Tag Archives: Vanlife

Summer Camper Trip – The White Cliffs of Dover, France.

The home run!

We left the potato farm we camped on last night to begin the last drive home through Belgium. On the way out we were excited to be able to see The White Cliffs of Dover. I realise I haven’t described these towns and the people that live in them in these blog posts but I’ve been profoundly shifted by them – it’s been a reflective writing period. Typical of a long holiday in that it started full of excitement, then weaved it’s way into the deeper life stuff and towards the end into the promise and resolution towards life at home beyond the experience. Travel drives, shapes and guides me. It always has – blame the novaturient in my DNA. But I’m also a nester and this 15 kgs of potatoes we just picked up (out of a vending machine, not kidding) will be potato rosti, roast potatoes, potato soup, mash for days! And the feels of France will live on.

Here are some snaps from the passenger seat this morning. I hope my photos along this journey have given you what my words haven’t – how absolutely beautiful the life, cultures, traditions, languages and landscapes along these French and Spanish coastlines are. The first shot is England from France and those white cliffs.

Along the way we also stopped for an overnight at Lac Marin which become two nights because let’s face it – why not! Campering in a motor home park at €10 pn and 100m from the lake. See Louie with the SUP on his back (packs down small eh) … it’s a family affair this sipping business.

I got chatting to a Spanish family at the Lac and what started as a brief chat turned into a long one. They even gave us the address of where they were staying in case we needed anything. It reminded me of a favourite passage from driving over lemons where the author talked about changing it up in your midlife – moving, learning a language, learning a new skill, trying something new … whatever! Just living you know, being interested and interesting not existing. No matter how hard this year has been (the re-settling) one thing I feel is alive in my life – not bored.

I’m not a shopper (hate it) and the only jewelry I wear is my wedding rings and a necklace Greg bought me when I was pregnant with Lucas with three rings … when we though three was it ;). Where would we be without Jimmy – no, four was definitely our number (and I love babies, naturally, I’m midwife). Anyways back to my splurging (on myself) some delicate hand made bracelets a style I’ve been loving for a long, long time and some red symbolic beads. Remember that thought I had back at the Picos. The one about being busy with our hands? That’s what the beads are for. To remind me. Our hands are the key … want to write a book, write. Want to give up wine or coffee, don’t hold a glass, cup. Want to read, hold a book, want to run do your laces up, want to paint push a brush in your hand, want less of the marketing … press unfollow, unsubscribe, worried about your health pick up the phone make the appointment …. yes what we do with our hands matters. There will always be another excuse about ‘why not now’ another tired day, another party, someone, something to blame, another story we tell ourselves about why not, but really there only is right now.

So as the little and big Vegemite’s unplugged the power for the last time this trip I bid you farewell from the Summer Camper Trip. I hope if you’ve followed along you’ve perhaps found something of value in my musings. I sure have in writing them. And in the spirit of sharing one more book and a story about putting stuff vulnerably out there and the answer finding you here’s one.

The Barefoot Investor

It’s Aussie centric but wow did it answer some questions for me. I come from a frugal background and obviously we’ve had to save and plan for this sabbatical (living in a 2br with all kids in one bedroom, selling stuff, adjusting wants etc). We bought ourselves some time out by forgoing other things. Recently the reality of getting older and the question of ‘is our super ok’ hit me. When I wrote about that after the camino I felt nervous sharing it, was it to personal? But it put the question firmly on my radar. And, my super is ok … I found the answers and the guide I needed in this book. Well not mine we’ve only had one real long term income so ours. I know it breaks all the rules and I am that women who without a career and by chosing home as hers and has ended up relatively ‘superless’, but I trust my marriage. And it’s not to late to start adding some and forward planning. I read this book in full yesterday that came recommended to me after wondering about super. It’s not about spreadsheeting – man I can’t live like that but it’s a practical plan and a way to think about your finances. We’ve been harvesting for a while but now it’s time to get back to the growing … Scott has really made it simple to understand. So if you’re like me overwhelmed with the information out there but committed to living within your means and wanting financial security with the good life life along side that, this book is awesome. Wise and wild right.

