Turning barriers into bumps

After six months in countries where we don’t speak the language, we’ve met quite a few situations where those language “barriers” could have stopped us. Sometimes we have let ourselves be stopped by the lack of ability to speak fluently, but we’ve also trained ourselves in overcoming those barriers and turning them into speed bumps instead.

At the market in Thiviers

At the market in Thiviers

When we first arrived in France, back in November last year, the very first day we arrived in the small village where our first house sit was, we walked around, looking for a place to eat. It had been a really intense period of moving out of our house, selling it and then driving for 24 hours straight through Europe. We felt tired and insecure, not at all ready to try and order food in a restaurant. We gave in to the “barrier”.

Instead we went to the local supermarket and got some things to eat that first afternoon.

From the supermarket: baguette, wine & toilet paper

From the supermarket: baguette, wine & toilet paper

After a few days of rest, settling down to that new way of life, and starting to accept that we didn’t know any French whatsoever, we started going to markets and found out we were able to make ourselves understood anyways. And when it comes to buying things, Anders’ take on it is that someone who sells really should want to “help us out” to get what we want, meaning we shouldn’t be ashamed but try our best and rely on the other person wanting to sell us something. If that’s not the case, we simply take our money and go someplace else.

At Au Fil du Temps in Brantôme in November: it was a surprise to see what we had ordered!

At Au Fil du Temps in Brantôme in November: it was a surprise to see what we had ordered!

We also downloaded an app with an offline French dictionary, to be able to look some words up, and we have been using Google translate a lot to find out single words or understanding certain phrases. After those first days of language barriers, we set up a strategy to ask the person we wanted to talk to if they speak English, instead of just starting to talk – we thought that was a more polite way of meeting people. And later we’ve of course learned phrases in French to ask just that, and have at times written down the essentials for remembering what to say or ask for in the butcher’s shop or at the post office.

To us, who like learning languages, and have quite a good sense of it too, it certainly has been a mental challenge not to be able to speak freely and say what we want.

In Cairo we used an online home-delivery at times

In Cairo we used an online home-delivery at times

It’s been helpful to meet travelers totally without shame for not speaking a second or third language, who just go ahead and try their best, failing forward and expecting to be caught when falling. Always with a smile on their face.

So that’s what we do now: always smiling, trying with whatever little words we know, then smile a bit more, and expecting some help. It goes a long way! And with our Swedish and English as main languages, we also speak a little German, understand some Spanish and practice a little French. Let’s just say that we don’t intend to learn any Portuguese at the moment, though Wivan’s new found “friend” whom she meets daily at her walks is quite disappointed when he starts taking up conversations about the weather, his moped and whatever it might be. That’ll be a barrier for a bit longer!

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Moped in Flores

// Anders & Wivan

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After four weeks in Flores…

… this is part of what we’ve done, seen and experienced.

Driving a scooter

Driving a scooter

Barbeque dinner

Barbeque dinner

Quiet and peaceful sightseeing

Quiet and peaceful sightseeing

Stunning view of Ponta Delgada in Flores

Stunning view of Ponta Delgada in Flores

Swimming in the Atlantic

Swimming in the Atlantic

Useful hamam-towels from Istanbul

Useful hamam-towels from Istanbul

Our new friend: Lucky

Our new friend: Lucky

Spectacular Fajã Lopo Vaz

Spectacular Fajã Lopo Vaz

Fajã Lopo Vaz

Fajã Lopo Vaz

Hiking in beautiful locations

Hiking in beautiful locations

Trying our best to take pictures up in the clouds

Trying our best to take pictures up in the clouds

Pictures of friendship...

Pictures of friendship…

... arranging pictures of friendship...

… arranging pictures of friendship…

Waterfalls

Waterfalls

Lots of cooking going on

Lots of cooking going on

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Classy "fika" with brownie, coffee and pink sparkling wine

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Flowering beauty

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Rain, storm & rainbows

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At the beach

Thanks for following us and joining our journey! More pictures and stories to come.

// Anders & Wivan

An island of cows

There are so many cows in Flores and lots of small meadows. It’s fascinating to see how the farmers have prepared the land and built all the stone walls to keep the cattle in every spot possible, no matter how steep a hill or far a climb to get there.

Cows grazing down in a far-away valley

Cows grazing down in a far-away valley

This also means it usually isn’t enough for the cows to graze for a very long time, they need to be moved regularly, which also is a way of keeping the land open and control the vegetation.

Cows walking through Fazenda das Lajes

Cows walking through Fazenda das Lajes

All of a sudden when driving down the road, there is a small herd of cows, moving from one place to another. It’s something fun and loving about these procedures, the farming takes the time it takes, people are engaged in making it work, the traffic on the island is rather slow and this is just something that is part of life. Cows moving. And farmers. They walk and drive around their meadows, checking on the animals, milking or moving.

Passing cows on the road from Santa Cruz to Lajes

Passing cows on the road from Santa Cruz to Lajes


We’re grateful to be in this small island, experiencing all the little details of the local’s lives, from herding cattle to knowing when the delivery boat arrives and what days are good for drying laundry or making hikes.

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Cows and their calves resting

Now is the season for calves, by the way! And we love seeing the small newborn babies together with their moms out on the fields. Warm and dry weather is of course better for the small ones, so we wish for more of that!

