You’ve Got Mail.

In celebration of sending and receiving postcards! A friend send me a postcard a year or so ago and I’ve been sending them out into the world  in return ever since. The postcard exchange. Yesterday there was one in my postbox and gosh it’s a beautiful ‘thing’. So today a postcard for you friend.

 

#writingstreak

#day5/31

#mayneedtechnicalhelpwithwordpressformatting

 

 

Don’t Dream It, Live It. Italy At Home.

 

Do you have a dream place? Is it a place you’ve been? Or is it a place you dream of being? Italy is surely one that ticks that box for many people. Heck, you don’t even have to go there to dream about it! For many the romance has been created from stories in print and film. From the eternal city of Rome and her counterpart cities who blow our senses with architecture, art, ancient history, music, rustic charm to the country and seasides with their rolling hills, majestic mountains, Mediterranean coastlines and productive landscapes of vineyards, olive trees and tomatoes. Or, is it the general Italian’ness we all love to love – the food, wine, language and her pleasure loving, jovial valuing Italian way of being, the treasure of any great culture, her people.

For me it’s all of the above. I can’t count the times I’ve stood at the Pantheon and marvelled in awe! Oh wait, I probably can, about six. I’ve been to Rome three times and it’s always a visit twice spot for me. It still blows my mind. How did they? Who did it? I always feel connected to an ancient time when I’m under the spell of this incredible feat of mind blowing ancient (25 BC ancient), mystical architecture. If you need a good dose of feeling your mortality and a good wake up call as to what a creative can make in their life – Rome is your city. And if you need a good dose of reminding how to love the good life (la  dolce vida) Italy is your country.

Every time I’ve posted about Italy, the response is always along the lines of oh la la Italy, my heart! Sometimes it’s a romantic longing to return and for others it’s a yearning for the romance of a country they’ve falling in lust with. It doesn’t matter how Italy found her way into your heart what matters is how you nurture that love. Italy lives in our hearts and our home. In fact we’ve created an entire front terrace dedicated to living la dolce vita!

If you come to ours on a Saturday afternoon it’s likely you’ll feel the heat from the wood fired pizza oven, smell the intense smell of baked bread as you bite in to your home made Napoli style pizza, all while sipping your prosecco, your spritz or your birra, whatever takes your fancy. Except in July, we’re dry in July. Why? I dunno. #dryjuly must have been invented by non Italians and definitely from someone in the Southern Hemisphere. It really is spritzy weather here! Regardless of the month you will feel the love of the food, the moment, the space and the pleasure of the experience. And it is an experience. A multi layered experience created to simply enjoy life and it’s beauty.

The terrace is in its first season but the grape wine, tuscan lemon tree, herbs, fruit trees and potted vegetables will embrace you. The husband (pizzaiolo) will be standing at the oven in his uniform, black apron, tea towel in the back pocket and whichever tool is required for the stage the pizza is at. The dough will have been lovingly made with fine ingredients the day before following a tried and tested process. The mise en place (the putting in place of what is needed) also prep’d earlier will ensure the pizza’s are topped with deliciously simple toppings. The kids will be home, they don’t like to miss pizza night. The chatter will be fluid, the laughs spontaneous and the desire to be anywhere else – non existent.

You will be here and you will be in Italy.

It’s a work in progress our little piece of Italy! We will continue to grow with it as the plants grow around us. Our roots intertwined. Many meals and many moments will be shared. Tradition that forms the basis of how our kids remember childhood will happen right here on this terrace. I think it will be fondly. And I know it will inspire them to keep space for a little Italian’ness in their lives.

If I’m in need of a bit of Italy other than the eating and drinking I have been know to ask Siri to play me something Italian or to watch Eat, Pray Love. Ha! I’ve watched it so many times I may have even referenced a scene of it in my book. Obviously, I am an unashamedly hopeless, hopeless romantic. And, of course there’s always the ultimate way of escaping – into a book! There’s that classic Italian escape Frances Mayle’s, Under the Tuscan Sun. Do you have a favourite to share with us?

We don’t always have to go somewhere to have the ‘feeling’ of somewhere. And I may even argue we shouldn’t ‘have’ to need to. The travel, the marvelling is the icing. Most of life happens where we live! It’s what we bring home to our daily lives that matters most. Happily here, dreamy here, this is where to start.

 

 

P.S. Support local! We support Dutch businesses as much as possible. Our fruit trees and vines are purchased from Fruticos. And the beating heart of our terrace the oven was purchased from another Dutch family business Fornitalia. 

 

#writingstreak

#travelwriting

#day4/31

#gettingmoreproductiveallround

 

 

 

As With Many Of Us, Corona Changed Our Plans.

