Settling in during corona

First, we have to apologise for the missing blog last week. So far, we’ve always written a new blog each Thursday (or sometimes Friday), but last week we just couldn’t. We had wanted to show you our new home, so we’ll do that in this blog!

As the corona rules have been considerably tightened, this is probably going to be quite a boring autumn for us. We also have to get used to the cold and rainy days here; we didn’t have that last year (in Greece and Turkey) at all. However, we like to go on long walks with Sparta and we don’t mind to cuddle up on the couch to watch Netflix a little more. Moreover, we will both start working again soon! Nienke has found a position as a biology teacher for three days per week, starting in two weeks. Tamara has already started working on Tuesdays and will probably work on a school near our home soon too.

So, after one and a half month in the Netherlands, we are finally settling in. We will lay low for the next five months and we still have hope to leave again in April.

Finding our new life

When we came back to The Netherlands, we decided to stay for approximately seven months. We didn’t want to live on a campground again, like we did before we left in 2019: with Sparta, we want to have more room and warmth during the winter. Also, we both had to find a job, because houses here are pretty expensive and – of course – we didn’t want to spend all our travel money on it. All in all, we’ve had plenty of things to do!

First of all, we had to go to a mechanic for Tiny’s yearly check-up. We noticed that having only one car isn’t great for us, so we immediately went looking for another car. Tiny’s little brother is a Peugeot 206 and he’s silver as well. We’ve called him Big. Next, we had to register ourselves somewhere. Nienke’s sister offered to help us with that, because we still had to find our own place to live. Fortunately, it all went very smooth!

Meanwhile, we’ve been searching for a job. We don’t want to work full-time, because we have someone to care for now. One of us has to stay home for Sparta, so we’ll both work two or three days. For Tamara, finding something wasn’t very difficult, because there’s a huge lack of primary school teachers here. So far, she already worked 8 days. Nienke has two job interviews coming up, so that’s  probably going to be fine too.

Thanks to our Facebook contacts, finding a place to live was quite easy. A friend of the sister of an aunt has a little house next to her big house, which we can rent for 6 months. We went to check it out and told her right away that we were very excited to move in. It’s located North of Den Bosch, in between farms and farmland and close to a big river (the Maas). Our host has chicken, sheep and a pig and there are plenty of apple trees around the house. The house itself is small, but cosy: we have a modern kitchen, a toilet and a shower, a living room with many windows and a big attic with a double bed. We love it!

Now we are slowly settling in, we hope we can finally get some rest. From living on the road to living on different parkings in our rainy homecountry is quite a weird transition. Frankly, we don’t like it at all! Hopefully, we will get used to our new home soon and probably, we will like being back much better then.

(Next week, we’ll make a video of our house!)

 

The reasons why

We are back in The Netherlands! That means that we already drove through a big part of the country to see many friends and both our families. Also, we took Tiny to the mechanic for a check-up: he got his APK/TUV! We have to get two (quite big) things fixed in the next couple of months, but other than that he is still perfect.

So, about why we came back. It certainly wasn’t easy to make the decision to end our trip, but once we had decided, we felt relieved. In spring, we had been stuck in Georgia, which was actually not that bad at all. Georgia is a beautiful country and we were able to visit all the sites we wanted to see. Still, we didn’t like the fact that making new plans was impossible, as things around corona changed every day.

Once it was clear that only the border to Turkey – and definitely not the one to Azerbaijan or Russia – would open, we decided to leave Georgia. We were hoping to be able to cross the border to Iran, but it became clear that this wasn’t going to happen anytime soon. We worked on a farm for one week, but we wanted to know what was next. It was then that we decided to go back to Europe, if we could.

We have to tell you that we really LOVE Turkey, though. Staying there for another few months would have been great, if we weren’t hoping to continue our journey to the East. It felt like we would have had to wait it out, without anything to do. If you are waiting, even the prettiest place would get boring at some point. Working in Turkey as English teachers would also have been an option, but the wages in Turkey are very low. So, we figured that while we were waiting anyway, we could also drive back to The Netherlands!

Going back seemed like the best option: we would see all of our friends and families again and we could try to find a temporary job and a place to stay. However, we had a problem: if we would take Sparta to Europe, we needed the right documents for him. That would mean that we needed to get another rabies vaccination and redo the test (the one that wasn’t good enough when we did it in Tbilisi). Because this test is quite expensive and because other travellers had told us that they don’t even check it at the border, we decided to just try to cross the border without the test. If they wouldn’t let us through, we could always do the test again after all.

