Living in a Boat to Pay Tuition

NEW YORK (MainStreet)—For Joe Pearce, living on a sailboat for 14 months in the U.K. was a simple decision to make so he could finish getting his thesis-based masters within the geography department at Aberystwyth University in Wales.

Pearce, 23, had already exhausted his savings from working at a hotel the previous summer and did not want to incur any debt to pay for the £3,500 ($5,250) degree. While he was studying for his master's degree, Pearce wound up ending a relationship with his girlfriend unexpectedly. She had contributed half of the rent, or £400 ($600) a month.

Knowing he could not afford to keep up with the rent of the flat, Pearce started searching for viable options. A fan of boating and kayaking since he was a child, he started searching for boats online to see if he could find an affordable one. Eventually, he got lucky and made an offer and counteroffer to purchase The Golden Cloud, which he nabbed for £800 ($1,200)--a steal compared to the listing price of GBP 3,000 (USD 4,500).

"I looked at my finances and saw I didn't have enough money to complete the master's without working 50-hour weeks," he said. "I started working nights seven days a week to get spare cash and a bed, but I found this strained me for my master's the next morning and my relationship with my boss."

Living on a boat had its challenges since the nearly 40-year-old boat was rotting in areas and leaked whenever it rained. The sailboat was made for someone who was merely five feet tall, so Pearce, who is just about six feet tall, was not able to spend much time standing up.

For the first six months, Pearce didn't have any electricity, but learned to live without it. Instead, he changed his schedule to adapt to Mother Nature. "Once the sun was down, you couldn't do anything," he said. "As a result, you change your day to wake with sunrise and sleep with the sunset. Your body loves this rhythm and you get up early and do a lot before anyone wakes up and see the world in its early morning beauty. Living simply and with little also made me more social, giving, respectful and thankful."