Long Time No Posts, but I’m Alive

It’s been a while since my last post. I kind of fell back into normalcy after I got back home in the beginning of December. Some things at home felt nice and easy, like warm water coming from the tap practically instantly and having an oven for example. But the winter and darkness was not something I had missed much…

A recap of the winter

Snow. Darkness. Cold.

Ok, it was not that bad. Seeing family and friends was really nice. It was also cool to go to the office to see colleagues face to face after a long break and I’ve kept the habit of working from the office for a day/week on average.

Ana came over in January as planned and it was interesting for me to see how the dark and cold winter can actually be interesting and beautiful for someone who isn’t used to it. In March I went over to Portugal for two weeks and managed to do some surfing there too. It really was cool to get out of the snow and darkness for a while.

Ana and I no longer are a couple, but we are still good friends and keep in touch regularly. We both learned plenty of stuff from each other and that’s something we both value a lot.

Naranja spent three months in my friend’s garage close by and I went to get it back in the beginning of April. Everything works just fine after the long break. I was a little concerned about the water pump and pipes still having some leftover water that might freeze and cause issues, but luckily that wasn’t the case. I’ve been doing some smaller tours with it already and I really missed it!

I got myself a new travel companion too. I bought a Brompton folding bike that really is a dream to ride (even though it looks like something clowns use in circuses). I’ve been using it as my primary bike for the past two months now and so far I’m impressed. Of course it’s not meant for super long treks, but for the basic work commuting and grocery tours it has been really practical.

My Brompton folded
My Brompton ready to use
Plans ahead

The apartment is going! I will take the final step into being a full vanlifer in the end of July. I’m really quite excited about this even though it means losing this nice place I have called home for over five years. I still have a lot of emptying, packing and so on to do the next six weeks, but luckily there’s still time. I’m getting rid of a lot of stuff that really isn’t that pretty and new any longer. Some things I’m going to store at my dad’s and some at a friend’s place.

In August I will leave Finland again just like last year. This time I’m taking a bit of a detour though. I bought tickets for the athletics world championships in Budapest so I’m heading there for a couple of weeks. After that I plan to drive to Portugal taking a route south of the Alps. I have no plans to drive back until after I no longer need winter tires (most likely early April). Then I plan to keep living the same life, but in Finland for the summer at least. After that I will see if I’m ready for another apartment or whether I still feel like continuing the lifestyle.

The Long Haul Back Home: Part Two

I’m back home now. The apartment looks like a mess with the life of the past four months spread on the floor and tables. And I’m tired, because it was a long trip.

A nice Tuesday in Bad Bentheim

I finally saw the castle in Bad Bentheim and it was actually much bigger and more impressive than I imagined it would be. Unfortunately the normally really nice view from the top was blocked by the fog.

A foggy look towards the Bentheim castle.
Plenty of old dungeons and stuff to look at at the castle.

Besides the historical castle there was an art gallery too that had some quite interesting stuff from young artists from various German art schools. I enjoyed some of them very much. Gopea (Gallery of pre-established art) is a nonprofit organization that supports art students and gives them a chance to show their works. Some of the pieces had a lot of humor and some rebel spirit that really was cool.

Back behind the wheel

I got a call from the tire shop a little after three in the afternoon. It was about two hours earlier than I expected which was really nice. This meant that I could get more driving done on Tuesday already. I said my goodbyes to Michael and then hit the road.

It’s still unknown what made me think so much about the choice of route. I ended up with the western one, but I don’t think it would really have made a big difference either way. For some reason deciding was really difficult and that isn’t like me much. Maybe it was just the “man on a mission” mentality I had for the trip home that made this so big.

I made it past Copenhagen on the first day and slept on a parking lot in Fortunen in Lyngby. That makes 620 km for the first day. The ferry from Puttgarden in Germany to Rødby in Denmark was really expensive, but it was partly my own fault. I should have bought the ticket online in advance instead going to the ticket booth at the harbor.

On Wednesday morning I started driving after a quick breakfast and took the ferry to Sweden right in the beginning. After that I drove completely through to Kapellskär where the Finnlines ferry to Naantali was leaving in the evening. (More about this below.) Wednesday was the most hours of driving on one day and just 20 km shy of the longest distance too. I took a few breaks and only had problems in Stockholm. I got there at peak rush hour and due to an error in my navigation app (or me listening to it) I ended up going into the city. That cost me about 30-40 minutes extra, but luckily I had enough time.