I once worked with midwife whose name I can’t recall. Let’s call her Jane. Jane used to take three months a year to cruise the waterways of the UK with her husband on their canal boat. They purchased the boat after a friend of hers had passed away. Her friend had just retired and had BIG plans for retirement. Jane decided she could no longer wait for retirement, she needed to start living her retirement plans now.  

Recently, ok is last year recently? If feels like all sense of time is skewed right now. Is last year going to be knows as the pre pandemic era? I do hear people talk about the ‘before corona time’.  Anyways, last year my sister in law Mary visited. We were out in the woods and as an older couple hiked past us with their day packs and poles, she said ‘I see Max (her husband) and I as those people when we’re older.’ We both chuckled a little and she said ‘we may need to actually start hiking’. 

A big part of our moving away from living the corporate, busy Sydney life and into this quieter, simpler village life was to not let life pass. It probably wouldn’t have mattered where we were living, the hustle just wasn’t us. We’d taken the wrong path. We wanted to keep life simple, decluttered. We moved here with about a 3 x 3 m amount of ‘stuff’. Nothing left in storage and no desire to again feel like our commitments and stuff owned our life.

And yet there are the realities of life in that we do need commitments! We need somewhere to live. Sometimes we need a car or in our case a garage full of bikes, surfboards, tents and a SUP!  Our kids play sport, go to school. And we need to work. Our life will never be that simple that we don’t need to work nor would we not want to work.

As much as I dream of the life of Chris and Ana on their self sufficient mountain farm in Andalusia. (Driving Over Lemons – a brilliant escape armchair journey). I know this is not us, it’s not our reality. There are four kids, a job that needs city/airport access and let’s face it not a real enough desire to live on the land. 

As with many of us, corona changed plans. After three years abroad we were due to visit our family and friends in Melbourne over Easter. Thankfully, I hadn’t booked our flights as I’d been watching this new virus weave it’s way into Europe since February. My main reason for not booking was I didn’t want to risk bringing it home to my parents. Never in my wildest dreams did I think the borders would close and that not coming wouldn’t be our choice.

As time went on and summer drew closer we realised that our summer camping surf trip to France was not going to happen. The borders are open, so yes we could go, but sharing ammenities  just doesn’t seem wise at this time. And for the past five or so years we’ve tried to create a life we don’t need to escape from. So there is no desperation to HAVE to go at any cost. 

However, we do love the experience, the adventure and the off grid time for our kids. Ergo, the return of that old chestnut dream of ours – to buy a campervan or not to buy a campervan?! Could we? Should we? I am a bit of a leaper as you know but buying a campervan means a type of permanence, doesn’t it? As my husband reminded me ‘nothing is permanent, you proved that when it took you six months to offload everything in Sydney’. 

Argh but security, getting older, what if the market crashes and we can’t sell our house here, we’d never get back home. But what if it doesn’t? What if we never move home? We don’t have a plan anyhow. And we’d always have a camper to live and retire in I guess. Having sold our home in Melbourne I am nervous about where best to ‘invest’. I’m not driven by making more money but I don’t want to lose it!

Can you guess which post on my blog is getting smashed at the moment? This one!

So You Want To Campervan In Europe With Kids. 

Ha! We were ahead of the curve with our van-lifing! ;)

We started searching, ready to leap, but also nervous about jumping too fast. We looked at a private one and even had a mechanical inspection. There were a few niggles I had about the purchase so we didn’t follow through. It’s the barefoot investor I tell you! He taught me to grow up a little. It’s his alpaca story that plays on repeat in my head. ‘Every dollar you get should go first into protecting your flock’.  (You can read the true story of the two alpacas here).

We started expanding our search and found an ex-hire company that sells low km, almost new vans. They replace their fleet regularly. We almost bought one but missed out. I wanted to be sure we were not overpaying so I tried to drive down the price. And someone else didn’t! C’est la vie.

A wise sister in law said to me when I had my first baby ‘it’s a series of phases’. This wisdom has guided me well, not just with babies and children but in life. Life is flux. We spend our time transitioning from one phase to the next.  This is guaranteed. How well we transition is how well we prepare. Naturally, there are things we can’t prepare for. I dare not think of this predicament I’m in where I can’t just get home if needed. But, I do think about what we are doing now and how valuable this time is in preparing us for where we are going. The next phase. 

We are mountain people, we are beach people, we are lake people, we are adventure seeking, new language, new cultural experience people, we are food and wine people, we are travelling people. A campervan is an investment in how we live, the things we want to do and the places we wish to see. It gives us freedom. We can be self sufficient in that we can carry what we need. We are far more likely to get to the Baltics and to Scandinavia in a camper! With four kids we can’t afford to fly, stay in hotels, hire cars etc for weeks on end. And to be honest I no longer wish to fly. I really do have plane shame. I’m trying to save my flying for trips home.

