90 days and counting

Only 90 days ago, we were preparing for our big trip. Only 90 days ago, we were ready to change our lives forever. Now, 90 days later, we are looking back at the first part of our journey, even though we’re actually – still – just beginning.

The things we’ve seen and done
So far, we have travelled through 9 countries: Germany, Austria, Italy (even though it was short), Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Albania and Greece. If you count our home country, it would be 10. Our first great experience was in Slovenia, where we’ve met amazing people who we’ll never forget. Afterwards, we were surprised by the pretty sights and great people in Bosnia. We were really pleased by this country. Then, we spent some days in the beautiful mountains of Montenegro and at some interesting sites in Albania. We loved travelling through both of them and we enjoyed our time together. Finally, we arrived in Greece to cherish the last moments of summer and to help out on a small permaculture farm in the hills. Right now, we’re leaving the lovely family that we’ve met here to continue our way to Asia. However, we will pay a visit to Athens and Thessaloniki first!

 What we love about our way of living
If we think about it now, after almost three months, the greatest change that we’ve noticed in ourselves is to live in the moment. We don’t worry about what happened yesterday or last week, because it happened then and not today. We also don’t worry about what’s going to happen tomorrow or next week, as our plans change from day to day. We never know what the next day will bring, so why would we think about it now? We’re living in the moment and because of that, we don’t feel any stress. Besides, when we lived in The Netherlands, we always had to check our schedule if we felt like doing something. Now, we can do whatever we want and whenever we want, without checking if we have to work tomorrow or if we have to go to the gym tonight. It just feels amazing to wake up and think about what you want to do that day.

Other than experiencing no stress, we also really enjoy being outside all the time. The last year in The Netherlands, living on the campground, we noticed it too; breathing in fresh air every day makes us feel more energetic and cheerful. Of course, the weather has been terrific up to now, which makes living outside even more wonderful. We really hope to have a mild winter, so we can stay out as long as possible!

Only a few things…
All in all, we still don’t regret quitting our jobs and leaving our home country. We learn new things every day, we meet a lot of nice people and it still feels like vacation. However, we have to admit that we miss a few things… although sometimes it’s hard to understand what these things are. Most of all, we really miss our family and our friends. It’s not that we miss one person in particular, but we mainly miss talking to someone familiar, someone that we trust. Especially when we experience big cultural differences with our hosts or when we had an argument. We can of course always call someone to talk about it, but that’s really not the same as having a coffee together. And other than talking to someone, we miss being part of a group and doing fun things with them. For example, when we see pictures of our friends or family having a great time together, it can feel pretty lonely to be on the other side of Europe.

Another thing we miss, is our Dutch way of having a meal. We’ve noticed that when we’re staying with hosts, we have a hard time adjusting to their schedule. At all our Workaway’s so far, lunch has been the main meal of the day. Sometimes pasta, sometimes potatoes, sometimes soup… but it’s always been a hot lunch around two or three o’clock. Because we are used to having breakfast between seven and eight o’clock, we always get really hungry at noon! But then we have to wait two more hours before we have lunch…
Another downside for us, is that we have dinner when the sun goes down. Sometimes we aren’t even really hungry anymore, because we had a very late lunch. Other times, we want to go to bed early (we get pretty tired from working!) and having dinner right before going to bed doesn’t feel good. That means we sometimes just have a snack instead of dinner! Fortunately, the food has been outstanding in all the places we’ve been, so we cannot complain about that at all. Besides, the first box from Holland has just arrived, so we can finally have some ‘borrelnootjes’ and ‘pindasaus’ again!

Right now, we are ready for new adventures. Although we love the farm where we’ve lived for the last three weeks, we’re looking forward to seeing new places. Let’s move on!



Happy in the Peloponeese

From the beautiful island of Lefkas, we went further down to the south of Greece. Because we don’t like to drive highways all the time (and we have to pay toll), we always try to avoid them as much as possible. However, this time our GPS (maps.me) had something different in mind. Since we had turned on the option to ‘avoid toll’ and to ‘avoid gravel roads’, the app was forced to find something else. And apparently, that was not an option… The first part of the way to Patras was no problem: we drove on a decent road for a while and were then sent to the highway (without toll). Unfortunately, then the app told us to take an exit and follow a detour to avoid toll; the road we had to take was unpaved! At first, the gravel was quite nice and Tiny had no problems with it, but after a while we were getting anxious. It became narrow, bumpy and had a lot of overhanging trees. At some point Tamara would even have to get out of the car to get some bushes out of the way! After about half an hour of sweating we saw some farms and the road became wider. And finally, we saw a paved road again! After that, we adjusted the settings in the app and we entered the highway, paying toll after all. Please maps.me, don’t do that to us again!