The ferry trip to Finland

I wanted to cross to Finland with Viking Line, but since I was so late with booking, they no longer had room for Naranja-sized vehicles on board for Wednesday night. Luckily there was a nice alternative close by. Finnlines has a ferry connection from Kapellskär (80 km from Stockholm) to Naantali (close to Turku in Finland). It cost 160€ but it included a cabin just for me and a buffet dinner and breakfast which both were really nice. The company specializes in transporting trucks and bigger vehicles across, but there were about five other smaller cars on board too. This is something I might consider doing another time too instead of taking the normal ferry.

Back on home soil

Thursday morning after seven I was already out of the ferry and heading up north. On the way up I stopped by at my mom’s on the way for a cup of tea. The little over 300 km trip was quite uneventful really. The winter tires worked really well and even if it was really slippery along the way, I didn’t notice it really. I got home at noon on Thursday. The total trip from Lisbon to Jyväskylä ended up being 4230 km.

The first look at home from parked Naranja.

When I had done the unpacking, I took Naranja to a garage that specializes in doing body work. The second time I spent a night at Fabrica, I hit a metal post with the side of the van and there’s a small dent and some scraped paint that needs to be fixed. They will work on that next week. I also booked an oil change and some maintenance time to look into the issue with the engine light for the week after next. Until then I will still keep using the car, but after the maintenance I plan to take it to my friend’s garage close by until March.

Thoughts about the future

This will not be the last adventure with Naranja. Right now I’m thinking about timing the start of my next trip for August like I started this one too. This leaves me at least a couple of good surfing months in Portugal. I will look into the possibility of heading to the Canary islands for the winter too. This is just something I made up while driving and needs to be thought through more first. But that would give me nicer weather and maybe easier waves too for the winter. I could stay on the islands until March and then take the ferry back to southern Spain and head back to Portugal for the spring.

But this plan is surely going to change and morph into many different versions before it is done. But this trip definitely showed me that living in Naranja works nicely.

I’m also going to look into the rules about subletting my apartment or if that’s not doable then maybe giving it up completely. I don’t plan to stay “homeless” indefinitely, but for the next couple of years I could explore being a vanlifer a bit more at least.

The Long Haul Back Home: Part One

I’m back to my old neighborhood in Germany again. The trip up this far has gone very smoothly. I arrived here on Saturday evening already and have been mainly seeing friends and old colleagues so far.

The first half of the trip back home. (This link might work and give some additional details.)
Work and drive

Wednesday I still worked from just north of Lisbon in Alverca. I had previously marked two LPG-stations on Google maps that I was hopeful could fill my empty gas bottle so I headed to the closest one first. The place had a few adapters, but not the one for my Finnish bottle. So I went for the next one, but that turned to be in vain too. I decided not to worry too much about it and figured that the rest of the gas in the Finnish bottle should be enough for the last couple of cold nights.

On Wednesday I made it just west of Salamanca in Spain. I spent the night at a rest area that had a nice restaurant next to it. I also worked from there Thursday. The weather was really rainy and quite chilly too but I decided to save the little gas I have left and work with all my warmest clothes on. After the workday I managed to drive another 500 kilometers toward home and ended up in Irun right on the Spanish / French border. The last two hours of the drive were very curvy and I don’t think I’ve ever been through so many tunnels in such a short time. Too bad it was dark and I couldn’t see the scenery.

I went for a pintxos lunch in downtown Irun on Friday. The chilly and rainy weather made the ten minute walk a bit nasty, but the food more than made up for it. The town seemed really pretty too. I might stop there again in the future.

Pintxos for lunch in Irun.
Friday and Saturday – longer drives

After my work week was done it was time to move again. I ran into some heavy traffic close to Bordeaux, but it was 5 PM on a Friday, so that wasn’t really surprising. After that the traffic got really slow and I felt like driving so I kept going almost up to Orleans. I found a peaceful spot to sleep on a library parking area. I got over 600 kilometers closer to home on Friday.

On Saturday morning I woke up quite early and had a little breakfast. After that I started driving and I thought that I might try to do the remaining 750 kilometers to Nordhorn. I took plenty of small breaks during the day for coffee and something quick to eat. The stop I remember the best was a quick stop in Zulte, Belgium. I decided that I want to buy some tasty Belgian beer to take home so I took a random exit from the freeway and found a shop/restaurant called Superette Anneke. I found the beer I was looking for and also an excellent filled baguette for late lunch.

