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Every New Beginning Comes From Some Other Beginnings End….Seneca

I find myself sat in front of the computer screen at 9am on a Sunday morning. In the background the low pitched rumble of kids and dogs…cereal packets rustling, television humming and an imminent fight ensuing over which channel to pick. From the corner of my eye I see removals boxes a small reminder that we are once again on the move.

A year ago we packed up our lives in the UK for what we hoped would be the perfect solution to the constant rush that was London life. The plan was to open a bar and café in a little town in Central Portugal, give our children a slower pace of life, more freedom and nurture the values the Portuguese hold above all-family, friends and community. I am pleased to say we accomplished all of the above and so much more. We were welcomed with open arms by the Portuguese and considered family almost immediately. We were taught about traditions and encouraged to participate at every opportunity. The Portuguese enjoyment of life is infectious. They indulge in all the things we are told to enjoy in moderation -food, wine, coffee, cake, music…2 hr lunch breaks are the norm! Everything shuts-the bank, the council, the post office…EVERYTHING! As idyllic as all of this sounds we were unable to make the business work financially and once again we find ourselves in a place of excitement and uncertainty-for lack of a better word ALIVE…tingling, inspired, determined and ready to move forward. We have decided to sell all we have, to let go of our material possessions, to buy a motorhome and to travel the world with our 3 children and trusty Portuguese ‘street dog’, Alfie.

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 We plan to volunteer wherever we land…helping everyday people with things they need doing in exchange for experiencing their way of life. It’s hard to put into words the emotions I feel whilst typing these words…of course, we can’t just ‘up and go’ so we plan to base ourselves in the UK for the next year to save some money for fuel, insurance and emergencies. We plan to start our volunteer projects there…weekend, half-term and longer school holiday projects and just as soon as our travel fund allows we will set off on our adventure. I invite you to come along for what promises to be an unforgettable journey.

Until next time….

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2018- Our Year of Love and Understanding, Positivity

This is probably the 5th time I’ve started writing this blog post and truth be told I didn’t feel I really had anything to say.

I was heading in the direction of ‘A Smashing Start’- in reference to the fact that as Big Ben struck midnight one of the kids (I will not name him as now that I keep a written record he is most definitely a clumsy oaf) dropped and smashed the glass that was meant to hold his celebratory Prosecco leaving tiny shards strewn across the carpet and sofa/MY BED! To make matters even worse as we ushered the kids out of the way 2nd son shouts from his bed, ‘I think Alfie weed on my duvet’.
So, needless to say, we missed the fireworks and rung in the New Year vacuuming and stripping bedding.

My second idea was New Year’s Resolutions/plans etc but this topic felt overdone and quite frankly the only resolution I ever make is to try and shout a little less but being at a point where we have almost 3 teens in the caravan it usually lasts all of 2hrs and then I feel shit for not controlling myself better while my 3 darlings push absolutely all of my buttons simultaneously-so that wouldn’t work either.

Which brings us to today…and right now I feel I do have something to say. Two things happened-On Monday we learnt that a young, talented friend had suddenly passed away and I read a letter that was shared by a friend on Facebook.
If you have a moment please do click on the link and take the time to read it. For those of you who don’t, it’s a letter written by 27 year old Holly Butcher who passed away last Thursday after losing her battle with cancer.
In it she talks about how strange it is to accept your own mortality at such a young age. She talks of her hopes and dreams that will not be realised. She urges people to stop whinging about trivial things such as traffic or a chip in your false nails. She asks that you don’t beat yourself up about how you look or what you have as in the end none of those things matter. She says appreciate the fact that you have a healthy, functioning body and look after it. She stresses that we need to give more and do more for one another-as life is unpredictable, in some cases too short and in the end material possessions mean nothing.

 

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A lot of what Holly said struck a chord and I’m at point where I feel it really resonates with me and what we as a family are hoping to achieve. So I’m going into 2018 with Holly’s words as a guide. I know some of you reading this have the perfect work/life/family balance but for those of you who don’t take a moment to reflect. Are you working yourself into the ground in an attempt to pay a mortgage you can’t afford or to buy things you don’t really need at the expense of time with your family and loved ones? Are you rushed, stressed, anxious? I know for a long time we were-I’m not suggesting everyone sell up and move into a caravan, nor am I suggesting that we’ve got it all ‘sussed out’ – because we haven’t! But make sure you don’t miss out on the simple pleasures life has to offer us.
Try to find time to do something for someone else, take time for yourself and go into 2018 with a positive attitude and love in your heart. Register to donate blood and consider becoming an organ donor-I have and it feels good and doesn’t cost a cent. There will be trying times, times you think things can’t get any worse-at that point step back, take stock, take a deep breathe and realise that you’re alive and tomorrow is a new day and a chance for a fresh start.

