I had a (van) dream

We’re currently in Northern Ireland, working and saving to get back on the road. Back to the dream. However, we may have hit a bit of a snag. A bit of a metaphorical pothole (remember them?!). A bit of an ‘are you fucking kidding me?’ juncture. At the beginning of May Rodney drove the van into the side of a Mercedes van. Into the side of a ‘one-off’ / ‘brand new’ / ‘not cheap’ / ‘was speeding but we can’t prove it’ Mercedes van. Thankfully no-one was hurt. We waited six long agonising weeks to find out if our insurance would pay out. If it didn’t the dream would have been well and truly over. We’d have been wiped out, financially, emotionally, and van dreamily. The past six months of commuting four hours a day to work and living off supermarket reductions to save save save would have been meaningless. The small repairs we had done after Rodney’s previous smash would have been insignificant. Long story short, they paid out, Goldie is back to her former glory and we’re now trying to figure out our next move.

It’s highly likely that Rodney’s insurance will now skyrocket to unsavoury levels that would make her economically unattractive. If we want to keep Goldie I’ll have to become the sole driver and at the moment that isn’t filling me with joy, partly because of the size of her but also because she’s a left hand drive and has no power steering. I have no doubt that I could get the hang of it, but do I really want to? Also, if I crash her I’ll have to stop mocking Rodney for driving her into houses and stuff, and he’ll never let me live it down. He’ll probably start his own rival blog as pay back, and the mocker would become the mocked. I may be overthinking this.

The other option is to sell Goldie and get a smaller right hand drive that might be a bit easier / more relaxing for me to manoeuvre. The downside of that is we’ve put a lot of effort into adapting Goldie into an off grid dream machine and I’m not sure I want to go through all that effort again with another van. Also, we love her. She’s become a member of the family.  Like an irritating little sister and a wise old grandmother rolled into one. She’s part of our increasingly fucked up story and I’m not sure I’m quite ready for the Great Golden Disaster chapter to end.

Slight tangent, but I read an article once that said if you want to know whether you are on the right path in life you should consider what you would do with your time if you won the lottery. If your lotto dream life is wildly different to your current reality then you may be on the wrong path and might want to make some changes. It’s easy to argue that this is utter bullshit as many people in the world are not free to change their circumstances, but I guess the article wasn’t meant for them folk. No siree. I guess it was meant for wankers that type ‘am I on the right path?’ into the Google search bar, and write blogs about their vacuous van-loving existential crises. Touché!

I asked Rodney the other day what he’d do if we won the lottery and the first thing he said was ‘I’d get Goldie pimped’. So who knows Goldie Horn. Maybe we’re not done with you yet.

We chatted a bit more about our hopes and dreams and it turns out we’ve not strayed too far from our wanky wee paths. We still dream of travel. Of not having to ‘come back’ to work, but just to keep going until the world stops spinning or we die of natural causes, whichever comes first. Maybe it doesn’t matter how we travel, but that we just find a way to keep going. To see the world before it burns.

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Scroll down for a quick catch up on what else we’ve been up to for the past 7 months. I don’t have as much photo evidence as usual as we’ve been trying out this strange ‘living in the moment’ phenomenon so I’ve not been as snap happy…

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We celebrated Christmas at the beach house…

We popped over to London for the Star Wars premiere and said farewell to a strange year. I’m not sure Rodney will ever forgive himself for fucking up his Darth Vader audition but he still got to dive off space ships and shoot rebel scum so I think he’ll look back on it without regret. Maybe. Someday.

I got work in Belfast so we moved back into the van and headed across the country to become city van dwellers. It was fucking freezing…

Rodney had to wear his turtle neck to keep warm…

We lasted three weeks before moving back into the beach house and I now commute to Belfast everyday. My contract ends in 17 weeks so I guess that’s how long we’ve got to decide our next destination. We talked about renting a place in Belfast so that I wouldn’t have to endure the long commute but decided we’d miss the beach too much. Returning home every evening never gets old…

We had a few guests. Making the most of having a place for friends to stay before we become nomads again…

We went to Tenerife for a bit of vitamin D. It was very resorty. We weren’t too keen to be honest but the sun was glorious…

We had some great trips away in Goldie the horn dog…

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And t
was that thing I mentioned…

But we just got her back and she’s looking as blingy as ever…

To be continued…

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The incredible Irish adventure(rs)

Well, holy guacamole, it appears we might actually have stuck to The Plan! We drove to the ferry port, we got on the ferry, we travelled around Ireland (come here, it’s lovely) and then we rented a beach house on the north coast so that we can work through the winter and replenish travel funds. I’m currently writing this from my new king-size bed in my new lovely home looking out at one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. It’s actually more of a beach mansion than a beach house (and at a snip of our old London rent), but I guess everything feels like a mansion after a. renting in London and b. living in a f*cking van.

As for the f*cking van, well, in a bizarre turn of events Rodney has just crashed the van into our new house. Yeah. He moved our old home into the new one, quite f*cking literally. Perhaps he subconsciously thought the beach mansion was a mistake and that we should just live in the van all winter. Perhaps he thought the golden beauty needed shelter from the sea air. Perhaps it wasn’t his fault at all and Goldie was so enraged at being rejected for a second winter in a row that she sought revenge. Who knows! I balled my eyes out. I think you might have to live in a van to understand why it’s so painful. The strange thing is, I’ve been expecting it. For two years I’ve been consciously wondering when it might happen, what with Rodney being the clumsiest eejit in the world and all that. But in all honesty, nothing could have prepared me for the gut-wrenching horror of seeing my vintage wagon split in two. Rodney was flapping around like a headless chicken not really knowing what to do. He’s been in that state ever since though I’ve calmed down a wee bit, it’s only a f*cking van after all, hey?! 😳 Small mercies, the house is unscathed.

