Europe: the final countdown


Given that I was a teenager in the 80s, I demand forgiveness for the fact that this song is stuck in my head one week before we leave. And it’s freaky how apt it is (the signs are everywhere…).

When the boys from Sweden, who called themselves Europe (see!), created The Final Countdown in 1986, little did they know that they had made me an anthem.

The lyrics says it all:

“We’re leaving together”…

“And maybe we’ll come back…who can tell” (just joking – we will come back)

“We’re leaving ground”

And the best part: “Will things ever be the same again?” (The one thing I know beyond any doubt is that having drunk deeply from the chalice of freedom and adventure, things will certainly not be the same again.)

After the first chorus, the guys reveal that they’re heading for Venus. Not quite our itinerary, but I’m more than happy to be going to Venice (among many other places) and, as of yesterday, Treviso. The latter thanks to a 3-day gap in our planning that managed to hide itself from the travel agent, the travelers and the Schengen visa officials. But what a happy oversight it’s turned out to be. Treviso sounds “delightful” (as my husband the engineer exclaimed at least 4 times last night) and instead of a brief 2-day stop-over in Venice only, we now get to spend 5 days in the north of Italy (and drink copious quantities of prosecco – Treviso’s big claim to fame).

Before we get to the vineyards of Italy, however, some admin remains to be done here in Joburg (or, in Final  Countdown speak: the “ground” we’ll be leaving)

About half the furniture went into storage last weekend; the rest is scheduled to go this Saturday. The kitchen is packed up to the extent that our dinner guest tonight has to bring her own wineglass. Wednesday and Thursday there’s a last business trip to Nelspruit (happily, it will also be a road trip with one of my favourite people in the world), and Friday an interview for an article that needs writing. Sunday we celebrate my lovely sister’s birthday and get to say our first goodbyes. Then there is the final houseclean on Monday, nails and hair on Tuesday, and in between more goodbyes.

And then, no doubt, it will all of a sudden be 23:00 on Tuesday evening and we’ll look at each other as we fasten our seat belts on the plane, and the final final countdown will start.

And now you can listen:



Lessons in abundance

Say the words “overseas travel” and the next sentence starts with “money”. You might not actually say it, but that’s where your thoughts go. Especially if you live in a country whose currency is a fragile thing. How then, does one make an extended trip to a handful of not-cheap destinations happen? Short answer: I don’t know.

It’s not that we are fabulously wealthy and don’t bother ourselves with trivialities like the balancing of budgets. Neither has a benevolent family member left a will full of surprises.

I don’t know because we didn’t plan our finances. We did not think, in April last year, that June to August was summer in Europe; we did not think to go anywhere but Europe; all we thought was that 3 months sounded like a proper trip. We did think that it would be grand to not have a home at home that needs money to keep going, and that we could rather use our rent to pay for accommodation on our trip. But even those fleeting thoughts about money were overshadowed by the thrill of giving up our home base.

You see, over the past 5 years or so, I’ve been on a journey of self-discovery, of abundance, of flow and ease, and along the way my relationship with money has changed dramatically. As a result, I was convinced that money won’t be an issue. And, as we slowly but surely started booking elements of the trip and paying for them, I was proven correct. Not only that – as if by magic abundance appeared round every second corner. We found (without looking) the most amazing travel agent who’s added tremendous value to our trip through her knowledge and enthusiasm. Thanks to family connections, 22 days’ accommodation in France will cost next to nothing. The wonderful Irish hospitality has resulted in a home-stay arrangement in Mrs Quinn’s house, walking distance from the cookery school. Then there’s the timeshare exchange, the unbeatable Airbnb, and a rail-and-stay special in Italy. Exchange rates recovered just when we had to confirm bookings and we were gifted tickets to the Alhambra.

Not that the money demons left me in complete peace. Oh no. I went through a couple of weeks where every newspaper, website and blog taunted me with “10 European cities you can afford” and “Overseas holidays your Rands can still cover”. Friends and family members hiked their eyebrows into their hairlines: “You might want to rethink this trip,” they said. I felt positively browbeaten. What was all this about? The answer I settled on was that my abundance muscle was being exercised. It was being stretched and flexed and pummeled. I read those top-10 lists and thought it fascinating that we’re not going anywhere near those places. I listened to all those well-meaning people, told them about the free digs in France, and joked that Rob and I don’t eat much. I worked that abundance muscle until it quivered at nothing anymore.

But financial abundance is not the only gift and lesson I’m receiving. The other big one is time. Firstly the incredible luxury of stepping out of “normal” life for 92 days. Here too, I had a wobble. Back in January, when I had a look at the year ahead and crossed out June to August, the chunk of time freaked me out. We entertained some alternatives, but soon decided to honour the spirit in which this trip was conceived and to go with what felt so right when we first decided to do it.

Then there is the fact that as a consultant and a freelancer, both Rob and I sell our time for a living. How does one not work for 3 months? Turns out it is entirely possible. My laptop is going with. My clients are wonderfully willing to work with me to make it work. And while things are quiet now, at least 3 big jobs have already come in for September. It is as if a bubble of time is being created for us. I see it, I embrace it and I’m deeply grateful for it.

The last element of time is time to get everything done before we go. I expected my life to be utter chaos, what with packing up our flat and finishing last-minute jobs. That’s not happening. The packing is easy. The workload at the moment is light. I have time to read, have lunch with friends whose company I will miss, write this blog. Again – such a gift.

The run-up to this trip is one big lesson in abundance and ease. “Let it be easy” I remind myself when I start fretting about how it should be when one packs in real life like we are doing. After all, who am I to tell myself how it should be? I’ve never done this before. All I know is how I want it to be and that’s what I’m going with.

Ease and abundance. Ease and abundance.