 

Just Love and Understanding, Positivity
-Ed Sheeran

See You in 2018

With Christmas but a few days away and 2017 drawing to a close I’ve been feeling rather reflective this week. What a crazy year it has been….reluctantly we had to leave our Portuguese life behind (for now), we’ve made the decision to volunteer our way around the world and we’ve taken the first steps by moving the entire fam into a caravan.

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Our first volunteer experience at Abbeyfields Society, Radlett was a humbling and endearing experience. All but one of my grandparents had passed away before I was even born and to get to spend the afternoon with the residents was an absolute pleasure. Hearing them recount stories of their childhood, the war, great loves, career paths they chose and lessons they learned warmed my heart in a way I can’t even put into words. The boys got to play Santa’s helpers and were in charge of the raffle and distributing prizes-a job they handled superbly and a real ‘proud mom’ moment. A special mention must go out to the staff and volunteers at Abbeyfields who went above and beyond to ensure everyone was in the festive spirit- a job which has its own set of challenges when dealing with so many unique and strong personalities. So a huge thank you for affording us the experience and we promise to visit regularly whilst here in the U.K.

As I’m sure you’ve come to realise life is never dull in our household and this week brought with it a couple of challenges. On Wednesday morning the power went out unexpectedly. After checking with other caravanners (is that even a word?) on site we found it wasn’t effecting the whole site-just us! I inspected the fuse box and trip switches and finding nothing suspicious went to disconnect the mains and found the plug was, for lack of a better word, melted. Immediately I contacted my new ‘go to’ -Twitter and luckily for me The Trudgians and The Caravan and Motorhome club came to the rescue with advice and suggestions. We popped down to GT towing, bought replacement plugs, sockets and a new power supply and after half an hour of fumbling in the dark with a headtorch and candles Warren had us up and running again.
If that wasn’t enough excitement for one day….Sebastian thought it would be a good idea to lock the keys in the car, outside of Tesco, before we had a chance to collect Warren and buy our replacement parts. Fortunately the drivers window was slightly ajar (as Alfie was in the back) and the lovely gentleman who run the Tesco car wash had a piece of wire which looked suspiciously made for the task at hand. Don’t misunderstand….this was no easy feat and I so wish I had captured it on video because it was a real girl power moment when I eventually managed to open it especially as not one person even approached to offer assistance. But alas, I didn’t, I was too busy asking Sebastian if he had his wallet on him as I was not paying for a locksmith, AA etc, etc and telling him if he wasn’t glued to his phone this never would have happened and now we will probably be stuck in the dark and cold as the caravan parts store would be closed-not my finest moment and probably the reason no one approached to help.
As you know everything worked out in the end and breaking into a car is another skill I can add to my resume.

So that brings us to the end of my final blog post for the year. Should you wish to catch a glimpse of what we’re up to over Christmas take a look at our Instagram and Twitter accounts @Travellingfam5 . I just wanted to say a massive thank you to everyone who has followed our journey thus far, liked, shared and commented on Facebook-the response has been quite overwhelming and we really do appreciate your messages of support and encouragement.

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I guess all that’s left to do is wish you a

Merry Christmas and a Very, Happy New Year

From OurTravellingFamily to Yours ❤️

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A Week of Caravan Firsts

 

What a week it’s been! Full of new experiences, learning opportunities and celebrations.

On Wednesday we woke the kids up around 5am so that we could wish Sebastian a very, happy 14th caravan birthday before Warren left for work. He’s the first one in the fam to celebrate in our new mobile home and I believe he truly enjoyed his special day. Gifts were slightly different this year (and the same will be true for Christmas)-there’s no space for the usual ‘knick knacks’, every item had to have a specific purpose or fulfil a need and to be completely honest I wouldn’t have it any other way.
We settled on a hamper (Aiden’s idea) and filled it with all Sebastian’s favourite goodies-a selection of cheeses, crackers, motorhome Christmas socks, gel to keep that impressive coiffe in place and a couple of pounds to save or spend as he sees fit.
As a family we are learning what is truly important the more time we spend in our caravan. It’s an important lesson to learn (at any age) and it’s great to be sharing this experience together. Sure, like most children their age they covet things but I believe they are getting to a point where they can appreciate the difference between quality and quantity and wants as opposed to needs.

