So, we’re currently on a break from ‘vanlife’. We arrived in Aljezur in the south west of Portugal just over a week ago and we are intending to spend at least four months here. So, why the extended break here? We spent two months in this area in 2016/17 and then another two months here in 2018/19 doing some volunteering so got to know the area a little bit during those extended stays. When we left here at the beginning of February this year to continue our travels we felt like we could have stayed longer but we were also ready to move on. If that makes sense? No, I thought not. I’ll try to explain.
During our two extended stays here we did some volunteering with Sofia who runs a donkey trekking business. It gave us time out of the van, a focus on something other than travel, enjoyable work and a chance to live like a local for a short while. And of course, for me, spending time with all those donkeys was a super enriching experience. However, after two months we were ready to live our independent life again but we would have liked to spend a bit longer in the area. We really like the laid back slow pace of life here and it’s really the only place we have been to since starting our travels where we could see ourselves spending a chunk of time during the winter. However, at the time we had already made our plans for our trip to Morocco. We’d organised our Green Card for the insurance on the van in a non EU country and we were looking forward to exploring a new country. But. Had we not organised ourselves to go to Morocco we could have easily stayed another month or two in Aljezur either renting a house or staying at the campsite outside the town. Tim had established a few connections with his music and I was happy to help with the donkeys.
We decided, then, to look at the possibilities of renting somewhere in the area during the winter of 2019 to try out an extended stay here but one that was on our own terms where we weren’t volunteering in exchange for accommodation and food. Going into our fourth year of continuous travel we were ready to stretch out a bit and stay put for a while. Travelling fulltime can become tiring. Not in the sense that you feel flaked out all the time but more in a sense of mentally dealing with a life on the move. Planning where to go to next, taking in new sights and experiences daily, emptying and refilling the van, sorting out laundry every couple of weeks, living cheek by jowl with each other twenty four hours a day!
When we embarked on our life change to give up our jobs and do something completely different we viewed it as a new chapter in our lives. It wasn’t going to be a ‘gap year’ it was going to be more of a ‘gap decade’ to travel to different countries, experience different cultures, experience and learn new things and live in different ways to the norm. There wasn’t any time limit on it. We were just going to see how things unfolded and go with whatever felt right at the time. This little sojourn in Portugal, then, is just a chapter within the chapter. It’s as much a time to recharge and give our brains a rest as it is an opportunity to experience living in another country for an extended period to try it on for size so to speak.
Our travels are far from over but we are ready for a break from them.
So we’ve hunkered down and settled in to our little house on a hill in the old town over the last ten days and we’re looking forward to seeing how it all pans out.