Redefining Home: My Family's Journey from City Living to Nomadic Life

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It seems basic to have a home, but what does it really mean? After a year as digital nomads in a tiny house on wheels, our perspective has changed. Read on and learn what we learned and how it changed us.

I used to believe we needed the 200 sqm with garden and terraces in a capital in Europe. We felt at home in our home in Copenhagen. Now, we have downscaled our life to a 22 sqm bus plus a small green van, and I feel just as at home in my bus and in my van as I used to feel in my big apartment in Copenhagen.

Actually, I also feel, I can feel at home in the twilight at a town square somewhere in Germany just 20 minutes after I arrived in the town, in a spare room with some friends, in the guest house with some people I had never met before, by a canal where I have my lunch and rest for some hours. The homey feeling is different in each place, but nonetheless, all the places have an element of home feeling. Does it make sense?

Every place we have been, I just love to be there, and every place we have been, I think, is amazing. I feel free and alive and in the right place everywhere. Yet, there is a difference. A difference between being fully satisfied, feeling completely safe and at the right place, and then feeling at home.

In this blog post, I explore these differences and share how our nomadic lifestyle changed our perspective on what it means to be “at home.”

Coming home to the bus and to Catalonia,

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Those following the blog will know we have been a lot in Catalonia the past year. The bus has actually been parked at the same spot for ten months. We have been traveling a lot, to the Canary Islands for a few months and to Denmark and Sweden when my mother died in April, plus the ten weeks road tripping Europe this summer.

In Catalonia, we met a woman who was just a soulmate to me, and we felt this deep connection even before I learned to speak Spanish; around her vegan project, we met a large group of like-minded people. At Mon La Bassa (translated: The World around the Pond), we have met people of all ages and animals of many species and developed many different friendships.

In Catalonia, we have also decided to learn the language. We study Spanish and Catalan, and we are doing good. We have a general interest in language and always learn as much as we can of local language, wherever we are – but here we have so many friends and spend so much time, so this language is in front.

The feeling of coming home

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When we came back to the bus after ten weeks in the green VW, we clearly felt we were coming HOME. We drove all day from Magalie and Keith because we wanted to come home. To our bus. The home feeling came in many forms: When we passed the blue sign with the yellow stars saying “Espania”, we were shouting: “Spain! We are home!”. When we drove into the city of El Vendrell, 2 km from the bus, we felt excited: The monuments, the streetcorners, the commercial signs, the buildings, bars, and bridges. Butterflies in the stomach, big smiles, true happiness, YAY – we are home. Again.

In order to get to the bus, we had to cross a small bridge and drive along a very beautiful road between vineyards and old drywalls, and this last kilometer was peaceful and beautiful. At least we drive through a portal of trees and bushes; it feels like walking through the closet in Narnia, and you enter the special place of Mon La Bassa. Arriving at the animals, the stars, the carob trees, and tada: the bus. Our big red beautiful home, the bus.

When we arrived, we were tired, and the feeling of happiness was of a silent and smiling kind. At the same time, the arriving hour became, first and foremost, practical. The day before had had heavy rain, and our bed was wet, so we had to fix that – and, of course, start all systems after the bus had been empty for ten weeks. We were in the Doing Mode for a few hours before we went to bed.

Waking up at Mon La Bassa was amazing. It always is. In sun and rain, during summer and winter. But after ten weeks of absence, and with a very new feeling of this being our base, our home, the first morning was different. Magic.

The sun was shining through the branches of the huge carob tree; when it rose, the peacock male Eric and the rooster (I am sorry, I do not know his name) woke us up with their morning calls, and we enjoyed a slow morning walk to say good morning to all plants, animals, and buildings. Even the dusty road.

Shortly after, the humans arrived, and we learned we had returned to exactly the first day of school. Laia smiled and told me this was, to her, the perfect timing: Now everything was back in order after a crazy summer, harmony and balance ready to begin: Kids back in school, Vikings back in the red bus, everything in order.

Perfect timing is, by the way, a big part of our philosophy. Read more about it in the text: Are you super rich?

We felt exactly the same, as we often do: That the timing was just perfect.

The first days were full of conversations and of reactivation of the language, not spoken for a long time and still new to us.

