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The Ekstrands are a family of four hailing from Copenhagen with Dad Emil (35) and Mom Josefine (34) co-founders of Leo Leo producing timeless designs for children and babies. Together they have two children Leopold (4) and Hilma (2). For some a dream and mere idea the Ekstrands sold their apartment and pretty much everything they owned to spend 6 month all together travelling through Europe in a 12 meters squared 1963 Scania Vabis documenting their ‘home is where you park it’ lifestyle.  From Copenhagen to Portugal –  making it in one piece to Portugal, their new permanent address with ocean views and sunshine the Algarve. We talk to Josefine and discover more about the Formidable family Ekstrand.

When driving a veteran bus, you never really know what the day will bring you. To get this far and being where we are today, calling Portugal ‘home’, is quite the accomplishment in our lives.

 

Where is home and what is the best thing about living there?
Portugal has so many qualities, we as north European vikings don’t have a lot of. The sun is shining all year and they offer amazing production facilities. This is some of the main ingredients for why we chose this particular place as the end station. A country that still produces itself, not just within the textile industry, but also a country that almost overflows with amazing raw materials, such as fresh fish and organic vegetables. The offer of fantastic market days, with food and crafts. Infinitely beautiful beaches all along the coast and a nature that stretches from palm trees to snow-capped mountains. It’s the fusion of all this, we see having the potential to create the framework for the life, we as a family want to live.

What are the core ingredients that make your house a home?
I grew up in a one bedroom apartment and have only ever visited friends and their families in great big houses. I realised at a very early age, that it was not the houses, but the people who lived in them that made it a home, a special and happy place for me to come over and play. It was about giving each other room to just be, at home.

Now we’ve lived in a bus for a while, letting go of so many belongings, cleaning out and letting go of so much insignificant stuff. I realise that a great family home, should be a place with space, primarily room in the heart. Room to be who you are, on bad days and great days. Room to make mistakes and share thoughts, even the weird or crazy ones.

I hope this home will be just that! A place with playful energy, tolerance and lots of space for big thoughts and where being together is a safe environment where our children should not feel limited.
Of course it all sounds really good, but living with small children seems to challenge everything! So of course most of the time it’s just about surviving this work-life balance with kids and make sure some kind of dinner is served, trying not to wash dark clothes with the white, even though you’re just happy you got to wash something this week! Ultimately we realise, that our journey isn’t about leaving home, it’s about going out in the world to find it!

 

 

Describe a perfect way to spend the weekend together?
We recently spent the day together with friends and went to the vacation island, Ilha Da Armona just outside Olhão. An Island we could easily see ourselves staying on for a weekend. There are no cars on the Island so the kids can bike all the way out to the most amazing beach.

What type of parents are you ?
First of all, we’re full time parents and together all-day everyday! It’s quite the job, it’s been 1 and a half years, since we took our son out of his Waldorf kindergarten. So long now, we almost can’t even remember life before this. It’s everything we could wish for and we’re really starting to see our kids, who they are, their challenges and strengths. It’s also everything we feared it would be, tiring, brutally hard and often sets you back with the feeling of being a bad parent and screwing everything up. So ultimately the same as for many other parents out there.
I guess we’re the type of parents who are “doers”! In our lives it’s not far from idea to action and we always find a way to have our children included and co-deciding on the journey.
I’m not sure we intentionally new or wanted to become these kinds of parents, but things just grew in this direction. Our children really get to see and be part of everyday life! They know what we’re doing and what we’re working on and they get to tag along on the journey of entrepreneurship. It includes ups and downs, but that is a life premise and it has nothing to do with living the life you want. Everything comes down to the person who’s willing to get up again and move forward. Our son who’s four years old, enjoys packing our products and putting on labels for different places in the world. He’s also working on his own swimwear collection.
I hope we take all this with us, building a close and trustworthy relation to our kids and working on a strong relationship between them as brother and sister.

What are you grateful for?
One of the first things that came to mind, was the fact that we get to share our hopeless dreams and crazy ideas together as a family. I’m truly grateful for sharing everyday with my partner Emil and to always trust each other enough, to just say ‘yes’! He said yes to taking the risk of success or failure with Leo Leo, I said yes to the risk of success or failure with the bus and every time we make a change in our life, we do it together. To be grateful is a good reminder of where you are in life and sometimes it can just be about, being able to breath. Other times it’s about being grateful for making it through the pyrenees in an 11 meter long bus from 1963…

An item you all treasure?
I think we in this family have a thing for good old machinery. As I’m currently writing the answer to this question and eating pizza. I just called out the question and the answer was clear from all the members. Besides our beloved bus, which was not easy to move out of, but fortunately is parked just ten minutes away from our house. It’s without a doubt my sewing machine! We create everything on it. A batman doll for my son, doll bedding, clothes, curtains, leather goods, all Leo Leo samples and my kid’s backpacks. They dream it, I sew it.

The book you can’t put down?
Do children books count? Because then I read a lot. Honestly, reading books is currently not on my to-do list, maybe later in life, when the kids are older and I have all the time in the world. I have one though, that I recently also bought as a audiobook. A book called “One Life One Time One Man”, by Danish philosopher and business manager Morten Albæk. Shortly, the book is about the ability to distinguish between satisfaction, happiness and meaning in life. Most importantly to let the last mentioned be the center of existence. A very well written book, with a phenomenal use of language. Not searching for happiness, but to create a meaningful life for oneself. I love that stuff.

Please name one personality trait for each family member?
Each of us are born in different seasons. Somehow that actually seems to reflect our personalities.

  • Hilma is summer and she has a light and warm personality, loves to eat and get messy.
  • Leopold is winter, snow was falling the day he was born and he’s the complete opposite of his sister. Shy, imaginative, very fast, picky with his food and hates mess.
  • Emil is spring and he’s a regular daydreamer with an endless curiosity of life.
  • I’m fall, ‘go-for-it’ courage, persistent and eternal optimist, okay and occasionally moody.

A good habit that helps you as a mom?
Go to bed early!!

What song gets the whole family up to dance?
The kids are in the superhero phase, so every evening Emil and I are doing the dishes, while the kids fly (bike) around in circles to the legendary 1960’s Batman theme song (the album version). We have an outdoor kitchen, which explains the biking around in circles. And if we’re going heavy on the bass line, it’s currently ‘Portugal The Man’ that gets most speaker time.

Top 3 IG accounts to follow?

  1. @thegoodwinway
    Because they are living in a self build treehouse, mom and dad are pro surfers and they created the beautiful movie “GIVEN”.
  2. @sarahssilks
    Because Sarah is legendary and has for over 20 years spread the message that you can play imaginatively with a single piece of silk fabric.
  3. @kon_tam
    For dreamy pictures and inspiration.

One piece of advice life has taught you, please share…
One piece of advice to rule them all is, don’t take any advice!
Just kick out all your anxiety and go ahead, follow your dreams! Your hopeless dreams, your inner passion, your untold talents. Take them serious, start being serious about what you want and who you are. Your next step, is the most important.

The highest and most beautiful things in life are not to be heard about, nor read about, nor seen but, if one will, are to be lived”. – Søren Kirkegaard.

 

Read Part.2 Formidable Family Ekstrand tomorrow on Pirouette!

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