Changing your life to travel
Another morning arrives. You put the coffee on, grab your book, you prepare breakfast, you do some work, you pop the TV on, you switch it off, you pick up the book again, put it back down, you pace for a while, clean the kitchen, have a glass of wine, and you put the TV back on. This is familiar to us all, this is lockdown.
To share with you my story, I need to look back to June 2020. Restrictions have eased and people are feeling a sense of hope and freedom that’s been out of reach for the past twenty weeks. My boyfriend and I had been furloughed right at the start of this all, and we couldn’t wait to be with our friends and acting as if at least some part of our life was normal again.
On one early summers evening, during a (legal) get together with our bubble, we drunkenly planned a road trip to Europe for mid-summer, and when we woke we continued to play around with the idea, gloriously thinking of who would drive and where we’d go. You won’t be surprised to hear that unfortunately, as with almost all drunken plans, this one too tapered off into the realms of intoxicated hopes and dreams, along with the many business ideas and holiday destinations that have been conjured up over the years.
The realities of life kicked in and the idea went to waste, we went on as before, embracing the ‘new normal’.
Time passed as it eventually does in a pandemic, and amidst the pearls of boredom and with an advanced knowledge of London parks that we had never hoped to know so well, we received a message from our landlord that he wanted to put our house back on the market, we had to leave. It was at this point that it was time to make some decisions, and this was welcomed, because our main decisions for the past three months had been; pasta or pizza? Downton or Queer Eye? Red or White? It was time for a change, and we needed to think about what we wanted the next chapter of our life to look like.
The seeds had been planted back in June, and with furlough bringing in a lowered but steady salary, we wondered what was keeping us in London. No job, no home, no social pressures, no opportunities. We wondered if it was time to take a big leap. We’d always wanted to live abroad and this seemed like the largest existential sign that this was probably the only time we’d be faced with little reason not to do it.
We found an old Saab online for £600 and one week before we had to leave our home, with absolutely nothing set in stone, we travelled to Oxfordshire to take a look at the vehicle, praying that it would be okay as we truly had no other option. We knew nothing about cars so my boyfriend’s brother came along to make sure we’d get something that would actually work. The test drive went perfectly and we exchanged the money and signed the documents on the previous owner’s driveway. Finally, we had something set in stone, we were actually going to do this, and the feeling we had was electric. We got in the car, switched on the engine, and pulled into reverse to leave the driveway and hit the road in our new car, towards our new life, for the very first time. The beginning of the journey officially started at this moment for us, with the exciting and solid realisation that we were actually going to do this. No turning back.
The car wouldn’t go into reverse.
Yes, you read that right.
The car that I had only bought seconds prior was now stuck on the previous owners’ driveway and we couldn’t get it out. He came back out and gave it a try but even he couldn’t get it to go into reverse. I panicked, of course, and got on the phone to my father to explain what was happening as perhaps he could help. Pacing up and down, whilst listening to unhopeful news on the other end of the line, I found myself at the end of the driveway, looking out, and thinking, ‘What the hell is my life right now?’. Not only did I have no home, no job and no opportunities, but I had also now just purchased a broken car to set off on what was quickly seeming like a broken dream.
As this thought lingers in my head, three men; my boyfriend, his brother, and the previous owner are at the back end of my new car and are pushing it past me down the driveway and out onto the road. The last owner wished us good luck and waved us goodbye. I couldn’t believe it.
And so there I was, reviewing this scene with utter disbelief at my own misfortune... and I laughed! I really laughed. I had to laugh, because otherwise I’d cry.
Over the next hour my boyfriend’s brother managed to fix the gear stick... kind of. It’s not actually worked properly since this ordeal but we’re able to reverse it if we’re both in the car, one reversing and the other holding the gear stick down so it doesn’t come off.
So, with my head held high by some inner, profound strength that I wasn’t sure I even had before this experience, we sorted out our tax and insurance, we booked the Eurotunnel for the end of the week, we packed up the house and we rented a van to take all of our belongings down to my parent’s garage for storage. On the 28th of July we booked three nights in a cheap hotel in Paris, and on the 29th we were on our way. We had everything we needed in our bags, we had the car, we had somewhere to stay for three nights, and we had each other.
The next six months were history, as they say, and some of the best months of my life. We stayed in incredible hotels and Airbnbs that we managed to negotiate at lower prices because of the pandemic. We were lucky enough to rent insanely beautiful and stunning places with breath-taking views that we’d probably never have had access to at a better time. We always made sure we were relatively isolated so that we could feel comfortable that we were acting responsibly in this pandemic. We saw amazing sights, we spent afternoons napping on empty beaches and we ate exquisite food from France, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Greece and Spain. We slept in our car on the edge of a river, we swam in waterfalls that people won’t ever be able to swim in again. We ate pizza in the fields of France and we had drinks at The Royal in San Remo. We spent an autumn in the bustling and dusty Athens and Christmas by the fire in the Tuscan hills of Italy.
It’s never going to be the right time to up and leave, there will always be an excuse. Challenges will come your way but it’s your choice whether to trust your instinct and leap, or wait for another day that may never come. Whatever you do; whatever decision seems too crazy or too outlandish, life will always carry you through whatever it is that you want to do. I can say will full faith that if you face an opportunity where you can take an unbelievable chance to jump on a dream, to do what your heart wants of it, you must do it. Even if you do face challenges, and you will, it will be the best time of your life.
For us, we try not to book anything in advance now. Airbnb and Booking.com means you’ll never be left homeless, no matter how late you leave it. Having that flexibility means if you don’t like somewhere, you go, and if you love it, you stay longer. The world is more than ready for you to be free and adventurous, and if you can do it responsibility through this time, and within the law, then go for it... really. Never look back, just go forward. Even our own beloved, beat-up, old car taught us that going backwards will not be an option from here on out...
We’d like to dedicate this and give thanks to our beautiful, old Saab ‘Alan Bonnet’ - if you know, you know.
Big thanks to Abbie from Our Travel Achieves, this blog shows how perseverance and blind ambition can lead to the most beautiful memories!
Our Travel Achieves Instagram is full with wonderful content from Abbie and her boyfriends travels around Europe. So, if you want to keep up with their journey after reading all about their start - that's the place to go!
We also hope that Abbie will write for us in the future, documenting other amazing experiences mentioned above.
If you are interested in what travelling has been like during Covid, check out the posts: 'Madrid in a Pandemic', 'Travelling to Rome During Covid', and 'A Short Greek Odyssey'