Tag Archives: womens adventure travel

A visit to the Tuscan Heart, Florence

Another day and another trip away from the Tuscan villa a.k.a. the bolthole. Today it was into the beating heart of Tuscany and the birthplace of the renaissance, Florence. Also the home of Michelangelo’s ‘David’, Botticelli’s ‘The Birth of Venus’ and da Vinci’s ‘Annunciation’. I may need to get this out early in case I disappoint you. We went to Florence on this day and we didn’t visit any of these! No. Nessuna. Nienta.  But don’t worry I’ve seen them before … twice. On this day we simply wandered, ate and breathed in Florence.

You may see a theme evolving in our Italian trip. Food. And gelato. And contented smiles. Italians have worked it out you see. They know that pleasure and happiness is tied to enjoying the simple pleasures of life. Convivial times and food that comes from close to home and is cooked traditionally, simply and with heart. And of course they are fortunate in that everywhere they wander there is art in all its forms. From the architecture to the vineyards, Italy is purely romantic poetry for the soul. It is hard not to be in love with every second in Italy.

The Pizza Della Signoria, the Florence Cathedral and Ponte Vecchio all relatively empty. I have never experienced Florence in this way. Florence is so mind blowing of course it doesn’t matter who you share it with, but on this quiet day I took some very long, very deep breaths. I also ran into an Aussie friend on the Ponte Vecchio. Right now the world doesn’t feel small but in this magical brief moment of coincidence the world again felt small.

I danced with love today in Florence. For those of you who know us and me you will know Italy lives in our hearts and home. (Complete with the pizza oven.) Even writing here now I feel my heart flutter with a yearning. Perhaps it is curiosity. If I was 20 I’d take a year in Italy. I didn’t know of the possibilities then. I don’t want to lose this feeling. I’m nervous about when I return. Home to Holland where the food can’t be compared, where the cities, language, culture and landscape don’t captivate my spirit in this way! Where I’ll again be confronted with the realities of the current state of the world.

‘As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life – and travel – leaves marks on you.’ – Anthony Bourdain.

I feel the familiar stirrings of change. Of considering what needs to stay and what needs to be let go. Of missing what’s familiar and still craving what’s exciting. Of knowing I still have many chapters to write in this story of my life. That there is some stagnation inside that needs to be broken down so the flow of creativity and curiosity (the life blood) can be free. The marks of travel – the reminders, the peeling back.

Florence lives in us now. And also on one of our dining room walls. In the form of a little piece of Tuscan inspired art, bought on the street from an artist. After this day in Florence my eight year old declared ‘this is my favourite city in the world’. His siblings agreed. My job is done ;) Perhaps I won’t take them to Florence again. It seems a nice way to leave it for them to remember. I will of course come back. Maybe I’ll hike in one day. I’d particularly like to see the Botticelli again and breath in the Florence air. Dreaming is of course my air, my lungs are full. Full of Florence magic.

Walking Through The Tuscan Hills.


Many years ago, perhaps 16 or so we traveled through Italy with our then six month old baby boy. He’s our nearly 16 yo delightful lad now! We stopped a few days in Tuscany during this Italy trip with the baby and stayed at an old villa with big Tuscan style rooms and a shared kitchen. In this shared kitchen we met walkers! Walkers of all ages who’d spent their days wandering the hills of Tuscany. Their nights were spent stopping along the way in these shared style accommodation guest houses eating and chattering.

Our villa is along the way of a walk called Via di Francesco. Also we’re right by the town of Poppi. This is funny to my family as pop is my childhood nickname. Pop is the Dutch for doll. My dad called me poppi! Dolly. You do know I like a coincidence. :)

Most days I walk to the right of my front door and head up the hill. I’m drawn to a good climb. On this day, however, I went left. Left in the fierce heat (with water and a visor) to see what I could see. In search of, and open to the treasure. There is always trasure.

Each step in the heat blissfully rewarded with wildflowers, farmland, nature and peace. The kind of peace walking allows you in its gentle rhythmic, meditative way. Yes I could feel those mozzie bites (all 500 of them), and yeah it was hot and sweaty, and yes a bit of hmm I wandering alone in a far away land, but also just the beauty of the trail and me.

