I have to find the whisper.
The voice that’s talking just to me.
In the middle of all noise. The conspiracy theories. The politics. The economic forecast. The prophecies. The mass shooting. The pro-vaccine, anti-vaccine, vitamins C, D, and everything health advice… and the fear of what if this happens again… and when will it end?
...being proclaimed far and wide.
You see I like to be educated. I was raised to be smart, and to think for myself and weigh things out. So I feel like I am standing in the middle of a raging stream of information trying to capture handfuls of what matters.
I need to move away from it and listen quietly to God. Because even if it is all true or all false, at the end of the day what matters is what He is telling me personally to do with my time, and my choices during my days.
He has been there through every plague, world war, famine, and financial fall…
and He knows what I need to do.
So like Horton the Elephant I am leaning in, and getting quiet.
I am listening for the whisper …
1 Kings 19:11-12 A hurricane wind ripped through the mountains and shattered the rocks before God, but God wasn’t to be found in the wind; after the wind an earthquake, but God wasn’t in the earthquake; and after the earthquake fire, but God wasn’t in the fire; but after the fire (came) a gentle and quiet whisper. And God said...
Over the years I have read many many books about those who survived World War Two in Europe during the 1940s. It’s been a favorite reading theme of mine.
Images brought to life of people with ration cards standing in line trying to find food during shortages, society girls now in rubber boots with pitchforks turning the soil as they transformed their formal lawns into victory vegetable gardens, and tired women measuring 5 inches of water into the bathtub to do their part for the war effort. So many people giving up their personal freedom for a cause that for most of them involved an enemy that they would never actually see themselves.
Then, of course, there are the darker images of those on the frontlines dealing with the trauma, death, and pain of losing so many lives before their time.
As I read these books I would wonder what it was like to be trapped in a situation for years that had no specific end date, and I would wonder how they coped, living like that with the "not knowing".
Those years were dark and challenging, and as the war ended there were shortages everywhere and the world's economies were a mess. Yet within a few years the world stepped into an unprecedented time of prosperity and growth such as had not been seen before.
As I have pondered that feat I have realized that there were three gifts that the challenges of the war gave to that generation, which served them well moving forward.
The challenges they faced made them as resilient as people. As they went without, as they stood in line, as they dug potatoes, their character was stretched, and their selfishness banished for the greater good. They were stronger at the end than they were when they started.
The challenges they faced made them decisive. They had gone through a time of loss. They had to face their own mortality and they were awoken to the fact that life is fragile. They chose to translate that into a decision to live fully and intentionally as they rebuilt their lives.
The challenges they faced made them grateful. They never forgot what it was to go without, and to to be hungry, and the joy of small things like hot water and the big things like personal freedom.
They were changed for the good, by their engagement with the bad...
May we receive the same gifts from this "The Great Pause" that is taking place around the world.
I’m super excited to announce that my first “real” published book has arrived and is now also up on amazon for purchase. In the past I have created workbooks to go with courses I’ve taught, but this is the first book of mine that you will be able to find on the bookshelves of a bookstore or order online.
I’d like to share the story behind this publishing journey because I think it will be an encouragement to any budding authors out there who have faced rejection or discouragement along the way. It's a bit of a cinderella story that I have to tell...
Encounter Weight Loss is a unique book that focuses on the parts of weight loss that are usually ignored by the diet industry such as resolving emotional eating and the other triggers behind food addiction, as well as teaching about the latest changes in nutritional science.
I started my journey towards this book in 2014 when I decided to launch a weight loss program in my local church after successfully breaking free from emotional eating and resolving my own battle with food addiction. This came after years of trying every kind of diet on the market which only dealt with the physical aspects of weight loss, with no lasting success. Then applying my knowledge of identity issues and counseling to weight loss and seeing that this was the missing key to long term freedom.
After two years of development in a classroom environment, I began to write Encounter Weight Loss as a book and later that year had an opportunity to approach a publishing rep through a mutual friend to discuss the idea of publishing my book. Well, that meeting was very discouraging. The rep I spoke to told me that they wouldn’t consider looking at my writing because I didn’t have a public platform, online following, or public speaking schedule. So I went away from that meeting feeling pretty low and decided that I would finish writing the book simply because I believed in the message and the program had already helped a lot of people. I decided I would self-publish and just share the book as much as I could.
A year went by as I worked on the book, and at the same time, I transitioned into leading Women on the Frontlines which is a large global women’s organization. So I now had the “public platform” I had been told was the barrier to having the book looked at by the publishing rep.
I told myself "this time it will be different" and booked a second meeting with the rep to talk about my book. As we sat together, I excitedly announced “Guess what, I now have the public platform you told me was the barrier to you looking at my writing." I had my manuscript in my bag, my heart was beating with anticipation, and I had a wonderful image in my mind of handing it over to be read, loved and published.
I’ll never forget the response I received: “What is your book about again?”
“It’s called, Encounter Weight Loss and it’s a book about breaking free from emotional eating.” “Oh, we wouldn’t even consider that, we only publish spiritual books.”
I started to argue, “What could be more spiritual than getting set free from a life-destroying addiction?” Then realized I was sounding defensive and clearly this rep was not interested in me or my writing. Rejection number two in case your counting.
I think that that is what rejection is good for. As long as you don’t get bitter, it can cause you to ask hard questions such as -“Do I believe in this enough to do it even if I am the only one who sees the value?"
So you can imagine my surprise at what happened next.
