Tag Archives: Campervan

Stories from the backroads. My most uplifting and memorable travel and life moments are the people I meet there. Meet 3 of them.

‘The everyday kindness of the backroads more than makes up for the acts of greed in the headlines.’ ~ Charles Kurait

One of the great joys of hiking and travel for me, actually, let’s make that LIFE is the everyday kindness of the backroads. Have you ever been on a hiking trail where someone hasn’t smiled at you? Had a day in your life where you haven’t experienced the warmth of a gentle act of kindness? Struck up a conversation with someone you don’t know at a bus stop, the market, while wandering a new city, marvelling at a piece of art work or been inspired by online and walked away feeling 10 feet taller because it was a joyful moment? I’m open to those everyday life and travel moments. They are my most memorable and story worthy. They steer my life and they give me the armour I need for those times when I encounter a less desirable interaction, or, a confusing day or week.

Speaking of memorable stories here is the newest blog I am devouring. Ger’s camino Blog – Camino De Santiago. It’s a beautifully written blog with stories of Ger’s walk along The Camino Frances. She writes reflectively some years after she arrived at Santiago de Compostela as a way to make sense of her camino experience. Her writing weaves in the characters she met along the way, her experience of the trail and how that experience still impacts her thoughts. I particularly adore her stories of how she applies her lessons from the Camino to daily life.

Three kind characters from the backroads:

Meet Jon from Newcastle. Jon is on his way up to the summit of Mt Kosciuszko and he’s 88 years young. He told us he hikes this trail every year and he’s never sure when it will be the last one. His  balance isn’t as good at it used to be so he hikes with poles. We were on the way down and he was keen to ask us about the track we had taken. We had hiked up via the magnificently scenic Main Ridge Track from Charlotte Pass. He knew that track backwards even though it had been some years since he had been able to hike that trail. I walked away from this chat with a renewed appreciation of a few things.

The importance of:

  • Right now.
  • Right where I am.
  • What I can do.
  • What I am still capable of.

He was a great character to spend some time with and gorgeously as he began his assent again, the sun began to shine over the valley. I can’t help but think this was the universe rewarding this kind soul of the backroads for his dedication to kindness and his great love of the trail.

Meet Claudius (with his red backpack) from Germany. He is also in the first feature shot of this post. Can you spot him in that first shot down near the lake (Las Siete Lagunas)?  It’s a great Human v Mountain perspective. Claudius was on the summit trail to Mt. Mulhacén the same day I was. We met a few times talked a bit of life and encouraged each other along the way. As luck would have it he was staying in the same camp ground so we had the chance to debrief the next day (as we limped around).

We met many German couples travelling with a baby or toddlers. They were utilising the parental leave that both partners are entitled to and campervanning around Europe. These young German families were consistently the only other families travelling with kids that we would come across (until the summer holidays of course). Another interesting story about Germany is that some companies have legislated that managers are not allowed to email or call their staff after hours or on weekends – wouldn’t that change our lives in Australia.

On the trail I asked Claudius for his email and I emailed him the photos I had taken. He responded the next day by sending me a link to a musical he had written on You Tube as a thank you. This is the unexpected kindness that brightens my day, warms me up and builds the good, strong armour. It’s not even hard.

Putting yourself out there and choosing to give kindness is always the starting point…then you’re open to noticing. Notice and the floodgate will open.

Meet Wan from America. Wan together with her husband Steve they spend their years between their camper in Europe, their camper in Alaska, and their camper in Arizona. They no longer have a house. Wan wanted a photo with with my lot because she hoped to convince her ‘busy’ daughter to take some time out with her family in this way. If my mum had a camper waiting in Europe…I’d be hitting the road!!!

The night before we had noticed Wan cooking on her outdoor gas stove and we spent some time chatting with them about free camping. This was the first night we parked up in a beach carpark (or parcark as the littlest calls it) and it was the perfect morning as we woke to the sounds of the ocean. It was a time on the trip where I took deep breaths, smiled and thought:

This is it.

This is why we are doing what we’re doing.

This is what we’d dreamed about.

The kids surfed all day.

I surfed!

I walked out of the surf arm in arm with my daughter.

We cooked and ate right there where we walked in from the beach.

We slept right there where we ate.

We met interesting people.

The kids feet were bare.

We woke to the sounds of the ocean.

There was no plan.

It felt deliciously like freedom.