Just to say it again; it was a very difficult decision to pause our trip for a while. We had planned to be on the road for two or three years, but only one year had passed. For us, this is therefore just a temporary solution to this situation we found ourselves in. It’s not the end of our journey, it’s only a short break. A couple of months in which we will settle down, spend time with our loved ones, find a job, a house and earn some money to live from. Then, in spring, we will hopefully return to our travelling way of life and continue our trip. In the meantime: will we see you in The Netherlands?

Surprise!

While everybody thought we were lying in the sun in Turkey, we were actually driving to The Netherlands last week. Surprise! Next week, we’ll tell you all about it. First, we’re enjoying time with family and friends and finding a place to live for the next couple of months. Please contact us if you know a place somewhere in the South of The Netherlands!

Overlanding in winter

We have been on the road for 8 months now and we have been living in Tiny for 15 months more. That means that this is our second winter in our van, although this one is way different than last year’s. Whereas we stayed in The Netherlands last year, on our campsite in the woods, we have been moving around this year.

The first feeling of winter that we experienced, was in Turkey in December. We took our winter coats from the roof and we saw the first snow. Because we were doing our Workaway in Isparta and we stayed in an apartment, we didn’t mind the weather and we enjoyed the fresh air. We even went skiing/snowboarding one day!

After we had left Isparta, we drove through Turkey and spent some very cold days in beautiful Cappadocia. It was only when we moved further up North that we noticed that overlanding in winter can be challenging; we had many days of rain and snow while entering Georgia. At the same time, we had troubles with Tiny and had to go to the mechanic several times. Fortunately, we were still able to continue our way towards Tbilisi.

As we had read that Georgia is a wonderful country for spending time in nature, we went looking for some nice places to visit. However, only one site was open: we visited the Prometheus Cave near Kutaisi, which we enjoyed very much. We also drove up to a gorge, but there was too much snow in the mountains to be able to get to the parking lot. Thus, we went to see the (very boring) city of Kutaisi instead. As we had some nice sunny days, we didn’t mind the cold at all and we visited Gori and its fortress. Our days in Tbilisi were also amazing, even though we spent a lot of time at the mechanic again.

It had been three weeks since we had left Isparta, so we were ready for our next Workaway. We stayed put in the mountains for two and a half weeks, spending our time with the cats and dogs in the shelter. With a lot of wind, some snow and hours without electricity, these days were very cold! We loved walking the hills with the dogs, though. After we had spent two more days in Tbilisi, we moved on to our current Workaway. We didn’t want to travel around too much, because Georgia has a lot of mountains and therefore a lot of snow in the winter.

We arrived in Gudauri in the middle of a snowstorm, which we actually liked very much. Sparta had a lot of fun in the snow and our heater kept us warm during the cold evening. The next morning, we arrived at the ski resort where we would spend the next weeks, working as English teachers in a restaurant. We noticed that we wouldn’t have a lot of work, as the staff wasn’t very interested in learning English after work hours. We thus bought a 10-day lift pass and went skiing/snowboarding every other day. What a great place for us!

And then, last Sunday night, the Corona madness started… Although we had thought we would be safe in this remote mountain resort, we ended up in the heart of the problem. It turned out that some Czech tourists had brought Corona to our restaurant on March 4. This meant that we had to close immediately and stay in quarantine for a while. Meanwhile, it has been snowing terribly for days and we cannot go outside (at least not further than 5 meters from the entrance). So, our car has been snowed in, everything gets wet all the time and we are constantly plowing our way to our side door. We are still sleeping in the van, which we don’t mind, but it’s getting a little bit annoying. When we want to get out in the morning, the snow comes all the way up to the door and Sparta totally disappears when he jumps out. Besides, the car is getting rusty and icy and we hope we will be able to get it out once the quarantine ends.

For now, we are quite happy that we are in a restaurant with plenty of food. We are obligated to stay inside, but it’s warm and dry and Sparta has a lot of space to run around. We’re getting a little bit bored and we are worried about what will happen in the next couple of weeks, but we are sure that we will stay in Georgia. Hopefully, we will soon have fully recovered from Corona – if we’ve had it at all – and we can get the van checked once we get back to Tbilisi.

All in all, our winter has been both amazing and demanding. On the one hand, we wished that we had stayed in a sunny place to spend the winter. On the other hand, we have really enjoyed the snowy mountains. We miss our friends and family, but we are happy to be able to talk to them every day now most people in The Netherlands have a lot of time on their hands due to Corona. We stay optimistic and we believe the world will recover from this madness.

Please take care of yourselves and the people around you!

