Vanlife surfari France/Spain/Portugal 2016

Tomorrow the kids and I are setting off on a vanlife, surfing, skating, musical road trip adventure through Spain and Portugal.

It is about experiencing, learning, discovering, connecting, sharing, growing - taking risks and going outside our comfort zones. It marks a transition in our family life - a gradual shift, a coming of age, learning to gradually let go and trust my children to make their own life choices. All I can give them now is experience, a view of the real world, an insight and interpretation of this time that will help shape them.

Pacha is the catalyst for the trip. Being part of the Australian team at the world junior surfing championships in Portugal motivated us to think about how we could make the most of a once in a lifetime opportunity. This led to a 5 week home stay with wonderful friends in Hossegor and gave rise to our idea of renting a camper van to explore the region to bring Pacha back home. This time we'll be bringing along our dear cousin Neroli too - making the most use of the four spaces available in the van!

It's all possible because we are immensely privileged - by living in this lucky country Australia, by the generosity of Pacha's sponsors, by family support, trust and love, by living simply enough to gather the resources we needed to be able to go.

Still, some people wonder how in the world we can afford to do this (ie. single mum with a minimal income). I think it's what we do without that makes this kind of adventure possible.  I don't buy coffee out (annual savings app. $1000 and saves throwaway cups and lids as a bonus!), rarely eat out (savings $5000), cut my own hair, don't get manicures, pedicures or massages (savings
$2000) and don't really buy anything new.

I'm not sharing this information to make people feel bad about their lifestyle choices, but somehow there is a perception out there that people who travel must be extremely rich. To me it's about personal priorities. We live simply and it gives us freedom. There are new terms emerging to name this way of life; 'frugal hedonism', 'slow Epicureanism', 'voluntary simplicity'...I started calling it Slohas (Slow Lifestyles of Happiness and Sustainability) many years ago.

And now we are about to take off! Starting in Lisbon we will collect a van from Soul Campers and drive the 9 hours to France to pick up Pacha  (who seems to be having the time of her life). In this modern techno world, it seems like she's been just down the street - being in contact everyday has been delightful!

Pacha talks about how strong the culture is in France - the appreciation for family and friends and food and celebration. She talks about how important study is for French kids and is reminded of her own freedom to make her own decisions on what she wants and needs to learn to be able to survive and help others in the future.

From France we plan to travel along the coast of Spain and Portugal, ticking off the famous surf spots as we go; Mundaka, Pantin, Peniche, Nazare, Super Tubos, Ericera, CasCais, Cadiz and Tenerife...It will be cold and the Atlantic waves will be big, maybe humungous!

We'll live out of the van - free camping and getting local market supplies to do some of our owncooking. We'll stop by skate parks and Eco-villages, busk in the streets, wander down cobblestones and climb mountain paths meeting friends and family along the way. And we'll be sharing the story through social media and video logs, hoping to encourage others to open their minds to new experiences, cultures and ways of life.

The contradictions are sometimes paralysing - we are, after all, burning a lot of jet fuel to get there and ticking off a 'carbon offset ' box just doesn't cut it. We can only hope the experience will deepen our commitment in this lifelong quest to protect life.

We will travel through landscapes ravaged by climate change droughts and fires, observe the reality of people struggling to survive the beginning of the collapse of the globalised economy, see the impact of those seeking refuge from resource wars - and balance this with the incredible beauty of landscapes, culture, food and resilient communities.

We know we are witnessing the collapse of the earth's life support systems, of any semblance of democracy, of the false perception of a benevolent global economy - and yet we are compelled, with eyes wide open, to keep discovering, experiencing and connecting on this quest for understanding, creativity and resilience.
With thanks to Gerry Nichols for the great shot at the Dust temple!