How you spend your everyday is actually how you spend your life. So creating an everyday you truly care about is of paramount importance.
This was the motivation behind Jay Thompson and his wife Natasha Gonzalez’s decision to live a life at sea. The pair have been sailing around the world—taking in countries including France, Iceland, and the Caribbean—for the past ten years, running their many businesses and raising their four kids from the confines of their portable home. Living aboard ship has required a great deal of will power and strength, but the family—who have become known in the media as “The Coconuts”—think it’s worth it to maintain the sense of freedom they’ve become accustomed to.
Thompson and Gonzalez were recently interviewed for cinematographer Cedric Schanze’s EVERYDAY series. Encompassing Q&A texts, audio interviews, and original photography, the series profiles a range of inspiring, international protagonists who have chosen to live their life in alternative ways, ranging from an arctic photographer who spends his time trekking through the most remote areas of Iceland, Siberia, and Greenland, to a sea-trekker who has been exploring the ocean for over 15 years.
If you’d like to find out more about Thompson and Gonzalez’s unique way of life, you can read an edited version of a Q&A with the pair below, or head over to the EVERYDAY. website to listen to an audio interview.
“You can always be distracted by a million different things in life but at some point, you have to decide what you really want.”
Your life is quite extraordinary. When did you decide to live on a boat?
Jay Thompson: When I graduated high school, I got accepted into college. But I remember asking myself: “Why am I going to college? I’m only going to college because it’s what everybody says that I should do.” After three weeks, I woke up one morning and it was as clear to me that I wanted to quite, that was it. At that point, I felt so free. It was the first time that I went against the societal pressures that everybody in the Western world faces. You can always be distracted by a million different things in life but at some point, you have to decide what you really want. I decided I wanted to buy a boat, and it changed my life.
What was your life like before you decided to live at sea?
JT: When I was a kid, I would go and play in the backyard all the time. It was kind of like a forest—there was this ring of trees that went around our entire property. I would go out there every day because I had nothing else to do. I was probably only maybe seven or eight years old, but I had my own axe and I’d use it to chop at this giant pine tree. I’d chop at it and chop at it until it finally fell over. It was my first big accomplishment. It’s something that’s been with me my whole life.
I was also really into everything that could fly. I used to make these little models with my father. One day we started this large airplane model that could be remotely controlled. Shortly after we started working on it my dad left us. That airplane became the thing that I had to keep going. I couldn’t stop working on it. I remember being completely frustrated at times because I couldn’t figure it out. It was way over my head and my abilities at that age. But I just kept going and eventually completed it.
What does parenting on a boat look like?
JT: I’m a father of four, which is hard to believe! It’s crazy to think that I’m in control of four other people’s lives. You really feel the responsibility. But, at the same time, it’s something that I enjoy very much. The world we live in is so unpredictable. I think bringing my family up in an environment that is constantly changing is teaching them to be adaptable to any situation.
When you live such a nomadic life, how do you decide where to move next?
Natasha Gonzalez: We had a coconut growing on our rudder. And people would always ask: “What is that coconut doing there?” Jay would answer: “It’s our compass. Wherever it points, we go.” Right now we have been living in France, and we have been here for the past four years. Previously, we sailed around the world for seven years. We started as a makeshift family. I had two daughters already when I met Jay and was very settled in Costa Rica where I had been living for four years. But I sold all my belongings and my company and just jumped on board his boat. I have always been very good at flipping my life around very quickly.
How do you make a living?
JT: We don’t need much money. We’re happy living on less. You don’t live like this to make money. It’s more about being able to maintain a certain lifestyle. The ironic thing is though that the professional side of the boat life—the races and projects I am working on—needs huge amounts of money. I work as a skipper on other racing boats and Natasha is a filmmaker working on her client projects. Our partnerships and sponsors play a big role too. Without them, a lot of what we are doing would not be possible.
Jay Thompson and Natasha Gonzalez have been living with their family on their boat for the past ten years. Recently interviewed for Cedric Schanze’s EVERYDAY. series, the couple explained what it takes to live a life at sea. To find out more about Schanze’s series, head over to his website.
Text: FvF Team, Cedric Schanze
Photography: Cedric Schanze