We’re absolutely enjoying the Portuguese lifestyle. It seems more suited to our family compared to Malaga Spain due to the surf from the Atlantic Ocean and the certain surfy relaxed culture that’s here. The girls are loving the beaches and are able to get to know more of the locals as the people here speak a lot more English than the Spanish. There has been many instances where the natural landscape of sandstone cliffs, the crashing waves, the large expansive coastlines and the white sand all remind of us of our home back in Australia. Maybe that’s what it is – a reminder of home that settles us all and we feel more at home here because of that. Whatever it is, we’re having a ball and living it up to the best of our abilities for the rest of the month.
After a marathon 11 hours of touring the capital city of Lisbon yesterday, we made the most of today with a luxurious and much needed sleep in and a ‘nothing happening day’ kind of day. Back at home our family calls them Pyjama Days but I haven’t yet thought up a word for this type of day while we’re travelling. Maybe it’s just a ‘Nothing Day’.
If there’s one thing that is hard to gauge when our family is traveling long term, it’s when to just stop and take a breath. The question I’m often asking myself lately as we approach our half way (6 months) point is how do you do a year of travel well? It’s a novel question because RTW long term, slow and backpacking style (ie. no hotels or resorts, kid’s clubs, cruises etc) is quite unlike anything we’ve ever done before. So it’s a matter of learning as we go. The average family holiday – a couple of weeks away from the routine of work, school and home literally means to go someplace else in the world to recharge, rejuvenate, rekindle, renew. But a whole year of travel means we’re not returning to work or school or home next week or any time soon so our timeframe to manage ourselves is massive and at times a hard thought to digest in the short term.
One thing is for sure – Dacey misses her dogs Fudge Face and Oscar and also her street pup Roadie Monday. So every dog we see we make it a point of stopping to have a pat and a chat with its owner. This one was being walked along the beach promenade whose name is Simba and is a South African breed of dog. Simba actually looks like a lion – the same colour and has massive big paws and nails. But so friendly.
Views on Slow Long Term Travel
Long term and slow travel requires quite a different method of planning and expending energy over the long term especially when there’s no “normal” to go back to in the short term. We just can’t keep up the energy and positive vibe of being out and about all of the time or on the opposite spectrum sitting on a beach and doing nothing. Doing both of these long term is exhausting. The real aim of our style of slow family travel is to do what it says: to travel SLOW and more consciously and in the moment. We take our time, spread our exploration out not over days but weeks because there is nowhere to rush off to. Time is no longer restricted. It’s delightfully rewarding for all of us to experience this style of global travel but sometimes it is hard to balance it out – the go and the stop – when we’re not used to living life this way.
Slow long term travel is neither a leisurely travel agent organised family holiday nor is it a traditional workplace (doh of course) but for us is a unique and unusual combination of both. So at times it’s hard to decide whether we should up the anti and be exploring more or chilling out and having a weekend off from all the travel action. Let’s just say the kids are refusing to enter another fort for quite some time. And the state of play for today after seeing how the kids and Steve and I woke up today, it was definitely the latter: time out from doing, seeing, moving, organising. Yay!
Charlie has to study a bit more for her Year 11 maths test tomorrow. She’s quietly preoccupied with following GlobalDegreeAcademy.com which is a world-wide traveling community who offer long term travel with study options. The goal is that over five years you qualify with a global degree – having visited 195 countries in 60 months. Well not exactly every country, just the UN member countries, and presently there are 193 of them.
“It’s the idea that you can receive a real-world education from connections and experiences through travel. The internet along with social media has connected the planet and travel today has never been cheaper, safer, and more friendly. We believe every nation is unique and deserves to be visited, and we invite you to become a part of our community and help you obtain your Global Degree.”
