Happy Nomad New Year

It seems like a lifetime ago that we sold up and hit the road, but I guess, in a way it was a lifetime ago, our old life of paying the mortgage, the gas bill, council tax and commuting to work. It’s our first anniversary so a good time to take stock and reflect on where we’ve been and what we’ve learnt.

Our journey has taken us through fourteen individual countries in the past year, a couple of which were entered or exited on more than one occasion. The largest, in terms of square area, was France with 640,679sq km (247,368sq miles), the smallest was Andorra with 468sq km (151sq miles). Andorra can also claim to be the highest with an average elevation above sea level of 2,027m (6,650ft). In alphabetical order they are, Andorra, Austria, Cambodia, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Malaysia, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden (just passed through), Thailand and Vietnam. If I had to pick a favourite I’d probably plump for Vietnam – technically still a communist state – because of its climate, scenery, history, food and value for money.

The summit in sight, Mt Snowdon.

The summit in sight, Mt Snowdon.

Wet and warm

I’d have to say that, mostly, the weather for us over the past year has been disappointing. We spent last summer in a soggy Britain camping. We then chased the late summer sun down from northern to southern Europe with moderate success. Two months in the Far East was predictably hot so some good news there, however, on our return to a southern French spring we have been met by typically, British winter cloud and downpours. When things do brighten up it is great though so fingers crossed for the remainder of our time here.

All creatures great and small

It seems everyone, regardless of nationality or religion, ultimately, have the same desires. To be able to work for a fair day’s pay then go home to decent, affordable housing; simply, bread on the table and a roof over our heads. We’re content to work hard for our tea as long as the leading, political classes don’t make mugs out of us.

There’s no hierarchy amongst travellers, everyone has an interesting tale and nobody cares how much money you have. The Jones’s no-longer live next door so craving that latest gadget, the faster car or even grander home seems pointless.

Delicate dragonfly.

Delicate dragonfly.

Without exception, everyone that we’ve met in the last year has been friendly. We’ve never felt intimidated or in the slightest bit threatened regardless of location; we’ve even hitchhiked! An added and unexpected bonus has been the many pets that we have had the pleasure of caring for. Smallest were the tadpoles, easiest were the sheep and the oldest was a cat. I must admit though, I have quite a soft spot for chickens now!

Making ends meet

For the Far East we spent a whopping £66.84 per day, surprising because food and accommodation are so cheap but this figure does includes various airline tickets and we should have stayed longer to improve the average; messed up there! The more respectable, typical, daily spend for our current European leg is £7.68 per day, each. A small £500 per month mortgage works out at £16.44 per day so our lifestyle is very affordable at present. The problem is that it’s still a negative number, money is still being spent and without limitless funds or an income of whatever sort, eventually, the money will run dry and the dream will be over.

In an attempt to balance the books I’ve uploaded some photographs to an online library, one of which has been purchased so I’m about 90 pence up there. I’m currently looking into various options that include charging for housesitting as we seem quite good at it.

It’s not what you wear but how you wear it

We started our journey with a lot of clothes. We didn’t know what to expect and tried to cover all possible occasions while going with items that were multi-functional. There have been several culls since and we’ve settled on our backpack wardrobe that we supplement with some extras when we’re using the car.

It’s amazing how quickly I’ve got used to looking a bit shabby. I’ve managed to be suitably dressed for all events and rotated my limited combinations to reduce wear and give the impression of a varied collection. Some clothes are starting to look tired now; I purchased two cheap jumpers from Asda that I’ve worn way more than I was expecting that could do with replacing. Originally, there was a v-neck from Primark but a tumble-drier in Oslo cooked it to death.

Our first housesit, Blajan, France.

Our first housesit, Blajan, France.

Other casualties are my walking boots; I’ve just had the sole drop off my second pair that is annoying as I like them and I’m not sure if a drop of superglue will save them. All of my shirts are in good nick surprisingly, given they were ancient (sorry, retro) already and I’ve even added a short-sleeve shirt with green elephant print, purchased in a Cambodian market, to the range.

I’m sporting my all-weather walking trousers today. Bought at a sale in the Lake District, they now have a small hole in one pocket and are currently covered in cat hair but have many more outings left in them yet. My other pair of trousers – cream chino type things – also have a hole in the pocket and are further damaged by a stain just above one knee.

Our matching goose-down jackets from Uniqlo are just superb and have never let us down, they also squash down into small bags so are ultra light and practical too! Rain jackets from Mountain Warehouse on the other hand are barely shower proof let alone rain.

New tricks?

I’d like to think that doing this blog has, at least, broadened my vocabulary and at best, improved my writing style. As a very rough guide it contains about 25,000 words to date that hopefully, make some sort of sense. As well as the writing I’ve been pretty pleased with some of the images I’ve captured too. You only get to see a small selection but there are about 6,000 stored on my laptop so far. The vast majority are rubbish or attempts at new tricks and techniques so will never see the light of day. I’m currently uploading the best photographs to a website so that, if you really, really like them, you can order prints on canvas. The geeks out there will probably know that this is a WordPress website so I’ve also had to learn some techno-stuff to get this blog online.

Carole at the top of the Petronas Towers, Kuala Lumpur.

Carole at the top of the Petronas Towers, Kuala Lumpur.

It’s kind of obvious but we’ve learnt more about the world, its history, people and politics. ‘Travel broadens the mind’ they say; so true. Just by experiencing different regions, visiting places of interest and learning about historical events from a new or alternative stand-point allows you to reach more informed and considerate conclusions. Talking to people from various countries and cultures regardless of religion, age or social standing provides unique opportunities to learn of different day-to-day ways to live which, in turn, means we can bring our own British ideas and methods into perspective.

Still under construction, the Sagrada Familía.

Still under construction, the Sagrada Familía.

Ups and downs

There’s been a big chunk of time spent in France doing housesits so I’m rather upset that my French isn’t now much improved. A combination of low confidence on my part and most people being able to speak English has limited the opportunities to have a good old tête à tête.

We’ve seen many breathe-taking natural landscapes and would find it impossible to choose one over another but special mention can be given to the numerous views on the way up and down Mt Snowdon, Wales. The Sagrada Família in Barcelona was, without doubt the architectural highlight and well worth the queue to get in.

The journey continues…

So what and where is next? Well we have housesitting assignments booked up to the end of September so we’ll be based mainly in France until then. I’m currently researching entry requirements, flight costs, etc. for a possible visit to either the Caribbean and Americas or back to the Far East taking in Burma and Indonesia. Wherever we end up the plan is to stay in that region for about six months and find some work if possible.