Driving further south, we came across the bridge to cross the sea, leading us to the city of Patras. We had to pay a little over 20 euros to do that, since we didn’t want to take a ferry (and that might have been expensive too). Entering Patras was a big change: from driving in the mountains, we suddenly saw a big city with many roads, houses and a magnificent sea view. To go to the next Workaway, we had to continue driving for a little while. Therefore, we exited the city and drove for about half an hour to Arla, our new village. It consists of some houses, a small school, a tiny and a big church, three restaurants, a bakery and a mini market. Our host, Andreas, picked us up in the center of the village (we didn’t even have to tell him where we were, because the village is so small) and he took us to his property. Together with Peggy and their daughter Dimitra, Andreas owns a small piece of land with the caravan they live in, a chicken coop, an outside shower and kitchen, a big garden and a dog and some cats. We could park our van right next to their ‘house’, right in the middle of it all. We talked with them, Andreas showed us around and we immediately felt at home.

On the second day in Arla, we started work. After breakfast, our task was to cut triangles of chicken wire, that would be part of the geodesic dome Andreas is building. A what? A geodesic dome. It’s really an amazing project, in which we love to be involved. After lunch, which is usually around 2 or 3 pm, we headed to the village to have a drink and some wifi. However, everything was still closed! Apparently here in Greece, in summer, they work until 2 pm, have lunch, and then start working again from 5 pm to 9 pm. Thus, we had to wait till the bars would open, so we walked down to the next village and back. Fortunately, then we could order something to drink, before we headed back to our hosts.

On day three, we helped Peggy with preserving tomatoes and peaches. We made 8 jars of tomato sauce and 3 jars of peach marmalade. It’s so much fun to learn things like that! In the afternoon, we repotted Aloe Vera plants. In the end, we had 32 pots! It was a very productive day. Day 3 was all about sheep wool. Andreas wants to use sheep wool to insulate the geodesic dome, but it was really smelly. So, we had to wash the wool before he can use it for the dome. It was a dirty job, but we had some fun turning the wool into a piece of art!

In the afternoon, we went for a bike ride around the area. Since Nienke’s bicycle has been stolen, she used Peggy’s bicycle, which is pretty good and has 21 gears. We went down (we’re on an elevation of 250m) to find a village where we could have a drink and after about 12km we found a bar that was open. We were quite thirsty, since the weather was really hot! Next, we went to find a winery (…. + link) a little further down the road. Between the wine ranks, we found the building where they make the wine, so we asked for a tour around the winery. Really, they were the best! They explained us everything, showed us the grapes, the tanks and the machine that fills the bottles. We could even try the different wines they make! In the end, they handed us a bag of grapes, white and rose wine and a bottle of tsipouro (made from the stems of the grapes, and high in alcohol!). We are really thankful for their hospitality. With a big smile, we returned to our bikes and rode back to Arla. Because we had to go uphill, it was quite tiring. Coming back to Arla, a woman at one of the restaurants started to yell at us: “Hello! Where are you from?!” We stopped and told the people what we were doing in Arla and of course that we are Dutchies. We also asked them where we could drop off a postcard that needed to go to The Netherlands. Funnily, the guy taking care of the post was the brother of the woman talking to us, so she told us to sit down and wait for her brother. She even gave us drinks, which we didn’t have to pay! People here are really friendly, up to now. When we came back at the farm, we had dinner with our hosts and went to bed early. It was a lovely, but busy day!

