My first two weeks van-tramping with Pippa in Chance the Camper have overflowed with learning.
First of all, I’m exactly the same person I am at home. Exactly the same, only less frequently groomed. I’m not sure who I expected to find out here but I do know that I was not transformed into a 22 year old bohemian beauty with perfectly elegant feet and sun-kissed tresses and I’m quite sure no amount of patchouli is going to fool anyone. I’ve stopped trying to put my feet into my “out-the-back-hatch” pictures for Instagram. A hobbit’s foot is a hobbit’s foot no matter what filter you use.
I get up early; I go to bed early. Just like at home. I take all day to drink a cup of coffee, which I warm up at least three times. I still talk to myself, and my laundry (my grandmother talked to HER laundry – we like to say in our family that it is HEREDITARY and completely normal) I put things in order, frequently. Sometimes I cry when I mean to laugh, and laugh when I mean to cry. I feel compelled to understand the recycling guidelines in each community I pass through. I wave at people walking down rural roads and I still like to know, generally, who my neighbours in the next campsite are.
Aside from the shocking realization that I appear to have brought myself on this adventure, there has been some practical lessons learned. Never drive away from a campsite without doing a complete walk-around of the van first. I won’t dwell on the calamitous, but neglecting to do so may result in uprooted trees or flat solar panels. Tarps, interestingly, have no natural stretch to them. Damp shoes, once run over, require a full day to expand into their previous shape.
Canadian Campgrounds are essential endless one-way driveways. I’m usually safe to assume I’m going the wrong way, and turn around before going too far. I’ve learned people are kinder to me than obligated, even by Canadian custom, to be.
At some point in the last two weeks, toilet paper became obsolete. Wet Wipes are where it’s at and I now have four (4!) handy decorative dispensers full of the magical clothes on board; one in each wing of the van. Because, if I’m in the south wing kitchen, I can’t be wasting all that time going to the west wing pantry for a cleaning cloth.
These magical little wipes remove crusties from Pippa’s eyes, clean her little feet, wipe dead mosquitoes from the van ceiling, clean soot from my eyebrows, and that’s not all! Pippa can shred one if she is bored (when supply levels are high of course), I can tidy up my own hobbit feet before crawling under my duvet and, of course, there is nothing like a wet wipe when the need is greatest and most pure. If babies could talk, they’re have told us all to ditch the two-ply a decade ago. My last three rolls of ridiculously outdated toilet paper were starter fuel for my last campfire.
I’ve discovered Abeego beeswax food wrap. If, like me, you get tired of damp air sucking the life out of the cardboard boxes designed to house your saran wrap, try this stuff on your next road trip. It’s made of fabric saturated with wax, and wraps beautifully around vegetables or bowls, using the heat from your hand to mold it perfectly to the required shape. I have three. They fold into tiny squares when not needed. They are totally reusable and clean up with just a rinse of warm water. They work really well, smell nice, are gentle on the earth and take almost no space. You can’t tell from the picture, but this is actually moulded perfectly around my favourite square bamboo bowl.
I will never travel without a paper map again. It’s one thing to have GPS, and yes, it will deposit me where I need to go. But there is nothing like sitting at a picnic table in a dying light, plotting my travel strategy for the next day with the whole region laid out in front of me, like a Kingdom. My Kingdom. (I blame Game of Thrones for this image) GPS doesn’t care that I prefer to travel down rivers and alongside lakes. A paper map cares. It’s a partner, not a dictator.
I discovered my “sweet spot” mileage-per- day is about 350 kilometres; 217 miles for my American friends. Less than that, I am restless to go further before nightfall, much more and my hip is angry and my thoughts turn toxic. 350 kilometres per day (on travel days) means Pippa and I stop any time we like, my thoughts remain full of unicorns and we still reach our destination for liver snacks and a night-time walk.