I guess our buying a camper is a little like living how we want our retirement to look. Or maybe not. Maybe it is more about living how we wish to live in this phase of our life and it sits nicely with our values. Packing up our kids, putting our hiking boots and road bikes in for mountain climbs, our SUP’s for the lakes and our boards for the oceans. We love the nights where we sit together on our camp chairs with the adventure glow, our bodies tired as we sip a local wine and indulge in regional cheese.  

Our camper dream won’t be realised this summer. Everyone is out in the hired campers but our time will come. We’re sure now. We will take the next step in ‘living’ this European Adventure. Ironically, continuing as it started, in a camper. It seems we’ve needed a phase of nest building before transitioning into this next time. Where from our nest we can explore and adventure our way across Europe.

For now though we have a leisurely summer ahead with no plans. Loads of  time for me to write all the stories. A time to ride out and live this transition as we move towards our next phase. A time to enjoy our  verdant Dutch village  life nestled in amongst lakes and trees. A time to breathe in this moment where we stopped to create some security and stability for our flock.

We are lucky, we haven’t had corona impact our employment. I acknowledge this makes it easier for us to live without the added stresses many are experiencing in this time. And we are trying to direct our purchases to supporting those in small business who have been affected harshly by this pandemic.

I don’t long to travel far from home right now, it’s not the time. But like Jane I’m not waiting. No, I’m not waiting for life to start after all this is over. If you’re looking for me, I’ll be on my bike. (keeping sane in between, feeding, washing and cleaning for the masses in my house) Practicing for when I’m retired and I can ride each day in the mountains of the Pyrenees.  Or not! Who knows where the living now, not the waiting will take me. Hey Mary, go get those poles out and get hiking! ;)

#writingstreak

#tidyingmysite

We Are A Bit Wild. You & I.

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‘If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.’ – Maya Angelou

Where is the connection? This is the question. The question I am asking myself as I move forward in developing my writing. Tutorials would probably call it a niche. Let me start with the things. I am lots of things. A traveller, a woman, a friend, a wife, a mother, a lapsed midwife, a lapsed teacher, a hiking enthusiast, a novice cyclist, an activist … the list is long. I generally don’t subscribe to tutorials so I am also a rebel. I like to do things my own way. Or does that just make me stubborn!?! Or is this the clue – the signpost to the connection, the way forward.

I have always written for myself. I write as a way of moving forward, of making sense of where I am or of where I’ve been. Along my writing path, a path I took in my early 40s, people started reading and connecting with my words. Still I write for me, but if I truly only write for me I’d journal. Wouldn’t I? So, also, I write for you. Of course I do because I publish my prose.

But who are you? 

My most precious gift in writing, my connection, my clues!

You’re women (mostly). Some of you are partnered, some not. Some are mothers, many are not. Some are empty nesters, some are in the thick of the trenches. Some of you are hikers, not all of you. Some of you are activists, some quietly some actively. Some of you travel, some don’t. Some of you are vegetarians, some not. Some of you also write, take photos, paint, cook stuff, grow stuff or just generally make stuff! 

The thing I think we all have in common, our connection is that we are a bit WILD. A bit radical, a bit dreamy, a bit adventurous, a bit what else is in the world, a bit what is there to feel, learn, see, a lot strong, a lot fierce and a lot in love with not being ‘normal’. What even is normal? We are our own normal. 

Yes, we are the wild ones. And so I write for you. You are my niche, my people and you are the ones I seek to share my energy with. To be radical with. In this space and in my space away from the words. My style of writing, my ‘niche’ is fuelled by living. And so I won’t only be sharing my energy here with the wild ones, I’ll be keeping it wild in my every day life too. Because let’s face it, we’re all a lot more focussed post our corona isolation aren’t we!?!

Accepting what I am as opposed to pushing my boundaries? This has been an important distinction for me to ‘get’ in this process. For example I travel a lot and mostly with kids and I guess there’s a whole genre in the ‘how to’ travel with kids, it’s the obvious one for me. But the thing is I just don’t dig writing about it. It doesn’t spark my fire. It wouldn’t be pushing my boundaries to start writing about it just because I do it, just because I know it well and there are others already loving it, doing a great job of it. I can’t fit where I don’t.

It would be far more honest for me to accept it’s simply not my style and to push the boundaries in the genre I do dig. The one I live to feel! The one that feeds my soul. The one where I find my connection, where I meet you lot. The Wild Ones. The ones seeking the more of life because you simply can’t live without sparks and flashes of promise and a great love and appreciation of the story. And yes travel will be a big part of it and possibly also kids but the thread, the inspiration for me is the connection. So here’s to creating a body of work that is inspired and focussed from a connection to the wildness we need to feed. 

#writingstreak

#appreciatingmystyle

#knowingmyniche

#transformingthisspace

 

 

To fall or not to fall?

