Category Archives: Travel

The Sunday Edition – 1. Tonight we fly! Checklists! London baby, we made it.

Tonight we fly! 

  • A suitcase and day pack each ✓
  • Puffer jacket, gloves and beanie ✓
  • Passports (2 each, Aussie and Dutch) ✓
  • One-way ticket to Europe ✓
  • Treasured possessions packed and en route to store in Ireland ✓
  • All other items given away or sold on gumtree ✓
  • Car sold (phew – just) ✓
  • Investment property sold (big $ loss but freedom gain) ✓
  • Family home tenanted ✓
  • Long service cashed in ✓
  • Pockets full of hope, excitement and the big unknown ✓✓✓

On this typically sunny late December day I suppose I should be feeling nervous. It may be typically sunny as we sit at Melbourne’s Tullamarine airport and while I’ve sat here many times before, today is anything but typical. Today I’m sitting with my husband, our four children, our passports and one way tickets. Our possessions have been trimmed down to only the treasures and we are adventure bound.  

Surprisingly, I don’t.

Feel nervous that is.

What could possibly go wrong? Surely, buying a campervan over the internet, sight unseen, taking your kids out of school for six months without considering, or even checking if there is a homeschool option and not knowing where you’ll be at the end of the six months is normal.

Right? 

It must be right for me at this moment. Or is it my kind of normal? Because the only feeling I can express is excited anticipation. 

This day, the day we fly, has finally arrived. 

It’s rather liberating to be free and without ties. It has taken a little over six months to unburden ourselves of the commitments and stuff we had collected over these past years of our lives. Everything has been digitised, from the past 5 years of tax papers, the cd and dvd collections to the medical and school records. We no longer own chairs for our dining table nor mattresses or even beds for that matter! 

I guess we all have our midlife crises in different ways.

We, Greg and I, my beloved, husband and partner of over 20 years, decided to have ours as a campervan adventure in Europe with our four kids. I sneak a glance at our 12, 10, 7 and 4 year old children, the younger three playing uno and the eldest with his head in his online football manager game. These loves of my life, each with their own backpack filled with their worldly possessions. If they were nervous you wouldn’t know it. I like that this is their kind of normal too.

Adventure has become the norm for our family over the past few years. We have upped the wanderlust anti in our family. Climbing the highest peak in Australia, Mt Kosciuszko. Hiking the many incredible hiking paths in and around Sydney. Surfing into the sunset with the dolphins in Byron Bay. Weekend and school holiday adventures became one of our ways of creating a life that feels more us. More than the one we’d started waking up to.

Slowly we’d found a life creeping in that felt in conflict with what felt right (for us). Grumpy ballet teachers, ultra competitive and selective weekend sport, plastic, excessive parties, a husband and father who was always at work, slowly losing himself in the depths as he gave more and more to the insatiable greed of the corporate grind.

This wasn’t my idea of how my kids’ childhoods, or how our life was meant to look. I didn’t recognise myself in this kind of life. So we adventured and I wrote about it on a blog. A blog that helped me to escape the everydayness of life, only to find the everydayness of life. An everyday life our way.

For most people, an epic European campervan trip would be enough of an adventure. Not so it seems when you live with a curious, food loving, Europhile globetrotter. One who needed to find his spirit again.

It had taken Greg longer than me to come on board with the fact that we could leave it all behind to head off into the sunset in a campervan for a while. I’m the dreamy one, he’s the practical one. But as practical as he is, he also had a big dream in him. Apparently, now that he was on board with the whole escape for a while, in his mind living in a campervan with six people wouldn’t be challenging enough. 

“It’s just a luxury trip if we do that” he said. “We need a real challenge“. One late night when we were talking about our trip, pensively, he ventured “… why don’t we stay in Europe for a while.”

We’d lived in Amsterdam pre kids and we both held a deep desire to return to a European way of life. This would be a fresh start to create something less stressful than the life we were leaving in Sydney.

We would find new jobs, give the kids the experience of learning foreign languages and of living abroad. We’d spend weekends eating pizza in Naples, taking the train to Paris for wine and cheese, enjoy the piazzas of European cities and the charm and traditional fare of the countryside. We’d follow road bike races, climb mountains, surf the wild Atlantic and be lost in the history and cultures of Europe. 

