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After a very tumultuous start to their adventure of living and traveling around the world full-time in their little campervan “Turtle”, it finally seems to brighten for our Aalborg travelbloggers Morten and Mette, who have traveled around Europe since December on “Turtle Time”. Now they’ve sent us a new travel letter.
When we send you a travel letter the last time, we’d been fired, robbed, had been sick, and we nearly felt forced to turn “Turtle” northwards and drive home to Denmark for a while, to get control of bureaucracy and ourselves.
Now, fortunately, we can write a positive travel letter home to you guys, and that’s a big relief to us. We’ve managed to get our courage back, (perhaps) found our own way through the “bureaucracy game,” and had several wonderful “Turtle Time” experiences during our last month, which we’ve been looking forward sharing with you.
Some time alone in the bathtub
When everything was at its worst, we had to remind ourselves that what we’re doing is basically self-chosen and if it doesn’t work for us anymore, we can always, regardless where we are in Europe (or the world), turn around and drive home to Denmark in just a few days – and then we have tried to live out our dream.
But we weren’t ready to give up. The good experiences have, after all, given us a taste of the joy and freedom we seek and a strong hint of what we can achieve if we can endure.
So we looked deeply into our wallet (we haven’t decided to go on this trip with a huge fortune – on the contrary!) and chose to spend some of our last money to book a room for a few days, so both of us could have some time alone.
Because, despite all the good methods (earplugs, curtains, walks, etc.), it’s still difficult to be yourself and have time alone when we live together at 4 squaremeters! And with all the external challenges we had encountered during our first months on the roads, Mette needed to be alone and get some new energy.
So she found a cheap room on Airbnb with wifi, a big soft bed – and toilet and hot shower / bathtub! And Morten? After a nice shower at Mette’s bathroom, he and Turtle went on a trip together, and then we agreed to meet again 3 days later.
It was definitely worth the money. During those days both of us got some of the peace time alone we both needed.
‘Mortentime’ for Morten, where he just sat alone in Turtle with a cup of coffee, a cake and his dictaphone, talking about his thoughts and feelings and ‘Mettetime’ for Mette, where she enjoyed a looong warm bath in the tub in silence.
Carnival in Venice – by a coincidence
The weather also began to improve, and when we live and sleep in Turtle and are outside every day, it’s clear to us how much the weather affects our mood. And since we had changed location from the Alps to the coast of Venice, it became both warmer and more mild. Up to 5-8 degrees a day and frost-free nights – most of the time at least.
And when we realized that there was a carnival in Venice – and figured out how big and famous it was – we settled down in a suburban to Venice with Turtle (within walking distance to a public toilet) and bought a couple of 10-tour passes for the bus right away so we could go to Venice the coming week.
So the next few days we walked many miles through Venice and saw the carnival (it is quite different from our good old carnival in Aalborg). We got lost in the alleys, looked at gondolas and sailed on the Grand Canal, ate pizza and enjoyed the sun in the park and watched the huge amounts of other tourists who also walked around the city and took selfies with pigeons, the Doge’s Palace and the many amazingly costumes in St. Mark’s Square .
From low tide in Venice to low tide in the wallet
And now we live in the mountains of Tuscany – an area in Italy that neither of us has been in before, but which we’ve been warmly recommended several times – both from people at home and by Italians.
And how did we get here? Well, in classic Turtle manners: a little research, luck and a number of coincidences. As we like it best.
Our friend Anja tipped us about Workaway.info where you can get free food and a bed in return for working for a local family 4-5 hours pr day, 5 days a week. As the finances gradually became smaller, it was a great way for us to experience Italy, get to know some locals and save money on food while we were looking for a job where we could earn some more money. Mette had looked a bit on Workaway and had come across a British couple in the late 40s who’d bought a 200-year-old house in Tuscany’s mountains, where they’ll eventually open a Bed & Breakfast. And then the husband is a former cook!
It was just what we needed, and it sounded nearly too good to be true: no expenses, a cook who made our food and contact with the locals, who might lead to some paid work afterwards. Fortunately, we had to come and stay with them.
A few days after our departure from Venice, we said “Chiao” to Rob & Catherine, who sold their house in England 7 years ago, put their 2 teenagers and the dog in the back seat of the car and drove to Italy – no place to live or a job at hand. Now they’ve bought the house in Tuscany, the children have moved away from home, and they are well on their way to putting the house in order, so that they can live out their dream of a B&B in the mountains.
And they were VERY friendly! For example, they let us use their hot tub so we could sit and enjoy the warmth spread throughout the body after a long working day in the garden overlooking the mountains and with a glass of cold Prosecco (Italian champagne) in our hands. At that moment we agreed that we wouldn’t find an equally good Workaway experience in the future!
Mette and Morten enjoyed a tour in the hot tub with a glass of Prosecco in their hands.
Saving money in Toscany
Now that we’ve packed our stuff and waved goodbye to them, the plan is to try to find a new place where we can make more money.
And until then we try to save where can be saved. This means that our primary ingredients in the kitchen are currently pasta (bought in 1500g bags), canned tuna (the supermarkets have about 30 different types of tuna down here!), chopped tomatoes and the cheap corn flakes.
And then we started to find food in the supermarkets’ containers again. Mette’s first day doing it resulted in a catch of 18 eggs – so the first week that we had to save money, we ate scrambled eggs for breakfast everyday. Yum!
Besides being good for our economy, finding food in the containers is also a great experience – it feels like going on a treasure hunt. Although it’s legal (also here in Italy), it’s still a little nerve-racking to walk behind the supermarkets in the dark, with gloves and flashlights. Cause will we find something? And what? And does anyone come and ‘discover’ us while standing with our heads down in the container?
Regarding the job situation, it’s a whole new challenge we face. Cause how will we be able to find a job in Tuscany in March, outside the tourist season, when we can’t speak Italian and can only work here for a few months? It’ll be most challenging…
Greetings from Tuscany:
Morten, Mette & Turtle
This blog post was originally written as a travel letter home to the newspaper and online media Aalborg:nu.