TechnomadicsVagabonding Europe

We reached a milestone this week: Three years since we left Australia to come and travel around Europe.

Three years ago, we packed up/sold our stuff, said farewell to family and friends, got on a plane, and arrived in London. We discovered our new home-on-wheels, Nettle, after just two weeks of looking, thanks to my first cousin once removed, Trevor and his wife Jane, motorhomers themselves.

Nettle was perfect, everything we were looking for, despite the odds.

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We took her to Ireland, an achingly beautiful place of unbelievable luminescent green.

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We made our way to northern France, a place of rolling fields and lovely little villages.

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We hung out with friends in Paris; Tiff, and Tim, Jen and Annie, then performed an enormous sprint down to Italy to join them there, on white beaches and in warm turquoise waters.

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We played in Tuscany, Rome, Pompeii and Sorrento.

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Then we said a sad goodbye to our friends and struck out on our own — through grotty Southern Italy to stunning Sicily.

We wild-camped on a cliff overlooking the sea on a wild, stormy night that took many lives in landslides; we visited charming seaside towns, and horrendously grotty cities. We spent some time living among olive trees and overlooking the turquoise Tyrrhenian Sea while working on art and software (most of which may never see the light of day — there was also plenty to learn about wise use of time!).

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Also, growing hair, apparently

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We watched endless electrical storms out over the sea, as the lights of the nearest town, reflected in the water, flickered on and off. We explored national parks, and old hilltop villages.

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We explored ancient Greek ruins, and climbed an active volcano, where we experienced the most intensely cold wind, the most lunar-like terrain, and the most beautiful autumn colours.

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We slept on the side of Mount Etna — as it turned out, during a minor eruption, which we totally missed — and met some lovely new local friends — Nuccio and Carmelo — who swept us up and treated us just like close family.

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We ran out of visa time, and submitted ourselves to a gruelling but highly educational three months in North Africa, getting into a number of close scrapes in the meantime and speaking a lot of French.

We wandered around a colosseum, drove through litter-strewn towns, wandered through crowded old markets, met some new friends.

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We hit the desert. Baked dirt, blown sand, blue sky. We even chatted with a guy who supported the Taliban, which was weird.

Also: Tataouine, totally a real place.

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We drove across a blinding white salt lake, and wandered through amazingly well-preserved Roman towns.

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Finally, an exodus back to Italy — Aahhhhhh.

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We drove the winding, narrow gauntlet of the Amalfi Coast. Beautiful, and terrifying.

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We also discovered HDR photography in the process, and applied it…enthusiastically, shall we say.

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In quick succession — or rather, slow succession, with plenty of long, project-work-filled stops — we cruised through Rome, Abruzzo, Umbria, Tuscany…Assisi, Arezzo, Sienna, Padua, Venice. We wandered through the hills around ancient hilltop towns, peered inside astonishing cathedrals.

We met quite a few people on the way, some by chance (the Aussie/Italian couple Ray and Sam in Poggibonsi — no, I didn’t just make up that name), and some by design, the lovely Italian couple Bruno and Elena in the little country town of Preggio who invited us into their home, and the young couple Andrea and Silvia who we met up with in Padua, and with whom we rapidly became quite dear friends and wandered Venice with — their college town.

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We made a beeline back to the UK, over the Alps and through Germany, and rapidly changed our plans from an actively-travelling summer, to one spent in Cornwall, happily working away and riding our newfound bikes around the country lanes.

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We made a little trip up to Bath and the Cotswolds to spend some time with some friends from Australia, Sarah, Carmen and Di.

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Other friends from Australia, Daniel and Shakti, joined us for a little while, and summer drifted by, changed to autumn.

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We found ourselves a house-sit in a beautiful stone farm cottage in Wales belonging to a lovely couple Anne and Mike, right through the magical, magical winter.

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We both worked hard through the winter — me, programming, and Katherine befriending the travel community with the intent to recruit assistance in promotion — and when spring came around again, we released our first major product: The Cartographer, a travel app. Some nervous moments in the first few weeks with low sales, then jackpot: Nine consecutive weeks of featuring by Apple.

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We said farewell to our winter home in Wales, and headed north, dropping in on family Keith and Olga and Pauline and Bill in the midlands, then up through the Peak and Lake Districts, where we did some rather substantial walks. Then, to Scotland where we met up with a friend from Belgium, Kris; my great-uncle/aunt Dennis and Janet; and some new travel-blogger friends on the stunning Isle of Skye, Keith and Sarah, who we clicked with straight away.

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Then our time in the UK was up: Our two year visas were almost done, so we drove to Hull via — yep — Swansea, for a hospital checkup for lumpy Katherine (all clear), then York, where we met up with another travel-blogger friend, highly entertaining and likeable Mike, and caught a ferry over to Belgium.