It was June of 2019, I was attending a conference in the USA and had just been introduced to a person who also worked for the same publishing company I had approached in the past. I teasingly joked as I was introduced to this person… “Oh, you work for the company who won’t even look at my writing."
What followed was a conversation about my book, which ended with this person asking me to send him my manuscript to look at. I decided it wouldn’t hurt to send it because he might be able to give me some constructive feedback before I self -published it. Besides, I have become pretty good at handling rejection so what's one more?
Three days later I received an email from him saying he had read through the book and felt it was “very good” and would like to set up a meeting to chat. This was not at all what I had expected, because I had already cleared the emotional hurdle of deciding to publish on my own. I also knew that when you work with a publisher it can take a year and a half to release a book and I didn’t think I wanted to hold off releasing Encounter Weight Loss any further.
Well here is the fairy tale ending to my book writing Cinderella story.
The publisher who I met with that day became my behind the scenes guardian angel helping me bring the book up to a higher standard so that I could self publish it now rather than waiting another year. Over a period of weeks, Micheal and I got to learn a lot about the difference between most self-published books, and those done by major companies. It was humbling, to say the least, but the end result was beautiful and in the words of my behind the scenes friend, "something to be really proud of".
And.... at a certain point in this process I was also invited by my behind the scenes friend to submit a proposal for my next as yet unwritten book. It was recently accepted and now will be released in 2021!
So the moral of the story to all budding authors is this. Never give up! Believe in yourself enough to do it on your own, and you never know what God is up to behind the scenes to help you get you where you want to go. I tried to place myself with the wrong person in the wrong moment for me, and then God placed me with the right person, in the right moment!
You can find both the book and a ten lesson audio coaching series for Encounter Weight Loss at www.encounterweightloss.com
Part of our trip plan was to spend a week in Croatia which is Murray’s ancestral home. So we set off from Switzerland and decided to stop in Austria on the way there. We had a choice of cities and decided on Vienna as I knew it to have a lot of history around art and opera.
Vienna has a beautiful Cathedral and in fact almost every building in the city is architecturally stunning even down to apartment buildings. We decided to skip the palace tour as we are experiencing “palace burnout” from seeing so many and so instead we went on a tour of the opera house.
It was really fascinating to see behind the scenes of the opera. The stage is over fifty feet in depth and has dozens of curtains and backdrops that move up and down for quick scene changes.
We thought that the opera hall was really lovely until the tour guide showed us how it had looked before being bombed in the war. The reception room below was all that survived but the entire opera house was apparently done in the amazing style below prior to World War Two.
After Vienna we were off to Croatia where we camped in three different places. None of these campgrounds was next to a train station, (although there are many near stations throughout the country), but in this case we had decided to rent a car as we wanted to visit Murray’s relatives and there town was not accessible by train. So we took a train to Zagreb and rented a 4 door smart car for 25 Euros per day which was a great price and it used very little gas. Just enough room for two travellers and our bags.
The first camp ground we stayed at is called: Terme-Lendava and it is a campground with five different mineral pools to soak in. You can find it here: https://www.sava-camping.com/en/lendava-camping/terme-lendava-camping
It was a great campground and our camping neighbour was a typical Croat. We stepped out of our tent in the morning and he was standing there with shot glasses full of plumb brandy which he had made himself and which he wanted us to drink in order to make friends. That was an interesting moment!
This campground was close to Murray’s ancestral home in Sveta Maria and we visited his relatives there. I do have to say that Croatians are probably the most hospitable culture we have encountered. You HAVE TO stay in their home , and you just HAVE TO eat! This is how they show love and they are incredible cooks too, making everything from scratch!
This is the church in Sveta Maria where Murray’s Family comes from. The church is incredibly beautiful and very old. The choir was practicing when we toured it and their voices give a rather gothic feel to the video I shot of it.
From Sveta Maria we drive down to the coast of Croatia to camp on the Adriatic Sea. Our campground was in Medulin which is just next to Pula and you can camp right in the ocean. Below is the view from our tent.
We visited the Roman Colosseum in Pula which is still used to this day for events.
We also took a day cruise on the sea where we were able to swim in a cave and feed the sea birds by hand.
The Mediterranean Sea is a beautiful region and we will likely go back again.
We finished our time in Croatia with a visit to Plitvice falls which is considered one of the more recently discovered wonders of the world and it is truly breathtaking. It is a series of lakes with azure blue water and waterfalls running throughout.
We camped just outside the park in a wonderful campground at Korana Campground where they said “Just camp wherever you want” and everyone picked their own sites and got along great.
Today’s Camping Tip-How to keep things cold.
As North Americans we really like our morning coffee with real cream. They’re is just one problem. Nowhere in Europe serves it that way. So knowing this from our last trip I set out to solve the problem. I knew I could buy cream at the stores in Europe, but how would we store it while camping without a refrigerator. After thinking through the problem I had the idea that if I could find a really good thermos then maybe we could carry cream.
I researched many thermoses including Yeti and the reviews were less than stellar. They are usually very heavy and don’t live up to the hype in real testing.
Except one. It is simply called “Coldest” Water bottle and it’s beats all the others hands down. This bottle has exceeded our expectations and when we put ice in it, the ice is still there two days later.
Now in order for this to work for us and to keep cream and butter cold for a couple of days, I wanted to be able to add ice cubes to it and store our cream inside it within another container so that the ice didn’t water it.
