We are having an emotional time: Last week, we sold Max. This is doing something with all of us, especially with Marian as Max’ creator. How many hours, how much love and sweat have flown into building our home and faithful companion! And to how many beautiful people and places has he brought us!
Now, he will continue his journey with another Swiss family of four. They plan to be on the road for 2 to 3 years, sharing our ideas and values: Learning from experiencing, spending every day as a family, enjoying life to its fullest. This is wonderful! It feels good to hand Max over to them, as tough as it is for us right now. On Wednesday, Marian will drive to Graubünden and leave his baby there with them.
We have arrived back in Switzerland on September 1st. For the last month, we have been busy looking for a new place to live in, doing homeschooling with Luca and Lou, selling Max, and working on financing our middle term dream of our own land, tiny house(s) and garden.
In a month from now, we will move to Meiringen – a quaint little city in the heart of the Bernese Oberland, close to the mountains and with its own ski region. For me, Karin, it is yet another emotional step to leave Bern, “my” city. But hey, what do they say about the comfort zone? Bloody leave it! Sure enough, that’s what I am doing… The last year has shown me that I can do anything.
We have decided to continue with this blog and website – hoping to inspire you with our approach to life which is still unconventional for many people. But we feel that so many are joining in, stepping out of their fear and limitations, living exactly as they want to – and not as they feel they have to. Life is on our side!
On July 30th a year ago, we started on our journey named WakingDream. With our project, we wanted to live our dream, wide awake – and thus inspire others to fulfil their own dreams. Not if, not later, but NOW.
So for 365 days (and about one more month to come), it became everyday life for us to share 10.5 square meters as a family of four in a self-built mobile home that still turns heads everywhere we go to.
Sharing this little space was hard for me, Karin – especially in the beginning. There is no more hiding away and claiming room for yourself. The driver’s cabin is our only place to withdraw. It is not comfortable there. But it’s good enough for a phone or even a coaching call, when the weather is bad and the outside is not serving as an extra living room. (Thank God Zoom and Skype offer the possibility to insert background pictures during video calls!)
No more hiding away. Not from the others, not from your own feelings, not from old wounds that are sure to pop up when you can’t run. So we screamed at each other and we cried with each other. And more and more, we gave up resistance, calmed down and were at ease with each other.
Luca and Lou were doing fantastic! Waking up from old patterns and conditionings is not an issue for them. They are awake. They played with their Lego robots (thanks, Götti Rolf!) and with their stuffed animals, jumped from high cliffs, swam in ice-cold waters, or trained to do the somersault on the trampoline. When there was no playground around, they made nature their playground.
We did not force them to sit down and learn. They studied with learning apps, listened to audible books (Harry Potter and all Lindgren classics) or read themselves. And they learnt from what they saw and experienced.
Most of the time, they were one heart and one soul. Every now and then, they wanted to (and did) hit each other – and instantly calmed down when the storm was over.
We love to be together as a family. We have become more tolerant with each other. Our love for each other has grown, we became even closer than before. At the same time, it will be good that we will all have more space when living in a house again.
So what have we learnt?
We have learnt to be flexible and simply take what comes. Whatever camping site (or no camping site at all), whatever shower (or no shower at all), whatever Internet connection (or no connection at all), whatever weather, whatever place to sleep at night (we always found a good spot!).
We have also learnt that it is easy to live with a minimum amount of stuff. We have learnt to let go: of attachments, of living in beloved places where we have long lived, of talking to friends and family every day.
Friends… We have found new ones on this journey. On special occasions, there was an encounter that was rich and touching for one day, for some weeks, maybe even for life. We are so grateful for meeting you wonderful people!
And we are grateful for the friends that followed us on this journey: who sometimes inquired how we are doing, who liked our (frequent) Facebook and (rare) Instagram posts, whom we talked to via FaceTime or Skype every now and then. It feels so good that you are there!
Oh, the places we have seen! We soon realized that there is enough to see in Europe alone to fill several years, so we would not visit other continents during our journey. During the last 12 months, we saw well-known countries like Austria and Germany, countries we have seen for the first time – like Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina or Albania –, and countries we have seen before, but with new eyes now: Greece, Italy, France, Sweden and Norway.