So our to-do list now consists of:

  1. Get work
  2. Save for next adventure
  3. Fix Goldie

Easily the dullest to-do list I’ve had all year. But it turns out the beach mansion is “parked” on one of the best surf beaches on the North coast, so don’t pity me too much. We have ample space for fellow van lovers so if you’re ever in the area, by all means come find us. You can warm your toes by the fire and make our eyes misty with talk of adventure and wilderness and the open road. Ahh I miss it already. Onwards and upwards as they say.

Keep reading for the lowdown on our drunken tour of the South…

 

There were two main reasons that we decided to tour Ireland, the first is that we found a stash of Euros in our safe from last year. We bought them when the going was good and the plan was to live in Europe for a couple of years, then Rodney got a job dicking around on Star Wars and the rest is history. We’d completely forgotten about them, which is incredibly unlike us, so when Rodney found them one day, hiding under our insurance documents, we immediately put together a plan to spend them before they could burn a hole in our pockets. The second reason is that despite our Irish connections, neither of us has really spent that much time in the Republic. I’d never strayed further than Dublin on family visits and Rodney once went to Killarney on a family hoo-haa. Given that we’re applying for Irish passports, it seemed appropriate to right this wrong. Call it a research trip. A very drunken research trip.

So that’s me chilling on our very early ferry to Rosslare. I think I got the shade wrong, I was going for emerald but it’s maybe a bit more… baby shite…

Mixing his stout. Controversial…

A few drinks later I fell out with Rodney because he wouldn’t help me escort (steal) my new friend back to the van. Eventually he managed to convince me that there simply wasn’t room for him, and that we’d be arrested. Farewell Jeeves, maybe next time…

Rodney at Blarney Castle, looking like a keen-bean tourist…

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Rodney kissing the Blarney stone that I was too short/ scaredy-cat to reach. Although, from what I hear tis a rather filthy deed so I should perhaps be grateful that I couldn’t reach it…

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Ahh what’s the craic? D’yer loike me wee castle there? (Can’t remember the name of this one but it was the day after we got drunk with some wealthy American Trump-loving golfers and Rodney spent the night trying to alter their political stance. So somewhere near Killarney)…

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That tall Rodney fella climbing my wee nameless castle…

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Boats!…

Nearly got a really amazing shot of Bambi. I think Thumper must have hollered…

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Hi Goldie, remember when you weren’t being driven into a wall? Ahh them were the days!…

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The weather was not a highlight of the trip. “F*ck it, let’s go to the pub”…

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The signs were a highlight. Ireland’s signposting is superior to any other country on the planet. (A dream for crap navigators like me)…

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We still used Google Maps on occasion, it’s worth it just to know the name of the road you’re on. Here we are cruising down ‘The Ha-Ha’…

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The Cliffs of Moher were a blustery affair. Quite cool though…

Another wild (but blissfully flat) camp spot. We tend to gravitate to the water when looking for a place to sleep, and fortunately Ireland has lots of it…

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And when the sun shines it’s glorious!…



Rodney’s one and only shower, dirty wee brute…

We made it up to Galway for the Oyster Festival. It was a hoot…

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Camping at Galway Docks in close proximity to the pubs. If you want a city break in Ireland go to Galway. This is my one nugget of advice for all man-kind. You don’t have to rough it at the docks like us of course, but just go to Galway…


We made a brief stop at Ballyshannon so that Rodney could stand next to this statue of his friend’s guitar hero and so that I could take a picture of him doing so (this one’s for you Neill McIlfatrick)…

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After said picture was taken, this happened! We were the sole witnesses of the 2016 Ballyshannon Tractor Run. Tractors for miles, parading the empty streets. What a treat!…

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Quick vodka before the pub. Running low on Euros at this point, but not on enthusiasm. Excuse the state of the place (all Rodney’s mess)…

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Looks a bit dicey…

(sorry)

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Single track lanes, hell on earth for the nervous navigator…

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We took the Pilgrim’s walk up to Slieve League. (As an aside, Rodney’s commitment to tea-making could be the main reason our relationship has survived the old house / new house collision)…

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You might have noticed we’re mostly wearing the same clothes every day. This is because we hate doing laundry and we don’t have anywhere in the van to store a large bag of dirty laundry. We’ve slowly learned that it’s best to keep wearing something until it becomes unsociable to do so. (Don’t tell Rodney his jumper’s on back-to-front)…

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When we arrived at Slieve League it was so foggy and blustery we couldn’t see where we were going, and it was a bit eerie so we turned around to walk back down to the van. If Rodney hadn’t made us stop for that cuppa we never would have returned to see the lovely view (and how close we were to dropping off the edge)…

Before…

After…

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What is this life if full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows…

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There’s that sheep I/ William was talking about…

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Starey bastards…

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Trying to decide whether we can make it to the top of Errigal Mountain before dark (we couldn’t)…

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No cars beyond this point! Just in case you were considering it. ❤️ Ireland

 

Eating rocky road because I really like it, and not because it’s like totally symbolic of our lives…

We parked in a lovely dark layby for the night and were rudely awoken a couple of hours later by some angry locals who didn’t want us on their patch (there are w*nkers in all corners of the Earth unfortunately, though this was our only run-in of the trip). We drove to the next town and hid behind a boat for the night to avoid drawing further attention to ourselves. Slept like a baby!…

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Our timing is always impeccable. We realised we had a flat tyre whilst in the queue for the ferry (from Donegal to Northern Ireland). Rodney handled it like a pro. I took pictures and got in his way. Two years… two ferry-related flat tyres. Not bad considering the tyres were over a decade old! (We just bought her four new shoes. Lucky girl!)…


Back in his home land. King o’ the North!!

 

Old house 😭😭😭😭😭

New house…



(Not my dog 👆)

 
And Rodney has already finished his Christmas shopping…

 

And it’s all delightfully warm and festive. 

But one month in and we’ve already got itchy feet. (Relaxed but itchy feet).

And we can’t wait for the next adventure…


 

Get well soon Goldie! 🚍👍

‘Are we there yet?’

We’ve changed our plans so many times I can’t actually recall what the last plan was. I think it involved Southern Europe. Yeah, that certainly sounds familiar. Well guess where we’re NOT going next week??? Ahh you’re too good!

