A Little New Year’s Baraka

2013 Year In Review
Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, France, Scotland, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Andorra, Morocco

Ever since we boarded the ferry from Algeciras, Spain to Tangier, Morocco back in November,  Ryan and I have been batting around the notion of posting some form of seasonal salutation. The earliest manifestation was, of course, a Christmas card, but that got lost in the shuffle and soon morphed into a New Year’s greeting.  Well, we are now nigh on mid-January, the New Year is in full effect, and we are fashionably late yet again (does being waylaid on a Moroccan Atlas mountain ‘road’ after dark with two screaming kids count as an excuse??).

In our defense, it is easy to see how it happened. Over the past two months, we have fallen in love with this country; the people and her culture, the call to prayer, the donkey carts and carpet salesmen, the quiet mountains, villages, desert sunsets and star-filled night skies that loomed large over riad terraces.  It seems Morocco has lulled us into a somnolent anti-blogging stupor what with its labyrinthine medinas and endless breaks for mint tea. Without really realizing it, the last year slid gracefully out as 2014 took us up in a flurry of drum circles and Berber ballads.

Recently, someone we love dearly gave us a tough time for not posting enough pictures (of the kids, mind you; no one cares for our old, ugly mugs), so we thought we would raise them one and post an ENTIRE PHOTOGRAPHIC YEAR IN REVIEW, just so everyone can witness the trajectory of Ollie and Kendley’s evolution from little monsters into slightly larger little monsters. This is the best way we can share our wonderful memories and experiences with you. We hope you enjoy them as much we did.

Just like life, traveling is not easy and it is not always fun. That said, we would not trade our life and time spent exploring the world together as a family for anything.  Not. One. Thing.  Since we began traveling in 2009, everything about us has changed. The way we view the world and our perspectives on life, happiness, success, money and relationships have been shaped by the people we meet as we trudge the path towards our happy destiny. Sure, we don’t  draw a paycheck nowadays, nor do we accumulate many worldly things, other than those that we can stuff/strap/balance on top of our little car. No one sends us an email at the end of the day to remind us of a job well done.

Instead, we get to spend 24 hours a day with our two children and each other.  Mind you, this nomadic life does not come with a handbook or Cliff Notes (need to change a poopy diaper while astride a camel?  Good luck with that!). Many days we have no idea of where we will sleep that night.  Some days we navigate an entire city just to find the cheap eats, and then we have to attempt to use our limited vocabulary in the language just to assure our children that they are not in fact eating dromedary.  There are SO many variables when it comes to our lifestyle, but one thing stays the same.  We always have each other.  As Ryan always says,  ‘Our home is not one place, some box set high on a hill with a two-car garage.  Not any more.  It’s wherever the four of us are together.’ 

In 2013, we made less money than we have in the past 10 years, yet we were the happiest. We have learned that our happiness in no way directly correlates to financial or material gains. In fact, for us, the opposite is usually true. We do not measure success the way we used to. We have learned to enjoy the moments, the seconds, the scenery, and the people that we meet along our journey. We have made the choice to live this life because we are free.  That knowledge fills us with joy and for us, that makes us richer than we have ever been before.

Last year we visited 12 countries, hundreds of cities and drove close to 9,000 miles (without a speeding ticket as of yet). 2013 was marked by many ups and downs, some of which are highlighted below:

