Ok, blog… it’s been a while… Here we go. I am writing this on the IC146 Berlin HBF to Amsterdam Centraal! (But posting it from Edinburgh!!) Clearly we are falling behind on the blog updates but really, I have to take out all the stops to write this one. *this post does at times sound a little like a diary entry, if your not into feelings then look away now*. I am falling behind because to be honest, I have not had the motivation to keep updating the blog as much as before (Sheree is the same). To me it is pretty clear why. For one, we are fairly busy on the road and also spent a fair bit of the past 7 weeks working on workaway places. But for me personally there is more to it. The journey from Singapore through to Georgia was so exciting and full of adventure and so I was just dying to get onto the blog and put down some thoughts and pictures on the unique and not-so-well-travelled places that we adventured through. Europe has seen me within its borders 3 times in the last 6 years (surprised they still let me in), and the sheen is wearing thin to be honest. The developed countries are really nice, clean, easy to travel – Great for when I’m 50. Don’t get me wrong, Europe is amazing and I still just love the architecture here. I have always loved coming here, but, like everything in life, perspective is extremely significant. And my perspective on the world has been forever changed by where we have been, we have both seen some pretty insane parts of the world and now I am in the developed part of Europe for the 3rd time in my short 28 years. Not to mention I am paying way more to be here than i was in say Georgia, where my experiences were as rich if not richer.
So, there you go, that’s how I feel. I will probably read this when I am back in the office after a year and think “you idiot it beats work!” but hey the purpose of writing stuff down is to remember how you honestly felt at that time. Now, while I haven’t been “blown away” the whole time since arriving in Spain, we have seen some pretty incredible places, plus I have learnt a heap about people, relationships and myself, had some great times with some pretty amazing people and learnt some interesting history. Western Europe for the 3rd time, its harder to feel really in love with everything so this time around, instead of just sightseeing, of course we have done it a little differently by “workawaying”. But firstly, we were headed for a music festival, after visiting the always awesome Barcelona, that would be up there with my favs I’ve ever been to. Barcelona was great too, it felt pretty crazy to finally be in a big Western European city (Athens doesn’t really count haha).
We knew we wanted to do a music festival in Europe while we were here. We looked a heap up, and some were ridiculously expensive and just didn’t fit with our plans. We did find one called BBK Live in Northern Spain, so we booked 2 tickets way back in Kazakhstan! We both had never been here and thought it would be pretty great to go to a festival there and also see a new region! My last Euro music festival was Benicaissim also in Spain. This is one of those mega festival, 4 nights music 7 nights camping where everybody runs off cocaine and MDMA for the entire time (not me though of course, and Granny MDMA is an illicit drug if you weren’t sure). Even the horses were on it we thought as after 2 days they were frothing at the mouth too! So this festival was a lot smaller, still with 3 stages, over 3 nights, similar actual size though to southbound maybe? The lineup was pretty good with Foals, Tame Impala, Hot Chip, Arcade Fire there to name a few. It was a great festival to choose, as there were maybe like 80% Spanish peeps, 15% Poms and the rest maybe aussies and other nationalities. Some people even asked why we were there!
The campground was awesome too, set up high on a hill overlooking the valleys and city below. Pretty unreal to make your way home each night after a lot of alcohol and great times. We met some amazing people here. Met a great guy from Perth at the bus stop on our way there, it was meant to be as we hung out like best mates for 3 days. Then we had a couchsurfing meetup for Pintos and beers on the middle day. Again, met amazing people here, tried a shit load of pintos (these are like Tapas, and I didn’t have many actually cos I was too busy talking) and just alot of laughs with some great people. As a side note, couch surfing meet-ups have been a pure highlight of our travels and we want to host events at home too for travellers. So yeah basically did the music festival thing, had some great times, uncomfortable times sweating or too cold in the tent (the weather is so variable in N Spain) and will remember these few days forever. Following the festival we stayed a few days in a random city nearby, where we would have been the only non-spanish tourists (Again – this always happens to us!) where we got free pintos and just really enjoyed our few days before we had to leave. So, on a real high from the festival and the few days living like locals it was time to go and begin our workaway adventure, a completely new experience for us both.
To make Western Europe more affordable, we decided to try out Workaway (or WOOfing but we didn’t use this in the end thanks to a hot tip from some other Aussies – Thanks Sarah and Adam). This is a medium that puts travellers in touch with people that need a hand. Whether it be working on a house, a farm, helping with english or changing grannys’ incontinence underpants and doing her grocery shopping. Theres not a lot you cant do, In exchange for these simple tasks, you get food and a bed. In Spain, our workaway appointment took us to northern Spain to the Asturias region. It is a really beautiful part of Spain! Green hills, mountains, a breathtaking National Park, pretty beaches, delicious cider and the list goes on. Our workaway hosts tasked us with 6 hours work a day around their home. We did some interesting tasks and were given a great taste of local cuisine. While that side of this experience was quite good, these people seemed to have some pretty heavy emotional issues, refused to let us get to know them, at all and when you pushed a little you were met with blank stares. It made any social interaction with them awkward and was just the opposite of what we got into the workaway experience for (meeting interesting people and getting to know their way of life mainly). Additionally they lacked the ability to ask a question about us. After 3 days, the local pharmacist had asked us more questions when Sheree was buying some medication for a headache! She asked us where we were from! More than these guys had asked in 3 days. We were ok with this for about 6 days until we got a chance to visit the Picos de Europa – an AMAZING national park that we had no idea existed. (see some pics) we camped here for 3 nights, vented some of the shit from the week and prepared ourselves just to accept it for the last week of having to be there. So, arriving back, we experienced the final straw. You can ask me for the story one day but I wont write it here. So we had to leave, over quite a nasty confrontation where I had to apologise about 12 times for various problems that I apparently had. Luckily at this stage we still had our hire car! So we packed up, jumped in and we were off! Yay!
