I’m sure that’s what you’re all wondering. Two years of planning this big adventure, preparing to bring you along with… and yet my blog remains mostly untouched, my social media silent, and my instagram unused. Many of you have asked and I’m finally ready to answer.
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Where have you been?
Well, we’ve been on the road. In the almost 7 months we’ve been out of the US, we’ve driven over 25,000 miles and visited 29 countries. Let’s get you caught up with a “quick” recap. Ok, this is actually going to be quite a long read, but summarizing over half a year of adventure would just be too hard to do in under 2,000 words. So, grab a cup o’ joe and settle in…things are about to get interesting.
Our journey started February 26th, 2018 in Iceland. Iceland in February? We know it sounds crazy, but we were blessed with relatively mild temperatures and “great” albeit very windy weather. We were glad for it too, because we stayed 5 days there, living out of a rented Nissan camper van. During that time, we circumnavigated the entire island, driving both the Ring Road and the Golden Circle Drive. On our way, we gawked at glaciers, explored waterfalls, and even spotted some wild reindeer. We got up close to some of the volcanic activity that the island is known for like geysers, lava fields, dormant volcanoes, and fumaroles. And of course we couldn’t go to Iceland without visiting the therapeutic waters at the Blue Lagoon. Finally, on our last night there, we caught a glimpse of the Aurora Borealis aka the Northern Lights. While they didn’t put on the most colorful or mesmerizing show that everyone hopes to see in their lifetime, they were there! A thin, green ribbon in the sky, dancing for us as we snuggled each other to sleep.
After some time spent exploring Reykjavík, we caught an early morning flight to Paris. We lived like locals for four nights in an authentically tiny, 5th floor Airbnb. Spring had already arrived in Paris, the flowers were blooming and the sun seemed to warm any traces of the chills we carried with us from Iceland. As it was our first time there, we had to visit all the iconic, cliché tourist sites. We saw the Arc de Triumph, Champs-Elysees, and the Bastille. We toured the Notre-Dame Cathedral and wandered through dark tunnels of bones in the Catacombs. And of course, we visited the Louvre, where we unfortunately didn’t see the Mona Lisa (more on that a different time). We ended our time in the City of Love with a romantic, night-time climb of the Eiffel tower…what a view!
March 7th, we woke up extra early and hoofed our way back to the Paris ORLY airport. A few mistakes on the Métro line and a couple delays meant we were fashionably late to our next appointment. Luckily, no flight to catch this time, instead we were there to pick up a brand new vehicle. We leased a Citroen Berlingo, through a special program with Citroen and the French government, that we would be traveling and living in for the next 6 months. The car came right off the assembly line with only about 10 kilometers on the dial. Pick-up was quick and soon we were headed for the coast, enjoying the sunny back roads of the French countryside.
Of course the vehicle didn’t come live-in ready, so we had some work to do. With only two days till our ferry from Calais to England, we wouldn’t have time to get much done in France. Instead, we decided to use the time to take the 8 hour round-trip drive to Omaha Beach in Normandy.
As you likely already know, Omaha Beach is were the allied forces landed and fought to victory in the WWII D-Day invasion. After so many years, Omaha Beach is simply a beach like any other, with a strong salty wind and the sound of waves crashing. The only visible difference is that this one is dotted with a few monuments. But we knew the significance of what happened there, just over 70 years ago. I could feel it, an overwhelming and powerful feeling of pride. We sat in retrospective silence for some time, staring at the surf and the magnificent memorials, imagining how different the beach much have looked on that day. A man, walking his dog, stopped to speak with us about his father, whom had fought there for our flag. He stated that he had the amazing opportunity of returning to that beach with his father again, before he passed away of old age. Speaking to him and hearing his story made being it seem so much more real. After paying our respects to the monument of our fallen fellow Americans, it was time to head back to Calais.
We were staying in Sangatte, a beach town near the Port of Calais. We had rented a cute vintage camper through Airbnb. It was small, but well cared for and was the perfect place to spend a couple of days. We used the rest of the time to grab some essential supplies and prepare ourselves for the tasks ahead. Our main concern was finding a suitable location to build our camper van kit. We would need somewhere we could use power tools to do some sawing and woodwork. Luckily, a nice woman on Airbnb agreed we could stay at her property and do the work in her yard, so long as we kept noise to a minimum. So that was the plan, and we were off to England.
You’ll start to notice a pattern me being late for things. If you know me, you know it’s a bad habit I have. Unfortunately, that was the case for our ferry ride to England on the 9th. Word of advice, don’t be late for check-in time on international ferries. We were supposed to check in at least an hour before the scheduled departure, but we were 15 minutes late. I’ll say it was only partially my fault, the port police can attest to that. So, they wouldn’t let us board the ferry, we missed our chance. Thankfully, they were kind enough to allow us to take the next scheduled ferry, which we were now over 3 hours early for. We had learned our lesson, so we got in line and were the first to board this time around.