Sunday at the farm was a day just like other days. We started our day with a delightful breakfast with fruits and homemade marmalade and tahine, then we headed to the gate through which you enter the property. It looked really new and hadn’t been painted yet, so that became our job of the day! Although it looked like an easy job, it took us approximately three hours to finish the whole gate. Proudly, we showed it to Andreas and Peggy, but then we found out that Nienke forgot to paint a little part of the gate… Oops! After having lunch with bean soup, we tried using our Omnia oven with the dough Peggy had made that morning. We really love the way this little oven works, but so far, we haven’t used it much. It took 90 minutes, but then the bread was ready and smelled wonderful. And it tasted delicious! After a little nap, we ended the day with a walk around the surrounding farms. We had walked for about an hour when we decided to turn around, because it was almost getting dark. Then, a truck with an old man approached us (on a tiny road up the mountain). He started talking in Greek, which we – of course! – didn’t understand. We ‘told’ him that we were walking back to Arla, so we started walking again. The guy then turned around and came back to talk to us some more! We really didn’t know what he wanted, but it sounded like he was worrying about us getting lost in the dark… or something. He pointed to the back of his truck, so we jumped in and he drove us back to the crossroads close to our ‘home’. Although it was kind of weird to jump in a truck with a stranger, we quite enjoyed the ride!

The next two days we spent on the farm. Andreas told us how he prepares his land to turn it into fertile soil. He wants to use all of it for his crops and for all kinds of trees. Nienke immediately got excited to create lessons about it, because everything they are doing here is biology! Besides helping with preparations for planting trees, we cut many branches from the old olive trees that are living on the property. By the way, we found out that you’ll find olive trees EVERYWHERE around here! Many are owned by larger farms or oil factories, but others are just standing on the side of the road. Olive trees tend to grow new stems from the bottom of the old stem. However, if you want to have a great amount of olives, you have to cut those new branches away. After working on the trees for about two hours, we were kind of done with it, so we stopped. We saw Andreas working on the geodesic dome and approached him to ask if we could help. Together we filled the first triangle with sheep wool, which looked amazing and seemed like it really is a proper way to insulate a house!

Because we had stayed in Greece for a while and we really didn’t understand the signs on the streets and on food, we spent a whole afternoon on learning Greek. Andreas told us how to read all the Greek letters and how to pronounce them. Some of them are really hard to say! After a while we somehow got the hang of it and we could even write some words down ourselves! When we went out for pizza in another town, we tried to read all the signs on the shops. Unfortunately, sometimes we couldn’t figure it out, so we might have to practice some more these next weeks!

Kalimera (good morning):

To finish off the first week in Arla, we went to the beach. Before we left, we had breakfast with our hosts and fed the chicken. Taking care of the chicken coop is mainly our job, so in the mornings we feed them (leftovers from the day before and of course their own food), change their water and check if everything is how it’s supposed to be. This morning however, we found out that one of the roosters was missing! Andreas had just bought two new roosters and some chicken a few days earlier, which we put in a separate coop. But now one of the guys was gone! We looked around the farm, but unfortunately the rooster was nowhere to be found. We then covered the coop that contains the newbies with gaze, to prevent the other rooster from leaving too. Well, let’s hope he has found a new house and wasn’t eaten by one of the stray dogs that live around the farm!

Since we’re staying at an elevation of 250 meters, we had to bike downhill to get to the sea. It turned out to be 16 km, which we covered in 48 minutes. It was pretty easy! Andreas’ parents own a summerhouse next to the sea, so we went there to park our bicycles. His mom offered us coffee and we sat down for a while and cuddled with the dog. Then we went swimming: we kind of missed it since we had been in Paleros and went to the sea almost every day. For lunch we had souvlaki and schnitzel at the neighboring hotel. And of course, at the end of the day we had to ride all the way back up to Arla again… What goes down, must come up! Obviously, it took us a little longer. We were quite tired when we arrived in Arla, so we stopped to buy a cold drink before we headed back to the farm. When we eventually got there, two stray dogs were waiting for us at the driveway. We really love dogs, but we noticed that here in Greece dogs are mainly used as guard dogs. Most of the time when we pass by a house or a farm, behind the fence a scary dog is barking like crazy! Because so many dogs are kept wild and live on big farms, puppies are born everywhere and some end up on the street. Sometimes these stray dogs don’t like people and stay away from us, but others are aggressive and show their teeth when we pass by. This time, when we arrived at the gate, one stray dog was scared of us and held back. The other one looked at us with his big angry eyes and walked in circles on the street. Andreas taught us not to turn our backs on them, so we slowly passed him, while looking him in the eye. We were really happy to hear ‘our’ dog, Bobo, barking to the other dog and helping us to enter the gate! Bobo is a guard dog, but fortunately, he’s also super sweet. Every night, he sleeps in front of our side door to keep us safe!

All in all, our first week with this family has been great. We learn a lot of new things concerning landscaping, beekeeping and gardening. The surroundings are amazing, the people are really friendly and thus, we enjoy every minute of every day!