 

Birthday celebrations out of the way we woke up on Sunday morning inside our very own snow globe. Surrounded by 8 inches of untouched, resplendent, powdery white snow. To describe the day as magical would be an understatement. Being one of only two caravans on our site the kids had it all to themselves. Snowball fights, snowmen and lots and lots of wet clothing were the order of the day. After the excitement of the morning activities were over we headed into St.Albans-explored the city, walked around the Christmas market and enjoyed a hot chocolate and bite to eat.
The day wasn’t without it’s challenges…Luckily Warren noticed the snow bearing down on our awning. 8 inches is a lot of weight no matter how strong your poles are and these awnings are not designed for permanent use in extreme conditions.
So, armed with caravan steps and a closed umbrella (don’t ask) we managed to figure out a very labour intensive strategy to move the snow.
From inside the awning Warren stood on the caravan steps and pushed up against the canvas trying to ‘bounce and shift’ the snow down. Once it moved down it was my job to do the same a little lower down and knock the snow off the edge-not an easy job. It probably took about half an hour but felt much, much longer.
The second issue we faced was filling the onboard water tank….luckily a friend had given us an insulator for our aqua roll…unfortunately the mains water wasn’t as lucky and it took a little while to get it flowing.

 

 

Another first, and probably the most exciting of all, is we get to take part in our very first volunteer experience this coming Friday. We will be helping to serve Christmas lunch at a local assisted living center. The kids are a little nervous and unsure of what to expect but I’m hoping this will be a positive experience and inspire us to keep going with our volunteer project.

 

Well that’s enough rambling for one day….if anyone has hints, tips or advice of any kind for these first time caravanners heading into their first winter-PLEASE get in touch and if you’ve enjoyed reading my posts please like and share.

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P.S. Did I mention we are kinda enjoying this simple life?!

Caravan Cabin Fever

The last two weeks have been an absolute nightmare and left me questioning whether we have made the right decision or not. The day to day chores are becoming more and more unpleasant the colder and darker it gets and heading to the laundromat every two days is an expensive, time consuming and tedious task. Not to mention having to move site every 28 days! We haven’t been able to put a single penny towards our travel fund as we’ve had a number of unexpected expenses crop up and we are no closer to volunteering within the UK despite contacting 3 more charities.

As if that wasn’t enough we had a night of absolute gale force winds (up to 84mph) and eventually had to give in and say goodbye to Ernie the awning. I have never felt so close to the elements in my life. The wind was gusting through Ernie like the Death Eaters in the scene from Fleur and Bill’s wedding in The Deathly Hallows. We were all placing bets as to where the awning would be found the following morning. Warren and I hardly slept a wink that night but to all of our surprise as well as our neighbour Jason’s (who apparently went out at 3am to check his own awning and exclaimed, ‘How the f%^> is theirs still standing! ) Ernie was still there.

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Another issue is the boys (13 and 12)…being hormone riddled miscreants, still without a school place (Thank you Hertfordshire County Council) they are seriously suffering from cabin fever. As I write they are sitting at the computer doing year 9 math (Pythagoras to be exact) whilst wearing Santa hats and calling each other names when one is slower than the other. Their only respite from the school of Mom is taking a break and racing to see who wins in the battle of emptying the toilet and filling the aqua rolls! The eldest has had a few moments recently where he has expressed his hatred for the caravan and told me how he plans to move in with his friends, how he no longer wants to go on our trip and how we are doing a really shit job of this ‘parenting thing’- I am pleased to say this is usually short lived and dare I say ‘normal’ for a child of his age. He is still regularly adding new destinations to our list so I believe, deep down, he is still onboard!

On the plus side,

– I can see past our current situation and feel positive we will be in a position to start saving soon.
– I am much more confident with regards education on the road as Ella is on par, if not, a little ahead of her peers after 8 months of homeschooling.
– Our lovely friend Clare offered to store some boxes for us so the new awning is mostly clutter free and ready for it’s Christmas transformation.
– And we are more determined than ever to persevere.