She believes, like we do, that travel is the ultimate form of education which is so awesome. I think she’s got the travel bug in her blood now. She talks about living and working in Europe, traveling in Asia, becoming a sky diving instructor (even though she hasn’t done a jump yet), and living a life that is different and moves away from the regime that we know as the status quo. I’m all for it too and am also getting excited watching their amazing videos they produce travelling to every country.
It also got me thinking how many countries each of us in our family has travelled to either independently or as a family unit. Steve of course leads the way:
Steve – 34/193 countries so far which equates to 18% of the degree.
Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, India, Myanmar (Burma), Indonesia, Malaysia, England, France, Spain, Portugal, Greece, German, Italy, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Lichtenstein, Denmark, Finland, Holland, Turkey, Egypt, USA, Canada, Fiji, New Zealand, New Caledonia.
Lisa – 18/193 countries so far which equates to 9% of the degree.
China, USA, Vietnam, Cambodia, India, Laos, Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, England, France, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Hong Kong (before the hand back).
Charlie, Ash, Billie & Dacey – 9/193 countries so far which equates to 5% of the degree.
Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Myanmar (Burma), Cambodia, India, Spain, Portugal, England.
We also took Charlie & Ash to Italy and France for my cousin, Sarah and her Italian husband Alberto’s wedding in Udine (what a great wedding that was too!).
By the end of our year away the kids could potentially increase the number of countries they have been to to 13 as we complete our RTW trip in December 2017. Take note none of us have been to South America or Africa (yet) but we are going to be flying to Morocco at the end of June. I think there’s another trip in the making right there!
The world really is an amazing place – to be explored and travelled at any age, but we are really loving the experience of travelling with our three teens plus one tween. More people really could be doing this and giving the gift of global travel and with that global perspectives to their children. So I wonder why aren’t more families travelling to different places together? Why are parents waiting for retirement to take their trips? We see so many buses with the grey nomads on board and good on them for getting out and about. But why are we so stuck in being workers in an office or a cubicle (as the American’s like to describe it as) for the best part of our healthy lives? Hmmm…
This morning Charlie has a maths test that takes two hours to complete. I feel like a teacher as I prepare the desk in our bedroom of the Airbnb and inout the time on the iPhone stopwatch. Our Airbnb has one desk in it and it’s located in the annexe of the lounge room. So Steve and I moved the desk into our bedroom facing the window. She thinks she did well and glad it’s over. So many tests in the curriculum! I’m sure she did well.
A note on education on the road, one of the first things many people commented on when we first announced that we were taking the kids out of mainstream school for an entire year to complete a RTW backpacking travel adventure was, “aren’t you worried that you’ll ruin their education or their future prospects?” Steve and I both don’t come with an educational background or teaching qualifications. Far from it – he’s in the Police Force and I’m in Marketing. We chose Distance Education rather than home schooling or completely going off the grid and undertaking world schooling because it seemed to give us the best of both worlds: following the same curriculum as they would have if they were inside a classroom and being flexible on the travel road. The main requirement was that we needed good internet connection and speeds, especially for four children studying simultaneously.
And the Distance Education has delivered great results for all. But in particular Charlie. If we are to judge a student’s performance based on test marks alone she has excelled receiving As and Bs. This includes taking on a final Year 12 subject – Health & Human Development which we were told we’d be crazy undertaking while travelling around the world. The one thing I can assume that has assisted Charlie is that there are no distractions like those experienced in the mainstream school classrooms. Her teachers are available online, but no one is making her do anything. The advantage is that Charlie has taken her learning on as her own. As for the other three – Ash Year 10, Billie Year 7, and Dacey Grade 6 they have not had to perform tests as such but rather have submitted work online to their respective teachers for assessment. All going very well nearly half way in.
