A Time of Reflection

The calendar somehow tells me that it‘s the 18th of November. Most of you probably get taken off guard by that fact, too.

The van during its first week in France. Taken 10 weeks ago, but feels like 10 months ago.

Be it good or bad, time seems to constantly be speeding up. Even in a van.


There was a general sex appeal towards the van life that I wanted. That 'lazy' book-reading day down by the beach, time standing still, nothing to worry about except maybe what we were going to eat later on. Those occasions are few and far between. Some of that is due to choice, and some... not so much.


Let's break it down.

A beautiful morning in Spain. A stop off on our way to Girona to get our solar panels fixed.

Choice


I was always kidding myself, thinking that image was what I wanted.


I mean, I do want it. But maybe not at 23. Motor-homing is an old man's game. It's the sport of a retired couple who want to live again. It's beautiful to see, but the main activities that occupy their day are sitting outside their van, people-watching. Again, a pretty fun thing to do, but I can save that for my elder years.


Testing my fear of heights on top of a castle in Spain.

For now, I like to move. I'm fidgety by nature. I like to do new things, meet new people and see new places. The van allows for this and is the reason why after 11 weeks, I can comfortably say that a year of this lifestyle will not only be amazing, but it will also not be enough.


Due to Covid and the fact that we are travelling during low season, we have met very few people in general, let alone like-minded characters of the same age. It's a bit of a shame, but there are bigger problems in the world than that right now. It also gives us something to look forward to when people become a bit more relaxed (hopefully).


However, the biggest reason why I choose not to sit with a book in hand all day is because, despite being in a van, I'm busy. I find it tricky to sit and relax, knowing that I have a number of tasks to do. Gnarvana is a company. Of course, we're only small, but that can mean even more work, ironically. Keeping up to date with content, clients and projects takes time. Being someone who is constantly looking to improve and grow, it's naturally going to be tough to slow down.

The night where I ran down a mountain in the dark as lightning lit up the sky.

I think this is something that a lot of people might miss. Most people work a relatively standardised schedule. It allows them to afford one or two annual holidays. What would you do on those holidays? You're going to relax. Spend money. Eat out. Your life is on pause, effectively. It's amazing, and it's why everybody goes on holiday if they can afford it.


This is the problem, we're not on holiday. Yes, we're in a holiday destination, I'm wearing shorts in November and it's beautiful. But it's still not a holiday. If you want to travel in a van, you can make it a holiday, don't worry. However, if you work remotely or are on a tight budget, then you have some responsibilities!


By no means am I complaining. I would go mad if I was not busy. I enjoy the challenges, accept the responsibilities and have no regret about starting this trip, even during Covid. It's exciting, rewarding and making me put on these big boy pants. I'm simply stating that, for me, I struggle to sit and do nothing.


That water gave me brain freeze.

Not our Choice


Now, I may be busy, but not all of my tasks have been assigned by me. This 'travelling through a pandemic' thing has its hurdles.


For example, we were given a two day notice that our region would be classified as red. This means scrapping any previous plans and heading to a region with less restrictions. We need to find suitable parking, find supermarkets, a launderette etc on short notice. Two weeks ago, we had our eyes set on Sicily for a month. Since then, we have actually travelled 260km in the opposite direction.


A monastery north of Rome. We also fell in love with a cat there.

It's not a disaster, but I think regardless of Covid, your plans in a van change a lot. Covid is just the icing on top. For reference, the initial idea was to start in Toulouse, France and drive the French coast in to the north of Italy and work our way down. The reality? We started in Toulouse, spent a month in Spain and took a ferry across to Rome!


You could minimize these issues of planning by finding a nice area and staying for a week or longer. However, due to the aforementioned fidgety-ness of Leslie. We rarely stay longer than two days before seeking a new view.


Tivoli, just east of Rome showed us the boujee-est villa so far by a long way.

Overall


Our time in the van has been excellent. If anything, I'm blown away by how doable it has been so far. I struggled to sleep for a night or two before leaving. This was due to excitement, but mainly stress. I was worried that we would be robbed, that money would be an issue, that Gnarvana would collapse before it even started, that the van would break, and so much more. Most humans naturally predict the worst thing that could happen to them, when in reality, the problem is never that big.


It's crazy to think that this is my new normal. It's crazy to think that I thought I would have so much free time. It's crazy how fast these 11 weeks have gone. I left my job at the end of the first wave, and a lot of my coworkers had a raised eyebrow to what I was doing. It made me doubt myself to a degree, too, but I couldn't wait any longer. I have zero regrets about leaving, and to anyone else that has had plans disturbed, trust yourself to make the right decision.

Bamboo was our only wood-source and we found it does not burn for long.

With just over 4 weeks left here in Italy before I catch a flight home to Ireland for 3 weeks. We plan on making the most of what Italy can offer us, as it slowly shuts down again. I was about to say that I'm looking forward to being in Ireland, with my feet up and a fire on, watching football. If I think I'll be satisfied with just that, then I clearly haven't learned anything.


On a final note, when this project failed 2 years ago. A German man told me


'The best way to make God laugh, is to make a plan.'


It has definitely stuck, and probably resonates with about half of the country this year.

The Sorrento Peninsula provided a break from the van.

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