You must be millionaires!

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When we told some Dutch neighbours at a campsite on Texol Island in North Holland that we were travelling for a year, they said “You must be millionaires!”

We do feel incredibly rich and lucky to have a whole year to be together as a family, exploring a few parts of the world by bike and happening upon fun activities and amazing sites – like the filming of a movie in a castle in Ghent or an international para tennis tournament beside our campsite. But the good news is you don’t have to be millionaires to live the dream.

We explained that as a teacher Derek was able to take what’s called an “X over Y”. In his case, he took a 3 over 4 and has been saving 25% of his salary for the last three years and will receive 75% of his salary this year. We started Derek’s X over Y after a serious health scare that reminded us that life is full of surprises and it’s important to make time for what you think is really important.

For the past 10 years, we have also been making extra lump sum payments on our mortgage whenever we can. We started doing this when I was mostly at home with the children and earning a little money once in a while through freelance writing. I wanted to feel like my hard earned cheques (usually with writing done while the kids were napping or after they went to bed) was going farther to justify the effort involved. By paying down the principal on our mortgage, we could see all the interest we saved.

Just before we left, we paid off the mortgage completely.

We’ve rented our house out and are able to use that income for major  expenses like property tax, travel insurance and flights as well as our general budget.

My work generously granted me a leave of absence during our travels, so Derek and I will both be coming home to full time employment.

We’re starting with a daily budget of 80-90 Euros. This is possible when camping costs 22-38 Euros and our food and other items costs 30-40 Euros (including ice cream to keep Anna Sierra fuelled and pain au chocolat for our morning snack).

We usually shop at grocery stores both because it fits our budget and because Jasper’s lactose intolerant and I’m allergic to peanuts. So far groceries have been very reasonably priced.

We often have bike expenses like  new tubes, oil or a new pump. Sometimes we have travel expenses like ferry or tram tickets. And if there’s a special museum or art gallery, we like visiting and will either go over budget or spread the expense over two days.

We’re still working out our system and will happily modify the budget if food costs more – it’s actually very reasonably priced, we just eat a lot because we have cyclists’ appetites.

We also will need to modify the budget if it’s not possible to camp and we need to pay significantly more for accommodation. For now, camping is delightful. We like cooking our own food, meeting other campers and sleeping right next to our bikes. There are usually playgrounds for the kids and if it rains, we have good rain gear and a mighty tarp.

Einkhuizen to the coast!

(This is Derek writing)


Well, it has been a little while so I’ll update in multiple posts. We took a rest day in Einkhuizen and visited a fantastic outdoor museum, the Dutch version of Upper Canada Village. The kids loved dressing up in traditional duimageimage

dutch outfits. We left Einkhuizen on the east coast (inland coast) of North Holland and cycled and cycled through more idyllic pasture and farm fields and along the coast. That night we stayed east of Amaterdam in Zeeland campground surrounded by twenty somethings who were very quiet!  The next day we tried to go to Anne Frank house but when we got there at 9 am the wait was 4 hours!  So we went to the Rijksmuseum instead.  image image image

After Amsterdam we headed west to the North Sea coast through Haarlem to a campground among the sand dunes in a national park. Who knew like 70 percent of the Dutch coast is sand dunes parks and lovely bike paths through them?  We also had a huge storm come in off the sea that night and very nearly take our tent down. I had to run outside and repeg the tent in the storm in my undies at 2 in the morning!  The kids were  a bit scared but handled it well. The next day we headed south through The Hague hoping to stay near there so we could go to the Canadian embassy the next day to figure out how to vote (go NDP!). But the. We realized the next day was Sunday!  Well, the road called and we continued along the coast.   so that brings us to August 16. More to come!  All the best everyone,

Derekimage image

So much kindness

Heading off to the Netherlands with the family for our bike adventure I was expecting great infrastructure and friendly people. We’ve certainly experienced lots of both, but we’ve been blessed by extraordinary kindness every day.

From members of the Australian national cycling team lending us their stand up bike pump in Amsterdam’s airport when we were putting the bikes together to campsite neighbours offering coffee on rainy mornings when Derek’s stove wasn’t starting, we’ve met lots of people who have gone out of their way to help out. Even if the campsites are full, when we arrive, there always seems to be room for us.

