Van Life

We were picking blackberries in the field discussing where we wanted to go for the winter. I had been working a few months as a psychiatric nurse after graduating and we had just completed our first official year with The Bean Machine. We were talking about South East Asia when Nathan mentioned a Mad Max like truck he had seen on ebay. “It’s an old BT communication box stuck on the back of Chevy. It’s in Spain. We could fly out to it, and bring it home across Europe?”

Don’t get me wrong, the thought of flying out to a hot country, lying on beaches and touring around is very appealing. But the thought of doing a trip DIY, not knowing what could wrong or where you might end up is the epitome of excitement for me.

The truck Nathan had seen was locked up in a Airport car park and had been for a year. The next day he booked a return flight to Spain to meet the man who had created our new mobile home. Nathan paid him, spent the night on the beach and travelled home the next day. We had a few months to save and plan our route.

It was on a cold wet day in December, just after Christmas, that we caught our flight from our local airport just 20minutes away. We arrived in Alicante in the dark and went straight to the car park where we met Mushroom Paul. The box on the back was jammed with stuff we had to empty there and then. Nathans anxieties and doubts about the mechanical state of the truck were written all over his face.

 

We drove it to a near by beach and Paul cooked us a curry in his new home built camper and we settled in for the night. It was the next day, in the morning light, I realised we would be spending the next 3 months in an 8ft by 5ft space with only 1 metre square of floor space (not including the fold-out bed!). It was cold and grey and the box was in need of a very deep clean.

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We headed off to find breakfast and fresh coffee before having the time to think too much about we had done.

After breakfast and some amusing translations, Nathan and Paul spent a couple of hours rolling around in dirt and oil under the truck. In convoy we headed to the petrol station and shops to stock up on food, candles, cleaning products, tools and wine before following Paul down to the coast to meet the rest of his friends.

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Lined up in a road that ran parallel to a sandy south facing beach, were various free campers, winter homes to all different nationalities and walks of life. Germans, Dutch, ex-military and other English couples. Whilst Nathan started work on the truck, I cleaned the box down, stocked the kitchen and chopped wood.

On New Years Eve the group came together to plan a party. One guy had a DJ set and lights, another had a stash of fire works, another was slow roasting a lamb shoulder. Most of us couldn’t speak the same language but we danced and drank our way into 2014. To this day it was my most memorable New Years ever!

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During our week we became closer friends with a select few and arranged to meet again when down in Portugal. We exchanged numbers, stocked up on fire wood from the beach trees and left the convoy to forge our own route.

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The months that followed we travelled to Gibraltar, Jerez, Barcelona, Portugal, Andorra and France. We found gorgeous beaches and cave houses, stayed in the mountains, road sides and on farms and had to move the truck in the middle of the night due to severe storms on more than one occasion. We went swimming, hiking and snow boarding. We played guitar, drank wine and ate fresh food from the markets. We met so many people, some repeatedly along the way.

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It was during these 3 months I learnt difference between a trip and an adventure. We depended only on ourselves. For all the freedom and excitement there is the chopping wood, showering on the beach, washing your hair in a bucket, spending many months in close confinement and praying your vehicle makes it up the next mountain. It’s an amazing experience but the only glamour is the freedom itself.

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I remember waking up on sandy beaches to the sound of delivery vans beeping their horns early in the morning to sell croissant, fruit and bread before driving off to the next beach. Some nights we were the only people we could see across entire mountain ranges, watching the sun set.

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In March 2014 we caught the ferry from St Malo and headed home.

1972366_10201885427833662_394722303_nWe sold the Chevy but with a little touch up the box remains a very cherished place I call home with a lot of memories.

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