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