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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Looking Back on 2018!

I stopped sending Christmas cards about a decade ago, and the end of annual newsletters came not far behind. I’m not sure I was ever any good at either and I know few people who do them well.

Too much to brag about, too much to complain about; the best and worst are often invisible or too hard to capture in a single photo or a few words anyway. Or they’re way too personal or too few people even care… the list of reasons why they’re so inadequate is long…

But I guess one still needs to somehow reflect on the last day of the year right?

2018 has been a roller coaster of note, and I’m struggling to wrap my head around everything that’s happened – planned or otherwise. I’m sure to the outside world we appear totally crazy and I often wake up wondering the same thing.

But I guess the bottom line for me, what I want people to know the most, is that in the quiet, prayerful moments when I remember what we are doing and why, I feel peaceful and content and ever so thankful. I’m not good at explaining much of it, but I do want people to know that there is reason and method in all this madness somewhere and that it isn’t nearly as random as it may appear.

I realise this all appears rather cryptic and I apologise for that. I constantly think “if I can just get enough sleep, enough time to write properly, enough days in one spot, enough this, that or the next thing… then I’ll regain an appearance of control of my life again and it won’t appear to be a complete zoo!” … but I’m not sure I’ll ever get any of those things and if I did manage to get them, I doubt I’d actually be in any more control than I am now?

When I look back on 2018 I’m not sure I’d do a whole lot differently? Ok, I take that back, I’d do lots of things better, slower, less thoughtfully (I tend to over think things, try too much and too hard), I think I’d have let go of more, been a little more “selfish”, tried to fix less things and allowed more people to make their own mistakes?

I’ll save what I hope to do differently in 2019 for the next post, but for now, thanks to all of you so much for reading, commenting, supporting, and putting up with me! Thanks soooo much for all the encouragement and personal contact! Thanks for all the amazing new friends and experiences, thanks to our amazing children for putting up with us! Thanks to everyone who contributed to this year in such positive ways.

No thanks to those who didn’t. I’ll not comment on those who tried to steal from us or derail us, those who tried to bring us down or make our choices all about them. It’s shocked me (even though it shouldn’t) how selfish people can be … from total strangers to those among the ranks of what were once our greatest supporters…. I’ll leave the negative at that.

It’s been a year of grandbabies and travels and changes and celebrations and losses and exhaustion and on the very last day of the year I think more than ever I need to retreat a little bit more and nurture myself better… whatever that means…

And as always, I’m off to cuddle and celebrate and be thankful with my pre iota babies and their families…

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Updates:

On writing… not as much as I’d like, but certainly having a “Writing Buddy” helps and I’m way more organised. Watch out 2018…

On Unpacking… getting nowhere but oh well, there’s always next year…

On Daisy… we’re doing great! Today was ride number four and not only have I done nearly a hundred kilometers already, but many of them have been uphill (a few times with only me pedalling I might add… to see if I can).

We had our first fall today, a slow one where we took off and immediately toppled right over (into a parked car which was thankfully so bashed and scratched it’s hard to tell if we damaged it). Many people have questioned why I have my harness and today reminded us why as it earned its keep forever. Without it I’d have been sprawled across the road (at best), but instead, apart from some scratches and bruises, I stayed firmly in my seat.

The other fall came at the end of the ride. It’s hard to explain my difficulty with walking yet ability to ride, but in Daisy my seat is tilted right back and my feet are raised. I can turn the pedals without putting weight on any of my joints. At the end of a ride it’s so easy to forget I can’t walk. But worse, my joints have moved into “riding position” which for me is not the same as “walking position” and I can’t get up off the bike and certainly can’t walk till my joints resettle. Today I forgot. Yes, I gingerly climbed off (no chance of getting off any faster), waited a few seconds, took one step towards the curb, and just like that both my legs folded under me and completely collapsed.

Thankfully I was unhurt, but it was a little embarrassing fully slumped in the gutter at my front door. There was no way I could get up again for a while either… hence no photos other than once I was on my feet again.

The scenery in Malta never ceases to amaze me, even though there’s rarely anything close to flat or smooth. Apparently this is good training for me!

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The Good News or the Bad News?

I’ll start with the bad news as it’s simpler.

We rented an apartment in Malta that wasn’t quite finished (literally just needs kitchen and curtains and insect screens installed) everything else is stunning and brand new and finished). But at least we could store our stuff while went for our six week Molly adventure, and if it wasn’t finished on our return we could cook in Molly but sleep in the apartment.

The bad news is it’s not ready, which is fine, but the adorable landlords have rented us another gorgeous, furnished apartment, and set us up with food, towels, beds …everything just a few blocks away.