Another visit to Nordhorn and the Grafschaft Bentheim

On Saturday I arrived in Nordhorn around 6:30 and I really wanted to go for a swim to counteract the excessive sitting. But unfortunately the pool had just closed for the day. So I just went for a quick dinner and then visited Hans and Gerlinde, the couple I know since moving to Germany.

For the first night I went to the same caravan area that I spent a few days at in August. I still haven’t used any of the remaining gas and that night was the coldest so far. But I have a thick blanket so the night went without problems. In the morning though I didn’t feel like spending much time in the van. So I just had a quick bite for breakfast and then headed back to the pool for a morning swim.

After the swim I went to Bad Bentheim to visit Michael and Insa. I didn’t meet them on my way down because they were on their honeymoon in California then. It was so nice to see them again. On Sunday we just talked and talked and it really felt good. They wouldn’t let me sleep in Naranja and had their guest bedroom all ready for me. When I left Germany, Michael happened to need a bed for his guest room and there it is still. So I got to sleep in my old bed.

Monday morning I headed back to Nordhorn and visited my old workplace, the Oberschule Deegfeld. All the students I knew have left the school already, but the teacher’s lounge still has plenty of familiar faces. It was nice to see some old colleagues but of course it was really too many people at once and only a few minutes since they still had work to do. I did some shopping during the day and met with a few other people later. The weather wasn’t too nice, but I walked through the Christmas market in the middle of the town too. That hadn’t changed much.

Nordhorn Christmas market in rain.
Pretty butterflies behind the Catholic church.
Winterproofing Naranja

On Sunday morning at the caravan spot in Nordhorn I already emptied all the water from the tanks the best I could. I will have to do a few more things with that at home, but this is a good start at least.

There’s one other very important thing that needs to be sorted out before going further north: Naranja needs winter tires. I thought about this a lot and I was unsure of what the best way of doing this would be. After thinking about it for too long already, on Saturday I asked Michael if he could ask around in tire shops if they have winter tires available. He was a bit skeptical about getting anything at this short notice, but was able to find a place that promised tires for Tuesday.

I just dropped Naranja there and they told me that two of the four tires are already there and two should be coming in the afternoon. Somehow that sounds a bit funky, but we’ll see. They’ll call me when the job is done. I’m getting a bit anxious about hitting the road again.

The plan ahead

Today I’m going to do some time killing in Bad Bentheim. The small town is really pretty and Gerlinde is working at the castle here in town and I promised her I would go for a visit. I lived in the area for nine years, but never actually went inside the castle. I think I’ll head there after it opens around ten. Then I’ll have lunch somewhere and head back to Michael and Insa’s place for maybe a nap and then a shower. I also need to do some planning about the rest of the trip, because I’m still undecided about the route.

I had planned on taking the western route to Finland, but I have started to question that a little the past week. There are three ferries on the western route and they aren’t really that cheap. But on the other hand the route is over 400 kilometers shorter. This morning I found an option that would be a lot cheaper but the ferry from Stockholm to Turku would be during the day and not overnight. Still the ferries cost around 250 Euros so I’m still very much considering the eastern route. It is a lot less hassle (and Euros) with the ferries, but there’s more sitting behind the wheel too. Decisions!

I think it might be a go-with-the-flow kind of decision in the end. I’ll just wing it when I start driving. I’ll let you know in the next post how this turned out.

Até Mais Portugal – Time to Go

It’s hard to believe (and even to accept), but the time has come to head back home. These have been quite the sixteen weeks and this won’t be the end of the story. I’m at the campsite in Lisbon for another night and tomorrow in the evening I’ll start the journey back.

A visit to Sintra and looking around in Odivelas

I’ve been spending the past two weekends in Odivelas, where Ana lives. It is a suburb of Lisbon, but a separate city. Most people living there commute to work in Lisbon. It is not all posh and pretty like Cascais for example, it definitely has its edges but also more character. It seems more like real life somehow. The area close to where Ana lives has in addition to difficult roundabouts some pretty spots too.

Plenty of pretty street art in Odivelas
The roundabout from hell (one of them)

We went for a short day trip to Sintra a little over a week ago. On our way there we stopped at the Sanctuary of Peninha that has a pretty view to the Atlantic ocean and toward Lisbon as well.

