Welcome to Europe, Gypsie


Welcome to Europe, Gypsie

The first morning after seven months in Mexico and the USA, I woke up in my van somewhere on Montserrat Mountain. The word “gypsy” danced through my quiet mind, and I felt utterly at home, carried by Life’s Great Mystery and filled with the appetite for life that I happen to have in ample supply. 

A few days later, we camped by the Mediterranean, and I wrote a morning piece for a book project while sitting on a wall overlooking the sea. This piece is a lovely opening to share travel stories on the blog again. It's been too quiet for too long.

This is a glimpse into my life on the road, living as a nomad, and some of the many things I've learned from living outside what might be considered normal. The following is a glimpse into the book I am writing, taken from a context. 

What “returning” means for a full-time traveler.

The jet lag is slowly fading. We've spent three nights with our friends in Terrassa and are now sleeping freestyle on the beach, the familiar one at Coma Ruga near our old base at Mon La Bassa, near El Vendrell, about an hour south of Barcelona. Before we left Europe last autumn, we sold the big red bus that used to be our part-time base. Since then, we have been truly baseless. In reality, we let go of the bus when we moved into the van conversion, but as we still owned it, it had its emotional ties to our idea of life.

Yesterday, we visited the animal refuge (Mon La Bassa), where the bus had been parked for the past five years and where we had based our traveling life. It was strangely bittersweet to be at home and not at home simultaneously, just a few days after being “home” in Europe and “home” in our Mercedes van conversion, which has been our base for nearly two years.

Mon la Bassa is a little paradise. It feels odd to be in the area for only a long weekend; we feel at home and could have used a few weeks. We must let time unfold, making it feel calm and extended even though we're busy; choose wisely.

On a wall by the Mediterranean

I gaze out over the Mediterranean at the vibrant, wonderful Spain. Elderly people walk with their grandchildren in the morning sun or speedwalk with their poles and leggings, keeping themselves fresh and healthy. People are jogging and listening to music. I truly love Spain. The quality of life here is immense. Poverty and unemployment create space for grandparents and inner peace. The sun is shining absolutely gloriously. The context of culture, physical surroundings, climate, and historical background significantly impact life, how it can unfold, and what happens.

A fantastic example is that I got sunburned yesterday. I NEVER get sunburned, especially since becoming a nomad. I’m always outside, and I sense my body slipping into the shade or putting on a shirt when my skin tells me it’s time. But in Crazy USA, I’ve been indoors for months, now that I think about it. Yes, a hike here and there, an hour in the morning with coffee out on the terrace, sure – but most of the time: houses, cars, shops. 

On my first day in my van in Catalonia, I burned my shoulders and neck. Welcome to reality! I bought sunscreen and remembered how much I love Spain. I thought I was done with Spain, but when I returned after seven months, I discovered that Spain is a country with an extremely high quality of life available.

My initial plan was to have my morning coffee at a cafe nearby and write my morning stories there; we even moved the van closer to my favorite morning Mediterranean café last night. But then I woke up almost two hours before the cafés opened and had to scramble around to find all the elements for coffee brewing. Forgot about the jetlag. 

At sunrise by the Mediterranean, with reflections of palm trees on my dark grey van and birds waking up and fluttering around, I brewed an incredibly strong cup of coffee that did the job. Gypsie style. On the paseo, where grandmothers shared recipes with the adult grandchildren who had taken them out for a morning walk – or is it the other way around? The joggers greeted me with their “Bon Dia” – Catalan for good morning; dog walkers heading towards the sand and surf smiled and took deep breaths of the fresh air.

There are a thousand things to write, yet I’m getting nowhere. I’m freezing and should probably be wise and go for a morning run before it gets too hot. At the same time, I know that once I put the computer down, I won’t write any more today. And there is simply so much to say. Both travel tales and life wisdom and everything in between.