Of course it sounded perfect to the glass half full, adventure seeking kind of gal that I am. Without hesitation – I agreed. It’s not the first time I’ve had to reinvent myself. Heck I’d just done it in Sydney. It wasn’t easy, nothing worthwhile ever is but I’d done it and here I am. Writing, taking photos, about to live a life long campervan across Europe dream. Sure, let’s add to the challenge, let’s stay on in Europe!

Checklists!

For months I’d been checking off administrative type tasks. Cancelling subscriptions, gumtree advertisements, sorting insurances, paperwork to sell a house, rent a house, sell a car, visa paperwork for Greg in Europe, renewing passports which is no mean feat when your kids are dual citizens and they may not move, and most certainly must not smile or show any teeth in this new age of passport photos! The photos alone took three attempts. 

So after a seven and a half hour flight into Singapore it was rather nice to have a checklist that looked like this – sleep, swim, enjoy the spoils of the Asian buffet breakfast. I mean does anything compare to eggs any which way you wish? We’ll take one omelet, two poached, a fried and a boiled egg please. Plus all the summer fruit thanks. This would be the last we’d all be seeing of summer for a while. 

I have never really understood the airport hotel. I’ve always wanted to get where I was going. But travelling with four kids who decided early on that plane sleep would not be something they were into, a 12-hour layover was the perfect salve. Why would they sleep? Movies and their own personal gaming devices in the seats in front of them, non stop food, drink and lolly service are far more interesting to a kid than sleep. That layover prepared me for what felt like a long, very long leg between Singapore and London. Thirteen hours of watching your kids exhaust themselves with sugar indulgence and sleep refusal.

London baby, we made it.

After living and sweating it out pushing a pram in the hilly eastern suburbs of Sydney for the past three years, waking up in London this morning felt delicious. I was up to enjoy it before the daylight arrived thanks to my friend jet-lag. I make the most of being awake and as soon as the light allows I take a wander outside in my puffer jacket, beanie, gloves and neck warmer – the full kit! It feels rather novel to be rugging up so warmly. I wonder if I’ll still feel like this after a few deep winters. I also have my trusty camera with me to see what I can see. 

I never thought I’d long for the cold but these past few years of living in the humid heat amongst the noise of city life feels like they’ve had a dehydrating effect on me. I take a photo of some delicate tiny frost covered leaves and I feel my sense of wonder. It flows through my body and warms my skin as my smile grows and my eyes sparkle. There’s a crispness in this London air that feels refreshing. Healthy even.

The birds are slowly waking and as they populate the bare winter trees to begin their daily routine of song. I feel peaceful. The holy grail kind of peace, inner peace – contentment. It’s the perfect way to end this year and the perfect way to begin this new one. There will be no need for any resolutions tonight or tomorrow. I am right where I want to be. 

Over the years I have visited London and to me it has never lost its magic or mystery. It always feels like anything could happen when you’re in exciting London town. We are lucky enough to be able to house-sit for Greg’s sister. Like many Australians she has spent most of her adult life in London. Together with her Irish husband and their beautiful growing family, this is now home. Home amongst the tudor style windows, thatched roofs and the rich woodlands in this enchanting village hamlet just outside of London.

When in Rome we would always, without doubt, visit the Pantheon, often more than once, such is the breathtaking splendour of this former Roman temple. In Barcelona it’s the Sagrada Familia, in Lisbon the view of the city from São Jorge Castle. London, naturally, boasts its own places of reverence for us. This is the first trip to London for our children and we are looking forward to introducing them to our favourites.

We love food, and food markets. Our biggest regret when we left Melbourne to live in Sydney for work, aside from family of course was giving up the the Vic markets. Stall after stall of produce. Everything you need under one roof. The organic, slow, sustainable produce we prefer. From vegetables, fish and meat to the artisan producers and purveyors of breads, preserves, cured meats and cheeses.

Our first stop is London’s historic Borough market. With its 1,000 year old history these markets have evolved into a foodie haven. Over the years, it has become a tradition for us to stop in and satisfy our taste buds with their array of street food on offer. Today is no different. Greg and the kids go for his traditional favoured choice, the chorizo roll. I chose the Lebanese vegan wrap. We are only in London for a few nights so we can’t buy food that will be wasted and honestly we’re a little too tired to meal plan! We do however spoil ourselves with a selection of local and continental European cheeses to enjoy.

