Tag Archives: Travelling family adventures

Travelling compared: Boat versus rental homes

It’s been almost two months since we parked Happy Dancer on the dry in Malta to travel overland instead. In hindsight – and with only two days left till we fly back home to Sydney – for us boat-life worked well until we fell pregnant with number 3, whereas travelling overland long-term-ish hasn’t, mainly due to the lack of grounding and having, albeit little, but a home to fall asleep in every night. Here’s some reflections and comparison – hopefully helping the travel-dreamers of you to figure out what could work best for you.

Pros of travelling on a boat

  • No packing! You’ve got your home always with you. Nice grounding in between all the moving and travelling.
  • Arriving by sea to a new place is always more magical than being freighted in with hundreds of others by plane, train or ferry.
  • Being at one with Poseidon with the right wind and exactly the right angle in the sails under a star covered galaxy is just unbeatable. Having said that – all the perfect conditions combine rather rarely.
  • Your kitchen with you at all times. Whilst tasting local foods is a wonderful part of discovering the world in itself, if travelling is your life, it can also be exhausting. Sometimes I simply want a non-dairy, non-gluten, veg-filled day with Chia-Shake in the morning and simple green veg soup with lin-seeds for lunch. When living on a boat, you can get the best of both worlds/cuisines – your own, and the country you are travelling in.
  • Potty training made super easy. Most times of most days the boys are either naked or in their swimmers. Plus weeing over the reeling has always seemed much more appealing to our two year old than having to go to a bathroom, take off your pants and boringly sit down on a toilet with no view.

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Pros of travelling overland

  • No need to worry about the weather. All you do if it rains or storms is change your plans to visit a history museum or old castle, instead of going for another hike.
  • No need to worry about the anchor. Whatever house you are renting is most likely not to drift away at night.
  • Enjoying local architecture. All the places we’ve lived in since parking the boat – from cosy country houses, over super luxurious modern apartments, to ancient fairy-tale riads or remote basic and cute mountain lodges – they’ve all given us, not only an additional insight into local cultures and traditions, but also provided bits and pieces of inspiration for the day we’ll build our own eco-friendly country house – somewhere, somehow, some day;)
  • Digging deeper into local culture. Not heading back to port every night somehow has given us the opportunity to dig deeper into local culture, whether that’s been by interacting with ancient folks from the most remote mountain villages, travelling further afield than most other visitors do or getting a glimpse into hotel staff’s lives.
  • No storms at sea. Weather on land is just so much more manageable.

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One month of living aboard

Aegina_328Aegina_327aegina_333 Aegina, GreeceOne month into living aboard. Moments of everything. Disbelief as I was watching several yachts entering the marina here in Aegina, Greece, and almost taking Happy Dancer’s bow with them at 25 knots or so of wind. Skippers freaking out. My mind, speechless. Then the calmness of the bright orange and pink sunset as we tour the island by bike. Breath-taking. Athen’s hustle bustle, lights and tankers in the distance. Stunning. By accident we end up in a tiny local tavern in the middle of nowhere where a typical Greek, home-made dinner for our whole family is dished up for barely 10 Euros. Awesome and grounding. Acro-yoga session on the beach in the morning as the party town is still asleep, invigorating. Meditating on a rock overlooking a thousand islands. Anchoring. New local friends we make on the playground as we improve our Greek. Satisfying. For the first time seeing pistachio trees blossoming. Insightful. Fresh produce from the region. Delicious. And now a cool Greek coffee by the water front as I post some updates. Life’s good. Tomorrow we will continue towards the Corinth Canal – 90 metres of sandstone walls either side awaiting us. Scary.

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Week One of living aboard

Week one aboard has been everything: Amazing, dream-like, unbelievable, social, beautiful, overwhelming, chaotic, fun and yes, a bit frustrating at times, as to be expected. The day we launched Happy Dancer I was surprised and touched by the hundreds of Facebook messages, emails and comments we received. So many people are with us in their hearts, maybe never quite imagined all this would really happen one day, and lots of them encouraged to follow their own dreams which is beyond joy to see and hear.