At this point we were both reeling a little. Getting invited into someones home, receiving mixed signals about whether your a part of the family or not for a week and then clearly being shown that your not, is not very nice. So we had to process what had happened to us. Sheree decided to go to Portugal for a week, which was a brave and great decision for her. She left Spain, and met lots of lovely people through couchsurfing and built up her confidence in herself again, which was fairly wiped out by this family. I was extremely proud of her! Meanwhile I caught up with a good family friend and his GF from home in Madrid which was really great and just what I needed.
After this though, to be honest I felt really lost. I realised that my companion and person I love was not with me, and how dependant, after over 6 months together, I had become on Sheree for my happiness. She is such a bright happy person that it had become easy for me to look to her for when I was feeling down and that alone would cheer me up. So, when I am feeling a bit lost, crazy things happen. I decided to travel all the way back to Northern Spain (a big journey) for some solo camping. It was just a shit show really. After a high speed train ride across half the country, a bus I needed wasn’t running until the following day so I had to stay overnight then, the following day I changed destinations, chose somewhere else off a map and the place was like a rec centre – Spanish kids everywhere swimming and carrying on. And because I was feeling unhappy, it was a pretty miserable time! I did get an awesome photo of sunset here though. So, I realised that I was really just running away from my shit feelings and decided to head back to Madrid to rest, and process whatever it was I was going through. I realised I needed to look back inside for my self confidence and joy in life. It didn’t take long to find it again luckily and from here I continued to rest up and hang out in a great Global City! It was pretty great to go to the Airport and pick Sheree up like I was a local! I even had her name written in bold on my phone next to all the limo drivers which was a fun experience and made her feel a little awkward perhaps.
So from here we took off to Southern Germany to a Workaway place near a village called Staufenberg near Baden-Baden. This was a farm called “Weidenhoff”. Which translates to Meadow farm or tree farm. Now this was interesting. These guys, these amazing hosts are just about the complete opposite of the last workaway. They run a little horse farm type place that helps to deal with traumatised children teenagers and adults. Perfect! We were a little traumatised! Haha. So clearly, you don’t just “get to know” these guys, well, they really get to know you! The female host is a Psychotherapist and the bloke is a great man who is probably the handiest bloke I know who builds ecological buildings. He is a real “Earth-Warrior” and it was amazing to learn from him for 2 weeks. We were still to work 6 hours per day around their farm, but, importantly this place is really about learning their way, them learning things from us and our ways, and was a real exchange of culture, ideas, and ways of life. Each morning everyone got a chance to air their feelings about how things are going, and they created a really great environment for people to feel safe, be honest about themselves and really just enjoy life! It was so strikingly opposite to the other place. In fact, for the first few days we felt uncomfortable here too, just because it was so damn different to anything we are used to! But after a few days we really got into it and had a great time here. We both felt like we could stay here for another 2 weeks! It was a fitting place that really balanced out the shit from the first place. In 4 weeks of workaway we learnt a) how not to treat people who come into your home and b) how to definitely treat people who come into your home. So, I wanted deeper experiences than pub crawls, tours, taking photos of landmarks because I’ve done all that, twice, and deeper experiences is what I got! So I can’t complain!
The region that we stayed in was very beautiful. Quaint villages, beautiful churches all around, small heavily wooded mountains, it was such a nice place to spend 2 weeks and we will remember it forever. In our spare time we hiked to the top of the Merkur (650 metres I think) for sunrise which was really special. So special that I got up the the sunrise the next day too! We spent a lot of time at The Journal, in the nearest village to sip coffee, beer and use their free wifi. I watched the dockers get thumped twice (nothing unusual there), we swam in the river in town, where you can sunbath on a green island. Just a lovely spot to spend a couple of weeks, surrounded by green hills. We know we always have a place in Southern Germany to back to if we ever wanted and one day, we hope to.
So it was a bloody rollercoaster really, Spain and Southern Germany, but we did learn an incredible amount and both feel like different people from it all. And that is what travel is about. You don’t learn as well as when your being challenged in life and we got challenged and responded well and learnt from it. It was a significant period for both of us. Now the workaway time is over and it is back to a busy holiday! We are currently catching up with Matt and Gemma from Perth (soon to be Adelaide) which is great to see some familiar faces! Then we will head to England and then meet my mum in Scotland. So lots of exciting things on their way and we are looking at our trip with fresh eyes after having to work for the last couple of weeks. It’s nice to be on a holiday again.