But there are ups and downs in everything right? Our girls – 16, 15, 13, and 11 – have all done well but also experienced some downs with motivation levels on certain subjects or projects. I hear this a lot: “Why do I have to do this? Why do I have to know this? I will never use this in my life!” I suppose when you travel the world there are more important subjects to learn and topics to explore – like learning Spanish or another foreign language, working out currency exchange between countries and the cost of buying things, readings maps and train timetables, meeting complete strangers and asking for directions or questions general get to know you questions in an effort for cultural understanding and appreciation, rules and regulations around customs and borders, and so on. I’d like it if they took more interest in the history of the countries we visit and live in, but at least they’re getting the experience and knowledge of history by visiting the forts (when we were visiting them) and temples and buildings and places of historical interest.
I do agree that our mainstream school curriculum is boring and uninviting for the millennial teen marketplace. I have three teenagers who inform me of this all of the time. The curriculum and subjects really do need a complete overhaul which could have the effect of making it so much more relevant and engaging. Today’s generation of young learners have what we never had access to at primary and secondary school (we are Gen Xers) and that is all the answers to anything they want to know about at their fingertips. While I flicked through my Funk & Wagnalls Encyclopaedia collection that took up the last two rows of my bookshelf (and had the special and dignified gold paper edging that meant the information contained within was important) my kids at a similar age have unlimited access to knowledge online and now through travel, they are actually and literally living the learning.
I’m really not sure how or when mainstream schools will transform, but they need to keep pace with this generation and the one’s following them.
Travelling for a year – even just half a year – has changed us significantly. Like the stretching of a rubber band, i=f stretched enough it never quite returns to exactly how it was before it was stretched. That’s exactly how I feel. How will I/we integrate back into normal life at the end of this year is anyone’s guess but we’ll do it just like other RTW families have done before us. I’m sure the girls will not enjoy having to be at school by 9am every weekday and sit in classrooms for hours at a time. As teens they love sleeping more – so they get to do this most days on the backpacking road and begin their learning mid-morning. Studies and papers have shown the need for schools to change school start times for teenagers but in the mainstream nothing changes quickly or at all. This flexible arrangement works much better for our teens. Being able to study when they feel like it is another advantage of being able to catch up on sleep after completing work at night time.
It’s such a lovely opportunity to be outside of the crazy, hectic life that we left behind on so many fronts.
We decide to rain check our scheduled 2nd surfing lesson today as the waves are just not happening. We reschedule for Wednesday. So most of us get in the water for a swim and some body surfing. Steve and Dacey are best at this so I grab the camera and get some great action shots of them both. There are so many kids on the beach of all sizes having an amazing time running in circles and splashing water all over each other. It’s lovely and entertaining to watch them go about their fun.
On another topic, it’s date night tonight for Steve and me. It’s been a while since we’ve been out on a date just the two of us together. The girls love it when we go out on date night as they get to have the apartment all to themselves and watch movies and eat out the pantry. It’s good for us all to have time apart.
Steve and I stroll down to Carcavelos Beach and sit seaside while the sun completely disappears. The clouds are magical at this time of night. We thoroughly enjoy our couple-only night out and return to a quietly sleeping and clean apartment.
I say clean, as we don’t have the luxury of a dishwasher here in our Parede Airbnb apartment. We have everything else except this one magical helper especially handy when there’s six people eating breakfast, lunch and dinner in most weekdays. So we have created a rotation of human dishwashers for each day of the week and the best way to achieve this and not forget who is next in line is to go in alphabetical order: A, B, C, D, L, and finally S. Tonight is A for Ash and she did a brilliant job washing up for the family!
Steve and Charlie run while Billie, Dacey and I explore on the rocks that are exposed at low tide. We love looking around in the rock pools finding crabs and other unique sea life. It’s just magnificent being here – reminding us a lot like home down along the Great Ocean Road. We walk out along the slippery rocks and gaze out into the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean. Quite extraordinary to think that our world is made up of mainly water – just like our bodies. We explore until Steve and Charlie are finished their run and we head back to the apartment.
