London couple ditch the rat race to open canal boat café and travel the country
A couple has left the daily grind behind with their toddler to live on a narrowboat – and we’re a little bit jealous.
Joanna and Victor Gould, both 34, left their corporate jobs to start ‘living life on their own terms’. Now, the family of three travel the country in their boat.
The couple, who met in April 2015, both worked as freelance TV editors in London at the time. They worked crushing 80-hour weeks and ended up craving a slower pace of life.
Before, their combined earnings totalled £150,000. Now, their new boat café brings in £25,000.
But even though they’re earning less, they say they’ve ‘never been happier’. Bills on boats are usually cheaper, too.
Joanna said: ‘Our life now, compared to the city, is so much better. Back then we were getting up at 6am for a gruelling two-hour commute into the city.
‘Now we are open to a more wholesome pace of life. Don’t get us wrong, we have long days, not only with the café boat but with our little one.
‘But it just means we are able to live life for ourselves, not on the company clock.
‘Maintaining the boat takes a lot of time but it’s so worth it.’
After six months of dating, in October 2015 the pair moved in together in a flat they rented in Hackney, East London.
The pair purchased a canal boat in the same year and, along with renovations, it cost them £30,000.
They waited just over a year for those renovations to be completed before moving in to start their new life in April 2017.
Now, they spend their days floating down the canals between Croydon and Nottinghamshire, with their main base in Cheshire.
Joanna said: ‘I had to shrink my wardrobe down a lot as there’s very limited space on a boat.
‘I’d been travelling, so was used to living out of a suitcase, but this was a whole new level.
‘But it was really freeing to get rid of things that I didn’t need, like old clothes I’d forgotten about and household clutter.’
The couple went on to buy a second boat, named Holly The Café Boat, from which they run their seasonal business, with opening hours being just 10am-3pm.
Joanna and Victor take it in turns taking care of their 15-month-old son, William, while the other serves up teas, coffees and cakes to their customers.
At first, the couple tried keeping their TV jobs when they moved on to the boat, which they named Zero.
It took them a two-hour commute to get from Otford, Kent, to Old Street, East London, every day.
Victor said: ‘We’d be getting up at 6am for the two-hour commute which consisted of paddling to the river bank from the boat, walking to the train station and then from the station to work.
‘It was always a great conversation point – being able to say you paddle to work – but it wasn’t sustainable.’
So they left freelancing behind in December 2019 and never looked back.
However, the pair were able to put their editing skills to use when starting a YouTube channel in April 2020. Their videos are all about the reality of life on a boat and the cities they visit.
Victor said the floating café, helps them ‘give back to the communities that we travel to, through barista coffee and conversations with locals’.
‘It’s lovely when people recognise us from our social media because it’s like we know them already,’ he said.
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