Planes, trains, and surface-to-air missiles

  

At last the day has arrived. In a mere handful of hours we’ll be on our way to Thailand to cast off our woolly jumpers in exchange for bikinis (me, not Rodney) and sundresses (me, not Rodney). 

I love my life. I love living, and breathing, and eating, and dancing. Etc. I love not being dead. I mention this because folk have been reminding me of my mortality all week. I’ve been receiving lots of messages wishing us a safe journey, and a handful of messages advising we steer clear of terrorists. My mum’s message had a sort of inquisitive tone: ‘Do you think you will be flying over any terrorist bastards, darling?’. Hard to say mum, hard to say.

Usually I’d roll my eyes at such foolishness. But there is no eye rolling occurring at the moment. I am neither ashamed nor proud to admit that I am positively shitting myself. My carefree backpacker vibe has been shaken. The fire of fear has been stoked. I’m officially afraid of flying. 

I used to love long haul flights. The little dinners and the free gins and the personal movie screens. But all I’ve been able to think about this week is planes being blown out of the sky and people being shot with AK-47s. It’s enough to stop a girl from ever wanting to leave the house again.

Except I don’t have a house. I have a van. A very cold f*cking van. And unless I want to spend the winter miserable and hypothermic (I don’t) I need to woman up and board the plane. 

Statistically speaking, we were more likely to die in the van this summer, or on the Piccadilly line train that I’m presently sat on. In fact, Google tells me that the only form of transport safer than a plane is the escalator or elevator. Unfortunately it’s not yet possible to get an escalator to Asia (or so Google would have you believe). So plane it is!

I’m doing my best to get into a cheerier frame of mind. A wise man once said ‘the only thing we have to fear is fear itself’ (I don’t know if he was wise actually, but I like his words nonetheless). Other phrases that I’ve been mulling over include ‘when your time’s up, your time’s up’ and ‘don’t let the bastards get you down’ and ‘a life lived in fear is a life half lived’ and ‘you’re not dead yet’. But my current favourite is the thing my brother says to me on our yearly trips to Cornwall… ‘tell your face it’s on holiday’.

So that’s my plan for the next 20 hours. To tell my face it’s on holiday. How am I doing so far? 

  

Yeah, not great.

As you can see I’m now at the airport (time flies when you’re afraid of flying) so I’m going to go drink myself a gin or two and keep telling things to my face until Rodney gets here. He’ll probably be very late just to add some further tension to proceedings. 

On the off (statistically minuscule) chance that this is my last post, let it be known that I left this world with a belly full of gin and a face that looked almost like it was on holiday.

A bientot!

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Reflections of a van dweller

Last week was our… last week of van dwelling, for a good old while. I spent much of it huddled under the duvet wearing a couple of jumpers and bed socks (socks), sipping on hot cocoa and trying to warm my hands as the rain hammered on the roof and the repti-thermometer struggled to rise up over the 10 degree mark… and I was surprisingly content!

Perhaps it’s not surprising at all. Perhaps I finally just realised how insanely lucky I am. And before anyone pipes up with ‘you make your own luck’, that’s clearly not the case. As we’ve established in previous posts, I can be a very lazy daisy when I want to be. Make my own luck? You’re lucky if I make my own bed.

No I am one lucky rubber duck, and although our transition from hard-working Londoners to carefree ferals of no fixed abode has had its “challenges”, I am ultimately happier than a pig in shit (ah isn’t it amazing how the prospect of a winter in Asia can lift a girl’s mood?!).

So, without further ado, here are some of the things I have loved about living a nomadic life for the past four and a half months…

(If you’re already struggling to cope with my irritating levels of positivity then just scroll down to the things I have loathed section. You’re welcome.)

‘My, isn’t life fabulous?’