After a wee bit of soul searching we have once again decided to postpone our massive European adventure. At least we can say we’re consistent… consistently shit at doing what we say we’ll do. 

The main reason for this particular postponement is that Rodney has a few work commitments and it is a pain in the arse to plan anything around them. So instead we shall be heading over to Ireland next week and touring the West coast before driving up to Rodney’s hometown in the north to work for a bit before heading down to mainland Europe early spring. Although, it’s highly possible I’ll have a shit-fit at the first sign of chilly weather and the plan will change again next month. But let’s just try our best to keep a cool head.

The good news is that we have had the most amazing summer in sometimes-sunny England and we’re loving living in our little home on wheels. It’s definitely better when the sun is shining though and we’re going to need to figure out how to make the van more bearable for the colder temperatures that await us in Ireland. 

Here’s a little update on our second summer of full time van living…

When we weren’t zipping up and down England’s motorways for work and pet-sitting duties, we were mostly ‘drive-surfing’ at my Ma’s new cottage in Cornwall, with a view of some bins and the big blue. She even let us use her shower and eat all her beer, I mean food. Not too shabby!

The beach beyond the driveway wasn’t too shabby either…

We enjoyed lots of family dinners. Though I remember these being a lot more relaxing when I was a kid and didn’t have to lift a finger…

And another…

We walked the South West Coastal Path. Not all of it. Saving the rest for next year…

Ever since Rodney called my Mum a C U Next Tuesday, they’ve got along like a house on fire. Funny old world…

We love our Hymer THIS much🙌…

My brother also loves our Hymer, just not so much 👍…

We went camping with my oldest friend, and enjoyed some tasty sausage…

We helped my Mum with some decorating. It was boring as shit so I made monsters in the chipboard…

And Rodney amused himself in other ways…

Rodney dutifully ate my vegetarian spag bol…

He was farting for days after and spent a good deal of time doing so freely, outside…

More vegetarian goodies on the menu. Will she never learn?…

Our sport of choice… bat n ball. Oh the evenings just fly by…

This campsite cost £5. We had it to ourselves. Rodney likes to wear his socks on the grass…

We met this owl and this spider. I’m writing a book about them…

Some days it rained so we drank gin and waited for it to stop…

We hid in the sand dunes and marvelled at our good fortune. I always loved the school holidays as a kid and as an adult I find it sheer torture to be hidden away in an office during the best months of the year. Grown ups should all be given the chance to rediscover the timeless joy of having nothing to do and nowhere to be…

After much frustration and a couple of minor electrocutions, we have finally fixed the van and it starts like a dream. Last week we caved in and bought a new engine battery. Turns out that was what she needed all along. Silly bastards…

We go to Ireland in FIVE little days!!

I’ll let you know how that particular plan turns out. You can follow us on Instagram! ✌️💚

An irresponsible adult…


One thing I didn’t expect when we set out to live this nomadic life is how much it would change me. I rather naively thought that I’d already developed into the final version of myself. Which is pretty f*cking stoopid now I think about it. 

It’s been over a year since we left London. I haven’t worked in over 13 months. I’ve had a lot of time on my hands. Hundreds of days in fact with no routine, no commutes, no emails, no meetings, no colleagues, no to-do lists, no wages, no purpose. Sometimes it’s felt a little overwhelming. Sometimes it’s felt a little underwhelming. As Dusty herself discovered, sometimes you just don’t know (just) what to do with yourself. 😳.

Rodney once asked me (when we were bored shitless in the van one rainy day last year), ‘is there something wrong with us that we can’t be happy doing nothing?’. After a bit of thought we agreed that it’s sort of like when people are released from prison after many years of incarceration and they often struggle to adapt to life in the outside world (I said sort of).

I’ve now been an adult on this earth longer than I was a child. I’ve been in work for most of my adult life and I’ve got used to fulfilling the role of a “responsible” adult. I had thought I was doing quite well at it, the whole adulting malarky, but there were days when I felt I couldn’t breathe, days when I thought ‘f*ck, is this it’? As each year passed I found I had less energy, knew fewer jokes and completely lost my ability to do a crab/cartwheel/headstand (though I can still gambol… small mercies). I was a thousand times better at living as a kid. Back when people asked you your favourite colour by way of sizing you up. Nowadays of course they ask ‘so what do you do?’. 

But the point of all this drivel is, a girl cannot become free simply by freeing up her time. A girl ( just watched Game of Thrones) must remember how it feels to be free. I’m getting there. With each purposeless day we live, the shackles of adulthood loosen. I may never be a crustacean again, but somewhere inside my head is a six year old girl who hates routine, loves cake, and believes in magic. And her voice is getting louder. When she grows up she wants to be a dancer. But she’d settle for being a butterfly. Or a chief chocolate taster. Or a writer. More importantly, her favourite colour is yellow.

Here’s a quick photographic update on all the nothing us crazy kidz have been doing…

Cowboy ping pong…

A man’s van is his castle…

Taking this beautiful girl on one last walk before we left Ireland…

Snoozing on the long ferry journey from Belfast to Liverpool…

Playing in the bluebells with my old mate Rufus in Sheffield…

Cruising in my Ma’s T4 in Cornwall…

Testing a portable solar panel kit… before sending it back to the shop coz it was shite…

We picked some wild garlic flowers and made the tastiest garlic soup. Proper wholesome like…

Family…

Rodney suggested we run 10k along the south west coastal path, in the rain. I managed not to throw up. Just…

We passed another MOT. Going up…

We drank a lot. A perk of adulthood perhaps…

A more pleasant run. We saw three seals and a snake…

Driving around Cornwall…

Just rockin’…

Collecting shells with a dog named Boo…

Rodney loves it when we go out for vegan Sunday lunch 😬…

I had my hair cut and I’m kicking myself that I didn’t do it sooner as it’s so much easier to wash in the van…

Rodney multi-tasking…

Just picked up this old lonely planet to help us plan our route. Don’t you just love EU?…

