And we’re off!

So today is the day we finally set off on our travels.  I can’t believe we’re really going to do it, but we are.  I really am going to backpack round Europe for the summer with a four year old!

It’s been a manic week of getting everything ready, buying a tent (special thanks to the very helpful David at Blacks Ealing), learning how to put up a tent, battling with a sore back and the prospect of carrying a heavy backpack, realising I hadn’t left enough time to receive my interrail pass and having to pay special delivery, realising it was holiday season for the Spanish, French and Italian in August so madly trying to book a few campsites so we’re not stranded when we’re out there and of course getting waxed and having a pedicure (priorities!)  The good thing is I’ve almost not had time to think too much and get nervous. In fact I think I may have finally tipped the scales so that I am more excited than scared at the moment.

Backpacking with 4 year oldThe very helpful David at Blacks – Ealing

I’m excited about what I am going to experience with Bear Cub (who insists he is going to stand on the top of the Eiffel Tower on the flag and take a picture of himself even though I’ve told him we’re not going to Paris!) and I’m excited about being in the outdoors and feeling that sense of being alive and perspective you only get when you’re close to nature.  But I’m most excited about the possibility of new change in me.  I’m trying not to put pressure on myself but, I don’t see how you can’t be ‘awakened’ in some way when you simply take yourself out of one situation and put yourself in another.  I’m sure to discover new good things about myself (and Bear Cub) as well as new bad and ugly things too and I am ready!

So we fly at an unearthly hour Tuesday morning from Gatwick (6.20am) so the first challenge will be waking bear Cub up in the middle of the night and getting him to function enough to actually get on the plane!  The first leg of our trip is Spain.  We start in Alicante and then move on to Valencia, Castellon and Girona before getting a train to Perpignan in France on 31st July.

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We decided to hire a car for this first leg and have booked a guest house for the first 2 nights so that BearCub can catch up on sleep after being woken so early on Tuesday morning.  We’ve then booked some campsites which look like real gems (I’ll let you know if they turn out to be as good as they sound).

On a parent note, I was amazed at how expensive it is to hire a basic booster seat for the hire car around 5 Euros per day which worked out pretty expensive as we’d be having a car for 3 weeks of our trip.  I thought about taking our Trunki travel booster seat which I love for journeys in the U.K but realised that Bear Cub would have to carry it for our Italian leg as I’ll have the big backpack and although it is light and portable for an adult it is not so much for a four year old who may be hot and bothered.  So we have ended up buying a really basic booster seat from Argos  for £12.99 that I will only have to carry until Alicante and we plan to dump it or give it away at the end of our France leg.  I chose one that looked comfortable enough for long journeys but light and portable enough to carry – I’ll let you know if it turns out to be a good buy or not.

My friends and family have been incredibly supportive giving invaluable advice, contacting friends who live in Europe for local insights and very generously giving us money towards the trip even!! It’s wonderful how encouraging and excited people seem to be about our trip and I really do hope it will turn out to be inspirational for others as well as for us – especially as I plan to finally start the book I’ve been writing in my head for a while now!

I’ll finish with this incredible poem that a good friend sent to me last night and I have fallen in love with it.  Every line resonates with me for my impending adventure with Bear Cub.

I wonder what adventures Bear Cub and I will have had by time I next blog next week?!

Adios! Au revoir! Ciao!

For the Traveler

Every time you leave home,
Another road takes you
Into a world you were never in.

New strangers on other paths await.
New places that have never seen you
Will startle a little at your entry.
Old places that know you well
Will pretend nothing
Changed since your last visit.

When you travel, you find yourself
Alone in a different way,
More attentive now
To the self you bring along,
Your more subtle eye watching
You abroad; and how what meets you
Touches that part of the heart
That lies low at home:

How you unexpectedly attune
To the timbre in some voice,
Opening in conversation
You want to take in
To where your longing
Has pressed hard enough
Inward, on some unsaid dark,
To create a crystal of insight
You could not have known
You needed
To illuminate
Your way.

When you travel,
A new silence
Goes with you,
And if you listen,
You will hear
What your heart would
Love to say.

A journey can become a sacred thing:
Make sure, before you go,
To take the time
To bless your going forth,
To free your heart of ballast
So that the compass of your soul
Might direct you toward
The territories of spirit
Where you will discover
More of your hidden life,
And the urgencies
That deserve to claim you.

May you travel in an awakened way,
Gathered wisely into your inner ground;
That you may not waste the invitations
Which wait along the way to transform you.

May you travel safely, arrive refreshed,
And live your time away to its fullest;
Return home more enriched, and free
To balance the gift of days which call you.

John O’Donohue

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