How do we accomplish this? By using disposable baby milk bags, as seen in the photo below. We simply pour our cream into one of these zip locked milk bags, add some ice cubes, and slide it into our thermal bottle. It has worked even in 40 degree Celsius heat and stays fresh for two days with along with the ice. We also store small butter pats in here too. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a thermal bottle that has impressed me this much before!
In my next blog I will visit Italy and chat about how we deal with our dirty laundry!
We were very happy to arrive in Switzerland. One of the most beautiful and expensive places on earth! We decided to use Interlaken as our home base as it’s a great jumping off point into the alps and also on a gorgeous lake.
Our campsite was called TCS Interlaken 6 and the information for it can be found here: https://www.eurocampings.co.uk/switzerland/bern/interlaken/tcs-camping-interlaken-6-107082/
As with all things Swiss the campground was almost perfect with spotless bathrooms, a canopied area for cooking during rain and even a building called “the living room” with sofas and tv. Murray liked to go in there at night to do some work on his auto dealership . When I say that the Swiss do everything perfectly, what I mean is that they are very innovative and they think of details that make sense and make life easier.
Below is a simple example. The sink in the laundry has a built in wash board to make hand washing effective. We saw details like this everywhere.
Our main tourist goal in Switzerland was to hike and to see the alps. Our first day there we took a cruise on the lake. The water is as blue as the Caribbean and clean enough to drink.
On our second day in Switzerland we decided to take a local train up into the alps. Somehow we misunderstood the signs, which were in German and Swiss and got onto a private tourist train.
When the conductor came to check our passes, he told us they were not valid. So I asked him what happens now?
He could have given us a big fine but he was pretty nice and sold us the cheapest ticket back ... and then promptly put us off the train at the next stop in the middle of nowhere Switzerland!
We have learned to laugh at these mishaps, as it’s all part of having an adventurous spirit!
In order to celebrate being ejected from the train, we stopped for dinner at the off-limits, high in the alps town where we were not supposed to be and had a Swiss fondue.
After coming back down to Interlaken, we decided on a hike up one of the trails on the lake, which ended at a resort that you can only access through a cog train or hiking. It was truly beautiful. The cog train which we took back down is the oldest in Switzerland.
You can have lunch up on the terrace of the hotel once you get to the top, and we did.
Our final highlight in Switzerland was a train trip on the Glacier Express which takes you through the highest parts of Switzerland. The train leaves early in the morning, so we arrived in Zermatt the home of the Matterhorn the evening before we left.
Zermatt is a tourist town much like Banff Alberta with lots of hotels and high prices. We simply pick up some food from the local grocery and eat in our room in theses situations as the prices for food are approximately 4x the normal cost.
Murray is happy to be sporting his Jets gear in competition with the local mascot!
They had these sweet little Heidi dresses for sale in the shops.
We were up at 6:30 am and raring to go on the Glacier Express!
The train took us through some of the highest glaciers in Switzerland and the views are the ones they use for postcards!
We went through many tunnels and deep gorges along the way. It’s hard to see due to the reflection on the glass but they were spectacular!
At a certain point in the journey I got woozy due to all the twists and turns. So I decided to try out these motion sickness glasses. They have water in them that stays level and is supposed to trick your brain into feeling better.
Sure enough after 10 minutes of everyone in the train staring at me I felt great!
Today’s Camping Key-How to choose your footwear.
Your shoes are among the most important items you will buy for your trip and I do not recommend going cheap in this area. You will be on your feet 15-20 hours each day, walking, climbing, hiking and stepping in water and mud at times. In addition your shoes or boots need to provide a good foundation for the weight of your pack which you will be carrying.
While there are many options out there I will share what we chose on this trip and then give you some general tips for choosing your own footwear.
My husband Murray has been buying Merrell shoes for years and he swears by their quality. He has owned many versions including hiking boots, but for this trip he decided he wanted a sturdy shoe that would be good for walking, and even light hiking, but which would also double as a dress shoe as we are considering a cruise at the end of our trip.
This shoe is called the Merrell World Vue and can be purchased here: https://www.merrell.com/US/en/world-vue-lace-wide-width/30967M.html?dwvar_30967M_color=J94355W#cgid=men-footwear-shoes&prefn1=isOnSale&prefv1=false&start=1
For sandals Murray chose these Merrell Traveler Tilt leather sandals. He says they get full marks for durability and comfort.
I normally wear lace up hiking boots due to an ankle injury, but on the recommendation of my adult kids, I decided to buy a pair of Blundstone boots which they seem to live in. Sure enough these boots are super comfortable and have great traction for climbing along with ankle support. Plus according to my daughter in-law they can be worn with a dress in today’s bohemian fashion culture.
You can find them here: https://www.blundstone.com/
For my sandals I always wear Romika brand which are Italian leather and have four adjustable straps which make for a perfect fit. They can look both casual or dressy depending on what you pair them with. https://www.zappos.com/b/romika/brand/137
Now that I have shown you the shoes we wear on our trips, I’ll give you a few quick tips for finding and wearing your own.
- Do spend the money to buy quality leather shoes or boots and think about the activities you will be doing on your trip so that they will be a good match. If you are only going to be walking in some cities, hiking boots may be a waste of money. However if you plan to do even some hiking, they can be worth the investment.
- Do start breaking in your shoes or boots at least a month before your trip. You don’t want to be dealing with blisters while you should be enjoying the sites.
- Leave your high heels at home. They take up space and add weight, and will likely only be worn once or twice. Finding leather sandals that look good with both shorts and a dress is a better plan. .
