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.
We took her to Ireland, an achingly beautiful place of unbelievable luminescent green.
We made our way to northern France, a place of rolling fields and lovely little villages.
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.
We played in Tuscany, Rome, Pompeii and Sorrento.
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!).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We drove across a blinding white salt lake, and wandered through amazingly well-preserved Roman towns.
Finally, an exodus back to Italy — Aahhhhhh.
We drove the winding, narrow gauntlet of the Amalfi Coast. Beautiful, and terrifying.
We also discovered HDR photography in the process, and applied it…enthusiastically, shall we say.
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.
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.
We made a little trip up to Bath and the Cotswolds to spend some time with some friends from Australia, Sarah, Carmen and Di.
Other friends from Australia, Daniel and Shakti, joined us for a little while, and summer drifted by, changed to autumn.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A romp across industrial-y Belgium, a month’s unexpected stay in somewhat icky Genk for some dental work, then France, oh, France!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.