It’s planning day today where we sit down and map out the rest of our time here in Portugal. We make a list of the places we’d like to visit, activities we’d like to experience etc. So far we’ve scheduled out two of the weekends for longer travel trips. First is south to the Algarve and then north to Porto, while our final weekend is spent with Callum visiting and staying with from London. We met Callum and his parents and his siblings on our first trip to Vietnam in 2012 in Hoi’An and been in touch with them ever since. It’s great to be able to catch up with him in Europe while we’re here.
Weekend #2: This Friday we depart for the southern region of Portugal the Algarve to a place called Lagos and return Sunday. This trip comes with two nights in an Airbnb just outside of Lagos (250 euros), a hire car for 3 days (180 euros) and a kayak and three-hour kayak and snorkel trip to Ponte da Piedade (170 euros). Money is going out quickly at the moment!
Weekend #3: We have also booked a trip up north to Porto on the train the following weekend, departing on Thursday and returning Saturday which we are looking forward to. The
Weekend #4: Our friend Callum from Brighton, England is coming down to stay with us for four nights. We’re planning mountain bike riding in the nature parks from Guincho to Sintra and back plus some more surfing on Carcavelos Beach.
Weekend #5: The final week (as we leave Portugal on a Friday) will be taking the shorter and closer to our home base trips. Doing and seeing the parts of Lisbon that we haven’t got around to doing in the previous weeks and of course packing up and getting ready for mighty and mysterious Morocco.
Planning is intense, with lots of Steve’s time committed to searching and booking accommodation, sorting out hire cars and trying to get the best deals on a budget. So after we have finished this planning and researching we take a much needed walk down to the Carcevelos Beach. Steve and Charlie are running on the beach while Billie, Dacey and I walk and explore on the amazing rocks. It feels like we’ve landed on the moon with all the unusual rock formations and colours along this stretch of Carcavelos Beach. The green moss that has accumulated on the rocks is slippery so we step carefully until we reach the rough and dry rocks. Little black crabs scuttle across the rock pools which delights Dacey who loves fossicking and finding sea creatures in rock pools.
We look out into the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean and feel its majestic beauty – deep and blue and forever. The water is crystal clear and invigoratingly cold. It’s a moment to contemplate our amazing planet Earth and to try and digest the fact that the planet is covered in more water than land. Living on land all of the time, we humans never seem to think of the earth as made up of majority water. Just like our own bodies. I watch Billie and Dacey walk around the rocks and crouch down taking in the microscopic views of the wonder that is inside these little round rock pool habitats and sea creature homes. Bliss.
Surfing lesson number 2 with Felipe (minus Ash).
Well the waves were certainly stronger today than Monday. My goal was to get standing up on the board at least 10 times. I think I got up onto the board really well in the first hour when my legs and arms weren’t tired. But in the second hour, well it just seemed downhill with nose dive after nose dive – too much in front, rushy it too much, not looking at the beach, slipping off the board. Plus I scored a beauty of a wipe out (I think that’s the surfy language) when I experienced being tossed and turned under the water and came up with my wet hair covering my entire face. As the tide started to come in on Carcavelos Beach, the power of the waves increased. It was great fun and glad today was our second lesson rather than our first.
For some reason that I can’t recall right now, Ash cracked it with the family late last night – something to do with having to complete her school work or make me a list of everything outstanding – and she walked out of the apartment and slammed the door behind her. She returned an hour later and spent the rest of the night in her bedroom. So today she was not at all keen to participate in a family surfing lesson. It’s a shame because no matter what you suggest it’s a no from her. No to exercise. No to walking along the beach. All I hear is No. No. No. No. Sometimes teens on the travel path do my head in. Really. But we keep moving forward despite the turns and slips and teen frustration. Anyway…deep breath…
We’re back and eating a healthy pasta salad and drinking plenty of water after being flushed with a good dose of salty water for two hours. My legs are sore, I think I now have a groin injury! and I’m sure my shoulders and arms will be sore tomorrow from all the paddling I did. On the water I could see the energy and happiness in Charlie, Billie and Dacey’s eyes as the power of the waves gives them something to contend with out there. The rougher the better they say! It’s exhilarating for them and for me watching them be this way so full of life and action. They all stood up on the boards a couple of times, so too did surfer Steve. It’s just a fantastic experience being able to learn to surf with the girls while we all fit and healthy. Lots of fun. Highly recommended.
