Summer Camper Trip – Cabo Ortegal, Spain.

One holiday. So much variation.

What would a wild adventure be without feeling exposed and humbled? When you travel in what is effectively a tin shed, you can be sure you’re going to feel the extremes. And naturally a dip in the extremes suits me – given that I like to feel my way through things. Except the heat. I struggle in extreme heat and I especially struggle in heat, in a tin shed. Hence the Nth Coast of Spain, far better climate that the Sth for summer.

I knew we were going to be in for a treat along this coastline. It’s not remote but it is the path less travelled. It’s certainly not luxury and the beauty of that means it’s often ours alone … even during the European summer. The deeper we travel into Galicia the wilder it becomes.

The Cabo (point) Ortegal took me back to the time we parked in the camper on the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland. Back then I remember wondering if the camper would blow over on account of the wind and was I being irresponsible as a parent. I don’t think I got a full night’s sleep that night in Ireland. How times have changed! Obviously I wouldn’t Camper in a storm or wind warning but to feel the ferocity of wind is to know you’re alive! Especially when you can cosy up with a hot chocolate afterwards.

The wind holds a lot of spiritual meaning to me. It scares me less to stand in the wind and be exposed than to slowly wither under the pretext of safety. This camper stop was a rugged one – a stopover in turbulence. A time to feel humbled by just how big the world is. And to harness a little of that wind spirit into my bones. I’ll need it for my re-entry back into life off the road to help with the culture shock!

A midnight walk to the light house with my oldest was spooky … seriously spooky. I haven’t felt spooked in years. This rugged coast where ships have been wrecked must surely have its stories. Add the howling wind with absolute pitch black darkness and sure I’m imagining ghosts (I don’t actually believe in ghosts)!!

It was a stop where we taught the kids how to play charades. A game that lasted into the early hours of the morning and will go down in my memory bank as one of the best nights of the trip. Dinner was a frittata. The classic use what’s left over in the fridge dish. Abuela’s flowers are still traveling with us, love on the table. And not only was I graced by my friend the wind … but I woke to mountain goats outside my window.

My friend Paula sent me this:

I FOUND THIS – mountain goat symbolism is letting you know that this is a time to begin new climbs and new endeavors. You must also plan your course and take your time. In other words, look closely at what is ahead so that you can be surefooted along your course. Similar to the rat Mountain Goat meaning is also be letting you know that it is time to stretch yourself. Therefore, reach for new, and higher goals.’

Thanks Paula – I loved it! I love for this kind of kind, meaningful stuff. Yes this is the stuff I want to collect. xx

Actually did I tell you the story about Sydney … the first day I moved there and we moved into a house that had a rat? A massive rat. I didn’t feel the same way about that rat as these goats, I actually never went downstairs at night – truly! But … I did begin the journey there that brought us here. Perhaps the rat was there as a catalyst. I am a hippie at heart.

So onward after a night of turbulent winds … towards something calmer. Where, logistically? We’re not sure so we’ll simply start the drive. Where, personally? Out of the wind for a while … to secure my footing, but I am looking closely and getting ready. Just as if I were to climb a rock face behind the scenes I’m securing the anchor points to steady the climb.

Onward. Upward. Forward.

Buen camino,

Fran xx

Camper tips:

Enjoy the beauty of simplicity … using a wine bottle as a vase. A corner that makes you smile because it’s homey! Reminding your oldest son to give you a kiss on the cheek without being shy! And getting the littlest to remind him to put some effort into it. The extra ‘I love you’s’ that are met with ‘I love you too’s’ because as the trip goes on you will have more and more of these moments as you become tighter. And as the trip goes on you get closer to going home so sink in as deep as you possibly can. You will be changed and connected by this trip.

Summer Camper Trip – Foz, Spain.

What is it they say about beauty being in the eye of the beholder? Foz was beautiful. Not classically. Not in an eye popping with wonder every where you look type way. In a presence kind of way. Galicia was my favorite region walking the camino. It can be wild, rugged, overgrown and rundown but baby it’s ALIVE. It’s a region of growers and makers with green pastures and buildings of past eras. It’s not for everyone I’m sure. But I love these ancient Celtic lands with her wind spirit that mesmerizes and opens me in the way Ireland also did.