Week 38 plus a bit: What we did in our days of returning

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JUST BEING
September 12th. Just being, joining the work with the animals, lots of reunion hugs and conversations, a bit of shopping, an evening dip, and sunset at the beach. The full moon was crazy beautiful when we returned to the bus.

PICKING UP LIV IN THE AIRPORT
September 13th. Market day. Reunion with our favorite market, buying all the great veggies organic local farmers grow here. It is so vibrant! The Mediterranean is just fantastic. Drove to the airport in the afternoon to pick up Liv, our oldest daughter, who came to celebrate Silke's birthday.

QUIET DAY
September 14th. Just enjoy spending time all together at Bassa and with Liv.

SILKES 11TH BIRTHDAY
September 15th. Peaceful day. We participated in the visiting hours, made a lot of different cakes, played with water in the heat, and read books. In the evening, we went to the beach to see the full moon rise from the ocean and play ball in the sand.

WILD WAVES AND BOARD GAMES
September 16th. At the beach, the waves were wild, and the water was soft. Later, we played a Harry Potter board game in the bus.

SUN AND BEACH
September 17th. One beach, and then another beach, iced coffee and then more sun and more water. It was the last day for Liv to spend with us this time and she just wanted as much sun and beach as possible. It was also a really warm day, so to spend it by the ocean was just great.

TO READ IN A HAYSTACK
18. September. Jesper kørte Liv til lufthavnen om natten, og vi var trætte. Dagen handlede om at ligge i en høstak og læse, og om at bygge med lego, bage en kage og se en Olsen Banden film.

September 18th. Jesper drove to the airport so early in the morning it was actually night. We were very tired, and the day was all about reading in a haystack reading and about building LEGO, baking a cake, and watching an old Danish movie.

BARCELONA
September 19th. Jespers computer met a small piece of glass, and needed reapair. We enjoyed wonderful Barcelona all day, and we became very tired. The streets, the people, the architecture, and a few hours in a garden behind a teashop, where we hung out and had tea while Jesper had some skype calls.

PLANT A TREE
September 20th. Friday again, market day. The rhythm is part of the home feeling. We bought our veggies, nuts, and olives. In the afternoon, we joined a Plant a Tree project in a restored natural site along a river down to the beach. On this day, the first Flamengo had arrived, a milestone in the project of recreating a natural delta. Beautiful.

DONKEY FOAL
September 21th. Woke up to a new donkey foal and was just happy. Oh, such a beautiful creature! A miracle right there under the carob trees. The afternoon blessed us with a thunderstorm, we danced in the rain and washed the car now the water was already pouring, watched one more old Danish movie while it was still raining and in the evening we went to the ocean to enjoy the sunset and have a dip.

UNSCHOOL PICNIC IN BARCELONA PLUS FRIENDS IN TOWN
September 22th. Barcelona again. This time to network with other homeschoolers and to meet up with Alexander from Denmark and Ruth from Germany, friends of ours in town for the weekend. In a park to meet people, took a long walk in Gracia, enjoying organic vegan ice cream and other yummy stuff, walked loooooong through town to get to our favorite restaurant Veggie Garden (Tibetan vegan yum), and got caught by thunder, danced the rain again and had dinner soaking wet. It was fun. It is not cold here.

As such, we arrived in our Catalan life again after the ten weeks of absence. While traveling, we planned to have a lot of peace and quiet upon arriving, but I suppose it is not really our style.

Did we travel the world?

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One year and two months ago, we moved out of our home in Copenhagen to travel the world with our children on a red bus.

We traveled to the Netherlands and met a family who lives in a houseboat and met up with friends we had originally met at La Palma. Then we went on to Paris, enjoying the streets, people, family, and art. We kept on traveling to the south of France, watched flamingos, made new friends, and went on to Catalonia because some emotion was calling.

In Catalonia, we were met with so much love and such an appealing culture we had to stay much longer than anticipated. When winter came, we left the bus and went to the Canary Islands for a new adventure (and to escape the winter). In March, we came back to the bus and thought we would start driving it again, but then my mother suddenly died, and we flew back to Denmark.