We’re now back at our fruit farm for another wee fillum. We’ll be off across the channel just as soon as the director calls it a wrap…

 But don’t hold your breath…

How to turn a chemical toilet into a composting toilet

  

I finally got around to writing a ‘how to’ on our awesome ‘porta potti’ conversion. I suspect you may be desperate to make your own so without further ado, here’s the link…

https://vanspecies.com/the-composting-toilet/

I’ll be posting very soon on our exciting summer plans (just as soon as we make them 😁) but in the meantime here’s a picture of us living the dream…


Hashtag Vanlife 😳

Bye bye April

April has sailed by in a blur of van repairs, plummeting temperatures and hangovers. The van repairs (and hangovers) were far more involved than either of us cared for so it all took twice as long (almost finished) and the chilly Irish winds have kept me hovering over a hot stove, baking (mostly) delicious recipes with a glass of wine in hand. To counteract the change in diet I’ve been running, a lot, like Forest. The first week I ran 10km each day, inspired by Eddie Izzard and just to see if I could really. It wasn’t very difficult, however I do find running quite boring so I’ve since reduced this to 6km every second day, which seems like a respectable amount whilst still allowing me to eat a lot of cake. I f*cking love cake.

We’re about to head off in the van for a wee Irish coastal jaunt before getting the ferry over to England on 8 May. I haven’t seen my own family in over six months so I’m very excited. Unusually, a lot has changed since we’ve been away. Not least, my dear ol’ Ma has sold her home and business and bought a campervan (I guess that’s where I get my gypsy spirit?), and Rodney’s 90 year old granny who we did not expect to see again when we left for Asia, has returned from the brink. It turns out she doesn’t have dementia after all but was being heavily sedated by a cocktail of unnecessary drugs and depressed by an enforced liquid diet. She now has cake, chocolate and Murder She Wrote back in her life and is all the happier for it.

In other news I’ve just discovered that a comment I wrote on a comedian’s Facebook page last month garnered some unexpected attention. I don’t make a habit of engaging in the dreary world of Facebook comments and I’m not sure what came over me on this occasion but the responses are comedy gold.

So this celebrity had posted a warning about feeding chocolate eggs to dogs (it’s poisonous) so I posted this *hilarious*/predictably crude comment in response…

Now, you and I both know that I do not own a dog. However, I do know lots of dogs and many of them would confess to loving a tasty turd or two for tea, so I don’t feel a total fraud. But it is obvious from the responses that people really do believe what they read on the Internet… concerning and lovely in equal measure!

There were many, like Michelle, who fully understood my anguish…

Poor Michelle. Some showed their unbridled emoji-ladened appreciation for my comic genius…

You’re welcome ladies. Others skipped the comedy entirely and instead tried to help me solve my shitty problem. I started to take their advice on board and then I remembered that I do not own a dog…


(“Shit is food”. I repeat “Shit is food”. Oh Judith!)

Adam got a bit narked about something Sophie said and decided to educate her using concise sentences…

Lots of people from up north waded in to take the piss out of Adam…


(I like you Scott but you really need to get a new profile picture)

This wee man-child wasn’t impressed…

And Pia secretly wishes I was killed at birth…

Imagine how insulted I’d feel… if I owned a dog*.

And after all of that drama I was awarded my first Oscar…

Thanks Susan. After successfully getting the Internet to talk shite I shall now happily hang up my commenting hat.

Here’s a quick update on the past six weeks:

Rodney’s trying to start a new band…

I baked brownies, most days…

These bastards kicked me out of bed (not even my dawg)…

Rodney’s brother was a bit terrifying in his first charity boxing match…


 

 
Ireland is pretty…

Although my mouth is big, it turns out I’m unable to fit my entire hand inside it…

Just making sure his nephew’s new trampoline works okay…

Yeah I’ve mostly just been eating…

More dog-parading in his favourite jumper…

And a sneaky peak of the van refurb. It’s not finished by any stretch but starting to feel more homely…

Before

After



👆🏼 Not my dog

Until next time, cheers bitches!

*Rodney is taking a new parental approach to my persistent requests to get a dog and is saying we can get one but I’ll have to do all the walking, feeding, shit pick-upping, and dogsitter-paying. As I reeaaaally want to go to India next winter it’s temporarily made me see sense, but if anyone needs a short-term dog sitter in the meantime just say the word. I promise not to feed it chocolate or poo!

How to live

Far be it from me to tell anyone how to live their life, but… I think I may have cracked it. I’ve always rather envied people who seem to float through life without a care in the world. It seemed to me to be such a wonderful state of being. However, try as I might I’ve always managed to find something to get secretly, or not so secretly stressed about. Well not anymore! After four months of aimless wandering I have discovered my very own mental utopia. There is a paradise on earth and it’s situated inside my peaceful little head. I believe the Buddhists may call it ‘enlightenment’.

I suspect that now I’m back in blighty, this wonderful feeling of having ‘no f*cks to give’ will fade along with my tan, but maybe not. After all, the adventure is really only just beginning.

So before we return to talking about vans and leaks and alternators (oh my!) let’s take a little look at our last month in toasty Thailand and bask (together) in the joy that is my life.

