All posts tagged: life changing

What I know about almonds…

Before I moved here and inherited the stewardship of hundreds of knackered old almond trees, I only knew that almonds were tasty and full of goodness. As they are the wonder-food of the moment and loved especially by those going easy on the grains, many of us will be aware that they’re a ‘good thing’ to try and incorporate into our diets. Specifically, they’re high in monunsaturated fats, (which are believed to lower cholesterol), they’re packed full of protein and contain vitamin E, magnesium and potassium, and have been found to reduce post-meal elevations in blood sugar. Almonds can now claim the coveted label ‘superfood’. I wasn’t unaware of the rise of the almond; I had the Helmsley and Helmsley cookbook, I was ready to replace the flour in my quiche with ground almonds at least once – I’d maybe chop a few on top of my salads and cereal – but that was probably, honestly, the extent of my knowledge of this particular prunus. These days however, as we’ve been on this land from harvest …

Life has been happening

Some time has passed. During this online pause, life has been happening. Here are some of our stories… We stayed a few months with my dad in my childhood home in Liverpool at the end of our travelling year. When I first left my home, bound for Glasgow at twenty one, I felt sure I’d never feel enthusiastic about the place again. The idea of being ‘back there’ in the place I’d grown up had felt uncomfortably retrogressive. Maybe it’s the simple fact of being older and having different values now but this time around I found that there was a satisfying circularity to having my children sleep in my old bedroom, and the sounds of my night-owl dad shuffling around after midnight fixing himself a whisky and raiding his cake cupboard were familiar and comforting. I was able to see my family often and in a casual, popping-round-for-a-cuppa sort of way, which is something I’ve rarely been able to do. Then, in March, we packed up a load of our stuff (gathering boxes and …

Shiny, Happy People

One of the difficult things about travelling is that it can get lonely. Whilst out on the road there have been long stretches when we’ve barely met a soul. We have woefully little French, Spanish or Italian and meeting people who have enough English to converse with us useless linguists is a rare thing indeed. We’re a pretty sociable bunch and it’s been a strain at times for us all not to have other folk to hang out with, which makes us all the more grateful when we do meet people who can tolerate our company for longer than a cursory five minutes. And we have met some fantastic people along the way. Most of the people we’ve spent time with and got to know a little have been those that have chosen to live a slightly different sort of life, a life in which there is more time for relationships, more time for reflection or simply more time for following dreams. As a tribute to some of those lovely souls and their inspiring stories …

Marrakech, expressed

Morocco has defied our expectations at every turn, but not necessarily in ways that we have expected. We turn up at campsites that bear no resemblance to their descriptions and the ever changing landscape continues to surprise and confuse us; but nowhere has confounded us more than Marrakech. As our campsite is a good few kilometres out of town, we initially take a taxi to the Jardin Majorelle, the artist’s garden famously patronised by Yves Saint Laurent. I’m hoping that entering the city this way, surrounded by the calm coolness of the carefully tended gardens, will enable us to acclimatise slowly, to dip a timid toe into the life of this most overwhelming of cities. It’s a gentle and stress-free environment, protected from the heat and chaos outside the gates; the blue pools and perfectly swept paths soothe us all and afterwards we walk with confidence towards the medina, with its souks and famous Jemaa el-Fnaa square.We think we are ready. Ready for all that our imaginations had promised; a sensory overload, a cacophany of hagglers, hustlers …

Crossings

Something shifts when we step on a ferry to cross to somewhere else. We’re aware of the obvious physical process of waving tickets, showing passports, the actual transportation of the body across water from one shore to another. We might feel excitement, anticipation – perhaps even apprehension – but something else is happening too; there’s a reason that the mythological journey to the underworld involves a ferryman and a river. There is something symbolic about ‘crossing over’, leaving the known world behind and entering another realm. As the hills of northern Morocco drew closer, the butterflies in my gut beat their wings more furiously. Squatting there on the horizon was Africa, a whole new and alien continent. I silently asked myself how we would manage here. During the time we were planning this trip, it was Morocco we spoke of most. There are places that are held in the imagination as glowing jewels of exoticism and adventure and it was my own wild dreams of Morocco that kept me awake at night. It’s hard to …

