Wow. In July The Backwards Van.com turned a year old and in late August we celebrated our vanniversary- a whole year of living in Dixie the 1997 Ducato. To mark the occasions we entered our page into the 2018 Irish Blog Awards. We are proud to announce we made it through three rounds of judging to reach the finalists list!
When I started this blog, I thought that it would be purely about vanlife. What it is really like to live in a van, how we get our water and get rid of our waste, how we wash and shower and park, where we go and what we do when we get there. I never foresaw I’d be writing about ourselves (we’re both quite private people really) too, about our learning processes, about dealing with our problems (or celebrating for whatever reason we can find). Life looks a little different for us now. We’ve found our interests have changed and we’re enjoying new pastimes, time alone allows that. Photography is great fun, as is foraging for berries, mushrooms and edibles and wild species identification is a weirdly rewarding hobby, it makes taking a hike a little more interesting and dinner (if you like mushrooms) a little cheaper too. We don’t talk much about money anymore, we don’t need to. After a year our budget is stable, predictable and we understand exactly how much everday life costs. I didn’t think I’d be writing about relationships, about depression, about attitudes and about giving up drinking. We didn’t think Williams recipes would end up being documented and what’s most astonishing is that people are reading and enjoying what we write!
During our very first vanlife argument, one of us “stormed off” (in sofar as is possible in a van) and spent a cold and crispy autumn night stubbornly self-secluded in the icebox cabin. One rainy day in England we drove for 3 hours only to end up mysteriously back where we started, that was the day all trust was lost in our Sat Nav. One routine supply stop we stupidly filled up our fresh water tank with screen wash instead and once we ran out of butane mid-storm, mid-winter, mid-nowhere. Dixies doors have frozen shut at -5°, once a near-accident fast-response was required from William which saved collision but the swerve broke our kitchen cabinets in half and spilled our food to the floor. We’ve had leaks (rain through the bathroom vent is the least offense of the leaks, there’s a drainhole right there to catch it) and spills (milk is the worst, the one and only time we carried the stuff it leaked, onto fabric, imagine the odour 3 days later) and on occasion a puddle appears, of what exactly we are not sure and as if from nowhere, to soak the rugs and anything else in its way. Once Dixie required a jumpstart thanks entirely to overzealous phone charging. Sometimes we open the door and the wind, quick as a fox, whips anything featherweight away and a frantic grab ensues. One summer day in the lake district we picked up about a thousand unwanted guests and spent close to an hour before bed persuading the pests out the door with a rolled up magazine. Some days there’s a bad smell, unidentifiable, musty, hanging in our noses and nothing short of an entire empty-and-scrub will remove the assault. Don’t forget we drive around country roads with a toilet on board, there is quite a scope for things to go wrong in that regard and they do. We’ve learned that shit happens, literally, unfortunate and annoying and sometimes dramatic things happen all the time, it took a lot longer to learn to laugh, to act and to move along quickly, don’t dwell on the problem, spend that time instead finding the solution.
When indoors we play games. “Duck Or What?” is a great way to pass the time for children of all ages like us but like any game it has the potential to get scary at night depending on how vivid your imagination is. Duck or car is fine, duck or train too, but duck or werewolf, crouched outside the van, waiting for his chance to strike… The weather provides endless entertainment too. There’s no such thing as being stuck in your camper, it’s the most cozy situation imaginable. The rain plays crazy tin jazz on the roof and we lounge under warm blankets with hot coffee and read about our surroundings and think. What’s not to love about that?
Our most memorable day in vanlife so far (a rare occasion where we both agree on something) was only possible because of the internet. Dixie parked up on a strangers driveway (invited, yes but still strangers) and within minutes the online acquaintances we had met through the blog were friends. After a delicious meal and a quiet sleep, Pam and Martin took us out on a charity tractor run on ‘Olive’, their Willys MB Ford Jeep. We had so much fun with them we left with huge smiles stuck to our faces but the day had all kinds of further adventures in store including a dramatic mountain rescue (neither of us thankfully) and a really interesting volunteer who gave us his time, a choir of mountain warblers, a very ripe cherry tree and a thrice-married drunken man who gave us his opinion AND some solid if not sloppy-sentimental relationship advice. It’s not the van that makes this life what it is, it’s the people.
The best thing about being nominated in the Irish Blog Awards is reading the other Irish blogs on the list. We’re in the travel catagory, a huge diverse range of online diaries, blogs and vlogs that showcases the range of writers, adventurers and explorers and the talent Ireland has to offer. Have a look at the other finalists, I’m sure you’ll find another blog to follow and support amongst the tough competition, and best of luck to everyone involved 😊
In one year and 27,500 miles, Dixie has been assisted by many strangers, on the roadside and in many other places. Grip mats, electricity, advice and a tow back onto the road are just some of the things we’ve received from helpful locals. We’ve been invited into people’s homes and warmed and fed. People are lovely and friendly and genuine and curious and supportive and rarely anything else in our experience. Humans crave adventure and some profess to jealousy at our lifestyle, we want to show everybody how close adventure is to all of us. If you don’t have a van (why not?! Dixie cost less than €5k and can do the daily run around stuff too) get a tent or modify your car to suit your needs and go, just go. We’ve met young folk on scooters travelling across Europe, on Facebook we follow a couple on horses pitching a tent each night in farmers fields around Ireland. on the Outer Hebrides we encountered a lovely lady in her 80s, travelling the Western Isles in her camper with just her little dog for company, she said she’d never stop travelling. Car boots are cavernous, carry a cooker and chairs and go for a camping day out, it doesn’t have to be far. If you live in Ireland, guaranteed there’s an amazing outdoor adventure nearby.
Mostly we like to walk around Ireland quietly and just watch things happen. We have been living abroad, me for 7 long years (we met while living and working in Bermuda) so much has changed in this country for us. A lot of our time is spent in beauty spots, local attractions and tourist destinations and therefore the kind of people we encounter are generally in high spirits and good moods. Great grey cliffs, rolling green drumlins, huge waterfalls and stunning sandy beaches are abundant in this little country and they are free to visit and usually accessible. We want the blog to highlight what we find because around every corner is something beautiful, something interesting or amazing, historic or weird or something just plain Irish. We might live in our van but Dixie is just the setting, we have a small house but our back garden is massive and free and stunning and endless and it’s right there, outside the door, waiting for us to explore. Who goes on holiday to County Louth for a week, or County Cavan? We did, and we loved it. Ancient history, scenic beauty, countless still lakes and the magnificent Cavan Burren, all free to see and easy to find. Every county is the same, we’ve been around and we know. Miles and miles to explore. The Backwards Van will change direction again I’m sure but for now Ireland is treating us so well we are happy to remain visitors in our own country and we will keep highlighting each pretty little port town, each isolated lake and each thick ancient forest as we come to them.
We’re so proud to be up for this award and so very grateful for all the support of our readers and friends and family and online buddies and strangers who are just friends we haven’t met. Yet 😊☘