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First blog post

Welcome to our van life blog

Hi World.

We are Jonny, Lou and Casper (2) in our Fiat Ducato (5), called Homer.

We will travel around Europa (England included), to experience life and God in our lives.

This blog is to share our travels and life with people who would like to know. We’ll let the Holy Spirit lead us in where we’re going.

The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

The Bible NIV – John 3:8

Though, this is not a travel blog just yet. As we are staying in Bristol, UK to live our lives for one more year, until we have saved up some money, to then go travelling.

That means for now it’s a VAN LIFE BLOG. Welcome on board.

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Day ..think it’s day 5, but it’s Saturday.

Catch up time. Time here in Denmark seems to go especially fast. It’s probably the holiday factor and possibly due to the three of us laying low for 2 days with a nasty stomach bug 🐛 🤮. Anyway we’re past that now and a couple of slices of Kanel Stæng have confirmed that i am fit to eat junk food again.

Casper had the bug day one and two, Lou days two and three-and me days three and four so a perfect overlap! We have been to Ribe, Denmark’s oldest city (1300+yrs) which was stunningly gorgeous and so clean and well preserved without being at all ‘touristy’.

Cobbled streets and pretty rose strewn cottages and houses around every corner. Obligatory visit to cathedral..Casper got told off by an elderly lady who said he was too noisy….really? Who’d have thought it!

We parked for free in a designated area for camper vans and motor homes 5mins cycle ride into the town. Nowhere like this in the UK.

Guess what. Yes. Yes. Of course, we met a couple from…Westbury on Trym Bristol. Nigel and Sue who are traveling around Scandinavia for FOUR MONTHS! We’ll probably bump into them again as they’re doing the same coastal loop as us.

Seems like that’s the way it goes wherever we go in the world-there’s always someone from home right next door.

An hour and a half from Ribe now and we’ve found more free camping right next to a fjord where Casper is happily up to his ankles at the very small beach 🏖

Also here are a French couple we met in Ribe in their VW T3.

There showers(cold) and toilets (clean) and two small huts that you can shelter in and have lunch! Plus bbq space and bicycle pump and tools as we’re on the cycle path around the fjord.

Just been watching the biggest and oldest kite surfer I’ve eve seen have the time of his life out on the water. Gives me hope.

Denmark 2018- day two

A long day driving on crazy fast Autobahns. Seriously, the Germans really know how to put pedal to the metal!! Looks even faster than it probably is as we’re only doing between 55-60mph 😩

It’s not that bad really. It’s actually quite nice and relaxed cruising along with all the trucks, tucking in behind to gain a few extra mpg 😁

This eve we arrived in Schleswig, just short of the Danish border (German side). A slow cruise through the town revealed a distinct leaning towards Danish architecture, confirming that the town was indeed originally in Danish territory a long time ago. We rejected a huge very organised motor home parking lot which reaked of expensive white plastic box’s and instead took a detour to the edge of the lake to something called Privatgelande.. lovely view of the lake and a few other campers and motor homes. A friendly German piped up and knocked on our window an hour ago and charged us €10 for 24 hrs which we felt was fine. Casper is struggling to sleep right now and it’s just about 9pm here. Way too late!

Tomorrow off to Tolk-Shau…not a ‘Talk-Show’ but a local theme park…Theme?…Dinosaurs!

Non-van life, part 2

I feel so disappointed.

Homer is still not fixed.

This weekend it’s been 11 weeks since he broke down; a cold snow covered March morning on the Downs in Bristol.

Green Flag tried to fix it, but couldn’t. So they moved him to a garage of our chose. They spent somewhere around 5 weeks trying to discover what was wrong .. also with no luck. We did change a few bits though, which they thought might do the job, but no.
Enough is enough; give us a bill and we’ll take it elsewhere. We felt like they were just getting paid by wasting our time, guessing at different things there could be wrong.

Have you ever had this feeling?

So off to another garage who is a bit more electronic savvy. However they wanted to spent 15 hours (at £75/h) to unpack the whole engine to really get in there and see what’s wrong. In this 15 hours was also included packing it back together again, but not the time for sorting out what they might find. (!) So we kindly said no thank you and looked around for refurbished engines instead. These guys looked around for us as well, but only found places that was way more expensive.
We found a good fair priced one in Bedfordshire. So 6 weeks in, its now in their hands. We’ve agreed a set price, but payment will happen once it’s finished! They told us it should take 10 working days. That’s their usual turnaround time.

So we moved in to some church friends of ours for 1 week. This was our 2nd place to stay, as the first one was asking for rent, and we felt like we couldn’t actually afford that as well as this massive garage bill. And then we spent the other week in Denmark. A flight trip that was booked a while ago. Over to see the new nephew. This was mentioned in my previous post, see it here, if your interested.

3rd house was planned and booked in before we left for DK, from Monday to Thursday we told them, as that’s when Jonny would be able to go up (via a lift) and collect the van (if it’s finished).