Buen Camino dear hearts! The next time you hear from me I’ll be on the camino (next week, next month) indulging my wayfarer soul. Maybe?! I haven’t decided if I’ll blog it yet. But can I share that as we drove through Calais this morning where for many years refugees have lived in camps it hit me how important my One Girl volunteer work is. The educations we provide these girls gives them the chance of creating a life for themselves and their families where they are and it gives them dignity and hope. Life giving stuff.

Fran xxx

Camper tips:

Total accommodation spend: €403 – 38 nights (€185 was the four nts in a caravan park I wouldn’t do that again). We don’t own a car (we use bikes and train and a green car on the odd occasion we need it) so we consider the cost of hiring the van covered by what we save in petrol, registration and insurance.

If you want to do it! Do it! If you can’t yet – plan. Practice – go camping. Get outside as often as you can, walk amongst trees, along the sand and in the mountains. Connect with yourself, your life, your family and nature – and watch the magic unfold.

Oh and an egg in bread is an excellent 11pm dinner when you’ve driven into the night.

If you have any camper questions please ask in comments.

Summer Camper Trip – Hossegor, France.

‘There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.’ ~ Albert Einstein

This is the choice. It’s what kids do when left to their own devices. And if it’s one thing this trip has reminded me of it’s this. Living with optimism and honest appreciation is a luxury most of us can enjoy if we choose to. When I get home … this is what I’ll be protecting with new boundaries and by setting limits. My right to live in a world of everyday miracles. I’ll be following acts and conversations of kindness not competition. Bird song not pity song. Creativity not greed. Compassion not self interest. Today not last year or next year. Taking action to grow by planting. Out with some old ways to make room for some new … ya da ya da. Life’s just too short to waste on the bullshit things.

A lot of the confusion I felt after walking the camino has found its place. On many levels I know where I’m going, I don’t know where I’ll end up but I’m completely ok with that. I’m comfortable. Walking the walk each day with purpose towards the destination (some goals I’ve set myself). Goals that came from throwing some fears, honesty and vulnerability out to the wind. By shedding some layers, looking in the mirror and asking myself some hard questions. It’s true what they say, the camino starts when you finish … but like any major life event/tradition/change it takes time to process, time to feel. I’ve had a few this past year! Finishing long term travel, my littlest starting school, the culture shock of moving a family abroad, !walking the 800km camino Frances. Phew! What a year. Yes a quiet year in my nest sounds like a plan.

There is a time when it feels like our whole life is a head of us and one day you realise there’s a lot behind too. This trip has left some wonderful behinds, no regrets. Hand holding, food sharing, laughs, adventuring, playing, reading, marveling, singing, closeness, bonding – memories and connection. It’s also been slow and long – a holiday that filled with white space. Space that has given all of us the precious and luxurious gift of time. Time where thoughts have had space to be hung out soaking wet with enough air and wind to dry. Time to be in our relationships and on our own – just us, just them, just me. Presence.

The last of our long stops has been in Hossegor on the SW coast of France. We are returning after spending Z’s birthday here last year. Within walking distance of the surf vibe town we’ve spent three nights and four full days here (€12 per night, no power). I could see us spending an entire summer here one year, perhaps the next one. It reminds me a lot of the summers we spent camping in Barwon Heads before leaving Australia for this European sabbatical.

We could live our camp style life (especially for kids) and enjoy the ease of having a town close by. These days I even need to share the mussels … it appears all the kids are getting gamer. We learnt a good food lesson … where you eat in France matters. We had some shocking meals last year contrary to the romantic notion of French food. It’s not all good – do read google reviews. This year we were not disappointed. So in amongst this trip we found some tradition amongst our traditional ‘off the grid’ kind of summer. A return to a place we all love. This time we played on the river with our SUP. We’re all getting quite hooked on the SUP’ing which is a good thing. At home we’re surrounded by water and it can become a home hobby too. In fact I’m quite looking forward to seeing my village from the water and the idea of my teenager hopping on his bike to go SUP.

