#SecondHalf Update

So, I can’t quite believe it’s been nearly a year since we said goodbye to corporate life, and our world in Joburg. I’ll do a proper update on July 2nd when the year is up, but today was a very special day for us. As most of you will know, we’re on a two year sabbatical to detox from corporate, work on personal stuff, regroup, heal, pray, read, write, publish, and seek God’s will for the second half of our adult life.

It’s been a huge lesson in patience, and will no doubt continue to be. It’s been well over two years since we decided to do this, and the answers are coming slowly… but as always… perfectly. It’s been a huge leap of faith in every way, but we’re starting to bear fruit of our hard work, trust, patience and obedience.

There’ve only been a small handful of concrete directions since the first plans thirty months ago and we’ve just had to keep trusting and pushing forward. Then a month ago there were a couple of biggies and today, almost out of nowhere, a bunch more! In some ways they feel like they’ve come tumbling out of nowhere, but as the kids have reminded us, looking back, everything’s pointed to this!! For so long! Even the little things!

I’m sorry to be so vague, but we’re still working through details and we don’t have all the answers ourselves yet. And we’re so excited and I want you to know we’re working hard on stuff and we aren’t just following our noses around Italy or anywhere else for nothing. And because people keep saying “I hope you’re enjoying your retirement!!” as if we’re wasting our lives doing nothing. We aren’t collecting seashells and we aren’t being mindless.

So if you’re part of the tribe who’re praying for us, please keep praying! If you’re not, that’s ok too and we still appreciate your support and your messages and you’ll know what’s happening the same as anyone else 😊

Thanks too for sooo many book sales and climbing! This is all coming together and we’re enormously thankful!

With love from both of us,

My Captain and his Stoker (photo cred: the Captain 😊)

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The Heel of Italy

So, here we are on leg one of the three month trip to and from a family wedding in Italy. The three-week journey from Malta to Tuscany is pretty straight forward, but the trip home again will feel like halfway around the world as we take ten weeks to do Belgium, Germany, Copenhagen and beyond. Much of it is still up the air; as we follow our noses.

I’ve had my head in editing and writing mode for six weeks solid without a break (including weekends) and it’s lovely to begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I’ll talk about that in the next blog or two… this is a bigger catch up as I’m so behind on news!

In a few week’s time, we’ll be a year into our to two-year sabbatical, and I won’t lie – it’s been hard. But not in ways most people assume. I realised recently that people think we must hate being around each other all the time – but we don’t. Which led to the realisation the other day that short of an hour or so while he cooks or pops next door for ingredients, we are never further than a few feet apart. Yup; you read that right – we spend about twenty-three hours a day less than three feet apart, with no one else we know around (other than the odd visit every three or four months when we’re on the road). No one planned it that way; it’s just how it is. We’ve always been like that. Even when he’s worked long hours, we’re always in contact. It’s just how we roll. We’re good at working alongside each other and I’ve been working twelve hour days. So there’s also a whole lot of healthy silence around here. We’re both quite introverted and we enjoy the quiet.

Which also means, while we work hard on assessing and building and working on ourselves and our lives and our marriage and all that (the hard stuff), the idea of a plot of land in the country has gone out of the window completely. The dream of big open spaces, for us, has turned out to be a bit of a myth; if it’s not dogs barking or a tractor going it’s a chainsaw or a lawnmower or any number of “boy toys” dressed up as farm machinery and “work”. So now we’re thinking more about small apartments and double glazed windows for our future!

Speaking of said future… we miss the babies terribly, and as they start to really settle into adulthood and build careers and families and now houses, (and there’s another new baby on the horizon), we’ve put the first peg in the sand of our second half and bought a block of land in Queensland (Australia). It came out of nowhere a couple of weeks ago, but it slotted exactly into a spot we didn’t know was waiting for us, and we’ll be right next door to some of the grandbabies and we could not feel more spoiled or blessed to be invited to be in their lives like that.

So while I’m writing, he’s in full on land buying/contract/money/advice mode, and I’m ignoring it all except when I’m needed for design purposes; much of which won’t happen for a while. The land isn’t even ready yet, so the house won’t be till next year, and this means we really have something to look forward to.