By the time we finish at the markets we realise we probably have one more visit in us before we need to get home and fade. Old friend jet-lag will surely stop by again and it’s a risk with four kids to push too hard, even without the threat of jet-lag. We find our way onto the tube from the market and decide to visit Buckingham palace and the guards in their red coats and bearskin hats.

We found our way to the palace via Green Park. For all its hustle, London is truly a beautiful city of expansive and beauteous parks. I never tire of walking in London. On the tourist trails the magnificence of the green spaces are never far from where you are. Which, when you’re travelling with kids is the essence of finding compromise in exploring cities. 

Our kids are quite taken with the palace and its pomp. Lucas, bless him, our seven year old declares ‘ … I don’t think we can go in. I’ve got mud on my shoes, the queen wouldn’t like that’. 

I guess that will teach me to let them run in the park before going to visit the queen. Kids though. I do love how they see the world without barriers. Of course the queen would see us if our shoes weren’t so muddy and we weren’t all in comfy tracksuit pants!

Next week …

Is 8 am too early for blue cheese?

Lost – our obsession with time.

If you made it this far, thank you! 🌷 Perhaps you can help me. Are there mistakes, gaps? Do you need more description, depth or explanation in any of the paragraphs? Are some details not needed? Obviously it is the beginning so the bigger themes of minimising, travel and of course the trip will unfold but I’d like to be sure I keep the flow. And this is a beginning, a draft and I will grow with it, but my friends and editors, please feel free to offer your advice. You can do so in the comments or via my comment page

Welcome back old friend!

Oh dear! A friend messaged me last night with a teary face. My previous post made her cry. Don’t cry I said, it’s good news. It shows I’ve cracked something open. A force, a flow that’s so strong it needed to explode. A release from a creative stalemate. Truly, it really is a good thing. It’s creativity in motion. It’s action towards not sitting in a stagnant state or not accepting less than what my creative space deserves.

Now, I could of course ignore it or I could take the ride. I’ve opted to take the ride. Creativity, you old friend – I’ve been waiting for you. And how I love that all of a sudden it is you who is keeping me up at night with ideas and words. You really are quite impossible to ignore. Trust me I’ve been trying, and trust me when I say that has not been working out too well. You truly are exactly what I need right now. Thankfully, I think I know a few things these days about how we can best work together.

What is it you think I should do? Write. Yes, of course you do. We often end up on that path don’t we. What? Not the book I was trying to write? The Camino Story? It makes sense to keep going. It’s the characters isn’t it? Doing real people justice, respecting their privacy while telling your story is tricky. It is going to take practice. It’s not the first step. And it’s simply not the time, there is a lot going on elsewhere in my life.

Oh and there has been this pandemic era which has shifted everything and changed the narrative. A narrative that frankly I am finding exhausting and rather joyless. Hmmm. And I think I’ve changed, others have changed. Perhaps my voice got a little lost in this time between who I was and and who I am. I had a little play on my old blog, Gentle Intention and a little play here these past few days, I gave both some long overdue attention. Did you notice? :) Cute Jimmy!

I thought perhaps I could write about my life there and tell an adventure story here. After giving them both a little energy here is where I’ve landed. It was easier to adapt a page, a summary, a tag line to fit where I am now. What I loved about gentle intention was its vibe. It was so gentle. I was so gentle! When I started this blog I was high on save the world energy and planning my One Girl walk. High vibing under the influence of some big world changers. I don’t have that capacity right now.

However, it feels right to stick with this blog and to bring that vibe from gentle over here. My life has a different energy right now. My children are older and it seems the older they get the more they need me! Who knew?!? My body has been asking me to change a few things too. My precious body that has taken me so far in this life. ‘Please change something’ it had been begging.

Briefly, I had a few ranges that while ‘normal’ weren’t normal for me. I had symptoms and while a GP found them to be normal for someone my age I knew they weren’t for me. There was discussion of some surgery for an issue that wasn’t major. I found a preventative health dr and have for the past months been changing a lot when it comes to my diet. Basically, I have been supporting my natural detox system. It was working too hard. Honestly, my cells felt stuffed full. Starting the day with lemon water, celery juice, a heavy metal detox smoothie, some supplements, following up with a more whole food diet and cutting out what no longer feels healthy for me. It has taken me out of a fog.