‘Solvitur Ambulando – It Is Solved By Walking.’

Remember this one friends. It’s one of my favourites. And one I think can help us in these crazy times. Walking creates the space to wonder. Space to flip the circuit if we’re stuck in thoughts. It’s an invitation to notice the happenings of the season, the time. It’s a way for our minds to gently process on its own in the background, while we can be lost in the world of ‘doing the noticing’.

On this day I did realise how much I do love to walk these long walks across countries. I would like to make time for these when the time allows us again. A long camino is not in my life space/timing right now. But days, possibly a week here and there, yes. I would definitely love to do some walking across Tuscany.

I’d like to do it with a friend I’ve decided. I’ll be seeking the ‘hers’ who love to hike when I return. I’d like to be one of those walkers who arrives at a guest house after a day’s wandering and debriefing the fun, laughing at the challenges and eating the local food. When I find her, I’ll be asking ‘her’ if she’d like to go for some days of walking through hills. I think in these times we need to know our ‘hers’ ladies. And we do need to walk with ‘her’, so do ask her if you need a walk or talk.





Magic And Mermaids.

The most beautiful thing about holidays is the freedom to dream. Whether it’s at home or away. The escape from all the ‘real’ life distractions that opens the space for our imagination to run free. Isn’t the endless summer of childhood the most magical time.

An escape from the noise (and the desire to save and understand the world in her case) that allows the opening of a kind of mystical place where girls (and boys) can dream of things, perhaps of becoming mermaids. And the wonder of the summer season that allows the play in a setting which can indulge such fantasies. 

A time to light candles and brew the moon water required to perform the spells to find their tails. Is it the time they’ve been spending in the water, the freedom they have to cycle to this big new free world of theirs, or simply finding the friend who dreams with you that allows such wonderful indulging in dreaming, in feeling imaginative and very real joy?

Today I don’t doubt my parenting. I don’t doubt my belief in taking kids off grid, in giving them freedom to get out of their (my) comfort zone in nature. Kids often know their limits better than adults. My job has been to ensure the skills and boundaries are there to be safe and to create a life experience that encourages the freedom to play and dream. I’ve always known how important it is for all of them, but particularly one of them to know this world of escape exists.









How Much Will Change In The World Of Travel? Have you?

How much will change in the world of travel? Have you changed? I have noticed a mixed vibe here. Our borders are open in Europe and we have the freedom to travel if we choose. There are colour codes placed on countries and our government has advised they won’t be repatriating citizens if they get stuck. As with our lockdown our government has an expectation that we are intelligent humans who will do the right thing. I guess for me I just don’t feel that I have to travel, also let’s be honest I don’t fall short. Gran Canaria in Feb and Denmark for New Year’s. Travel for me is about getting lost in the experience of all the senses and there’s just no ‘real’ escaping the corona now.  Unless you go wild. 

Over the weekend I donned the mask for the first time. I was at the airport! The airport here is on the train line and functions as more than an airport. I had to get a birthday watch resized. We also had a beer and a pizza while we waited. We were armchair traveller watchers. (Obviously a birthday is an exception for dry July, and maybe a friend’s 50th tonight.) The travellers were mostly business, the push a trolley bag and walk at speed types. There were young people, youngish singles and couples and the odd family, mostly with young kids.

As you know, so far we’ve decided to remain home for summer. We did take a weekend away in the Ardennes the week before school officially ended. It was an easy and safe trip. It felt right for us. We self catered, stayed in a cabin, played tennis alone, hiked, cycled and basically chilled. My conflict with staying home and the thing that pulls me to look for somewhere is this kind of break for the kids. I love getting the kids away and in nature. All of us together. If we had a camper for sure we’d be hiding out somewhere, we’d go wild.

Our friends from Mediterranean countries have all gone home. There are the diehards we need, we must travel types and the let’s take a safe close to home short break types who have left for the summer. I’ve heard of Iceland but mostly it’s Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Greece and Spain. Many are driving where possible. Going home was not an option for us. Our Island home is somewhat closed. Technically we could have gone if we’d been prepared to quarantine in a hotel for two weeks. Turns out that wasn’t really safe. Basically it all seemed too hard. And yet it is a paradox because for me the really hard thing is being away from my family for so long. So hard or harder. We went with what felt right which was not to travel. It was never a really hard choice, just the reality is hard.