We’ve been anchored in Kilada Bay, Greece, since the launch, first bringing the immense chaos – inherent to moving your life on board – into order and now installing a few more gadgets before our first 12 miles sail to Porto Heli, another stunningly beautiful and well protected bay here in the Argolic Gulf. Netting around the boat still needs to be installed and ideally the stainless polished before putting it on, a new gas bottle connected, more extra dinghy fuel be purchased and the water-maker started, to name but a few tasks. A boat is a constant piece of work, but we knew that when we got ourselves into this dream and we are enjoying every moment of it. Even the challenges, mind you, some to a lesser degree.

After my cousin and girlfriend’s wonderful albeit brief visit, we left our big box full of books, charts and boat papers in the van (which, by the way, is now for sale if anyone fancies a fantastic and economical European camping opportunity, ready to go). Unfortunately the mistake was only realized when they were already on board a ferry to Italy. After fruitless discussions with Italian authorities trying to get them to put the box on the next ferry back to Greece, poor Pablo has had to drive to Igoumenitsa (six hours), catch an overnight ferry to Italy, pick up the box in storage, catch the next ferry back and will hopefully be back with us tomorrow morning. A very silly, time-consuming, unnecessary and expensive mistake which has hopefully taught us to check everything not once, nor twice, but at the very least three times.

More importantly, we are all happy and healthy, the kids have taken to life afloat like fish to the sea, the boat and all its systems work well and we are following our hearts, exploring life to its fullest and daring to live our dream. Other sailors and the people in Basimakopouloi shipyard have been excellent, helpful in every way and very trustworthy. Honesty is something we’ve noticed seems to be big amongst Greek, and needless to say, amongst the cruising community. Whilst smiling does not appear to be everyone’s cup of tea in Greece, it never feels unsafe leaving anything unattended – kids’ balance bikes, cars, boats and even wallets or walkie talkies.

Due to the heat and Mediterranean culture, life stops between two and five in the after-noon, but stretches into warm and stunning star-lit summer nights which have seen us bond with locals on the playground and around tavernas. This side of the Argolic is only popular with Greek tourists, which is why we are already quite well known in many of these picturesque, traditional fishing villages. Pictures will but portray a shadow of how stunningly beautiful it really is here – and follow in my next post as the camera’s cable is back on board – and I’m writing form a Cafe with Wifi. No constant internet – Bless those little yet deep differences from life ashore;)

Wonder is the beginning of wisdom. Greek proverb

Updates on our travel itenerary

UK channel coast, Devon

After a very enjoyable settled six months in beautiful Hampshire, we have started to pack our bags again. Given that we got rid of most of our stuff when leaving Sydney almost a year ago, it is not such a big job this time around. It feels very natural and freeing to travel lightly. Besides my favourite picnic blanket, which didn’t make it in the last minute airport-luggage-weight-strip-down-rad, I haven’t missed a thing. Same doesn’t apply for people. Here it will be similar. I really don’t like leaving places and people behind, but I love discovering unknown lands, living exhilarating adventures, emerging ourselves in unknown cultures and making new friends around the globe. And in order to do one, it sometimes is unavoidable to go through the farewells.

In about three weeks time the boys and I will catch a flight to Rome. We’ll stay with a lovely friend of mine who I used to live with when I went to school there. Pablo will drive down with Wilson and pick us up after a few days. From there we hop onto the overnight ferry to Greece where we’ll only have another two hours to Kilada. Reunion with Happy Dancer who has been patiently waiting for us while we were topping up the kitty, updating various sea-survival, first-aid courses and the like, getting the ICC and other emergency gear and logistics ready, catching up with old friends and family and enjoying a breeze of English living. Blessed be my awesome cousin and his girl-friend who will then have a blast holiday through Greece and Italy, taking Wilson back to Germany where he’ll be FOR SALE from August’14 onwards.