However Wednesday comes around, and we manage to get in contact with this garage, but it’s not finished. So lift is not needed and we have to ask the house if we can stay a bit longer.. but who knows how long?

Looking at train tickets, the cheapest one around was around £70-80 (for a single!!). Too expensive for us. So Spilt Ticketing to the rescue! It’s a ticket buying website that base the prices on many separate journeys. As if you bought each section on the train or train station, like in the olden days. This came to a total of £25. Much better. So tickets booked for Sat the following week.

However, can you guess what happens?? That’s right, it’s not ready!!

~ Until the next update ~

Non-van life

Our beloved, trustworthy Homer is off the road at the moment. Has been for the past 6 week. Something about the engine – as it just won’t start. This began in the first round of the snow storms. But now it’s warmer it’s still not starting..

So, we’ve been back in a house since 3rd of March.. this is a weird feeling. So many stairs! But the community house, where we lived before, have been amazing to let us stay for this long. Having Casper with us as well, I’m sure it’s not always amazing for other people to listen to his moaning and whining.. But they have survived and we’re now at another house. Church friends of ours, who live near St. Andrew’s park. That is so lovely and it’s such a nice house. Again, we’re on the top floor. So walking up two flights of stairs to get to our room, helps to keep us active. Me, being 6 months pregnant though, I find it a bit hard work..

But anyway, we’re off to Denmark on Monday 16th for a week. Casper has a cousin we’re going to see. Should be nice. Also good for him to see and be with a baby a bit more, hopefully it will get him a bit used to his baby brother arriving at some point end of July. And Homer should be back and ready to roll again when we get back. Just need to get to Bedford, to pick him up. That’s where the new refurbished engine is being replaced. But we have another friend who’s driving to Cambridge on a Thursday morning anyways, and it’s kinda on the way — so really nice timing for us.

Living at Jeff and Jeanette’s, though, is such a luxury.

  • There’s a dishwasher, and Jeanette likes to fill it, cuz if we’ve done it wrong, she’d take it out and do it again anyway. So she just asked that we place the dishes by the sink.
  • We have our own bathroom with a jacuzzi! And a nice big shower. They have an en-suit with their bedroom.
  • We’ve been cooked for 3 out of 5 evenings.
  • Our room has a big sky light. And the bed is big enough to fit us all in. Casper starts off on his own little mattress on the floor, but sure enough semi-wakes up and comes in with us. He’s still sleepy, so usually just goes straight back to sleep.

So all in all, we’ve enjoyed it. But we are looking forward to getting back inside of Homer.

When we get back from the airport on Monday 23rd (still need to organise a lift), we’ll be in a third place until Thursday when Jonny can get to pick up Homer. Extended holiday time, I suppose. There’s always a way to look at life with a positive view.

~ Until the next update ~

Snow Joke

The snow didn’t look TOO bad..until we tried going up hill. After a proper battle up Cranbrook Road (which we lost), and a proper to do getting up Park Row, avoiding slidy Mercs and murky slides, we arrived at the winter wonderland that is Durdham Downs..windy but white and beautiful.cant wait for snow day tomorrow!

Well done Homer..you span your wheels, you slipped and slid your way home..you legend!

A Vanlife thought for the day..

Saturday: Take a walk

“We should take wandering outdoor walks, so that the mind might be nourished and refreshed by the open air and deep breathing.”

— Seneca, “On Tranquility of Mind,” 17.8

In a notoriously loud city like Rome, it was impossible to get much peace and quiet. The noise of wagons, the shouting of vendors, and the hammering of blacksmiths all filled the streets with piercing auditory violence. So philosophers went on a lot of walks — to get where they needed to go, to clear their heads, and to get fresh air.

Throughout the ages, philosophers, writers, poets, and thinkers have found that walking offers the additional benefit of time and space for better work. As Nietzsche would later say: “It is only ideas gained from walking that have any worth.”

Today, make sure you take a walk. And in the future, when you get stressed or overwhelmed, take a walk. When you have a tough problem to solve or a decision to make, take a walk. When you want to be creative, take a walk. When you need to get some air, take a walk. When you have a phone call to make, take a walk. When you need some exercise, take a long walk. When you have a meeting or a friend over, take a walk together.

Nourish yourself and your mind and solve problems along the way.

A Vanlife thought for the day..

Friday: Turn ‘have to’ into ‘get to’
“The task of a philosopher: We should bring our will into harmony with whatever happens, so that nothing happens against our will and nothing that we wish for fails to happen.”

– Epictetus, “Discourses,” 2.14.7

A long to-do list seems intimidating and burdensome – all these things we have to do in the course of a day or a week. But a get-to-do list sounds like a privilege – all the things we’re excited about the opportunity to experience. This isn’t just semantic play. It is a central facet of the philosopher’s worldview.

