Tag Archives: Inspired by travel

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 – Bilbao, Spain.

I don’t actively seek the scallops or the yellow arrows but as we settle into this month long trip along the North coast of Spain here they are again! Of course it’s not surprising given that the Norte Camino route towards Santiago weaves it’s way along this part of the world. I do like the reminders though … to follow the ‘way’.

When we first landed in The Netherlands we had an experience in the ‘expat’ housing system that led me to an unfamiliar place. A place where even though you do what’s right you can still get hurt. Sometimes no matter what you do a situation just can not be fixed, your decision has turned into a bad one. I like to live in a trusting world and so feeling like I’d landed in a mistake because of my trusting nature was a tough one for me to navigate. Even with all my wildness I still follow rules … so when a party doesn’t play fair it’s a challenge for me. The whole situation had me re-evaluating every decision I’d made in the past few years it shook me hard.

It’s a situation we moved away from but for a while it stole something from me. Trust. Thankfully I had the camino for One Girl to anchor me. Without the connection to One Girl it would have been easy for me to walk away from walking the camino. The trust I lost is the kind that is rooted in my core (my soul) … trust that the universe would be kind as long as I’m kind and honest. Perhaps it messed with my pre-conceived notions of karma.

Now, with some space between the darkness of that time and the light the of the camino and all the acts of kindness* along the way. I trust the ‘way’ I’m living and wandering about in this life again. And I’m enjoying this dip into uncertainty that always comes when I step into a new adventurous experience. The unchartered new perspectives and thoughts that are sparked by my curiosity and love of unplanned travel. Clarity, will in time unfurl the ‘way’ for me so long as I surrender to trust.

Without trust it’s easy for fear to win don’t you think? And when fear wins we don’t dare. Dare to try, dream, believe – to trust in ourselves and the universe. It’s easy for the beasts of fear and doubt and modern day expectations to hold us prisoner but I’m not surrendering to them. I’m not going down the garden path of fear, expectations and complacency without a fight. As my sister says … ‘those who take risks and live adventurously always end up ok’. I will forever be walking my own camino and embracing that I have a choice in how I tread that path. Even when it requires re-writing old stories and always by creating new ones.

Bilbao – home of a Guggenheim museum. It was a stop we didn’t manage last year. We were hightailing across Spain to escape the Portuguese heat waves. City stops in a camper are not always the easiest and for us they’re often the first thing we cross off our ‘where we want to go’ list.

As with any museum there were exhibitions that appealed to us and those that didn’t. I’m glad we visited … although if you have kids the staff aren’t shy about shaming you if they step anywhere near the art (be prepared). It’s definitely not a museum you can let a toddler loose in because you can get up close to amazing pieces of work and in our case the Joana Vasconcelos exhibition. No photos as it wasn’t allowed. If you get a chance and this exhibition makes it to your country I’d love to chat about it with you if you see it. I’m still thinking about it.

Then we basically just wandered, got soaked, ate the best tortilla (ever), enjoyed a picnic baguette and spent our own time back at camp sinking into the freedom and space that comes with #vanlife. The view was a €15 per night postcard. We also wore through all our clothes as there wasn’t a one stop shop** with washers on the way in to Bilbao from San Sebastián. Not like France.

We stayed two nights and left with three bags full (of washing and contentment). Seeing our kids as themselves is the most beautiful gift. Even running out of smalls can’t dampen our spirits … we are in our travel and family element (and we can hand wash). So with a car loaded after a big old food shop (can’t speak highly enough about stocking up) it’s onwards. Towards the beach for the luxury of that salty smell, a surf for the grommets amongst us and a washing machine!

Buen Camino,

Fran xx

*Kindness. Yes, I’m talking to you lot: the messages, the crystals, the artwork, the sage sticks, the spells and mostly the trust. The trust you put in me to do something that mattered and by encouraging me with all your support. It was everything, it kept me tethered.

** if you’re reading this and planning to Camper … we found a big carrefour in the industrial part out of town (Bilbao). The Repsol (petrol station) had an eco laundry attached to it.

Camper tips:

City stays!