The gypsy sits on a wall with her coffee and laptop, cold feet in the shade, the coffee cool but too strong. The gypsy has a huge Mercedes parked by the beach. My friend Jonatan, with whom I’m working on a book project, wrote about the difference between being rich and feeling rich, about the difference between identification and existence, about the difference between having and being.

It does not need further explanation.

The good life and the perfect parking spot

Yesterday, as I parked at our favorite spot on the beach (the only available parking spot), I thought, “This truly is the good life.” My incredible husband earns enough that we can live precisely the way we want to. We parked right where God wanted us to park, at the spot with the fountain, next to our favorite restaurant and the Mediterranean, surrounded by friends. As soon as we turned off the road, we were waving at familiar faces, with the wind rustling the palm trees, the sand warm and inviting, and the waves cool and loving. Oh, how I love the Mediterranean. It is my favorite body of water.

Right then, I thought, felt, and experienced it from the deepest part of my being: “This is the good life.” I've let go of the bus, still love Mon la Bassa, but I’m done living there. If I will be here, I need to be right by the water. It doesn’t make sense to be three kilometers away all the time. We changed into our swimsuits and jumped in, yelping at the cold and loving it - because it’s not cold for real, not Danish cold. The sun was scorching, it was late in the day, shoulders and neck were turning red, and the love of the Mediterranean grounded the experience of living the good life.

Feeling rich, lucky, blessed, secure, and supported is something one can work on. If you avoid letting the ego dance its crazy, spotlight-stealing dance and remember that the money element is mostly a practical arrangement, it doesn't have much to do with what makes life shine—and that what does requires an inner effort, a mindset, and an ability to return to equilibrium every time life hits.

It’s almost the last call to go for a morning run before it gets too hot. Yet, I can’t face getting up. The coffee was too strong, and I felt a bit unwell. Yesterday, I almost passed out in the van; I'm not sure what happened. I ate fresh licorice root from Delta del Ebro; maybe that was it? I must be gentle with myself. Perhaps I shouldn’t run today.

It’s not flowing. I feel nauseous.

Trying again.


Life has just gotten much better. I’ve been rummaging under cardboard boxes and between wet towels to plug my milk frother into the transformer so I could froth some luxury Oatly oat milk for the overly strong coffee. I’ve drunk half of it. The nausea is gone. I wandered back to my blanket and the wall I was sitting on in my pink plush slippers and felt at home. We have truly become nomads. Home is a wall by the Mediterranean in the morning, with a view of my slippers and the horizon.

Pink slippers and Abraham’s people

Our culture's roots are nomadic, like my family. Abraham's people moved around, and I feel at home in the lifestyle.

There are indeed many places where we feel at home. Yesterday, we visited Mon la Bassa, where we’ve spent maybe a year and a half since becoming nomads.

We went to the market, where I bought our food many times, met our people there, and enjoyed the incredibly high-quality produce. It brings a tear to your eye when you bite into a pepper from “the neighbor,” the farm closest to the animal sanctuary where four generations still cultivate the land together, embodying the wildest, most independent, and fantastic Catalan spirit with hearts and minds in the right place. Especially after eating mass-produced Californian supermarket vegetables for three months. In Catalonia, we are at home. Not just in the places and quality produce but also in a cultural combination of independence, strength, passion, and community. And I haven’t even started talking about the sun! Or did I mention the sun? I think I did. 

Sitting on the wall in healthy, vibrant Spain, I think, “They don’t know what they have here.”

A culture where old people still enjoy life. A culture where farmers grow real food, and you can just buy it at the market. A place in the world where the morning air is fresh, and the sea is beautiful.

I wandered back and forth to get more coffee in my pink slippers, kicked them off, and sat back on the wall. There are more and more people out now. It’s Saturday morning, and it would be nice to pack up the coffee kitchen and appear a bit less nomadic. But the van is chaos, and the children are still sleeping – what can I do? Own it. I feel the long lines and how the context, always relevant, unfolds its magic. I love Europe. Goodbye, crazy USA, it was a wild ride.