A view from the Sanctuary of Peninha
Looking toward Lisbon from the sanctuary

Sintra is a city close to Lisbon that has plenty of cool stuff to see. I have been to the main sights (Pena National Palace and the Moorish castle) on my previous trips so this was more of a city trip this time.

Sintra sunset colors
Timeframe and planning for the return trip

Next week I will not be working so I can concentrate solely on going north. This week I still am working full so my daily stints won’t be that long until Saturday. The plan is to be back home by the 3rd of December at the latest. I moved the departure ahead by a day in order to leave some room for the unexpected. 4 300 kilometers is a long way so something unplanned is bound to happen.

I will have a brief stopover in Nordhorn again, but not sure for how long yet. It depends mainly on how fast I can get there and how much I still have time left until the third.

It’s not yet completely sure whether I will go through Denmark and Sweden or through the eastern route again. Even though driving through Poland, Lithuania and Latvia was a bit boring it still had its advantages. There are no ferries until the one from Tallinn to Helsinki and that one also for just two hours. Stockholm to Turku is a long one and there might be some time wasted on waiting for the two shorter ones too. I might just wing this and decide when I leave Nordhorn.

Not much to tell about surfing…

The swell has been over two meters and there’s been a lot of wind so I haven’t been surfing the past ten days at all. My wetsuit has finally gotten completely dry (this is a very thin silver lining). I’ve been running and doing more yoga instead just to keep myself fit (and sane). The weather has been really rainy too most of the time. It added to the current wave conditions makes me wonder if my plan to come here for the winter next year really is that smart. I might have to reconsider the timing still.

I will be leaving my surf board here. Ana has some room in her storage room at the attic. There’s really no point taking the board to Finland especially because it really makes living in Naranja quite tight and uncomfortable. I have mainly stored the board under the van, but I have already had a couple of close calls with driving over it. And on my way I will mainly be parking in free spots and there’s no guarantee about the safety either. Also it makes the next trip here easier too. I am planning to fly over in March for a couple of weeks and the board will be here waiting.

Some future thoughts

When I get back home I will start considering my options about keeping my apartment. I really think I could live without it for a couple of years, but I really haven’t thought it through yet. I will have to see whether “subletting” the apartment would be possible too. Officially you have to live permanently in a right-of-occupancy apartment, but there might be some loopholes that I can explore. It would be a temporary solution at least if I can find a way to get it approved.

Then there’s also need to figure out the above mentioned timing of my next Roadnaranja tour down here. Half and half plan would make sense to minimize the driving and not to get too much hassle with taxation and other bureaucracy. But where to time it is the real issue… But there’s a long dark winter waiting in Finland and plenty of time to plan (and to dream) about the next trip.

There’s now something else besides surfing that pulls me this way too. Ana and I have become very close. This is also the part about leaving that feels the worst. I do have some previous experience about long distance relationships and it isn’t that bad really. It’s just that the leaving always really sucks… The excitement about the next meeting makes up at least some of it though. Ana has plans to come for a visit in January as I already mentioned, I plan to fly over here for some time in March.

Visiting Porto and the Beautiful Douro Valley

Last weekend was full of beautiful views and tastes. I told you earlier that I tried visiting Porto on my way down. Due to all the parking spots being full that didn’t work out then, but now it went like a charm. On the same trip we visited the port wine area of Douro valley and also got to taste plenty of yummy ports.

Porto panorama
Panoramic view of Porto and the Douro river from the Luis I bridge.

On early Friday morning we headed to Porto, but since we took a few breaks on the way it took us until afternoon before we arrived. We parked at the spot close to the downtown area that was full the last time I tried, but now they were able to accommodate us. The owner of the place was a real character and we really enjoyed our stay there. Therefore if you ever want to find a hassle free parking close to Porto, a big recommendation to Parque Dantas.

The weather played along nicely and we enjoyed the day walking and looking around. We mainly stayed close to the river and enjoyed good food and nice street musicians we encountered on several street corners. And I thought Lisbon had a lot of hills, but it pales in comparison to Porto.

A small alley in Porto.
Pretty and colorful houses along the Douro river in Porto.
Downtown Porto
The Douro valley and port wine

On Saturday morning we headed towards Peso da Regua and Pinhão in the Douro Valley. We booked a tour on Quinta do Tedo and got to know the process of making port wine. Now I feel like I understand a little about port wine in general too. If you are interested in learning more, this website has is a nice image that explains the port wine types and their differences in an easy way.