I started a run streak back in January and today it will be the 99th day. It started my creative flow. If anyone needs to get moving, to clear what’s in their way, the stagnation, I can wholeheartedly recommend a streak of some sort. What do you need most? For me it was to get moving, to begin the process of clearing some space. So I run a minimum of a mile a day. It created the space that opened the doors for me to address some other issues.

Anyways, as happens when you clean up your space you make more space. And in that space you get to focus on what often lives in the shadows. Living a creative life, in the bubble of my inner world away from the zombies was patiently waiting for me. And it seems it had an idea for me to begin to unpack.

Write a story for your family it said. Make them a photo book of the time you spent together in the campervan. This past year has been like no other and a beautiful bound book of those memories would be quite the gift. Now, of course that could be and would be enough but I had other longings. Other writerly callings. What is this blog? Where it going? How can I steer it with some focus. It will take some routine and a plan. Routine I have found is my friend, even though often I treat it as my enemy.

These days I write and take photos for a job. I tell the stories of what is happening in the setting I work in. I enjoy uncovering them and shedding light on the people. I give it a lot of heart. One particular day, not so long ago I realised I was giving it too much. Why is it easier for me to give more to ‘the man’ than to my own creative aspirations? I want to challenge this about myself.

My creativity flow has given me an idea of how to do that! Plus it answers the call to do something to make a difference. That difference doesn’t have to high voltage rock and roll this time. No, it needs to be gentle. I need to create something that is gentle and kind. Something that is uplifting and reminds us (me) to keep dreaming, to not be scared of what lays ahead, but to trust that I (we) have a say in that.

When I think about how I’ve changed, I think in many ways I have matured. Maybe, I am coming into myself in a new way. Perhaps, all the drive to find our way here, all the changes, all the fearlessness needed some time out. I needed some time out to absorb it all. The big trip we did changed me in ways I wasn’t ready or able to understand. Maybe I got stuck somewhere along the way and resisted changing or more likey it is all part of a transition. For a long time I resisted writing about it because I didn’t know how to.

I think I do know now … ha I think I do. Time to birth a new passion project. Alongside putting together my photo book I want to create a weekly post for you all to take you on the adventure. The Sunday Edition. It will arrive Sunday mornings in your inbox if you’ve subscribed to my posts. Each week picking up where we left off in the campervan from the post one before.

To be honest, sometimes, I’m not sure how much to share but for me reading the process or backstory of others interests me. So I’m laying the foundations out in this post. Also, I find it helpful to create my own direction and focus by documenting as I go. While I have never seen myself as a blog builder, more of a plodder, I truly did love how we lived through the camino adventure together. So much. And boy do I miss reading joyful news stories! I’m done with being distracted by royal gossip.

When you’re missing something a treasured friend once told me you have to create it. Create the community you’re missing. So I am going to create a good news story as well as a new story for me via The Sunday Edition. And hopefully strengthen our community here along with it. If there is anything you want to chat about let’s do that dear community. And tips on software or aps to create a photo book throw them at me!

Fran xx

Gentle by intention

‘Be gentle on yourself’ she said. ‘Give yourself kindness and compassion.’

Have I forgotten what it means to be gentle on myself?

Have I tread so far from my path, from myself?

Do I know who I see in the mirror?

Is the she who I see truly me?

Life feels a lot less gentle in these current times.

I am in a room with a wise woman beckoning me to trust myself.

Have I become scared?

Are my wounds bigger than my dreams?

I am still me, of course I am. She sees me.

Why am I hiding? Who am I hiding from?

She, the wise one, my preventative health Dr.

A healer who left emergency medicine after being traumatised by bodies in crisis.

My body is a little in crisis.

Perhaps, my soul too.

I can still heal.

Life sometimes feels like a culture shock.

When did I cross the line?

The one that takes you from fearless to fearful?

The one where I see more zombies faces, and hear more zombie speak than true excitement and depth?

Today’s noise exhausts me.

The news, the celebrity culture, the striving, the begging for space.

What is it I am missing?

Where is my private world, my bubble.

The little place I can do my best from?

My best is all I’ve got, it’s enough.

Enough to not need more.

The gentle place.