I’ve learned never to say “Were almost there!” to a dog who wishes she were already there. I don’t drink anything after 6 pm. Black-out windows in the woods are dumb, and I’ve put them all away. Ok, they fell down first, THEN I put them away and called them dumb. But still, they are kinda dumb in the sorts of rural settings I’m in. (They will remain dumb until I have them hung into submission for which I have a plan)
If I lie with my head at the back hatch, I get a cosmic experience on a clear night I should have to pay admission for. It’s like having a front row seat to some sort of celestial concert.
I’ve learned to take sign-reading seriously and am extremely grateful when they leave nothing ambiguous to my imagination. You will be relieved to know, I am taking steps to stay safe in Alma, NB, where there crustaceans are trained to cross only in designated areas.
Finally, I’ve learned my poor brain is still a pretty cluttered place (wherever you go, there you are) but the sounds, sights and smells of nature act like a happy, whistling cleaning lady who arrives on a daily basis to take care of cobwebs and dust- bunnies on my behalf.
It’s still a little cray-cray in there but it’s definitely cleaner than it was, and for the price of a tank of gas and a campsite she promises to show up again tomorrow.
30 thoughts on “Lessons by Chance”
Another great posting… do you travel in the winter?
Hi again Joanne!
Thanks… I am currently travelling, and although its not winter officially, it sure feels like it here in western Canada, where Pip and I are currently travelling! We are meeting up with my daughter in just over a week and together we will be making our way to the west coast and then heading south for a couple of months exploring the south-western US!
Love this. Will start following you…not literally, but you know what I mean 😉 Stay well and have fun!
It’s always fun to have someone along for the trip who I would recognize on the street. Keep doing all the AWESOME things you are doing in Picton Christine. It’s so cool what you do!
Fantastic! Way to go, girl! Have a wonderful and safe trip!
Ahhhhhhh thanks Lucia! Its so nice to have you jump on board! 🙂 So happy you’re here!
Lovely post, will follow and learn from your experiences
I’m really happy you are along for the journey!
Pop in any time!
I just want to say thank you. Thank you for sharing the reality of bringing yourself on this adventure. Since I have not started on my adventure, I still hold in my imaginations the idea that I’ll be someone else, magically, when I undertake my adventures. Another point you share at the end of your blog is another notion I entertain. It’s the idea that once I hit the road there will be a renewal of some sort occur in the corners and edges of my mind and spirit. I don’t know if this is even possible. I’m not convinced that I’ll be able to get beyond myself enough to benefit from my surroundings. On a lighter note, I’m not agreeing with your description of your feet, but I think “hobbit” feet are much better looking than the thin, long tree-climbing toes I bear. lol. I wish you well on your adventures and thank you for sharing them so well.
Dearest Cindy of the Tree-climbing Toe Tribe.
I heard from an elder about the existence of you and your thin-footed families. I had no idea such a people existed. If we were ever to come to disagreement, there would not be a war – there couldn’t be! Your people would clearly take to the trees, while I and mine would be digging furiously. For that reason, I bet we would get along great and make concilliations easily! 🙂
Your email actually made me laugh, then I realized that I meant to cry. That’s how it goes for me. It touched me, that by simply writing a little story like I did, I could have the utter pleasure of people (like you) out in the huge wide world, respond to me in such a heart felt way. I’m new at this. This is definitely an unexpected joy.
I heard some sort of saying (I’m terrible at remembering the exact words but always remember how the FEEL) It basically said, “Don’t bother trying to find yourself. Simply strip away all that you aren’t, and discover who you already ARE.”
Hey, that might be kind of close…
Travel that brings us more in tune with nature and ourselves helps us to strip.
(Ill save my naturist stories for later! HAHA!)
Thanks for writing.
Happy trails on your “vantastic” journey! As someone whose “point A to point B” lately consists of “bedroom to bathroom,” your ability to move past a flying lesson into thistles lends Hope and encouragement to those of us with an appreciation for special salves. Then you said, “Who wants to risk not getting it right? This is why people stay home.” Wow! That had me thinking: we can apply this to most of Life… This is why folks don’t say hello to strangers. This is why parents don’t parent kids; why kids don’t talk to parents and on and on… Fear of getting it wrong. You determined to motor on, and I say “Thank you!” Thank you for providing a vehicle for others to travel vicariously with you! You are a fantastic writer… conveyor of images, ideas and intention. And you have the best sidekick ever! Bon voyage!