The tour ended with a tasting of three ports out of the Quinta do Tedo’s wines. I enjoyed the LBV (late bottle vintage) most but Ana preferred the rose one. After the tasting we needed to wait a little before driving. The stuff is delicious, but also strong! The weather and the scenery were both really nice and therefore we didn’t mind the wait at all.

Quinta do Tedo vineyards. Waiting felt pleasant with this scenery.
Naranja too enjoyed the view of the Douro valley.
Port barrels in the basement. The smaller ones are filled with tawny and the bigger ones have ruby/vintage/LBV ripening.
Vintage port being stored.

When finally I had deemed myself fit to drive, we then headed to Pinhão. We enjoyed the pretty views there and along the way. Ana – my officially appointed court photographer (thanks for the pictures again) – took a time lapse video on our way back to Peso da Regua. It’s a bit wobbly but you get the idea of how beautiful the valley really is.

Pinhão train station, sun and hills
A time lapse video shot from Naranja while driving in the Douro Valley
The view from our park in Peso da Regua. Notice the slightly creepy Sandeman figure watching over the town.
A visit to the Douro Museum

On Sunday we visited the Douro Museum in Peso da Regua. It was a tight and interesting package of information about the area’s history and the traditions of port wine making. We also got to taste a port after touring the exhibitions here. Interestingly it was much easier to differentiate the tastes after being able to sniff at some of port’s base aromas separately in the museum earlier.

Traditional tools needed to take care of the vineyards on show at the museum.
Back in Costa again

Sunday it took us a lot longer to get back than we both realized. A little after nine PM I dropped Ana off and continued straight back to Costa da Caparica. The waves are way too big for surfing, but this place still feels like home somehow.

After the long return trip I don’t feel like doing much driving in a while again, but there’s a big stretch of just that waiting in a few weeks. But that’s part of this lifestyle too and you can’t just have the nice things.

Lazy Blogger – Summary Of The Past Two Weeks

Two weeks have gone by since my last post. There’s not been that much new to tell really, but I’ll sum the past two weeks in this post.

Switching between Baleal and Caparica

As I mentioned in the last post, I went to Baleal with Ana for a weekend and we did some sightseeing there. I hadn’t been much to Peniche itself so far, but now I saw some of the city center and the peninsula too. Also the dinner at Taberna do Ganhão in Baleal was probably the best I’ve had so far. (The quite bad hunger I felt before having it may make the praise a bit biased though.)

Cabo Carvoeiro and seagulls
Seagulls at Cabo Carvoeiro in Peniche
Tuna steak at Taberna do Ganhão. Best food in the past two weeks.
Probably the best meal so far: Tuna steak at Taberna do Ganhão in Baleal.

We came back to Lisbon for a night at Fábrica Braço de Prata and saw some live music there. This time it wasn’t as amazing as it was the first time. But this time I bought two new books to read from the bookstore there. On Sunday I went back to Baleal for the week and I had the best surfing sessions on this trip so far. Since them, the conditions have been really hard again and I haven’t been able to do much unfortunately. But that’s how this sport is. Highs quickly follow the lows and vice versa.

This past week I’ve spent at my second home base, Costa da Caparica. The campsite has gotten really quiet with the weather and surf conditions being rather poor. But this place is nice and feels homely somehow still. I’ve paid for the electricity this week now since I’ve had Ana over for some days too and the batteries wouldn’t have been enough for both our laptops.

Running out of weeks slowly

In one month I will probably be either back home or at least getting very close. It’s crazy how fast the time goes. My colleagues and friends have told me that I must be nuts for even considering a return to the dark and gloomy Finland right now. And maybe I am just that for planning my return to this time of year.

But this was a test run so to speak and I can plan the next tour a bit better. I haven’t decided what the best rhythm would be yet. Technically I need to be more than six months in Finland to be able to retain the Finnish social security and to continue paying taxes to Finland. The winter back home adds some challenges to driving with one set of tires. So right now I’m thinking September to March in Portugal and the rest in Finland. But I need to think about this a bit more still. A minus for this plan is that surfing during the last three months of Portugal time is not really ideal (the water is cold).