- Do invest in two pairs of these incredible anti blister socks by wigwam. They were recommended to us by guys who hike the pacific trail and they keep your feet warm and dry and wick away sweat. We have not had one blister while using these socks.
- And just in case you do get a blister, Pack a role of this Leukotape which hikers swear by for treating blisters and which will not come off even when wet.
In my next blog we will visit Austria and I’ll show you how to keep your food cold without a refrigerator.
We arrived in Amsterdam during a heat wave with record temperatures being set during the time we were there. Fortunately the temperature dropped down to a reasonable level at night, so sleeping was fine.
The campground we stayed in is called Gaasper Camping Park and it was very convenient for travel by train. It was less than a two minutes from the metro station which connected directly to the central train station. It was clean and organized and also had a grocery store and restaurant.
Here is the link for the Gaasper Camping Park https://www.gaaspercamping.nl/
During our first full day there we traveled to Delft where they were having a traditional market day. There were many stalls with different hand made and local items to buy.
Delft is the home of blue and white Dutch pottery. It’s all very cute and you start to feel as if you must have some. However it’s not compatible with our travel style to haul China and so I limited myself to a very tiny set of blue pottery Dutch clogs about an inch long.
Bikes seem to be the main mode of transportation in Amsterdam. They were everywhere we went and although they have dedicated pink roads for bikes, as tourists we felt like we were on an obstacle course whenever we needed to cross the street, with three layers of traffic to look out for (cars, bikes, and trams). I think we must have looked like excited chickens with our heads bobbing each way, darting back and forth trying to avoid being hit. Our friend we visited told us that you are more likely to be hit by bike, than by tram or car and her advice was “keep moving” don’t stop and they will steer around you!
We were only in Amsterdam a couple of days as our main goal was to visit a fellow Woman on the Frontlines leader Arlene Westerhof.
Arlene is an amazing leader and has done a lot of work in helping to stop the trafficking of women in the red light district of Amsterdam. She has also started a conference called the European Economic Summit which looks at practical ways to influence and change culture through governmental and business movements.
It was our intention to head straight to Switzerland from Amsterdam to do some camping in the mountains, but the forecast was for 100% chance of rain for two days, so we decided to stop in Frankfurt along the way and stay in an affordable hotel. A quick tip for those who are traveling with a Eurail pass is that hotels are priced with supply and demand and you can save a lot of money by staying just outside of a major tourist area, or in a transportation hub where hotels are really competitive. This is what we did in Frankfurt.
We chose to brave the rain and went for a walk and a coffee in Frankfurts Old Town. You can see the traditional German design in many of the old buildings.
We also stopped in at McDonald for a drink at one point and I was surprised to see that they have many items that we do not have such as breaded shrimp and chicken wings. I think we should begin to campaign for chicken wings in North America because so many are on a keto diet.
Well, every trip has its bad moments and unfortunately as we were leaving Frankfurt we had what turned into a very distressing experience on many levels.
First a minor issue, (although as travellers it took some time to rectify). We were on our way to the train station and just as we were arriving, my wheel suddenly flew off my suitcase. This of course left us at a standstill trying to fix it at least long enough to get into the station.
Well that’s when something happened that it’s even difficult to write about, but I said I would share my journey and this was part of it.
Here is what happened ...
As we were trying to sort out the problem with my wheel, about 10 ambulances and fire trucks and police pulled up at the train station. I immediately began to pray as I knew it had to be a terrorism act or something similarly bad that was taking place.
Well it was very bad.
A crazy person had started pushing people onto the tracks in front of an incoming train.
A small boy was killed and his mom barely survived. The station was in an uproar as we came in with police running, and people crying and devastated. Police tape was everywhere and the tracks closed and news people with cameras were arriving. We felt sickened and horrified by what had happened.
We eventually decided to leave the station and take an Uber ride to a sports and camping store to buy a new suitcase. We returned to a very sad and quiet station later that day to continue our journey.
Please say a prayer for the mom and family of the little boy. It could have been any of us in that station. We could have been on the same platform had my wheel not come off.
The police have told all travellers to be extra alert on platforms due to copy-cat crime possibilities. So of course we are being extra aware, and we are just shocked and saddened by this senseless tragedy.
We were very glad to leave Germany behind and get to Switzerland!
Today’s Camping Key - Packing the Kitchen sink.
One of the ultralight setups we bring with us is our dishwashing equipment. Pictured on the table above is a compact bucket, kitchen sink, rubber sink stopper, scraper, two sided dish cloth with bristles on one side and cloth on the other, tea towel and dish soap.
Probably the most important item on display is the rubber stopper as this turns any sink into a place for laundry or dishes, and hotels and campgrounds will not supply them.
Here is our bucket. It holds about a gallon of water and folds up onto this tiny pouch. I have put my hand in the photo so you can see how small it is. It is made by sea to summit and you can order it here. https://www.amazon.com/Sea-Summit-Folding-Bucket-Liter/dp/B007IGOTXI/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=Sea+to+summit+bucket&qid=1564746561&s=gateway&sr=8-1
Sea to summit also makes a portable kitchen sink like this one, for about $30.00 but we bought a knock off from eBay for $6.99 and it works great. The water fills it up and holds the sides rigid. A bit like a swimming pool.