Anyway, so I’ll talk more about books and building and babies in the next few posts, but for now, back to the current trip.

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We LOVE staying in Molly (our VWT5 campervan) and Daisy (our tandem Pino) means we can access places I otherwise can’t. Now and then I hop off and walk around a bit, but mostly we’re the crazy people weaving through small-towns in the heel of Italy. We don’t enjoy campgrounds or crowds (or tourists haha!) so we usually travel on the shoulder seasons but we’re heading into summer here in Europe so I’ve been saving my HouseSwap points to park in people’s gardens instead. He wasn’t quite sure how this was going to work, but this is week one and we’re staying on an old olive farm in the middle of nowhere. It’s old, the bed is rock hard, the water is from a well. It’s rustic at best and all the things one doesn’t enjoy in a house swap that isn’t ideal, but we have everything we need in Molly so it’s like having our own free, and very private campground. We still sleep in Molly, but we have a porch and a shower, a kitchen and a toilet – and no neighbours parked right next to us. I’ve booked a house swap for a week or so twice a month throughout the trip, so we’ll still wild camp in between.

Matera was the first town and just amazing. Much of the old city is dug into the side of the cliffs. It’s not a wheelchair or a bike-friendly town for obvious reasons so we couldn’t stay long and couldn’t go down into the town at all, but it was worth the stop.

Ostuni is our local town so we ride there for supplies. It’s worth a visit in it’s own right.

Monopoli was lovely too.

Riding between towns through olive groves, hay bales … (and sadly, disgusting seashores you don’t actually want to see)…

Polignano a Mare where the cliff diving happens (we didn’t even try to go that day as we’d never get close enough to see anything and I can’t go down or up)…

Pizza for dinner in small squares was a highlight but nowhere near as good as the gelato which was AMAZING (and didn’t last long enough for a photo).

To save my spoons (energy) we caught trains too.

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It’s about to get hot, so the weekend will be spent on the porch and writing and editing again before we head off north on Sunday.

#TheLongWayHomeFromAnItalianWedding #VanLife #VWT5 #Molly #Daisy #13Weeks #9Countries #91Sleeps #Tandem #Pino

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Tribes!

You already know I have a thing about tribes right? If not, it’s time you did. We’re on day eleven (I think) of our #SevenFerries trip to the UK to get some paperwork sorted then back again via Portugal and Spain to try ride some of the #CaminoWay on Daisy! Not as a spiritual journey but because we were close by anyway, and I’d always thought I’d like to walk here, (then when I couldn’t walk any more – certainly not any kind of distance), I thought I’d never do this. So in some ways this is a bit of up “up yours!” at mah Eeds as I ride bits of it instead.

We arrived via ferry from the UK a couple of hours ago and we’re tucked inside doing work for the book launch week and writing madly for the next two books. We love wild camping and there’s nothing quite like sitting in Molly working away. But some of the camping is a bit odd. In France they provide free spots of mostly small green patches, but in Spain they do things differently.

They use sporting facility car parks and other tarmac areas that otherwise sit empty. It sounds very odd but it’s brilliant and so clever. Like the French, these stops have rubbish, water, and dumpling facilities for a small fee. It’s often not as pretty, but when you’re only staying to sleep, it really doesn’t matter once it’s dark.

It’s safe, you know you’re welcome, but above all, it feels great to be amongst our own. We’re surrounded by mostly huge beasts, so we’re the babies by a long shot, but as the sun goes down and little lights go on and the little homes light up with cooking and chatting and settling in for the night, as bicycles are strapped down and dishes are washed and out comes the red wine, we feel like we belong in this strange tribe. We’re in the middle of a miniature village.

The guy in the van in front of us offered to move (we didn’t need him to but thanked him), but he doesn’t speak a word of English. Our tribe is made up of all kinds of people from all over the planet. We’re bound by one thing only; this place and our similar journeys! One that knits us together just a little bit. 😊

Nighty night from Spain!!

