Keeping fit & eating healthy

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With the start of a new year approaching, I decided it was time to get my butt back into the gym and tone up. Im not happy with my appearance and my midsection hangs over my pants, so I gotta sort that shit out!
I started going to the gym mid October, as I dont want to be ‘that guy’ who pays for a subscription at the start of the new year and then bails out two months later! Its also wintertime, so if the weather is miserable I can shower at the gym under hot water instead of the beach, yay!
The gym I decided to join is a walk from my favourite parking spot and is pretty well equipped. It has glass doors that open out to an occean view terrace, so I can leave Babu outside gnawing on a bone whilst I train for an hour.

With gym training comes diet. I spend heaps of time browsing the internet for food ideas, especially meals apt for vanlife and non-animal sources of protein.
Im not veggo, nor would I label myself anything other than someone who eats consciously, but I prefer to get the bulk of my protein from a plant based diet. Some will applaud my decision, whilst others will roll their eyes, but theres good reasons to ditch the meat when living vanlife…

1. Fresh or cooked meat needs a fridge, (mine died and costs 850€ to replace, something I cant really afford right now).
2. Cooking meat stinks the van out, something I don’t like.
3. Buying meat is expensive unless you buy in bulk, something I dont want to do.
4. Eating dead animals moments after staring into the eyes of my furry animal companion, is something Im presently at odds with.

Buying, storing, preparing, eating AND cleaning up after a plant based diet is a breeze in comparison to messing with meat or cooking smelly fish.

Check out this educational book thats soon to be crowd funded on Kickatarter.

Check out this educational book thats soon to be crowd funded on Kickstarter.

Ditching meat means I need alternative protein sources, so I buy jars of beans, garbanzos, lentils, cartons of soy or almond milk, bags of quinoa, oats, rice, nuts, chia and pumpkin seeds, and free-range eggs from rescued factory hens.
I do crack open a tin of sardines or tuna when I need an occasional meat hit, but I have still to meet a fish that I would want to cuddle (unlike our four legged friends), so they stay on the menu for now, (sorry fish).

All of the aforementioned food stuffs can be stored in cupboards with super long expiry dates (unlike their meat counterparts), so Ive unwittingly got plenty of supplies for the approaching zombie apocalypse!
The rest of my diet includes fresh and dried fruit, fresh or frozen veg, rice, pasta, tortilla wraps, and shed loads of hummus!
Eating a plant based diet means Im finally consuming my recommended daily fruit n veg, something that I rarely achieved before vanlife. Winning!

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As of the 1st of January 2017, I will be taking part in Veganuary! Its a worldwide event that encourages participants to try a vegan diet for one month. For me, going vegan for 31 days should be pretty easy with my current eating habits, although Im gonna miss my weekly sushi outings, eekk!
Anyways Im excited to be a part of this challenge, for ethical reasons and for a healthier vanlife :@)

Side note: Im fully aware of meats in tin cans like corned beef, Spam, hotdogs and the infamous ‘chicken in a can’ (that does not exist in Europe?), but I will give those a miss. I would also like to mention that my dog eats meat from a can, but he’s far too greedy to share it with me, lol!

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I survived my first year of #vanlife!

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Today Im celebrating my first year living full-time in my VW California! Thats 365 days living in a space not much bigger than a king size double bed, with a tiny kitchen area and no bathroom. Ive enjoyed every moment and have zero regrets choosing this lifestyle. The time has flown by and I haven’t missed #houselife one bit. Admittedly I have been very fortunate to of spent the last year on Spanish unemployment benefits, which made my transition from apartment to vanlife a breeze. Those benefits stop this month so its time to start finding some paid jobs again, although wherever I go has to be dog friendly, as I cannot leave Babu in the van. Now theres a new challenge!

Anyways, heres a quick list of the Pro’s and Con’s Ive discovered living vanlife full-time.