The Holy Morning Coffee The ritual can unfold in many ways. The holy morning coffee works for me. The holy morning coffee and telling my stories. In all seriousness, this is my ritual, giving me strength and calm for the wild life I live. To handle the lack of privacy and the many daily “What now” decisions, the constant changes, and the opportunities that arise, enabling me to hear the Mystery when it calls and see the path when it reveals itself before us so that we can live a guided life in all that freedom. Fri-dom, as my bilingual children often say when speaking Danish, mixing the first half of the Danish word with the last half of the English. It sounds funny to my ear. 

Completely out of context, I think of two very contrasting stories from my nomadic life—two stories about letting life lead and being guided, about how listening can unfold in many ways, and how dancing with that strong energy always creates fantastic adventures, with or without detours.

Two tales of guidance, energy, and community.

Once, we visited a community called Eight Life on the island of La Palma. La Palma is an overwhelmingly fantastic island. The mountain holds a deep, deep vibration, a strength so intense that you either bounce off it or are filled with a life force so powerful that it's hard to describe. La Palma is magical. And if it weren't for Eight Life, we might never have gone to La Palma. We had a deep hope that this community could become our new base, that we could migrate to this island in the Atlantic Ocean and live in the sunshine near an organic market with like-minded people all around us. 

But the closer we got, the more resistance I felt and the more delays we encountered. Just stop here. Just stay there for a couple of days. Just have lunch. Just have dinner. For the last two kilometers, we drove towards the community close to ten in the evening. Everything was off to me. Everything was wrong, weird, and aggressive: tall fences, barking dogs, and a vibration I had no desire to be in.

True enough, Eight Life was the most insane project ever. We left again after getting some sleep. We honestly told them we clearly felt it was not for us, and that was that.  

Animals in captivity behind pallet fences, scared of people. Trash everywhere in an ideology of no waste, which may be fine, but then you need a system with order and plans for all the old refrigerators, plastic bags, and broken tiles. After nine years, not even clean water. Four people (one of them a baby) seeking more people for their community, and when we arrived with four children willing to move in and give it a shot, we were met with the fact that their community meeting was more important than saying hello to us, and with tons of "private" signs telling us where we could and couldn't be in the coming month while getting to know each other. Strange, strange people who could seriously spend the WHOLE DAY making 5 liters of beetroot juice amidst their chaos of plastic bags and nasty water with fish poop in it.

I know this because we said goodbye politely and then took the most beautiful and wonderful walk in the mountain before turning the car around and driving somewhere else. But that's another story. A story about Christmas, about the goatherd, about an aloe vera plant that got drunk on Christmas day, and about a view of the Atlantic Ocean that still stands vivid in my mind ten years later, about Santa Claus at the hippie market, and about returning to Clarissa and the yoga shala at the other end of the island, where there was Christmas dinner and midnight chocolate. But as I said. Another time.

In many ways, we did the same thing when we drove to Mon la Bassa six years ago. We were invited while we were in Paris and had been on our way down there for a long time. Three weeks, maybe. Parked in the big red bus on Gruissan Plage where Betty Blue was filmed, an incredibly beautiful place, in the autumn chill by the water with flamingos and salt production, and the most incredible hot tub ever took a long time to get started.

When we finally drove, there were "the yellow vests," a French protest movement about diesel prices or the government or probably both, had closed the roads, and we had to wait. After that came the challenge of the veteran bus vs the Pyrenees. The town of Figueres, on the other side with Dali's art, was a wonderful stop that also took its time. Closer and closer, more and more energy, was it good or bad? We fueled up before heading to the bridge and spent a long time looking at it in the pouring rain before taking the chance and driving over it. It was really small. The guardrail on one side had fallen off and exposed the river below.

The short version is that we never drove over that bridge again. Mon la Bassa is one of the most magical and wonderful places in the world. It still feels like home, and it was the VERY right place for us to have a base for the first many years of our full-time travel life.