This afternoon Charlie is studying for her Biology SAC that she’ll sit tomorrow morning. Another test. Dacey is getting through some English work. Billie is hooked on a book – yes hooked! Finally, Billie is back reading her favourite book series Immortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare. She’s finished one book yesterday in under two weeks and now she’s onto the next. It’s been a mammoth task over the years getting my four children interested and engaged in reading ANYTHING. They’re all resistant to reading, seeing it as more of a chore than a joy. I was hoping that through travel they would have more time to find their own connection to books, especially since TV is more or less out of the picture. And I’m finally feeling accomplished with one out of four getting into reading. Thank you author Cassandra Clare!
Ash is doing her Year 10 school work – it’s a big catch up for her. She’s also not talking to any of us since we’ve arrived back from surfing and told her she would have loved the waves today. She departs the lounge room table she’s been working at while we’ve been out and retreats to her bedroom. In the meantime, Charlie takes over the vacated table as she took her GoPro along on the surf lesson and we all got to hold the GoPro while surfing and she got some footage of all of us so she replayed it for us. There are some hilarious moments and footage and I’m really looking forward to her posting her surf travel vlog.
Since being away, Charlie has taken on media as her personal interest or hobby and has been publishing video and vlogs along the way. Check out her YouTube channel here.
It’s a day early for Charlie’s Biology SAC as we are departing for the Algarve tomorrow morning in a hire car for a weekend away from home base to explore Lagos. She’s studied and she’s ready. But before she does that we take a brisk walk down to the beach – Charlie and Steve go for a run along the beach while I walk all the way to the other side of Carcavelos Beach. I’m listening to podcasts and catch up with Charlie after she finishes her run and we find a café to sit and get some water and a coffee. Steve meets us later after running an extra 40 minutes along the beach. He’s keeping up his fitness during the European summer by running and walking as his staple routine, and also creating weights out of bags with groceries or whatever other heavy item he can find that he repetitively lifts in the apartment.
Steve’s self-made gym! Check it out…my funny husband!
On the way back we stop off at a hairdressers and make an appointment for later today 4pm for Charlie and me to get our hair coloured. It’s a little reward for all the effort she’s been putting into these tests and obtaining a fantastic standard.
Biology SAC is 90 minutes and Charlie disappears into our bedroom to complete it. She’s relieved when she gets out. In the mean time I have a few words with Ash about her behaviour towards the others. She seems to be listening. And she comes with Charlie and me to the hairdressers to keep us company and talks of wanting to go blonde!
Ash completes a very overdue overdue persuasive essay on Japanese whaling for English and as a result she’s feeling happier about doing that. We are too. Everyone is back being happy and content again. Ahhhh…
We’re road tripping today and heading down south to an area of southern Portugal called the Algarve. Steve’s booked another Airbnb apartment located on the outskirts of the beach town of Lagos (pronounced La-goosh). Earlier this morning, Steve caught the train to Estoril (three stops from our home base Parede) where he collected the 7-seater hire car for the journey while I stayed back waking up sleepy teenagers and getting things packed and ready for our departure.
On weekend trips like this, I find it easier if we all pack our clothes into the one shared suitcase. Even though we have a large 7-seater car for the six of us, it leaves little room for a bag each plus a drone and my camera bag. We are only away in Lagos for 2 nights returning Sunday night so there’s not too much to pack. Charlie is taking the drone along so hoping we can capture some decent drone footage on a beach down there without it going awol or flying away on its own. Fingers crossed.
