When we decided to move our seemingly charmed life in Vietnam back to Europe in pursuit of life on the road, people thought we were crazy. In the ochre-coloured town of Hoi An, we had beautiful weather, access to nature, and the most delicious bowls of noodles we’d found in Asia for less than a pound. Life certainly was good.
But, living in an adopted country had begun to tug at the corners of my mind. The corners that, despite my desire to live presently, was always focused on the future. Living so far from home in a place we knew we didn’t want to grow old suddenly seemed self-indulgent and unsustainable. We couldn’t keep this up forever, so what were we doing?
Thankfully, the mysterious world of Instagram had shown us that there may be another way to marry our quest for the unknown and our carnal desire to nest. Vanlife. A rolling home that could take us across the mountains and coasts of Europe, just a few hours flight from our loved ones in England? Consider our Millenial selves influenced.
Fast-forward 2 years and my hunch that a home on wheels would be perfect for us was right. In Asia, thousands of miles from home, we were constantly fighting with ‘what’s next?’. Sometimes that question was forced upon us – like when our schools couldn’t sign us up for another teaching year in Korea and when our ancient landlady kicked us out of our dream house in Hanoi. Other times, our own itchy feet propelled us out of one wonderful location toward another.
With Van Morrison, as we dubbed our Fiat Mclouis motorhome, we had a home and we had a way to quench our thirst for exploration. Even Jimi could come along for the ride and is now probably the most well-travelled Vietnamese beach dog to have left Asia.
And, with the whole of Europe at our wheels, it seemed as if we could ride out this adventure endlessly. We had finally found a lifestyle that felt sustainable, the question of ‘what’s next?’ was answered as soon as we started the engine.
And yet, like everything in life, this new exciting venture became normal. ‘What next?’ became ‘where next?’.
That first year we travelled so much. Too much, really. Our excitement at having a home we could drive around made us say yes to everything, no matter how many miles it would put on the clock.
We drove from England to Denmark to Southern Germany in just a couple of weeks. We drove back to England and then up to Scotland for a wedding and then all the way down to Cornwall for a beachside summer. Then, we drove all the way to Portugal, and back again before the year was out. At 14 years old, Morrison has registered around 60,000 miles. A quarter of that was us in just 1 year!
We travelled so much that it almost felt like we were in the process of ‘leaving’ the entire time. We would arrive, fall in love with a place, meet people and then we would have to leave because we had something else planned, somewhere else to be. We’d fallen back into that same routine, hard and fast.
In October 2018, we found ourselves looking at houses in Northern Spain. We loved this part of the world, but mostly I think it was that we were exhausted from being on the road constantly.
We returned home and started telling everyone about this amazing place we’d found and dreamed of moving there.
My brother, not one for huge pep talks, simply said, “but, you only just started doing this”, talking about the campervan.
Of course, he was right.
In fact, we had a home. Wasn’t that the point of vanlife?
I guess driving so much, over such long distances, had made us see the campervan as 70% vehicle and only 30% home.
Suddenly it became very clear to us that it wasn’t about finding a home, figuring out the right lifestyle for us or changing how we travelled. As corny as it sounds, it was about changing ourselves.
That itinerary we described above wouldn’t actually be that crazy for some people. If you have a year to travel and want to see as much as possible, you can do all that and more and love every minute. But this was our lives, our 24/7, and we were quickly realising that no matter how excited we got over the next destination, we needed to slow down if we want to fully enjoy it.
So far this year we’ve spent 7 months in just 3 countries a few hundred kilometres apart.
Travel and life has been slow, meaningful, and purpose-driven.
For the first 5 months, we barely left the Austrian Tirol unless we were going to spend time a little further north with my family in Bavaria. And since our ski pass ended in May, we’ve mostly been exploring just one valley in Northern Italy. The very one we are going to get married in come September.
A few weeks ago we went to look at houses again. This time, though, it wasn’t on a whim. We’ve spent time in this area, we have friends here. We aren’t exhausted from travel, but energised by our love for this place that we’ve come to know so well.
We’ve both decided it’s probably still not the right time for us. But, that’s ok too. It’s nice to know what we might find once we are ready.
And, for now, we have our rolling home.