To all those new to our blog, welcome! Below is an article I wrote for Positive News about our family’s decision to volunteer our way around Europe. Over the last 6 months we have received so many lovely messages wishing us well and a number of people asking us how we have managed to pull this off. We’d love to start sharing some blog posts answering any questions you might have, be it to do with our caravan, homeschooling, living and working with strangers, finances, travelling with cats- you name it! So if there is a topic you’d like us to cover please pop a comment at the end of this post.
We hope you enjoy following along with our adventures as much as we enjoy sharing them,
Karen, Warren, Sebastian, Aiden and Ella…not forgetting Stuey and Tilly (the caravan cats) 🐈🐈
I can’t quite remember the exact moment my husband and I decided it would be a fantastic idea to sell all we had, move our 3 teenage children and 2 cats into a touring caravan and set off to volunteer our way around Europe.
I know we were living in Portugal at the time, I know the cafe we were running was not making enough to support a family of 5 and I know we were at a point where we knew we would have to return to England but couldn’t bear the thought of going back to our old lifestyle.
You see, two years of living in central Portugal had inspired us to do something more with our lives. We lived in a community where people didn’t earn all that much but were happy to share what little they had. A place where family, friends and community were top priority. A place where, when things go wrong, they don’t look to blame but rather shrug their shoulders, smile and mutter ‘É a vida’- That’s life.
We wanted our children to grow up with these same values. We wanted to expose them to as many different cultures and lifestyles as possible and we wanted them to experience the indescribable satisfaction felt when you do something to help someone else.
After 18 months of living in our caravan on a small field in St.Albans we finally set off for Europe. The plan was to travel for a year volunteering in every city, town and village we passed through. The journey would see us volunteering in Portugal, Spain, France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Slovenia, Croatia, Hungary, Austria and Germany.
I’m pleased to say we are, at present, almost 3 months into our travels. We have completed our volunteer projects in Portugal and are into our second week in Spain. So far the journey has exceeded our expectations on absolutely every level. We have worked on organic farms in central Portugal where we learnt about clearing the land, building bonfires, sustainable farming, hot composting and bee keeping. During our free time we visited Aveiro (the Venice of Portugal), the white sand beaches of Costa Nova and spent 4hrs kayaking down the Mondego River.
In Aljezur we stayed with a remarkable Dutch family who have holiday accommodation and also encourage their guests to learn to surf. Here we once again helped with clearing the land, levelled ground, put up a massive swimming pool, painted window frames, did some sanding and built a shelter and play area for their goats. They, on the other hand, taught all 3 of our children how to surf and opened their home and hearts to us. We shared in their excitement at seeing these projects completed, dreamt of all the things that would be possible in years to come and formed an incredible bond in a very short space of time.
After that we moved on to Evora where we stayed with the most incredible woman. A major in the Portuguese army, a ‘Jack of all trades’ and the most amazing cook. She worked us hard- we removed and replaced an entire farmhouse roof (tiles, wooden slats, beams-EVERYTHING!), she had us take down a chimney with a pneumatic drill, mix cement and plaster walls. We mucked out the horse stalls and learnt about cleaning and trimming their hooves. In return she cooked us 3 course meals twice a day. Every single day we sampled a different soup, main and dessert from the Alentejo region. She introduced us to her parents and grandmother who treated us like family and every day we laughed. We were dangling off scaffolding, filthy and tired for two weeks. Covered in cement, or plaster or sawdust or a combination of all three but we were incredibly happy.
Right now we are in Oria, Spain with another gem of a family. We are one week into our stay and already feel like we have known them all our lives. In a week’s time we will once again be on our way, taking with us more skills, memories and friendships.
As wonderful as all of this sounds it hasn’t all been plain sailing. We have had to navigate some very tight spots with our extra large caravan. We have anxiously towed through steep mountain passes. We’ve been turned away from a campsite and had to sleep at a motorway rest stop. We’ve arrived at a project after having travelled 750km to find it wasn’t suitable for our family. We’ve had ups and downs, but through all of this our family unit has become stronger than ever. Every day I marvel at how much the kids have learnt and accomplished and overcome in such a short space of time and every day I think that one year is probably not long enough…
Link to the original article here
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6 Comments Add yours
What a fantastic job you have all done! So proud of ALL of you.
Sent from my iPhone
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Thanks so much Mom….can’t wait to see you next month xxx
I’ve been so inspired by what your family is doing and would love to know how you manage travelling with cats! We have two cats and this has always been our major stumbling block when considering adventures together as a family. Thank you so much for sharing your journey, reading your updates has truly helped me to believe in other possibilities other than the daily grind.
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Morning Rachel! Thanks so much for your kind words and for following along with our adventures. Yes, I can definitely confirm there are other possibilities other than the daily grind! Right now I’m sat on my caravan bed, both cats are snuggled up to the left of me and we’re parked on the drive of the loveliest couple in Belgium. I promise to address how we travel with our cats (in detail) in the next blog post. Sending love and best wishes, Karen
You certainly know how to tell this story and make it interesting and absorbing reading. Well done and good luck with your future endeavours
Fritz and Lesly
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Thanks so much Fritz and Lesley 😁 We are having such an incredible time and really appreciate your support. Send love to everyone at home from all of us xxx