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A romp across industrial-y Belgium, a month’s unexpected stay in somewhat icky Genk for some dental work, then France, oh, France!

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In the meantime, I’ve reinvented, built and launched my new app, Loopy, a live-looper musical instrument app. It’s a wild, insane success, sales boom, and suddenly our financial goals are well and truly surpassed. We start talking about buying a house back in Australia when all this is over, up front, no mortgage. It’s unbelievable.

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A brief birthday interlude with some more new friends, Kent and Heather, on their boat in middle France, then some visa issues sent us scurrying to Denmark!

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We met a friend of Andrea and Silvia (our Padua friends), Emanuele, who had kindly agreed to be our “residential address” in Denmark. We hung out for a bit, and then made a beeline back to the south of France.

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Down to the south of France for another winter — a month in a yucky little town near Marseilles (Istres), then across into a beautiful little village in the foothills of the Pyrenees — Alet-les-Bains, where we stayed right through ’till spring.

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Then a brief voyage to Barcelona, and…

Here we are, spending a night on the site of an ancient Gaul village (I grew up with Asterix, so this is super cool). On the road still, still having a tremendous time after three years, although with the occasional pining for friends and family (and fixed plumbing!).

The adventure has morphed since we started, shifted to a hybrid — part discovery of this amazing part of the world, and part pursuing of our other dreams: My now successful software business, and Katherine’s fledgling artistic career.

The work success is one of the most exciting things I’ve ever experienced: Being able to have a successful business doing what I love, developing indie software — creative, intellectually challenging, varied, highly satisfying — is beyond my wildest dreams. Together with the rest — total freedom to roam around some of the most beautiful and interesting places in the world, and a loving, funny, creative, beautiful partner to share it all with; well, I feel pretty blessed.

Now — we are headed for Provence to see some turquoise water and high grey cliffs, then onwards, ever onwards, into year four, and into our thirties.

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34 Responses to Three Years On The Road: The Story So Far

  1. You’ve both created such an amazing series of experiences for yourselves! I admire you for not being afraid to follow the adventure of life and just see where it leads. In just 3 years it’s taken you to more special places than most people see in a lifetime. I hope the next 3 years is just as fun and interesting.

  2. Barry Gray says:

    Hello Michael, Katherine, and Nellie,

    So glad to see your recent posts. I’d actually looked the other day and saw that you had not posted in about a month. I assumed you were busy getting Loopy HD published.

    Phantastic set of photos! My wife and I paged through them this morning. What a wonderful adventure. And to think it’s self-funded too – like a perpetual motion machine.

    If you get tired of Europe you’ll have to come visit us in Northern California (near Stanford)… home of Apple, FB. Google, etc.

    Did you ever see Steve Jobs’s Stanford commencement speech?

    Stay foolish,

    Barry

    • Michael says:

      Thanks Barry! Yeah, we were busy busy busy. We may visit SF/etc at some point – I’m pondering the prospect of next year’s WWDC, actually (Apple’s annual developer event). Yup, seen that one =)

  3. Tyler says:

    Congratulations you two! May the next three be just as exciting as the last :)

  4. Dan Nelson says:

    Hello Michael and Katherine, thank you so much for publishing all these photos of your amazing journey! You have inspired me to travel the world with my girlfriend. I will tell everyone I know about your incredible voyage!

    Keep travelling :)

    Dan

  5. cb_mainz says:

    Hi Michael,

    what amazing and beautiful pictures. Makes me want to travel myself. If I’m not mistaken you came very close to were I live in germany. One of the fotos shows the river Rhein at Bingen. This is not fare from Mainz, we’re I’m at home.

    Love Loopy HD and can’t wait for audiob.us!

    Have a nice time Christopher

  6. thamas says:

    Just arrived here as a new Loopy owner (bought it yesterday). I must say that you’re not average people. :o)

    Thanks for this post! Got a quick view into your interesting life.

    Have a nice journey and don’t forget to say “hello” when you come to Hungary! :o)

  7. Has it been three years? It seems like it was only yesterday. I remember when you first came into the UK, you miserable sick from a cold, and there were other complications, but I don’t remember the details. It was certainly not the best way to start, but then you found your feet, and the adventure began. I have enjoyed following the two of you, the amazing images, and stories, all of it inspiring, thank you!

    T.

  8. Milan says:

    Man you are living my dream. : ) I love your travel photos and your Cartographer app is one of the best designed app I have ever seen. If your map ever lead’s you to Serbia, be sure to contact me.

