This journal entry is being written as we drive our new home around the streets of Dublin. You heard it right. In one week we decided to quit our two-week-old jobs as London bartenders, and head to Saint Patrick’s Day and Lee’s birthday in Eire travelling in a rusty old transit van.
We all had no problems scoring jobs in Central London. A quick afternoon walk with a stack of CVs on hand landed us two calls of interest each and before we knew it we we’re pulling pints and mixin’ it up like Tom Cruise and Bryan Brown minus the beach and bikini clad chicks from the eighties. JAG and I spent our short work career together part-time at an Aussie theme pub around the corner from where Lee was pouring fine glasses of wine and serving up A1 service.
The search for a van seemed to lead us into the outer suburban areas of London, through different makes, models and so many hopefuls.
As the days drew closer to our departure, a new van was found and dismissed every hour. With literally only a few hours of viewing time left, one last chance remained. Only hours before we were to work our last shifts in London, we set out to the middle of nowhere. Taking two trains, two mistaken directions and a taxi we arrived in Worpleston, a small dimly lit train station straight from the frames of a murder flick.
The taxi driver leaves us there with some hesitation. After a few moments of doubt and girly fear for our lives, a large 1977 ford motor home emerged from the shadows into the flickering orange light. It was a perfect example of a home on wheels, and the driver was not a homicidal maniac, which I guess really sealed the deal.
Next thing I remember is the five of us, yes the FIVE of us! driving down the M25 in our new house, our motor home dubbed somewhat appropriately Vandamme by JAG.
Joining the Irish Backpacker road trip, a good mate from Melbourne, Captain Scotti Dundon and a new friend also from Melbourne, Taryn who we met only weeks before in our hostel. They are both champions and are sure to make the journey much more entertaining.
Taryn is not just a cute face, (although there is that) she’s also quite the cook and loves food. In fact food is mostly what she talks about, so with any luck we won’t be living on salt’n’vinegar chip sandwiches for this leg of the journey.
Scotti is charge of “relaxation and good times” and has came amply prepared. Whilst without a radio for now, James is in charge of music, pumping out the tunes from his scaled down backpackers guitar. Lee is in charge of driving and he takes to it like a duck to water, guiding this 5 berth, 8 foot beast threw busy city streets and tiny Irish laneways with ease, always with the glow of that first birthday Guiness in his eyes. I however seem to have no purpose except to try and piece this journey into a TV show. I also take it upon myself to try and make sure everyone is happy with decisions and places we aim to visit.
We find humour in nick-naming ourselves after odd named tube stations, instructions and products in other languages. I am Ealing Broadway, named after a Central Line tube stop. James is known as Armatage Shanks, after the company that appears on the toilet porcelain throughout Europe. Lee is knighted Sir Hindric Van Guste, after the headline on the fire evacuation procedure in the hostel. Scotti has adopted the name of Tooting after another silly train station name. Finally Taryn has been dubbed Ms Bureau De’Change. We take great pride in speaking in toffee English accents, and taking the piss out of the man that announces to “please…mind.. the… gap” in the London tube.
Before we know it we are sharing the same space, eating the same food, sharing the same smells and sense of humour.
Of course the van looks a little on the shabby side with it’s baby poo colored exterior and floral granny curtains. But there are already talks of a backyard blitz style renovation special, including a coat of blue paint, a makeshift shower and so homely touches ready for the summer to come.
Kicking back with beers and associated paraphernalia in a room that cost us a little more than two months rent in a nice London flat, is was not difficult to forget that we were quickly running out of money. James, Lee and myself are heading toward the bottom of our accounts. I’m onto my credit card already. Things are looking grim, but we all still seem to find time to smile, although tensions here seem to grow quickly.
This is a new lifestyle for me at least. In the last five years of work I’ve become used to living in 4 or 5 star hotels whilst travelling as a part of a TV crew. Now it’s a world of watching every single pound, eating cheaply and stealing sachets of mayo and tomato sauce from Cafes to provide that extra little taste sensation. Its nice to know if worse comes to worst, we will have a stationary box to sleep in.
It’s basically a flat on wheels, that we can take anywhere. I’m sure all of us have the dream of parking the van on a secluded beach in Portugal and again kicking back as the sun sets across the ocean. But for the most part it’s been country and suburban service station car parks that have served as our home.
Saint Patrick’s day is on the horizon and with the day coinciding with Lee’s birthday, he has a drunken responsibility to live up to. Then as he recovers from his stomach pumping, we need to tour this beautiful place called Ireland and get back to the UK to batten down and start working some long hours. That’s the reality about travelling, and that’s the reality about our lives. This is definitely the lower end of travelling; you may even call us trailer trash. I can’t help but lay here and think about where we will be in a year’s time. What will have changed? Who will have changed? Will our TV show be a success? (Did I mention we are making a TV show? We are, seriously!)
We all fall asleep to the orange metal halide glow from the industrial lights, or is it the warm setting Grecian sun? The wind from the cold Irish air seeping in through the gaps behind the fridge or is it the cool ocean breeze?
This mobile home will be our home for the next year, where ever we go, we’ll always have a van to call home. It may not be luxury, but it will save us money in the long run. That is of course providing it proves a reliable member of the team.
I have my doubts.