Wandering = Movement = Freedom.
It is a stretching of limbs, and of mind. It is never standing still for long and yet, standing still long enough to breathe. Mountain, coast, forest, meadow… walkways, waterways, roadways; the life of a wanderer is a perpetual anticipation of next steps and new adventures.
Perhaps the attraction is in the new? The erasement of that which you do not want to remember because you find yourself lost in the absolute freshness of possibility. It is a running away; a running to, and I have a hunger for that lightness of step – that release – that comes, both physically and mentally.
The wandering life is lived deliciously simply, out of a bag… once upon a time (for me) on foot, but as a family: in a van, cabin, boat, cottage, caravan… shared houses; shared spaces – so many places and people found, so many adventures that have grown within us like a patchwork quilt and so many experiences we are endlessly glad for and yet, like any life there are periods of unrest… the flailing about on an unknown path without destination, the night-time awakenings given over to creatively developing ways to sustain such a lifestyle and then there are the waves of uncertainty, wondering whether the wandering life still works for the whole family.
On a practical level, living from here to there brings challenges… there is water to be collected, waste to be disposed of, laundry to be done with cold red hands – either from hand-washing or dragging a bag to the laundrette in mid-winter. Food must be prepared and cooked in tiny spaces and higgledy piggledy places while crafts, projects and colouring are limited and put out or put away to accommodate. Beds are endlessly made up and down whilst stepping over dogs – and each other. Pans and kettles are boiled for washing up… and washes, for showers can be taken only when there is enough solar power. There is paperwork in foreign countries; translations, invitations, conversations… a combination of sometimes wonderful, sometimes tiring things, because tiny little incidentals can loom large when you’re out of your comfort zone… and there is the endless packing up and unpacking; forever losing and finding.
For ten years now as a family we have wandered. Sometimes standing still, but never for too long and for any hardship this life has presented, there have been more than enough joys to balance it out. For every irritation such as living without running water for weeks on end because the canal has frozen, there has been felt a sense of accomplishment for being independent and resourceful. For every night spent uncomfortable, tired and lost on the road, there have been ten heart-stoppingly beautiful stopovers that remind you why you do what you do. For every anxiety arising from living in a different country there has been a cultivation of pioneering spirit and a warmth from locals that restores your faith in humanity… for every mean person, there have been five beautiful souls and for every frustrated word (or ten!) flying around our tiny spaces and big dreams, there has been nurtured a deeper love, admiration and respect.
However, recent months have seen our path edging into a different space and it has taken a while for us to navigate this changing route, to acknowledge our collective desire to stop, root down, maybe even belong somewhere for a while, in our own country. We don’t know for how long we will need this, but we know that finding ourselves in a house – our own house – nestled in a village between the sea and moors of North Yorkshire, feels right. We know that for a while, having some comforts and space feels as exciting as running away. We know that the connections our daughter yearns for at this stage in her life are valid and that being close to our extended family is important and we imagine (hope) that having such endless and boundless beauty on our doorstep where we can seek out plentiful micro-adventures, will allow us to weave these wandering hearts into our new chapter of standing still.
“I wrap my arms around my body, holding tight, and acknowledge that once again nature has taught me for as I prepare to leave this small Spanish village following a month of contemplation, I know I am leaving with the answers needed and the olive-shaped word rootedness firmly imprinted on my heart.”
I have been busy working on an article for Plants are Magic Magazine about my love for olive trees: where our journey together began, how they make me feel and most importantly, what they teach me.
It really is a blessing to be able to write from the heart and with deep honesty for nourishing publications such as this and I wish I could share it sooner than I will be able to, if only because it explains what’s been going on in our world since being in, and returning from, Spain, more than a month ago.
Alas, it won’t be out for a while yet, but hopefully I'll manage to get a little letter together sometime in March or April :-)
A heaviness that, once you give yourself over to it, becomes lightness…
And from that surrender there becomes a kind of freedom in the soul, as if there is no stone left unturned, no sense left unfelt, because you have allowed yourself time to delve deep, reach in, extract, and be true to yourself with what you do with that which you find.
“It is possible to feel as light as a gentle breeze,” I am reminded of when I am here.
I wake in the morning, the room darkened by wooden shutters. Opening them light streams in. There may be the odd rumble of someone going by below, probably to their allotment on the outskirts of the village, but otherwise there is no sound but birdsong, and my it is bliss.
