Work/loaf balance

work/ loaf balance

Sometimes I get bullied and cajoled by my family and friends into doing social and exciting stuff, just as I need to do some work, or just as i’ve finished work and want to bury my face in a book/ice cream/beer (or preferably all three) – poor me, what a hard life etc. etc…

Taking an extended road trip like this depends on me working for part of the time, both in terms of keeping my existing clients happy and earning enough money to pay the bills. I’ve been experimenting with different ways of doing this.

The first few weeks revolved around my experiments with charging via solar or from the car, so I would do sprints of work when I had a full battery – which usually meant a couple of hours a day.

On longer stays on a wifi equipped campsite, when i’ve paid for a day pass on the wifi, it often works out better to take whole days in the campsite bar, plugged into the mains. I use the term “whole day” loosely – it has been rare to start before ten, and there have been frequent breaks for a dip in the pool, keep my son entertained, socialising, trips to the supermarket etc. – the usual things you might expect to do on holiday if you weren’t trying to make a living at the same time.

Other days we might be traveling, or taking a day trip, there’s not much opportunity to get any work done, albeit answering emails on my iphone.

It hasn’t always been ideal – sometimes the days, or part days where i’m trying to enjoy the holiday i’m left in “work mode”, really feeling like I should be getting on with something, other days i’m working away when I really should be going for a swim or reading a book. I’m not sure what the solution is yet, maybe it’s just getting better at switching between work and play, or maybe it’s longer work days with a stricter emphasis on work, or several days in a row on and several off.

Maybe the real solution taking a shorter road trip next time and not trying to do any work at all, but i’m enjoying this too much – how many people get the opportunity to spend this long having an adventure with their family? So i’m making the most of it – i’ll make it work somehow!

(The pop-up tent in the photo above is a Quechua Base Seconds)

One night in Spain

cabo mayor ticket

It’s seven o’clock in the evening and i’m being led on a wild goose chase round Santander in the north of Spain, by the very out-of-date “points of interest – cash dispenser” option on my satnav. I’m led to a building site, a car park and, worryingly, a cliff, before finally spotting a bank that wasn’t on the list. I park the car illegally in a spot reserved for motorbikes and run a lost tourist flip-flop sprint to the ATM to secure some cash for the evening. Camping Cabo Mayor – the campsite that we didn’t really want to stay – where i’ve left my wife and son setting up camp, informed me they only accept payment in cash, and we haven’t got food for the night either.

We’ve driven well over a hundred miles to get here from Biarritz. The whole european trip has been pretty much unplanned, but so far we’ve always phoned ahead to check availability, but after being greeted by spanish answerphone messages and total failure of online booking, we decided that with a list of campsites hastily scribbled in felt tip on a notepad the last time we had wifi, that we would chance just turning up. In the second week of August – “peak season” apparently. The first site we tried, 20 miles or so east at Noja was manic and full, the next one at Suesa we didn’t even stop to enquire, as we could see from the road it was full to bursting and it wasn’t what we looking for. We ended up at Cabo Mayor on the hills above Santander, somewhere i’ve stayed before, on the first night of my “Spanish Adventure”* 13 or so years ago.

We’ve obviously been spoilt by the campsites we’ve stayed at in France – on this site we are crammed in like battery hens, with barely room for our car and only able to put up part of our over-elaborate tent arrangement. After carefully locking all things of value out of site in the car, we take a walk up to the Cabo Mayor lighthouse and have a beer looking out over the sea. Annoyingly, it’s chilly – that’s not how I remember it. We then retire to the bar down the road from the campsite, where things are more relaxed and I get to practice some of my rusty Spanish – not very much really, but considerably better than my french.

Things were a bit different last time I was here. Back then as a young and single hippy in a beaten up van, I slept in carparks, down side streets, on beaches, in the woods and basically anywhere I thought I could stay for the night without getting moved on by the police. Back then I was also trying to earn a living as I went, but busking rather than coding – I think I am having slightly more success with the latter. Not far from where i’m standing is the spot where I first ever dared to sing in public – I played a lemonheads song to some random tourists and earned a few pesetas, leaving me on a high for days.

Back at the campsite we feel slightly marooned – there’s not even room to sit outside the tent to enjoy a drink. We don’t want to stay more than one night on this site. Without having somewhere in mind, it becomes obvious that carrying on further into spain the next day might be counter-productive for what we want to get out of this trip. We decide that we are going to make an early start the next day, back the way we came – a 280 mile trip back to our new favourite french site at La Romieu – we’ll have to save exploring Spain for the next trip, when we’ve done a bit more planning, maybe next time taking the ferry to Spain and starting the trip there. Meanwhile i’m happy knowing that back at La Romieu with wifi and a plug socket for the week I can get some work done and earn back the petrol money from our weekend detour.

*My Spanish Adventure is something that I always meant to write a novel about, but if it hasn’t been written yet, I doubt it ever will. Also, the things I thought would make interesting reading in my early 20’s, are probably less so now, but there must be at least a blog post in there!

Three days of cloud and rain = back to mains

raindrops on the tent

I had been doing really well keeping stuff charged by solar power alone in the good weather, but three days of cloud and torrential rain resulted in me borrowing a mains adapter from the campsite reception and turning the boot of my car into a charging station.

The final straw was torrential rain yesterday afternoon leaving us huddled in the quechua base tent watching a film on the laptop. A nearly flat macbook was topped up with a half charged powergorilla (the result of 2 days solar charging) and we just made it all the way through Tom Hank’s “Big” with a few minutes battery time left.

It was only sheer luck that we happened to be on a pitch with mains hook up – most of the sites have more choice if you don’t need electric, but we ended up on a pitch with mains. I need to get hold of a proper electric hook up lead – I wasn’t sure if UK/Europe mains hook up leads were the same or not, and the leads I looked at in the UK were very bulky, so I decided against it.

I’ve just returned from the campsite bar after unsuccessfully trying to use the campsite wifi – it keeps going offline because of power surges apparently. I guess I should be getting a lead with a surge protector built in. Meanwhile we sit out the storm with a medley of films, and frequent dashes to the car boot charging station to swap chargers over.

On a brighter note, the Quechua tents are holding up a treat in the rain 🙂