The place flowing with kindness and people who care.

The place where there are no expectations, just ideas and creative flow.

The place where excitement and dreams are the rewards.

It’s a curious place that place.

It’s heartfelt and it’s supportive.

There are beautiful words and interesting stories.

Security matters but trust is the rule.

Is that place here? Where to begin again?

It is never that far away.

It’s beginning.

‘I know what I need to do’ I whispered to her after my treatment.

I’ve always known.

‘I NEED to write’.

The Big Wind Will Again Blow

The power of the new year. In the days before, the forces begin whipping up like a whirlpool. They swirl around inviting you in for a swim. A swim in the liminal space, the transition between one year to the next. It’s brief. As the currents are swirling they reveal our deepest desires, our resolutions, our honesty, a path. Surrendering to the currents is our choice. As quickly as the turbulence arrives, it leaves. The pressure relaxes and we’re catapulted into the new time, a new land, this space we call ‘a new year’. Often we arrive with a supply of vigour, and an extra hint of wisdom. Cherish these, workout how to keep them loaded. They’re gifts for the journey.

Happy New Year friends! And how are you? It’s been a hell-of-a-year hasn’t it!? Far out, so much topsy turvy! I don’t know the difference anymore between what is a gut feeling and what is a covid induced feeling. I truly don’t. And I can’t complain. I won’t. Many have it truly hard. I don’t lament missed trips or the time spent doing not much or all those boxes left unchecked. Where in the abyss did the second half of my year go? When will I see my family again? This day is the one I wait patiently for. This day, when it arrives, a day I already cherish.

Where did the whirlpool take you? Me, it gave me deliberate. Deliberate as a word to take me through this year. ‘Intentionally wilful’ my friend said today of deliberate. I like this description. There’s something determined about it. It’s been a few years between words for me, but this year the whirlpool was rather forceful. It’s time to be on the move, open to shaking things up. There is something or somewhere or someone, a gem or two for me to find this year. I’m rather determined about it. It’s probably why ‘deliberate’ arrived for this year – I have to work it out, where I’m going.

It’s been busy around these parts, good busy. I started working as a librarian one day a week. A job title I never thought I’d have! I guess I’ve been surrounded by writers, books and bookish desires for a while so it’s not that far out of the realm of coincidence, is it?!? I started working after my summer of writing in Tuscany.

Within a month of starting I’d written a library newsletter (of the happenings as I saw them). Interestingly, it seems the ‘human’ blog style of writing resonates in the real world. I was immediately offered another day to manage their socials. So these calls to do something, they do eventually lead somewhere. I think it’s nice to share this, after years of writing practice it finally pays (a little). Is it my dream job? I’m not sure, but it is something I needed.

Covid is of course keeping us in one place right now. So much change eh. From monthly to weekly to daily and back again. In no particular order. Nope, no plans, no big changes or decisions are happening here. Ok, maybe we will renovate our 100 year old house a little. But honestly it’s enough just keeping everyone together in this time.

There are so many people of all different ages and stages I feel for in this time. I don’t plan to plod through the year though. No. This is why deliberate matters. This is a year to prepare the ship, to work on what is needed to sail, to not look back, nor too far forward, but to be. Deliberate. Deliberate actions, deliberate thoughts, deliberate choices. For the wind will once again blow. And the wind, oh the wind, unlike the whirlpool – will take you along a way for years …. I’m gonna be ready for when she blows.

Perhaps, in the meantime I’ll write again. Deliberately.

How are you all travelling?

F xx

The Tuscan lesson.

Ciao dear friends. We can use ciao between us because we are friends, you and I all of us who hang out here. At first I found it difficult in my Italian classes to get over the hurdle of an informal and a formal language, why two languages within one? Today I get it. I found a reason. Indulge me while I write up the last of our Tuscan time with the recent musings of my mind. It’s time to take myself out from this writing slump I’ve landed myself in and share the end of this Tuscan holiday diary with you. So once again I can write to you from where I am now.

On the last day of our Tuscan escape we decided to follow our love of the home cooked Italian meal, we followed it up and into a restaurant in the mountains. Ristorante I Faggi was its name. High up at 1296m on the pass between the regions of Emilia-Romagna and Toscana she stands. A family restaurant serving meals directly from the Madre’s kitchen.

