I’ve always bought into the go hard or go home philosophy and when it came to my first road trip it was no different. Rather than a gentle trip down to the idyllic beaches of Cornwall or a causal drive up to the Lake District, a 4000 mile drive around Europe seemed like a sensible option. Having never driven on the other side of the road and not driven my van more than an hour away from the safety of my home there was some scepticism when describing my loose plan to my peers. A rough route and time line was drawn up between the continents famous cities and breath-taking landmarks before the ferry from Portsmouth was booked. I’ve never been the most organised or entirely sensible person but at least I have some form of common sense and resourcefulness that instilled an inkling of faith in my family and friends. He will deny it, but I, and many others, didn’t think the same of my navigator/ copilot/ best friend Bani. After describing my summer plans to anyone who asked, they always displayed some shock and a sarcastic “good luck” upon finding out that Bani was the one sitting beside me for our adventure. For those who know him they’ll understand why, as I often mock his chimp-like mannerisms and occasionally jaw dropping stupidity. As a pair, we do get up to the odd bit of mischief but normally there is a more responsible moderator within our group to restrict our foolishness, but for the first month it was just us two, a thought which didn’t fill my mother with confidence. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a top bloke, I must be friends with him for some reason, and I couldn’t pick someone better to travel with. With Bani there is never a dull moment and always something to laugh at, “at” being the operative word in the majority of situations. So in addition to being responsible for getting my van home safe, I also had a duty of care for Bani. Simple.
Once the van was packed full of everything from an inflatable kayak and half the kitchen utensils to a hammock and a fridge full of beers we set off. The excitement is hard to describe. Having never been away from my family for more than a couple of weeks, two months seemed like an eternity. It was the wonder of what would happen within that window that put the butterflies in the stomach. We pulled off to a well-built road trip playlist and headed for our first destination- Stonehenge.
This national heritage site is where we first learnt the lessons of poor planning on discovering that you had to pay to get in. However, we spied a way round the system and thought we’d save our money by walking rather than getting the shuttle bus. Our arrogance quickly faded at the actual entrance when the steward asked for our ticket. So, we settled for a slightly distanced view from a neighbouring sheep field, dodging the droppings on approach to the fenced border. We returned to the van where we learnt our second lesson. Always turn the lights of when departing the vehicle. I couldn’t help fear the scenario of having to jump start Fanny just hours in to the trip but fortunately the battery was all good so we laughed off our early foolishness and cracked on with the ham sandwiches.
After a dreary second leg through the back roads of southern England we arrived at the harbour in Portsmouth still being carried by the fore looking wave of ecstasy that a child would have on Christmas Eve. The queue through passport control moved at glacial pace so there was time to sneak in a few rounds of gin rummy. Obviously, my win tally started to rack up as I dispatched my baboon of an adversary time and time again and before we knew it we were boarding the ferry for Northern Spain. In 24hrs time we would be back on the (right side of the) road and En route to Pamplona and the San Fermin festival.