Our Guide to Visiting Mesmerising Meteora
When you come to Meteora, northern Greece, be prepared for an experience and not just a visit. This is a very special and spiritual place that needs time, space and respect. Mother Nature and Spirituality fuse together in a symbiotic relationship to create a truly magical adventure. Whether you walk, cycle or photograph, this place will talk to you.
Check out our 13 point Guide that is shaped by our four days here. We hope it will help you make the most of this wonderland that will feed your eyes and nurture your soul. Click on the link below to download your FREE PDF Guide.
A Guide to Meteora
Also we’ve added a Dave the Drone video to give you a bird’s eye view. Enjoy. Kx
As we sit here on the cusp of our ferry back to Greece mainland, I’m feeling very reflective about our month on this real Treasure Island. I have a fancy that it will stay in our hearts and memories, evoking every sense as we recall it.
I’m finding it strangley hard to encapsulate all that we have experienced here, such has been the diversity of the miles we’ve covered and the sights our eyes have been privileged to witness. How do I put all this in words? I don’t normally struggle!
Crete has not been just another country ticked off in our passion for exploring new lands. It somehow feels more significant than that. Not sure I can put my finger on exactly what that means just yet, although something has been birthed here.
Frangokasteli – 1371
Amidst a land that is claimed solely by history and nature and not, as we might think – tourism, I feel a huge sense of pride to have found so much essence on this fair isle. Don’t get me wrong, we are part of a huge number of people who visit here, many who come for a very much shorter space of time than us and who are very happy to simply have the sun and sand.
Yet if you are willing, Crete invites you to look beyond the crowds, coach tours and the touristy northern coast and search deep into its soul. As there you will find an intriguing trilogy between Mother Nature, modern and ancient history and mythology; who blend together to create a Cretan adventure that will leave its mark on your heart.
Zeus’ Birthplace – Psychro Cave
Neither of us are great historians, although I defy you to be left untouched by the mythogical legends of Zeus, the Minotaur and Poseidon as their stories create the very fabric of Greek culture. And then there’s the ancient history that have left this amazing legacy for us to explore; the Minoans, who are said to be the earliest of European civilisation, a truth which is being increasingly unveiled by findings at ancient sites like Knossos. And let’s not forget that we’re talking up to 2000BC. This is almost beyond comprehension and yet demands a deep respect as you tread in ancient footprints. More recent history has also left indelible scars on this land and the current generation as WW2 invasions, massacres and German occupation influences their memories. Yet the Cretans are, like Greeks across the water, the most warm, engaging and generous of people. In the older generation you can see history etched into the lines on their faces and, as they walk by, they seem to carry the world on their shoulders like Atlas in mythology. What must their treasured island feel like with this throng of visitors passing by their simple homes, let alone a 7.5 metre motorhome? Strange times indeed and we are grateful for their sharing and community spirit.
Crete is a complex partnership of mountains, that form the island’s backbone, and the forces of the sea and wind who together, continue to shape its landscape. No matter where on Crete you travel, you always pass in a mountain’s shadow, which is strangley comforting. And then in a whisper, you are drawn to the sparkling aqua and azure seas, as if in some futile competition. As you approach the sea’s domain, it’s almost as if the mountains have slid gracefully in surrender, creating secret coves and stunning beaches to amaze and enthral. The south offers most of these secret treasures, many only accessible on foot. And so it is a haven for naturists who bare all without fear of intrusion. Lagoons, long strands of sand, dunes and bays of curvaceous beauty, all with the backdrop of the magestic mountains, covered in a greenery that will surprise and delight you.
Crocodile Rocks, Agia Pavlos
Yet look a little deeper and you will uncover a different Crete, one carved millions of years ago. Whichever compass point you look, Crete gives you a different geology lesson; uniquely shaped rock formations that tell you a tale, if you unsdertand its language. From the crocodile rocks in Agios Pavlos in the south, to the pink sands at Elafonisi and the 50 gorges that clearly make their mark on Crete’s canvas. The volcanic and tectonic legacy is evident everywhere, each one telling a unique tale from its past.
Irini Gorge, Agia Irini
The gorges themselves are incredibly special and as you enter the bosom of their souls, they take you into their protection and transport you to a whole new world. We walked four of the lesser known gorges as we didn’t want to share the experience with thousands of others eager to conquer the feat that is the Samaria Gorge. Plus you simply can’t do them all and to add insult to injury, I was supporting an Achilles’ tendon strain – only in Greece eh. So Pefki and Butterfly Gorge in the east and Imbross and Irini in the south west were our four nemeses. Each one giving us unique challenges. Pefki with its 300ft ascent, Butterfly with her rock climbing endeavours, Imbross, the uphill hIke through an old river bed with narrow cliffs teaming with the sound of insects and the equisit 8km Irini gorge that snakes through the mountains with dexterity and grace to the orchestral melody of your own personal aviary. Their architecture is astonishing and as long as you can take your eyes off where you’re walking for two minutes, you can appreciate Mother Nature’s artwork that rises above your head.