We depart around 10:30am after a minor debate surrounding seat allocation amongst the kids and we drive in towards the capital city of Lisbon before turning off and crossing over the magnificent Ponte 25 de Abril bridge. Yes, the bridge’s name is actually a date and represents the date that the dictator Salazar and his long standing authoritative regime was overthrown. Since the bridge was originally named after Portugal’s dictator it was soon scrapped and replaced with this overthrow date.
This amazing suspension bridge was built in 1950 and took nine years to complete by the same company that constructed the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. It looks like we’re in San Francisco, USA as we drive over the bridge and enjoy the views on either side of the ochre red bridge and looking up at all the suspension cables overhead. There is a train track that runs underneath the road lanes from Lisbon to the Almada commuter side too.
We have another GPS in the car and follow the TomTom’s instructions driving through large roundabouts and finally climbing up the hill towards the monument Crist de Rei. Now we feel as if we are in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil with this 28m tall Christ statue atop a 75m reinforced concrete pedestal with arms outstretched and open to the city of Lisbon beyond the river Tagus. The Tagus is the longest river in the Iberian Peninsula at 1,007 km long – 716km in Spain, 47km along the border between Portugal and Spain and 275km in Portugal where it empties into the Atlantic Ocean near Lisbon.
Car parking is free at the base of the Crist de Rei monument but it costs 5 euros per adult and 2.50 euros per child (Dacey is the only child) to enjoy the express elevator up to the observation platform that gives more amazing panoramic views of the city of Lisbon. It’s windy at the top, but we’re fully secured within a cage-like fence that makes taking the perfect shot a little tricky. For the religious folks, they can enjoy shopping for a myriad of Christ statues and magnets or attend a prayer session inside the chapel. Before long, we were back down the elevator and enjoying the free views from the grounds that looked out across the Ponte 25 de Abril bridge as well as the Vasco da Gama bridge (six lane bridge built to help alleviate traffic congestion on the Ponte 25 de Abril bridge) further along the River Tagus and Lisbon.
As we walk out we notice the rows of ancient olive trees and take a glance back over our shoulders to see this wondrous imposing monument thinking to myself we must get to South America next trip!
After enjoying another Pasteis de Nata at the café (I know it’s becoming my sweet daily habit but I’m totally obsessed with them) it’s back in the hire car. Charlie apparently inputted our Lagos address into the TomTom – or so we thought – and we were out on the A2 motorway headed south – or so we thought again. That was until we saw the tollway for crossing the Ponte 25 de Abril bridge front before us! We had no way of turning back now, so back over the bridge we went enjoying the views as we entered back into Lisbon from Almada. Unfortunately, GPS TomTom was taking us to the same street address but not south to Lagos, it was going back into Lisbon. So we crossed the bridge three times in one day while the toll fees are quietly clicking over on the little scanning device that records toll fares as we drive through the toll payment gates.
Anyway, we’re all happy with the view again, and we are finally on the right motorway on the right side of Lisbon cruising 120km/h – again with some fancy cars passing us near enough to 200km/h – down the A2 motorway to Lagos. It’s a 3½ hour drive so we stop half way at a motorway café-petrol station for a stretch and something to drink and nibble on.
Steve buys me a takeaway coffee from the second café as the first doesn’t supply takeaway cups. It’s the one thing I’m not enjoying about Portugal so far – there is no amazing café latte or cappuccino and they do not do takeaway! Steve hands me a small plastic cup with hot liquid inside it and although it tastes okay, it’s nothing like I was used to in Spain especially at Mia Café in Malaga where I just may have found the best coffee spot in the entire world!
Back in the car. Cruising down the A2 motorway towards the Algarve region of southern Portugal.
If you’d like to read more about our adventuresome weekend down south in Lagos please read my post titled Days 173-176 | One: Parts of Portugal in Lagos | 9-12 June 2017 (published soon).