and take the time to immerse yourself in the nature around you. You take the time to do things that matter, things that will improve your life. You take time to read that book you always wanted to read, you fix that thing that has been bugging you, you learn a new skill or you practice a musical instrument. Life becomes more about being than wasting time just to get through the day.
It is so easy to take your dinner outside and eat it sitting on the gas locker under the stars for example. When I have been on my boat I have seen a lot more birds around, so far I have even spotted a kingfisher twice, although it flew away before anyone else I was with got to see it. I have seen bats flying around at night, something that I have never seen while staying in a house. I have also put a deck chair out on the deck at the back of my boat and just taken a book out to read, you are surrounded by water and birds and it is just lovely. If you look hard at the water you can even see fish swimming around under the water. When it is raining you can curl up inside and listen to the rain drumming on the rooftops, one of my favorite sounds, and know that you don’t have to go anywhere or do anything that day.
Being in a canal boat, with the slower pace of life means you take more time to be aware of the moment and to be thankful for what you have. Hassles seem less important and the outside world becomes more proportionate as your focus shrinks to more of the present time. Worries become manageable (unless the boat is sinking) and problems are solved one step at a time. You become more peaceful and less confrontational around the calming influence of the water and natural surroundings. That is my experience anyway. Reading back over what I have just written, it sounds like meditation, but a kind of whole life meditation where you don’t have to think about it and it just comes naturally with where you are.
Even when I am not on my boat all the time I can sometimes capture the elusive feeling of being able to take the time to see the nature around me, which I am coming to believe is the most valuable advantage to getting my canal boat.