Cretan Church – great architecture
Now speaking of architecture, I have to be honest that all Crete’s design efforts goes into the landscape and not the buildings. Whilst it is undeniable that the churches and mountain-top chapels are devine, literally, I didn’t really think much to the Cretan villages. Krista to the east was lovely, the old town of Chania charming and the harbour towns quaint. Although on the whole they really did disappoint me. I guess I have been spoilt by Santorini and Mykonos, so they have a lot to live up to. I do love how the deep purple and pink bougainvillea drape seductively across telephone wires and concrete balconies, in a vain attempt to shield their plainness, although only with a modicum of success. That said their delightful homes turned tavernas in EVERY village you pass just shows the Greek’s entrepreneurial spirit. Partnered with the stalls on the roadside that offer the weary traveller a tempting gastronomic tease with their local honey, raki (fire water!!) and olive oil goods, they are just too good to bypass. You want organic this is the place to come.
Goat milking for cheese making at our door!
I can’t miss the chance to share the vision of the pink and white oleanders that border the main roads, creating a corridor of colour that make an otherwise boring piece of tarmac quite picturesque. The delicate red poppies wave in the breeze, the yellow broom brings the mountainside to life and the wild sage and thyme fills the air as you pass by. And then there’s the goats that cling to the gorge edges defying gravity and yet are still able to yield the most wholesome milk for a sensational cheese. I shall never again be able to eat this without accompanying it with a delicate dribble of organic honey – just a marriage made in heaven.
So what did we learn from our Cretan experiences? First and foremost, Crete is big. Underestimate it at your peril. A month is just not long enough to do it anywhere near enough justice. We did well with our five centred ‘homes’ although there is so much we had to miss.
Secondly, Crete is stunningly diverse. Whether you like hiking, snorkelling, photography, botany, beaches, buzzy towns, history or mountains – you will not be disappointed.
Wild camp at Sfinari, west Crete
Finally Crete offers 15 campsites; some of which can only be loosely described this way. They are often small, basic although always welcoming and often with stunning swimming pools. If their signs say ACSI, it is unlikely to end up in a discount as most times their inspection has either run out and it’s an old sign or it’s just an inspection sign, which don’t offer discounts. That said we paid between €17-26 per night with electric. Wild camping is doable although not as profusely as on mainland Greece, yet we managed to find some stunning spots that were made in heaven or somewhere close. That said we found that if we centred ourselves in one place, then either use our bikes or hire a car, we covered more ground. You can get a car for about €25-35 per day, depending on the length of hire and it’s great to nip to places more quickly than with a 3.5T motorhome. The roads are very doable, on the whole and although sometimes twisty and wiggly, travelling around the island wasn’t difficult. Just sometimes more efficient with a car.
So what would my closing reflections of Crete be? Come! Simple as that really. I know it’s the furthest south you can get in Europe, although please come. Either fly and hire a motorhome from:
www.campergreece.com; www.motorhomes.gr or www.spicycampers.com
…or make the overland journey sailing from Piraeus to Hirakleon or Chania with Anek Lines. The €400 return journey was, in my view an absolute investment and the best way I could imagine to spend that money. Crete will take hold of you by the heart, pull on your strings and offer you an experience, not a holiday. Its richness, colour and diversity will make it so memorable that photos will not be required. You will relive your Cretan Odyssey through your dreams. Although here’s a few to whet your appetite.
With love and and admiration for Crete, Mrs Moneypenny.
Travelling in any form has its joy, delight and its own fair share of challenges, as we are finding out as we enter month 15 of our full-time, nomadic lifestyle. Although to every challenge there is always a creative solution that often provides a far better outcome. This first report in our Travellers’ Challenge series offers an alternative view of gift giving when you’re living life on the road.
As a proverbial giver and people-pleaser, one of my greatest joys is presenting gifts to people. I love finding, choosing and giving meaningful presents that show people how they matter to me. So you can imagine how this aspect of my personality has been seriously challenged as we continue to commit to our lives travelling around Europe in our motorhome. Both getting gifts to my loved ones back ‘home’ and finding gestures of kindness for fellow travellers that we connect with along the way, is tricky. After all when you are living in a small home, have a weight and space consideration or are moving around a lot with perhaps just a backpack or small camper, having any more ‘stuff’ than is absolutely necessary is just not practical, despite the gratification it creates. Consider the added fact that with umpteen culturally diverse local shops enticing you with their handmade wears, it’s so hard to resist their goodies as you know how impractical it is to package things up and send them home.
