The First 30 Hours – And the First Bump

The official “Road trip begins” photo in Jyväskylä
The first leg to Riga

Everything went very smoothly down to Helsinki yesterday and we found a pretty spot to sleep over close to Korso in Vantaa. We had a big breakfast in Naranja and then headed out to Katajanokka for the ferry. The drive from Tallinn to Riga was pretty uneventful and we reached our goal around 7 PM as planned. Everything seemed fine when I dropped Ville off to pick the keys to his apartment and went to turn the car meanwhile. And then suddenly…

Check engine

Do you know those words? Well, my dear Naranja decided that it was time to show me them today in the beautiful city of Riga. Nothing seems obviously wrong with the car and it works and sounds all normal. But those words… I do need to let someone have a look at it asap. I’m hoping I can reach a repair shop tomorrow morning that they have time to read the error code. Also, I hope someone speaks English since my Latvian is not very fluent…

I’ll update you on this tomorrow, but meanwhile I’m trying a proven recipe against bad news: some crap food and a beer.

Planning: Completely Overrated

I hate making exact plans and there really aren’t many for this trip either. It may be that I end up regretting this choice at some point, but my traveling experience has taught me that the more specific the plan the more likely it’s going to fail. For the holiday part of the trip in the beginning of the journey I’ve had to set some dates. Next I’ll walk you through those in a little bit more detail.

Closing in on departure

The departure is tomorrow. For the most part I’m ready and well set up to leave, but my apartment still needs some cleaning and setting up. I’m keeping it for the duration of the trip, because I like it too much to lose it.

I had two choices route options and I went with via Baltica this time. Mainly because I’ve never driven it before. The other western option through Sweden and Denmark I’ve done once both ways. So tomorrow I’m heading toward Helsinki and on Thursday I’m taking the ferry from there over to Tallinn. I’m not leaving alone with Naranja. A friend is coming along until Riga. He’s on vacation too and wanted to join me for a bit and then stay and enjoy Riga for a few days. I’ll leave him there after a day in Riga myself.

Saying hello to some old friends

The next goal on the way down is Nordhorn Germany. I used to live there for nine years and haven’t had the chance to visit lately. So now I’m taking advantage of this drive-by and stopping over for a couple of days. My plan is to get there around August 9th. All the plans for that stop are still a little vague. I’ll try to meet some people and if it doesn’t work out, there’s always another chance on my way back.

Here’s a link to Google maps showing the planned route. (Note: Google seems to have switched the recommendation to the western route, but we’re taking the eastern one.) Of course I won’t be following that line slavishly, but I’m not planning on big detours either.

Next stop: Baleal, Portugal

The next fixed date is August 21st. That’s when I need to be in Baleal surf camp in Peniche Portugal. I booked a week of surfing with them in May 2020, but because of Corona, it was canceled. I’m now taking advantage of the deposit I paid back then and I’ll start my surfing during this trip in my favorite place. I’ve been there three or four times before and every time the conditions and the teaching have been amazing. I haven’t planned the exact route down to Baleal yet. I think I may not plan it much at all before hitting the road.

After the week of surfing is also where my plans end. My work starts on September 5th, but I might still be in Baleal (or around) when that happens. Especially if the surfing is good, I may end up staying for a bit before moving back up to the north of Spain. The area I’m aiming to reach at some point is between Santander in the east and Aviles in the west, but I have no real plans as of yet.

This Is Naranja, the Road Ship


As promised earlier, here’s a separate post about my road ship that I will share the adventure with. Naranja is a mobile home built into a beautiful orange Fiat Ducato. It left Fiat’s factory in 2006 and was built into a mobile home by Globecar in 2007. I’m not going to bore you with that many more technical details. But in the end there’s a paragraph about a few things that I have had installed extra since the purchase. Below I’ll also reveal the secret of the name Naranja. But first some quick images.

A visual tour
Living area
A view from the sliding side door.
The kitchen
The kitchen has a gas stove, a sink and a spacious fridge,
The bedroom
The bedroom has plenty of storage room above it.
The bathroom
The bathroom has more space than you’d think and it even has a shower.
View through the back doors
Already packed and ready to go! There’s plenty of space under the bed as well.
Why Naranja?

The name Naranja of course has to do with the color of the vehicle, but also with other goals for this whole endeavor. Naranja in Spanish means orange and since learning Spanish is one of the goals for the trip and since going to Spain is another, the name fits like a glove (I think it does at least).

A good friend told me to call it the Clockwork Orange and I did consider that for a while. Especially in Spanish that would completely make sense: La naranja mecánica. But driving a van that carries a name of a book that entails graphic violence and raping, didn’t quite feel right somehow.


Since I’m planning on working on the go, power is absolutely essential. Especially because I most likely won’t have shore power available for a big part of the trip. Therefore Naranja now has a 180 W solar panel on the roof, leisure battery capacity of 190 Ah and a 1000 W inverter. The last mentioned is needed to get AC for my display and laptop but also for charging my phone and other gadgets. I worked a few days out of the car in Finland for testing purposes during the summer and decided to double the battery capacity just in case. That was done just yesterday actually.

Since sometimes working from inside the car was hot even in Finland, Naranja now has a Maxxfan built in. If it’s even too hot with the fan running, I can move outside and work from under a roomy awning I got installed. I still have to find a folding table for that purpose though. That’s something I will have to find during the trip.