  • We all nearly had our arms blown off by a myriad firecrackers over New Year’s in Vienna, Austria;
  • We tossed snowballs and were the recipients of a donated sled in Germany’s Black Forest;
  • Kendley became an instant aficionado of Prague’s traditional winter snack, the trdelnik…effectively a spit-roasted sugared donut;
  • We bought a used Mitubishi Delica off eBay.uk and picked it up, sight-unseen in Scotland;
  • This car, whom we have lovingly named “Sherman The Tank”, has had his issues. His brakes gave out in the Picos de Europa, Spain and the entire sliding side door slid right off its track outside a hotel in Braga, Portugal.  Barring these episodes, Sherman has been a marvelous addition and we continue to regard his previous owner as a dear friend;
  • Kendley got knocked on her rear end by a moving car and fell down a flight of steps in the Spanish Pyrenees.  Two separate hospital visits within 72 hours;
  • We snowboarded in the French Alps and hiked all throughout Andorra and the Spanish Pyrenees;
  • We lost Ollie for 90 minutes at Porto’s Festa de São João amidst a crowd of several hundred thousand plastic-mallet-weilding revelers;
  • We had family and close friends visit us in Frankfurt, Germany; Annecy, France;  Ireland; Lisbon, Portugal; Barcelona, Spain; and Morocco;
  • We met a plethora of new friends/chosen family that have greatly enhanced our life;
  • Ollie boarded a fully-operational nuclear submarine in Scotland that was for British eyes only (unless you happen to be under the age of 8 years);
  • Emily fulfilled a girlhood fantasy of riding a beautiful white horse on the sandy beaches of Harris, Scotland. She also raced a cantankerous camel in the Sahara which was less exotic than it probably sounds;
  • We learned about the life of Christopher Columbus and Vasco de Gama when we visited their tombs in the Cathedral in Sevilla and Jerónimos Monastery in Lisbon;
  • We did the local thing and sweated it out in the public hammam in Fez, Morocco;
  • Ollie fell off a rowboat in the Marais Poitevin and was chased by a three-story mechanical elephant in Nantes, France;
  • We followed along with the locals who showed us that clothing was optional while visiting the breathtaking beaches of Portugal’s Algarve and Spain’s Costa Brava;
  • We sat on the Titanic’s dock in Belfast, made inroads to our Neolithic ancestors in Newgrange  and let the kids wash it down with some Guinness brownies in Dublin;
  • We played the pilgrim’s role in Fatima, Portugal and Santiago de Compostela, Spain;
  • Emily trolled the vineyards in both Burgundy and Bordeaux, France;
  • Dazzled by the Michelin stars, we stuffed ourselves with tapas in San Sebastian, Spain;
  • A wild goat took a run at us in the Picos de Europa, Spain;
  • We learned how to dance flamenco in Andalucía, Spain and sing fado in Lisbon, Portugal;
  • Ollie received a profound history lesson when we visited the WWII sites of Normandy, France and Nuremburg, Germany;
  • We followed up with an even more in-depth lesson when we dug into the atrocities committed in Guernica, Spain under the Franco regime;
  • Emily fed her obsession with Roman ruins in Volubilis, Morocco; Conímbriga, Portugal and the Tower of Hercules in A Coruña, Spain;
  • …the list goes on, and on, and on, and on….

With a fresh new year in front of us and Africa at our doorstep, Bismillah! We are immensely blessed.  So of course it’s only fitting to end our New Year’s post with a solid Moroccan blessing to those we love all over the world.  Hands over our hearts, we wish you Barakalaufik!!!!    May God bless you and your family in 2014.

Here’s what we were up to in 2013:

January: Vienna, Austria;  Prague, Czech Republic;  Nuremburg, Frankfurt, Heidelburg, Black Forest, Germany; Annecy, Burgundy, France

February: Paris, France;  Scotland

March: Scotland

April: Ireland & Northern Ireland

May: Normandy, Bordeaux, France; Northwestern Spain

June: Galicia, Spain, Northern Portugal

July: Portugal

August: Southern Portugal, Central Spain, Barcelona

September: Catalonia, Spanish Pyrenees, Andorra

October: Pyrenees, Valencia, Andalucía, Spain

November: Andalucía, Spain

December: Morocco

For all the polyglots out there, here is”Happy New Years” in the 10 different languages that made 2013 the fantastic year that it was.

German: Ein glückliches neues Jahr!

Czech: šťastný Nový rok!

French: Bonnes années!

Scots Gaelic: Bliadhna mhath ùr!

Irish Gaelic: Athbhliain faoi mhaise dhuit!

Galician: Feliz ano!

Portuguese Feliz Ano Novo!

Catalan: Feliç any nou!

Spanish: Feliz año nuevo!

Moroccan Arabic (Darija): Sana saâid!