PS: My Africa my Home eBook is on sale today and tomorrow if you didn’t get your copy before launch!! http://getbook.at/MyAfricamyHome

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Launch Day Thanks!

Well, I had two options the last few weeks: pour my heart and soul and currently limited energy supplies into getting these books out, OR throwing everything at yesterday’s launch day. I knew I’d do both poorly if I tried to do everything. So writing became the winner, and I’ve fallen short on any kind of huge hurrah… and maybe that also has a little bit to do with denial? Maybe there’s a little bit of concern about my own failings as a writer, an author, a storyteller, and whether or not I even have anything worthy to say. So if the book flopped it would be because I didn’t have a launch party.

And so I left the publishing work to him, and let him advertise and upload the books, and check it was all as it should be… while I moved on to working on the next couple of books due to launch in May and June respectively.

So in some ways, I expected launch day to be a little like any other day. Immensely thankful for the hundreds of preorder sales under our belts, I let go and let things happen a little organically. I didn’t expect everyone to buy it, or to read it this weekend just because it arrived in so many Kindles today, but from Thursday, the responses and reviews and messages have flooded in and I’m both floored and thankful!!

Helen Pryke is my proof-reader, a professional I pay not to like my book but to iron out the last of the editing creases, to make sure the little things are all sorted. She’s amazing, and I highly recommend her as a proofreader. I’m thankful for her and the skills she brings to the final copy of my books.

But imagine my surprise to see this wonderful review, and award, that popped up in my newsfeed on launch day morning!

“….so when Jennifer asked me to edit her memoir, I knew it would be a good read. What I didn’t realise is that it would be a great read! From the first pages, Jennifer had me hooked – if I hadn’t had to read it slowly due to editing, I’d have devoured it in a day!” Helen Pryke – author and proofreader.

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I was flying on the high from this when the next picture popped up with a tag request, all the way from Melbourne Australia!!

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And then my messages started going off and this came through:

“I’ve just sat and read your whole story 🙂 You’re probably up to your eye balls in floods of messages, but I just wanted to say, I LOVED reading your book! I can’t wait to read the next one! 😀 “

A full-length novel is 85,000 words long. My Africa my Home is slightly short of that at around 60,000 words, so for someone to read it in one sitting is a huge compliment and everything I’d hoped for!

And last, but by no means least, this notification popped up. It’s been a hugely busy week on my Author Page!

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So anyway, thanks to everyone whose been a part of this wonderful and very special day!! It was by pure coincidence that we landed up in the UK, amongst family and friends for an impromptu celebratory drink, dinner and evening with the guitar … we went to bed rather late and over the moon!

And now we wait for the Amazon reviews – please don’t forget to leave one, and to share any of the book posts on Facebook?? The sharing over the next few weeks will make or break the success of this book!

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Camino!

We are so way off track it’s not funny! We were “supposed” to be doing one of the Camino walking tracks on Daisy through the north of Portugal and Spain on this, our #SevenFerries trip. We hadn’t locked in anything yet other than Ferry number Five from southern France next Tuesday, but we had a whole ten days to look around the place and work out which tracks were actually ridable and find some we could manage on Daisy (and I could manage with my health).

We stopped in Porto for a couple of nights and had a blast. I still need to blog about that I think, but I’m too busy living, writing, and hanging out with him, that there just isn’t enough time. Not that it’s all a bed of roses mind you, we are working our butts off on writing/publishing, we’re working on the stuff we’ve taken this two-year sabbatical to do,  and we’re working on our plans for our Second Half which is set to begin, God willing, towards the end of next year.

We thought we could see the world (or at least much of Europe) in these two years but we’re nearly halfway and we haven’t even begun!! Anyway, I digress (much like this trip) and one last minute decision after another and we found ourselves in the south of Portugal with not enough time for Caminos in the north, pouring rain (so no riding) and trying to find the fastest route to our next ferry port in France yet desperate to get in at least a few days riding!