Which is very kind. But we need to unpack and start getting things sorted ASAP as we have visitors and things we need, and things to unpack, and and and …. so it’s annoying.

But the good news list grows longer by the day:

  • They won’t let us pay rent on either place.. for the furnished apartment or the one without a kitchen. So we’re saving a few bucks which is a bonus as we still haven’t sold the house back in Joburg.
  • That in turn gives them incentive to get finished, we feel really bad for them, but it’s good knowing that we’re taken care of and it’s in their interest to get things finished soon. So it will happen, and we don’t need to nag them.
  • We are in the ground floor apartment right on the edge of town, so unlike our apartment where Molly will sleep in the basement garage, here we can park her right at our front door. And with a washing machine and dishwasher etc, we have been able to bring everything in, in just a few steps (including my Molly mattress and put it on top of the bed here… not quite the same but pretty good), clean her out, unpack the Sphinx… it’s turned out be such a blessing … sorting out Molly without feeling like we should be unpacking the boxes.

  • I’m not very good at sitting still so if we were surrounded by boxes I’d constantly chip away at them and totally overwork myself very quickly. Instead, each morning we head over, work for three hours, he does all the lifting, I do the sorting and directing (which doesn’t always go well), then we head home for lunch and don’t think about the unpacking again till the next day. An impossible feat if we were right there.
  • Sometimes it’s easier to plan things when you’re one step removed. The serenity of a tidy, well appointed apartment with a fabulous view is a much better place to plan, regroup, restore and refresh, than an overwhelming apartment with boxes to the ceilings! A couple of Netflix binges are helping to do that somewhat, hence the radio silence of the last few days. It’s been great!
  • Part of the move included unpackers. After nearly a dozen international moves I know the drill and I hate it. A swarm of men descend at the crack of dawn and by nightfall, everything you own, including the dust bunnies under your bed in the old house, and the junk drawer (usually now upturned), and all the half bottles of shampoo from five people (now a quarter filled with the rest smeared over the rest of the bathroom contents), are now unpacked. If you don’t know what that looks like, imagine upturning every drawer, box, wardrobe, cupboard, in your entire home and garage and garden shed, onto your floor, beds, stairs, kitchen counter, and even the bath. Believe it or not, there are not enough flat surfaces to hold everything you own. You can’t eat for the laden kitchen and you can’t reach the cupboards to start loading them. You can’t get to your bed under all the linen you didn’t know you owned and the washing machine doesn’t work because the power plug is still from the wrong country so you can’t wash all the shampoo out the towels. You’re hungry, so exhausted you can’t breathe…. and everyone expects you to fix it… right now. But because we don’t have a kitchen, yet we need our stuff, the removal company agreed to spread the load over a few days. I asked for the weekend in between two of them, and the last third only once we have a kitchen. It’s still a zoo, it’s still a third of our belongings spread over half the house (not a bad ratio considering!!), but with the weekend to sort out much of what was unpacked on Friday, we’re getting to do this a little slower. I can’t begin to tell you how much better that is.

So the non-kitchen is proving to be a bonus. He still thinks that if we’d rented a different apartment, moved to a different country, owned different things, … or we’d simply put a match under it all before we’d left, it wouldn’t be nearly this stressful. In reality, it’s not a patch on all the other moves I’ve done while he’s in the office making all his new friends… Five people’s stuff instead of two, all on my own instead of with his help, no spotless apartment to retire to in the evening, unpacked in one day instead of three, and no one to nag us to find things for school or work the very next morning… this is bliss!

But it still sucks. Moving sucks. And tomorrow morning (Monday) will be round two of the proper unpackers. Hopefully they’ll find the linen … but that’s a story for tomorrow or the next day!

PS: Thanks so much to those who’ve signed on the easy, no-spam newsletters I send out no more often than monthly (and believe me, I miss sending half of those)!

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New Solar Panel!

So, the new panel arrived in the mail! Woohoo!! Thanks to Paola and Manuel for not only lending us your address, but for organizing an English-speaking Marine-engineer with a fabulous workshop who seriously knew what he was doing.

How thin is the panel 😵

It only took a few hours to get rid of the old silicone, prepare the roof, and install the new one. We should be on the road again by morning 😊

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Happiness Is….

Sleeping in the middle of nowhere, tucked deep under the lip of a huge dam wall, among the trees, chickens, donkeys and even the odd mountain goat. I’ll admit it was also a little creepy in a strange way, but it was also wonderful.

After a midnight snack of cheese & hams we found in the fridge, we slept like logs, woke late, cooked oats for breakfast, packed Molly up again, and climbed the steep embankment back up to the roaring freeway hundreds of feet above.