Towards the end of the school year I became friendly with one of the mums at school who is Spanish. She mentioned to me they were going to be in Foz and encouraged me to stop by if we were passing. The timing worked in more ways than simply hitting this part of Spain at the same time. The joy of synchronicity was ever present in this stop.

We planned to stay in an Aire (a motor home park) for the first two nights. A €13 (with power) and washing machines kind of place. It wasn’t particularly inspiring but we could see the beach, the kids could run and I would cry as my back became unbearable. I knew it was muscular but obviously when something gets worse in a foreign country it starts to gets a bit unnerving. I messaged my friend who replied straight away saying her sister was a Dr and they’d pop over. Can you believe it? A Sunday night house call – in a motorhome park ;). I had since put a disposable hot pack (excellent first aid kit staple) on it and was already feeling a tad better. Turns out it was muscular and I was prescribed some strong ibuprofens which in Spain are easily obtained over the counter. Of course! This is camino country where 600mg of ibuprofen is standard.

The medication worked a treat and the next day I was able to walk into town with Greg and the kids for an unplanned explore. I had envisaged a long lunch – a Galician food feast. I was quite taken with this town. Again not because of its beauty but it’s soul. It’s pride in who it was. A fisherman’s village with a strong, proud community. It’s permanent photo exhibition – ‘the photo albums of our grandparents’. And, when gardens are growing food not manicured lawns – I’m quite sure the world is in a good place!

Did we have a Galician feast? Yes friends we surely did! The kids were super obliging and tried everything … although they did order burgers. It was such a delicious afternoon. I’d rather camp for free and every now and then, indulgently, eat out. I did do something I don’t normally do … I looked at restaurant reviews when it was time for lunch. My sister was adamant about this on the camino and we ate pretty well! In tourist towns it can be easy to get a shit meal. When your traveling with four kids and don’t often eat like this – good food matters (to me anyhow).

My back survived a day of walking and we moved ourselves over to a beach car park – for nada, of course! It was cruisy and relaxed. If you want to beat the Euro crowds in summer … you won’t find them here. Only Spaniards holiday here. In fact we’ve only come a cross a handful of other nationalities. The local baker even drives through with fresh bread at the respectable time of 10am! Just as we’re beginning to rise. We are completely on Spanish time now ;). Living the dream you say … but wait – there’s more!

So you know I’m reading a truckload. Well I just finished Sheila O’Flanagan’s ‘The Hideaway’ set in the province of Alicante in Valencia, Spain. Today I lived my favourite and most heartwarming scenes from the book. My Spanish friend invited us over for a drink at her family’s summer finca (farm). More than sipping local wine it was also a taste of Spanish life. Tortilla de Patatas (gooey and creamy, the BEST ever) & Pimientos de Padrón cooked by abuela herself … all bucketed down from the kitchen. I practiced my Spanish which is basically still single words but I loved the feeling of being embraced by the inherent warmth of a big Spanish familia. I left with two beautiful Hydrangea flowers – gifts from abuela. My favourite flowers.

Yes, a PINCH myself, this JUST happened kind of day and stay in Foz! Perhaps Australia or Ireland won’t be where we find that place to see our our retirement years, the cottage with abundant gardens and horizons for days … perhaps the warmth of Spain is starting to seep into my pores. But … it doesn’t have to happen straight away – the dream can be a dream (in the dream pool with all the others). Life can reflect the values I love about that style of living (even in the city). Omg I’ve changed! I didn’t even look up real estate :) The dream pool is amazing but living in today is amazing’er. It’s a slow built this dream of mine, the one where a book like The Hideaway could be set! And, of course you’d all be welcome the dinner table will always be ready and gardens overflowing.

Buen Camino friends … towards the dramatic coastline with a heart full and a back that is feeling loads better.

Fran xxx

Camper tips!

Make sure you have insulation for the front windows. We didn’t last time. This time, yes! The entire camper is dark until we wake – BONUS helps with Spanish time. And it’s neither freezing nor boiling first thing. A huge difference.

Summer Camper Trip – Playa de Aquilar, Spain.

After four nights in the Picos de Europa and a day of hiking it felt like time to move. When we first started camper vanning the ‘how long should we stay?’ was always a question … slowly we found our groove. And, as we let go of the feeling that unless we were exploring or moving we were wasting the opportunity we found our own pace. Slow days, hanging around the campsite are just what we need sometimes. Just like pajama weekends! Now we move when the call to move comes. Of course on this trip we don’t know our destination and nothing is booked so we have the freedom to.

