Long time no travel. Long time no family travel. But here we are again: Hanna, Mila, Anna and Tom on heavenly Madeira. How did our travelling change in those… 11 years?
Eleven years ago, on 20th April 2010, we have published our first post: the start of our 6-month-long trip around the Black Sea. Hanna was 8 month old and we had our first 9 countries in front of us.
It is hard to believe that now we are sitting with 11 and 8 month old Hanna and 10 years old Mila, in maybe the… 40th country we have visited altogether! (we are not the counting guys;). As you know we used to publish on this blog stories from our life: first it was only travelling, then it was a mix of our adventures and reflections about the reality around us. 2015 and 2016 changed a lot for us: we stopped travelling so much and have got involved full time in the topic of migration. Ever since it is hard to say if we really travelled, like in the “old times”.
It felt weird. It felt weird to spend our money and energy on something so trivial as just travelling for pleasure. Even if our travelling since the beginning on wasn’t very capitalistic or silly, even if we tried to give on our blog space and voice to the people from the places we have visited, still: after visiting all the places touched very strongly by the topics of migration, conflict, poverty or climate changes – it was very difficult to take a decision to buy a flight, leave everything behind and just travel.
Anna traveled quite a bit for work: she works in amazing NGO fighting for the rights of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities in the world: Minority Rights Group. She run 8 trips for journalists, she was reporting from the field. Sometimes Tom joined. We lived in Hungary for 1,5 years! But it was definitely not family holidays.
But we tried. You might have seen some little pictures here or there. We went to Finland 2 years ago: ended up with lovely Sami people. We went to Greece last year: ended up in the refugee settlements. Hanna spend her birthday learning to paint from amazing Afghan lady. But to be somewhere just the 4 of us, to be there for each other, hike the mountains and look together on the waves: this we haven’t done for years.
And after this crazy year at home we decided to give each other this gift. Hanna and Mila made amazing effort this year, learning from home and getting brilliant grades in school. For them our family travelling was a huge part of their lives and they were begging for it daily.
Taking into consideration all the possible Covid restrictions we chosen Madeira: a Portuguese island, much safer than Berlin, still EU country that takes the virus seriously. Of course things like this are possible only for very privileged people, who are able to pay for dozens of tests before flying and after flying, who are able to pay for some lonesome Airbnb flats not to stay in the hotels, who are able to pay for a rental car, not to meet other people.
So we went. Kids cried of happiness when we landed. We made many many kilometres together and have 3 reflections, we would like to share with you:
1. Madeira is beautiful
We had no idea how beautiful Madeira is. In mind we had those crowds of old Germans sitting in the all-inclusive hotels and very organised tourism. But the amounts of hikes: all the corners of cliffs and hidden beaches out of the touristic guides – impressed us. We swam in the sea, we reached the highest picks, we even stopped counting the waterfalls. We screamed into the space, had our Easter breakfast above the clouds, watched the sunsets and sunrises of our lives. We definitely preferred the north part of the island (check out the red arrows). Wilder and more empty.
It is very impressive that such a volcanic island stands somewhere in the middle of the ocean, creating the clouds. Madeira is the top of a massive shield volcano that rises about 6 km from the floor of the Atlantic Ocean. The highest peak is Pico Ruivo (1 862 metres) and it is possible to drive and hike from the sea level to the peak in maybe 40 minutes. Headache!
Because the high peaks stop the air, the clouds are constantly created. Madeira is a very wet island (very green thanks to it!), where walking or driving in the clouds is a normal thing to do. Full of tunnels and crazy roads, there can be even 20 degrees difference in temperature between two different spots of the island.
Madeira has amazing nature: plants, flowers and trees. Great rum made of sugar cane, great drinks and lemonade with maracuja and lot’s of tasty fruits on the trees. But not much other animals. That was a sad news for our girls:)
2. Travelling together
Travelling together this time was different. Not only because we haven’t done it too much lately but also because of this special year we are all living in. Travelling used to be for us this special moment of meeting. Of leaving our jobs, schools and friends behind and meeting for real with each other: spending the time 24/7, having free minds to really talk with each other about everything going on in our lives.
But in 2020 we… spend 24/7 together, ate every breakfast, lunch and dinner together and have all the time of the world to discuss recent events. We didn’t miss each others’ presence, we were maybe even too much up-to-dated.
Since we haven’t travelled with the tent (Madeira is not the best camping spot – legally but also weather-wise) and we didn’t want to meet too many people (obviously), we didn’t end up in the houses and gardens of strangers – we were, like during the whole 2020, all the time together. And like every family we had also slightly enough of each other sometimes. But when you travel by one car, sleep in a small Airbnb flat or go hiking to steep cliffs, you are still all the time together.
This time we had to take care to ALSO spend the time separately sometimes. Everybody reading his book in the different spot of the mountain or just trying to be quiet.
3. The girl’s independence
Our girls are also much bigger than they used to be during our long old trips. We don’t need to feed them anymore, or bath, or entertain during car drives. Rather the opposite: they also need and want their own time, to read their own books or to write in their own notebooks. Or two talk: just the two of you.
It is really a new view for us: we are walking hand in hand, and our girls together 50 metres in front of us, or behind us. They told us that of course they are going to travel together in the future without us and we can take care of their kids in this time;)
And the topic of our common conversations changed in years. They already know so much and they make their own guesses and conclusions. They compare the places we are visiting to similar places on the other side of the world. They watch people and their behaviours, they comment, they question each others’ assumptions. They bring up stories from their computer games, Gilmore Girls series or Billie Eilish songs. They ask us about details of lectures during our studies, about fishing industry or sugar cane sirup production.
Homeschooling on Madeira
We call it homeschooling on Madeira. So many things to learn. So much nicer than in front of the computers all year long.
Madeira trip was not only sports class (so much moving after a year at home: hiking and surfing!), biology (how big fern can be?! how much Tom likes eating loquats fruit straight from the tree!), zoology (dolphins and uncountable wall lizards! whales – just in theory this time!), geography (standing on the 580 metres cliff just above the sea level is exciting! Or: when you look this direction into the ocean, is the first thing you would meet really Greenland?), mathematics and physics (how fast would Mila fall from this rock?), chemistry (changing sugar cane into the sugar cane sirup), some Portuguese classes (while listening to the local radios!) and of course history and religion in one (is it ok to have Easter breakfast above the clouds on the hike?).
Mila says that Madeira is her favourite green-blue place in the world. I say: I had no idea that such a little New Zealand we have in Europe. And that I had no idea that putting sugar cane rum with passion fruit (which is called: poncha) can taste sooo good. Very pleased to support local sustainable development!;)
Our first book is out!
We have published our first book (for now just in Polish:) about our Central America Trip.
See, read and order here »