Wan had no concept of not camping in this way when there was an opportunity to wild camp.  I liked that about her, pint sized but unyielding in her desire to live like she means it. We met up with Wan and Steve again in Lisbon where they shared their in depth knowledge of Portugal, places to see, places to camp and the importance of trying the Pastéis de nata (Portugese egg tart) from Belém. Wan reminisced with sadness about last time they stayed in a beautiful park up in Belém that was now home to plastic sculptures. She didn’t understand the desire to chop down trees and built with plastic. I don’t either.

Everyday life? I have a friend who recently sent me some of her beautiful artwork, it reminds me everyday of the beauty of a creative life. A whole post is coming to share that one. Another friend has been charging a crystal specially selected for me to take on the Camino. Not a week goes by that I don’t receive a beautiful message from someone. My kids give the most generous hugs. Yesterday and today the snow turned my life into a fairytale.

All of the people who enter my life and leave a meaningful mark enter through a window of kindness. Do I mold my world to ensure this happens? Sure I do. I stick to the backroads. I’m done with the main road. I want to choose who I let in close, what I listen to, what I do with my free time, what I believe in and what I stand for. Better that than allow the the acts of greed and noise in the headlines or on the main road to manipulate my every day life.

If you find yourself out on the trail, no matter for how long or how far and want to share, please tag it #hikeforonegirl so I can find it. Singing birds are well worth the effort.


Check in for my diary updates – Camino 2018 One Girl Project.

I’ve added a thank you page for the champions of this story here.

Support crews are everything. A few more opportunities for corporate sponsorship.

If you want to be part of the change. You can donate here if you’re inclined.

Camino Frances 2018 (769km) – Trek for One Girl Sponsors:>

                  

There will always be another trip. The essence of slow living and slow travel is the same – stopping to notice and taking the time to feel.

One winter’s morning a few years ago I was standing on Oxford Street in Sydney waiting for a bus to Bondi. I noticed my friend who was catching the bus with me checking the time against the schedule, pacing, looking and wondering where the bus was.

Me, I was breathing and thinking ‘the bus will come when it comes, slow down mum (the friend was my lovely hikey mum).’ It stuck me in that moment that the essence of slow living is simply to stop long enough to notice.  We weren’t in a hurry, we were on our way to do the coastal walk, there was time. Even if we were late, could we make the bus come faster? I wonder if she remembers that moment, she often walks without looking my mum, I used to be a bit the same.

How much of our lives do we miss because we forget to notice, forget to be present, or worry about where we need to be next? Of course it’s not easy to be present in every moment of our lives but with practice it’s a handy tool and in time it can become second nature (nice default – mindfulness). It’s one that’s especially handy in the moments when we don’t have control of a situation. Those ones that are often the most stressful.

It was a late, hot afternoon and we were parked at a service station in the concrete jungle outskirts of Madrid. The kids were topless as they sweltered in the back of the van. We were 70kms from the caravan park we had chosen.

A red light had appeared on the dashboard and my not so car savvy husband thought is was an oil signal. At the service station he topped up the engine with a litre of oil. I sat in the passenger seat of the Travelodge (AKA our camper) who was now refusing to start, he was choking on an oil overload. Um…feck (👈🏼 nifty fecking Irish ☘️ swear word, doesn’t feel too sweary). I listened to the key turn over and I looked over into a vacant lot where I noticed, not one, but two rabbits.

A situation with all elements that would normally lead to frustration, arguing and blame, but it didn’t. I think it was because I could notice the rabbits. What could we do? We sat, waited and pondered. We called the camper owners and waited some more. Eventually the engine recovered and we were able to get on the road. It was slow going as the engine struggled to breathe so with our fingers crossed we drove towards our chosen campground.

Wouldn’t you know it…the supermarket wasn’t open and the pool was still closed (of course – some days are like that). ** Camper travel tip – be mindful about pools in Mediterranean countries, they’re not open year round! After a late night phone call to my brother who does know about cars, we soon discovered that we were not going to be able to drain the oil ourselves.

Lucky the bar was open and we could drink a cold beer while the kids sweltered in a fairly gross plastic ball pit that had seen better days. This was not going to be a camp ground worth noting.

The next day my not so car savvy but good at problem solving husband rolled the car down to a service station where they drained the oil for a 6 pack. The Travelodge had a little more grunt but still something needed fixing. Thankfully, we were in Madrid which meant there was a FIAT garage. A quick polish of the rusted spark plugs and bob’s your uncle! The Travelodge was ready to roll again.