Happiness, for us, is also togetherness, the open road, brave life off the grid, olive trees as far as the eye can see, mountains, alpacas, chickens, and absolutely delightful people…

Go on, zoom in, can you see those olive trees?? I love “order” and I love “natural” and those rarely come together … yet here they do, in spades.

We’ve come on search of Memoirist Alan Parks, deep in the hottest part of Spain (which is a hot country) in the middle of nowhere. It’s also known as the “Frying Pan of Spain” and I’d forgotten that bit when we set out on this journey.

I first read his book, “Seriously Mum, what’s an Alpaca?” a couple of years ago around the same time we coincidently fell in love with alpacas ourselves. Alan does such a good job describing their adventures as Brits giving up the rat race, that I really wanted to come here to see it for myself. This was the same time that we were planning our Second Half, and it was really encouraging to know we weren’t the only crazy people around. So I’ve been following him for a while now and while there’s so much more to tell you, for now, we’re so thankful for a few hours this afternoon with Alan and his adorable partner Lorna. They’re even better in real life and their home is everything the books describes and more.

It’s a magnificent home, a stunning B&B, a true oasis, complete with a never ending running spring (you know, the actual water kind), fresh eggs for breakfast, great stories about real people, real lives, challenges, adventure, and yet more fabulous food!!

But most of it will have to wait till tomorrow!

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PS: Thanks so much to those who’ve offered to support and keep asking where and how! I’ll keep these links at the bottom of my posts for the next month 🙂 They’re the easy, no-spam emails I’ll send out no more than weekly (and believe me, I miss sending half of those) till the book launches and you can get your free copy!

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Still Tweaking!

Like all homes, I’m not sure Molly will ever be “finished”. We potter and shuffle and think of new things all the time. We’ve also been living out of suitcases for three months across five countries on both sides of the equator so we’re carrying some extra baggage. Some of it’s bulky (like Hitches travel bag which uses up half of Molly’s storage under the seats), the rest is smaller but all these extra things add up.

So we keep finding better ways to hide it and store it. Which means constant reshuffling, which can sometimes be interesting (but often boring).

I wanted one of those kitchens for Molly where everything hung on hooks. But in the end having ALL the crockery in a single soft basket seems to be the best solution. One single, non-rattling, non-sliding, soft-but-sturdy bag where if you need anything from a pot to a plate, the kettle or an egg ring, it’s in there:

It travels on the bed so it doesn’t go anywhere when we go over bumps, then sits on the counter when not needed, which is the easiest spot to access anything in it anyway. Then when you open the lid to cook or get some water, the bag moves easily back onto the bed.

Crocheting bags keep me busy as we drive and are going on the kitchen wall hooks instead of the pots. They are fun to make and I’ll show you more soon. They hold the cutlery, glass coffee plunger, glass wine glasses etc.

Oh, and I made a hanging fruit bag too so the fruit doesn’t bounce and get bruised. so today was about settling in to routines.

He makes oat porridge for me in bed each morning which is such a lovely way to start each day. The view never tires as it’s different every morning 😊

And that’s all before even climbing out of bed!

So far Molly is everything we hoped she would be and more. Belgium is absolutely AMAZING in ways I can’t explain! What a fabulous diversion!!

Another fabulous day, though Bertha’s not helping things and today was a particularly bad day 😢

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PS: Thanks so much to those who’ve offered to support and keep asking where and how! I’ll keep these links at the bottom of my posts for the next month 🙂 They’re the easy, no-spam emails I’ll send out no more than weekly (and believe me, I miss sending half of those) till the book launches and you can get your free copy!

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First 24 hours in Malta

Actually, it’s only been 16 hours so far, and I decided this morning I’m in not great shape and don’t have the energy to write anything, but I don’t want to lose sight of these precious moments in the fog of deep jet lag, exhaustion and the onslaught to the senses of all things new… that if I capture a bit of it now, however badly, I’ll be glad of it later. So here goes…

Three international flights, two different airlines, one oversized piece of fragile baggage (his huge bicycle bag needs it’s own check-in as well us using up the bulk of his weight allowance), two suitcases to live out of for the foreseeable future, two Smart Crutches, special assistance in four cities, a 30 odd hour journey from door to door, all our valuables in way too much hand luggage (because everything else we own is in a shipping container somewhere), a six-hour time zone difference and swapping from the southern to northern hemispheres, and I’m exhausted thinking about it never mind enduring it.

“How was the flight?” they all ask kindly.

“Um…. considering all the above, it went really well, and by really well I mean we survived it!”