After a few days for the kids to potter and play as Greg and I hiked solo hikes today was a (very) slow day for me. We started the day heading out to walk into the Cares Gorge but I didn’t even make it out of the village! A stumble on an uneven piece of road and I was in all sorts of agony. Deep down I knew it. The fall in the mountains had done some damage. I’d need to sit a few days out, maybe even see a Dr – except of course I’m stubborn. While I’d have loved to see the gorge, I have been to King’s canyon in NT and I know I’ll see other amazing sights in my life. Heck! I sat out my slow day amongst the mountains whilst I read it away.

I have a stash of books on board courtesy of my friend Lix. Last year after camper vanning in Europe she left her stash with me … and some beach towels, shopping bags and linen which we also have on board. It feels pretty cool to be sharing gear! Funny story … I met Lix and co on IG while we were both traveling and they ended up staying with us (in The Netherlands) at the end of their adventure. Our two families got on like we’d know each other forever. They’ve become life long Tassie mates and Lix is one of my greatest confidants. Meh to the nay sayers who think being ‘online’ ain’t the real deal. Plenty of deep friendships start in the online space.

Although in saying that I must admit I’m feeling the need to make a shift in my online presence as I begin to think through how I want life beyond this adventure to look. You know that feeling when it’s time to move on or change things. To honour what’s needed or to commit deeply to something new, I find letting go of something else is always necessary. Particularly those situations, thoughts, things, stories or people that aren’t serving our growth – towards what is moving us towards our future selves. I notice myself getting annoyed rather inspired on IG of late. Why so many ads and sponsored posts?! Of course I know (business and Facebook) but I never seem to see the accounts I want to see. And I don’t subscribe to ads. I have taken to going in purposefully and catching up on where people have been.

It’s the same place I found myself at after last year’s travel adventure. The way life is ‘sold’ and the fakery that comes with it. I get it. Of course IG is a business for many. And I absolutely applaud the ability to create something. But I’ve already bought the idea of life and travel and I want to live it not be ‘sold’ it. I want to see every day life. Actual candid hiking and walking, friends, groups, meals, books, art, thoughts, homes, gardens. You know – Life! Walking, traveling, challenging the norm and adventuring in every day life. And yes I know it’s my issue. It’s not how others use SM but how I use it so the adjusting (movement) needs to come from my end. I’m not the same person that needed to find a way to connect with the world, when I started my own adventure into opening myself up with an IG account. I like/need the way IG connects me with people I don’t find in every day life.

And how I do love my index cards (the little squares), my photo album of these last few years of my life. Behind each photo there’s a story, memory, emotion, growth … I can tell you exactly where I was or how I felt on each day in each moment. My personal journal that unexpectedly brought so many wonderful people into my life. What a ride it has taken me on this coming out of shyness in a public space. And the discovery of my need for creativity, a need I didn’t know existed or more to the heart of it one I’d forgotten to honour. And let’s face it keeping albums, journals, meeting interesting people, keeping up with friends and being creative – it’s kind of a precious (easy) way of fitting it into one space. It sure has been one mammoth adventure. But perhaps I want a deeper way or is it that where I want to share depth has shifted? I’m pondering my intention as I guess we all do from time to time.

Obviously I’ve had a lot of think time here while I sit out this back injury and begin manifesting where to for me. It’s a place that feels like the end of one life phase and the beginning of another. There’s a lushness in creating think space with time out. I’m enjoying opening my mind to some deep thinking about what I feel whilst I’m planted in amongst the trees and the birds. And the dreaming that comes from reading books – both what’s nice and what’s confronting. It’s one of the gifts of travel and time out … the chance to re-evaluate. Better to feel a transition and understand it rather than miss it, in my experience it’ll bite later if ignored.

It’s not all thinky think! That friends would get exhausting. It’s also about opening these thoughts and desires and throwing them to the wind so they can find their way home. Home in the form of a lesson, story, person or coincidence that makes sense to me – that show me which direction to travel forward in.

After their 15 km hike into the gorge my little (big) family arrived back tired and proud with stories to share. My little adventurers had been to a theme park today and they got there on their own little legs, together. In my day of pondering I had tidied the van ready for our next adventure. After a big rehydration drink and a snack we decided to hit the road … to get the mountain driving done tonight.

