The Day that Changed Everything

Cuckmere © 2012 Mufidah Kassalias

Cuckmere © 2012 Mufidah Kassalias

Many of my regular readers won’t fail to notice a change of theme for this blog — from a black photoblog to a more reader-friendly theme with classic typography. And if you look closely at the tagline you’ll see that Writing and Photography has been extended to Writing and Photography on the Road — Travelling in Europe on a Shoestring. So what on earth is going on?

Easter Sunday, 2012. The day began as any other Sunday with a cosy lie-in followed by showers, breakfast, checking emails and a delicious brunch, the kind that sets you up for the rest of the day: a glass of OJ, pancakes with strawberries, ricotta, maple syrup and veggie sausages, plus a cup of freshly ground and Bialetti-brewed coffee.

After eating we donned our coats and scarves and headed off to our friend Martin’s house to drop off a packet of crisps to replace those we had devoured whilst visiting the previous evening. Unfortunately Martin wasn’t home, so we decided to leave them on a hook in the garage for him to collect later. Our plan for the afternoon was to take a stroll around the Lewes Priory and perhaps sit with our backs against one of the flint walls whilst soaking up some rays from the warm Spring sun, but opening the garage and seeing our car was all the inspiration we needed to abandon our plan and instead drive out to Cuckmere Haven, one of our favourite spots in Sussex.

It was a glorious afternoon, and as we were leaving town we both felt the urge to embrace spontaneity and instead head to Newhaven to catch the ferry to France, to start our planned summer holiday early. Although we didn’t do this, the idea grew into a much larger one as the conversation continued while walking down the estuary towards the sea; and as we climbed the first of the Seven Sisters we had agreed to do the very thing we both wanted to do since before we met and got together — pack up our possessions to go travelling around continental Europe.

That was just over two weeks ago. Last week we gave notice to leave our rented apartment — which has already been re-let, so no turning back! — and we have been crazy busy ever since. Departure Day is set for Monday, 14 May, and the clock is very much ticking. I’ve installed the Milestone widget in the right sidebar so you can follow the countdown to D-Day!

Over the next three weeks we have a million tasks to check off a very long list of to-dos, from general admin and paperwork to buying various necessary supplies, from selling larger items of furniture to packing and storing those smaller items, such as books, that we want to keep. Since we’re not leaving with a vast budget we plan to mostly camp and couch surf, and have now joined CouchSurfing, a worldwide network of travellers and hosts. As our main motivation for travelling is to meet people from other countries and discover both the differences as well as the commonalities, couch surfing seems an ideal way to travel. But we’re also very much looking forward to camping as a way to visit more rural places and, being food lovers, have just invested in the Cobb Kitchen in a Box.

We intend to fund our travels by continuing to work on the road: I can continue my business via Skype (teaching people how to use their Mac, troubleshooting, etc.), something I already do with those who live outside of the local area; and Sean will be available to run creative writing workshops and retreats in various, as-yet-unspecified locations Europe-wide. We’re currently looking for people who would like to help find venues, so if you live in Europe and are interested in doing so, please do get in touch — we’d love to visit your hometown!

My blog posting is likely to be erratic over the next few weeks, but once on the road I intend to post regularly, to share the story of our adventures, and the highs and lows of travelling in Europe on a shoestring.

34 responses

  1. That is just so freaking cool that you two have the freedom and huevos to do this. Be safe out there and I will be looking forward to some great posts about your adventures.

    • Yes, it’s amazing to be doing this. Although there aren’t as many huevos as we’d like, we figured we could wait forever for the ‘right time’, so it’s a case of throwing ourselves into the unknown and doing all we can while on the road to keep ourselves afloat!

    • I’ve just been reading through the Sympatico website and there are some really interesting things, and links too, so thanks for letting me know about it :-)

      And thanks, too, for your well wishes. I think it’s going to be quite an adventure!

  2. How amazing and exciting to read! Congratulations on taking such a bold step and I look forward to reading all about your adventures. (I remember my parents had a book called Europe on a Shoestring: How to Survive on $5 (or $15?!) a Day. Yes, that was 25 years ago!)

    • Thanks, Marina, I guess it is a rather bold step! We almost bought the updated Europe on a Shoestring, but in the end went for the Rough Guide to Europe, so hopefully it will serve us well :-)

      • Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.” – Goethe. The Rough Guides are great, and blogs as well as forums are so good for finding out the nitty-gritty on places. Lonely Planet Thorn Tree served me so well years ago but I haven’t used it for a while. I wish you much fun and luck!

          • I hope it may help. I remember asking the most detailed questions when I went on a working holiday visa to canada – ie, about cell phone plans, insurance etc and I received some great feedback. It was really a great introduction to the city/country before I’d even set foot there.

    • Wow indeed! I keep waking up and thinking the very same thing :-) But there are also days when I wake up and wonder what on earth we’re doing! I’m very much looking forward to it though.

  3. It’s great news, as the writer Paul Coelho wrote: When you least expect it, life sets us a challenge before that test our courage and willingness to change.
    Mufidah! You will have many friends who traveled with you heart and think of you and your husband. I will follow you and wish you the best of luck and if you ever cross the ocean we will be waiting here.

    • Coelho has many wise words to share — I’ve always really enjoyed his writing. And it would be wonderful some day to visit Argentina. I’ll let you know if the opportunity arises :-)

    • I like that — Our Great Adventure! — it’s a good title for something :-) We’ll certainly have a few coffees for you, and I’ll keep you posted as to which coffees and where! Any location requests?

  4. That sounds so cool & like so much fun Mufidah. Can’t wait to read about it & see pictures. Have fun & be careful.

  5. Fantastic, I love to know of adventure a’happening! When you give yourself to the road, it gives so much in return. I look forward to the tales.

    • I like that … “When you give yourself to the road, it gives so much in return”. I’ll remember those words whenever things don’t seem to be flowing as we might wish them to. And as it’s going to be an adventure inevitably there will be ups and downs along the way.

  6. Reading white text on a black background makes me feel like I’m about to get a headache. Give me black on white any day.

    I’ll grant that photographs usually look better with a dark background. In Firefox 11, when someone clicks on one of my blog photographs, the photograph appears in a window surrounded by dark gray. At first I thought that was a new feature of WordPress, but then I came across a blog post that attributed it to Firefox 11.

    (Since we’re talking tech, I’ll add that I’ve had a Macintosh since 1985.)

    Steve Schwartzman

  7. Ah, good to have some feedback on the change of theme and black on white. I’ve grown used to the photographs being on a white background, and am happy with the change.

    Wow, you’ve been a Mac user since 1985! It was 1990 when I first used one when I was learning radio production (not something I pursued further after finishing the course), but it took me until 2003 before I got my own Mac. I had wanted to buy one in 1997, but couldn’t justify the price at the time and so ended up with a Windows machine. Very happy I was able to make the switch when I did :-)

  8. Wow this is so cool…to travel wherever your hearts take you!!! I look forward to reading about your adventures!!!
    I like this theme better…it’s much easier to read.