There were hiccups and nightmares and all the usual stuff, but by 8pm last night we had all our luggage, which was intact (I think, we haven’t unpacked the bicycle yet), and we were both in one piece 🙂 We spent the next 2 hours unpacking the essentials, getting a local SIM card, taking all the big pills (for pain and for sleeping) and crashed in a rather crappy bed in a rather crappy Air BnB which we’d chosen because it had enormously positive reviews online. But the “easy parking” is nonexistent, the host was grumpy (when we told him he’d given us the wrong phone number his response was I know … and the welcome pack consisted of a bottle of water).

(our apartment window/balcony and looking down, left, then right…

But a bed was better than any plane seat, we flew with Qatar for the first time and they were AMAZING on every level, the last leg was with Alitalia and we literally laughed the whole way they’re so bad (didn’t they go out of business recently??) and we’re thankful it was only a 90 minute flight from Rome. The airport here was lovely, quaint, and so helpful, till the mob of Gap Year students turned up and literally used their bulk (of both numbers and backpacks bigger than them) to push through queues, (yes, even pushing in front of the disabled people!!!) and when I spoke up they snarled, told us where to go, and pushed harder… I’ve never experienced them before, but now I fully understand and I fear I might shoot one before the week is up!

Malta is HOT … way more than I’d expected, and I’m pretty sure I’m coming down with a sore throat and unhappy chest cough. The tourists are horrendous, the parking is unbelievable, the dust and mould and … for the record, HE booked the month’s accommodation in a busy place not me! Tomorrow we have appointments to look at some properties to rent to store our stuff and build a nest (out in the countryside!), but in the meantime, I’m calling a few days off, have made myself a tiny bed nest on the couch, and I’ll see you in a few days when I resurface…

His photos this morning while out hunting and gathering for food a block or two away:

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No, I haven’t lost my love for this place … for there is so much to love! … and look forward to a wonderful 4 weeks!

No brain space to check emails or Facebook, but I’ll return to the land of the living soon so watch this space 🙂

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The Timeline…

“Are we there yet?”

You know that season when the children are way too small to understand time and distance, yet big enough to ask the question of whether or not we are there yet… over and over and over? It’s a standard adult/parent joke because it is such a constant across cultures and countries. The never-ending nag from the back seat.

And yet, how often do we do that ourselves? In our own journeys whether it be in career steps, life goals, or healing processes (whether physical, spiritual or emotional). We often ask those a few steps ahead if we are there yet. We are impatient, but perhaps for good reason? We want the good stuff to be here and now.

As we well and truly have launched ourselves into our second half of adulthood, without nagging by any means, the most common question at the moment is “Are you there yet?”

“Send us the photos of Malta!”

“Do you have a house yet?”

“Where are you?”

I have absolutely no idea of when we will “there” yet, but in the meantime, here is the basic timeline for the rest of this year:

July & August:

The biggest thing we missed while on the corporate treadmill was the children. An average of less than 2 weeks a year simply didn’t cut it. A lot of people have asked us why we don’t just move to be with them now and the answer is long and for another day, but the first thing we need to do is to be with them. To sink into some real, relaxed time with them (without him being on the phone and checking his emails and messages all the time), and to just be for a while. This immediate season also happens to include the imminent birth of grandchild number four! Due next week, on my birthday, and named after me, this little one is easily as much anticipated as her cousins all were… So expect pics and notes and learnings to all come from Australia during these two months.

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September:

At the end of August, we will arrive in Malta with a suitcase each (and his bicycle). We will only really know if I packed well enough in June when we open these suitcases and live out of them in an Airbnb for a month. We plan to land having already scoured the rental and buyers market from afar, and God willing, we will find somewhere to call our home, a little nest, or our Base Camp pretty quickly, an address to send to the shipping company who currently has all our earthly belongings on board a ship on an ocean somewhere. Expect our posts to come from all over Malta for the month of September.

October:

By the end of that month, we should have found our Base Camp, signed all the papers, and will need to wait for settlement (and who knows how long that will take). But the Kombi should be well and truly ready and waiting for us in the UK, so we’ll hopefully buy a cheap local plane ticket to London, pick up the van, spend a week or so tweaking her, testing her, and loading up the stuff we sent ahead of time. Things like bedding, a set of plastic crockery and cutlery and so on. Then we have the rest of the month to make our way from the UK to Malta.

It sounds like a long journey but Google tells us it’s only a few days. We plan on taking the slower route however and we will work out the details closer to the time. It will be her maiden voyage so we hope it will be special in lots of ways, and there will be a few work opportunities along the way too, so there is no hurry. We will have wifi, solar panels, and a very comfy bed, so we are really excited about this month on the road.