So what’s a ‘giving sort of girl’ to do with this conundrum?
Well three things strike me as I write about this Travelling Challenge. First is how to use your imagination to make lovely gestures to your loved ones. Second is making use of the internet and the third is being inspired by the creativity of others you meet along the way and being motivated by their gifting perspectives.
Imagination and creativity
Travel has been one of my greatest teachers and no more do I look to the commerciality of gift giving – practicalities guide me to seek out my inspiration from nature and ‘out of the box’ resources. One of the skills I am fortunate enough to have is being creative and using my imagination to conjure up gifts that come from the heart and that are made with love. A long time ago I learnt that giving is not about price or volume, it’s thinking about someone and finding a way to expresses your love. We gave up buying presents for annual celebrations years ago as it is so easy to get caught up in the marketing trap that invites us to spend money on meaningless gifts because we are conditioned into think that is the right thing to do.
Travelling has taught me otherwise.
So now I use my creativity to look at gift ideas in a different way;
Good Luck Charm
As a child, one of my dad’s friends told me that whenever you are walking along a pebble beach, look out for stones that have a hole going all the way through, as this comes with good luck blessings. So now beach combing takes on a whole new perspective for me as I search for said stone with said hole. Then add a bit of unwanted ribbon cut from one of my tops, hey presto I have an instant SAFE TRAVEL and GOOD FORTUNE charm.
- The beach has so many sources of inspiration for me. When I lived in a house, I used to pick flat stones, varnish and paint them with meaningful words for my recipient. These days without the room for varnish and paint, I use my Sharpie pens to write messages of love on small stones, which carries the same sentiment.
- Pruning wild rosemary and making it into a little bouquet can be as lovely a gift as a shop bought bunch of flowers that will die within a week. Rosemary has so many healthy properties that it comes with two-fold advantage.
- Although I’m very careful where and how, sometimes a little bunch of wild flowers can be a lovely gesture. We were in Greece for May Day, where the tradition is to pick wild flowers and make them into a wreath or bouquet. And so I got up early and found such an array of brightly coloured, spring flowers for my dashboard and our convoying friends and it gave me so much joy to do it.
- Food is a great way to show appreciation or gratitude. Even in the smallest of kitchens, baking, juicing or cooking up a meal for someone can be a beautiful gift that is wrapped with time and love. We met a guy who shared some wine with us a couple of weeks back and in return, the next day, he had made us some beautiful flapjacks. Thanks Colin, wherever you are.
Pebble Art from Spain
Back to the beach – make it a sandy one this time – why not draw messages in the sand and then take a photo? You can either leave the messages for someone you are travelling with to read, or email or WhatsApp the photo to a friend who is back home. Alternatively, make a heart with pebbles and stones and fire this over to them instead. They will be so happy that you have thought about them in this way.
The internet is a great ‘gifting’ resource
These days, being remote doesn’t have to mean that gifts can be sent in time for celebrations. In fact it is such an easy way to remind people that you are thinking of them. Shopping and sending creations remotely can be done so effortlessly these days; with a bit of a signal, the press of a few buttons and hey presto; gift chosen, purchased and sent. Here’s some of the ways we send gifts remotely;
- I love taking creative photos, whether with my Samsung phone or my DSLR Camera. I then use a Photo Editing App – Pixlr to add text or to create a collage that I then email to friends to convey our happy times together.
- I love to upload photos into eCard websites such as Funky Pigeon or my favourite is Moonpig so I can send personalised love through the post for Anniversaries and Birthdays. And Snapfish to create photo albums of memories for special occasions.
- I also use the web for gift and flower deliveries just to let people know I’m thinking of them or for saying thank you. Big stores, such as Marks and Spencer or John Lewis are great resources for our UK friends or Amazon for UK and worldwide deliveries. Liberty Trading is also great for different gift ideas that you can send from afar. (See the side bar for a link to their site.)
- I have started to use on-line florists, Bloom&Wild who are a letterbox flower delivery company and they are fabulous. Really lovely, organic flowers and bouquets, suiting all budgets. And ordering can be pretty much ‘next day’ in case you’ve forgotten that all-important date because you’re too busy having fun or in the midst of travelling.
Isn’t it interesting how you sometimes remember a place for its crystal blue waters and crashing waves and other times it stays in your mind because of the people you meet and their gestures of kindness.
One such memory is of Belpech, France with the Pyrenees as our backdrop, where we met Sarah and Keith. After a delightful evening with them, Sarah gifted us these gorgeous table mats that she had made by hand, whilst on her travels. She used scraps of material that she collected along the way and made blankets, bedcovers and placemats. Such an inspiration if you have that skill.
Penny’s Magazine Flower
Penny, who we met in Dénia, Spain used old magazines that she no longer needed to make these beautiful paper flowers. What a lovely and creative gift that leaves you with such warm memories of a time, place and people.