I think about a post pandemic travel world. I must admit my desire to fly less in response to global warming is real. But now I wonder if what always felt safe will also have changed. I love Asia and would love to travel Vietnam. I’m not sure I will in a hurry. Even though they have managed the Corona well, I wonder about being so far from home in this new normal. And new it is. There is no return to ‘normal’.  Will I feel as carefree as I once did about going anywhere. I went to Thailand 8 weeks pregnant with my fourth child. I’d had a miscarriage before so I knew that could happen but I just didn’t have any fear of things not working out. Perhaps it was an age thing. Or perhaps this massive life event really takes us into our fragility. 

The travellers at the airport appeared carefree. Most wearing a mask, some removing as soon as they were allowed. This was the same as the train. It’s only mandatory on the train. I wondered if travel is one of those things that is simply about getting back on the horse? The supermarket was like that for me. I didn’t go for 7 odd weeks. Not for fear of getting the virus but the vibe was weird. In the week before quarantine was coming I just couldn’t stand the fear driven anger and rush. So I stayed away. 

As long as we move safely I see the importance of creating income for small businesses. Most people here are going close to home. International travel here is like interstate travel in Australia and often even closer. I see the real need for some people to take a break to be nearer (at a distance) to people. I understand people returning home when you are isolated in a country that is not your own. I’m just not ready to join yet.

I’m definitely getting intentional about how travel will look for us in the future. We will travel again and embrace the wild travel we love. And I will save my carbon points to fly home – I need and my kids need to stay connected with our Island home. My confidence and desire for world travel may be changed though. I’ve never subscribed to a bucket list as I don’t want to HAVE to do something at any cost. Of course though there  are many places I would have liked to visit that I now may never. And that seems blissfully ok.












What’s In A Challenge?

What’s in a challenge? Quite a lot for me it appears! It’s a way to create the time to fit a new thing (often a habit) into my life. It is a way to begin from where I am, rather than feel overwhelmed with where I want to be. It’s a manageable way to move, to get somewhere. And often the challenge is the gateway to something bigger, greater. 

I’ve done a few challenges over the past five years. All of them have improved some part my life, brought about positive change or led me somewhere new. I once bought nothing new for a year, quit sugar for 8 weeks, got our possessions down to a suitcase each (and about 3 x 3 metres of packed stuff), walked 800kms to raise enough money to educate 28 girls. Yep and there have been more, these are just some of the memorable ones! 

Mostly, I set a challenge that matches where I am in life. Where the flow needs to go. This year I needed to put some energy into my health. I was pretty low on energy and motivation. Also on inspiration and confidence. I added some small group training to my yoga but the big one that steered my life back on course was my run streak. My personal challenge. 

Running everyday has been a way back to energy, motivation, confidence and inspiration for me. I’ve been doing it for 20 weeks and I feel the river is about to turn. Soon I won’t run every day because I need to get a bit more intentional with my running. I’ve committed to a half marathon to raise money for One Girl. I’ve also started cycling and there is only so much a girl can do! 

Today I wrote up a 15 week plan for my running training. I added a plan for my writing streak. This is day 15 of a month long writing streak and day 135 of running every day. Is it leading to anything? Yes it is. The run steak led to a stronger body that I could commit to a bigger challenge and a stronger mind that focussed me on my writing. Writing each day has proved to me that I can. More than that it’s opened up a way for me to complete my manuscript. I will write this story up later this month, it’s still evolving. 

And then I thought about another habit I really need to improve. Perhaps I could set myself a challenge for that. So I did. I added a drink three water bottles of water challenge to my day. I really do need to drink water, I think it will change my life! And then because I’m improving my capacity to get shit done I added a plan to get shit done. I’ll add to that the each week.

It’s weird isn’t it how sometimes we are ready and able to take on new things. For sure though we can’t get anything new done or add to our lives without first letting something else go. And for sure we need to start where we are with small steps, with an action. I enjoy a lot of spontaneous time so I’ll never schedule myself silly, but if I am to take a step up with my running and writing some intention and focus is required. Imagine what can happen with 15 focussed weeks! Would you dare for a small thing that would change your life?!



#day 15/31