First of all, our apologies for not posting in over a week. We’ve been unplugged. Time to catch up.
Problem is, there are so many things to write about it’s difficult to choose just one. Hm. Even though it means we’ll be documenting our adventures out of order, let me explain where we’ve been this past week.
But to do that, we have to go back a little further . . .
Months before we left on this crazy family adventure I was chatting with one of the cleaning staff in the ER during one of my shifts. I’d never spoken to her before (there are a lot of staff). Her accent was thick and European but I couldn’t place it so I asked where she was from. Turns out she was born in Spain but had lived most of her life in France before coming to Canada. Given her colourful background I took the opportunity to ask her for any European travel tips she might have. She didn’t hesitate. “You have to go to Mallorca.”
I tucked this gold nugget of travel advice away as we sold our house and our cars and the majority of our possessions. A few months later we packed our essentials into carry-on size backpacks and departed. As a backpacking family, I didn’t think we’d make it to Mallorca which is a Spanish island in the Mediterranean and far off the beaten trail for most backpackers.
Funny how when you’re traveling without a plan, serendipity comes knocking on your door.
Fast forward six months and we were in Krakow, Poland putting feelers out on the Interweb to organize a sailing charter as a family. The opportunity came up to sail for a week in Mallorca. We booked it. Because . . . why not board a sailboat you’ve never seen with a captain you’ve never met in weather you can’t predict for a week (and pay thousands of dollars to do it)??
I can tell you why we did it: YouTube.
Let me explain.
When we decided to travel full time as a family, we opted for land travel by default. But in doing our research, which obviously relied heavily on YouTube, it quickly became apparent that many full time traveling families are sailing. It makes sense – when you sail, your floating home is also your means of transportation and in general it is more economical than staying at a different airbnb every week. Besides, with stunning coastlines and sapphire waters, sailing just looks fun!
If we had more of a maritime background, we might have foregone backpacking altogether. Alas, we have about as much experience sailing as we do ballroom dancing and, done wrong, sailing is somewhat more life-threatening. So we had to do two things: determine if the reality of sailing was as appealing as the YouTube version and second, learn how to sail.
In light of this, last February I took a one week sailing course in Antigua. I learned a ton – maybe even enough not to die – and loved everything about it from bows to bowlines . . . but would the family?
The next step was to arrange a “skippered charter”. This essentially means renting a sailboat plus someone to be captain of said boat for a week. We could safely experience living aboard, cooking aboard, even learning how to sail – all the while assessing the most important question: who is going to get seasick and how bad will it be?
And that is how, against all odds, we landed in Mallorca. Beautiful, classy, cultural Mallorca.
I’ve described Sicily as the once-pretty high school bombshell worn down after a years of hard living. In that case, Mallorca would the gorgeous, interesting, sophisticated-but-friendly, thirty-something woman who will look twenty-five forever. This is the most beautiful place we have been – a true gem of the Mediterranean.
As the plane landed in Palma, the landscape of the island looked nearly identical to what we had left in Sicily. As soon as we exited the airport, however, the differences were obvious. Gardens that were tended, walls without graffiti, not a single piece of broken glass or dog feces on the sidewalk (sorry, Italy, but you need to clean that crap up).
One thing about full time family travel with six people is that you have to choose your flights carefully to get the cheapest ones. Often these flights don’t coordinate perfectly with your plans. This could be seen as a drawback, but it’s not. Those extra days may be born of frugality but they are the breeding ground of happy surprises.
In this case, our flight arrived three days before our scheduled charter. So, Linds found an airbnb with the best combination of features and value about thirty minutes outside of Palma in a town called Valldemossa.
Boarding a public bus, we left the city buildings behind and were soon winding through the Tramuntana mountains. Before long the town of Valldemossa appeared before us like it was carved from the earth: terraced fields, buildings and walls constructed from the same stone as the mountains, the tower of an 800 year old monastery rising above it all. This is the stuff that fairytales are made of.
Stepping off the bus, we ooo’d and ahhh’d as our train of backpacks wove its way through the narrow cobble-stoned labyrinth of streets toward the airbnb. Once there, we were greeted by our uber-friendly Brazilian hostess, Patricia, and shown around the home which was an even more impressive example of an historical building perfectly renovated for functionality and style.
The next day we ventured into the mountains north of the town for a hike. In the intermittent shade of the holm oak trees we ascended the switchbacks, spotted wild goats and gawked at the incredible views.
About an hour into the hike we came upon a couple of women from Holland who were apprehensive about continuing (the trail was not well marked). Since we had a handheld GPS, we invited them to join us. The rest of the day was spent hiking and chatting and laughing with Bianca and Diana, who turned out to be twin sisters.
At this point I am going to have to pause. My word count is at 1000 but there is so much more to tell.
The truth is, I never really know what is going to come out when I sit down to write. I’ve heard that real authors talk about writing as being like walking around a room in the dark, bumping into things. Sounds about right.
And here I’ve bumped into something . . . how did we land in Mallorca?
A chance conversation with a hospital cleaner . . . a willingness to step into the unknown . . . trusting a complete stranger . . . choosing not to plan (for the first time in our lives).
If we valued security and predictability too highly, we would never have seen Mallorca. It’s that simple.
To be continued . . .