So you can travel, stay in touch with loved ones and give gifts of love – it’s just about looking at presents and sharing differently and without the commercial edge and expectation. And the best bit? Making something, crafting something with your own fair hand gives the giver so much joy and pleasure; so everyone’s a winner. There are so many resources at our fingertips, so much simplicity – we just need to see giving to others in a new light and boom! From a Traveller’s Challenge to a creative solution; a gift from your heart to theirs that will have so much more meaning and value.
Happy gifting travellers. Kx
One of my first impressions of Greece as we rolled off the Anek Lines ferry, was how the full moon lit up Drepano Beach, Igoumenitsa and made the sea sparkle in its darkness. It welcomed us with open arms and from that moment on our love affair with Greece began. And now as we sit in Nafplio in the south-east Peloponnese, the full moon once again reminds us of his dominance over the night, signalling that we have, incredibly, had one calendar month in this beautiful land. It seems almost impossible to imagine that we arrived here just 30 short days ago on 11 April.
And yet in one month, we have already learned so much about the country, its customs and diversity, how to fit in with the locals and how to ease into Greek life effortlessly. I absolutely know that the next full moon will have taught us even more, although for now, I thought I would share my insights from my Greek teacher!
- Greece is amazing in spring. Before the sun turns on her power, you have some amazing weather that starts to acclimatise you
for the hotter days ahead. On top of that, the spring brings new life in the floral world with yellow cactus flowers, red, pink and purple bougainvillaea and the most intense deep red poppies. The kaleidoscope of colours just wake up our dark, winter eyes with joy and beauty.
- Talking about weather, the afternoons, at least at this time of year, seem always to be windy. There has been an uncanny pattern that as the sun’s heat rises, the wind decides not to be outdone. Even on the eastern edge of the Peloponnese, almost without fail, our afternoons have been rather breezy. It has been great to keep us cool, although does thwart our bar-be-que efforts.
- Wild camping is a joy in Greece. Now I know that this can be a contentious subject and often rallies the hotly debated issue of campsites v wilding. Although for those of you who follow us regularly, you know how respectfully we treat wild camping in terms of contributing back to the community for the privilege of camping in the wilds. At that’s the word I would use for camping in Greece – it’s an absolute privilege. We’ve camped in some of the most wonderful, wild, secluded and sensational places I have ever had the honour to call home and the memories they have created will stay with me forever. And certainly camping in this way, ‘out of season’ has caused us no issues with locals or authorities, despite indications in camping books suggesting otherwise.
- Of course wild camping brings its own problems such as toilet dumping and water. Water is not a problem here as almost every beach has a shower and tap, which you can fill up from – and whilst not potable water, it’s fine for showers and washing up. Just use bottled water for everything else. Also find yourself a marina that are two to a penny here, as they always have taps for the visiting boats. The toilet is a bit more of a challenge. The biggest advantage we have is that we have a second cassette, which has been worth its weight in gold, giving us up to six days if we need it. Although when it comes to emptying, we either drop into a campsite and tie it up with washing and internet or we find a garage who often let you use their outdoor toilet, if you fill up with petrol. So it’s doable, although it would have been more challenging with one cassette.
- And whilst talking about camping, it’s also worth saying that many of the campsites certainly early April are not yet open. The season doesn’t really start until mid May in Greece. And although some of the campsites are beginning to open up slightly earlier as us snow-birds are making our presence known, this is the exception and not the rule. So do be aware of this as you plan your trip if you are not a comfortable with wild camping.
- Not all wild ‘pitches’ are as they seem. There are some of the most wonderful spots to pitch up on, on beaches close to the water’s edge, although this does come with some dangers. Firstly, Greece is incredibly mountainous, which means that some of the roads to these out-of-the-way spots can be a trek, down narrow, steep and sometimes tricky to navigate roads. So we would recommend parking up and assessing on foot before making a decision to commit to a road that might be difficult to turn around in. These beaches, with their azure seas are a magnet. Why wouldn’t you want to park up close the sea with the crashing waves as your lullaby? Although do check these spots, as the pebble pitches lure you into a false sense of security and are not always as stable as they look. We had to tow two vans out of said beaches because their tyres sank into the pebble floor beneath them.
- Camping here feels safe. We’ve had some ‘incident’s during our 14 months full-timing and although it hasn’t put us off our wild camping experiences, it certainly turns your dial to ‘high alert’. Although so far in our first month, we have felt as safe as any other country we’ve been in.
- Travelling in Greece takes time. It’s a strange thing to see your next destination on the map just around the corner, and then, on putting in your co-ordinates, finding that 30km is going to take you 90 mins! Still, when you see how windy some of these roads are, you will understand why. There is no rushing here and the routes are so magnificent that you will want to take your time to breathe it all in.