The Pro’s.
1. Free rent. Ive saved 6,600€ by not renting an apartment this year!
2. I own my own home, the van, which will of paid for itself after three years, (if I paid the equivelant renting accommodation).
3. I have no fixed electric, water, or landline telephone bills to pay.
4. I use just a litre of water to wash dishes, and under 3 litres to shower, (I collect water for free from the taps on the beaches and gas stations).
5. I have enough clothes and bedding to warrant one visit a month to the laundry (which costs 6€ a wash). Air dried outside, free!
6. I do not waste as much food, as I only buy what my small fridge can store.
7. I dont buy or accumulate unnecessary stuff as my storage is limited.
8. I spend more time outside, (that includes when Im sat in my van with my feet hanging out!).
9. I use the internet 50% less than when I lived in an apartment with broadband, (and my 8GBs a month mobile internet is half of what I paid before).
10. I swim everyday in the sea, (its my bath!).
11. I can uproot and park wherever I please, (beaches, forests, mountains, city, outside the pub!).
12. I can drive away from noisy neighbours.
13. When its too hot, I drive to cooler spots on the island.
14. Babu can pop out for a wander or pee when he wants, (he’s a free-range dog).
15. My wardrobe and gear are never far away if I need or forget something.
16. I dont smell, (unless my friends are too polite to tell me otherwise?)!
17. My freedom, (paramount to my lifestyle and rebellious alter ego).

The Con’s
1. I have to walk to the toilet, (sometimes run!!).
2. I bathe or shower outside when its cold, (fortunately that only happens a dozen times a year in Gran Canaria).
3. My van becomes an oven some days during summer, (although most apartments do too).
4. When its overcast my solar energy is minimal, so I have to buy ice for the fridge.
5. I grumble when someone else beats me to a good parking spot!

With so few cons, theres heaps to like about living the outdoor van lifestyle. I think another year full-timing is in order?

Onwards and upwards, eh!

A touch of grass

Todays blogpost is all about fake grass. I love it! Years ago I covered my bedroom floor with synthetic grass, giving my city apartment room a feeling of being within nature, albeit artificial.
Nothing quite cheers up the senses like greenery, even if its industrial astroturf or faux house plants. Depressed? Go for a walk in a green forest or practice dogging!

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My campervan floor was in need of such greenery. The standard Westfalia floor vinyl is a dull grey, enough to bore away even the most adventurous of cockroaches. It had to get covered and hidden from view!

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Before and after

I was originally given some cheap plastic grass to cover my van floor, but the snob in me knew I wouldnt be happy until I bought myself the premium deluxe synthetic grass, revered highly by connoisseurs that only exist in my own imagination.

Anyways, my campervan floor now looks like a well tendered oriental garden and I giggle like a Geisha every time my toes melt into the soft fibers of premium plastic blades of grass.

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Ive also covered the front dashboard, so I can run my fingers through it whilst I drive (its very soothing lol!).

Maybe one day I will go the whole hog and astroturf my campervan like this vehicle below?

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The stuff of what wet dreams are made of!

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Zooming in from the last photo…Fran & Chemi, immortalised forever on their fathers fruit & veg business (I bet they squirm as teenagers?!?).

My mobile shower setup.

Fellow van-dwellers Melony & Armando, over at http://westfaliadigitalnomads.com , posted an article today on how they keep clean living in a van. They asked their readers for feedback and tips on how we keep clean, so I thought I would share my story using the magic of song and dance, (unfortunately budget is low, so words and photos it is, booo!).

Anyhows, heres my mobile shower setup, based on an idea that Decathlon sports shop sells for double the price!

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At a garden supplies shop I bought a simple pesticide pump action spray bottle kit for 18 euros. The supplied spray gun only sprayed mist, so I needed to purchase something with more power for showering and cleaning dishes.

At a Leroy Merlin DIY store, I bought a garden hose gun with 5 spray positions (shower, mist, soaker, flat, jet) and a hose adapter (2 euros) to connect the new gun to the pesticide bottles hose pipe.

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And voila, with a few hand pumps(!) to put pressure in the bottle, I have a mobile shower!
It can be transported wherever I want to use it, so its especially handy when I need to wash my dog Babu, who shakes water everywhere!

If left outside in the sun the water heats up pretty quickly, so I havent felt the need to paint the bottle black to attract the suns rays.

