Thursday, 29 June 2017

Timeless Travelers.. in Portugal with Rick & Anita



During my travels in Europe this year, I met many like minded souls, everyone with their own fascinating story to share about their backgrounds and adventures out there on the road. Some where backpackers who'd hitched a lift with me, others were travelling by campervan or on motorbike. I was also fortunate enough that some of them became new friends along the way, whom I'll keep in touch with and hopefully meet again on future trips. Maybe you remember me mentioning the yellow VW I kept running into in Portugal? Well Rio & I ended up spending some good times with Ricardo and Anita. They had some particularly captivating travellers tales to tell, and so one evening we decided to do an interview..

Me: Hi guys, thanks for agreeing to share the story of your travelling life on Hiace Hobo.

Ricardo & Anita: Hi Chris, thanks to you for interviewing us.

Me: So, it was quite funny for a while there! We kept ending up in the same places, and meeting up without planning it...

Ricardo & Anita: Well, when you are traveling around a country, this is quite normal. You keep meeting the same people over and over in different places as most of us wanderers follow similar routes.
"I had a "normal" life until 2005.. an office job that was life-consuming.."
Me: I believe you're reasonably new to travelling by camper, but been travelling by other means for quite a while? So where have you been, and how did you get around?

Ricardo & Anita: We've just celebrated our 6th year on the road. We sold everything in 2011 and started by visiting family and friends in Europe, then we went on a short backpacking trip to Morocco. Later we went back to Asia to spend time with family. Since we have family on opposite corners of the world, we tend to travel back and forth every couple of years. During our next visit to Spain, we found a cheap flight to Mexico and spent 7 months backpacking around Central America. Three years ago, we spent 14 months on a motorbike in India and Nepal, then we came back to Spain, spent the winter in the Canary Islands, then bought the van which took us to where our paths crossed in Portugal.

In the Ladakh region, North of India, Himalayas.

Me: We've been chatting about different travelling lifestyles, and you two are not just on a long break, but are living on the road. It'd be really interesting to hear about your reasons for deciding to step out of a work-a-day life, and go on the road. What made you take that step?

Ricardo: I had a "normal" life until 2005. A good job as a Marketing Director with an advertising background. An office job that was life-consuming. When the crisis started in Spain, I moved to The Netherlands and that changed my life. I got to know a different culture and started traveling a lot. I realised that's what I liked and started working towards making it possible to continue doing just that. In 2008 I went on a backpacking trip to South East Asia (Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia). I was supposed to stay for three months but only came back to Spain three years later, married to Anita.

Anita: When I met Ricardo, he was living on a tiny island and learning to be a dive master and living the basic backpacker life. I was working in a large corporation with a career in Public Relations. It took a while for Ricardo to convince me to quit my job for a life on the road. I was worried about security, but in the end I reasoned that I didn't have much to lose by trying a different lifestyle. Initially we started with the trip to Europe, but things just fell into place for us. One thing led to another, and now, after all these years we live our lives on a daily basis with minimum routine. We may not have as much money as before, but have the freedom that time gives you.
2011 in Malta, where we spent three weeks visiting Anita's roots and her family

Me: Ricardo, you've been telling me that you're able to work on the road, as you're employed in the video games industry, and can work from an Internet connection. Sounds perfect! But are there any challenges to this way of blending work with travelling?

Ricardo: Well, at the moment, I do not have as much time as before to enjoy traveling. Also I need power and Internet most of the time. Although the most important is discipline, so I can enjoy some time traveling combined with work. But we need a little bit more money now, as we are traveling Europe in a van.
"After our first four months living in the van, we have fallen in love with the lifestyle.."
Me: So, what made you decide to make the switch from backpacking, to travelling by camper?

Ricardo & Anita: We started backpacking with two monster backpacks each but we have been reducing the weight we carry the more we travel. Learning bit by bit. We started taking any public transportation available, as far as possible traveling with locals. We have even hitch-hiked. In 2014-2015, we traveled through India and Nepal on a Royal Enfield motorbike and we realised we enjoyed the freedom of traveling at your own pace without having to plan trips around bus schedules. That's why we decided to buy a van to travel around Europe.

Me: I'm sure people will be interested in hearing a little about your VW van, what's the story with it, and the set-up you have?

Ricardo & Anita: We have a very basic set up. We bought the van from some friends, who brought it over to Spain from The Netherlands and did it up themselves. We have storage space under a basic bed, and chairs and table for setting up outside. We have a portable toilet and stove, which is a step up from our motorcycle experience in India! Also a very comfortable mattress!

Me: And after your experiences so far with the VW, is there anything you'd like to introduce, or improve on with it?

Ricardo & Anita: After our first four months living in the van, we have fallen in love with the lifestyle. Daily things like cooking and washing are like a game of Tetris in our little vehicle, but we have time so with a little mindfulness and patience, we live pretty comfortably. We are already looking at a bigger van! One that we can stand up in, with a bathroom and more space.
"We always find the right small towns and the right people along our travels.."
Me: So, tell me, have you any good advice for couples planning to travel together in a camper, or anything that they might bear in mind when setting up their shared space? I'm sure many people wonder what's it like to share a small living area together on a longer trip.