Five weeks later, we returned to our own life, our life in the bus. NOW, we thought, we would start traveling again. But it seems the bus was not ready to leave Mon la Bassa, and instead, we bought the VW and started traveling Europe for two and a half months.

Is that traveling The World? By no means. We have been to seven countries, all in Europe. We have been to loads of places, met a lot of people, and had a lot of fun. We have explored the balance between adventureing, exploring new horizons on the one side, and the contemplation and the peace deriving from getting to know a place and its people really well.

We are not busy to get to see the whole wide world. Our project is about thriving, being happy, being free, and being together. We have learned it is of less importance to move around.

The freedom to go wherever we want is also the freedom to stay where we are.

Now, it seems Portugal is calling. We have to make some repairs on the bus before it is driving, and for now, we enjoy our friendships here, and the few days of peace we manage to create.

We thrive in this life. This is the most important. We have learned it is not only about the number of countries we visit but also about how deep we dive into local culture and nature, stories, and people. A location will unfold itself in other ways when you choose to stay. Our relations here are of great importance, and they are also the ticket to new experiences, to a nuanced understanding of the culture, to new developments.

As we often explain, The freedom to be wherever we feel like is also the freedom to stay where we are if that is what we want.

Birthday and older sister

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Sometimes, while road-tripping in the summer, we longed to come home. Home to the bus. Home to Catalonia. Home to the animals and the people, the climate and the culture here. We love the adventure, and we can hold up to being really busy in our travels. But sometimes, we do long for peace and quiet, everyday life and silence.

Very often in life, something we long for is actually available in the here and now if we choose it. We could have had much more peace and quiet while traveling Europe in the green van, but every day, we chose something else. More adventure. Because, at the time, it was more important.

Even when we came back to the bus, we chose the adventure, the parties, the fun. On the second day, we picked up our oldest daughter at the airport, and as you can read in the bullet calendar above, our first weeks in Catalonia were not at all weeks of reading in a haystack and everyday life. They were very much what we are and what we enjoy: Humans, nature, culture, projects, experiences, adventure.

Firstly, we celebrated Silke's birthday and the company of our oldest daughter.

Every day life

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To come back to something that resembles everyday life feels good. Every place we stay, we create some habits. Based on the place, the people, the projects of the time. We lean into the reality around us and adjust what we are to the context.

So, coming back to the bus is coming back to a known context, to some habits and routines. We do not have to invent new ones. Well-known routines are clear indicators of home. But after being away for a long time, it is also interesting to reconsider what is actually needed, and that is psychologically healthy.

We think about all of the routines. If what we do is truly important, if it is the right for us. It is refreshing to recognize oneself in habits and, at the same time, feel the natural revision happening after longer breaks. Yet another advantage of full-time traveling.

My tiny home: My kitchen table, my floors, my place

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A home is where you sleep a night, where you have some clean clothes and enough food for the next few meals. But is that it?

A home is where you sleep a night, where you have some clean clothes and enough food for the next few meals (or more). It is hard to define “a home”, but this one often holds water.

In the bus, the feeling of home is connected to stuff and to organizing. Our stuff. Our kitchen, our bed, and our couch. As a comparison, our VW is also a home, but the bus is a HUGE upgrade as to size, and a great element is that things do not need to move all the time. In the bus, you can have a knitting project and some LEGO and a drawing going on, and in the kitchen, fermentation processes of yogurt and kombucha can be going on while baking bread, and we can go for a walk or sleep all night without moving it all and finishing all processes.

I feel both welcome and at home in many places. Yet there is a special feeling in my bus, in my kitchen, among my books, my knitting projects, my fermentation cultures: my projects, my choices. Our bus is a seriously cozy tiny house, and after a year with the bus as a base, we had a clear feeling of “coming home” when we arrived.

Is a home a place?

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There is more to the story. When we do feel at home in the bus, it is good in itself. In that way, we have succeeded in our freedom project: We can live our life at home wherever we park and thereby travel the world while being at home.

But the truth is the bus is not the only contributor to the feeling of being at home. It is just as much about the people here. We have made real friendships and learned enough of the language to have conversations, have fun, solve problems, and explore interesting questions with other people. Enough to be and evolve in the relations we have here with all that we are.

Home is where you know exactly who to call if you need to have a hug or a party. Or both.