Did we visit Madrid? Nope. It was a bus and metro ride from the campsite. We were done. Too hot. Little things that said move on. We can’t do it all and when we try to – the mindfulness, the noticing, the presence gets a little harder.

At 5 weeks into our time on the road Madrid turned into a stopover. A time to check in with how we were travelling? How much we were noticing? It was a time to stop and re-evaluate what was important, to pack away the puffer jackets, read a book, maintain the van and to realise that we we don’t need to push too hard.

Slow living, noticing the moment has also taught me how to take the time to trust and feel what’s going on. It’s the natural next step and  it makes adjusting easier when the fit is wrong. Slow travel is about knowing we can always come back. Or, maybe we won’t – but on this day the timing wasn’t right and pushing wouldn’t have been the answer (is it ever?). We packed up and headed off for the familiar comforts of something wilder where we swam across a lake together.

If you find yourself out on the trail, no matter for how long or how far and want to share, please tag it #hikeforonegirl so I can find it. Singing birds are well worth the effort. Check in for my diary updates – Camino 2018 One Girl Project.

I’ve added a thank you page for the champions of this story here.

Support crews are everything. A few more opportunities for corporate sponsorship.

If you want to be part of the change. You can donate here if you’re inclined. I’m not on Facebook or Twitter but if you are and you enjoyed the read or you know anyone who might want to help, or follow along, I’m cool if you share. Thank you.

Camino Frances 2018 (769km) – Trek for One Girl Sponsors:

      

Hiking the camino called life. A lesson from a sparkly eyed Roman.

Originally published 6-1-2017. I decided to re-write it as I take one of my lessons about how I want to contribute from this Camino journey. Opinion writing is a challenge. Fran.

“So when you see me alone at the trailhead, notice the shin bruises, the sunburn, the dirt under my nails, and a sparkle in my eyes, but please, don’t call me brave. I am just doing the things that make me who I am.” – Annie Mac

A quick google search of bravery brings up 943,000 quotes with images. It’s a well used word and one that I often wonder about.

We need voices like Annie. People who remind us that life is about being who we are. Stripping it all back to what makes us feel passionate, contented and connected.

We shouldn’t need to feel brave to stand with our own opinions, on our own feet and to choose what fits in our life. We shouldn’t feel scared to feel vulnerable because we choose something different that doesn’t always fit the mould. Yet, sometimes we do. I do.

I don’t always fit the mould of many things and definitely not of an online travel writer. I won’t tell you every place we went to and I won’t write you a list of what to do in every city. There are plenty of people already doing that and it’s awesome, that’s their thing and they’re great at it.

Mostly, we wander, loosing ourselves as we sink into the beauty of landscapes, cities, sounds, tastes, feelings and people. It’s how I try to approach everyday life. Given that I love to travel and musing about life there’s plenty to dig into.

Like this moment.

Feeling the essence of where I am and noticing the magic is the ‘why’ I travel. One recent summer afternoon in Italy a Roman with sparkly eyes made a comment that has stuck in my mind ‘let’s seek the pleasure by standing in the shade’. That’s it – it’s really that simple isn’t it and a message that’s not just relatable to travel life (and no it wasn’t the sparkles).

Can you stop and stand in the shade because it’s pleasurable if you don’t have the time? Would we even hear the beauty of such a comment in a rush or if we’re focussed on tomorrow?

“Not all those who wander are lost” ~  J. R. R. Tolkien

It’s a common quote this one, but not easy.  To give into the nature of wandering does require an ability to surrender. Yet, letting go seems contrary to everything we are being taught, told and sold.

If we listen to all the noise – there’s a way to do everything. There are items that’ll make everything easier. There’s that bucket list that needs ticking, trips to book – next year to plan and in the meantime, everyone is so ‘busy’. Which is fine if that’s working for you.

It doesn’t work for me, never has – that has to be ok too doesn’t it? To say I don’t do hustle because for me hustle and pleasure don’t mix.

I don’t feel brave creating and living my adventurous life. It’s who I am. I need to be connected to the outdoors. I need to hike, to have space, quiet and to keep it simple. Life isn’t a bucket list, it’s everyday. It’d be such a waste to tread through these days as though we just want to be somewhere else wouldn’t it?