Back to being a tourist

Yesterday Ana drove me to Cabo Espichel that is a really beautiful spot about 50 minutes south of Costa da Caparica. The cliffs are really high above the sea and the view was quite amazing.

Cabo Espichel
Cabo Espichel view toward the west (credits to Ana and her magically good phone camera for this)
Praia dos Lagosteiros
Praia dos Lagosteiros at Cabo Espichel (credits to Ana and her magically good phone camera for this)

Tomorrow I’m taking a day off and Ana has holidays too so we’re heading to Porto for a long weekend. No big plans about sights, just a relaxed trip, good food and maybe a few drinks.

Testing a New Medicine – Literally Butthurt

Throat trouble

I mentioned fever in my last post. Luckily it was a short thing, but after it went away my throat really started hurting. On Monday it got so bad I couldn’t sleep much and my ear started bothering me too. Tuesday I decided it was enough and went to see a doctor. After some waiting at the hospital, I did get to see a doctor and he only needed a quick look in my mouth to see that there was definitely need for antibiotics.

The doctor gave me two options: I could choose either normal pills that need to be taken for two weeks or a shot of penicillin. I had never heard of the second option before and it’s not available in Finland as far as I know. I went for the new experience since the doctor recommended it. Maybe he thought a hippie looking guy like me would never remember to take the pills.

After a while a nurse came with a big syringe and told me that this is going to hurt a little and then gave me the shot. It didn’t hurt as bad as it looked like it might, but afterwards it has been a literal pain in the butt. Even if my butt still hurts a little, my throat is slowly getting better now.

No surf this week

I’m taking it easy with exercise for a while, including surfing. Luckily right now the swell is absolutely huge everywhere, so I’m not missing on much. The waves are for the first time clearly audible even inside Naranja here at the campsite. And it’s about half a kilometer to the shoreline from here. I went for a quick look to the beach today and it didn’t look as impressive as I imagined three meter waves to be. Here they break so far from the beach already that what you really see is just messy whitewater. But it would be cool to see what these waves would be like hitting the cliffs in Cascais for example.

Messy, wild and loud today
Finally getting my own wetsuit back

I haven’t left Caparica partly because of being sick and also because I haven’t gotten a message from the surf shop yet either. Today I got impatient and asked them and apparently tomorrow the suit will be there. So tomorrow I’m heading to Baleal again.

I’m taking over the tour guide duty as well, since Ana is coming along and she has never visited Peniche or the area. No big plans except a dinner and getting the suit, but I have been there long enough now to know a few cool places to eat and watch the sunset at least. The sunset might be an optimistic thought (more about the weather below), but who knows. It will also be interesting to see how many of the same people are still at the hippie park.

No longer off grid

So far I managed with what the solar panel produced, but yesterday I hit the limit. I paid the campsite extra for electricity. It has rained almost every day this week and the batteries didn’t charge enough from the sporadic sunshine. This is typical weather for the season here and also means I need to plan more carefully from now on. “Wild parking” may be an option for a few days, but I need to be close to a campsite.

Even though this feels like a small defeat, I have to say that I didn’t believe my setup would work this well. The weather has been very favorable until now and the solar panel replenishes the batteries quickly. If there are no trees or other object blocking the sun that is. And this probably has been the most difficult thing to balance with. Finding a spot that has sun, but not too much to cook myself and the insides of the car. Over 30 degrees Celsius isn’t a nice environment to work in.

Enjoying Portugal Too Much – I’m Sorry Spain

Giving up on Spain

One of the goals of my trip was learning Spanish. I’m still doing it with Duolingo, but learning it in a real environment is not going to happen this trip. Life here is just too comfortable. I remember complaining to Ville at the beginning of the trip that I was afraid I might enjoy being in Portugal too much and not end up going to Spain at all. (He told me that he really wanted to have my problems in life.) That “fear” has now come true, but I’m embracing it.

It was obvious to me even before leaving that this might happen. And now it has. This choice is not good for my Spanish skills, but I feel it’s good for me in general. Something about Portugal seems to relax me and make me feel really comfortable. I’ve always had the feeling here, not just this time. And yes, given a chance maybe Spain could do the same to me too. But I’m not going to try it out this time. It wouldn’t make any sense leaving something this nice behind.

This decision has brought something new along with it. I have justified not putting much effort into learning Portuguese with the fact that I’m about to go to Spain any day now. That excuse is now history. I have started learning a few simple things now. The pronunciation is something quite intimidating, but at least I’m trying. That makes me feel better somehow. It always makes me uncomfortable not being able to understand people at all and especially if I’m not even trying to learn.