    My best to you two dreamers… ; ) Milan

  9. Sarah says:

    Hi Michael and Katherine,

    When’s your exhibition?! Stunning photographs, and inspirational story and I am filled with immense joy reading through your snapshot of the past three years! Michael you were born gifted and I have always admired your talent, but it takes something else to pursue your passions (Pass I On) and courage to say goodbye to the familiar and venture into the world in pursuit of your preferred reality! I thank you – and I look forward to crossing paths again one day soon xx

  10. zeeeter says:

    Wonderful adventures, and such beautiful photography Michael. I spent a lot of time in Italy and recognize a few of the locations! If as planned your trip takes you to NorCal, try to make some time also for our neck of the woods Sunny SoCal, we’ll see what we can do to show you some of the sights and sites! Best wishes guys.

    • Michael says:

      Thanks Zeeeter =) Brilliant! Well, we’ll probably get to the States eventually (once I get past my innate fear of American customs/immigration/rectal probing, probably ;-)). Thanks for the offer! Cheers!

  11. I am so inspired by this blog, thank you. Although I am lucky enough to have travelled, I would love to travel indefinitely. Is your trip solely funded by the money made on your software and art businesses? Also, how do you find the driving? I drove around Europe in my small car and that was entertaining enough. I should imagine driving a motor home being especially challenging. Anyway, love the pictures and love the story so far. Thanks again for sharing this with us.

    • Michael says:

      Thanks, Dan!

      Yep, these days, it’s entirely funded by The Cartographer and Loopy (mostly Loopy).

      The driving is perfectly fine – if we can manage to keep clear of motorways, it’s often fantastic, a great way to see large swathes of country. We limit our driving days to 3-4 hours so it doesn’t get awful. Motorway driving is always sucky, but sometimes that can’t be helped. It’s definitely more tiring than driving a car, and in places like Italy where roads can get narrow, it can get stressful (sometimes extremely so – we’ve had a few really close calls, nearly getting irrevocably stuck).

      Cheers!

  12. Alexis says:

    This photo journal made me laugh and cry with delight. Thank you so much for sharing your journey- you two are an inspiration. It was wonderful to see your love and shared adventure!

  13. Vicente says:

    A lot of miles have run under our shoes since I benefitted of your nice Grunge WP Theme, which has standed well the proof of time. I see now a HUGE improvement in your professional career, your apps and most important your life style. Congrats mates!

  14. Jason says:

    Hi Michael, just read your 3 year round-up and it’s incredible. Your photography skills are fabulous, braveness and ingenuity are inspirational, really well done. We almost hit the one year mark, and are at home celebrating some family birthdays, hitting the road again next week for a few more months. It would be fabulous if we could catch up somewhere. Our winter destination is Sicily and Tunisia. Cheers, and congratulations again, Jay

    • Michael says:

      Thanks heaps, Jason, that’s very kind!

      Love meeting up with people – I’m totally up for it, although the next year or so is gonna be mostly spent in northern Europe, for us!

      (Wow, Tunisia – you’re game!)

  15. Pierre says:

    Hey Michael,

    Your story is absolutely amazing! We did quite the same thing, except that we did the trip in the other way! :) We are French, have travelled for 3 months around South-East Asia and then 8 months in Australia. We planned to stay here for a while, we just got a sponsorship visa. We didn’t develop any crazy app for iPhone yet, but the idea is also to earn our life living our dreams and travelling, just like you; we are on our way to it, and that’s really exciting! I am myself keen on photography and I really enjoyed shooting panoramics, macro and all kind of pictures here in Australia, I must say that your pictures are absolutely amazing! Well, very good job! I’m really happy for you two guys. We know what kind of feeling you can have, freedom is probably the most precious thing on Earth! And once you’ve tested it, it’s almost impossible to come back to a “normal life”.

    Cheers, maybe see you one day somewhere in Europe, Australia or wherever on Earth! :)

  16. Val says:

    Hi Just discovered your blog and very impressed with your trip and the photos you took! We are Brits living in SW France and we’ve just upgraded to a Hymer B564 (1990). In our last van we did a 5 week trip in Spain and Morocco and we hope to have more trips like this in the future….! (In my younger days I backpacked round Oz and NZ!) Please email us if you are coming to France – Happy New Year!

  17. Valerie says:

    Wow, I just just had to comment how much this entry moved me. I discovered your blog and three-year recap while researching our planned 12-month working-remotely while-RVing trip in the U.S. in 2014.

    I was surprised to find my eyes welling up at your story and especially the images! I had to ask myself, What’s that all about? It only took a moment to identify that I have a deep yearning to travel around Europe too. I just didn’t think it was possible for Americans to get visas for an extended stay such as yours but your story made me look into how it is indeed possible if you keep moving in and out of certain zones.

    And before we go on our U.S. trip, I’m inspired to look into high-dynamic range photography because your images are truly stunning. I’m also moved by your beautiful relationship and how you made friends everywhere you went. Maybe we’ll see you somewhere along our paths if they cross in the future.

    Thanks for the information and the inspiration!

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