// Anders & Wivan, cow-watchers

To do: Four easy steps

Got this list from yoga_girl , Rachel Brathen’s Instagram page a while ago, and enjoyed the thought of it a lot.

1. Make a list of things that make you really, truly, utterly happy.
2. Make a list of things you do every day.
3. Compare the lists.
4. Adjust accordingly.

yoga_girl, Rachel Brathen

yoga_girl, Rachel Brathen

Let’s just say we’re playing around with this list now when we’re travelling. Doing what we love, listening to our deepest desires and enjoying life more and more fully every day.

// Anders and Wivan

The boat is here!

Earlier today The Boat arrived to the harbor of Lajes das Flores. That means deliveries are happening on the island. It’s been two weeks since the last shipment and the stores have sold out things that will now be back on the shelves.

Deliveries coming in today

Deliveries coming in today

For example did the entire island run out of cement. Not a single bag of the grey powder was to be found, and now it’ll be back in stock! We saw cars arriving on The Boat, so some people will have new vehicles to drive in.

The harbor in Lajes das Flores

The harbor in Lajes das Flores

And we will again be able to find fresh cabbage, different sorts of fruits, broccoli, fresh pepper, red onions, cucumber, carrots and other things. The last time The Boat arrived, we learned at what time during the day deliveries are made to which store, so there is no need to go to the “Green Store” before about six o clock at night, because the smaller stores here in Lajes will get deliveries first, then comes the green store in Fazenda das Lajes.

The <3 Boat

The ❤ Boat

Starting to feel a bit more like locals now!

// Anders and Wivan, going to the store a little bit later

Did we say storm?

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This morning's walk in heavy rain and mist

This morning it wasn’t raining at all when I got out with Lucky. So I left the rain pants at home when we drove off in the car to get out of the village.

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Selfie on the walk...

Driving up the hills it was all white and misty. And raining. Quite heavy rain by the time we got out of the car. And I was laughing at my foolish choice of leaving the water proof pants at home when I was totally soaked after about three minutes out in the rain. The water trailed along the legs down into my socks and shoes.

We didn’t walk for long and when getting back into the car a guy stopped and asked if everything was ok. ‘Everything is great’ was my respons, giggling when entering the driver’s seat soaking wet.

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A cup of tea in front of the kitchen door

Back in the house I found that even my t-shirt and underwear were soaked, and I learned my lesson (until next time).

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Today we kept the shutters closed on all windows

It’s been raining in underneath the entrance door today, and the windows in the kitchen door are the only ones that haven’t got shutters. So I was sitting on the counter top, drinking tea and listening to a podcast while Anders took a bath.

The forecast looks like it’s going to continue being quite windy and somewhat rainy the coming days. Though, since things tend to shift fast here, we can probably also get some sun between the showers tomorrow.

// Wivan, now warm and cozy while the wind keeps on and the rain hits the shutters

Rainy and windy forecast

What we have experienced this far in Flores, is that the weather can and do change rather quickly. So even if it looks very cloudy, all of a sudden the sun is out and the temperature rises. Or, the sun is shining and before even noticing anything, rain starts to fall or the wind catches speed.

Dark clouds arriving

Dark clouds arriving

Last Friday we had a storm that brought heavy winds and at times also heavy rain. When it is windy this island in the Azores is pretty vulnerable in the middle of the ocean. Most houses keep the shutters closed to the windows – to keep them from flapping in the wind, to avoid drought and to help keep the houses a bit warmer.
It gets very dark inside when the shutters are closed during the day. To feel a bit more alive we like to keep the shutters open in the living room, to be able to see the sky and the Atlantic below the village. To have a sense of what’s going on outside.

The clouds move fast over the island and the Atlantic

The clouds move fast over the island and the Atlantic

The dog we’re taking care of, Lucky, doesn’t like storms. Especially not when there’s thunder. She either tries to hide under our bed, or stays close to one of us like a glued piece of paper. Walking her is something we do in the moments it’s not raining too heavily or when the wind is a bit calmer and it can still be quite warm outside.

It’s funny how fast these shifts come. One day we are swimming in the ocean, sun bathing in Santa Cruz, Anders in flip flops and Wivan bare legged all day. The next it can be totally different. We wrap ourselves up in scarfs and blankets to keep warm inside and don’t want to go outside when the rain hits really hard and the streams are flooded.

The only shutters we keep open during storms

The only shutters we keep open during storms

Instead we watch movies, sitting in our bed with a cup of coffee. Or read a book, play a game and take a nap. It’s cozy and we might long back to this time sometime in the future, when the sun has been shining “too many” days in a stretch and we long for a rainy day to stay inside.

Sometimes the rain hits so hard, it comes through to the inside

Sometimes the rain hits so hard, it comes through to the inside

It looks like there’s coming another storm tomorrow, with lots and lots of rain. So we’re getting ready, preparing for slow or non-existing internet, making sure we have the food we need and some extra candles to light for coziness and warmth.

Keep warm and hold on to your loved ones.
// Anders & Wivan

Opening up after the last storm

Opening up after the last storm

Everyone enjoys sunshine after rain...

Everyone enjoys sunshine after rain…