“We’ve been back for a month now, and that month has been full of surprises as we have been rediscovering our former lives and adapting to life back home.
“We’ve been back for a month now, and that month has been full of surprises as we have been rediscovering our former lives and adapting to life back home. The sort of experience we have had really changes you and your perspective and gives you new focus. Basically, it reminded us of the things that matter in life, and the things that matter to us.
So 8 months on the road – what did it mean?
We regularly talked to you about the places we’d visited, but less so about our day-to-day lives, which were difficult to sum up in a few lines, particularly as a journey like this is a very personal thing that every traveller will make of what they will.
How do we explain it to you so you get a real feeling for it without actually having experienced it? It really is difficult to put those 8 months into a few short words. Travelling is all about planning a trip and then changing your plans, it’s about planning a stopover in a certain place but never actually getting there, or at least getting there later than planned, it’s about the fruitless search to find a shower, it’s about travelling 150km to find some campsite out in the wilderness, it’s about taking a 300km detour to see a national park and then getting there to find it closed, apart from the adjoining cave... Obviously, things don’t always go as planned and your plans can change at any time, whether you want them to or not. It’s a sort of freedom that can liberate you or hinder you, since it also meant that we got to swim in Lake Superior, sleep overlooking a glacier in Alaska, make new friends (both travellers and otherwise) and visit Las Vegas in just 6 days. More often than not, we didn’t even know where we were going to end up that evening, and this freedom was what I (Laura) enjoyed the most. Julian, meanwhile, really appreciated having the freedom to do what we wanted when we wanted - if we fancied a swim in a lake, no problem – we had our swimsuits with us and off we went. One of the best bits of this road trip in the van was that we always had everything with us – a changing room, a kitchen, etc.
We enjoyed sharing the experience with other Europeans, including people from France, Belgium, England, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Switzerland and Spain, who had also embarked upon the experience with vehicles they had brought over from Europe. They might have been travelling in a 4x4 or a van, alone, as a couple or as a family, and ranged in age from 20 to 70. We also encountered the VW T3 community, sometimes just with a little wave as we passed one another on the road, sometimes through long conversations seated around the fire, as well as lots of normal, everyday people who were simply curious about the colour of our van, how old it was and its number plate. All of these encounters with different people made our trip that much more interesting, and we’ll remember these sometimes trivial but to us important little things for a long time. We loved waking up in the middle of nowhere (our environment could change so much from day to day), eating our lunch-time wraps, exploring new places every day, a number of surprising encounters with animals, the sheer expansiveness of the American sky, the list goes on…
Aside from the quality of the experience this trip gave us, of course, we also racked up some pretty impressive figures:
- 52,438km travelled through the vast lands of North America;
- 52 planned nights in a hotel (one a week), although we ended up only spending 2, in Las Vegas, as we were enjoying life in the van far too much;
- 10 trips to the garage;
- 7 oil changes;
- 2 sets of rear tyres changed and 1 front set;
- 2 awakenings by the police - the first because we were parked somewhere we weren’t allowed to stay and the second to check our IDs following some suspicious behaviour a few nights earlier;
- and then there was that 1 time when we slept in a garage in Las Vegas, that 1 time we got stuck in the sand in Texas, that 1 time we met some people through Instagram who showed us around their town - Winnipeg -, that 1 time we were unable to leave our pitch because of icy patches in Arizona, that 1 time our engine mounting broke in British Columbia, and that 1 time our engine gave up the ghost, far too early, in Louisiana.
So what do we have planned next?
The van left Houston on 24th
March and arrived in Rotterdam on 9th
April, so the first thing we need to do is go and collect it in Rotterdam around mid-April, once it has been released from the container and inspected by the customs authorities. Then we will be stripping down the engine, taking it to the mechanic and fitting it back in the van, which we expect to take five weeks at the most, all being well. We will also use this down-time to replace the exhaust pipe, which we kept having to weld every time it cracked or got broken, as well as fitting an additional curtain to separate the front cabin from the back and replacing the foam on the bed, which we hadn’t done before setting off for North America. It will also give us a chance to give the van the once over and check that everything else is still in good working order.
After that, we plan to take part in the ACL Classic Tour on 30th
May, and we’d love for you to join us!
Then we’ll get back out on the road. When the engine failed in Louisiana, we were determined that we weren’t going to end our road trip like that, so we decided to travel around Europe this time, or at least part of it. We’ll be setting off for Greece in early June, with a few stops planned in Germany, Austria, Slovenia and the Croatian coast, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Albania before we eventually arrive in Greece. On the way back, we plan to take a ferry to Italy and begin the ride home from Bari.
We can’t wait to get back out on the road, and to see what the European roads have to offer this time. We are looking forward to finding out what it’s like to travel with an Internet connection (which may or may not be a good thing), experience the language barrier and camping in the wilderness (will it be as easy as it was in the States?), experiencing more cultures, travelling fewer miles... Basically, all of the new experiences this next trip is going to bring. Will they be good ones? We certainly hope so! And what’s more, this time we’ll have the ACL to help us out if we experience any hiccups, although we do hope we won’t have to call upon their services.