How to Live- A ten step guide to living the dream (Thai style)

Lesson one

Feel for a pulse. If you’ve got one it means that you’re still alive. Yaaaaaaaay!!! Congratulations! Now celebrate by crushing the dengue-transmitting mosquito that is trying to feed on you whilst you pose for holiday snaps…

Got it!! And remember, guilt is a pointless emotion. It’s a them or us situation. You gotta do what you gotta do. Plus, the Dalai Lama eats meat, so…

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Oh wait, nobody mentioned acid-spitting beetles?! I think they may call that Karma…

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Lesson two

Eat delicious food that doesn’t cost the earth…

 

Lesson three

Find someone fun to play with, and don’t be a dick- share your toilet paper …

Lesson four

Total relaxation is a fine art so you’ve got to work at it…

Lesson Five

Treat yourself, now and again. F*ck it, everyday. Treat yourself everyday (unless you’re a dick- see above- in which case you don’t deserve treats)…

Lesson Six

Fill a giant chinese bag with all the things you’ll miss about Thailand and get yourself a Rodney to carry them home for you. (I couldn’t fit the sun in the bag, so it’s mostly Thai spices)…

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Lesson Seven

Never tire of the things that fascinated you as a child…

Lesson Eight

Go hiking in the midday sun and get so dehydrated that you start to hallucinate and almost step on a snake because you can’t see where you’re going. Repeat this every day for a fortnight. Now, for the rest of your life, everything else will seem completely effortless…

Lesson Nine

Go hiking in torrential rain and discover that your rucksack is not waterproof, but it doesn’t matter because you are no longer a person that gets angry at such things…

Lesson Ten

Stand on a big rock and thank your lucky stars for all of the above…

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Sleepless in Sri Lanka

   

We had a 24 hour stopover in Kuala Lumpur on our way to Sri Lanka and it was awesome. We got a late deal on a posh hotel for 20 quid and they upgraded us to a suite.   

 

Rodney’s ear was still dodgy (he couldn’t hear out of it) so he went off to see a local ear doctor, whilst I had fun shopping for clothes appropriate for Sri Lankan modesty. He returned in complete agony with a bag full of different types of pills, telling tales of an old man with ancient tools sucking his ear dry. I treated him to an ‘eat until you can eat no more’ sushi dinner to cheer him up, and to slyly test his wellbeing- if Rodney doesn’t eat you know it must be bad. Really bad. Turns out he was hungry…

  

We were excited about heading to Sri Lanka. We hadn’t done any research so knew very little about it, other than the fact(s) that it is near India and not at war- two of our favourite things!

Here we are on the airport travelator, being happy and excited (sort of)…

  

Our first week in Sri Lanka was bizarre, for want of a better word. We started out in a shithole guesthouse in Negombo, which had two very large albino fish fighting each other in a tiny, dirty, smelly tank. The owners seemed like nice people but the fishy situation gave us doubts / nightmares so we checked out the next day. From there we took a bus to Colombo where we tried to get train tickets to Ella (a Norweigan girl told us it was a stunning train journey) but it was sold out so we booked tickets to Kandy instead, which looked to be on the way to Ella.

We made the rookie mistake of being railroaded (puntastic) into buying first class tickets, which meant we were trapped in a dull, air conditioned carriage with other tourists for three hours. They actually had a guard at the door stopping people from lower class carriages coming through, lest they take advantage of our cool air. We switched carriages (much to the confusion of our guard) and were back in Asia again in an instant.

  Incidentally, if you’re ever on a Sri Lankan train and this fella on the left gets on, buy whatever tasty thing he’s selling…

  

In Kandy we stayed in a very peculiar ‘homestay’ which I will remember for the rest of my time on earth. The family were weird and wonderful and we got our first taste of traditional Sri Lankan breakfasts (string hoppers, coconut rice, fish curry, Dahl etc), however the antique four poster bed was only five feet long posing a challenge for Rodney, and we discovered here that many Sri Lankans go to bed early (at 9pm) and get up early and noisily (at 4am). We also discovered that Sri Lanka is full of dogs, pets and strays, that like to bark all night long outside your window. Seeing how knackered we were after a couple of sleepless nights, the father of the family decided to move us into another bedroom, which had a bigger bed and an ensuite bathroom (fancy!). Unfortunately he didn’t mention to the rest of the family that we’d changed rooms, so we got the fright of our lives that night when we were awoken by the sound of our creaky door handle turning in the darkness (actually we were only half asleep because a Czech couple had positioned themselves outside our window for an all night natter). Ever-ready Rodney pulled his head from semi-slumber and yelled out “Hello? … Hellooooow??!’ (his second enquiry more desperate than the first). Hearing the anguish in Rodney’s voice and fearing the worst I let out a strange feral moany scream and turned to get a look at the boogeyman now stood in our open doorway. What I saw, however, was a small, serene, solitary figure bathed in light and looking a lot like Gandhi.

‘Sorry’, said Gandhi in his gentle non-boogeyman voice, before carefully closing the door and leaving us to roll around laughing until dawn. Sleep when you’re dead I say. 

 
 

I gave them a five star review on tripadvisor because what they lacked in sleep they more than made up for with fear and laughter. Plus they had this dream of a sofa…
 

And my doppelgänger…

 

Whilst in Kandy we visited a temple that apparently keeps one of Buddhas teeth in a golden box. We queued to get a look at the box which was indeed very impressive, but the tooth remained hidden from our mortal eyes so I wasn’t able to inspect it to confirm its origin. Pity.

 

We also had a wander around Kandy’s lake…

  

And visited the botanical gardens…  

And climbed up to the viewpoint…

 
All very pleasant, but as you can probably tell by our dead eyes, we were too knackered to appreciate it.

From Kandy we took a train to Nuwara Eliya which turned out to be a fairly pointless journey as there was nothing there and it was a bit out of our way. We tried to make the best of it by getting pissed in the local boozer but things turned sour when we were joined by a wasted local guy who talked shite at us for two hours (lost time is never found again) and then slyly told the waiter that we’d agreed to pay his hefty bar bill, before performing a vanishing act. We managed to get out of it but not before the whole bar got involved in the dispute. I like to think he got a surprise the next day when he awoke with a killer headache and the karma police at his front door…

However I’m not so sure the karma police have their shit together at the moment, as after leaving the bar I was almost hit by a bus…  

And that night a dog sat outside our window and howled until dawn. Sleepin’s cheatin’!

The next day we got a tuk tuk, train and bus to Dalhousie so that we could climb Adam’s Peak to watch the sunrise. This would entail us getting up at 2.30am so we were naturally keen to get an early night, seeing as we’d not slept for four days. Unfortunately, we were distracted by the view from our balcony, and our disco bed, so we only managed about three hours of shut eye before the alarm started screaming at us…

   

I hid under the covers and told Rodney to climb the mountain without me, but then a pack of dogs started barking outside our window (not joking) and I knew there was no more sleep to be had.