My deepest fear was that this place I had reminisced about in the nine years since I left, would be changed somehow; would have lost its magic. When we first arrived and saw once again the desert landscape stretched out for miles around us, we wondered what had made us stay for five+ months. The scenery here can appear dusty and devoid of life and yet there is rawness, a realness that draws you in; there is a hunger to learn from those roots that can live so long without water.
In the absence of anything else to do we begin to walk ~ endless walking ~ and slowly I feel my heart releasing, easing, my thoughts starting to lace together into something coherent. We delight in the mountains changing each day… sometimes dry and uninviting, sometimes the deepest greens rolling like velvet, beckoning us towards them, sometimes even snowy tops. On other days a pale mist surrounds us hiding everything behind a white tinge… the olive leaves look frosted, the mountain tops hazy, and I find that I have fallen in love all over again.
There is no rush to the people here, they pass their time slowly and methodically, carrying out daily tasks with a relaxedness that I am envious of. In nine years it remains the same; tending olive trees, stopping for lunch perched on a stone, cutting greenery for animals, sharing a laugh or two. I remember with fondness the several old faces that have disappeared, but many remain the same and they smile and welcome us back with open arms and shining eyes and marvel at how our daughter has grown and at our dog; still with us, healthy and glossy (and now joined by another!).
I survey this place and say to myself that I must, once again, learn… and hang on to my observations for as long as I can. Wander slowly. Be more methodical and connected. Continue to nurture contentedness in simplicity… I arrived with a distance towards life, but I know I will leave with a deeper sense of closeness.
Pondering how our time here before also came at the beginning of a new adventure, having not long sold up our house in a city and given up a steady job to take our baby on the road in search of more freedom as a family, I wonder if this tiny timeless village in rural Andalucia will continue to call us back at important junctures. I hope so, because my love runs deep for this pocket of solace in a crazy world, for a landscape that encourages me to dig deeper within myself: to question, contemplate and ultimately… help discover our next chapter.
We’re currently in Spain enjoying some wood-working out on the terrace in the warmth ready to fill up the Little Loquat Etsy Shop in 2018.
There will be wooden ring presentation boxes, quill pens and a range of earrings and pendants…
Watch this space!
We left the UK on our migration south in a plume of noise… I find there is an exhaustion in this world that eats away not just at the physical self, but at something deeper and by the time we rolled our campervan onto a train to take us under the sea, we were spent.
Thus, the journey south began in an agitated manner; senses were heightened, hearts were unsettled but, as is usual on our road trips, in time the charged air between us all began to quieten and as we journeyed onto increasingly-empty roads, the reasons for our exhaustion began to slowly work their way out in our minds and through our mouths allowing tensions to finally ease.
To us the world can feel too fast; it demands of us to look, like and listen 24/7 and yet… how many of us actually hear? In all the rush things are left unnoticed, compassion seems in short supply and the nurturing of important relationships is often a pastime squashed into well-managed time slots. Then there is the traffic noise that permeates every moment – even sleep – as cars rush from a to b and trucks relay back and forth with all the food, toys and stuff we apparently need to survive and before we know it, the constant stream of noise begins to buzz relentlessly around the body.
Perhaps some get used to it, make friends with that nervous energy… but it seems impossible for us.
Some might say we run away; well yes, we do, for what else are you to do when you find yourself full to the brim with no space to receive? In order to live, to breathe, to love, to create, we need space to receive. And so I long for the road, long for the layers that begin to peel themselves away as our wheels roll, allowing me to, bit-by-bit, re-emerge, and here now in this small timeless village in the mountains of Spain where we will rest for a short while, I feel a warming of senses, the sweet release of decompression, and the ability to once again, begin to receive.
I guess we all have our way of breaking away, finding that place where we feel able to balance ourselves and return to zero, be it through walking, meditation, exercise, the sanctuary of our own home or a weekend health retreat… for us it takes the road and the discovering of places where life runs at a slower pace, to remind us of who we are and bring permission to indulge in our dreams once again.
Perhaps our dream for 2018 is that the road will take us to a place where we can once again sink our hands into earth, root down; find a more permanent place to run to and not from.
I guess we’ll see…
Wishing you all a peaceful year filled with love, adventure and the running to and from, as necessary.
As a family we are about to close down for the festive season and are looking forward to a time of reflection and hibernation as our campervan wheels turn in the direction of Spain (East of Granada).
I imagine some time in the mountains will bring plentiful opportunity for creativity… writing projects are brewing and we're hoping to do lots of making for the Little Loquat shop.
Thanking you for your warmth and connection this year and Warmest Wishes to all friends and followers out there!