On the first day of March this year I took on a challenge to run every day in March. Every. Single. Day. It could be as far as I liked or as short as a mile, 1.6kms for those of us used to the metric system. It’s called a run streak and all over the world the people are streaking!

Yesterday I hit my 120th day of running. Yes, March extended into April, through May, then June and now for sure it will go into July. Yesterday, I also fell over. Thankfully, it wasn’t a fall I couldn’t spring up from but it was a fall that opened a wound.

A wound that if had I tried to expose it last year would have bled uncontrollably, it would have been too raw. A wound that has simmered in my subconscious, slowly waiting to be exposed. I’ve slowly pushed it away until now where the risk of facing it no longer seems so unbearable. Now it simply requires the bandaid to be ripped off!

Perhaps it’s the running that has made me stronger, perhaps it’s the time spent in isolation during quarantine, perhaps it’s the fact that there are no great life changes I am in the midst of. Whatever the reason, the fall helped me find some sense.

As I continued to run I began to wonder, do I really risk falling or do I play it safe? Certainly people tell me that the way I live my life involves a degree of bravery. But my bravery is coated with privilege. Moving abroad was an option for us because of dual citizenship. We also have enough education and work experience to be able to secure employment. What if we moved abroad and it all went pear shaped? Well, we could have come home. Home to our house, our friends and our family in Melbourne.

For a while we thought we’d always keep the safety of our home in Melbourne. But the fires, the ongoing inability in the world and some new tax laws reminded us we should just live where we are. We decided to minimise further. And somewhere, between the bushfires and the corona we sold our house in Melbourne. It was the final cutting of the cord to our old life. We realised we would never move back to the same house as the same people who left it six years ago.

My run streak has taken me through the settlement of the house, the letting go of the safety net to our old life, the lockdown of the world due to a pandemic and also the end of my midwifery career. My registration was due for renewal and I haven’t met the requirements to keep myself registered. Letting my registration go is the closing of a significant chapter of my life. If I am honest this was really just the more formal ending, the end has been in process since we arrived in Europe.

And while there are stories in all of these events, it’s the closing of the midwifery chapter that exposed the wound. I would have to face it. What am I now? I know what I care about, I know who I love and I know my passions, but where and how will I reinvent myself to express these. Of course I knew.

I want to reinvent myself. Reinvent what it is that I do. You see I do want to do something, to create something . And I know what, of course I know. When we are ready, we always know deep down. Naturally, sometimes we can’t quite dig deep enough or face what’s buried or maybe we don’t have the capacity  or energy to try to dig for our gold. Hello, peri menopause. O.M.G. The peri. There’s an energy and confidence zapper right there. Off the track but I think a run streak is an excellent antidote to the peri.

Let’s get back to the gold. Big breathe, the gold I think I have is to write. As simple as that. And as hard as that.

Aaargh it is weird to even admit that sentence. It always comes back to writing for me.  And as I ran, I wondered is this something I am scared of? Do I run for shelter every time I fall. Do I run every time there is a possibility of putting myself out there? And you know, I think I am scared. I don’t think I have tried hard enough to really fall. I just get a little wounded and then I give up. I can’t say I’ve really given it my all, or that I have fallen hard enough to know I have really tried.

My run yesterday was the fastest 10km I’ve ever run. I also ran the fasted km I had ever run. Ever. In forty seven years. Yes, I am getting faster with age. At the start of the year I though I’d never run again because of my lower (now greatly improved) back pain. And it made me wonder … what have I been telling myself about who I am? About what I can and can’t do? About what my lot in life is? About why I can’t do something?

Do I have things to say? So many! Do I have experiences to share? Hundreds! And that’s just from yesterday. And so perhaps it’s time to try harder. To commit. There are way more than 10 beautiful things about my village life I adore. Now that’s a story I’d love to read about someone else’s life. Why don’t I write that. Why don’t I write the stuff I want to read. And so I will.

Today is the last day of the school year and as we head into a summer at home, yes at home! I know. What even does that look like for this travel loving family?! While I am at home I will write every day. A story from our village life, a travel story or a tale from the trail. Is there anything you’d like me to write about? What would you like me to share, unpick or try during my writing streak. I’ll aim for a month first. There won’t be rules, ok, one – just a post a day. And I ‘d love to chat with you through this so let’s do that! I am getting better at that, I think. I hope. I do I know I need to give a bit more.  Do you want to join me?

#writingstreak

 

“My life has been a path at the edge of uncertainty. Today, I think we educate kids to be settled in the comfortable chair. You have your job, you have your little car, you have a place to sleep and the dreams are dead. You don’t grow on a secure path. All of us should conquer something in life and it needs a lot of work and it needs a lot of risk in order to grow and to improve you have to be there at the edge of uncertainty” – Francis Mallman.

Stories inspired by travel and life from the verdant Dutch Village we currently call home.

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