A Retrospection – How Did I Get Here

Nomadic dreams and surfing

I have been fascinated with the idea of living as a nomad for a long time already. When the word digital nomad first popped into existence I felt very much drawn to the concept. I used a lot of time just browsing the Nomad List and reading stories about people “reinventing” their lives. I was also envious as hell, because at that point I worked as a teacher and realistically had no chance of the lifestyle. And after a while I forgot about the “unrealistic nonsense” and moved it aside.

Around the same time I tried surfing for the first time and loved it right from the start. I hated living so far away from surf spots and therefore only being able to do it for a week at a time. Surfing a week once or twice a year doesn’t develop a middle aged bad surfer that much. I always hated leaving back knowing that the next time I try, I’d basically be a full beginner again. I still continued the surf trips and thought that one day I will make it possible to stay longer.

Goodbye teaching

What changed then? Well, I simply decided that teaching wasn’t my final profession after all. Not because of my desire to be location independent, but because the job was just simply too taxing for me. I loved most of teaching and what comes with it, but I just realized that my personality was wrong for the job. I took things a bit too seriously and noticed that I worried too much. I worried about my students’ well being, about my efforts not being enough and about a dozen other things.

This never went all the way to burn out, but I realized that one day it might. So, I decided to head back home to Finland (I had spent the past nine years in Germany) and figure out something else I could to do.

A new line of work

I got extremely lucky with my career change to be honest. I went to school (very practical IT stuff) for only about a year and found my first job already while studying. The first job was horrible, but without it I wouldn’t have landed the one I’m in now. I’ve been working in the service desk of a Finnish IT company close to three and a half years now. I know it doesn’t sound like much and I definitely don’t call myself an IT pro, but the job is rewarding, challenging AND every day it stops at 4 PM. It also pays better than teaching…

After the first year in my current job I got back to thinking about working from abroad. Our company had possibilities for remote working back then already. The policies were a bit stiff and it wasn’t easy to get permissions from all the corporate layers. Then corona happened and you know the story. Everyone has worked from home for more than two years now and there’s no going back to office based working.

After more than a year of home office I decide that I’m going to spend the fall 2022 in Spain or Portugal. My bosses were not against it and all the company bureaucracy was surprisingly easy to sort out too.

Planning and concerns about finding an apartment

After I knew this was something I could really do, I started thinking about two things:

  1. Where do I want to go really?
  2. How am I going to find a place to stay?

Number one was tough, because for surfing only, I wouldn’t really hesitate long. It would be Portugal, somewhere north of Lisbon most likely. Well, who am I kidding, it would be Baleal (more about this later, since I’m actually heading there in a few weeks). But I have also wanted to learn Spanish for a long time and northern Spain was also where I lost my surf virginity. After some hard deliberation I went for Spain.

Number two wasn’t easy either. I noticed that the area I was thinking about didn’t have a lot of reasonably priced apartments especially for just a four month period. Most of the ones I found had a clause that stated they were only available for 12 + months leases. This I really struggled with and had no idea about how to solve this. Until I went out with a friend and told him about my problem.

The most expensive beer I ever had

In early March a friend called me and asked me out for a beer to a jazz bar in my home town. There was a modern jazz trio playing and normally that would not be my cup of tea. But life always has a way of showing that you need to do stuff outside of your comfort zone. Not only did I enjoy the gig tremendously, but that evening solved other worries too.

I told my friend about the difficulties I had experienced in finding an apartment. He made me feel like an idiot with his first reply: “Have you considered buying a van and living from it?” I was dumbstruck and just couldn’t believe that I never thought of this myself. I immediately realized this would solve many issues:

  1. No need to worry about finding an apartment.
  2. No need to worry about being stuck with poor surfing conditions or with an area that I ended up disliking.
  3. No need to worry about finding company (camping and parking areas always have other like minded people).
  4. No need to worry about managing the whole trip with things I can fly with.
Looking for wheels

I then started my search for a van. I’m not handy enough to trust my own hands to be able to do much so I humbled myself and started looking for ready made vans. The market is very broad and unfortunately the prices have gone up quite a bit during the pandemic. My hopes and expectations for the van also went up which meant more bad news for my savings. In the end I realized that I wasn’t really looking for a van any longer, but rather for a mobile home. I went to test drive a few and as I took “my” Naranja out for a drive, I was a goner.

I’ll write a separate post about Naranja and about coming up with the name later. But there’s a picture below of how it looked when I made the deal.

My Naranja

If you read the post you might think that me being here right now is something really deliberate and planned but the reality is actually quite far from it. Things happened in-between and life had its surprises. The storyline above is by no means fiction and it covers at least some of the turns of events that led me here, but I took quite a lot of shortcuts too. As self narratives always tend to be, this one also depicts a subjective image of how I now see things went in the past and maybe also a little how I’d like things to have gone. That got a bit theoretic, sorry!

I may get back to some of the shortcuts and bumps at a later point or I may not. We’ll see how and where things end up this blog.

Finally Setting This Up

Today my holidays started and I no longer have any excuses for getting this blog started. I’ll try to write separate posts about the background of this endeavor and also about the ideas I have for this blog during the next few days. But for the curious and/or impatient readers a brief summary below:

  • Working from Spain/Portugal has been my plan for a couple of years now
  • A few months ago I bought a mobile home (Naranja)
  • I’m now six days from hitting the road and putting the plan into action

Oh, and I’m completely new to WordPress, so please don’t expect wonders! What I’ve learned so far today, seems pretty straightforward and simple, but I’m sure there’s still much to learn. Looking forward to it!