Where have we liked it best? It comes down to the experiences we made in these countries, like meeting new friends. We so did at the Soča in Slovenia (hallo Astrid, Florian, Lily und Luzy!), in Croatia and Bosnia (hallo Martin!), in Montenegro (hey Sofia and Martin Bosse Barnabas!), in Leonidio on the Peloponnes (hey Jorn, looking forward to seeing you soon again!), and in Norway (hello Emilia, Petter and Jannie!). Plus of course my all-time favorite, Sweden (hello Daniel and your lovely twin daughters!), and the lovable people at Zugspitz Resort in Ehrwald, Austria.
And once again, we learnt something: That all places resemble “home” in one way or the other.
At the same time, we feel that now it is time to settle down and ground ourselves again. We all feel like having our own place – close to the mountains and close to a town center where we can have a coffee and easily meet other people. Luca will have his dog and be a member of a ski club, Lou will have her two bunnies, we will have our garden with our own home grown food.
Where? We do not know yet. That is part of letting go. Letting go of knowing the why and the way, letting go of planning, letting go of all sorts of security. Every day, we invite life to live us.
Present and future
Sometimes, this is the hard part. We then ask ourselves how the heck we will manage to find a good way and place for our children to learn after this journey. In strong moments, we let go of the idea that they “have to learn” at all – and are confident that they will learn everything they need by themselves, driven by their own interest and skills (yes, we know, this is quite radical and triggering).
We ask other questions beginning with “What will be?”. These are the moments when we feel weak and fearful. These are the moments when we do not live in the now, but in the future. However, these moments have become rare – even at the crossroads that we steer towards to now.
A treasure of experience
So, was it worth it?
Oh man, YES it was! This year will remain unforgettable in our minds and hearts. We reduced our money – and gained a treasure of experiences instead. We feel connected with all there is. We got to know ourselves like never before. Luca and Lou have blossomed and are full of life and self-confidence.
And we are full of trust and satisfaction that we dared to just do it. Not dreaming anymore, but being wide awake.
Apart from “Don't your children have to go to school?”, there is now a second question we are asked a lot: “How is traveling for you during Corona times?”
Locked down in Bern (3 months) and Germany (1 month)
First of all: We did not travel during Corona times for four months in total. We returned to Bern in the beginning of March in order for me, Karin, to have a speech later that month. The speech was cancelled, but there we were when the Corona madness began. From the beginning, my mother welcomed the four of us in her small detached house with open arms. We are extremely grateful for that - thank you, Mum!
We spent three months in Bern - commuting between my mom's place in the city of Bern and a camping site in the Bernese Oberland, whose owner "temporarily" accepted us as "permanent guests". As we do not have a permanent home, we fell between chair and bank in the Corona regulations. Camping sites were officially closed - except for permanent guests and vagrant people. In which category did we fit? It depended on the interpretation and benevolence of the camping site owners and the local police. It was the first time in our lives that we found ourselves in a disadvantage and, yes, discriminating situation. A new experience!
We continued with our journey on May 27th to spend almost four weeks with Marian's family in the German Harz region. A big thank you to "Opa" Rainer and "Uroma" Lore for having us, too!
We continued to go northward on June 21st.
On the road again: The world is as you think it is
When traveling around, there is one thing that we realized more than anything else: It is our outlook on the world that creates our experience in this world. In other words: The world is exactly as you think it is.
If you focus on the difficulties of traveling during Corona, it will be difficult. You have to wait and see which country lets in people from what country, you can constantly keep yourself informed about all sorts of rules, and you can get angry because the hop on – hop off bus and other conveniences in the trendy cities are not in operation.
Or you take every day as it comes: Then, other people will tell you all you need to know just in the right time. If you can’t cross the border to one country, well, you go to another. And instead of focusing on all the rules, you can enjoy almost empty streets and camping sites that would be crowded in regular times.
Empty streets in Stockholm
It so happened to us in Stockholm, where the owner of the bar in a very central spot told us that we were the first tourists he has seen in a long time. It was indeed a special feeling to see Gamla Stan or the streets around the “Kungliga slottet” swept empty from people.
Same went for the Lofoten that are normally jam-packed in summer times. Well, there were many more tourists, but 99 per cent of them came from Norway. And we never had an issue to park Max - not even in frequented and small villages like Henningsvær. Apart from the Norwegians, there were some Finns, very few Germans – and us.
So here we are, encountering friendly people and seeing the most stunning places. Because that is what we are focusing on.
PS: In Sweden as well as in Norway, people are relaxed about Covid-19. They follow the rules, but there is no feeling of fear in the air. Nobody is forced to wear a mask, so nobody does. That helps. We are convinced that the fear created by everybody wearing a mask is much worse for your immune system than not wearing a mask or the virus itself.