During our night of story telling with the kiwi travellers we learnt that they had free camped right across Spain. They shared a new free camping ap with us and with our preference for this style of campering we left without a destination. We knew Foz was our next longer stop but we would drive tonight until it was time to stop and camp.

At around 9pm (after a stop for dinner on the road) we chose a beach car park and plugged it into the GPS. Arriving at the car park was all kinds of adventure cosy. There were a few other campers parked for the night. The sky was illuminated by the stars but wandering outside the van was pitch black with a refreshingly cool on shore breeze. It struck me in that moment how precious this time is. This time where I can still tuck my children in and take them off the grid and away from the pressures and influences of modern life. It’s so much more valuable than the big car I used to drive or the investment property we once aspired to own. All that worry I had before we left about what I should do about a career seemed so pointlessly insignificant. In fact, worry almost always is. Something that has smacked me in the face all year. It would work it self out with action, time and trust – not worry.

I cosy’ed myself in bed with my newest (second hand) book Travelling with Ghosts. It was then I heard it. The siren call of the ocean that would be lull me to sleep, her soothing, crashing waves. Spoiler – this book will become a catalyst in helping me unravel how different I have become since living in Europe and why I appreciate it. Something that has been circling in my consciousness for a while.

I had scary dreams during this night, ones that I had to wake myself up from. But I also awoke to the most spectacular surprise, the ocean that lulled me to sleep. Yin and yang. Dark and light. Negative and positive. Seemingly opposite but actually complimentary. There was a time I tried to sit in the middle of my extremes but today in this brief moment on the Northern Spanish Coastline I realised that was never the right path for me. I’ll never sit in the middle but I do know peace exists floating between them. And perhaps I need to examine at which end of the all or nothing is right for the time.

Now, onto Foz.

Buen Camino dear readers, a long one for a 15 hour stop over!

Fran xx

Camper tips:

I’ve mentioned before the camper contact ap we use but this new gem in park 4 night. Seriously will open the wild camp world for you.

Summer Camper Trip – Posada de Valdeón, Spain

‘And if travel is like love, it is, in the end, mostly because it’s a heightened state of awareness, in which we are mindful, receptive, undimmed by familiarity and ready to be transformed. That is why the best trips, like the best love affairs, never really end.’ – Pico Lyer

My love affair with travel extends far beyond the beauty of new places and people. I have no bucket list. I have a lust for the affair. And it’s no wonder I’ve created a life that has revolved around this affair. Without it my soul is starved – without adventure there’s no oxygen. However, the great climax of this affair is the never ending path it opens up. The next adventure. The return to life with new perspectives and motivations. And let’s face it most of us still need to return to a routined, stable life. We do! With four kids, two of high school age, a mortgage and retirement to think about.

It has always felt indulgent and privileged to write about and experience travel in the way I do. I’ve decided to not allow that to hold me back from exploring it in writing. In the past I have. And I believe I must because I’m all about living life (everyday life) as an ongoing adventure filled with exploration and growth. To ignore the influence travel plays in my life is not the whole story, not my story. I never want to contribute to a landscape of encouraging people to lust after something, but rather to find their own way. Yet, so much of who I am comes from my need to wander and why. My desire to wander daily with love and lust for the beauty of life. All of life.

These past few years have been quite an expedition. Mostly, I’ve embraced the notion of finding freedom, of removing the shackles of expectations. And of releasing myself from what I thought life would or should look like. In these mountains – the Picos de Europa I leapt froward. I hiked on my own (which I do) and as I was enraptured by the wild beauty, scared (of the wild boars) when I started walking through a bracken covered dense trail, hurt when I fell on my back descending the mountain and strengthened when I navigated the map – I was also completely at peace. At peace with the joy, unknown, fear and pain.

I was as close to myself as I could get out there in those mountains. And I didn’t sleep that night … rather, I lay awake. Not awake over analyzing thoughts but excited by new thoughts and ideas. Excited about what comes next for me. This next transition as I choose to leave doubts behind and become a stronger woman. A warrior woman who hugs fear. On that mountain fear become my mirror and for me, staring at fear is as honest as it gets.