  1. You cannot take our Freeeduuuum!!!!- Freedom means different things for different people. For me it is having less restrictions on how and where I spend my time, having more time in general and having so little stress that my mind is as quiet as a mouse. I am freeeeeeeee!!
  2. Alfresco dining- cooking and eating outside, in the sunshine or under the stars, never gets old. (Although blowing up the BBQ, Rodney, might be considered a nail in the alfresco dining coffin).
  3. Alfresco everything- when your home is ever so small you tend to want to spend less time in it. It forces you to explore and go be outdoorsy, if not for the love of nature, then just to ease the boredom (although you may quickly turn into a bird-spotting, nature-loving, cagoule-wearing beauty). Add Action Man Rodney to the mix and you’ll soon start to feel like you’re on a permanent PGL adventure holiday.
  4. Sticking it to the man- On 2 May 2015 we climbed into a van and drove it and ourselves off the conveyor belt, raising our middle fingers in the general direction of Westminster. It felt good.
  5. Less stuff- I hate stuff. I hate shopping for stuff. I hate wasting money on stuff. I hate cleaning stuff. I have loved being free from stuff. I’m really looking forward to taking it a step further and living out of my 35 litre rucksack for the next few months. Down with the stuff!
  6. Great Britain- we’ve not been everywhere yet, but we’ve seen more of the country than most. It’s beautiful.
  7. I think we’re alone now- I may have said some unkind words about our golden dream machine, however she’s turned out to be pretty perfect. The huge water tank means that we can spend a week alone in the wilderness before needing to find a tap. The composting toilet continues to fill me with joy. The solar power is a marvel and we just discovered that we can fit larger gas bottles in the side compartment, reducing the frequency with which we run out of gas. We’re a long way off being self-sufficient but living off-grid feels like a step in the right direction.
  8. Family- We’ve seen more of our families this year than we have in the past decade. They might disagree, but I thought it was pretty lovely.
  9. Fresh air- The air tastes better outside London. In fact, it’s delicious! (It also tastes better when we’re not driving around in a diesel-guzzling tank, but that’s a problem for another day 😳).
  10. Rodney- Funny that he should appear on this list when he’s about to feature at the top of the list of things I have loathed! Strictly speaking he should really be at the top of this list too, but nobody likes a smug couple so I’ve snuck him in down here instead. For the record, I would not like to live in a van with any other person… because there is no better person… in the world. Let’s leave it at that!

And now for the flip side. Ten things I have loathed about living in a van for the past four and a half months…

‘Just shoot me, shoot me now!’

  1. ‘Agggggghhhhhhhh’- Rodney drives like a f*cking maniac. He takes corners like he’s driving a ferrari, speeds up when he sees a red light and will often close his right eye so that when I look across at him I think he’s fallen asleep at the wheel- just to mess with me. Also, because it’s a left hand drive, when he cuts people up they give me the finger.
  2. ‘Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr’- If it’s cold outside, there’s a good chance it’s cold inside too. If I put the heating on the windows steam up and condensation drips from the skylights. I am tired of being cold and dripped on.
  3. People don’t like us (part one)- Every now and then we stay at a ‘proper’ campsite with power showers and washing machines etc. Caravan Club sites tend to be the best equipped. Without fail- I can’t emphasise this enough- WITHOUT FAIL whenever we stay at a Caravan Club site, we are approached by another camper who tells us that they are here for a bit of peace and quiet. They’ll be nervously eyeing the golden beast (as if a party might erupt from its doors at any moment) whilst speaking further sentences on the topic of peace and quiet, such as how great it is to be in a lovely quiet spot on this lovely quiet campsite. I have to fight the urge to tell them that we’re there for the illegal rave.
  4. People don’t like us (part two)- Rodney has an Irish accent. There have been several occasions when he’s called a campsite to book a pitch and they have said that they were full. However when I called them back two minutes later with my very english accent, they were not full. The first time this happened we were killing ourselves laughing, but as it started to become a more frequent occurrence we stopped finding it funny. Rodney now makes all bookings using his best Gandalf voice.
  5. Please please Mr Postman- I used to love getting post. It made me feel like a proper person. I dream of a future where royal mail will track down the golden van wherever it may be and bring me postal joy once more.
  6. Road kill- The country is covered in dead animals. Badgers, birds, squirrels, foxes and hedgehogs lie squashed along every stretch of road. It’s a blood bath.
  7. Dust- Where does it all come from?????!!!!!!!!!
  8. I can’t think of anything else
  9. Nope my mind’s gone completely blank
  10. Hi there!

So there we are. We lived in a van and it was mostly great. I look forward to living in a van again, in about four months time. I look forward to finally making it to mainland Europe!

We’ll be spending much of today getting our shit together for Asia (we fly out next week) so I’ll sign off now and leave you with a final van-life update, for a while at least…

We went back to the Chilterns and walked the Ridgeway… 

We discovered Geocaching… 

We spent a day along the Grand Union Canal… 

It was really misty for a while (we had no solar power for a few days)… 

Rodney sang ‘Who wants to live forever?’ to some inquisitive sheep… 

I went to London to see Buzz the dog (and some two-legged friends)… 

And to get some travel vaccines (free on the mighty NHS)… 

We slept in the van one last time, at the ferry port… 

An old friend stopped by the ferry port early on Sunday morning to wave us off, and to add to our CD collection… 

The ferry crossing was pretty wild… 

We didn’t think we would make it off the ferry as our battery light had been on for a couple of days and it was getting harder and harder to start the engine. But third time lucky the golden oldie jumped into action and we made our way onto dry land and sort of ‘limped’ home (with fading headlights and sloooow wipers) in a rather anticlimactic fashion… 

And we were finally reunited with my summer fling… 

We’re now celebrating an early Christmas as we’ll be away for the real thing… 

And the van is looking forward to a few months of rest and relaxation…

As are we!!
Happy November one and all!