Ricardo & Anita: Of course the less things you carry, the better. It took us a while to adjust to living in a limited space, even though we have spent almost the past 6 years together 24 hours a day! But you get used to moving things around and for us it came naturally. We took too much stuff on the first trip, so we will be cutting down on the things we bring when we head off again.

Me: Finally, what would you say was your favourite place you've been? It's a big world out there! What about the best experience?

Ricardo: We love every place we go. We always find the right small towns and the right people along our travels. It's easy when you don't have great expectations and you like whatever you find. My favourite is probably India as we had a great experience there and it is an amazing country where "everything is possible".

Anita: There's just too many to pinpoint a favourite. If I had to choose, I would say Mexico. It's such a big country and so different from one place to the other with a rich history and some amazing places of natural beauty.

Me: Thanks guys! It really is such an inspiring story, it's been great to spend time with two like minded souls, I wish you many more miles and new experiences! Oh, and where can people find you online, if they want to read a bit more or follow along?

Ricardo & Anita: You're welcome Chris! You can follow us on our journey on Instagram: @timeless_travelers


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Monday, 29 May 2017

Scotland Update | Midge therory | NC 500




I am sitting in the sun by a freshwater loch. The sun has returned, though there is a soothingly gentle breeze blowing, then falling away again. A very pleasant afternoon following a run of colder wet, and grey days.

A bad cold has kept me from work for a few days, so I picked a place where I could rest up with plenty of supplies, and where Rio can run out for his own exercise with no traffic or other reasons for me to have to go outside. Diesel heater on thermostat kept me warm at night, but I'm glad to be feeling better now and the sun's returned too!

I've been back in Scotland since mid-April, and back at work since May began, having returned to my seasonal job with the local council. Living and working here means I can wild-camp at places like this (of which I have seven favourites) within ten minutes drive of work.

We are entering what can be the most enjoyable time of year here - end of May/beginning of June when the weather can be at its finest, and I have yet to be bothered by midges; the odd buzz, but nothing biting.

I have a theory, after a few years of wild camping here, that the midges are not as bad as people say. They are only active for limited times on certain days and the certainly don't enjoy any breeze, rain or cold. I'll keep a record of how many days they actually bother me this summer. If you know where to park up, and avoid damp places, they can be avoided. Still, I wouldn't be in a tent once June's in full swing!

There is a steady stream of campers and motorhomes on the roads here, though it's nothing like on the roads further south near Fortwilliam and out to the Isle of Skye; always some wheeled living company if I so wish for the weekend or an evening, as visitors pass through.

It'll be interesting to see if the numbers increase this year, with the rising popularity of the 'North Coast 500' circuit and an increasing number of TV programmes and popular press articles about it. Already many car and bike clubs are following the route, and everything from supercars to very strange and eccentric vehicles are seen daily passing through these parts. Maybe the strangest I've seen so far was a mo-ped club, remember the red & white mopeds from the 70's? Well they where emphasising how awful they really are - one rider even had a toilet seat for a front mudguard!

Thanks for following along!

Get in touch if you're passing through NW highlands.

Have a good one!

Friday, 31 March 2017

Shangri-la | Marvão, Alentejo, Portugal

'From Marvão we can see the whole Earth'
José Saramago



In his utopian novel, Lost Horizon, James Hilton described a mountain paradise where the inhabitants lived in happiness and were even overcoming the process of ageing. The mythical place was known as Shangri-la, which has since become a metaphor for finding ones own place of realisation and contentment.


There may be a few grains of truth in this piece of imaginative fiction. I have been spending some time in what could easily be the realisation of such a place. We are in Marvão in Alentejo, east Portugal and I may not leave this place.. From arrival here one is immediately entranced by the sense of peacefulness, the endless views over distant rocky ridges, white painted villages and plains.



Originally conceived by the Moors there has been a fortified settlement here for over 1000 years, the village and castle have continually evolved over the centuries under changing regimes into what it has now become. It is possible to wander freely along the castle walls and gaze out through arrow slits and over the parapets, from where the views reach Espania in the east, and far north to the snow capped Serra Estrella in northern Portugal.



It is a holy place; as well as the walled village and castle, there are also churches and a convent on the site. Rio and I have walked along the old cobbled Roman road which dramatically reaches a resting place by an ancient stone cross, before ascending up even steeper crumbling stone steps towards the imposing entrance to the town walls. All gateways are elbowed with defensive masonry - there would have been no way in uninvited. The village in its time was virtually impregnable.

I don't really remember how long we have been here, and leaving is not really a thought that has yet entered my head. It can be enough just spending a day watching the changing view as the sun rises or sets, or listening to the wind in the trees when it picks up a little. I notice the locals sit on a stone wall and gaze out too, for how long though, I don't know. I haven't yet met the head nun, rumoured to be almost 1000 years old, but in the cafe bar there is a talking parrot called Denise!

Good night my friends, boa noite amigos!

Friday, 17 March 2017

Unscheduled Wanderings

"Real travel requires a maximum of unscheduled wanderings, for there is no other way of discovering surprises and marvels.."

Alan Watts


Location: Cliffs above Praia do Canal
Temp: 17° high today, 19°c
Clear skies

Just sitting, gazing out from the western cliffs..

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Friday, 6 January 2017

Stage 12 | The Estrada Atlântica to Nazaré




3:06pm, Nazaré
Temp 14°c, low was 6°
Sunny

The latest stage of the journey was driving the route 'Estrada Atlântica'..