What a delightfully endearing town this is. A place where the children could play in our €10 per night camper spot surrounded by mountains. The children were invited to play soccer with locals. A place where we met a camper family from NZ who had been on the road for 17 months! We were so enthralled by their stories, particularly their love of Sardinia and their generosity in sharing their experiences. I finished reading a manuscript written by a friend, what a sacred privilege, it had me inspired and dreaming of possibilities in my own kitchen and garden. I was taken with the locals working and playing with their hands. And that strikes me as something we need to consider – what we doing with our hands. One thought I’ll be taking forward with me.

Buen Camino lovelies,

F xx

Camper tips:

Cosy! Don’t forget COSY. You can have movie nights, snuggle and make TUE popcorn. Sometimes if you’re lucky and there’s a restaurant in view you can leave your kids to watch the movie and dine out on scrumptious, local fare. Of course the first setting isn’t until 9pm – because Spain!

Summer Camper Trip – Loredo, Spain.

Towards a surf beach with easy access from the van – that’s the plan! It’s Friday and that makes it two weeks on the road. The accommodation spend is looking good at €80 for the entire 14 nights. The grommets are chomping at the bit to get on a wave … quietly I am too. I feel the pull towards the alchemy of the ocean. I long to feel myself submerged in the warmth of her salty, cleansing embrace.

In the past I’ve always been a creature of summer but these last few years I’ve felt a great shelter in the winter and the cold. The quiet, slow, stillness that the shorter days encourage. The time to hibernate and think on things. The freedom to be without the expectations of switching on socially. Summer tends to be noisy I find! Perhaps it was more about taking a break from the continual ‘on’ summer feeling of living in Sydney (or how we’d experienced work/life in a big city).

We arrived into Loredo in the afternoon … we never seem to be able to get ourselves going early. We knew we’d be lucky to find a spot in the caravan park that Greg had found in the camper contact ap. But we decided to just go and wing it. We’d again stocked up on food, filled the clean water, emptied the dirty water so we were organised. If we couldn’t get a spot in the campground we’d wild camp again.

I’m starting to enjoy this freedom of not worrying or booking ahead of knowing it will all be ok. Of trusting that perhaps something else was meant for us if it didn’t work out. We are always going to be fine anyway aren’t we? We have a house on wheels and we’re not falling short of meeting our basic needs. Hmmm there’s some life wisdom in that perhaps.

As it turned out the campground was full! But the owner offered us his car spot at 20% off the normal rates. Sure. I need to wash those three bags full and they have a laundry, playground, cafe and beach access! We could camp out here for a bit. Mind you even with the discount it didn’t come cheap at €46 per night. It did however come with spectacular sunset’s, contented little people, salty surfs, healing swims, endless beach to wander and the barrel of laughter and joy that comes with the chill of a beach break and family time.

It also came with pre dinner dips and endless bowls of pasta dinners. Because – hungry, active kids. It came with UNO and new friends in caravan park playgrounds. Even when the kids didn’t speak English. The was time to read a novel of fiction, one that had me lost in the valley of emotions and dreams. Glorious escapism at its finest.

As a town to holiday in there wasn’t a lot of charm … it’s a new built with a modern feel. The Spanish village charm is missing. That’s fine for us we are self contained in our little house on wheels and can sink into what we need from this time spent by the water’s edge.

If you look above you’ll always find yourself a spectacular shot. A point of focus, a view, a compass … a place to rest your lens and linger in beauty. Perhaps I should show you what lies below this shot.

Can you see what I see above the tree line? What I captured in the shot above this? This is where I like to view life … above the noise and distraction of chaos. My friend Annette is famous for looking up.

It dawns on me during this stay that for the first time in years we will be going home after this trip. Home to somewhere we’ve lived for a while. I start to feel a stirring of that being a good thing. It’s timely. I’m ready to stop moving (for now) and I’m ready to feel summer again. There’s a longing of wanting to create something with all the travel and exploration of the past years. Perhaps more than a longing, perhaps a pull. And it’ll take energy, summer energy.

So dear friends as we leave the ocean and set off on the road towards the mountains, these thoughts and this pull come along with me. What will the mountains do with them?

Buen camino,

Fran xx

Camper tips:

Be not afraid of not knowing where you’ll park up! The possibilities are endless.

You’re off to Great Places!

Today is your day!

Your mountain is waiting,

So… get on your way!

Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

A commitment to adventure, kindness, travel and charity.

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