Preparing for life on the Road
Two weeks until D-day for our nomad columnist and reality is only beginning to set in
Column by Jo Gregory
I’ve just completed my last day at work. I declined a leaving bash and opted for a civilised lunch for fear I’d end up sobbing into a karaoke mic at 1am. Leaving work was so much harder than I ever imagined. During my final few months I had some major wobbles. “Why am I leaving a job I’d always dreamed of?” I had people questioning why I didn’t ask for a sabbatical; a very valid question, one which I asked myself often, especially in that moment just before you fall asleep. But I had to tell myself that a sabbatical just wouldn’t work. I’d never switch off and fully immerse myself in the experience, it would defeat the whole purpose of the trip.
As I left the office on my last day I felt conflicted. I was so excited about the road ahead but I had a heavy heart. I am going to miss everything about my job and my colleagues who’d all become good friends over the years. I had a feeling I may never have it as good again, but it was a risk I had to take. My burning desire to see the world and experience something completely out of my comfort zone would have only intensified as the years rolled on.
Two weeks today we’ll be travelling down to Portsmouth for our 24-hour ferry crossing to Bilbao, the first stop in our new life. Hopefully the Phoenix Nights style entertainment on board will distract us from the choppy seas of Bay of Biscay (we naively googled crossings in February and it looked like a scene from the film, The Perfect Storm) I don’t have the best sea legs but I guess it’s all part of the adventure, right?
Since leaving work it’s been go, go, go. Tom installed solar panels to the roof to give us extra power on the road. We don’t intend staying in campsites much over the course of our trip, the cost can rack up so we’ve decided to wild camp. Wild camping (in my head) is pitching up somewhere on the coast, cold beer in hand, watching the sunset on the horizon with not a soul in sight but, in reality, we’ll probably be parked up in a motorway layby somewhere waiting for the kettle to boil.
We’d purchased our camper-van Gladys, a ’96 Ford Legend a few months ago but she needed some care and attention so while Tom’s been clattering away with the nitty gritty I’d been left with the task of trying to condense our entire life into the van. I’m terrible at packing for a weekend away, I take jumpers to Ibiza and swimsuits on city breaks, so planning what to take on an epic trip across a continent with ever changing climates was going to be tricky. We watched a documentary called Minimalism for inspiration and Tom and I are currently playing the longest game of van Tetris ever; although I must say, I’m rather enjoying the challenge, I can’t say the same for Tom.
So, all that’s left for us to do now is say goodbye to our families and attend farewell dinners. All the while feeling like I am living someone else’s life. I keep pinching myself. I know life on the road will be tough at times. The change of pace, the silence and being away from family is going to be a stark contrast to a busy, city life. But there are so many things I’m looking forward to; Spending quality time with Tom. Learning the ukulele again. Learning a new language. Reading and educating myself further. And trying to achieve all those things that stay on my to do list year after year but am always ‘too busy’ to find time for. This feels like the ultimate reset.
Sat cross legged on the floor, listening to the rain tapping on the vans exterior after packing the last few bits for our trip, I felt more at home here than I ever did in our house. It was in that moment I knew I’d made the right decision.