Our convoy buddies
Being in convoy is a great way to cut your Greek teeth. We’ve had the joy of travelling with our buddies Andi and Paul, from Followourmotorhome, for the last three weeks. And whilst we are about to ‘go solo’, having a chance to travel new lands together with someone else makes it for a great virginal experience. The support you can give each other is priceless and it enhances your confidence and pleasure in your early weeks.
- Greek customs are wonderful to share. If you come at Easter, go to Corfu, where they apparently have one of the most amazing celebrations on Easter Saturday and Sunday. It’s a short ferry ride on foot or bicycle from Igoumenitsa. May Day is where you will see ladies out picking their wild flowers for headdresses and wreaths to celebrate summer’s battle over the winter. And each morning locals gather at the most charming chapels found along the road and coast, to honour their Greek Orthodox faith and light their candles of remembrance.
- Eating out here is a joy. Slouvaki (kebabs), Moussaka, Prawn Saganaki, Tzatziki, Taramasalata, Greek salad with fresh feta, olive oil and fresh oregano blossom, pitta breads, aubergine, courgette balls and meatballs are all laced with garlic and homegrown love. And it’s not that expensive. For two with a main meal and a beer each, you’re looking at €30. And what is so delightful, is that in each restaurant we’ve been in, you are presented with either a complementary liqueur or a biscuit cake at the end of your meal. We have found some wonderful places, off the beaten track. Some of the tourist places will draw you in with a their sales pitch, where you feel obliged to sit down. Avoid these and go back a couple of streets to find more authentic Greek hospitality in family run establishments. Out of season and in some smaller villages and towns, many of the restaurants will not have very much fresh food in and so their menus may be limited and frozen. You will though get plenty of grilled food, although not the long-baked dishes that Greece is famous for. Although hunt well for your restaurants and you will not be disappointed.
- On a practical note – lamb is really expensive here. I thought that we would have an abundance of lamb here, and although you can buy a whole carcass (especially around their feast days), minced lamb in particular is impossible. Because the meat is so expensive you pay €10 per kilo and given that most of that is bone, it makes for an expensive option.
- Whilst talking about money, the cost of living here is an interesting one. So far we’ve found that food is more expensive than say Spain, although perhaps on a par with Italy and France. Although the Greek wine is cheap, the boys say it’s not great, although they happily report that the Ouzo is superb. You can get a 2 litre bottle for €16. Other spirits are expensive so stock up before you come. Beer is more than palatable although again can be quite expensive. Six small cans of Fix larger is around €4.65. Do try the local road-sellers as their fruit and veg tends to be a little cheaper and more tasty, especially their oranges. Diesel prices vary; in larger towns like Igoumenitsa we were paying €1.29, although further south in the Peloponnese we found it at €1.15. And a lovely surprise has been the regularity of LPG. There are no issues on availability here and is coming in around €0.79.
- So far we’ve found three main supermarkets; Lidl of course are pretty much everywhere and there is also My Market and AB. At Lidl you know what you’re getting as it’s pretty standard across Europe, although the other two have some different ranges on offer and some staples that Lidl don’t offer.
- If you want big shops for clothing, haberdashery, health shops etc, then look for a larger town. In our month travelling south from Igoumenitsa to the eastern board of the Peloponnese, we’ve only come across two big shopping centres, Patras in the north and Nafplio, south east. Whilst butchers, bakers and local supermarkets have always given us our day-to-day essentials, other items like clothing etc have been a bit more limited, so you will need to work your way to a larger town for other essentials and the good old ‘Chinese Shops’.
Sea Urchin, Porto Cheli
If the ocean calls you, you will be treated like a king or queen. The waters here are incredible for all sorts of activities. We suggest that you wear water-shoes as around some of the coastline, the sea-urchins will act out their revenge on human imposters, so take care. There are jelly-fish too, although they look pretty harmless. Look out for turtles as they call this coastline home, evidenced sadly by one that was washed up on shore this week. The snorkelling apparently is amazing, if this is your thing.
- Talking the lingo. We have always adopted the philosophy that wherever we go, we learn the language basics, so we can at least show we’re trying. My sense is that the locals always appreciate you having a go. So I have put together The Motoroamer’s Guide to Getting by in Greek list, with some of the basics that we have learnt over the last month. Although it must be said, that many Greeks, especially in the retail trade, speak a little bit of English and German.
- The Greeks are the most delightful people; warm, welcoming, polite, helpful and engaging. We have loved being amongst them. They invite you into their kitchens, give you tasters in shops to sell their wares and are always offering you something complementary. They shake your hand, smile at you, wave and, there are often impromptu serenades at restaurants from budding Pavarotti’s. If you are ever in need, just ask and the Greeks will do as much as they can to help you. They have kindness at their very heart.