You can order it here. https://www.ebay.com/itm/NEW-Camping-Hiking-10L-Folding-Washbasin-Water-Wash-Basin-Bucket-Pot-Bag-Outdoor/262752112375?epid=2095096569&hash=item3d2d3f0ef7:g:ol4AAOSw5cNYRSKU
My next blog will be Switzerland and choosing your footwear
We left England by overnight ferry via Portsmouth Harbour. The ferry had tiny cabins with sleeping berths so our channel crossing was spent sleeping very comfortably.
We landed at Le Havre and headed from there to Paris. Many people are unaware you can camp right in Paris at Camping de Paris. This campground is located right in Paris and has nice pitches , clean facilities, a restaurant and even a shuttle bus that takes you right to the nearest metro station from which you can access all the sites in Paris. https://www.campingparis.fr/
We saw most of the major sites during of first visit to Paris six years ago, including climbing the more than 400 stairs up the Eiffel tower. So this time we decided to visit the Arch of Triumph and climb up to the top for what is supposed to be the best view of the city. This time it was only 225 steps to the top so we got off easy.
The views of Paris from the top are amazing!
The next day we headed out to Versailles to see the palace. This palace was built primarily by the Louis 13th -16th. It represents both the rise and fall of the monarchy in France, and it is a bit hard to see the excessive wealth on display knowing that the people of France were starving while this was being built. When the peoples suffering came to a breaking point, this triggered the French Revolution.
I happened to have some leftover cake in my travel bag, and so decided to eat my cake in the shadow of the palace. If you don’t understand the humour of this, then read a little French history.
This is the famous hall of mirrors. I’m
Not sure what King Louis would think of all us peasants traipsing through his palace.
On our last day near Paris we traveled to Giverny to see The artist Monet’s house and gardens. This was my favourite place we visited. It was both humble and beautiful and you could feel a peaceful spirit in the atmosphere. It was such a contrast to the excess of Versailles.
I’m in love with his vintage French kitchen!
This is the pond where Monet painted his famous water lily paintings.
Today’s Camping Key- Our Camp Kitchen
On our last trip to Europe we did not pack any kitchen items except 4 expandable cups and 4 “Sporks” which are a combination spoon and fork in one, attached to a little butter knife.
However at a certain point in our journey I ended up purchasing a tiny kettle, and a tiny pot that boiled water with a small fuel tablet. The entire set weighed less than a pound, but the disadvantage was that it took a whole fuel tablet to boil one cup of coffee. So it was not practical for a two month trip.
For this trip I did a lot of research into stoves. There are some really ultralight stoves our there, but I was concerned about their sturdiness and how wide the flame would be under our pots.
The overall winner for sturdiness, great reviews and excellent performance was the Primus Classic Camp Stove.
We have been extremely happy with this stove. Together with our special heat exchanger kettle it boils 1.5 litres of water in about 2 minutes. The ring on the stove is wide enough that it does not burn our pots and it breaks down into a tiny storage bag that fits in our cooking pot.
What you see in the photo here is our Primus stove:
our Fire-Maple heat exchange kettle which has a special ring at the bottom to make it boil fast (it really works and comes in two sizes https://www.amazon.com/Fire-Maple-Portable-Exchanger-Ultralight-Cookware/dp/B078YTH73P/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=maple+fire+kettle&qid=1564229498&s=gateway&sr=8-1
Our ultralight insulated coffee mugs from MEC. https://www.mec.ca/en/product/5040-521/Infinity-Backpacker-Mug
Our Piezo lighter for quickly lighting our stove by REI : https://www.rei.com/product/849683/msr-handheld-piezo-igniter
And two ingenious tiny personal coffee baskets that you fill with coffee and simply stir in your cup for the equivalent of a pour over coffee. I don’t have a link for you to find them as I bought them at a local dollar store. I have in the past used nylon tillable tea-bags with drawstrings to accomplish the same idea.
This is our stove broken down into parts and ready to store. The stand must be purchased separate from the stove and is a universal camp stove stand in stainless. They sell for about $10.00.
Here is the stove, stand and piezo lighter now packed up into our travel pot.
Our travel pot is stainless made by Swiss Alpine. The one litre size.
We also carry a cutting board and knife, a tiny pair of silicone tongs, a folding spatula and an IKEA can opener which is small and light.
We do sometimes bring a stainless frypan also by Swiss Alpine, but on this trip found it wasn’t being used much and so we shipped it home with some souvenirs.
You can find cheaper and lighter pots at camping stores, but most serious hikers carry stainless because they don’t burn and are simply cleaned with a chainmail style scrubber.
For our dinner plates we carry a couple of really light plastic plates from the dollar store, and we have replaced our “sporks” with ultralight camping cutlery. What is also pictured here is a stackable spice holder with pepper, salt and a few other seasonings.
The last item I will tell you about from our camp kitchen is our tiny toaster from GSI which works beautifully and folds down completely plat into a tiny case. https://www.amazon.com/GSI-Outdoors-Glacier-Stainless-Toaster/dp/B001DHMKV6/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=GSI+toaster&qid=1564231503&s=gateway&sr=8-1
In my next blog we will visit Amsterdam and I’ll show you our ingenious portable dishwashing set up.
We arrived in Wales in the town of Cardiff, and had a really nice camping spot right in town about a 15 minute walk or a 5 minute ride from the bus station.
We almost always walk as we enjoy it, and it also helps to burn off the extra calories we end up consuming on our trip. Back in Canada I follow a really strict low carb eating program, but I have found it almost impossible to find the same types of food I eat at home. Plus the opportunity to try different regional foods is a part of our European adventure. The campground is called the Cardiff Caravan and Camping Park http://www.cardiffcaravanpark.co.uk/ nd it had great facilities including a cafe. However we ended up eating at a little local place that made the most beautiful eggs Benedict and coffee for us.