We are then planning to catch up with English sailing friends in the Ionian, Japanese/French friends from Australia in Sicily around September, possibly also a lovely German cruising family on the Aeolian islands (secret volcanic jewels above Sicily!) and from there sail over to Malta around October to spend the next winter there. I have already got a few amazing yoga retreats in planning on Gozo and/or Malta. Get in touch if you are keen to join in!

BournemouthBeach_10Gustave Flaubert

Mindfullness

Last weekend I attended a mindfulness workshop with Christopher Titmuss, mindfulness teacher per excellence, ex-Buddhist monk in a Thai monastery, amazing speaker, father and much more. What a treat. For starters, as much as I love my kids, not having anyone climb over me while meditating, urge me to come and play outside NOW as I’m going through my daily asanas or jump over my plate while having lunch was a luxury in itself. Writing this post gives me another opportunity to reflect on the delicious retreat and its main themes.

Why bother?

Why bother with mindfulness? The desire to experience happiness is a common and universal motivation in all people. Most of us unwittingly find ourselves swinging between an irrepressible attempt to manifest and hold on the pleasant things, moments and people in life on the one hand, and a furtive compulsion to avoid anything that feels unpleasant on the other. The inherent problem with this approach is that it puts our happiness into the hands of outside events. In the roller-coaster of life, downs are unavoidable and often triggered through experiences which are out of the safe realm of our control. Through mindfulness one can investigate the liberating possibility of ending this struggle between the two poles and observing everything with a healthy level of equanimity.

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Mindfulness training stems from the teachings of the Buddha, given more than 2.5 thousand years ago. It implies a presence in the moment with an equanimous mind towards the sensations experienced in the body. Applying this concept beyond the meditation hall into everyday life was one of the main emphasis throughout the day.

Ethics

As such, ethics was also explored in meditation and conversation. Treating others like you would like to be treated. Common sense, it seems, but unfortunately common sense is not so common judging by the current state of this world. On Happy Dancer, us sailing family and cruising yogis are trying to address this issue not by not leaving footprints in the divine places we get to visit, but by leaving reminiscence of acts of kindness behind. While in England, I have the amazing opportunity of spreading more peace and mindfulness amongst my wonderful yoga students. Once back on the boat in Greece in July or so, our first project will be cleaning up the local beach which could be so beautiful but is filled with torn plastic bags, old fishing nets and mounts of other rubbish.

Sangha – community

Sangha, or a like-minded community, is described by Buddha as one of the three Jewels to help us create a more mindful, and happier existence. Boy, do we know that. In terms of cruising, nothing has been as valuable as connecting with other people who dare to dream. They give helpful advice in the best of times, and are the fuel to keep us going in the worst of times when everything seems just overwhelmingly impossible. Part of connecting is listening. Really listening – not cooking, texting or doing anything else aside from truly listening. How often do we make space for really connecting with our partner, children or friends? And how often do we take their physical presence just for granted and assume that just because two people are physically present no further effort is needed to enhance the relationship? Before we know it, time has flown by and a huge emotional gap grown which, at times, can threaten the whole relationship.

Trust

The interrelationship between energy, meditation, mindfulness, concentration and trust was another focal point, with the latter being described as the base for the others. When everything else is taken away from you and one monkey is in the middle of swinging from one branch to the other, basically all there is left is trust. And gosh, can I relate to that! Back in November when neither boat, nor job nor anything was tangible, but all our live in Sydney had been left behind, I did have moments where my last grip onto hope was with nothing else but my little left finger. Luckily I didn’t let go. And here we are, months later, with a slowly re-filling kitty and a beautiful boat waiting to show us the Greek islands and the world beyond.

Eating

Mindful eating is another important consideration. This includes chewing your food so that food becomes liquid, and liquid is treated as if it was food. Hugely beneficial for your over all health! Moreover, taking just a few moments before every meal giving thought and thanks to all the people who made it possible for the delicacies to be on your plate is an imminent reminder of the interconnectedness of this world. Logic has it, that you would want to treat all those people, animals and soils who allow you to survive and rejoice in a rather kind way. Are we respecting this world enough for what it gives us? Inner peace and happiness can impossibly be achieved without the appropriate outer attitude and lifestyle. Our international vegetarian kitchen is a constant reminder of one of the benefits of globalization: Tahini from Macedonia, Vegimite from down under, Ghee from India, Pimenton from Spain, Bee polen from the Acores, Maple syrup from Canada, Chai mix from India, Miso from Japan… Another yummy, healthy, easy, glutendairynasty free recipe soon to follow, I promise.