We’ve done a few. The easiest ones are the ones that have a metro, bus or train station close by. If you’re lucky you can find a park up within walking distance (San Sebastián and Girona – awesome ones). Mostly for the big cities we have stayed in caravan parks. Rome, Barcelona, Lisbon all convenient but be prepared to transport in. We made it all the way to Madrid only to decide we’d give it a miss. The caravan park (the only one) was pretty gross and it was a bus and tram away … and in 40 degree heat, not fun with kids. There is a freedom in embracing flexibility and spontaneity, in not ticking every box and in choosing easy – the possibility of something even more wonderful. Freedom from stress, isn’t that one of the things we go away to remember?

That’s a wrap – I’m officially moving forward!

Adventures On My Bike – Day 28/28

Recipe: Be exhilarated by the challenge

I didn’t quite write every day, oops I lost it at day 16 (my sister arrived to visit and she took precedence) … but never mind the challenge was a success. While writing always gives me time and space to reflect, one also needs time and space for action and living. After my post adventure camino lull I managed to pull up my socks, lace up my shoes and get back on my way. It took 28 days of adventures on my bike with food and connection at the centre but yes I’m moving again – with purpose. My time on the camino certainly still lives on in my days.

Simple Camino’isms:

Move.

Walk each day with purpose.

Keep it simple, we have enough.

Don’t be afraid to walk your own way.

Keep simple routines with flexibility.

Notice with all your senses.

Value people.

Value yourself.

Pull back and push forward as you need.

Allow the big questions time to unfold – they will.

Life is motion – it will move even if we’re not ready. There will always be highs and lows, joys and sorrows, boring and exciting times, beginnings and endings. But what a gift – that we get to live it. And how wonderfully exhilarating to be connected to every part; the people, the food, the environment, our curiosities, feelings and dreams – the stuff of life.

See you from the road friends … we’re currently winding our way along the motorway. Yes, we’re back in the camper for the summer.

Buen camino,

Fran

Why compete or compare? Let’s not. Say ‘no’, start there.

Adventures On My Bike – Day 9/28

Today’s recipe: Roasted eggplant.

I’m often saddened when I read posts about FOMO or feeling bad about what others post or the need for posters who have audiences to say ‘this is my highlight reel’. Seriously … WHY? Why be scared of missing out? Or why compare ourselves we others lives. Why do we need to be told that we shouldn’t feel bad because of what you post? What has happened to us? Why can’t we separate what we see with what our own reality is? Honestly … it perplexes me. And you know why? Because why would anyone have it better? We ALL have feelings and stuff right? Or are we special? Are we the only ones who in a day can live through every emotion that exists?

I took this photo from my bike (because this is a bike adventure series). I was balancing the fruit and veg in my basket and my panniers. My youngest … my baby, with his hands on my hips as I dunk him on the back of the bike was singing his heart out … we’d been at the market (real food) … shopped with bags I’d re-used (zero waste) … to the left a violinist was playing (romantic and European) … the season is summer (smiles in The Netherlands) … summer also means festivals and food vans (reminds me of Berlin Lix) … I was on my bike (my carbon omission free transport)… shopping done (food till next market day) … my daughter was smiling (tough week) … my husband is hiking in the ALPS (he loves that stuff, he even posted a story, he never does that, so happy for him) … dinner was covered (same recipe as last Saturday) … I’m writing (you’re reading) … that’s a whole lot of good stuff there! And sure, neither of us, husband and I are on our career trajectory (adjusting that)… we’ve had some shit to deal with since arriving here (that’s life) … our family isn’t close by (I miss my mum) … our identities are being challenged (starting fresh) …. we are having to make a choice, here or home (where’s home?) … but THIS, in this bike moment … it’s all ok, more than ok … this is as good as life gets.

Let me paint you some pictures of my day.