That night I discovered that I have the fitness levels of a sedentary 80 year old. I’d like to tell you that it was my adventurous spirit and positive mental attitude that helped me climb the five thousand two hundred steep steps to the top of the mountain, but I’d be lying. In truth it was all Rodney. Seeing the look of disbelief/ disappointment on his face as I threw up all over step number two thousand and something or other, shamed me into wiping my chin, gritting my oversized teeth, and crawling to the top. We made it before sunrise but there were hundreds of people jostling for space on the summit and I’d already had my fill of ‘that f*cking mountain’ (sorry Adam I renamed it) so we turned around and jogged all the way down to our hotel for breakfast. Apparently my body prefers downhill. Rodney took this artsy shot of me at the bottom which I feel captures my joy at no longer being on TFM…

 (I am a puppy magnet)

Later we heard people talking about what a wonderful, spiritual experience it was and I felt a pang of regret that I’d hated every second of it.

Keen to put more distance between myself and the vomit on step two thousand and something or other we grabbed a tuk tuk after breakfast and headed off to get a train to Haputale. It was a pretty journey…  

We stayed in another homestay in Haputale which was about as basic as you can get and cheap as chips. Somehow, the family managed to talk us into paying the son to drive us up to Liptons seat at 5am so that we could watch the sun rise over the tea plantations. I think we may have been too tired to put up a fight. I am pleased to say that it was well worth losing sleep over…

  

SO TIRED…  

Once the sun had risen a kid turned up and made us tea and samosas. We then sat chatting with a group of Spanish backpackers for a couple of hours, whilst trying to fatten up this wee fella…

 
It was then an 8 kilometre stroll down to the bus stop to take us home…  

 

Back at the homestay we discovered that our basic accommodation came with the best wifi in Asia. So we did what any respectable traveller would do. We climbed back into bed and binge-watched the entire series of Making a Murderer. Then we ate like kings and climbed back into bed and slept like babies for eight blissful hours.

  

The next day we walked up to a local monastery run by Benedictine monks. It was an old building, built by a british guy.

 
It wasn’t overly exciting (for us) so we left and wandered into a nearby bird sanctuary. We walked for two hours and didn’t see a single bird, or person. Then it started pouring with rain and I started to get concerned that we were going to miss our afternoon train to Ella. Rodney insisted that if we kept walking we’d find a way back to the homestay and it’d be hunky dory. We kept walking. It kept raining. It was raining so hard that I couldn’t take pictures lest my phone got damaged, so here’s a pre-deluge snap…
  
I made the executive decision to turn back when it became impossible to see two metres in front of us and we realised there was a steep drop to our right. I’d worn a long skirt as I didn’t know we were going trekkin and it was now saturated and making it hard for me to walk / not fall into the abyss, so I stopped to lift my skirt with the intention of tying it up. It was at that point that I noticed large black motherfucking leaches all over my legs, draining me of my life source/sauce, EATING ME ALIVE!!! I screamed blue bloody murder and immediately ran after Rodney begging him for help (“get them off me, help me, they’re eating me” etc.). I was so freaked out that he said he half expected to turn to find me being mauled by cheetahs. Rodney was quick to the rescue and began pulling them off me one by one. He soon realised that this technique was flawed in that they would then attach themselves to his fingers, continuing their feast. So he pulled out my Boots advantage card (no idea why I have that with me) and began scraping them off. Of course this whole process would have been easier if I hadn’t been running around in circles the whole time. Once we were sure they were all off me (and him as it turned out) we started running. Fast. As fast as my wimpy legs would carry me. We’d stop every couple of minutes to check for new leaches and without fail there were always new ones. This went on for forty agonising minutes and by the time we made it to safety I was a blubbering wreck…

  
If I make it through the rest of my life without ever seeing another leech it shall be glorious.

Our new friend Faruk (with the awesome wifi) whizzed us down to the station so we’d make our train…

 

This was supposed to be the most beautiful part of the train journey between Colombo and Ella and we’d paid extra for an ‘observation carriage’ so that we could stand outside and watch the tea go by. But the train was delayed until after sunset so that didn’t happen.  Oh here it comes…

  
The next day I came down with another stomach bug and was bedridden for a few days and had a great time watching Rodney eat all my meals…

 
Then we went surfing on the coast for a couple of weeks which was mostly awesome but then Rodney got sick again too so we lay around some more…

  

Now you may think after reading the above that we didn’t enjoy Sri Lanka all that much. In fact, we loved it and can’t wait to go back! Here’s some happy pics to fill in the blanks coz this post is too long already (no surf pics yet as they’re all stuck on my waterproof camera!)…

They really know how to make beer…  

Completing our ‘Stand by me’ experience…

 

Puppies puppies everywhere…

  

Sat in a man’s back garden whilst he cooked us the most delicious rice and curry in Sri Lanka…

 

Gorgeous beaches, happy feet… 

Insanely cheap transport…  

The prettiest money I ever did see… 

Wonderful wonderful people…  

  

And… Vans!!!!! Well, one van… 

Sri Lanka, we salute you!  

Bali redemption 

   
 
It took me another couple of weeks to recover from the infamous ‘Bali belly’. After a while I started to worry that a parasite might be munching its way through my stomach lining, coz every time I tried to eat I’d double up in pain, and because Google told me there was about a 3% possibility that terry the (tax-evading) tapeworm had found a safe haven inside my person. But eventually the stomach cramps started to subside and we (Google and I) determined that it must have been a reaction to the antibiotics. The silver lining of this whole sorry saga is that my metabolism appears to have been awoken from its “you’re not in your twenties anymore” slumber and I now feel a lot like my old (young) self again. For that reason Bali, I have decided to forgive you your filthy, unsanitary, non-hand-washing ways. I shall retract this forgiveness should Terry ever rear his ugly head.