Maybe because there are so many bike touring travellers here – we see around 40-50 every day – there isn’t a formal Welcome Cyclists network like we have in Ontario or Bienvenue cyclists like in Quebec. There are simply too many people travelling by bike to make special exceptions. But the kids and their big cheerful grins win everyone over.

A few days ago we were eating second breakfast outside a grocery store in Landsmeer (a beautiful small town outside Amsterdam) when a man came out of the store and asked us how long we were travelling in his country and how we liked it. We had a short conversation and before driving away, he gave Jasper and Anna Sierra 5 Euros to treat themselves to ice cream!

Today we are staying in a Mini-Camping – 15 campsites on a very small farm a few kilometres away from a very popular windsurfing and kite surfing spot. Jasper was invited to help feed the mini ponies, sheep, chickens and duck this morning.

Soon we’ll bike into town in search of more fuel for the stove and a post office as the children have found gifts they’re keen to mail to their friends. As in every lovely town we’ve biked through in the last two weeks, I’m sure there will be lots of bike parking outside every store and we’ll see people of all ages riding in to pick up a few things, like fresh bread, delicious cheese and local fruit and veggies.

Hope everyone is doing well. Sending warm wishes and big hugs,

Love,

Kathleen

Playgrounds and Hot Chocolate  in the Netherlands

imageimage I hope that everyone’s summers are going very well. We have gotten our system down (finally!!!)imageand the bikes are mostly behaving themselves although by writing this I’ve probably jinxed them:( .

The Netherlands are very beautiful with rolling sand dunes, sparkling wind blown coasts and of course cute windmills sprinkled along the horizon, but everywhere is beautiful in some way. The biking is also amazing, and the thousands of kilometres of path are never lonely, but you probably know this already, or maybe my mom and dad and brother all said this too. No, I’m not planning on telling you about that stuff,I’m here to focus on the important stuff. You think that biking infrastructure and breathtaking views are pretty important? Well… I agree but that is beside the point.

The hot chocolate in Holland is delightful, every creamy sip coats your tongue in delectable cocoa  flavour and then slides down your throat leaving a trail of warmth, the whipped cream is fluffy as a damp, buttery cloud, plus they surve you a cookie with no extra charge, so how could I possibly give the Dutch cafes a bad review???

The Dutch are also really good at making super fun playgrounds, everywhere we have stopped  there are zip lines,huge slippery slides and best of all colourful round metal containers that have a bench all the way around the inside and then a steering wheel that you turn to make yourself spin around and around, faster and faster until you can’t take it anymore. I almost made Jasper sick to his stomach when he went on it with me (whoops!).

Ok I’ve done my duty and let you guys know about all the important stuff so I hope that you have taken some notes because I’ll be quizzing people when we get back. No pressure 😉

The first week!

imageWell it has been a wonderful trip so far!!  We arrived in Amsterdam Sunday August 2 at 9 pm, built up our bikes and cycled out of the airport at 12 am. The kids were tired but imagereally pumped. Using the gps, we managed to get to our hotel. The ride through imageAmsterdam was quiet and lovely, on bike path the whole way. We stayed at the WOW Hotel, this funky artsy hotel. They did not bat an eye when we rolled in at 2 am!  The next day we decided to bike on to a campsite about 20 k north of Amsterdam to get out of the city–Amsterdam was too expensive and the biking was scary for anna at rush hour. As soon as we left the city we felt much better. We were still getting used to riding the fully loaded bikes.

The campsite was a typical euro campsite, with almost no trees and sites quite close together.  But we expected that and had a wonderful time.  We stayed there 2 nights to get our bearings before we carried on through noord holland, to the city of Alkmaar.  After that we headed north through the sand dunes and canals to Den Helder. Where we took a ferry to the island of Texel.  We stayed there 2 nights and then took the ferry back and cycled to einkhuizen where we are now. we are planning to take a rest day here.

The cycling in noord holland is the best in the world for our purposes and we are really glad we started our trip here.  There are completely separated bike paths all over the place .  The bike routes are numbered every 10 km or so and there are signs pointing to the next numbers.  Also, we are completely normal here!   At one campground there were maybe 4 other families travelling by bike.  Not to mention the beautiful scenery– little cobblestones roads in the towns, canals everywhere, bike paths through the dunes, ancient churches and more!  The kids are just loving it and often make friends at the campsites.  We are all learning Dutch!

Derek