The bottle can only carry 5 litres of water, but thats more than enough for a decent shower and I generally use less than 3 litres. Along with my eco shampoo from Decathlon, my shower setup is water efficient and environmentally friendly!

In the van I keep the bottle wedged between the sink unit and the drivers seat, secured by bungee straps for easy removal. I now use this setup for washing dishes, instead of using the kitchen tap which needs the tank filling below the van (something Ive avoided as I dont want to carry unnecessary weight whilst driving).

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So thats my home shower setup. It works for me, but to be honest I generally use the free showers on the beaches, even during winter – coz thats how I roll!

Road Trip, May 2016

Last weekend, Babu and myself set off on a little road trip to explore the area around the highest peak of Gran Canaria.
The island’s narrow country roads snake up, down and around the mountains, with cliff edge drops so high up that if you were to accidentally drive off of one, you would have time enough to text your loved ones before crashing to the ground below!

Day 1: We drove from the coast of Morgan and up into the mountains, close to the famous monolith Roque Nublo (cloudy rock), some 1,733m above sea level. We found a nice spot to camp and crossed our fingers and paws that no police or forest rangers would move us on (neither spotted us?).

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Hiding from the rangers.

We spent the afternoon chilling out, staring at the rugged terrain, listening to the wildlife and the occasional vehicle passing by. In the evening I watched a movie about a deaf women trapped in her house by a psycho killer prowling in the forrest grounds outside her home. Its no surprise that I slept intermittently that night!

Day 2. Happy to be alive and not carved into bite sized pieces by a crazed mountain man, we decided to enjoy another day in the same camp with its amazing views. I recently bought a pair of binoculars so I can track the approaching undead during an zombie apocalypse, but they also do a great job of armchair exploring the mountainsides and Spelunking* (not what you think, you filthy minded people!).

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16.99€ Binoculars from Decathlon, bargain!

By late afternoon (18:00), the sun wasn’t so harsh, so Babu and I hiked up to the Roque Nublo, for a bit of exercise and to spend a moment with a lost friend who’s ashes were scattered next to a pine tree.
It was getting late by the time we got back to the van, so after a short drive we parked up for the evening facing the most amazing panorama of the mountains and tablelands, glowing orange under the setting sun.
I purposely watched a comedy that night and slept like a baby.

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Panoramic views of Ruque Nublo and Roque Bentayga.

Day 3: Left the panoramic view point early in the morning before the hordes of tourists arrived in their droves. First stop Cruz de Tejeda, a spot obviously exploited to make some quick cash from the tourists I was trying to avoid. Locals were setting up market stalls and it was still quiet, the only tourist I saw was a fat man sitting on a poor donkey for that ‘hilarious’ holiday photo. Apart from that, theres a couple of restaurants, and a depiction of Jesus crucified on a cross engraved in stone. But it wasn’t a wasted pitstop, I found a public toilet!

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Cruz de Tejeda.

Next up en route was the famous mountain village of Tejeda. Immediately upon entering I saw heaps of parked rentatrucks and overly confident people (not dawdling sightseeing tourists) dressed in cargo-pants with utility belts, a dead giveaway of those working in the film/tv industry! I knew Brad Pitt was on the island filming, and a quick look at the set design with its donkey (sans fat man) and an old car with Moroccan plates confirmed this was for his new film set in Casablanca, (although I heard locals dismissing these claims, as a set manager had spread the word that it was merely a insignificant British drama with no one famous at all. Clever chap). Anyways, I didnt hang out very long in the village, as I also look a little over confident and dont dawdle like a tourist, so got paranoid the crew may have thought I was paparazzi? We left without ever knowing if Brad Pitt, caught a glimpse of us or not?

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Village of Tejeda.

With no idea where we were heading, we continued cruising along winding roads, Babu sitting upright in his copilot seat maybe trying to fathom how everything was flying past him without any movement from his legs?
The next village we stopped in was Artenara, famous for its cave dwellings. Its a tiny little village with a few bars, a church and a cave museum, but being as its the highest village on the island it has the most awesome views!

