Several friends have asked a bit about our everyday life on the road. What do we do to fill our time? What didn’t we know that we wished we had known? How have our habits changed and which therefore leads me to wonder how have we changed?
Our lives have finely slowed down significantly, as we had hoped. Getting the house ready to sell, liquidating our goods, and closing out our lives in Redmond took all of Aaron’s and my attention in the months preceding our departure, so we didn’t really plan the first six weeks on the road other than committing to visit our family members and running the Grand Canyon at the beginning of October. On the road across the western United States our journey was magnificent, but with the constant changes of place and pace, threw all our basic routines off-kilter.
In the weeks since arriving on the European continent, however, new habits started to emerge. I feel we’re in a constant state of establishing what we want out of life. We have stability in that we have Charlie, our camper van (more on him in a later post), and we have our own wee home to sleep, eat, and hang out in. We also have an open-ended scheduled only hemmed in by the 3-month visa we have for most of Europe which necessitates an imposed deadline of getting to Morocco by the New Year. For the curious, I’ve outlined some daily routines I’ve noticed . . .
After waking to the light or birds or wind or the rain pelting the roof and emerging from our cozy new “cocoon” bed, Aaron lights the propane stove heating water for our french press coffee. We love slow breakfasts of breakie burritos or crunchy muesli (with yoghurt) or steel-cut oats. By then, if it’s an exploring day, Mali gets up. We all use the campground bathrooms – a new routine to ensure we’re not filling our “cassette” or gray water tanks – We all recognized, on the night we arrived, that the pull-down bed over the cab that we thought would be Mali’s room wouldn’t give the earlier risers space to use (anybody who knows Mali knows she can sleep ’til the cows come home). A few crazy adventures in the Utrecht Ikea (yup, they have meatballs here too) gave Mali a new room decor with a gray and black duvet and a sheer privacy curtain. She happily pulls the curtain when she needs better “separation”.
These first weeks have been filled with chores like finding the right kind of tool store to duplicate keys, a pipe to repair the gray water tank, locating the ship that sells propane tanks, and the right kind of lightbulb for each burnt lamp. Charlie is 16 years old with about 63K on him, so there are a few fix-it opportunities for my fix-it man Aaron and organizing opportunities for Mali and me. On-line chores and entertainment are dictated not only by whether we find wi-fi, but how fast it’s working.
We also bought bicycles, which is changing how we approach routines. For instance, we make a trip to the market about every other day, so yesterday’s trip we road our bikes into the small Zeeland town of Renesse to splurge for several meals worth of groceries. After filling both panniers, and having to buy a grocery bag, we slogged home overloaded and Aaron bow-legged carrying the bag between his legs resting on the bike frame (just imagine). A trip to the store to find another set of panniers is clearly needed.
In Redmond, Aaron planned our meals for 2 weeks in advance, created a shopping list, then went into “shopping mode” like a competitive shopper. One of the aspects of this new life we are seeking is to continue to eat well, collaborate more, and buy more local foods wherever we are which has necessitated slowing down. We’re enjoying planning on the fly – when we arrive at the butchers or bakery or vegetable stand we decide what the evening meal is to be. We have been fortunate to find great local food at the grocery stores, small and large. We even found an Asian market in Delft that’s leading to tonight’s Udon soup. We’ve also experienced local foods from the traditional Icelandic hot dog to Rijsstaffel (or rice table) at an Amsterdam Indonesian restaurant, to a late morning cappuccino while sitting in a town square.
My favorite new routine is that of “Happy Hour”. This was established on the Seymour side of Aaron’s family whilst up at the Adirondack camp. Each late afternoon, one of us lights a small candle on the table and the cheese and crackers and olives and charcuterie come out accompanying local wines, beers, and ciders. This is the prelude to dinner, and one in which we come together and connect after our day.
One of the greatest changes to our routines is the use of time. Each chore we accomplish takes more time than at home. Our routine of doing the hand dishes (carried to the communal sink at the campground where we get hot water and free gray water waste) two or three times a day takes far more time and effort than dishes at home. Slowing down and sharing the chores makes it more fun and less drudgery. Cooking a meal takes more ingenuity and we’re very pleased with the outcomes. Are we missing the conveniences we American’s take for granted? Not so much yet . . . ask us again in a couple more months. For now, having a warm bed, good food, safe water to drink, and the myriad of daily adventures are more important.
Have our new routines changed us? I think so; we’re breathing the moment more, connecting more, noticing more. Our slower time table for achieving tasks allows us to enjoy those tasks in a new way.
-by Tammy, photos by Tammy and Mali