 

Sparta from Isparta

Wow. A lot has been going on here. Since the day we arrived in Isparta, we have been spending a lot of time with our friends from the US, from New Zealand and of course from Turkey. The nights at the language café are pretty awesome: we play many games, drink tea and talk a lot. Some of the locals even bring cookies or homemade dishes sometimes. We really like it!

Last Saturday we went hiking. First, we drove from Isparta to the little village Akpinar, which is situated on a hill overlooking Egirdir Lake. This lake is the fourth biggest lake in Turkey and therefore, it attracts many Turkish and international tourists. The views from Akpinar are amazing, but the views from the top of the mountain are even more astonishing. When we had arrived in the village, our friends Michelle and David started screaming while stepping out of the van. Puppies! Four little, energetic pups were running towards us, followed by their friendly mother. They were all really skinny, but other than that they seemed to be pretty healthy. The mother didn’t seem to have any milk left and we filled up their empty water bowl. Two bigger male dogs were also walking around the place, and we figured that the black one must have been the father of the puppies. After we had been cuddling them for a while, we left them in the village and started our hike up the mountain.

The first part of the walk we were accompanied by the other dog, who seemed to know the way. We climbed up the mountain in a slow but steady pace. Although we didn’t really know where the path was leading, we enjoyed every part of it. We passed many cows and we saw the barns they were probably staying in during the night. After about one hour we arrived at some ruins of an ancient town called Prostanne. There was a sign saying that it dates back to the 5th century, but there was not much left to see. Another option is that some of the old acropolis is still hidden underground. However, the view was getting better and better, so after a little break we continued climbing up the mountain. At this point, the dog had left us, and we had to find the way by ourselves. Luckily, the path leading to the top was easy to find. We took many photos: the view over the mountains behind us was incredible! When we finally arrived at the top, we became silent and stared at the view over the lake for a while. The hike was tough, but this view was definitely worth it!

Fortunately, walking down was a lot easier and we quickly got back to Akpinar. We barely arrived in the village or the puppies were already running towards us. They were all so incredibly cute! The mother was also in love with us, so she followed us while we were walking to the van. Somehow, we had known from the first moment we had laid eyes on one of the puppies, that he was going to come home with us. Because we wanted to be really sure about it (and because we craved coffee), we went to the restaurant in the village to talk about it some more. We had gözleme (Turkish pancakes) and watched over the beautiful lake one more time. And yes… we were ready to make a really big decision.

Once we had arrived back at the van, the dogs were all still waiting for us. A farmer was just about to feed them some bread and Tamara walked up to him to ask to whom the dogs belonged. He made some gestures to tell us to just take them all. Of course, this was never going to happen! We got a blanket from the van, rubbed it over the mom’s fur and picked up the little guy we had fallen in love with. His mom wanted to come with us too, but unfortunately, we could only take one dog. Michelle took the blanket and the puppy to the backseat and we drove back to Isparta. The dog had peacefully fallen asleep when we arrived back at our parking spot. Since the shops were still open, we directly walked to the pet store and bought a cage, food, the smallest available collar, a chewy toy, lice shampoo and a leash. We had to find a name for our little friend!

That night, people arrived at the café and they all wanted to meet the puppy. Even though he was overwhelmed, he really liked all the attention and didn’t go to sleep until everybody had gone home. The next day, we went to the veterinarian and found out that our puppy is approximately 8-10 weeks old. He is healthy and the vet gave him an anti-parasite treatment. By now, he has gotten quite used to the crowd at the café. On Christmas night he even slept for almost two hours, while all the visitors were making a lot of noise. During the nights he sleeps in his cage, next to our beds. He wakes up once in a while, but always goes back to sleep quickly. We try to potty-train him, but it’s pretty difficult while being indoors a lot. Other than that, it’s a lot of fun to have this little man around! We decided to name him Sparta, to always remember where he came from.

As Christmas is not such a big thing here in Turkey, we didn’t really feel the Christmas vibe. However, we got together with all the volunteers and with some of the locals and had a very nice evening. We wish all of our readers a very Merry Christmas and an adventurous and joyful 2020!

Improving Tiny’s looks

On June 23rd we did a mechanic course to get to know all about Tiny’s inside. He almost didn’t fit in the garage, so fortunately we hadn’t put the roof rack on yet. The course took a whole day and it really made us feel more confident about all the things we will come across when we’re on the road. Thanks autosleutelcursus.nl!

The next Friday Nienke took Tiny to another garage, where a metal worker converted a big roof rack into a smaller one. This was necessary, because our roof hatch was too high to put the roof rack over it. When the roof rack was put on top of Tiny, he suddenly transformed into a real overland vehicle!