You are what you eat. Following this principle, we have adapted a certain way of eating as a family: We prefer it free of meat, gluten, dairy and (processed) sugar.
Now, to maintain this form of nourishment is easy when you are at home and you know exactly where to buy your gluten-free oak milk or soy sauce. On a journey, however, this is a real challenge.
Eating out can be very difficult, especially with two children who do not want to make any exceptions from the rule. We sometimes urge them not to be “so stubborn” (just to make it easier for us), while secretly admiring their strong will.
That’s why we are more than excited when we find restaurants like the one we just had lunch at: The EcoCaféet in Östersund (www.ecocafeet.se). When I asked what vegan menus they had, the man behind the counter pointed at the food display with a variety of dishes and said: All this is vegan. The burger we ate was the best we ever tasted. And when I asked if there is oat milk for my coffee, he looked at me in a puzzled way, walked over to the coffee machine and checked if the can with the oat milk is still there. In Sweden, he said, half of the people take oat milk with their coffee, so there is always a can with it beside the can of cow milk. No need to ask for it. Bliss!
Stores offer a good variety of gluten-free and vegan products by now. We already experienced this in Germany. Eating out, however, is a huge challenge in Germany, where meat still dominates the menus. We helped ourselves with Indian and Asian restaurants, some rare gluten-free pizzas – or “Kartoffelpuffer mit Apfelmus” (potato pancakes with apple sauce).
Our conclusion so far: It is still not easy to eat what we consider healthy when you are traveling. We observe a clear trend towards a fresh and vegetable based cuisine, however. This goes for grocery stores, who offer more and more vegan products, and for restaurants in bigger towns or cities.
Where there are young people, there are vegan places. This development is encouraging. We believe that in the near future, a meat and dairy free diet will become more normal and socially accepted – and this will make our lives easier.
In the last few days, we passed the Alps from Turin via Sestriere, La Grave, Les Deux Alpes and Alpe d'Huez to Albertville. And it was snowing a lot, finally. On the streets we had exactly the conditions I was hoping not to see during our travels: A mixture between snow, sludge and some ice. In fact, I had been checking a lot of alternative tyres for our travels in winter. Fortunately, all the alternatives where either too expensive (because of the need of different rims) or not suitable for our weight. So we still drive with our Michelin XZL off-road tyres - and they are great!
Two days ago, we drove up the twenty-one hairpin turns to Alpe d'Huez without snow chains and without using any differential locks, while passing many cars that had to stop in order to put on snow chains. An unexpected and fun experience! We were also able to drive down in snowy conditions without chains. However, as Max is really heavy, we still use the chains on steeper descents.
We are impressed by the capabilities of the Iveco Daily 4x4. See for yourself 😃:
The strong chemicals that are used in regular mobile home toilets are quite a horror to us – and certainly to mother nature.
So we have installed a composting toilet from Nature’s Head. It runs without water. By separating the urine from the stool, it is also completely odorless. A little fan makes sure that really no smell can develop inside the cabin.
When you feel you have to take a dump, you simply open a flap – and there you go! The container for the stool is filled with hacked coconut fibres that come in blocks. These fibres are mixed with the stool and create a fluffy compost that can be disposed at any compost heap. It is enough to empty the container every few weeks. In order to do this, however, you have to take out the whole toilet.
The urine flows into another container that can easily be taken out when full. You simply pour it into a regular toilet and flush it away.
When we recently cleaned our alternative toilet in the cleaning room, an interested mobile home owner asked us about it. He was thrilled to learn that there is an environmentally friendly version for doing your “business” on the road. And so are we!
The Nature’s Head model is the second chemical-free toilet we have installed, since our first choice did not convince us at all. Although there is certainly room for improvement, it is the best option we have found on the market so far. It’s quite worth the investment of about 800 CHF.
We have started our journey end of July 2019. That means we have been on the road for about twenty-six weeks or about half a year. In all that time, all four of us have never been sick. No fever, no cold, no nothing.
I, Karin, have always been the healthy type. But I remember getting sick in the first two weeks of the new year – regularly, every year. Right when it was time to start work again, my body would develop a fever and force me to stay at home.
I knew then already what the reason was. Not a virus. Not being exposed to too much cold (which is a hoax, anyways). No, I was just not ready for the pressure of the daily routine at work. For getting up early and coming home late. So my body would react. Getting sick is handy: Nobody dares to question the reasons. Not even yourself, if you do not want to.