Uprooting

As I write, I’m sitting in the last proper bed I’ll sit in for a while and the boys are enjoying the last bath they’ll sit in for a while. Tonight, we sleep in the van for the first night of many and tomorrow morning we cross the channel. The past week has been a whirl of packing belongings, saying goodbyes and feeling a bit odd. Our last few days in Hebden were some of the most exhausting of my life. Pulling up roots is unsettling for all concerned, and we have felt the inevitable strains of a big life change. We bade farewell to our temporary house, our town, our good friends, grandparents, cousins, uncles, aunts… There’s been a good deal of driving already, some of which has gone smoothly and some of which has brought challenges. It didn’t help Colin (the van) that I drove several miles after leaving Hebden Bridge with the hand-brake on. I found it difficult that having instructed a child to pee in the tin bath I’d shoved in …

One week to go

  The most common question I’m asked right now is whether I’m excited and if I’m being honest my answer is no, I’m not. I am scared, apprehensive, terribly anxious and a little bit sad. I run through a never-ending list of things to do in my head, which go from the less pressing ‘finish sewing curtains for back of van’, to the more essential ‘book van in for MOT’ and ‘get travel insurance’. From now on all our worldly belongings must fit into several cupboards and a generous boot. Effecting this shift from overly stuffed, tat-filled life to a more minimalist and simplistic existence is turning out to be tougher than we imagined. Along with the ‘to-do’ lists is a map in my head of all the various spaces generous friends and family have offered us to store our stuff. Boxes full of books, games and cuddly toys; unworn clothes and unslept in bedding; tickets from long-ago gigs; childhood photographs; faded cards and letters wishing congratulations on the birth of a child, a new …

The practicalities – finding a home on wheels

After the ‘I do!’ come the logistics, the planning, the acquiring and de-acquiring. I’m going to attempt to describe some of that in the hope that it might be useful or vaguely interesting to someone out there. I do this with some reservations however as I’m fairly convinced we are not the best people to be giving guidance on practical matters. We have a random, often stress inducing, scatter-gun approach to organising travelling and living in a van for a year. But we have managed to at least buy a suitable vehicle and have a vague idea of where we might go. So, with disclaimers in place, read on… A Home on Wheels I thought that finding a home on wheels would be fairly simple. A brief search through available camper vans and motor homes on Ebay for example, yields a plethora of mobile vehicles from the new, shiny and exorbitantly expensive to the ancient, cheap and probably broken. It is impossible to know where to start, so I just started. I poured over the …

‘I do!’

In many ways, the hardest bit of any big life change, is making the decision to do something different. Saying ‘yes’ to the unknown is pretty difficult at any stage of life but I think gets harder as we get older and more set in our ways. Even the more adventurous amongst us, increasingly seek the comfort of the familiar as they approach middle age. Throwing ourselves willingly into an abyss of uncertainty then – particularly when we have children – can feel at times wildly irresponsible. It was easier for me than for Rob. I had already let go of whatever ‘career’ I may have had by choosing to leave the workplace over seven years ago. Rob on the other hand, was at a comfortable point in his career working as a Head of Development for The Science Museum Group, enjoyed his work and was continuing along a fairly reliable employment path. I was asking him to consider giving all of that up to come on an adventure. And to spend most of our …

The Big Idea

It seemed to come out of the blue. Initially I think, some of our friends and family were confused but for me there was sudden face-smacking clarity. We needed to uproot, to pull up and away from the things we’d come to know. There was a sense of needing to cut the cord, to get some distance from the safety of familiarity. More than anything I desperately needed my family to be together, so with the money from the house sale we should take a mid-life gap year and travel. As soon as the idea had taken seed I knew it was right for us, knew in that deep-in-the-bones, these-things-are-destined sort of way. I only had to try and convince everyone else it was a good idea – including Rob. I’m not sure whether it was my impeccable  reasoning that had him unable to resist the logic of the plan or my barely concealed hysteria. I followed him about like a haunted soul; pleading look fixed on my face, almost constantly tearful and snotty, regaling …