Living a nomadic lifestyle has its merits. No two days are ever the same, I see parts of the world at one time I only imagined existed, and the freedom of not being tied to material possessions leaves me with energy to nurture my own mind, body, and spirit. However, being nomadic can also make me very tired some days and creating a business while having no roots set me up for frequent meltdowns—meltdowns like the day we lost our passports when we were in Spain.
Gabi and I had been burning the candles at both ends for the past three weeks. You see, if we were just on vacation, we would be lying in the sun and going shopping while visiting a new place, but that’s not us. We are trying to create a business centered around our nomadic and active lifestyle, which means, Gabi and I set our alarm each day, put in a few hours of work, go surf, hike, or climb, and then start working again in the afternoon.
I love it. I thrive on the pressure, but some days, I overextend myself. When we were in Hossegor, France for two weeks I was in heaven. We stayed in a gorgeous, brand new, modern house with a huge deck overlooking the forest. It was five minutes from everything I needed—a beach with fat crumbling waves, a bakery with chocolate croissants, a grocery store with Comte cheese and wine from the Pyrenees, and a restaurant that sells my favorite glace, pistache.
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In fact, that’s what started the idea for our next venture— the desire to find a way to get back to Hossegor next year.
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We had so much fun on our ten-week road trip through the Western US and Canada this past summer, that we decided to guide families on adventure road trips next year. For the past three weeks, we’ve planned out the details of each trip, where we will camp, hike, bike, climb, and drink!
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It took hours of research to get all the detail finalized and create epic once-in-a-lifetime road trip adventures for families. We designed the trips to be all-inclusive. We provide all the camping gear (except sleeping bags), we prepare all the meals (healthy ones, of course), and take people on adventures they aren’t quite confident to do on their own.
The funny thing is that when we were in Hossegor planning and creating these trips, we had all the creature comforts imaginable so it was easy to work and surf. Then we headed into the Basque area of Spain. We had been here the year before and were excited to be immersed again in the incredible nature of northern Spain—the green rolling hills, the steep rock topped mountains, and the wave rich Bay of Biscay. I love Oregon and Washington, but this coastline puts them to shame.
The uniqueness here is how jagged the coastline is, creating a multitude of bays and coves. The only problem with accessing all these different coves and getting to these hidden rock walls is that it takes a long time to get anywhere.
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To save money, I was the only driver on the rental car, which meant I was driving a lot. I love to drive, especially on road trips to new destinations, the windier the road the better, but I don’t like driving in cities or in traffic, which we ended up doing a lot while we were in Spain for a week. We used Castro Uridales as our home base, again because it was cheap, but most days we’d drive an hour each way to check surf and often got skunked (no waves or too big), which meant I’d have to drive another hour to the rock climbing destination. Work, surf, climb—I’m good. Work, drive, surf, drive, climb, drive—no bueno.
One reason we ended up in Castro was because our friends, that we met last year in Switzerland, lived here. It is so fun traveling and making new friends and I was so happy to see them, but I was run down already so when I added in hours of socializing, I was exhausted.
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After a week of being in Castro, it was time to check out of our apartment and follow our friends two hours further to the Picos de Europa. We had a house reserved on the outskirts of the Picos, but there wasn’t going to be WiFi at the apartment.
On that same day, I was also being featured on the podcast: Hike Like A Woman and I wanted to have all our Family Adventure Road Trips posted to our website when the podcast went live. Gabi and I woke up early and worked like madwomen to get all the finishing touches on the trips before we had to check out at 11:00 am. We relinquished our controlling natures and let the rest of the family do the cleaning and packing.
By 11:15 the car was loaded and the last adventure road trip was up on the website. We closed the door to the apartment and all piled into our insanely small five-passenger vehicle that the rental company described as a seven-passenger van (don’t worry, it has seven seatbelts, you just have no leg room in the back seats… luckily Isabelle and Tati are flexible).
Before driving away, I asked, “Where are the passports?” We all start searching the bags, but no one can find them—including myself.
Welcome to FREAK OUT MODE. I hit the panic button. If you haven’t read my book, The Road Less Traveled, you are probably not aware that this happens often when I overextend myself for too long.
“You must not have packed them,” I told Victor, implying that he is obviously incapable of packing luggage.
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We had no key to check the apartment so we had to get the owner of the apartment to drive an hour and a half to open it up for us only to find out there were no passports left inside. He was not very happy with us to say the least. He asked if we had taken them anywhere and I was positive that we hadn’t. I distinctly remembered having them when we left Hossegor. I remembered taking them out of my purse when we arrived in Castro. I remembered putting them somewhere safe and obvious—I just couldn’t remember where exactly.
When you are tired, your mind just can’t place events and timing right, but I knew one thing: I had them in the apartment and never took them out, which meant someone must have broken into our apartment and stole them. How else would they have just disappeared?
As much as I love new adventures and new destinations (and I really do want to see the Picos de Europa) I knew how worn out I was and the thought of driving more, being too tired to climb well, and not having WiFi to deal with lost passports was too much for me. I needed safety, security, and comfort. Which meant…I needed to go back to Hossegor to regroup for a few days before the long drive back toward Barcelona.
I wanted the familiarity of the surf town I knew so well and the comfort that only French butter can bring!
Before pulling out of the driveway in Castro, we found a house in Capbreton, which is only a few minutes from Hossegor and a little more affordable, on Airbnb that was instant-book. We hit book now and started the two-hour drive back to France. Ten minutes later and my phone buzzes with a confirmation of our reservation and then another email with a notification from the owner saying, “Sorry, the house should’ve been blocked out for our dates and best of luck finding a nice place to stay.”