Our main purpose in stopping in Wales was to visit the seaside town of Swansea where one of my personal hero’s of the faith Reece Howels had lived and stewarded a beautiful bible college.
Many peoples stories of faith has inspired me, but probably his has inspired me the most in the way he lived his life in singular devotion to the causes he felt called to. We always try and visit the sites and history of amazing people in each country we go to. We learn something from people who were exceptionally good, and we learn from those who were evil.
We traveled by Swansea by train and unfortunately ended up arriving too late in the day to tour the actual bible college as the heritage center had closed at 3:00.
We decided to try and have a good attitude even though we felt disappointed, and then ended up being super blessed when a young woman who had come to clean the rooms on the college saw us out on the grounds and invited us in for a personal tour.
Our trip has been full of unique experiences like this where things have worked out in special ways, and it always leaves one with a feeling of being divinely guided at each step in the journey.
The unique story of the man (Reece Howels) who founded the college was that he would tell only God of his needs and did not believe in ever asking people directly for money for his ministry. He believed that in this way it would show Gods answers to his secret prayers in ways that inspired faith ( and it did)!
There were quotes on the walls of things he said that I found challenging, considering the day we live in where one just pulls out a credit card when we have a need.
After visiting Wales we headed to Bath England which is a beautiful showcase of old English architecture. We stayed in a beautiful farm campground called Blackberries Campground which was about a 20 minute bus ride from Bath. http://www.theblackberriescampingpark.co.uk/
What we didn’t know when we booked the site is that there was a ten minute walk up an extremely steep hill to get to the camp. I think we will have some pretty good muscle developed after this trip!
The campground had a pen full of goats who were more than happy for me to treat them like pets!
Bath is very much a tourist city with lots of shopping, cafes and places for photo ops next to the beautiful old buildings.
While in Bath we visited the Abby, which is truly beautiful and can be visited at no charge. In order to understand the cathedrals and Abby’s of Europe I recommend reading Ken Follet’s book Pillars of the Earth, which is an engaging historical fiction book which showcases the building of these mammoth structures which would take hundreds of years to complete.
Inside the Abby they buried all sorts of people, and it seems a bit odd to be walking over their graves. They also put peoples remains into the walls in some fashion. Here is one of the typical memorial stones that cover the walls inside the Abby. Hopefully people will speak this well of all of us when we are gone!
Bath is also famous for the remains of the original Roman Baths which you can view along with the Pump Room and Assembly Rooms which Jane Austin wrote about in her very famous novels.
We decided to actually go to the baths in Bath which still exist but in a modern version and so we spent a very relaxing evening at the thermea spa which has heated mineral pools both below ground and on the rooftop where you can view the whole city of bath.
Today’s Camping Key- Our cute table and chairs.
I have to say... our table and chairs are my favourite accessories we bring with us. No sitting on the ground and somewhere to put your stove and coffee pot. People think they must be heavy but that is not the case. The chairs only weigh 1.6-2 pounds and the table weighs 1.5 pounds.
We purchased our Helinox chairs at MEC Canada for $135 each six years ago and they have held up as new. https://www.mec.ca/en/product/5031-086/Chair-One?colour=CRM00
However you can now find a budget conscious version here which only weighs 1.6 pounds for $31.00 https://www.amazon.com/Moon-Lence-Ultralight-Portable-Capacity/dp/B00Y2A6SBO/ref=sr_1_2_sspa?keywords=Portable+camping+chair&qid=1563968861&s=gateway&sr=8-2-spons&psc=1&spLa=ZW5jcnlwdGVkUXVhbGlmaWVyPUEyUkVEWDhHMlBBRkwmZW5jcnlwdGVkSWQ9QTAwMTk4MzdFNEUyWE9GNzNOVFcmZW5jcnlwdGVkQWRJZD1BMDYzMTUxNjMxQlVLVEM1RVJXRUMmd2lkZ2V0TmFtZT1zcF9hdGYmYWN0aW9uPWNsaWNrUmVkaXJlY3QmZG9Ob3RMb2dDbGljaz10cnVl
Our table was a great buy also purchased from amazon for $35.00. As mentioned it only weighs 1.5 pounds and rolls up into a tiny bag. It is sturdy enough to hold our camping stove and windscreen and also has little pockets on it that can hold your fire starting accessories. When unrolled the table top becomes extremely stiff and has rigid bars that run along it to keep it stable.
In my next blog we will visit France and I will tell you about some of our cooking gear.
We travelled to Ireland by ferry from a place just south of Glasgow called Cairnryan. We have found that in order to get the best benefit from our Eurail pass we need to do a bit of our own research and not just count on the apps for information. Google told us we had to get off our train a town called Ayer, and take a two hour bus ride for $16.00 per person. However after a bit of research we were able to find a train that stopped at a town five minutes from the ferry port and paid 7 pounds for a taxi.
When the ferry dropped us off in Ireland it was pouring buckets and after a short time of deliberation we decided to get a hotel. We deal with rain when we wake up to it, but never choose to set up in a downpour.
We use Priceline for last minute hotels and landed a good price on the Holiday Inn in Belfast. Not exactly traditional, but clean and dry and as it happened, right next to a yearly strange tradition the Northern Irish practice on July 11th each year.