And in case you were wondering … YES I DID (we all did). Chop chop! I shed the heaviness of the lochs and it feels quite symbolic. I’ve also managed to drop a fair bit of heaviness and confusion that I’ve been carrying of late – out here in the wilderness, on this camino of ours. Indeed start with the head Paula ;). Next the cheese weight ;)

Buen camino friends, I truly hope you’re well. Are you ok?

Fran xx

Camper tips:

Greg noticed some teenagers emptying the facilities ‘shitter’ for their family’s camper and commented that they were his little heroes. To which our nearly fourteen year old replied … ‘I’m going to empty the shitter, I’m your little hero’. And he did as the nearly nine year old filled the water. He’s been emptying it ever since. Helping, contributing, learning to be self sufficient – all important. And no we don’t give him pocket money to do it helping out is a normal behavior to cultivate in family life, yes? One which gives an intrinsic reward.

Summer Camper Trip – Fragas do Euma.

After heading out of Cabo Ortegal we decided to head for A Coruña. With two weeks left we were considering how far to push west … or should we turn and return home slowly? Or should we do something crazy and high tail down to the Cíes Islands, heard of them? We hit the park up in A Coruña and after some lunch and a climb in this incredible stone sculpture we decided it was time to turn around! Another time for the islands … we’d rather save something than try and check it all. Plus it’s August, peak … you know I’m allergic to too many people. And slow travel is more our jam.

The car park was empty which isn’t a problem for us nor was the crazy hair kind of wind. But I did feel a little nervous after looking up what I thought may be a restaurant at the end of the carpark was actually an addiction center. So we had lunch, played on the sculptures and made the decision to turn back towards home! It seemed like time. And the idea of going home slowly rather than HAVING to drive long distances over a shorter amount of days was appealing.

My friend Lisa described it as a symbolic passage way, the photo we took there … up the steps and towards home. Truth. And to think at first I thought it was a book! But she nailed it, my friend. It is a symbolic turning point. Big trips like these give you a lot of freedom and space to allow your mind to wander in different directions. In that wandering it’s easier to get to the heart of things. The heart is where it’s all at … all the sweet (and sour) truth. As gypsy as I am I also feel the pull to nest (extremes remember). There’s a time for everything and the seasons are changin’. This turn is symbolic we’re going home to foundations.

For the first time in a couple of years we’re going home to the same house – without a plan to move. Permanent for now. There are also work changes coming our way and newish (even thought they feel old) expat friends to catch up with. It’s been a while – us living out this wandering part of our European adventure, floating. Its been a gift and now it’s rather exciting to have foundations to built on. As well as the chance to grow within a community and some kitchen herbs!

Torre de Hércules at A Coruña a 1st century AD Roman light house. Blew my mind – the Roman’s always do.

Our accommodation spend is looking rather healthy at the four week mark just €331, remembering that the caravan park (car park) in Loredo accounts for over half of that (4 nights €185)! Our aim was to free camp tonight. But after arriving at yet another coastal car park and again not digging the vibe, we opted for a motor home park in the national park. And at €10 per night with electricity, hot showers and a free washing machine, we are winning.

Obviously we made ourselves at home. Vanlife is all about home is where you park it right! Washing, eating, free ranging, reading, being and enjoying the obstacle course we found hidden in the scrub. Boom – that was an extra bloody bonus.

Buen Camino dear hearts as you begin your new week. May there be excitement in ideas and freedom in the beauty of life for you too.

Fran xx

Camper tips:

Eeek. Gosh I’m so not a tips person as you know, I’m trying to be better at sharing is caring! Here’s one – use your dust pan brush to wipe the sandy feet. It’s genius. I saw another camper do it. Oh and have an old towel behind the passenger seat, it’s been used numerous times (kids). And being barefoot and salty will cure a grumpy mood.

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.