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Views from Artenara.

By pure coincidence (or divine intervention?) we ended up in the Tamadaba nature reserve, somewhere I had seen on photos but had never visited. It is an UNESCO protected area of 7,500 hectares of cliffs and mountains thick with indigenous Canarian pine trees, old and strangely draped with long strands of moss hanging from branches like horse hair. Green ferns (my favourite plant) grows wildly, and there are heaps of trails for hikers to explore. This my kind of forest!
We drove up to the reserve campsite to take a peek and steal some water for showering, but could not stay the night as I needed to apply online for a permit 3 days in advance. There were only two other guys setting up a tent (it was Monday), but knew the rangers would do their rounds later in the evening so decided to find a spot elsewhere. Eventually found a good parking area between the trees and stayed the night undisturbed.

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Next morning after a 3 hour hike along a forest trail, we were visited by rangers who told me I needed to move, damn! They said I could park along the road (although my spot was only meters off the road in a safer place?), but staying overnight without permission was not permitted. They now had my van plates and personal details written down, and I was nicely warned that I could be fined if caught overnight camping again.

I guess I did well managing 3 nights with no hassle from authorities, but it still pisses me off that we are not allowed to park overnight in our vehicles. What difference does parking during the day or the night make? I understand not every person is responsible and night camping increases the risk of people making fires, but give the rangers night shifts too, they could probably do with the extra cash?
Anyhows, just after they left I got back on the road and headed down the mountain. I was a bit cheesed off coz Im a bit antiauthoritarian when it comes to matters involving what nature intended for us, but I was quickly distracted by the beauty of the next tiny village I encountered, La Hoya. Never had I seen on this mostly dry and rocky island, somewhere so rich with nature! Lush green pine trees covering a mountain against a bright blue sky, surrounded a man-made dam of crystal clear waters which had orange Koi fish (I think?) swimming in groups and presumably eating whatever to keep the water clean? It really looked like I had been transported to Canada, it was surreal!

And then we drove back to home base in the south of the island, for pizzas and beer with friends. The end 🙂

*Spelunking – a hobby of exploring caves (US).

I helped Kickstart a book…with a donkey.

Way back in December 2013, I stumbled across a Kickstarter project that instantly appealed to me. In an introductory video, an enthusiastic young writer Hannah Engelkamp, had walked over 1000 miles around the newly opened pathways that circle the whole of Wales…with a donkey! Her Kickstarter campaign was setup to raise the funds to write and publish a book, as well as produce a film about her walking adventure…with a donkey (yes, it begs questioning if any sensible person would put their trust and money into a project inspired by a possible nut-job?!?).
Anyways, I instantly took a liking to this crazy girl on the video and decided to back the project to receive a copy of the ebook and film upon completion.

After a couple of years had past (during which time I had now perfected the art of patience), the book and film of the adventure were finally wrapped and available to download. And it was worth the wait, (kudos to Hannah, for keeping her supporters in the loop throughout the project via social media).

I highly recommend to anyone who enjoys adventure, travel or Tolkien* books, to buy a copy of ‘Seaside Donkey’ by Hannah Engelkamp, (infact I recommend anyone who enjoys good humour and a well written book to get a copy, it really is brilliant!). Also check out the high quality accompanying film, which is expertly shot, presented and edited. Visit Amazon, to purchase the book in all its formats, and the film to rent or download.

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Its such an epic journey it has Parts!

Epilogue (ok this is only a blogpost, but Im talking literature people!).

Im chuffed that my small financial pledge helped make this book and film possible. Hannah has written an excellent account of her adventure, sharing candidly the highs and the many lows that she endured during her walk around Wales. Who knew, that those docile seaside donkeys of our childhood holiday rides could be such stubborn ol buggers, (how she didn’t sell him to a glue factory mid-walk, is mind boggling?).

Check out her already crowdfunded campaign and video in the link below, to meet Hannah and Chico the donkey. And buy her book, its mandatory summertime reading!

*The similarities with Tolkien books is stretching it a bit, although the adventure does cover a lot of landscapes, albeit…with a donkey!