Despite my ongoing suffering, we had a wonderful time on Lembongan island. We gate crashed our friends’ plush villa (and their mini bar) on New Year’s Eve and had ourselves a stunning hilltop pool party, whilst the locals fired hundreds of fireworks in our general direction. I’ve always found New Year’s Eve to be a monumental disappointment, but not this one. This one was effortlessly awesome.

    

We spent over a week on Lembongan and hired bikes to explore the island and to cross the rickety bridge over to Ceningan, a tiny island to the east of Lembongan. We ate (well everyone else did), drank, swam, played numerous games of shithead, and generally thanked our lucky stars to be alive and in good company.

  

Vroom vroom…

 

  
A curious dog watches Andy and Amy whizz past in Cennigan…  

Coconut shenanigans and me in the background worrying about the existence of ‘Terry’, as I recall…
  

New Year’s Day, not a shit way to start 2016…   

Little surfer practicing his moves amongst the mangroves…

  

The islands are surrounded by seaweed farms. Here some freshly harvested weed is left to dry under the sun…

  

White sandy beach, lovely sunset, sick Jodie…

 

Watching everyone eat delicious food. Bastards…

  

Beach posers…

 

Lovely travellers…

 

Making the most of our secret beach…    

We were very sad to leave Lembongan and sadder still to part with Andy and Amy, but we were running out of time and the Gili islands were calling so we jumped on another speedboat and headed north towards Lombok. 

We were about twenty minutes into our journey when the boat’s steering broke and the captain turned the engine off. This shouldn’t really have freaked me out too much. We’re both strong swimmers and if it came to it the nearest island was only a couple of hours swim away, at most. But we hadn’t had any rain for a while and it was about 36 degrees Celsius. Within five minutes the boat was like a floating sauna, and we’d foolishly forgotten to bring water with us. I started to feel a little anxious and contemplated licking the sweat from Rodney’s face. Then everything went eerily quiet and we realised that a large shark was circling the boat. I’ll repeat that in case you missed it (and for dramatic effect). Then everything went eerily quiet and we realised that a large shark was circling the boat. I’ll be honest, it occurred to me at this point that Bali wasn’t keen for us to make it out of there alive. 

Fortunately, before I could have a total shit fit, the crew fixed the steering and we were off again, leaving Bali and its sharky waters behind. I took a picture as we were racing off into the sunset. You can just about make out the dorsal and tale fins…

  
“Not Dolphins”, said the captain, “big f*cking Shark”!

A couple of hours later we arrived on Gili Trawangan and immediately wished we’d stayed on Lembongan. It had been 5 years since we were last on Gili T and the transformation was heart-wrenching. What a shit tip. If ever you need proof that the world is spinning out of control, just head to Gili T. The worst part about it is knowing that we’re part of the problem. Tourism tends to be a nail in the coffin for paradise islands and as much as we might think we’re considerate travelers, our mere presence has a devastating effect on nature and local resources. Tis a bitter pill to swallow, but all things considered we think this may turn out to be our last trip to SE Asia. Gulp.

We stayed one miserable day on Gili T before getting a boat to Gili Meno, the quietest of the three Gili islands. We were pleased to find it relatively unspoilt (ssshh don’t tell anybody) and even quieter than we’d been led to believe. We stayed for a week before heading back to Bali, and it was bliss…
  

  
  
  

The day before we flew out of Bali there was a terrorist attack in Jakarta. We probably wouldn’t have known about it except our taxi driver heard it on the radio and, clearly upset, translated for us. His thoughts were that it is only a matter of time before Bali suffers another terrorist attack. He’s probably right but I don’t know how anyone could bear to hurt the Balinese (or anyone else for that matter!). Non-hand-washing ways aside, the Bali folk seem to be the loveliest people on the planet. The world is indeed a f*cked up place.

   

My next blog post will focus on our travels across the hills of Sri Lanka , which thus far have been a total f*cking disaster. A hilarious disaster, but a disaster nonetheless.

Bali fever

You may or may not recall me mentioning my ol’ Ma’s favourite saying… ‘when life gives you lemons, go to Bali’!

At the time I think we were all in agreement that this was truly excellent advice.

Unfortunately my ol’ Ma didn’t mention anything about Bali giving us lemons. So when the unthinkable happened, when Bali gave us a truck load of rancid old maggotty lemons, we were on our own and pretty f*cking screwed.

We can however take comfort in the fact that I’m here writing this, because it means (spoiler alert) I am alive. Albeit with a slightly altered outlook on life. I shall start at the very beginning…

We landed in Bali on December 18. The flight from KL had been turbulent with the plane occasionally feeling like it was plummeting from the sky, so we were ever so pleased to make it to Bali in one piece, and immediately went out in search of celebratory party times in Legian/Kuta (the tourism cesspit of Bali). We got wasted, became best friends with all the people and Rodney sang a bit of Pearl Jam with the local cool kidz…


Mistake number one, I guess.

The next day, nursing some pretty nasty hangovers, we went in search of a hotel that didn’t smell of shit. It was 33 degrees outside so we didn’t get very far before deciding that aux de excrement was favourable to collapsing in the street. We grabbed a room at the next stinky hotel we stumbled upon and agreed that we’d buy some scented candles when we were well enough to walk to the shop.

After a couple of hours snoozing (mouth akimbo) at poolside, I felt either energised or overheated enough to slide into the pool. I’m guessing someone must have cocked up the pH balance as it instantly felt like I was getting a free chemical peel. I slid right on out again and was just turning to tell Rodney that the pool was a dud when he leapt from his lounger like a horny gazelle and launched himself over my head diving in face first. He was out again just as quickly, shaking his head like a demented macaw (animal similes are all the rage in 2016) in an attempt to get the water out of his ears, but to no avail.


Mistake number two, I guess.

That evening, quite predictably, he started complaining of ear ache so we went in search of a pharmacy to nip it in the bud pronto. After walking for a mile or so we stumbled across this gem…

We waited for a while, keen to get a glimpse of this sign hero, but he or she did not return. Our bodies gave in to hangover and defeat and we returned to the shit hotel to regroup (sleep for 16 hours).