Updates from the surf front

My own wetsuit has now finally been repaired. I got a message yesterday from the company that fixed it saying that they’re done and they are sending it to 58Surf in Baleal now. So I’m going to there to pick it up as soon as I get a message that it’s there.

This week was not much of a surf week. Monday I didn’t feel like surfing because of the rain and Tuesday I went for a run instead. The next two days I had a lot of fun in small waves and was really looking forward to the weekend. But yesterday I got a little fever after work and even though I’m feeling more or less ok today, I decided to take it easy and rest today too.

Hiking on the “cliffs”

Costa da Caparica has a cliff-like formation (it isn’t made out of rock, but rather packed earth) that goes parallel with the coastline about a kilometer inland. Ever since I got here I wanted to go explore it. Now I finally made it up there.

The cliffs from the campsite
Looking up from the street just below the cliffs
And looking down from the cliffs down to the same street
Pretty views to all directions

It was a nice two hour hike in total and the first half was just looking for a way up and looking at pretty houses on the way. I don’t have a fear of heights, but when I got up there and realized that the edge is not solid rock, I did get a little bit careful. It felt solid, but I could see some places where the edge had crumbled down. The view from the top was just as beautiful as I expected. Too bad my phone’s camera can’t capture the ocean so well from this distance. It looked really amazing.

The pretty sunsets are back again

The rain early this week seems to have cleared the Sahara dust and the sun is again visible until it sinks below the horizon. The bleak apocalypse evenings are gone for now. I’m not going to miss them either… I’m loving the return of the pretty sunsets.

Sunset at the beach on Wednesday
Pretty colors at the park between the campsite and the beach too

The weather has been nice and warm most of the time, but there seems to be more and more rainy days now too. Next week it’s supposed to rain pretty much every day here, but luckily not all day like last Monday. Since it looks like Baleal might have better weather, I may stay there a few days when I go pick up my wetsuit. But we’ll see, my plans seem to be quite fluid and flexible at the moment.

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

I’ve already mentioned that I have been reading a lot this trip. A little over two months and twelve books so far. There’s one book I have to tell you a little bit more about, because it somehow clicked with me more than anything recently. I’ll try not to spoil it too much and concentrate more on the thoughts it raised in me.

What made it so special to me

It was difficult to put this book down, but at least two others on this trip had the same effect. So that alone does not justify telling you about this. The plot itself wasn’t what held my attention either, I would even call it a little obvious. There’s just something really beautiful about this book that is a little hard to put into words.

In a way this book fits the genre of bildungsroman. It is about the growth and development of the protagonist and how she ended up seeing life and the world differently in the end. It was Nora’s, the main character’s realizations that really kept me going. And also the fact that I’ve had some of the same realizations myself. Some of them recently and others earlier in life.

How much do you “what if”?

We all have regrets in life and I’m pretty sure everyone has thought about what would have happened if things had gone differently. I don’t have that many big ones myself, but I sometimes still do catch myself wondering what if I had chosen another path?

This book is about these other paths and possible lives. Nora gets a chance to reflect about her regrets and then try how things would have turned out if she had chosen differently. I don’t think it counts as a spoiler to say that grass doesn’t turn out to be perfectly green on the other sides of the fence either.

The grass is greener syndrome

This is something we all are familiar with. When you’re single, you long for a partner. Sometimes when you’re in a relationship you long for the freedom of being single. You may think that there’s something better just outside of your current life that you cannot have here and now. This book made me think about this topic a lot again. And also about how much healthier it would be to take care and tend to the grass on your side of the fence instead of looking at the illusion of perfection on the other side. Because that is what it really is in most cases, just an illusion.

I don’t mean that it’s wrong to make a big changes in life in order to make things better for you. There are plenty of good and solid reasons for a change too and it’s nothing inherently bad. But I guess what is important is to understand what is the motive or driving force behind the change. Is it just running after a shadow of an illusion or are there valid and reasonable grounds for the change? I only wish that was easier to see that sometimes…

Appreciation of the mundane

The following perhaps wasn’t the main point in the book, but this idea got mentioned in it a few times. Since it’s something I’ve got experience with and I feel like sharing today I’ll go into this a bit too.