I love the silence of snow… lying in bed it closes around us; cocoons us. I can hear no planes in the sky, no cars on the road, no sound but that of nature, of snowflakes falling softly onto our caravan roof.
Reluctant to wake completely I stay motionless, lost in the stillness of it all, but the sound of horses hooves passing the window on the other side of the fence make me realise that it is daylight and animals need feeding. I close my eyes again, grasping a few more moments, lost in the sound of compacting snow beneath hoof.
When in the depths of nature, closed in, I realise I never want for anything like I do for this feeling. The noise of the world we have constructed around ourselves suddenly seems futile, pointless, and just as with the freshness of snow, I want to start again, choose what to grow from this beautiful blank landscape.
My daughter wakes and delights at the sight of real snow; “real snow!” she sings, and hurriedly we pile on layers before venturing outside. The alpacas sorrowful faces look up to us, their ears weighed down with moisture. We scrape thick snow from their troughs and break the ice in their water bucket. The horses are going crazy, galloping around, and we scurry about organising hay for them.
Pausing for a moment I look out to the landscape, relishing the magic of working methodically in snow and I am suddenly overwhelmed by the utter newness of things, of this clean and silent world, un-marked in every way and find myself wishing for snow to fall in my mind.
After years of dreaming of Scottish landscapes, our van finally made it to the Highlands! and for us, the Cairngorms was the highlight.
The scenery as you enter this national park is simply breathtaking. The weather so changeable that there are a million colours and textures on the heather-covered hills.
I feel a freedom here – away. Such an expanse of space; of mountains. A place to think and contemplate, for sure.
Peace. Quiet. Beauty… like balm to the soul.
We have collected a fair bit of driftwood for future Little Loquat makings too …
Our Portugal is on the edge: bordered on one side by the indescribable lure of lively Spaniards and on the other, the comfort and softness of the Portuguese.
The land is green, spilling into hidden valleys. It is dusty, backed by breathtaking rock faces. It is hot, it is cool, but it is always balm to the soul.
I felt it clearly the other night on horseback as we galloped freely, reins loose, the rhythm of the animal beneath me all at once tender yet powerful. Submersed in the beauty of this landscape I was reluctant to be drawn away to anywhere else; the desire to stay put was strong.
We rode around mountains, through valleys and across streams, pausing for water in a village alive with guitarra and accordion; I felt as if I had stepped back into a long ago book.
To be invited to ride with our friends in the evening, saddling up on a piece of silent land in Spain, dismounting in the darkened hills of Portugal (the usual way of horse rotation as it is here) was a treat – four hours of bliss – and I just wanted to keep on going.
With the horses I feel I have rediscovered something from long ago, perhaps with an even stronger connection than ever before and yet, I came here this time knowing that we would soon be leaving this place; passing on our slice of Portugal to others. There is of course a slight heaviness of heart, yet despite this I feel also an immense excitement in knowing that fear of the unknown will never hold us back and that the richness of what we find as we wander is always a worthy element in the makeup of our life.
We do not know where we will come to rest again, sink our hands back into soil, continue our dreams of self-reliance. We do not know if it will once again be Portugal or if somewhere else will reach out to us, but we know that our hearts will find it when they need to and that it will be the right place and the right time to discover something beautiful.
Olive (our campervan) and us arrived in Espana yesterday and it feels good to be back in this part of the world.
The air is different, the light brighter, the breeze warmer. We pulled into an Aires in Vitoria Gasteiz, the Basque Capital, and were amazed at how peaceful it was despite it being effectively a huge car-park on the outskirts of a city.
We cooked and ate dinner with the doors flung open; dogs sprawled in their beds outside, and listened to the music drifting from nearby squares. We strolled around town, collected conkers and wandered by groups of people – old and young – enjoying coffee and beer outside the numerous cafes and were amazed to see how dog-friendly this city is.
This morning we rose to more blue skies and walked the back streets enjoying the myriad of murals, watching people shake their bedding out of tower-block windows and discovering tucked away cafes. We bought churros in a small bakery and went back to the van to melt chocolate before enjoying our own traditional Spanish breakfast.
When we’re out and about on the road in the sunshine in a self-sufficient van we are (for a time!) at our most relaxed. What more do you need in life other than that which you can carry on your back (or in a van!)?
Life is sweet on the road: a few good books, a pen and notepad, simple food, each other.
Here I like to muse about life, share news of writing projects & wanderings, and showcase nature-inspired jewellery & gifts from my family micro-business, Little Loquat.