The next day I woke up with a stinking cold and Rodney was being very dramatic about his ear, so we got our act together, booked into a nice hotel, found a chemist that wasn’t on the toilet and set to work on getting ourselves healthy in time for Christmas.

Our original plan was to spend one night in Legian and then make a speedy exit to check out some of the surf breaks along the south coast. Unfortunately our lack of energy and Rodney’s unwillingness to get his ears wet kept us in the area for almost a week. We went to the beach, once…

It was pretty grim and appeared to have raw sewage flowing directly into the sea, so we didn’t go back. Instead our time was spent sleeping, lying by the pool, and watching Star Wars on the tele…

Twice a day we nipped out to the best Warung in town for cheap eats that were worth far more than the 75 pence we were paying…


And everyday at 5ish we sipped cocktails by the pool…

It wasn’t what we were expecting from our first week in Bali but we were too wrecked for anything more exciting, and looking back it was actually quite pleasant. Certainly preferable to the week that was to come.

On Christmas Eve we took a taxi an hour or so north to Ubud where we’d booked to stay in a beautiful spot amongst the rice paddies…


We had a blissful couple of days wandering, eating and wishing strangers a very merry Christmas. It seemed to us that things were on the up.


  

Then one fateful day, let’s call it ‘Sunday 27 December’, we went to this here restaurant for a spot of lunch…

It looks pretty harmless in the photo I guess. An old friend once told me that if you eat something that tastes a bit off, you should chase it down with a can of Coke to kill any nasties- a tip that has served me very well over the past 10 years. Noticing that our table was filthy and that there were piles of vegetables covered in flies on the floor of the kitchen, we immediately ordered two Cokes. If the place hadn’t been recommended to us by our hosts there is no way we would have ordered food. But it had. And we did. And despite the fact that it came to us luke warm, we ate it all up like good little bears. Mistake number f*cking three.

We spent the afternoon on the hunt for antibiotics for Rodney’s ear infection which was still lingering. It turns out you can buy them over the counter in Bali for a quid. By the time we found a proper pharmacy we’d been traipsing around in the intense heat for a few hours, so when I started hallucinating Rodney took me back to the room with suspected heat exhaustion and placed me under a cold shower fully clothed (at my behest!).

The four days that followed are a bit of a blur. The best way I can describe it (Harry Potter fans) is that a dementor strayed from Azkaban, flying all the way to Bali to suck the light from my life. For the first 48 hours I couldn’t stand up, my whole body hurt and I had an intense fever. At this point we thought I had dengue as I’d been bitten by a few mossies in Legian (mistake number two and three quarters) and dengue is a bit of an issue in Asia at the moment. We returned to our googling ways and Google confirmed that I certainly did have dengue and that it might take months or years for me to recover, but I’d need to survive the internal bleeding first.

***Never share your ailments with Google. Google does not know what is wrong with you***

I should mention that Rodney was also suffering, but significantly less than I was so he was in charge of hydration. In the early hours of Wednesday morning, after many hours of shaking like a leaf, my fever finally broke (hurrah!) and the toilet became the most hip happening joint in town. Though it was actually rather crappy (sorry!). Still thinking that I had dengue we started to talk about ending the trip and flying home. We were scared to go to a hospital in Bali in case they used dirty needles (we were too ill to think rationally) and because we’d have to pay the hospital upfront (around $1000 per day) and claim back on our insurance.

We were yet to make a decision when the housekeeper knocked on the door with a couple of bottles of water and the address of a local doctor. The consultation fee would be £15.

A few more hours passed before I conjured up the energy to get dressed and walk outside to get in a taxi (even though the docs was a mere 200 metres away).

The surgery was… filthy. Our hearts sank when we walked in and Rodney suggested we leave immediately. I probably would have if it hadn’t taken all my strength to get there. Because I was paying tourist prices I was rushed in to see the doctor ahead of a waiting room full of locals. They didn’t seem to mind very much, but then the Balinese really are the gentlest, kindest of folk.

When I saw the doctor all hope left my weary body. He looked about 18 years old and was stood beckoning me into an even grubbier looking room with a little stethoscope round his neck. He turned out to be very lovely. His first suggestion was that I’d eaten too much chilli but when I told him Chilli was my middle name he decided food poisoning was more likely. He then proceeded to prescribe me the same antibiotic that Rodney had been taking all along, and the penny dropped.

I didn’t have dengue. I had the same food poisoning as Rodney, from mistake number three, only his was less severe because he’d been taking antibiotics all along for mistake number two. My immune system had taken a bit of a bashing from the cold I caught after mistake number one so my suffering was extra miserable.

I immediately started taking the antibiotics and the next day (New Years eve) desperate not to spend another day in that hotel room, we tentatively climbed from our sick bed and I began to pack our bags whilst Rodney ran off to see if he could get us tickets for a boat to Lembongan. He returned with a couple of tickets for a speedboat called ‘G-force’, which didn’t sound ideal, and we made our way, slowly, down to the beach.

We were sat waiting for the boat, talking about how grateful we were not to have dengue, and that we would (once fully recovered) be sure to live life to the full, when two familiar faces appeared before us. Sometimes the universe gives us exactly what we need, and right then we could really have done with a hug from some old friends, who quite coincidentally had also made plans to ride the ‘G-force’. Against all the odds that’s exactly what we got.

It’s been 11 days since mistake number three and I’m still very tired and unable to eat without writhing around in pain. I’ve also started sleep walking which is a little peculiar. Rodney got a shock a few nights ago when he awoke to find me standing at the end of the bed swaying like a poltergeist. When he asked what I was doing I apparently replied ‘I’m looking for a wine to compliment the tuna’. Classy!

But overall I’m starting to feel a little better each day and I have every hope that I’ll soon be well enough to eat food that hasn’t been liquidised, and maybe have a nice cold Bintang to wash it down.

My advice: when Bali gives you lemons, get yourself to a f*cking doctor.

Happy new year van lovers…