Courage and perseverance have a magical talisman, before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish into air -John Quincy Adams

Project Volunteer

So we are now 7 weeks into our adventure and it’s been a seriously steep learning curve with daily overwhelming highs and a fair share of ‘character strengthening’ lows.

A lot has happened in the last 12 days…The awning is still standing-held up by a wing and a prayer. I’ve managed to turn 3m cubed of possessions into 4 small book boxes of photos, kids art and sentimentals which we are hoping to store in a friends loft-cue offers….We’ve had to move the caravan (still towbar-less) which involved Warren steering and managing the handbrake while the boys and I pushed..and I finally shared the blog with friends and family and am completely overwhelmed by the amount of support we have received.

 

Now that we are semi-settled I thought it would be a good idea to get us started on our volunteer projects here in the U.K. and I am really disheartened to say that out of the 6 charities I have contacted only 1 has replied and said someone would be in touch-that was 3 weeks ago. It is incredible the amount of hoops you need to jump through in an attempt to offer voluntary support. I understand that in this day and age everyone needs to have police clearance, a long list of contactable references etc. etc. but one volunteer position required me to have all of the above, be able to volunteer for a min of 4hrs per week, commit to volunteer for no less than 1 year and then it went on to say that I could expect a reply in approximately 3 months?! I have contacted youth centres, charities helping the aged, animal welfare to name but a few…but it seems that unless you are able to contribute financially no one is really interested.

My limited experience of the attitude towards volunteering in the U.K. is in stark contrast to what it is in the rest of Europe. I signed up to the workaway programme about 3 months ago and in those 3 months our family has been invited to stay and volunteer in a number of different places throughout Europe and Asia- 2 in Germany, 1 in Poland, 1 in Amsterdam and 1 in Thailand. These are people who have read my profile and asked if we would consider volunteering without me actively looking.

So now I am putting it out there…if anyone knows of any projects that could use a hand (or 5 sets of them) please do get in touch. As I mentioned before we are based in St.Albans and during the week we would be able to help in and around the area but school holidays and half-terms free us up to help further afield. We are also up for taking part in fun runs or similar events to support different causes.

There you have it, for the most part, we are all still here, mostly of sound mind, adapting to the new normal that is caravan life and making progress on our project. I have just received word that we have been accepted as volunteers at a retirement home and will be helping with the Christmas party on the 15th of December 🎉🎉🎉

 

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So until next time….

Oh! We ain’t got a barrel of money,
Maybe we’re ragged and funny,
But we’re travelling along,
Singin our song, side by side

Harry M Woods

 

Mystery Blogger Nomination

 

So…Today was a fantastic day! Blue skies, plenty of sunshine….Our long lost kitty, Tilly, was returned to us at 7am and I received an e-mail from a blogger I follow to say that he’d nominated me for a ‘Mystery Blogger Award’.

I can’t begin to tell you what this nomination means to me…well actually, I can, it means that someone out there (other than my Mum) has actually taken the time to read what I’ve written and actually believes there may be others out there who would be interested in reading it too! So to The Campervan Man….muito obrigada, baie dankie and thanks a mil! Take a moment to check out his blog https://thecampervanmanblog.com/ jam packed with adventures in his trusty 1979 VW campervan, Fanny!

The mystery blogger award was created by Okoto Enigma to discover and recognise inspiring and inventive blogs which will not only captivate but also motivate. It aims to provide exposure and recognition to all your favourite bloggers.(https://www.okotoenigmasblog.com/my-greatest-creation-yet/)

The rules are as follows;
1.Feature the award logo/image on your post 2. ‌List the rules 3. Thank the blogger that nominated you‌ 4. Tell the readers 3 things about yourself 5. Mention the creator of the award and provide a link as well. 6. Answer the questions provided. 7. ‌Nominate bloggers and notify them by commenting on their blog 8. Ask the nominees questions of your choice with one weird / funny question (specify)‌ 9. Share and link to your best post(s)

Let’s begin….