I could tell you about each photo or we could just talk about our days. There’s no perfection, there’s just life. Every day life. I bet both of us experienced some similar feelings. If you’ve read this far I presume we’re already connected in some way so let’s make a deal … let’s be working on our own nests. Moving forward, moving our furniture, learning to say no, learning to let go, learning to care more, to care less, be honest about what we need, slow down, speed up, walk, ride, dance, run, swim, talk, paint, write, cook, sew, love … whatever we need to move forward with … let’s work on that, let’s move and not worry about what others are doing. Let’s just agree to not compete or compare. Sounds easy right? But dig deeper. Every time we speak or act … let’s ask ourselves the question am I competing or comparing? Because if we are we’ll always be a step behind ourselves. And don’t we want to be present and contented with ourselves? In our own life.

Today I had a conversation with a fellow writer. One of my favorites actually and I shared some of my story ideas. And I didn’t care. I used to be protective of my ideas and today I shared them, gave her my quotes, analogy’s, everything. If she runs with and writes something because she read them … boom that’s a win. Neither of us own ideas. Especially those of us who write about and live life. We learn by experience and our human experience is actually not that different. We’re bound to cover the same ground. But when we share and talk without being held by the constraints of competition or comparison or even fear we choose a deeper path. I prefer those kinds of conversations, the ones we walk away from feeling good.

All competing and comparing does (with ourselves or others) is to stunt us and hold us hostage from living freely in our own lives. And for those of us who are parents … it can stunt us from hearing our own kids.

Recipe time – Roasted eggplant.

The head cold is still lingering. It’s why you’re not seeing hiking photos! But motion is in my mind, determination is in my day and because I write this blog – honesty matters, so I’m cooking.

My Buddha bowls haven’t been in play this week so I’m prepping. The week’s bowls (well 4 of them) will have eggplant at the centre.

Ingredients:

  • Eggplant or aubergines (I had two to use)
  • Salt
  • Olive oil
  • Rosemary

How I prep’d them:

Slice the eggplants in half. Slice into the flesh diagonally creating diamonds … three diagonal lines left to right and swap.

Top with salt, let sit … at least an hour.

Squeeze and wipe the salted juice off.

Coat flesh with olive oil and place upside down on a twig of rosemary on a tray. (I use and re-use baking paper.)

Bake for an hour.

Serve as a side with a lemon or some balsamic & oil or I’ll show you how I use them through the week in Buddha bowls.

Buen camino,

Fran xxx

I’m calling it ‘Adventures On My Bike’. Welcome.

Adventures On My Bike – Day 2/28

Today’s recipe: Spanakopita Parcels.

Yes I am! ‘Adventures On My Bike’. This new story I’m writing myself into. This project to lift me out of my food funk and back into food vigor as I cycle my way around town. It’s not super strict, it’s without expectations and the planned outcomes are exactly none. Creativity needs fluidity yeah. Strategy? Simple – just move. That’s the commitment bit, creativity needs that to grow into something. Let’s just see how this unfolds shall we … I’m feeling that smile on the inside thing (purpose?) returning. Although it is pretty foolproof, you know that right. You know how I know that? Simple. It’s built on La Dolce Vita so goodness is guaranteed to follow. If you’re a numbers person it took me 28 days to walk the camino and this has a 28 day life. Literally, we leave for our summer break on day 29 (we’re going campervanning). It’s about three things: food, my bike and adventure (in my kitchen and from my front door). There’s an international theme. I’ll be trying new things, hopefully having some fun and importantly I’ll be making the most of my days. Since the camino this has been something I’ve held closely, making the most of my days.

The humble Buddha bowl, nourishing bowl, what the heck is in the fridge bowl – that’s my first step in. I literally googled Buddha bowls and landed here with a list of 14 different recipes. My first lunch bowl yesterday in the picture was my take on the avocado and quinoa bowl recipe on In It 4 The Long Run. I think I’ll stick with that site. I like the look of a lot of those bowls, lots of tastes. The Buddha bowl gets you in the swing of grabbing what’s in the fridge and mixing it up. Left over roast veggies perfect!

Are there rules for this project? How does ‘just move’ work? It means I need to get on my bike or out with my backpack on my back and do something each day. Something related to food. It can look lots of ways. A cycle to a friends for a cuppa? Sure, I should do that more (it’s possible I’m too introvert’ey at times). Today I decided I’d cycle to a shop across town. And not directly, I’d take the long way around and I’d take some of the paths through the woods. So with my camera around my neck that’s just what I did. Tickled pink at how this day evolved? You betcha! Singing into the wind on day two, feeling proud – that’s the stuff.