The day after, Conobra made Tiny look a lot prettier! He added a world map to his left side and our logo to all sides. The colour orange was chosen because it stands out and moreover, it’s the colour of our birth country! We are really proud of our van now; please honk when you see us driving by!

The last thing we need to do is to buy a roofbox so that we are able to take our winter clothes and our ski/snowboard gear. Tiny’s garage is already filled with other stuff, so a roofbox is a must! This also means that Tiny will be taller, so we have to take that into account when we want to enter a tunnel.

Last Sunday we had to leave the campground where we had lived for ten months. Since then, we’ve parked Tiny on a farm and we are allowed to stay for a while. We now stay among sheep, goats, horses and a goose! Luckily we are already used to moving around a lot, so that will definitely not be a problem in the near future.

 

 

Home sweet campground

The summer holiday has ended, so from now on we permanently live on a campground and have to go to work from there. Some co-workers even asked us why we were still at school: “didn’t you go to Asia?!”

Well, not yet. We will stay on the campground till at least the end of May and we told our bosses that we’ll most likely finish this year at school. During these months Tiny can prove its worth: will he keep us warm in winter, won’t we need more space to move around and importantly, will he start running again when we’ll begin our journey? Besides trying out our tiny house, we can save a lot of money by living on the campground. The place is quite cheap, we don’t need to pay road taxes for Tiny and there are no other costs we need to pay while living here.

In the two weeks we’ve been here so far, we set up our tent and moved ‘all’ our stuff. The tent in front of Tiny is about 10 square meters and we made it feel like our living room: it has a couch, a chair, a side table and a rug on the floor. We put candles on the table and lights on the roof, so we’re able to sit there at night too. We even had a little fish! Its name was Big and it had really pretty orange fins and a grey body, but unfortunately he died after 12 days…

Outside, we’ve put a hammock between the trees and set up a table and some chairs. Also, our bicycles are standing against a tree, we have a fire bowl for campfires and there’s a bird house that looks like an old VW van.

To go to work, Tamara has to ride her bike for about 10 minutes. At Tuesdays and Thursdays she puts on her running shoes and runs to school. It’s only 3 kilometers. Nienke can either go to work by car or by train. Both take about 40 minutes to get there. It’s really convenient to have a train station (Gilze-Rijen) nearby! One day we went to Tilburg to have diner and Nienke has already been to friends in Amsterdam and Barendrecht.

We feel truly happy to be here. It’s small, we don’t own a dishwasher, we have to walk 100 meters to go to the restroom and when it’s cold we need to put on an extra sweater, but it definitely feels like home. It’s really great to be outside all the time and to be able to smell the fresh air.

Bye bye house [VLOG]

Our first VLOG! And yes, I admit, it does need some more practicing.

A co-worker at Nienkes school recommended an Olympus Tough for making vlogs and action videos. After spending some hours comparing digital cameras, we decided to try it out. The camera can also be used under water, tracks wherever you go and it doesn’t mind bumping into things. The first video we took, is the vlog you can see below. However, we were really disappointed about the gigantic wide angle, which makes the walls look circular in stead of straight. For videos that might not be such a big problem, but for photos it’s definitely not pretty.

So, after a while we decided to return the Olympus to the store. Today a new camera was delivered: a Sony Cybershot. This camera should be great for taking quality photos, but is also a great vlog camera. However, we probably need to be much more careful with the Cybershot, since it cannot swim and its body looks quite delicate…

P.s. We still need to learn how to put English subtitles under our vlogs…

It’s all starting to take shape

In the last couple of weeks we’ve been turning our house upside down to sort out all our stuff. There’s one pile that goes directly into the waste bin. The next pile is crammed into boxes for upcoming flea markets. And the last pile, the most important but smaller pile, is to keep. Only the most essential and valuable belongings will remain.

In nine weeks from now, we’ll move out of our house. Tiny is patiently waiting for us to move in. However, a lot has to happen until that moment and I’m convinced that the time will fly by.

While reading a fabulous book from two Argentineans who travelled all the way to Alaska in an 1928 car, I came across a part that totally blew my mind.

“The education of your parents and their treatment of you is very important, as is your own schooling and the society in which you grow up. That aside, you can’t blame them for your way of life and your failures. You have the intelligence to change what is necessary, to be what you want to be. If you are a person who doesn’t fit in the world that surrounds you, if you feel uncomfortable doing what you like, and everyone looks at you like a frog from another pond, that’s how it is: that’s not your place. Nevertheless, don’t change, look for another pond, find your place, where the world that surrounds you is your world. Only you are responsible for yourself, don’t look for excuses among others.”

So, that’s what we’ll do. We’ll find our place, our pond.