It was misty and cool as we made our way up the winding roads. We weren’t prepared for the cool and arrived in our shorts and t’s! We were grateful a table was available inside for us. I’m not going to lie it felt odd in these corona times to eat indoors on a cool, misty day. I didn’t settle in as I normally would’ve. I was conscious we were abroad and these times are corona times. For the first time it felt like what we were doing carried a degree of risk, perhaps it is because we were inside.

However, we were here now, committed to the eating and supporting this small family restaurant. So we ordered and decided not to feel fearful. The restaurant was small yet ventilated, we had our own dining room and there were few tables and guests.

And then it happened …

The food and the first bite. We were in home cooked wonderland. Have you been there recently? Tell me about your last such meal. The writing isn’t the only slump here, our food could do with a bit of spark.

Many hikers passed through here while we ate. In the future, when planning hiking trips are something we can do – I will be back. It reminded me of walking the camino and campervanning around Mont Blanc. There are many hiking trails in Europe where stopping for a cooked meal and even camping a night are part of the experience. I long for this again. When I hiked the camino I remember thinking how I could wander like this without a return date … perhaps in retirement.

The taste is one thing but also there is this feeling of community. The family run restaurant, the camaraderie among the hikers, the un-fancy yet welcoming decor. We were in someone’s home. More than that we were home, where we sat, who we sat with, what we ate and with each-other. It’s like what community feels like to me. To be eating food that’s sustainably made and sourced, amongst like minded people, surrounded by kindness, warmth and without expectations.

Of course I know community is more than this but this is always where I feel so complete, so home in myself, so at peace. Eating good food, kind people, my people and nature close by. A little bit of wild on the doorstep. In an adventure. All that is right with the world right here in this moment. Yes corona was knocking on the door, but at this moment in time it seemed to have gone to sleep for the summer.

This was the perfect last Tuscan meal and I’m rather pleased to be writing it up now. We’ve been back from our Italian break for a couple of months now and it’s time to come back here and finish this holiday diary. I’ve found myself in a bit of a writing slump. But today I relised the Tuscan lesson, it’s about what’s home. So I’m home. Home here. Home to writing. Home to creating.

Sometimes, I feel like I live in a state of culture shock. Not because I live abroad (although there is that) but because I struggle with pressure, rush, competition and convenience. And at times in my world these are unavoidable, in this phase of my life it seems more so than in the past. And these past years I have found myself frustrated and angrier with the world and the values I encounter in the world. More so than I remember feeling before.

Tuscany and the time since taught me something.

Community matters. Community feels like home. Community is about the people who meet you with their values, whose actions are aligned with making your heart feel warm and safe, whose heart paints your spirit with kindness. Whose speak connects to your soul, whose interests inspire you, people who arrive in your life to make you laugh when you least expect it. Our community isn’t everyone who lives near us, or all the ones who share the same settings (work, school) as us, nor is it all the ones who live in our feeds. Community is smaller than that, community doesn’t overwhelm us it protects us.

The Italian language also taught me something.

Perhaps, I need to know the two languages. The one I speak when I’m in my head, when I’m with the ones in my community and when I write. The informal one. The dreamy one. The one where I’m most at home. Where community means connection, noticing, hearing, reflecting, sharing and feeling. Where life is about attaching meaning to how we live and the choices we make. Where I am unafraid because I’m safe and among friends. I’m working at embracing and speaking this language more.

And the formal one. The one where when I’m in culture shock, where I need to step back or step away. Away from the allowing it to penetrate me because this is not the language that deserves my intimacy. This is not where I’m with friends, not where I’ll feel community. It’s not me. It’s not where I’ll be able to create anything because formality isn’t about dreamy. Giving myself here isn’t always aligned with my values. I’m investing less when I find myself here. Less in order to create more space for dreamy and for community.

And with this friends, the Tuscan escape ends!

What an amazing time. What a weird time to be away in the world. I’m glad we took the opportunity while we could. And I’m glad to have finally made some sense of the disarray this incredible experience threw me into upon my return. It’s not always easy to return to ‘as you were before’ when you’ve been moved by an experience! Impossible actually.

As a wise friend recently said to me ‘… sometimes you just have to sit it out for a bit’.

And with the the writing slump also ends. Ph-ew because I have so much to share with you. SO much.