Marian felt the signs his body would send him even more: In his stressful days, his stomach ached on a regular basis. His heart palpitated. He was in a bad state of health, until he finally decided to quit and start a journey towards himself. Finding out what he really wants to do with his life. It is a result of this inner journey of his that we are where we are now.
Luca and Lou also regularly got sick while going to school. It was the same story: Whenever the pressure at school was too big, whenever troubles with other schoolmates came up, whenever there was fear of something, their bodies would react with a cold or with other symptoms.
What do I want to say with this? It is not that we all should quit our jobs or leave school. But that we learn to read the signs our body sends us, that we learn to understand his language. Inner stress is the real reason we get sick. Something has gotten out of balance. Only then, the virus you caught can make you sick. If we have to courage to be honest with ourselves, our life and health improves. At least, this is what we have experienced.
Have a happy and healthy 2020!
It was interesting: As soon as we had crossed the Greek border, Luca and Lou wanted to interview me about the Gods’ names. Funny enough, this is just what they had chosen to learn about with Anton! Anton is their online learning tool. It consists of a lot of questions about all kinds of subjects, and distributes stars and crowns when you get the answers right. They decide what they want to learn about. So right then and right there, it was Jupiter, Minerva, Venus and the other Gods. Which gave me the opportunity to translate the God’s Latin names into their Greek equivalent – after all, that’s what I was interested in as a kid and thus remember until today.
Learning by experience also means that we visit Mount Olympus and recall that this was Zeus’ seat. We visit the Oracle of Delphi and learn that Apollo killed the dragon Python there who then turned into a snake. We read the tales of Daedalus and Icarus, and of King Minos of Crete, and of Theseus killing the Minotaurus (brutal, they are!). And of Theseus’ father Aegeus who thought that his son had been killed and threw himself into the sea – which is why the Aegean Sea is called the Aegean Sea. The very sea that we are looking at right now...
Luca and Lou are eager to hear the historic sagas, and to learn with the tools on the iPad and laptop. And then suddenly, they throw all electronic devices on their beds and run off to explore the camping site we’re staying at. Because they regulate their physical activity like they regulate their interest in learning: All by themselves.
The tools Luca and Lou currently use for learning:
We have not seen much of Albania yet. In fact, we crossed the border over from Montenegro, bought a SIM card in a small shop that only took cash (2'600 LEK) and directly moved on to Lake Shkodra Resort – a camping site that „meets the highest standards“ (see picture above). Meaning: it is better than what you usually get in the country – tourists will be pleased. We offered ourselves a "comfortable" start.
We heard a lot of Albania so far. It is supposed to be beautiful. At the same time, we have been warned that there is waste laying around everywhere, even at the most splendid spots. People from Montenegro consider Albanians to be really poor. And to have a very strange language. THAT is true! When I asked the sales person in the first shop I entered what „thank you“ means in Albanian, she said something unpronouncable that seemed to be the elf language spoken in Middle-Earth! The places are called SHKODËR and QARK FIER and GIJROKASTËR and MELGUSHE. From Slovenja to Montenegro, I managed to understand quite a bit thanks to some chunks of Russian I learned thirty years ago. But here? No chance! It is completely fascinating. But it does not make me feel any more at home.
This morning, I was taking a shower. Again, something inside of me was glad that there were such good sanitary installations. And then I realized that this was exactly where separation begins: in our heads, with a certain arrogance, with me thinking I am different or at least used to something different. Just then, I heard the local staff cleaning the showers chatting away. Somebody laughed at something someone else had said. And it struck me again: We all laugh at the same things! We all have the same hopes and fears! We ARE the same!
The world is inclusive. We just all too often forget. Albania is a good place to remind me of that. I am open to everything we will experience in this unique spot on mother earth.
Learning by experience: Luca’s and Lou’s - and our- biology lessons consist of determining plants by picture with the help of an app (Pl@antNet).
We have learned so far: The tree carrying banana-like fruits is a magnolia. What looked like an olive bush really is a plant named pittosporum tobira nana (or Japanese Mock Orange). And today, Marian made the aquaintance of a real Paulownia tree – he only knew the wood so far, using it to build the furniture in our mobile home (well, in his first attempt... We ended up using bamboo – which warps, too).
Nature is a huge miracle!
Karin und Marian