There’s magic in the fresh air, in dreaming up a project and jumping in. I loved writing each day (on my iPhone) on the camino, sharing my daily photos (from my DLSR) and documenting the little stories of the day. It feels good to be back, back photographing the beauty of the day. The rabbits, the cows, the trail folk on foot, bike and horseback. Back writing in my head, connecting the dots. Awake to the world around me, moving with a creative purpose.

I think while I ride. In the same pleasant way I could when I hiked the camino, clearly. Even though there are unpleasant things on my mind. Things I want to write about but don’t yet have the words. I am thinking about how I can do justice to a topic that needs talking about. I think about the recent vigil in my home town of Melbourne for a young woman I’ve never met but will forever mourn. Eurydice Dixon. I think about the stories I heard from the young women I met on the camino. I think of my own #metoo experiences of being a young and now an older woman. And I wonder how to parent my daughter. The beautiful, innocent, wide eyed, intelligent, gender issues calling, self confessed feminist who I will need to let go into the world.

I also notice things. Things like the fact that I’m naturally cycling with my arm swinging. A natural habit that comes from walking a long walk. A walk where you become part of the moment without effort. A walk where you are so free you can release. Release happiness as laughter, pain as tears, reflection into deep connection and fear into strength. I noticed it already on day six of my camino.

After the success of the Caprese Crackers yesterday I decided to dip into another travel story. One of the things I love about living abroad is the close friendships you form with people from all over the world. Friendships that are like family. None of us have our immediate families so we become each other’s. We seem to be gravitating towards Greek friends both my daughter and I. It was at her Greek friend’s house that she learnt to eat spinach. Spinach, YES! A green vegetable and a perfectly healthy ingredient for an after school snack. Spanakopita. Also made with feta and she’s not big on any other cheese so getting in two lots of goodness.

After school snack – Spanakopita

Ingredients:

  • Spinach 300g
  • Onion (large)
  • Dill 1 tablespoon
  • Feta 200g
  • Vegetable Oil 1/4 cup
  • 2 Eggs whisked (one for the mix and one for an egg wash)
  • Puff pastry

How:

In a large pot place the oil. Cook the onion in the oil (5 mins or so, don’t brown). Add the spinach and the dill. Cook down spinach and any water it is carrying (5 mins maybe). Take off heat. The oil won’t cook down so if needed pop the mix in a sieve and push excess out. Extra moisture will make it harder to cook.

Cool the mix. If you add an egg to the hot mix it will cook it! I popped mine in the freezer. Once tepid I added the feta hand crumbling it in and mixing (with hands). Then I added the (whisked) egg to the mix.

Once mixed take out a ping pong ball size amount and place in your pastry. I had small squares of pasty. If you have a large square slice it into four.

I literally made this but up. Just lifting the opposite corners to the middle I pressed the edges of the dough together to form a parcel. There are YouTube videos that can help if you’re more of a precise cook.

A tip from my Greek friend Lexie: Using a brush coat the outside of the parcel with whisked egg (this is where the golden colour comes from).

A tip from me: There will be egg (from the coating) left so cook it up with a bit of mixture. Like a mini omelette and feet the kid who’s hanging around for food. Or maybe for you if you’re pre-preparing the spanakopita’s. Or perhaps for the gluten free one. #nowaste remember ;)

Cook for 20-25 mins on a cooking tray on moderate. Keep an eye on the colour of the parcels and check if ready by poking with a skewer. It should come out clean.

* I had the ingredients and a recipe from an online website but I checked with Lexie at school pick up and adapted to the most basic ingredients.

Food brings people together doesn’t it. Look at that ‘Adventures On My Bike’ project already delivering the good stuff. Oh and my daughter announcing after eating two that she wants these in her lunchbox every day (evil cackle … what other veggies can I sneak in)!

Buen Camino,

Fran x