When we stepped out of our hotel the next morning (July 11th), we were greeted by this site right in the parking lot. This is literally a huge bonfire that they were building with the plan to burn it down that night. They hold these bonfires every July 11th to celebrate something William of Orange did in the 1600’s, as well as all things Protestant and Orangeman related as well.
This is what the bonfire looked like! Murray happened to speak with a fire captain who was sitting in his truck supervising and he told us that they basically have to spend the night hosing down the nearby buildings so that they don’t catch fire!
The next day we set up camp right in Belfast at a place called the Dundonald Caravan Park. It is a great place to stay if you want to be accessible to sights right in Belfast. It was an easy bus ride downtown and to the train station for the side trips we took. The campground itself was really nice and very safe with a locked security fence around it and a code to get in. The only negative about this campground is that the bathrooms and showers were not very clean. I think this is because it’s a city facility and so the cleaning staff is not s motivated as they could be. But the location made up for it and there is a row of inexpensive and very nice restaurants and a small grocery within a few minutes walk from the campground.
On our first full day we took in the Titanic Museum which was very informative on the history of shipbuilding in Belfast as well as honouring the lives of those lost in the tragedy.
The next day we took the train to Cullybacky (which is my ancestral village) to visit the grave of my great, great grandparents
I had a very sweet experience happen on the way there that really blessed me. I had wanted to bring some flowers to the grave, ideally a permanent arrangement in a weighted vase. However I had no idea how to find something like that in Ireland and even though we kept our eyes open in Belfast we did not find anything.
Then low and behold, as we walked up the street to the churchyard in Cullybacky an older lady had a little shop open and was selling among her fruit and vegetable produce, some vases exactly as I needed. I chose old tea roses, as they remind me of the Victorian days and I thought my mom would like those too.
Visiting the grave triggered a whole fit of crying on my part about losing my dad, and I’m sure that anyone who walked by must have wondered about the foreign girl sobbing at the grave of people who have been gone 100 years!
We ended our time in Ireland with a visit to Dublin, which is very touristy but also very fun and included a trip to a pub to sing along to the old songs my grandad used to sing to me. I also tried on a few Irish wool sweaters and will have one delivered directly home. Not the one in the photo).
Camping Key ... How to choose a bed.
A good sleep system should be ideally be ultralight and ultra comfortable. If you are going to sleep for one to two months on the ground, it’s worth putting some money into getting the right equipment. However with each piece I show you that we own, I will also link you to a comparable version that costs a lot less and let you decide how much to invest. Some of these knock off versions were not available six years ago when we first bought our equipment or I may have considered them.
Our beds consist of four different layers and need to be flexible for any weather. We experienced 7 degrees celsius while we were in Scotland and are expecting up to plus 40 degrees Celsius in Italy. So we need a system that works for both cold and hot weather.
Our bottom layer consists of a Thermarest cot. This ultralight cot keeps us up off the ground which keeps us warmer and also creates a much softer base for our air mattresses. https://www.thermarest.com/cots/ultralite-cot
Thermarest sells this cot for about $200.00. However you may want to look at this knock off brand which sells for only $49.00 if you are on a tight budget.
Our next layer is made up of a Thermarest Trecker air-mattress.
We bought thesealong with our cots six years ago and they are very durable. They sell for around $150.00 https://www.thermarest.com/mattresses/trek-travel
Here is a more budget friendly version of this mattress for $50.00
On top of our air layer we add this next layer of a simple flannel sheet. In the past we have tried silk sleeping bag liners but were unimpressed. We find a flannel sheet layer ads warmth when it’s cold outside and can also be used as a very light sleeping bag when it’s really hot out. We like that flannel is soft, absorbent and washable which protects your actual sleeping bag from sweat and dirt. Flannel weighs more than silk though so you will need to decide which is more important to you... weight or comfort.
Our final and top layer is an ultralight on round down sleeping bag. On our last trip we used very cheap two pound sleeping bags which barely lasted the summer, but for this trip I decided to invest in one pound down bags. These can cost $100-$200, but I did a lot of research and found these ones from a wholesaler in China. It took a bout six weeks for them to arrive, but the quality is very high and the price was super affordable at just $52.00
On my next post I will tell you about our adventures in Wales, and share a bit of information on the portable table and chairs we use.
We arrived in Scotland around 7:00 pm after an easy train tide from London. When you are tenting you should expect your travel days to be a little longer to account for taking down your camp and packing your gear correctly. We chose a campground in Dunbar a little seaside village a 30 minute train ride from Edinburgh.
After getting off the train in Dunbar our first order of business was to find dinner, and we always take the advice of the locals. We were directed to a small hotel called The Royal Mackintosh on the main drag (almost always called High Street” in these parts) , and we enjoyed some traditional local food which included Steak Pie and Haggis.
The next morning we headed into Edinburgh for a day of site seeing. The architecture in Edinburgh is really detailed and ornate. It definitely gives the idea of a gothic mystery novel. The castle dominates the city and has been looking down on it since the 12th century.
It’s funny what can be a personal highlight on a holiday....
I was over the top with excitement when I got to visit the grave of Greyfriers Bobby, a little dog who kept vigil at his owners grave for 14 years back in the 1800’s. I had seen the story on Sunday night’s Disney when I was a little girl and had told myself at that time that I would someday visit his grave... and here I was!
And of course there are many things to buy in the UK that we don’t see in North America very often.
We spent our second full day in Scotland right in Dunbar. It is a beautiful village right on the coast of Scotland with an ancient castle, fishing harbour and a beautiful sea trail we hiked from town to our campground each day.