The point is that it can be incredibly hard to feel the difference between something being very right or completely wrong. Is it some kind of circle? A bit the same? Instead of being very far apart, so far apart that something in the energy becomes the same, meeting again? I don't understand it.

We think we know, but we are always wrong.

PHOTO: A view on La Palma one day when we went for a long hike in the mountains, and suddenly there was a chair)

I had a map of La Palma hanging on my wall for months before we went there to give community life a chance. The dream of escaping the routine of Copenhagen and the winter darkness permeated my home. When we arrived, La Palma revealed many strong sides. We met some wonderful Danes who had been traveling for 2-3 years at that time and who have become really good friends of ours - they taught us a lot about the travel life and said from the start: It's all about community! La Palma was also where we (a couple of years later when we rented a house there) met Tamara and Manu, a German-Argentinian couple who had left their permaculture farm in Brazil to live in a camper. It was Manu who said that it shifts from dream to reality when you set a date because that's when it moves from dreaming to planning. It becomes practical instead of diffuse. A month later, we bought the bus, and that same year, we left our life in Copenhagen.

I have often learned that you think you're doing something for one reason, but in reality, you're there for completely different reasons. There is God's plan and my plan. And I know that I must navigate by the energies, feel my way, do what makes the most sense in my mind and heart, and feel what resonates with my soul, my deep self. 

At the same time, I often convince myself I know the reasoning—the why. I think I can explain why I do the things I do. I explain my decisions with reason, even though I know I make them with my heart. And I know I am wrong. 

But the only thing I know is that I never really know. Fortunately for me, I know that God has a plan that I don't need to know, that it's good enough to take the next step in trust, even when it feels strange, even when I can only see ONE step ahead, sometimes not even that, just take the steps slowly: shift the weight a bit, lift the heel, breathe, balance, engage the thigh muscle, lift the heel a bit more... you get the picture. 

Even there, especially there, one must know that everything is fine, that the way forward is there, and that God has a plan. It is only my job to take the step, not to understand, not to figure it out, not to get it under control, and nothing can go wrong, even when it feels that way.

It's fascinating how both experiences had so much energy in them, how we thought we knew why we did what we did, but life unfolded something completely different for us. Eight Life brought us to La Palma, where we have experienced, learned, and lived so strongly, and vice versa. We thought we just had to spend two weeks at Mon La Bassa to pet some animals before we would continue traveling around the world with the big red bus. Still, right there, a community and a magical base appeared to us, from where we could base our wild and erratic, and unpredictable travel life.

The magical life Life is truly magical. A task of trust. A wild ride. I think of Kierkegaard: We live life forwards but understand it backward, and I wonder if there isn't a bit of the same dynamic between using all one's intuitive and spiritual senses when navigating and turning on the fantastic brain as an engine, the curious quest to understand and explain and rationalize is to live forwards. At the same time, we must simply surrender to the fact that it is only in the terrifyingly clear light of hindsight that we truly understand what is going on, the big question of why we only get glimpses of the answers.

I remember once, I randomly met a friend on the street in Copenhagen, where I lived. She lived on the other end of the country and had a big bouquet in her hand. I had recently had my first child, and my friend exclaimed: "NOW I know why I bought those flowers when I changed trains in Odense!". There you go. We have to trust all the chaos, and we have to try to feel with all our senses and think to the best of our ability, but in the end, we must also trust the process - and which is bigger than us. We have to be curious and humble.

Sitting on a cold wall with too strong coffee, waiting for the sunrise and enough energy to find the oat milk, green parrots team up with gray pigeons, and the world unfolds—magical, mysterious, wild, and beautiful.

Welcome back to Europe, Gypsy, says the sea, says the birds, says the rustle in the palm tops. I trust the process, am grateful for my time in Mexico and the USA - and am even more grateful to be back in my homeland: Europe. 

Will it Ever be Enough?


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Have you read the latest articles by Cecilie Conrad?

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