An unexceptional day

Today was an exceptionally uneventful day.

We didn’t drive hundreds of kilometres over picturesque roads. We didn’t visit any stunning scenery or noted historical landmarks. We didn’t even stay by a body of water (which, if you have followed our adventure so far, you will know to be a favourite of mine).

What we did do, initially, was all wake up in a bad mood. Yesterday hadn’t gone quite to plan. I had enjoyed our first day in the Black Forest the previous day, so had high expectations. They didn’t work out. We’d driven rather a lot, to a place as soon as we arrived we knew we wouldn’t stay, and then realised the natural feature we wanted to see we’d have to pay to see… we didn’t.. we looked at a tacky clock shop instead as there were mechanical bears that entertained our toddler for all of five minutes (which is actually a long time by toddler standards).

After getting our toddler dressed and sitting down to breakfast this morning, we considered this an achievement for the day and anything else would be a bonus. Then it started to rain. Hard. And it hasn’t stoped all day. Okay, so you know what, we said we would have even less expectations for the day. And you also know what, I think this was the best thing we could have done.

What we have done today, after waking in a bad mood and the rain pouring down, is effectively have a tradional rainy Sunday (I know its not actually Sunday but today felt like it). We went food shopping, but just for today’s food. We watched Finding Dory, without feeling guilty we should be outdside doing something more educational or constructive. We played in a make-shift tent with all the stuffed animals rehearsing the same scenario over and over (for over half an hour the rabbits ate radishes and then hid from Mr McGregor, over and over, and over again). We did eventually go outside the van to splash in puddles and play with the water dripping off the wheel arch. So what we didn’t go any farther than 2 meters away.  We had a hot shower with lots of bubbles for Mabel (if you live in a van you will understand how this is pure luxury). And then we had a kids comfort meal of fish fingers and mash.

A pretty good day really. Nothing exceptional. But good for our souls.

Clean sections is clean work.

I asked Sylvie if she’d like a haircut before we left. She went a bit shy, a bit red, and didn’t really know how to answer. She asked if I thought she needed one.

She didn’t, but I thought it was a nice gesture to ask. I was indifferent either way, and to be honest, I wasn’t sure I’d be in the mood to do it anyway. After a day, she said, in slightly broken English, that she thought it would be nice. On our final night, the four of us enjoyed a meal, and some wine, and when our little ones were in bed, she went to wash her hair.

I took my tool belt, picked out my favourite pair of scissors and a comb, gowned her up, and began.

The wide tooth on my comb carves a neat line through her wet hair, from her crown, over her occipital bone, to her nape.

It is a feeling I love. The cleanness of the section, and the ease with which I do it makes me happy.

She has nice hair to cut, and a good head and face to work with. We hardly speak whilst she has her cut, and, under no pressure, I find myself enjoying the freedom to create a new shape for her.

I know she was nervous before, she said she doesn’t like getting her hair cut. It’s a complement that halfway through she says she feels relaxed; though she needn’t tell me, I already know. She sits with her eyes closed and head slightly bowed, and I can feel the calm in us both.

As I finish with my scissors, I scrutinise my work. It’s nice, opening up around the eye socket has lifted her face, and the texture is looser and more playful. It suits her spirit.

I was a good hairdresser.

moving on

Most days we move on. We pack down the van, plot the coordinates into our sat nav, and head for pastures new.

Each day we arrive fresh and new. A chance to begin again.

The issue I’ve had is, each day, the new day, means facing the same old me. We have driven for 10,000 Kms, we’re into our 9th country, and the one thing I have learnt, is you cannot outrun yourself.

I wanted to strip myself back on this trip. Get away from all of the shit that I felt clogged up my life; to feel light, happy, and grateful.

The last 110 days haven’t quite gone to plan. I find myself, again, sat in a beautiful location, at odds with myself, torn between who I am, and who I want to be.

I think I’m a better person than I was (though thats not hard). I knew that I would find elements of the trip hard, especially emotionally, but knowing something will be tough does not equipe you for when it comes.

I want to start writing the blog again, but feel like my mindset has been such an over bearing factor in our trip so far that not mentioning it seems somehow insincere, and posts feel like they lack context.

So tomorrow morning we will pack down and move on to a new destination. And like before, I will be there ready and waiting for me when we arrive, trying to be a better person than I was yesterday.


A short time in Sweden

A short time in Sweden

We left Sweden over a week ago, have traveled through Denmark again for a few days, and are now in Germany. On our last evening in Sweden, we are sat on the beach and I can see the orison bridge dissapearing off in the distance and I think we can see Copenhagen in the pastel shades of far away. I feel like perhaps we haven’t given Sweden enough of a chance. I feel this with most places to be honest, but I feel it more keenly now than I have previously.

Perhaps it is because we raced from Oslo to Stockholm, then Stockholm to the west coast again. Our plans to then slow down quickly changed by discovering a diesel leak, and the oil leak our van had, looking even worse. Or perhaps I’m not sure if we’ve actually SEEN Sweden. Have we really taken it in?

We did find a few great places to stay in our time here at least. A lake to swim in on the first night,a peaceful canal with tiny wild strawberries just outside the van door the second,and one of Craig’s old clients kindly put us in touch with her brother who lived just outside Stockholm.

He and he’s wife were very generous to us strangers and let us park on their land, which happened to be just across the road from the royal palace! We spent a couple days with this as our base to explore, a very hot, Stockholm, with the added benefit of being able to jump in the lake at the bottom of their home each evening after returning, tired and sweaty. They made us feel very welcome and were so interesting to sit and chat with.

Leaving Stockholm we decided to find another lake to swim in and discovered a place near a national park, that although it was busy in the day, it was lovely in the evening with a community of vans. We talked to the most people here since the start of our trip. So this, along with the ability of swimming in a very beautiful and refreshing lake, enticed us to stay two nights.

With a predicted day of rain the following day, though, we drove some miles and stoped at a campsite, not to be recommended, before visiting the Ikea museum th next day, to be recommended.This is where we discovered the diesel leak. And so a very worrying drive to the coast ensued.

We had no idea what would need to happen to fix the van. Could we patch it up? Would we need a new engine? Or more stressful still, would we need to cancel our travels and head back to the UK? Our van is our home, our vehicle, the main piece of the puzzle to allow us to do what we are doing. When it goes wrong, you realise how much you rely on it.

Luckily, another friend put us in touch with one of their friends and luckily, they lived close by! And even more luck for us, they are wonderful people. So the negative of having to get the van fixed turns into a positive and being able to spend time with this welcoming family in Lund actually turns out to be the highlight of Sweden.

They helped find a mechanic, let us use their little pool (very welcome during the mid day heat), and we enjoyed a good couple of nights of food, drinking, and being merry.

So we left Sweden via Malmo over the Øresund bridge, with a somewhat patched up van, but more importantly a warm feeling in our hearts from the genoristy and kindness of people we hardly knew taking us under their wing. The time we spent with them will always be a fond memory of Sweden and the kindness of people to help when you need it.