- The Greek economy may be in dire straights, although we haven’t really seen much evidence of this on the whole. Some of the roads are a bit ropey, although not as bad as we thought. Italy is definitely worse! In fact some roads have been recently relaid, making some of the advertised wild-spots listed in books and apps impossible to reach because of the drop. There’s evidence of new cables going in for better internet provision and some of the villas you see here are quite magnificent. The only real issue we’ve seen are some of the hotels in more ‘out of the way spots’ that just have gone to wrack and ruin. Otherwise I thought that Italy showed more deprivation than Greece, so far anyway. Interestingly, we found in Nafplio that they have half day shopping on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday – we’re not sure whether this is because of the economy or contributes to the state of the economy! So do check before shopping. This is not true though for supermarkets, it’s worth adding.
- The countryside is to die for. In our first week, I was so shocked to see such a rich, luscious and diverse landscape. In many ways it reminded me a lot of the Lake District in UK. Rolling hills, stunning greenery, dense forest and so many beautiful flowers. It will blow you away and that’s before you even set eyes on the craggy coastline with azure blue seas that invite you to test their waters and the ancient monuments that take you back to Greek mythology and historical intrigue.
So Greece, what else can we say? It has taught us a new tongue, it has taught us about the art of convoying, how deeply profound the Greek culture and heritage is and how much it has brought us into the heart of the way of life here. It is beautiful beyond any adjectives I could use from the Thesaurus and that beauty comes as much from Greece’s soul as what you see with your eyes. So if you are considering coming here, then do. It is a stunning place to learn about, call home and rest awhile. I have a fancy we will not want to leave. Here’s to more lessons coming in the next moon month of our Greek Odyssey that takes us to the island of Crete and then up the eastern coastline. For now, yamas!
Karen and Myles, The Motoroamers
As those lovely Roman chaps used to say, ‘Tempus fugit’ – and you know what? They were right, time really does fly. I can’t believe where the last year has gone; a whole twelve months has past since we embarked on the biggest week of our lives, EVER!
From the humble and yet inspiring beginnings of a Silver anniversary road-trip in New Zealand, we packed up our belongings, said ‘goodbye’ to jobs and handed the keys back to the rented house we had called ‘home’ for four years. We stuck two fingers up to conformity, leaving behind what society classes as normality – after all who wants normal when you can have adventure and a life on the road? I get that this isn’t for everyone and, if truth be known, four years ago I would have said that it wasn’t for me either. Yet we’ve never been scared to do things differently and boy, this was seriously different.
So on 4 March 2016 we left English shores for our European road trip, yet as we said au revoir to Plymouth’s port, little did we know how life on the road, with our trusty chariot Scoobie, would change our lives, possibly forever. Read more about our pre-road trip preparation and tips here…
As I look back now, on the cusp of our first anniversary, I’m wondering how appropriate it is to celebrate this landmark. Is it with champagne? Is it with a meal or do we simply acknowledge with a huge amount of gratitude how life has unfolded for us? The latter certainly seems like the only way to mark this significant date. No doubt we will reflect on the months that have passed and reminisce over the ups and downs of our nomadic life and the people we’ve met along the way.
Although the thing that will hit us the most will be the lessons we’ve learnt, and are still learning, as we meander our way through this new lifestyle. So, what are those lessons?
Here are our TOP 10 Lessons from our Nomadic Classroom.
1. The first is, how fear can take over your dreams. Fear of what others might think, fear of what could happen in the future or fear of how safe you will be in a strange country. Fears so big, that if not addressed can consume you and hold you back from living the life you deserve. Realising that fear is only a self-constructed thought can release you from its grasp and enable you to live your dreams. We challenged each fear and looked at them with logical eyes and common sense. We worked out the likelihood that those fears ever materialising and generated contingency plans should the worst ever happen. Once you strip away fear’s power you fly free. See more about overcoming fear here…
2. Have the courage to be different. Conforming to society’s expectations can be a comforting blanket to be enwrapped by, although this has its limitations, especially if your wanderlust is calling. We came to the conclusions that however others may judge us, this is our life, our dream and life is too short to accommodate norms that no longer fit your dreams. This is our time to fulfil our potential.
3. Remember this isn’t a holiday, this is a lifestyle. For our first three months, we grabbed at everything; visited every UNESCO site there was and ticked off Natural Parks, cathedrals and cities as though they were going out of fashion. We soon realised that we needed to evolve from tourist travellers into nomadic travellers if we were going to stay sane. So stopping in one place for more than two nights became an important ingredient in our adventures. You don’t need to see everything all in one go. Hopefully there is always tomorrow (finger’s crossed.)
It’s all about balance.