Expect posts from the UK, France, Spain, Switzerland and Italy for the month of October!

November:

Presumably Base Camp will be ready sometime in early November so we need to be back in Malta by then to collect the container of belongings we packed up at the end of June. It will be the first time we have residence of any country or a semi-permanent home in over four months and it will be good to unpack and settle in. But it won’t be for long!

He leaves for a few weeks in Israel late November. A trip which came out of nowhere and one he would not have been able to do while he was still working. Our youngest son Ben is a Pastor in Perth and will be making the trip as part of his studies. A gap came up that fits in with Doug’s studies as well, so there is major excitement around here for the father and son study buddies and roommate team.  A perfect bonding opportunity and a time to reset some of the things that were missed out on in previous years.

December:

The boys will return home mid-December. Ben to Perth and Doug of course to Malta where hopefully I will have made some headway into making Base Camp into a special nest. One of the things we said we would never do again is travel without each other… well that failed on day one when we each flew to Perth on a different day. But I guess some rules were never going to work anyway…

He will only be home a few days and we will head off to Australia again for the Christmas season. More exciting news coming up there, but you’ll have to wait for that!

I feel like we’ll blink and it’ll be the end of the year already….

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Follow the Journey!

So many of those around the world have asked me how they can follow our journey into the next phase of life. They want to know what’s happening with the Kombi camper van, where we’re going next, and how this is all going to play out.

But the next question they keep asking is “Why do you drop off my newsfeed?” as though I’m causing it. I’m not.

So here are all the simple instructions on how to follow our journey without missing out or getting lost or overwhelmed. There are different ways to suit your own needs, so pick and choose what suits you.

FACEBOOK:

All blog posts from both of us, YouTube videos, Facebook Live videos, Instagram photos and more, will be collated in one easy place; The @JPeaSmith Facebook Page (click on the link). So if you don’t want to miss anything but you’d also like to choose what you actually watch or read, then this is the place.

But in order to keep current you need to do a few simple things first:

1: LIKE the page: (by clicking on the thumbs up icon).

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2: Liking it will also mean you follow it, but you need to hover over the FOLLOWING button and change the settings to “see first” in order for it to appear in your newsfeed and not disappear. Only you can do this.

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3: Comment on the pinned instruction post on the page so that we know you’re following us and can interact with you. We don’t want to annoy people so will only interact with your permission.

4: Remember that for many of you, this will be our only communications, so please encourage us, give us feedback, and let us know you’re there by commenting on our posts. If you don’t, we won’t know you’ve even been by and will assume we’re out there alone.

EMAIL:

If email is your best news source, then sign up to the once a month roundup emails HERE. I’ve been very slack on writing these this year but they’ll start again in July. Each month we’ll share with you the top news and links in a single, short email. Simply click HERE to be added to the list, and you can opt out any time you like. (if the link doesn’t work please let me know asap).

If you’d prefer more regular emails to that then follow my blog HERE so that each time I post you get an email (roughly once a week), or you can follow his blog HERE. You can even sign up to all the above.

YOU-TUBE:

We’ve bought a Dashcam for the Kombi and we still have the GoPro from the “olden days” so while his YouTube channel is fairly empty now, it should start filling up pretty soon! So subscribe to it now so you get notified when we add travel videos or birds-eye views of cycling down the Swiss Alps at full speed or whatever else happens along the way… You can subscribe by clicking HERE and clicking the red subscribe button.

INSTAGRAM:

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If all you’re interested in seeing are the still photos, the one a day snapshots of highlights, then HERE is our account so follow us there. Again, you’ll need to comment if you want to keep seeing them in your Instagram feed.

PHONE:

Both of us are about to drop off the radar from an old-fashioned phone point of view. We are unsure of what any of this is going to look like and what access we will have. Many of our posts will make us appear very online, but often they will be scheduled to go off ahead of time and we’ll actually be out of range.

So we are unlikely to be able to Whatsapp our progress and Facebook messenger is a nightmare (we get so many rubbish messages we seem to miss many of the important ones). So please interact with us in the comments and we’ll endeavour to answer all of them and reply to all emails.

We both REALLY look forward to seeing you there and taking you with us on this journey! Get ready for a ride you did not expect!

PS: Most of my health issues will be kept separate from this whole Second Half space. I find most people aren’t interested and that’s ok. So if you also want to be a part of that journey, it’s on my personal Facebook profile.

PPS: Doug has decided to stick to WordPress and Twitter so you won’t find him on Facebook or Instagram.

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Where you can find and follow Jennifer:

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

@JPeaSmith