So I dip into bravery to find my own place  in a world that’s always changing and busy selling a life that doesn’t fit with standing in the shade. When the sun is harsh and I need the shade I face the harshness, those feelings and I step away from what and those who make me feel that life is a hustle.

Practiced daily it gets easier. It’s saying no to things so we can put our heart into what matters. It’s knowing when to call bullshit on what’s holding us back and who we listen to online and in life. It’s knowing that most of us already have what we need on our door step to live an adventurously, connected and creative life – every, ok, most days.

“Mountains are not stadiums where I satisfy my ambition to achieve, they are the cathedrals where I practice my religion.” – Anatoli Boukreev

Living honestly is not competing. It doesn’t matter how many countries someone has been to or what their life looks like or how their kids are dressed. What matters is that we are who we are and how we can look back at our own life – was it well lived and true? Are we living in our life today? Do we care about the right things?

My travel writing is my life of adventure, the people, the places, the feelings and the experiences, they’re all connected. I’ll always join the dots and write a story because I travel everyday in life. That is my travel writing style. It’s important to understand our voice, the one we contribute to the world, don’t you think?

As I continue to write I’m always amazed by the growth that accompanies it. It’s opened up a world of connection with those who see their life as a camino. Walking each day with intention and grace.

The wanderers who live in their lives, everyday, honestly. The ones who are growing themselves and encouraging a ‘real life’ around their love of travel or whatever it is that makes their heart flutter.

Adventuring for me isn’t brave, it’s just being who I am and I’m privileged because I can. Bravery well that’s the courage to shed and ‘to seek the pleasure in the shade’.

 

If you find yourself out on the trail, no matter for how long or how far and want to share, please tag it #hikeforonegirl so I can find it. Singing birds are well worth the effort.

Check in for my diary updates – Camino 2018 One Girl Project. 

I’ve added a thank you page for the champions of this story here. Support crews are everything.

A few more opportunities for corporate sponsorship.

I’m not on Facebook or Twitter but if you are and you enjoyed the read or you know anyone who might want to help, or follow along, I’m cool if you share. Thank you.

Camino Frances 2018 (769km) – Trek for One Girl Sponsors:

 

 

 

Ready to campervan with kids? My basic packing list.

Exciting! You’re booked and ready to go. Yi ha.

I guess it’s time to pack.

A good dose of your fun and your adventurous spirit is first on the list. Heck! Put that in your day pack now, it’ll be handy today too.

Next roll up some flexibility and willingness to compromise to squeeze into your bag. You’ll need that.

Some practical things, yes, I hear you.  If you need a basic list to cut and paste from this was our packing list for kids.

We were away for 4 months campervanning and we hit -7 overnight in Andora and heatwaves in Portugal and survived with buckets of stories to tell over the dinner table.  Continue reading Ready to campervan with kids? My basic packing list.

So you want to Campervan in Europe with kids? Read on.

Right you’ve decided then! Or maybe you’re still dreaming about taking that campervan trip through Europe. I know that dream well.

Calling a campervan home with the freedom of time and movement with our four kids. I’ve spent hours daydreaming about that.

Indulging in spectacular sunsets while breathing in the salty air of the rugged Portugese coastline. Spending the afternoons in the French sunshine with my lover enjoying ‘les produits locaux’ while the kids play in the streams and rivers.

Or perhaps hiking in the Sierra Nevada alongside Spanish mountain goats, exquisito. And of course not forgetting my (other) true love. Italia, with it’s love language of words, art, food and architecture.

Romantic?  YES! Tasted? YES! Time of our lives? YES, YES, YES!

We sold the car, downsized our life, possessions and outgoings to move to Europe and make it a reality. I think I dreamed it into happening.

If a campervan trip across Europe is your dream. I can’t give you a con as to why you shouldn’t go for it. Ok there is one. A very real one.

Once home you’ll suffer from withdrawal symptoms and you’ll start to wonder exactly when you’re going to be able do it all again.

But then you’ll book a cheap train trip to Berlin for the school holidays because you’re a travel addict curious adventurer and you’re here in Europe to see it – why not?

Followed by planning a camino adventure because you want to do something that matters, the privilege of your travel adventure pushed you to do that.

Then you’ll take action and re-live your camper trip and talk #vanlife by compiling a list of campervan ‘things’ to help others make their dream easier.

That’s what I did anyway. I hope it helps. Here goes. Continue reading So you want to Campervan in Europe with kids? Read on.