4. Balance is important – learn the art of stillness and movement. Our first six months was a lovely yet a busy period as we not only settled into a rhythm, we committed to seeing friends and family. We hadn’t quite got used to creating a kinder schedule for ourselves. We soon realised that travelling is tiring and needs respect. Whilst we have no regrets of any one of our visits, we could have been more mindful of our needs and stresses. In twelve months we’ve covered nearly 13500 miles and 10 countries during that time, which is phenomenal. Although at the other end of the spectrum we had five weeks at one place in January, which had us itching to travel again. So finding a balance between being still and smelling the roses whilst travelling to a new ‘home’ is really important and has taken us a year to work out. And we think we’ve finally grasped it, although I’m not sure you ever get it ‘right’!
5. Embrace simplicity. I’ve never been a Madonna – material girl, although Myles might disagree with the number of shoes I’ve brought with me. Yet we’ve stripped back a three bedroomed house and fully functioning kitchen to all the bare essentials for our 7.5 metre space. And there’s absolutely nothing we want for – at all. Although what we have learned is to be creative with the resources we do have, be inventive in how we store things and embrace simplicity. We cook more simply, we live more simply and we dress in a way that feels comfortable. We regularly stream-line what we have by doing a bi-annual cull – anything not used or worn during that time is recycled. A number of my shoes have found themselves back in my mum’s care because I hadn’t worn them. Life on the road demands simplicity and it’s such a lovely value to embrace as it brings so much more peace to daily life.
Wild camping in Playa de Carolina, Aguilas, Murcia
6. Wilding versus campsite. Over the last year we have done a fair bit of wild camping, although not as much as I thought we might. I’m not sure it was anything to do with confidence or safety – perhaps more to do with internet connection and a decent signal so we could work. Sometimes it depended on the country, for example Slovenia and Italy don’t encourage wild camping, so places are hard to find. There are some definite periods during the year when wilding is a ideal; Easter, July/August (when campsite fees are crazily expensive and you can’t use ACSI) and January/February when lots of us ‘snow birds’ are looking for some winter warmth. In between, we’ve found a rhythm that gives us a bit of wild camping and then a top up on a site so we can juice up, do washing and get some good wifi. Don’t miss out on wild camping though, as you get to meet some amazing characters and the sites do just what they say on the tin; wild, wonderful and warming to the soul. Read more about our wilding perspective…
Living life together in a small space is doable.
7. You can have harmony in a small space. Who would have thought that two people (or more in some cases) could live harmoniously in such a small space. Whilst we have met people for whom it hasn’t worked out, as it has put too much pressure on their relationship, for us we are stronger. We have found a way to live, work and move around the van such that it doesn’t invade each other’s space and we regularly talk about how we’re doing and iron out any frustrations. Of course during the summer we have a whole ‘outside’ space to luxuriate in. Winter can be more compromising, although we have baggsyed our own ‘office’ space and we have a couple of rules like, only one person in the kitchen at one time and always make the bed. Otherwise we are so pleased at how well we flow, even after nearly 30 years together.
8. Be a gracious teacher and student. We came into our road-trip with a little experience of owning and travelling in motorhomes before. Although having a holiday or short-break to living full-time are miles apart and we never underestimated the transition we knew we would have to make. So we studied, researched and honed our skills before we left and soon realised how much more there was to learn on the road. Like to how fix a punctured toilet miles from anywhere and getting off wet ground, even with grip mats. We really do feel like every day is a school day. Although it’s lovely to talk about our experiences and choices with others, if they ask. We love to share and receive and we have adjusted so much of what we do based on other people’s experiences.
Root yourselves not in one place.
9. You root yourself wherever your tyres stop. One of my worst fears before we embarked on our nomadic journey, was not being rooted in a home that I could call my own. I’ve always been a home bird and loved coming back after a holiday. So how would I cope not having the security of a roof and four walls? This has been my biggest revelation of the whole year really. Roots are not in bricks and mortar; roots are wherever you stop for the night; roots come from your own feet and not from an address that you can return to. Scoobie is our home and he provides our roots and our routes. And although we’re loving this now, it might not always be this way – so when or if that time arrives, then we will create new roots, in a new way. As Paul Young sang way back when, ‘Wherever I lay my hat, that’s my home.’ Let go of roots and your freedom to explore expands exponentially.
10. You never really escape The Matrix. And finally, one of our biggest lessons that we learned early on was, although we had chosen to move away from what we call The Matrix (which contains all the ties, rules and regulations of life in the System), actually it’s everywhere. You never quite escape it completely. If, like us you still have a property that you rent out for income, then there are still landlord issues to deal with, bank incompetences, tax issues to sort out and rules that still require you to comply to some degree. So if escape is the thing you long for most, then the harsh reality is that you can’t. The quicker you realise this, the more freedom you will gain ironically. Stress still exists in our lives, although it is only ever self-induced. As long as you still have a NI number you will always have some ties and links to the System. That said, the hoops you have to jump through are significantly reduced, and now our stress, after years of depression, debt and anxiety, are at an all-time low.
