Juggling time constraints, stress and a heavy workload, Steve and Rike Brookland were fed up with their everyday lives. They decided a drastic change was needed, and so they set off with their two children on a trip around continental Europe to discover faraway places, meet new people, and ultimately even find a new home.
The level of stress was incredible. The never-ending workload, the perpetual time constraints, the constant feeling that the kids are getting a raw deal… “Our day-to-day lives just gobbled us up,” explains Steve Brookland. “What we were missing was time. Time for the simple and beautiful things in life.” He and his wife Rike found themselves asking each other time and time again whether this was really how they wanted to move forward as a family.
The pair of photographers ultimately came to the conclusion that a life-changing decision had to be made. In fact, you could say they decided to activate the ejector seat. They terminated their contract on the beautiful detached home they rented near Cologne and had spent so long working on, and set about getting rid of most of their belongings. Soon enough, they were ready to embark on a year-long camper trip through Europe with the children and not a care in the world. That was back in May 2018. “Breaking free” is the phrase Steve uses when he talks about how it all started back in Cologne.
“There was no doubt in our minds: that we wanted to switch to a more free-spirited and mindful lifestyle,” explains Rike. “We wanted to be able to do things like sleep under the stars with the children, toast marshmallows on the campfire, and search for fireflies in the bushes together.”
Many of their friends found this decision quite radical – gutsy, even. But not one of them tried to talk them out of their idea or put obstacles in their way. The new, simple lifestyle has done them good, they both say. Four plates, four cups, four forks… Even people who don’t have much can learn to get along just fine, and what a liberating feeling it is! “For us, discovering the minimalistic lifestyle was a real turning point,” recalls Rike.
“The minimalistic lifestyle is just what we need.”
Austria, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece… The family started out by heading east. Soon enough, they launched a blog about their travels, which is entitled “Wir woanders” [Us… elsewhere], and began posting the beautiful pictures they took along the way both on their website and on Instagram. Brother and sister arm in arm in the evening sunlight. The Greek fortress, Acrocorinth. Daughter sitting on the beach and drawing the sea with her crayons. A shepherd with his flock in the secluded Romanian countryside. Rike and her son in a rock pool. Now these are pictures that tell the tale of a carefree lifestyle.
The family were on the road in their Carado A 464. One of the special features of the A-series is the alcove bed above the driver’s cab, which maximises space for both sleeping and living. It was the perfect solution for the family of four. “The motorhome really has become a second home to us,” enthuses Steve. They have never been short on space in the seven-metre-long camper, so it never felt cramped. But the best thing about life on the road is the amount of time you spend outside, whether that’s playing, eating, or simply just living. “Nature effectively becomes your living room.”
As far as their work goes, Rike (36) and Steve (38) didn’t have to quit altogether on account of their adventure.
That’s the huge advantage of digitalisation, the ability to carry on working on projects and remain in contact with clients despite being on the road. All they need is a router and a laptop. The concept of digital nomadism is allowing increasing numbers of people to switch to a more relaxed way of working as an alternative to a typical nine-to-five – including self-employed people like Rike and Steve.
At the start of their journey, they were often quite restless. They were always desperate to visit new places, discover new cultures and countries, and meet new people, with their thirst for adventure driving them on. But the longer they were on the road, the more these feelings started to wear off. By the time they reached Portugal last November, the restless feelings had disappeared completely. The family travelled to the country to spend the winter down in the south west of the European continent. “Portugal is unbelievably beautiful – we were totally overwhelmed by the scenery there,” explains Steve. Even in the winter months, it really is worth a visit. This is when the country shows its peaceful side, as there are virtually no tourists around and local life takes a relaxed turn.
“Once you stop searching, you find the most beautiful places appear right in front of you”: This is the mantra that Steve and Rike now live by. Another of their tips is for people not to shy away from venturing beyond the beaten track if they want to discover more on their travels. Heading out to less touristy places is a much better, more intensive way to get to know a country and its people. And what better way to do that than in a camper? After all, there’s no need to book hotels, less need to plan, and you can essentially set up camp wherever you like.
“We are loving the complete sense of freedom.”
Steve and Rike are now keen to settle in Portugal with their two children. There’s a spot on the west coast, not far from Faro, that they have really fallen in love with. They rave about the atmosphere, the beaches they like to go surfing on, and the warmth of the local people. They love to talk about how the locals head to the market on a Saturday to enjoy a coffee while the children all play together and the local farmers sell their fresh fruit.
The family managed to find a small apartment in the area, their daughter now attends the local school, and Rike was already fluent in Portuguese. “We’ve finally found somewhere we want to stay,” they say. And they don’t seem to have any concerns that it might be difficult to find work there as a photographer and a film-maker. Their new lifestyle has shown them that they can get along very well in life regardless of how much they have. In fact, the experience has given them a renewed zest for life. The family has no intention of heading back to the old daily grind. And who knows, maybe there will come a time when they decide to head out into the world in their motorhome once again. “We really do feel as free as can be now,” they explain.
Steve and Rike Brookland (pictured) lead a minimalist lifestyle together with their two children. In 2018, they set off on a year-long trip around Europe in their Carado motorhome. Visit their travel blog www.wirwoanders.com and Instagram @wirwoanders if you want to find out more about minimalistic and nomadic lifestyles.
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