It was six months ago that I left my life in England to join Carl and Danny on their travels.
It’s been an amazing journey so far and it’s far from over, so I thought that this would be a good time to reflect and take a look at how my life has changed.
You may want to take a moment to get a hot coffee (or tea) and get settled for the long haul – this could be a long one.
It was a Friday evening when I got a call from Carl, suggesting I pack a bag and fly over to visit him in France for a week, as Danny was flying over to England for that time.
I don’t need to tell you that it was a bit of a shock! But never the less, he booked my flights right there and then and I set on with packing my bags.
I didn’t sleep one bit that night as I was setting off at about three o’clock in the morning to get a taxi to Leeds Train Station, a train to Manchester Int and then a flight to Nantes, France where Carl would be meeting me with the van.
The journey was as successful as it could be from start to finish – not a single delay.
This actually gave me too much time to sit around and stress about what I could have forgotten, despite being long past security and passport checks.
Upon arriving in France, I was delighted to greet Carl after so much time of him being away, and we set off to Chateau La Foret, where he and Danny were working for Eurocamp.
I remember the drive into the campsite. The deep green leaves on the trees, the bluest sky and happy people everywhere. The live tent was probably my favourite part – it was so lovely.
At this point, I was already incredibly jealous of this life my two friends had chosen and was dreading heading back to work at a call centre in England.
We relaxed for a moment, went to the restaurant for some food and settled in the early evening for a few beers on the terrace.
At this point I knew that the feeling in my gut was more than just a silly passing thought – I wanted to stay there.
I voiced this to Carl and he told me if I could get a job I’d be more than welcome.
We pondered on this for a little while and before I knew it, I was lined up to start as a waiter for the on-site restaurant. I have gone months in England without a job, looking for work with minimal effort; I get to France and find a job within the first twelve hours of being there. ‘Goes to show what you can achieve when you really want something!
I settled in there with what little clothing I brought, we got the okay from Danny, as he needed to be happy with my staying too, and I made the arrangements back in England (such as informing the family and getting in touch with work).
My time at Chateau La Foret was a great one. I met many new people, ended up working for a Dutch company called Rent A Tent instead of the restaurant, worked super hard, played super hard and generally had a fantastic time.
Towards the end of my stay there, I found myself working for the campsite alongside my other work, which put a slight dampener on my day as it involved cleaning the sanitary blocks every day, starting at five o’clock in the morning and sometimes an afternoon shift as well
After a few weeks of this, I was joined by Carl, which sped the whole cleaning process up significantly. It also made the job more enjoyable as I was working alongside someone I was able to have a proper conversation with.
Leading up to the end of our time at Chateau La Foret was a nail-biting time; I was so close to setting out on the biggest adventure in my life and I was having to wait for some stupid procedures to be completed for both Rent A Tent and Eurocamp alike.
Never the less, we got it all sorted and before we knew it we were packing the van with everything we wanted to bring with us – it was so exciting!
Imagine packing your future home with everything you have and knowing that once it’s all packed and organised there is nothing holding you back from doing the one thing you left your previous life to do! The suspense was so thick you could cut it with a knife!
The first few nights were euphoric – I’ve never been so excited about a hammock in my life! We were out there. Going wherever we want. Choosing the most beautiful place we could find every day to have as our new home for the night.
The whole thing was so alien to me I honestly think I was just going with the flow and existing, waving at every awesome moment as it flowed into my experiences and out again; only making way for more fantastic moments.
After a few days of ambling about, we picked up a close friend of mine, Tiegan (who you will have seen if you watch out vlogs). She had decided to book a week off work to come out and visit us as we travel across Spain.
We picked her up at Nantes Int and cannon-balled it to Andorra, where we were taken back by the sheer beauty of the mountains – a first time for me.
The van struggled quite a bit, bless it, as we trundled up these steep, small, ever-twisting roads. After many steep hairpins and a very overworked clutch, we arrived in the town in Andorra. It was beautiful. Cows wandering around the roads, motorbikes constantly passing through, eager to get onto the lovely corners that awaited them, and the buildings stacked like dominoes on the side of a mountain.
Here, I bought myself several months worth of tobacco.
We didn’t stay there long, as we were only visiting for the tax-free tobacco and fuel, so we found a lovely Recreational Vehicle (RV) spot on the way out and set up camp there for a night, where we enjoyed beautiful mountain views and a barbeque.
That was the end of our brief visit to Andorra, though. It was a short but sweet section of our travel.
We then started on our travels across Spain. It’s a beautiful country. There was a point where we could see an incredible distance and, after some use of maps, we figured out that we could see a distance of further than England, width ways – a crazy thought at the time!
