Matt and Brooke are living the vanlife and following their noses all the way across Europe. Taking it slow, they’re picking up the salt trail and hugging the coastal paths on their way
The first leg was to make it to Portugal in one piece. Before hitting the open roads across the other side of the Channel, we spent a week adjusting to vanlife around the twisty roads of Cornwall, pitching up at epic cliff top locations near Sennen and then right on the beach next to the waves at Chapel Porth. The weather was awesome, sunny days blessed us and we even got in a few little surfs along the way. In the evenings, the chill blew in and we found comfort in cozying up the van with mugs of tea, us wrapped in a Rumpl and looking out over the ocean. This already felt like home.
Travelling through unfamiliar surroundings is like always being at sea, natural cycles become a thread through which you face unexpected circumstances and chance encounters. Its like becoming a stranger, whilst also being completely at home wherever you are. The freedom of travel, and the lack of any destination lends itself to going slow and allows the journey to play out loosely.
Maybe it was the weather or the vibes. At first, we felt guilty for not digging our first taste of Europe. Then, looking back, we remember the good times with fondness – whole days of longboarding, then heading into town for fresh ingredients to cook up in the van as the sun dropped off the edge of the earth on some remote beach. We decided to follow our gut as we realised that the best places are the ones we stumble on, not those in a guidebook. We took it slow, real slowwwww, travelling around with our boards and finding hidden gems to surf, and making space to appreciate nature, staying in the same area for a while and searching out the less obvious paths. We realised it’s okay not to feel upbeat every day. There are highs and lows, especially when you’re living in a van, so you have to embrace them all and take what you can.
It wasn’t long before we crossed the Spanish border, hugging the coast to San Sebastian. We chilled out with friends there, eating good food and talking late into the evenings, but we also itched for the desolate coast and soon after put the van in gear and toed it to Asturias. This was a ridiculous find. Pockets of secret surf breaks tucked away along a wild Wild rugged coastline backed up by mountains – what else could we ask for? We pitched the tent right near the beach where paths lead to dramatic cliffs. This was the perfect place to score some waves, get creative, take photographs, write down our thoughts and go deep, feeling ourselves growing from the experience.
This actually led us to change up our plans completely. Why not? This is the best thing about vanlife – using your van as a means of travel, changing direction whenever you want, but spending as much time outdoors and exploring as much as possible. So, following the feeling, we turned the wheels towards Portugal and made for the surf at Ericeira. We finally found exactly what we were looking for. The moment we arrived, it was pure bliss. A small community, right on the beach, with friends living in town. We spent a week surfing, exploring the backstreets, and sampling the local coffee and incredible local delicacies with some familiar faces.
Portugal is THE country for vanlife, in our opinion. It’s much easier to roam here without issues, there’s parking everywhere (often for free) and you can pretty much park on most beaches and use the showers. So far the surf has been terrible the whole trip, either totally flat or a bit of swell ruined by forceful onshore winds, but this is out of our control of course. On the off days, we’ve made the most of our surroundings with some beach training and swimming and generally keeping our bodies moving. There’s never a dull moment, even on bleak days, we’re spending time outdoors and sharing these amazing views and memories in the company of good friends or visiting family. People really do make the experience, and make an epic sunset that little bit more epic.
We’re now sunning ourselves down in the Algarve and slowing bumbling around the majestic coastline with our boards strapped to the roof of the van and the outdoor gear in the back, looking for surf and wild walks. We’re so much more connected to this place. It’s become a second home and somewhere we hope to return one day. But for now, we cannot wait to keep driving and seeing what’s over the next hill or around the next bend in the road. This is vanlife, and we’re feeling every moment of it.