It’s Saturday afternoon and nothing in the $100 price range is available anywhere around our route.
We have two wonderful friends in Capbreton, Jean Marie and Françoise. Jean Marie was the one who happened to be at the beach last year when Victor cut his face on the surfboard and took us to the hospital as well as all of Victor’s appointments in the days following. We had hung out with them when we were in Hossegor a few weeks ago. I knew they had travel plans and may not be around, but I told Victor to give him a call and see if he knew anywhere nearby. I felt a little bad asking because I knew if he was there he’d tell us to stay with him and Françoise in their oh-so-cute-but-oh-so-tiny mobile home. The thing is, I have a rule about asking people for help. If I would want them to do the same if the role was reversed, then I don’t hesitate to ask.
Of course, our incredibly kind friends said for us to stay in their house and that we actually had it all to ourselves because they were already on their way to Paris to fly to the US and Canada to see his son. They just needed to turn around and they’d meet us there in two hours to give us the keys. Sure I’d do the same for him, but oh, the guilt we all felt for them to have to backtrack so far just to help us out.
By 6:00 p.m. we were all sitting on his patio holding our beers up, clinking them together saying Cin!, and smiling that we got to see each other one more time.
I feel bad that the circumstance of Victor getting hurt is what brought us all together a year ago, but I am forever grateful for the role they have played in my life. Jean Marie lost his daughter just a few years ago to breast cancer. She found out when her baby girl was only a week old and sadly lost the battle three years later. Her daughter, Emma, is five years old now and spends a lot of time with her grandpa and Françoise. Tati and Emma had spent hours playing together even though they can’t understand a word the other says.
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Despite the heartache of losing his beautiful daughter, Jean Marie is the most positive person I’ve ever met. He is like a teenager still, even though he’s quite a few decades past that. When we come to his house he takes out his newest toy, a Carver skateboard, and says he loves it because it keeps his legs strong when he can’t surf or run. He has us play on his homemade Indo Board. When Victor got hurt, he told him to meditate on healing his eye (I think it worked) and when we were bummed about lost passports he says, “It’s in the past, you must move forward.” What are the odds that of all the people I meet in France, I meet someone more passionate than me about mindset and living a playful life?!
I went to bed that night bummed, to say the least, that we lost $1300 cash and it would cost $905 to replace our passports, but being surrounded by photographs of his gorgeous daughter quickly helped me put things in perspective and reminded me to just enjoy the journey we are on.
But, at 3:00 a.m. I woke up and instantly I knew where the passports were. I jumped out of bed, grabbed the black REI backpack off the bathroom floor and unzipped the front pouch that we didn’t even know existed for the first nine months that we owned this backpack (keep in mind we hiked with it every day this summer) and we somehow in our haste and worry yesterday completely forgot that it existed again. I reached in and pulled out the seven passports, Victor’s wallet, and an envelope with thirteen Benjamin Franklins on it. My shoulders dropped. My chest lightened. I couldn’t believe what an idiot I was and yet, at the same time, I thought to myself, this is so typical of me.
I instantly wanted to hide them in Daniel’s backpack and play a prank on him so that when he woke up and found them in his backpack he would think he had overlooked them when he scoured his pack a dozen times the previous day, but Victor, being so emotionally intelligent, thought I shouldn’t traumatize my son like that (he’s right).
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The world works in mysterious ways. Twenty four hours earlier I had been preparing myself for the reality that we would have to cancel our New Zealand and Bali trip because this loss of money and passports would probably have ruined our budget going forward. I had spent the two-hour drive first wondering how the hell someone entered our apartment that was on the second story of an apartment building that is built like a fortress. I half-heartedly assumed there were really good burglars that spent their off-time rock climbing. But my biggest questions were this: first, stolen passports yet left three laptops untouched? And second, could I retire from this nomadic lifestyle? We have to eventually. The universe was obviously telling me this was too much for me and too hard on my family. I prepared my mind for a new path.
And now today, with seven passports in hand, I drove to the bakery to buy six chocolatine croissants (Victor is way more disciplined than me) and three loaves of bread for dinner—Lucas, Cereales, and Tradigraine; ran into the familiar grocery store and got my favorite French staples of lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, meat, wine, and a HUGE stick of butter; then, I headed to the beach to surf one of my all-time favorite surf breaks—hoping it’s a little less crowded on the peak now that the WSL CT contest is over and the tourists are gone (as if I’m not one of them). Later, I go for a run with Victor, enjoying all the orange and yellow leaves under my feet, relishing in how wonderful it is to be somewhere with seasons, but not so cold that I’m freezing.
I’m sure your life is also full of surprises and that some days it sneaks up on you and kicks you in the ass just to make sure you are practicing gratitude and keeping things in perspective. For a few hours, I let it take me for a ride of emotions. I abandoned the purpose and vision that I know I am meant to fulfill and let fear, worry, and negativity gain a foothold.
I don’t have all the answers, but I’ve been told on many occasions that I am way too in tune with my body. I mess up often. Usually, it’s in the form of trying to do too much and it causes me to do stupid things like forgetting where I put seven passports. But most days I wake up with laser focus and feel like the path we’ve chosen is exactly where we need to be.
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Saturday 11th of August 2018
[…] Our Passports Were Stolen in Spain (Or So We Thought) […]
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Sunday 27th of May 2018
[…] When you lose your whole family’s passports in Spain for 24 hours only to realize that they were in a hidden pouch of your backpack all along (it’s as stressful as it sounds, read the story here) […]
Monday 23rd of October 2017
Great story! Hope you’re able to keep finding those chocolate croissants!!