There’s magic and beauty everywhere. Most of the time in our lives we’re just too busy or preoccupied to stop and wonder at it. If you pause and appreciate your surroundings for a minute or two every now and then, I’m convinced it will make you happier in life.

I’ve been practicing this some myself. A few times while doing it, it has moved something inside me and more than once tears have welled up in my eyes. I realize that right now my life makes this wondering easy. I have plenty of new stuff and places to appreciate and look at. But I did this back home already and it’s very much doable in your everyday environment too. The feeling I get when I do this is a mixture of two things. First there’s the awe for the beauty, complexity, history, craftsmanship or some other characteristic of what I’m concentrating at. And what follows is a feeling of thankfulness for being able to experience it.

I know this sounds corny and a little bit like some new age crap, but just try it out. People who read this mainly know that I’m really anything but spiritual. It is not something I see this being about at all. I see this as something practical and as a kind of cognitive exercise that keeps your head healthier. It’s not going to revolutionize everything in your life, but it might do to you some good like it has to me.

Final thoughts

I have read other interesting books during this trip already that I can easily recommend. But this one has been very special and from my heart I recommend reading it if you ever get the chance. I’m sure it won’t be as meaningful to everyone as it has been to me, but I’m still sure it will be worth the read.

Just now while writing this I had a thought that may not be something that others see, but I’d like to share it anyway. In some ways I think this book has a resemblance to some of the Paulo Coelho’s books I’ve read. While reading those it also seemed to me that the plot was not as important as the development of the main character. But also the settings and the atmosphere in this book felt similarly magical and dreamlike. Maybe it’s just me, I don’t know.

Recap of a Warm and Surfy Week – I Do Work Too

Weather update

Two weeks ago it really felt like the summer was going away. But this week I’ve had to work from outside Naranja again. Even here on the coast the temperatures have been close to 30 Celsius. The wind has calmed down a lot too.

But there’s a weird gloominess especially in the evenings because of Sahara dust in the atmosphere. The picture below has been taken just a little after sunset. When a week ago the sunsets very colorful and beautiful, this week the scenery has been almost post apocalyptic. The sun already disappears half an hour before setting. But it seems to be clearing a little again now.

Welcome to nuclear winter
Every day you put on your wetsuit and go to the beach

This has been an amazing surf week. I’ve gone out every day. I stopped doing condition check-ups beforehand and just put on the wetsuit and grabbed the board. I haven’t thought about the conditions too much since the beach (or many small beaches actually) have had waves every time I’ve gone in. And on Tuesday and Wednesday when the swell was the smallest this week, I had more or less the whole beach to myself.

The smallest days were also the best ones. The waves were small, slow and merciful and forgave my mistakes a little. I’ve never surfed as many waves in a session before. On Thursday the waves were bigger again and the beach was also a lot fuller. And today they got almost too big and I only had a short session after work.

A supply run to Decathlon

On Thursday I drove to a sports store nearby to replace my lost Speedos (I have no idea what happened to my old ones) and broken flip flops. I also bought a tent underlay that I can use as a mat in front of Naranja’s side door. I’ve been thinking about getting something like this for some time already because it would really make the outside area under the awning more comfortable and maybe also keep the inside area a bit cleaner.

My barefoot area just got bigger (and it’s just half the real size here)
Yes, I’m working too

I just realized that I haven’t mentioned work much at all in this blog so far. So maybe a quick update is due there too. To be honest, it’s been going pretty much like the past two years from home. I get just as much done and none of the work follows me into evenings and weekends. Also, I like the challenge and freedom that I have while doing it.

I haven’t run out of power even on cloudy and rainy days, but I’ve had to learn to manage working without the big extra screen then though. That hasn’t bothered me nearly as much as I had expected. The network has been working just fine too. I’ve mainly used the Finnish network on my phone but every once in a while the Spanish prepaid in my old phone too.

My company is using me for recruiting purposes

Roadnaranja hasn’t been the only blog I’ve been writing recently. My company has a blog series called Senior Trainee (that comes from one of our company’s mottos that highlights that we are always learning). The main purpose of the blog is to help recruit new people to our company. It showcases some employees that have a story to tell and when they heard about my plans they wanted to make one about me. I was allowed to write it myself but of course it has been edited and made fancier by the marketing pros in our company. Unfortunately it’s only in Finnish, but if someone wants to have a look, you can read it here.