Today, don’t try to impose your will on the world. Instead, see yourself as fortunate to receive and respond to the will of the world.

Stuck in traffic? A few wonderful minutes to get to sit there and relax. Your car broke down after idling for so long? Ah, what a nice nudge to take a long walk the rest of the way. A swerving car driven by a distracted,mobile-phone-wielding idiot nearly hit you as you were walking and soaked you head to toe with muddy water? What a reminder about how precarious our existence is and how silly it is to get upset about something as trivial as being late or having trouble with your commute.

Joking aside, it might not seem like there’s a big difference between seeing life as something you have to do versus seeing life as something you get to do, but there is. A huge, magnificent difference.

Big Trip Planning

Sunny Thursday morning in the WorkHouse Cafe. Thursdays have become “date morning” for me and Lou as Casper the Great is now in Nursery School thursdays and Fridays. Van life allows us to do this..Working less allows us to do this..we find ourselves increasingly time rich, if sometimes cash poor. But not too poor for a nice brekkie!

 

7months into our vanlife adventure on the streets of Bristol and the surrounding West Country has brought several revelations. The first is that we have achieved total sanity and everyone else is insane. Ok, a BIT of a sweeping statement but I do feel like its brought about several moments of clarity relating to why we work and the implications attached to effectively selling our time to an employer until we retire. I’m increasingly convinced that the model we instil in our children is wrong with the exception of ‘learning a trade ‘, which was the advice my dear old gran gave me when i was much younger and failed to heed until relatively recent times. We do need skills to enable us to generate an income but after that we are strongly encouraged to ‘get a good job’, ‘Get on the housing ladder’, ‘prepare for retirement’. Surely the life that Jesus calls us to , surely it must be more than this. 🙁

In response to this we have decided that a search must take place, a radical departure from the norm, part of which we have already completed. Urban van life is fun and challenging and results in more than a few questions about how you go to the toilet..crazy huh?..of all the questions..anyway we feel like its only part of the answer and with child no.2 well on the way we needed to rethink life in a van. ‘Surely you’ll move out of the van?’ Has been quite common, but whilst we initially panicked we have calmed down and remain committed to the original vision..with a bit of a tweak. Currently our plan is to wait until November (baby due end of July), then head to Southern Europe for the winter. After that, who knows..ill try to be a bit more like my friend Mark who advises to just ‘follow the wind’..not to make too many plans and see what life presents us. So we may be a way for a year, following the wind and seeing what surprises lay in store. I’m totally convinced that this is the right thing to do. British society is becoming unbearable with its drive towards ever increasing work hours , desperate drive to increase productivity, less time at home and more time at work..all for what? To make someone else wealthy while we sacrifice our very existence to them for money. I can’t be part of this insanity any more. When I work, from now on, it will benefit me and those around me first. We will take portable skills with us on our journey and work when we need to, hopefully working for ourselves.

So come on November! A lot to organise before then but it’ll be fun.

Quick getaway

It was Friday afternoon, Jonny had just gotten back from work, driving the delivery van. The sun was shining beautifully in Bristol, and we were overlooking the sea wall and the goats up on the Downs. Casper loves those goats. Climbing on the fence over looking from the entrance, counting as he sees them.  Thinking ahead for the weekend, we see there is nothing planned, except for doing breakfast for church on Sunday and a dedication after.
— A free Saturday?! Let’s head to the beach! Back to Rhossili Bay we go! We were there on Hillend Campsite the first weekend of the season back in April. 

On the way, we realise that it would take 2.5 hours or more to get here, so we drove for 1h 1/2, and stopped over in a Mumbles car park. £6 for 24 hours. I’m sure it was something like 8pm when we arrived. And being by the seaside, the thing to eat would be fish and chips, no? So we walked up the main road and decided on a side road to the left. There were pubs on the main road and a Chinese further up. I thought that we could risk walking for hours just looking for somewhere to eat. So we consulted the Internet. We were on the right path. Johnnies were further up this way. Another left and we were there. Casper led the way. 
Back to Homer quickly to eat. And before you know it it’s 21:30 and way past Casper’s bedtime. But being so late, he was tired and ready to sleep, so it took no longer than 15 min all in to change him into sleep clothes and get his milk down him and he was away into dream land. Another 12 mins and we were in bed as well. But to watch the first episode of new season of Stranger Things. 

Next morning. 

Jonny and Casper woke up and played a bit. Let me sleep more and drove off to the other seaside. 35 mins and we were there. It’s so lush to wake up somewhere just amazing. I took this picture when I had gathered myself a bit, but still not left the bed. 
Jonny got Casper dressed and he could get off out to play in the puddles in the car park here. 10-20 mins later he comes back jeans all socked and wellies full of water. This is before 9am! 

We gather ourselves a bit and remember that Casper has a winter suit. 

There are so many people coming to the beach to do surfing, or walk their dog or just walk, because it’s nice.