The ferry ride was smooth and relatively short. The weather on the observation deck was perfect for watching as the white cliffs of Dover came into view. We disembarked the ferry nervously as we switched from the right lane to the left. “Hard left, wide right,” was a phrase we continued to repeat, until eventually, driving on the opposite side of the road seemed almost normal. It wasn’t too hard to get used to, it was more the roundabouts that had us confused. We did have the luxury of being able to communicate in our own language, a nice change from Iceland and France. We navigated our way to Littlebourne, where we would finally begin our project.
The next three days were spent gathering supplies and creating our camper van kit. Thanks to years of research, we already had a general idea of how we would make it and what it would look like. With the vehicle now in our possession, we could gather dimensions and get to work. First we purchased wood, screws, and hinges. Then, we rented the saws and power tools that we would need to make the base and the fold-out bed. We constructed some of it in the yard of our Airbnb, but most was done in the parking lot of the hardware store. I was anxious to be operating a circular saw in their parking lot, but too many trips back and forth made it necessary. They didn’t seem to mind, and it gave us the opportunity to make changes and alterations as we went along. We finished the kit just in time to return the tools, check out of our apartment, and head to IKEA.
It was time for a shopping spree! Needless to say, our first time in IKEA (shame on us, I know) wasn’t wasted. We purchased the bulk of our household good there, such as kitchen equipment, bedding, and a foam mattress. Our car was stuffed with gear and daylight was waning, so we checked into one last hotel, at least for a while. The next day we took a knife and scissors to our mattress, cutting and shaping it to fit our camping kit. We finished our “home” by making blackout curtains for privacy. To make them, we bought a roll of vinyl fabric and cut pieces in the shape of our windows. We attached suction cups to them, so they could be applied at night and removed each day. Finally, we picked up the last of our gear, our stove, cooler, and water tank, at an outdoor store. Our camper van was complete and we were off to see the world, well, Europe at least.
I know I promised a long read, but I’ve got to keep you coming back for more! We still have 26 more countries to talk about. So, I’ve decided to break this post up into a mini-series. Please stay tuned for part 2 in the next few days. In the meantime, here are the answers to a few more of your questions….
How are you doing?
We’re doing well! It’s been an exciting, interesting, and exhausting journey so far. We’ve been living in our van (technically homeless) consistently, for almost 7 months. The van life has only gotten easier, as we’ve learned how to soar over our biggest hurdles. So far, we’ve been taught a lot about ourselves, each other, and the world in which we live. We’re still in love, still going, and excited about the adventures still to come.
Why haven’t you posted?
I think this is the real question that you all have. It was a question I asked myself each night, for the first few months of our trip. I have lots to share- pictures, videos, experiences….so what’s the hold up? We are constantly busy. From early morning to sundown we are on the move, exploring, driving, or grocery shopping. By the time we stop to set up our bed and cook supper each night, I am drained. I am fast asleep the moment my head hits the pillow. With very little “down time” during our day, I underestimated how tired I’d be. But there is more to the story than just exhaustion.
I finally realized that I was being too hard on myself, taking myself too seriously. I started this blog not only to share and document my own travels, but also to encourage others to experience travel for themselves. I want to show others the world, advise them, and have them learn from my experiences and mistakes. How could I do this if I couldn’t take my own advice to slow down and enjoy the moment? So I did. I just focused on being where I was at the time, on being happy. I enjoyed not working, or having any real responsibility. No to-do’s, no deadlines, no pressure. I re-evaluated my goals and the direction I want to take my blog; so that I’m sure it doesn’t become a “look what I’m doing” and rather a “look what you can do”! I’m not off track, or behind. I’m just me…doing my thing.
So, what’s next?
I’m finally ready. I’m going to continue where I left off, telling you a chronological recap of our travels. I’m going to post more, more often. I’m also going to share some interesting destination articles, so you can start planning your own trip. Finally, I’m going to share all those pictures and videos that you’ve been waiting for. I’ll be keeping you up to date on where we’re at and what we’re doing each day…so be sure to follow Jetlag & Wanderlust on Facebook and Instagram. Please know that there will be some changes to my blog. In order to take full advantage of my work, I had to switch blog hosts (insert techie jargon here). It meant I had to start over on many things. Long story short, if you experience any issues trying to access my site, please know that I’m working on it…and hope to have it finished within a month. Please don’t hesitate to point something out, a link that doesn’t work, a page that won’t load, etc. I’ll also be working to update my present content, which has become outdated. Thank you all for being so supportive and interested in our travels.
I’ll catch you later, we’re off to explore Cathedral Beach!!!