Europe mum's rants

20 Mistakes

Mistakes – we have made a few. Here are some of our most memorable ones over the last couple of years:

1. While learning to use our GPS we followed its directions into the middle of an ancient Portuguese town on Easter Sunday, at the same time that all the old people were coming out of mass, until the streets got so small we had to back all the way out of the town.

2. We had to build our back bench 3 times because we used too thin of wood.

3. We paid 68 euros for one nights camping in Spain when there was a place for 25 euros one block away just because we drove into the first campground before we knew the price.

4. We installed cheap particle board shelves that literally fell off  the walls.

5. While we were driving, games, small books, suntan lotion, etc. flew off of our shelves, onto our heads, because we thought bungie cords would hold it all on the shelf.

6. Because we did not have our papers together for the Albania/Macedonia border, we were turned away and had to take a detour through Greece that got us there almost a full day later.

7. We overcompensated by giving too many papers in our packet for the  Macedonia/Serbia border and confused the border official.

8. We did not have enough cash in Euros or USD at the Serbian border to pay the insurance and had to drive to the nearest bank machine, 20 minutes away, while our passports were held at the border.

9. We left our camera on the dash, in Serbia, and almost got it stolen by some “window cleaners”.

10. We unfortunately created a moisture bridge by screwing metal screws into a metal framework .

11. We paid too much money for an awesome “Lawrence of Arabia” outfit and some pieces of jewelery, in the Sahara, because we didn’t know what it was worth and we trusted the salesman simply because he hosted us in his camel hair tent.

12. We sent one of our young people to the UK while assuming she had a bank card. She had none and was sent back to us in Africa after being handcuffed and spending 4 days in a detainment facility.

13. Elizabeth got locked in a self-clean toilet, in France, during the cleaning cycle because she pushed the door button too many times.

14. Elizabeth got locked in a self-clean toilet, in Spain, during the cleaning cycle because she pushed the door button too many times.

15. We connected our Solar panels the wrong way many, many times and had to pull out the ceiling and insulation in the front ceiling before we got it right.

16. Andrew almost drowned when he went out to save Hannah, who was being pulled out of sight on her boogie board. When he went out without a board and spent 45 minutes fighting the waves before being brought in by the same rip tide that pulled Hannah out.

17. We overloaded our bike carrier until it sagged and had to be propped up.

18. We bought a chemical toilet. Andrew thinks this is a good idea. I think it was a mistake because we are rarely allowed to use it as it is too difficult to find a place to empty it when we are wild camping.

19. We bought a cheap and cheerful umbrella chair for each member of the family before we realized they each had about a 2 week lifespan.

20. We put 2 giggly girls in the navigation seat at a crucial juncture and ended up driving through the Rif mountains and getting chased by drug dealers.

With all the mistakes that we have made we are only really fools when we don’t learn from them.

My old pottery teacher, Andrew Appleby, gave me these wise words:

There is only one way to avoid making mistakes:

Don’t try anything new!

Now that is no life at all, is it?

This post is part of the FOTR Blog Carnival.






Learning on the Road.

We slowly make our way out of the car to find Andrew standing on the front porch with another tall and skinny man. This one with steel gray eyes. It is as if he emerged from the black and white photo of Andrew’s grandfather. Neither man was moving. Both were just staring with a slight smile mixed in with a look of shock. The family resemblance was undeniable. Cousins who don’t remember their last meeting.

Kit was eagerly downloading his recent trip to Zambia. “I don’t think they need handouts. It has warped the culture. They need professionals to come in and form partnerships. Change their thinking. We shouldn’t be so lazy. We need to do our homework before we give.” All the girls are sitting on the sofa, listening. All but TJ. She is laying on my lap asleep. No wonder, she was up at 4:30, milking cows with an Allan. Allan wanted to be a dairy farmer since he was her age.

Celia looked over at the girls on the sofa. “Your girls are getting an amazing education in your travels”. I hear that a lot.

After spending some time with the family. Keith said, “your kids are so smart”.

We have some workbooks that we go through to make sure they can go back into a “normal school” someday. Make sure there are no gaps. The hour a day it takes to go through the workbooks. We changed our math to “Life of Fred” because my kids hated math. Now they love it. Workbooks are great, but think the best learning happens outside of the workbooks.

One day I was feeling like our kids weren’t getting “educated” enough. Not enough time hitting the books.  I decided to write down what they were learning that particular day. That only lasted one day. Too much to write down. Our lives are full and rich.

I think the unseen and immeasurable education is the most valuable.

This post is part of the FOTR blog carnival.



New Zealand

Friends on the road

One of the first questions we get asked frequently is “What about friends for your kids”.

I know the image that is in their minds. A lonely child traveling the globe with only their shadow to play with. That would be very sad indeed.

However this is the reality. Friends are EVERYWHERE!

Here are some of my observations.

In some ways it helps traveling with a big family. It is more expensive ,not as much as you would think, but you get to bring friends with you.

Our kids have developed an ability to make friends naturally. If they want friends they need to make them. If there is a language barrier they need to find a creative way to get past it. We have frequently heard parents say, “your kids fit in so well – as though they have always been here”.

They make friends with all ages – even adults, sometimes. They don’t have that age breakdown in their heads. They make a broad range of friends and I think they are richer for it.

We know that keeping friends is an important skill.

A great way to keep a friend is to know how to keep your sister as a friend.

Many times we go back to see friends.

We invite them to join us, with or without their families.

We facebook. A small security note here. They are not allowed to get a new facebook friends that are adults without mum and dad knowing them. Obviously, building and keeping trust is important here.

Our older kids have ipod touches. The younger kids share “the girlpod” with mum. This is for the main reason of keeping up with friends.

Abi shares a “traveling sweater” with some friends she made in Alabama. Each girl gets the sweater for 2 weeks. She sews on it or draws on it, writes notes in the book that comes with it and then send it on to the next girl.

Just some thoughts. I think my kids are quite good at making friends and delightfully creative with keeping them. There are lonely times. Times of missing those we love. The birthday party that can’t happen because your 8 year old just listed 10 friends for the party that are all from different countries.

Yes our life is a bit different. It is rich and rarely boring. We have friends around the globe and love it.

Time to go and have some breakfast. New friends to be made. Hey, who is that trying to steal my breakfast! A weka! Naughty bird, sounds like a pig.