These are not postcard images but actual photos of the beautiful place we found ourselves in.
The campground itself where we stayed in Dunbar, is called Belhaven Bay Caravan Campground. https://www.meadowhead.co.uk/parks/belhaven-bay/offers/
The facilities were very clean and offer both electrical and unserviced sites. Toilets and showers were extremely clean and there was a nice kitchen with sinks, microwave and toasters if you wanted to use them. We were not able to get an electric site and so we simply dropped off our rechargeable batteries for Murray’s CPAP machine each day, as well as a charging bank for our phones.
People travel with all kinds of unique units here in Europe, including this one we saw which was very well equipped for extreme weather.
And Murray was delighted by the full Scottish breakfast that was served at the golf course just a short walk up the road.
Today’s camping Key... How to choose a bag
One of the main questions people ask us is... How do you transport all that camping equipment?
It’s an important question, because if you don’t have the right bag, or it’s too heavy, your trip will be spoiled.
Now I will say right off the hop that it is a very personal decision as to how much equipment you choose to bring with you on your trip. If you are twenty years old and super fit you may be happy sleeping right on the ground, and only want to pack a change of clothes, tent, a blanket and your bag can be very small. A 35 Litre backpack may do.
As for me, I remember clearly a conversation that I had with a guy who worked at our local MEC camping store just before our first trip to Europe. I was telling him about my goals for the trip and asked him for his advice. He responded by saying “Well my best advice is that you do not need to be primitive just for the sake of being primitive. I have seen people get caught up in that to try and prove something and they are not that comfortable. “ He went to suggest that I set my goal to be as comfortable as possible, while keeping total weight to a manageable amount. We personally love traveling with our portable tiny chairs and table, therma-rest cots, and air layer for our beds. We are willing to carry the weight of these items knowing that over a two month period they will enhance our quality of life greatly. However, I have come a long way since my first trip to Europe where I packed an iron and a pair of high heels!
On our last trip we had our equipment divided between four people, although we did have more equipment of course, but overall we were each carrying a bit less than we are this time. On our last trip we packed all our clothes in our suitcases, and stored our camping equipment in four bedroll duffle-type bags.
The suitcases we chose (we used these again on this trip) are National Geographic brand, which have many built in features, such as hidden back pack straps, a dedicated waterproof section for wet clothes, a divided interior with a zipper to separate the sections, and heavy straps to tighten everything down. These bags also expand a lot so even though they are compact, they hold a lot of equipment.
Unfortunately this exact model is no longer available, but I have included the photos below so that you can get an idea of the features that I suggest you look for in a good travel bag. Since these are no longer available I would recommend a similar one sold by Samsonite here: https://shop.samsonite.com/backpacks/wheeled-backpacks/samsonite-encompass-convertible-wheeled-backpack/117551XXXX.html?dwvar_117551XXXX_color=1175511010&cgidmaster=backpacks-wheeled
Osprey here : https://www.ospreyeurope.com/shop/gb_en/sojourn-60-1
We don’t know if it is my age being six years older than on our last trip to Europe (now 54), or the bit of extra equipment we brought this time, but within the first day of our trip I realized that I was experiencing too much strain on my arm pulling my bag with the way it is set up in the photo above. Our total equipment is about 43-45 pounds each.
So to solve this problem we decided on day two of our trip to ditch the duffle bags and switch to backpacks. This would allow me to about 20 pounds on my back, (mostly clothes) and keep the heavier items in the suitcase (up to 25 pounds), which was very easy to carry when divided this way.
The backpacks we chose are high quality, and this is not an item I would encourage you to go cheap on. You want it to fit correctly and place the weight firmly on your hips and you don’t want to have straps breaking off in your hands.
Our favourite North American brand for backpacks is Osprey. https://www.osprey.com but as we were in England when we purchased our backpacks, we ended up going with a comparable UK brand called Lowe alpine. https://lowealpine.com
A good quality backpack will come with multiple storage pockets, and a built in waterproof rain cover. Here is another hint, the employee who helped me choose my backpack told me that the difference between a 45 litre and 65 litre in pre-loaded weight is very minimal. The 65 litre compresses down to almost the same size as a 45 litre. It just has extra width of fabric, which ultimately makes it easier to load. (So I tried them both on and found this to be true, and bought the 65 litre pack.
Don’t be afraid to ask the store employee to adjust your pack to the right settings for you. At good quality camp stores the staff is trained to do this. Once adjusted to my frame I find it easy to carry about 20 pounds for the 20-60 minute walks we find ourselves on during this trip.
My husband Murray chose this Lowe Alpine waist pouch. A good waist pouch will have multiple zip-able inner pockets and locking mechanisms such a this one does. It has room for his passport, train pass, money, camera and sunglasses. These type of security bags become particularly important once we get to countries where there is a lot of pick pocket activity in the train stations and tourist areas.
Here is a link to this bag: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lowe-Alpine-Fjell-hip-bag/dp/B07G39598M
The final pieces of baggage we carry are ultra-light foldable day packs which were very inexpensive on eBay, fold down to the size of a pack of cards, and only need to last the summer for us. I sewed Canada flag patches on ours, and we keep the stuffed in our larger packs and pull them out when we want a day pack, or we want to separate out some items from our luggage for a train trip. We picked them up on eBay for less than $11.00 each, and have found them to be very durable for the money spent.
In my next blog I will detail our time camping in Ireland and talk about how to choose a sleep system.