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I was told that later in the year Christopher’s dharma talk will be available for download or streaming on the Boddhi Tree Website, so watch their space. If you happen to be in Brighton, I would strongly recommend giving these guys a visit. Just as I was to finish off this post, asking you dear readers for your thoughts on mindfulness, an email from a dear friend pops in, also contemplating mindfulness and happiness:

Happiness is completely different for different people, for some people it is synonymous with adventure, for others it is synonymous with conquering fears (slightly different), for others it is an intellectual challenge, for others it is complete devotion to a specific task, even if they never finish it, for other’s still it is the feeling that they are materially providing for themselves and their loved ones, other people get happiness out of a routine that mixes all aspects together in nice proportion (family, friends, adventure, exploration, hobbies, work etc)… So I guess it’s … about realising … what makes you happy in this particular part of your life.

In that realisation lies mindfulness, presence. Here’s the resolutions I have taken to bring more presence into my life this week which will see me skip from one decade into the next:

  • Always include an ‘om’ before every meal to bring more presence to the nourishment of body/mind to follow
  • If necessary spend less time playing with my kids, but when I do so being 100 percent present
  • Include more couple-conscious moments into every day, rather than taking each other’s presence for granted
  • Really listen to a friend, without interference of the kind ‘I know what you mean,’, ‘How about…’… nothing of that problem-solving rush, just pure listening
  • Be more aware of butterflies, flowers and all the environment around us when we go for walks

Heaven and hell are not topographies, but exist as states within our own minds. (Buddha)

A weekend in paradise

Image“There’s balls, mummy! Mummy, there’s balls, look! Look!” was the first words I heard when we woke up after a rather late night, flying into Athens. Outside the window, a blossoming tree filled with juicy ripe oranges smiled at me in the sunshine. Stunning! The Greek yoghurt that followed for breakfast was to die for, light years better than even the best one I had ever had before. The kids and us alike buried our warm UK winter shoes with delight in the furthest corner of the suitcase, exchanging them for bare feet or thongs – memories of Australia floating back… And Spain as the rough beautifully flowing landscape on our way to Kilada reminded us of our days in Almeria last summer. Then, we were still boatless. Not so now.

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ImageImageHappy Dancer was waiting for us smiling. Stepping aboard felt like coming home. The prior owner went far and beyond our contractual agreement of a couple of days intro to the boat and it’s systems; welcoming us with Champagne aboard, explaining every system from bow to stern, introducing us to helpful people in the yard, becoming best buddies with Noah, showing us the places to know in the region for spares, repairs or local produce and even inviting us to a delicious traditional dinner. Thanks Klaus! You will always be a welcome VIP on board!Kilada March14_22Kilada March14_21

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The place, similarly, a paradise. The yard, professional, despite the sad accident that had happened that morning when a steel yacht crashed of the crane due to human error. Ten minutes from being launched. Ten meters missing for a dream to be fulfilled. Now the devastated owners have to think of how to fill the blank left behind by a bust year or so planned voyage to the Caribbean and back or beyond. Even though a Panteanius representative was on site evaluating the damage less then 24 hours later, time is nothing even the best insurance company can pay back…

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Anyway, shit happens, even big shit. They say challenges make us grow. Without storms, we’d stay as pitiable and miserable as our nagging neighbours back in Hampshire. Nevermind. Can’t wait to be back on another full moon, sailing to Puerto Heli’s Thursday markets for local produce and meeting the few other foreigners in the area. Barely anyone speaks English. Greek often sounds like Spanish. Shouldn’t be too hard to pick up a few words. Locals seem to love kids and even Kilada, the tiny village where we are moored, has a massive playground – right next to a great value and amazingly yummy little restaurant. What more to ask for!?!