And that’s when we discovered the Camino Natural Via Verde de la Sierra. Vias Verde are green belts across Spain which are disused train tracks of varying lengths which have been restored for walkers, cyclists and travellers. Much like other Caminos or trails, they are tranquil and beautiful, but unlike many of the older paths which now run alone roadways, these are void of all motorised traffic, and they are wide and flat (both in width and inclines and declines – because that’s what trains do).

In true Spanish style, the rules about no livestock, no vehicles, no animal poop are thoroughly ignored, and I look forward to putting up some videos of us riding through a herd of newborn lambs, one with a death wish.

Yesterday, we rode the Sierra route which is 36 km long, but because we always have to land up in the same spot, we had to ride it both ways! It was the first time I’ve covered over 60km (we did 74 in the end) first time I’ve climbed over 700m in height over a ride, and the twice as long as my longest day with four and half hours in the saddle! We also rode through 60 train tunnels!!

That shows how easy it was and reminded me to dig out my very first Pino ride to show you how it works. (I’ll post both videos on my Facebook author page too)

Anyway, I’m way behind on Why We Don’t Tell which has to go to the final editors in a couple of weeks, so this is a brief catch up.

Tonight was our first sunshine in a week and we’ve moved camp to the edge of this olive grove that reaches as far as the eye can see in every direction… A new via verde tomorrow and then we have to zoom north as fast as we can. And somehow I’ve got to find the time to write!!

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The Wedding!!!

So, we’re on this fabulous -91- sleep round trip to a family wedding in Italy and we’re nineteen sleeps in, so that leaves -72- to get home again. The straightest route home would be to head south again:

….but instead we headed north and we’re now slap bang in the middle of Switzerland. On a farm.

… and tomorrow we’ll be heading off even further north. So follow along if you’d like. But seeing as this trip was all about the wedding, I’d love to share a little of it with you. As it’s not my wedding, I won’t overshare someone else’s day, but I do want to share with you why yesterday was so special for me.

If you’ve read any of my books, you’ll know I’ve never belonged or been welcome in my family of origin. You’ll also know how aware I am of the roles our tribes play in everyone’s lives, and how discombobulating and soul destroying it can be to feel you don’t belong anywhere. You’ll also know that for many good reasons, we’ve lived all over the world. That’s a great thing and I’m most thankful for that. But the two (no tribe plus nomadic lifestyle) can be a lethal combination. Especially for the things so many “normal” people take for granted; friendships, weddings, funerals, rites of passage, to name a few.

I love weddings, and one of the careers I might have had, if I’d been given normal opportunities, would have been somewhere around weddings. There are lots about that in my memoirs, but the bottom line is, that over the years, just for love, I’ve made half a dozen wedding dresses, a number of wedding cakes, run a handful of weddings, done the flowers for more than a few, and decorated for more than I can count. But being a “normal” attendee; not so much. And other than my children’s weddings, or the ones I’ve been involved in, I’ve missed almost all the family and friend weddings of my life.

Many of us don’t think of wedding attendance as being a rite of passage, but it’s only when you miss out on most of them that you realise what an important part of tribal culture they are. For the last few days, we’ve thoroughly enjoyed watching that play out at this wedding. Being a “destination wedding” everyone stayed a few nights at least, and we didn’t know anyone except the immediate family. So The Captain and I got to be a fly on the wall as the other guests assumed we had nothing to do with the wedding and did their thing. We got to sit around the pool next to some of them and overhear them sharing stories of the couple and themselves of years gone by. We got to watch them singing silly songs in the pool as they anticipated some antics for the reception ahead. Later, as they sat at the table next us to, we got to see the odd friend shed a tear of joy he thought no one saw.

The last few days we’ve watched friendships gather new depths, and relationships strengthen. We met super proud uncles, adoring cousins, and we got to see some people at what they thought were their worst but we thought were their best. When people feel pressure and rise to the occasion anyway, it’s such a pleasure to watch.

It was a gift. It was an honour to be there. But most of all, it was super special for me because the mother of the bride is my cousin. A third cousin I think, but none of this once or twice removed nonsense. We share an incredible heritage, and we share passionate Scottish blood. I had no idea she existed till just a few short years ago and suddenly I have family in ways I never thought I would. I do have another set of cousins whom I love just as dearly, but there’s always room for a second set I say! So the bride was my niece of sorts and as the Captain said so many times yesterday, we’re so proud of her!! How can someone new pop into one’s lives and take up a place so special so quickly? I think that’s the blood thing.