Similarly, we were in Denmark and felt at home because we shared the mother tongue, we knew local history like the back of our hands, and had friends and family locally. We did not have the bus there, but other factors made us feel very much at home.

The people here in Catalonia, their wholeheartedness and their warmth, make us feel at home. It is as important as the bus itself.

A place can make you feel at home, but a home is probably more an experience, an emotion. The feeling of being at home touches you and feels very comfortable. But the idea it has to be in a special location is just that: An idea.

And the surroundings: We know parts of the city just down the road, we know where to get our organic veggies every Friday, and we know the most beautiful camino to the beach; we know some of the trees very well, and we know the plazas and the fountains, the mobile phone repair shop (!) and the Vietnamese cook at the sports bar, who cooks lovely vegan food for us when we want to watch a soccer game.

All of this makes us feel at home, just as much as the bus itself. So is “the home” the actual place you rest your head at night?

We like the culture here; we like the people we have met; we like the nature and the climate. All of these reasons can explain why we spend so much time here and why we plan to spend much time here in the future as well.

A nomadic style of the ancient nomadic cultures, as well as of some of the modern nomad people, is to move from base to base. The people of the Stone Age did this, and many cultures have done this. We want bases as good and homey as our Mon La Bassa in many places on Earth, but we are in no hurry. It is great to contemplate to give time. It is actually much more fun than being a tourist all of the time.

So, IS a home a place? My answer will be “no”. A place can make you feel at home, but a home is probably more an experience, an emotion. The feeling of being at home touches you and feels very comfortable. But the idea that it has to be in a special location is just that: An idea.

Do we need a home?

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The big misunderstanding of this theme is in the premises of the question. Do we need a home, as in ONE home? Probably not.

Of course, everyone has a need for a place to be, a place to rest, and so on, but in reality, we could at least physically survive if this was a new place every day.

The question of the psychological need is, of course, much more interesting. Now, we have been living in a bus for a while; we see these things from a different perspective. The bus separates the home from the location.

First and foremost, we do not need ONE home. There is no problem feeling at home in many different locations. We can feel at home in the van and in the bus; we can feel at home at friends' places and at family homes.

Another premise is the idea: you have to be in the home a LOT of the time. And actually, you do not. A home can be a place to return to sometimes, and this is still the feeling of home. Many people know this feeling from family vacation houses. They are homes, even though you have not been there, maybe even for years. We have found even new places to hold the emotion of home after only a short time, and believe being at home is, first and foremost, something you choose to feel.

Another thing is that a home can be an emotion rather than a place, and a home can sometimes just be a language, other times a friendship, and often a place. A home can be of different quality, depending on the history, the context, and the inner work done by the person trying to feel at home.

If we are together, it does not matter where we are. Then we are at home.

So, home can be many different locations, some local, some as big as countries; it can be a language, a view, a group of people, or a personal history.

It is great to be out on an adventure, and it is amazing to come home to the bus. It truly is. Just as it feels good to leave a home and know it is there when you come back. This is a GREAT luxury. We have a mental anchor in all the places we feel we belong, and this connectedness is different from before we chose to become nomadic.

In my view, the idea that a home is ONE place, “your home,” and that you have to be there more or less 45 weeks a year is just derived from the fact most people live like this. It is the reality for many people, and because most people live it, we decide it is good and natural.

In many ways, our lifestyle challenges what is the common lifestyle choices, and as such, the reality and the idea of the ordinary (some even postulate necessary) for a lot of people.

We have let go of a big and beautiful home, and this was a HUGE psychological challenge. We had countless sleepless nights when we prepared for the change. But oh, do we love the fact we actually and finally did it. It has set us free to enjoy the adventure of our lives, and we are forever grateful. We are free and happy and have had loads of new and interesting insights.

At the end of the day, we are home when we are together. All the five of us and the dog, preferably joined by our oldest and her boyfriend. If we are together, it does not matter where we are. Then we are at home.

Peace and love

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Cecilie Conrad

It is my core value to share, be honest, and dare to be vulnerable. I am grateful you are reading my blog, and I would be even more grateful if you comment, send me an email, or otherwise engage. Thank you.

Check our photo album from this period. Just click the image below!

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