The next amazing experience was some of the reservoirs we stopped at. There is something breathtaking about swimming in a clear lake, surrounded by mountains that tower over you like rock giants. It’s a beautiful scene that can only be appreciated by being there – I would definitely recommend it to anyone passing by a place like this!
After the first reservoir, we decided we had a taste for them and made a point of stopping at as many of them as possible while staying on route towards Portugal. This lead us to getting the van stuck. Again, if you watch our vlogs, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.
We were checking out a spot and had decided it was worth a stay. However, we got a little too close to the water’s edge and the van dug itself into the clay-laced sand immediately. Any attempt to get it out just made the whole situation worse. We were stayed up through the whole night while trying to get it sorted. It was truly exhausting.
However, we were saved when a local farmer agreed to help us, using his tractor. It pulled the van out with no hesitation and we were saved – though it set us back €50.- it was something we couldn’t avoid. We thanked the farmer and got our asses out of there so we could find a safer place to stop and sleep, as we’d all been awake for over twenty four hours.
It was great fun having Tiegan with us. We had many laughs, good times and it was really special to be able to share this with someone else for a week.
At long last, the time crept upon us to get to Portugal and drop off
Tiegan at the airport, where she would soon be flying back to England. It was a lot of fun having her, but I was ready to say goodbye to the floor and take back my usual sleeping nest in the hammock.
Portugal turned out to be an absolute nightmare – the road design was horrific, the drivers were, simply put, outright dangerous and we never enjoyed driving there – a shame as I’d previously been looking forward to heading through Portugal. We both had a big sigh of relief when we crossed the border back into Spain, where we headed up to the hot springs.
I’m still not sure on my take of the hot springs; they’re in a beautiful location and there’s something really enjoyable about having the sensation of lowering yourself into a hot bath when it’s really lava-heated water!
However, it was slimy in there and there are tonnes of youths and adults alike who come at night to.. “get freaky” – not a nice thought when you’re planning on bathing in the same pools the following day.
We were saved, however, from the batteries in the van being low, and, not having any sun there, we had to move on to a campsite near-by where we were able to get plugged in to power.
The campsite was crazy cheap! We’re talking €8.- per day! It had a beautiful location and fantastic service. The local area was lovely and we even arrived when they were hosting the Gladiator Races!
We watched the start of the race, with great amusement, and then headed over to the restaurant for a lovely meal.
How does this compare to life back in England? Simply put, I don’t think it does.
Back at home, I had taken some time off work as I wasn’t feeling so good in myself and needed some head space. I was constantly stressed, and the only way I knew to relax was to smoke cigarettes and spend an ungodly amount of time on my PC, wasting time online.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m a little tech geek and I was proud of my battle station (computer set up). I could run most games with high FPS (frames per second), I had three monitors, a steering wheel complete with h-shifter and peddles and a full flight control system, complete with yoke, throttle, constant speed lever, mixture and movable rudder peddles. I was damn cosy in there and it was, again, something I was very proud of.
However, despite all this, I was missing out on everything in the real world. Life was passing me by while I idled in this limbo of debt, stress and disguised misery.
Coming out here has involved sacrificing one hell of a lot of stuff.
There’s my battle station, for starters. Over £1000 worth of stuff that I left – most doesn’t sell for nearly half of that.
I’ve left many friends that I know I’ll never see again. Of course, there are some of my close friends I’ve no doubt will be coming to visit sometime in the future, or perhaps I’ll be able to see them at some point when I come and visit England again.
But, despite what I’ve given up, I can honestly say I don’t regret it one bit. Sure, there are times when I’m sat here on this laptop wishing I had something that could run games with my graphics settings turned up, or perhaps I miss the utilisation of my numerous screens. But, at the end of the day, I have a laptop. I have a TV. Constant internet access, warmth, food, water, company and a life that’s actually worth living.
Any depression, anxiety, concerns, stress, unhappiness was gone when I stepped foot into this life. I was never meant to be settled in one spot. I was born to explore and to experience the world for myself.
Risking sounding cheesy, I was born to be free.
The past six months have easily out-done any time I’ve had in my “previous life”. I couldn’t go back to how things were. I’ve discovered this way of life, and I’m taking it as my own.
Thank you for taking the time to read this, whoever you may be! And if you’re considering living this life then I would recommend you just go for it. There are so many doubts and worries before you set off but once you see what the return is from taking that leap, you’ll never look back.
With one last risk of sounding like a cheesy fool, I’ll leave you with my two favourite quotes from series called Firefly (a great watch, guys).
“I am a leaf on the wind; You can’t take the sky from me” ~ Firefly.