3 Things about myself

1- I’m originally from South Africa IMG_0036
2-I love singing along to the radio, at the top of my voice, whilst driving and truly believe that I have an excellent singing voice and just need to be ‘discovered’. IMG_0037
3-My first crush was Richard Dean Anderson…otherwise known as ‘McGyver’. I was about 8 years old and not sure if it was his skills with a Swiss Army knife or the fashionable mullet he was rocking! IMG_0035

 

Now to the questions:

1. Mountains or beaches? That’s such a tough one for me…I grew up in Cape Town and lived on the slopes of the iconic Table Mountain surrounded by beautiful oceans…but if I had to choose-beaches.
2. What is your favourite word? Kakkerlak (kuck-er-luck) It means cockroach in Afrikaans.
3. Where is your favourite place in the world and why? Central Portugal-People, natural beauty, food and quality of life.
4. If you could invite two people in the world to dinner, who would you invite? Barrack Obama and Elon Musk.
5. Would you rather fight 100 hamster sized lions or 1 lion sized hamster? Ooh…the fam liked this question…seems girls opted for 1 lion size hamster whilst the boys all went for 100 ankle biting hamster size lions!

Nominations:

https://www.carmenhaideeleung.com
Incredible photos to complement a beautiful blog

https://impsandramblers.wordpress.com/
Travel adventures and advice with little ones in tow

https://travelwithnanob.com/
Well written blog which provides lots of inspiration for future travel

https://looking442.wordpress.com/
Looking for the meaning of life through travel

My questions to my nominees:

Where were you born and where are you now?

What’s your best and worst quality?

Coffee or tea?

You’ve been given an elephant. You can’t give it away or sell it. What would you do with the elephant?

So that sums it up….should you wish to learn more about our fam’s journey please like, follow and share. Below are a few of my most recent blog posts-would love some feedback, comments and/or advice x

https://wordpress.com/post/ourtravellingfamilycom.wordpress.com/4

https://wordpress.com/post/ourtravellingfamilycom.wordpress.com/47

https://wordpress.com/post/ourtravellingfamilycom.wordpress.com/65

https://wordpress.com/post/ourtravellingfamilycom.wordpress.com/101

 

 

Top Tips After Two Weeks

So today marks two weeks of living in a caravan and I’ve decided to compile a list of ‘Top Tips’….things I wish we’d known or done prior to moving in with the whole fandamily.

I’m sure as time goes by I’ll come back to this post and tweak bits and pieces but as the title suggests these are the hints and tips of a novice…so sit back, relax and have a bit of a chuckle at our expense 😉

Top Tips for Newbie Caravaners:

Tip 1Service your caravan before moving in. After moving in we realised we had no hot water in our shower (which meant showers at my husbands office after everyone had left for the day-not recommended) and a gas leak as the previous owner had not kept up with the annual maintenance.

Tip 2- Trust CrockPot. When you have no gas for cooking and it’s 8 o’clock at night DO NOT buy a slow-cooker and expect din by 9pm- you will be feasting on a choice of Cheerios or Weet-a-bix! So to the makers of ‘Crock Pot’ never was a truer product advertised-I salute you in your honesty…you put the slow in slow cooker.

*We have since enjoyed incredible meals cooked in our Crock Pot.

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Tip 3- The contents of a 4 bedroom home will not fit into a caravan (no matter how hard you try). It is not possible. Once you’ve had a clear out…clear out again and after that sift through what remains and attempt to whittle it down a little more. Declutter, Donate, Discard.

Tip 4- Make sure you have a suitable towing vehicle…a towbar is a must! Due to time constraints and budget we bought the cheapest 7 seater we could find in Portugal and had a friend help us with towing our newly purchased caravan to site. Now we sit with the problem of no towbar and needing to move every 28 days as required by law-we all know where this week’s paycheque is going.

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Tip 5- You need an awning. With a family of 5, 2 cats and a dog this is an absolute essential.

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Tip 6- Your awning should be in good condition. Entering Autumn and Winter it is very important that your awning is strong and leak free. As I’m sure you have already guessed-ours isn’t. In all fairness to the previous owners they did stipulate that the awning had seen better days and boy were they right. We fumbled around trying to figure out which colour coded pole went where, eventually we got it right only to find that as soon as we had erected it, it started to split at the seams. Warren spent a lot of our second evening in the caravan sat in the dark desperately trying to repair the awning using a needle and embroidery cotton. The following day, in an attempt to keep the water out, I stopped by our local Homebase and purchased some interior/exterior clear silicone. I applied it to the seams in the hope that it would keep the rain out. While this seems to be working temporarily, new holes and splits are appearing every day and we will have to splash out on a new awning as soon as the budget allows. But for now-It’s up, housing 3m cubed of our possessions, mostly dry and held together by a combination of duct tape, cotton and silicone.

 

 

That’s all I have for now…If you enjoyed my piece please like, share and follow x