So how would we sum up our experiences over the last twelve months? Although perhaps over-used, life changing definitely feels an appropriate phrase. We had a dream, overcame fears, worked together to make it happen and feel grateful for every moment that we are blessed to enjoy. And we can honestly say that we are happier than we’ve ever been thanks to those courageous actions and a whole heap of support from family and friends. We now play hard, work hard and live well, giving life a good old workout. We cherish every moment and each moment inspires us to keep on trucking. May the next year be equally blessed with health, adventure and happiness as we continue our exploration of eastern European shores. We hope you’ll join us along the way. Cheers!
Ms Moneypenny and Mr Rainman xxx
When Myles said, one Sunday morning in April 2015, “Shall we buy a motorhome and go travelling around Europe?” he was greeted with a combination of puppy-like excitement and deeply entrenched fear. We had just returned from an incredible six week trip in New Zealand in a hired motorhome, celebrating our 25th Wedding Anniversary. We knew that the trip might ignite the travel bug in our bellies, so his question had plenty of relevance.
I was fascinated by my reaction to his romantic vision of packing everything into storage, buying a motorhome and setting off into the European sunset. It seemed so simple, until my ego and scared inner child got involved in the conversation.
After what seems a lifetime of fear dominating my experiences, this moment felt poignant as hubby’s question had unveiled a deeply-seated anxiety that needed tackling. As coach, I often see the role fear plays in our lives, and how it impacts on holding us back from our dreams. Perhaps this was the time for me to banish it and release my inner adventurer.
Having been in the corporate world for over 25 years, I remember creating a strap line for my coaching business;
‘Make every day an adventure and each moment count.’
Its purpose was to inspire clients to seize the day and find that indomitable ‘happiness’ within, leaving their fears aside. On the surface, it seemed like great advice, yet the one person not truly embodying that philosophy – was me. In truth, from that moment until now, we have been blessed with so many adventures and life-changing decisions, that I must give some credit to my fearless self. Although as I come back to my husband’s invitation to walk the path of adventure and exploration, I found myself recoiling to the frightened little girl whose best friends were Scary, Fearful and Doubtful!
Naturally, there were plenty of discussions over the following months and, despite my discomfort, we did our research and travelled the length and breadth of the country searching for our perfect motorhome. It was as much a symbolic journey as it was physical, with plenty of roundabouts, diversions, traffic lights, dead-ends and one-way streets. Paradoxically, my fear was being fuelled by this journey; I think it was creating a malevolent battle between itself and my desire for freedom. It was just biding its time to attack and render me helpless to its power.
We found the van, the model, our ideal layout and the decision was made – then boom! Fear threw his black cloak of doom over me – suddenly, decision unmade! Now I was holding us back from turning our dream into reality.
Skirting around fear was no longer an option. I had wasted far too much time being scared, worried and anxious – now it was time for change. After weeks of revisiting our decision, fear’s dance with my inner adventurer became more of a battle than an artistic performance. Its orchestra flirting between the echoes of “Do it now, do it whilst you can, because life is too short’ and “No I can’t, I’m scared. What if….”
This whole journey really made me examine my fear and its impact on both our lives. I found the courage to get to the heart of its hold over me and discovered that it was anxiety about a lack of roots, insecurity and uncertainty. And yet as I stared fear in the face and understood its personality, I saw it for what it was – simply a self-created construct of False Expectation Appearing Real – and nothing more.
of this realisation came after a conversation with my dear mum, who told me about how she and dad had the same opportunity to sell up and travel the world, decades earlier. She too ran scared because of similar worries. Whilst she said she didn’t regret the decision, I was left with a huge sense that having lost my dad in 2007, there was a grain of sadness at what could have been, if only she had said ‘yes’. And so that cathartic moment triggered me into action – the Battle over Fear had begun.
I returned home feeling determined. After an empowering discussion, together Myles and I threw caution to the wind and paid our deposit on ‘Scooby’ the motorhome, who would carry us on our magical mystery tour. We talked about how to deal with my uncertainties so I could feel safe, although I felt so positive about my new-found freedom, that I trusted all will be well.
This moment will undoubtedly be a turning point in our lives. The most interesting thing for me, is that now my personally designed fear has been removed, I am left with the most joyous feelings of excitement, anticipation and happiness that fill its space. Whilst I recognise that life is unlikely to unfold perfectly, I am ready for the journey. After all these years, I am now prepared to turn my own coaching strap line into an authentic philosophy that will colour our life’s tapestry. And as we head towards that sunset, we now carry these words in our heart:
‘Make every day an adventure and each moment count.’