What Living On A Narrowboat For A Week Has Taught Me

As you may have recently seen on my social media channels, my husband, his dad, Alan, and myself, went on a narrowboat adventure for a week. We hired a 57ft narrowboat from ABC Boats, which became our home for the whole week. Having not been on a narrowboat previously this was my first time. David, and his dad, Alan, already being narrowboat experts, and Alan, who is also a volunteer lock keeper for the Canal & River Trust, were both able to help me and show me the ‘ropes’, quite literally! 

In this post, I thought I would share with you some of the things that living on a narrowboat for a week has taught me. I learned so much that week, and in particular, I learned a lot about myself, even using strength that I never knew existed. Overall, we just had the most amazing time, and we were very sad to leave. We made lots of new and happy memories which will definitely last a lifetime, and it has also given David and I so much to think about future-wise. 

The boat we hired was from Gayton Marina, in Northamptonshire, and then we cruised all the way, over the space of a few days, to Braunston, a lovely village also in Northamptonshire. We then made our way back to Gayton Marina again, for the final part of our holiday. 

So without further ado, here’s what I learned on our narrowboat adventure.

What Living On A Narrowboat For A Week Has Taught Me

I learnt that it’s the fastest way to slow down!

This is something that David told me very early on, when telling me all about his narrowboat adventures in the past, and it’s something I’ve read about too. But I didn’t fully know how much it makes you slow down until I got on the narrowboat. But in all the good ways! With the busyness of what our day-to-day lives can bring, it was very refreshing to just slow right down and be present in the moment. When the fastest speed you can do on a narrowboat is 4mph, you definitely can’t get to somewhere in a hurry. It meant enjoying the present moment, not worrying about having to get somewhere at a certain time, or thinking you’re going to be late, or even worrying about what you’re going to be doing the next day. It was lovely to be able to enjoy the moment.

With plenty of places to moor up, we were able to find somewhere to spend the night easily and it meant that we could enjoy our surroundings, explore, take time to enjoy the nature around us, meet new people, and discover where else the towpath led to. On one of the days we decided to moor up, so that we could then rest and start our journey again the next day, and it was so beautiful. We had a few other boats around us, so we had some company. It was lovely to walk, exploring along the towpath. The surroundings were very pretty and we sat outside in the evening and watched the ducks swimming by, the little fish in the water and the bats flying around us. Plus, the fresh air does the body and mind so much good.

I think in our day-to-day lives, we can easily miss all of this. So it was good to slow down and be able to enjoy the moment and all that was around us. After leaving the marina on the last day, we stopped at some motorway services on the way back. David and I went inside and we honestly just felt so out of place. People were rushing past us, no “hellos”, and it seemed like there was a mile-long queue for the fast food chains. It made me so much more aware of how we have been accustomed to basically getting what we want, when we want it. Throughout my life, and especially on this week’s holiday, it’s made me so much more thankful for the little things, for what we do have. It’s about learning to save, to have only what we need and only use what we need. Especially on a narrowboat, when you’re getting low on water, you have to go and search for a tap and fill up. There’s no magic button that makes it fill up with water, and I think that this especially makes you so much more appreciative. 

I learnt that I’m physically stronger than I thought

I’m not athletic, I’m not very good at sports, P.E. was my least favourite subject at school, and walking is usually my limit! Having a chronic illness has also meant that I’ve had to adapt and do things a little differently over the years. Having PoTS, Crohn’s Disease, Asthma, and other health conditions, it can sometimes be a little harder to do tasks which use a lot of energy. But I’m always up for trying new things, and living on a boat for a week has taught me that I’m physically stronger than I think

I used strength that I never knew I had. It definitely gave me a good workout, but I felt so good afterwards. It shows what the body is and is still capable of, even when you have a chronic illness. I left that week feeling much healthier in myself, and I feel it’s helped me to realise that I’m capable of doing so much more than I let myself believe. 

David showed me how to do the locks, and they can be quite hard work. I did have to have a little help on some of them, but once I got the hang of them, I really enjoyed it. I hadn’t run since school (and even then during cross country I ended up walking most of it), but I actually ran from lock to lock! 

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I learnt just how friendly the boating community is

It’s probably quite rare to get a smile and a “hello” from just about everyone you meet, but this is exactly what happened on our week away on a narrowboat. Yes, there was the odd person who was very set in their ways and wasn’t up for having a friendly chat (particularly if you’re on a hire boat), but the majority of people were so friendly, willing to help and were happy to stop for a chat. It really makes the atmosphere much happier. I have read before about how friendly the boating community is, but it was so wonderful to be able to experience it personally. It just goes to show how a simple “hello”, a smile, or even a short conversation, can go a very long way. 

As I mentioned above, this holiday was my first time on a narrowboat and doing the locks, but that little extra help from complete strangers helped me so much. One day, as I went up ahead to the next lock, the very kind couple on the narrowboat were patient and very happy to help me whilst I was still learning. On some of the more difficult and heavier gates, people were happy and quick to help me open and close them. 

The people on the boats that we passed, whether travelling or moored up, always offered a friendly “hello”.

What Living On A Narrowboat For A Week Has Taught Me

I learnt that the narrowboat life is like a completely different world

It was honestly like a completely different world. There’s so much beauty that we don’t often see, and don’t realise is there in our day-to-day lives. Once back at the marina, my husband and I went for a walk along the locks, which were underneath a very fast and busy main road. From many years of personal experience, when travelling on a fast and busy road, all you seem to see in front, behind and around you is the road. The beauty that surrounds the road almost always gets missed.

One particular place that we moored along was quite near the motorway, and we both said that all this beauty that we were walking along, the canal, the boats, the trees and all the nature that surrounded us, just gets completely missed! We were also next to the main train line to London, and even on the train, it all often gets missed because of the fastness and busyness of it. As we were walking along the towpath and had the motorway one side of us and the main train line the other side of us, it really made us appreciate our surroundings so much more, to take the time to fully enjoy, soak in, slow down and to enjoy the moment.

I learnt that I really love the narrowboat life

What a week of living on a narrowboat has really taught me, is that it has shown me just how much I love the narrowboat life. In just one week, I learned so much, and it enabled me to slow down, reflect, discover and explore new places and more of God’s beauty that surrounds us. It’s created lots of new and special memories, I got to meet lots of new people, and it helped me to appreciate the little things that extra bit more. I also got to do a few hours of driving, which was an amazing experience, and I can’t wait to be back on a narrowboat cruising again on the water.

You can read all about our narrowboat adventure and what we got up to here.


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1 thought on “What Living On A Narrowboat For A Week Has Taught Me”

  1. Aw I love this! My partner’s grandparents owned a narrowboat when he was a kid and his parents owned a river cruiser, so he’s always been familiar with being on the river. We’ve been on a few river cruise holidays on the Norfolk Broads and it is the BEST way to slow down, totally agree! I’d absolutely love to do a narrowboat holiday at some point though, they’re beautiful boats and so cozy 🙂

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