My goodness Diane,
You are a pretty painter of pictures yourself! What a delight to get your letter. I call it a letter, as if it arrived in a decorated envelope with an interesting stamp and your handwriting on it. That’s how it felt to read. Thank you.
It is not for the skittish to live between the bathroom and the bedroom. You have been asked, I am sure, to call up all manners of bravery to deal with this situation. And I am cheering you on as you find 101 ways each day to make it more a journey than a sentence to be served. There is much to be learned between the bed and bath, but few of us ever put our hands up and say “oh, me please, I’ll take THAT lesson!”
I’m honoured you are arm-chair journeying with Pippa and I. You are taking (a) Chance with us, that’s for sure!
PS . Pippa’s favourite people stay in bed ALL day. That’s her MOST FAVOURITE PLACE EVER.
This, right here, is everything van travel means to me! Thanks for sharing, I’m currently in the process of making my van liveable.
YAY Ashley! I’m soooo happy for you! What makes a van liveable for you? Its so different for everyone! Where are you and where will you venture to? Keep in touch so I can cheer for you 🙂
You are an incredible woman and an excellent writer. I’m so happy to know you. Give Pippa a giant kiss and hold her a little longer than she’d like for me;)
Oh my GAWD I just got all teared up. Get out o town J! I’ve held her down for seven minutes. She finally fell asleep. All for you! LOL (KIDDING!!)
It is a real learning curve, that’s for sure. We are over in Iceland right now in an RV 1/2 the size of our land yacht (we call this one our land dinghy) It has been quite an adjustment. This lifestyle makes you stronger and braver, that’s for sure
Enjoy your travels and stay safe
The land dinghy, I love it! Where are you from originally? It does make you braver doesn’t it?! How are you enjoying Iceland? My daughter was going to go but wasn’t quite old enough to rent a car there yet, so she is going to wait until she can. She went to Croatia instead. She called it a “solomoon” I think… she’s 24… went totally by herself and knew not a soul. Any kind of travel pushes our boundaries…. challenges us to really see ourselves 🙂 I’m glad you’re here, stay in touch! Safe journey! Are you having lots of hot springs??
Sorry for not replying sooner.
We are from BC, lower mainland. Full time RV. Travel down south in the winter and boondock as much as we can. Going on 5 years now and never looked back.
Iceland was amazing but very, very touristy. The motorhome or van would be the way to go for your daughter. We thought we would have to stay at campsites every night (they are nothing but huge parking lots, awful) but found side roads and stayed there for the nights. When and if she plans on going, feel free to shoot me an email and I can give her some tips.
Keep enjoying your travels, stay safe
Hi again Melissa!
No apologies 🙂
I lived 15 years out your way – Vancouver Island then Salt Spring. Beautiful area and I look forward to returning later this year. It’s been years! Thank you so much for the Iceland tips, I will pass on to my daughter who will appreciate your input!
Keep on keeping on!
Mmm. I’d forgotten how wonderful paper maps are. Thanks for sharing that bit.
You’re welcome, Ed Rowland.
I think of you everyday, as I am tying knots and hanging tarps. YOU are the man behind my knots and tarps. I’m an altered human being because of you!
Ps. I’m a paper map girl too!
One of the Tribe!!
Do you keep your maps when you are finished with them??
I find myself getting all sentimental with all the folds and such. LOL
But I don’t like to gather things….
How do you deal?
Maybe Ill take pictures of them as I go…. What do you think?
I love everything about what you’ve written here and am living this adventure along side you in my mind! Laura 😊
This is how it starts Laura!
One day you will be beside me on the highway, honking at me to get out of your way! 🙂
Drop by anytime!
You are awesome
You’re pretty damn awesome yourself, Marie 😉
You are too funny! Haha LOVE your writing! Totally feel like I’m right there with you!
I keep looking over my shoulder…. hahaha.