The Captain and I scrubbed up alright for a couple who’d been camping for three weeks! 🤣

The bride has brothers and of course a groom and it’s been incredible getting to know them too. One we’ve known for a while but for the baby of the family, I was so nervous to meet him for the first time. But we clicked and he found his way so quickly into my heart and when I learnt he was the baker of the cake and he learnt I could string a couple of flowers together we hit it off immediately. I’d already been given the honour of doing the flowers by his mother, my cousin, so this was really just an extension of that. But we had so much fun as he added the flowers to his creation and I got to cheer him on every step of the way. If you need a wedding cake (any cake!) anywhere in Europe, this is your guy!!!

To be included the way they included us was beyond special for me. To be there as a guest because they wanted us there was amazing. To attend a family wedding other than my own or my babies, was uniquely heart warming, and to get to contribute was also to be included – which means everything when you live on the fringes. To be invited in was so wonderful.

If you read anything I write or know anything of my greatest passions, you’ll know they’re all about community and inclusion and working alongside each other.

The wedding was beautiful and not just for this incredible setting and GORGEOUS bride, but because of the connections and the love and the laughter and the community and the kin!!!

So… now we’re off home again the loooong way around, AND book two in the memoir series goes live on Monday! So if you haven’t grabbed your copy at preorder prices then grab it HERE before then 😊💜👊🏻.

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Seven Ferries

After nearly two months in one place, it’s time to hit the road again, and for the first time with Daisy hitched to the back of Molly. It’s partly a functional trip with some real life paperwork needed in the UK next weekend, but too early for him in the season to be so far north (& the cold). So it’s a fast dash to Sittingbourne, just the other side of the channel, and then we’re off to Spain and Portugal to ride some pieces of the Camino Way. More details to follow, but as we complete the loop, via Sardinia and home again in about a month, we’re catching seven ferries altogether and as neither of us have sea legs and all ferries are booked and paid for, this is going to be an interesting journey so buckle up!

This morning’s ferry from Valletta (Malta – currently home base), required a 5am check in, so we drove out late last night and slept by the wharf, with alarms set for 4:50am. Still way too early for me, but that’s the timing of the only ferry out of Malta, so we’ve both been exhausted all day.

We’re now settling in for a home cooked meal in Molly and an early night. Tomorrow’s ferry doesn’t leave till 11pm, so we have all day to catch up on spoons and rest and sleep… and maybe take Daisy for a spin.

If you’ve never been to Sicily, it’s GORGEOUS!! And the food is out of this world! Check out the local blood oranges:

If you don’t already follow my Facebook PAGE then click on the link below to follow the journey. We’ll be doing some Facebook Lives of interesting bits and there’ll be lots more photos too.

BOOK NEWS: My Africa my Home launches on Friday and it’s an incredible feeling to know that the hundreds of people who’ve preordered their copies will get to read it this weekend! Sale ends on Thursday night if you haven’t grabbed yours yet 👊🏻

The paperback went live this week and about twenty books went out before we noticed some words missing from the back cover!! AAAAHHHH!! Those will be collectors items one day so hang on to them if that’s you!

The two following books are up for preorder now too, but I’ll tell you more about that later. For now, we’re watching the sun set over the Mediterranean Sea from the snuggly warm comfort of Molly!

Here are the main preorder links, but you can get it on all the Amazon sites: Just click on your region and it’ll take you right there – USAusUK, and Canada.

 

Do you want to know more about what’s behind my books? See exclusive photos? Get other free stuff?

Join The JPeaSmith Reader’s Club for non-spam emails with all that and more by clicking HERE. (Yes, this used to be a newsletter but I found that a bit stuffy, which doesn’t suit me).

Where you can find and follow Jennifer:

YouTube |Blog | The Mighty | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads | Amazon

@JPeaSmith