Today we said goodbye to our beloved VW van, Vannie, our trusty and rusty tour guide, who took us all throughout Germany and Austria, carted all of our worldly possessions from Berlin to the UK, was both our holiday home and our woof wagon on countless trips throughout Suffolk, Norfolk, Dorset, Devon, Kent, Sommerset, and Cornwall, and brought us safely and happily through our adventures in Ireland and Wales. S/he (we never quite decided upon the gender) was a great van and is partially responsible for getting us into boat life. Vannie taught us how easy it is to travel when you can take your bed with you and helped confirm our suspicion that almost all of the best places in the world are located near the sea.
Poor Vannie had also become a bit of an albatross of late. Going from place to place on the boat meant having to worry about the van being left behind. We had to arrange parking, which usually involved endless negotiations. Sometimes, like in the lovely village where we are moored now, those negotiations aren’t a problem. We’ve been to plenty of other places, however, where the villagers were convinced we were going to dump our van in their picture perfect little town and spoil the scenery FOREVER. God forbid we actually pay for parking, so if we couldn’t find a quaint hamlet to intrude upon when we were off on the boat, we had to leave Vannie behind in the rougher parts of towns where she was constantly in danger of being smashed up or vandalized. (Interestingly, we had the most trouble at a boatyard we actually did pay for, but that’s another story altogether.)
We found that we could never fully commit to boat life when we had the van to worry about. There was the hassle of parking, but also the time and money spent on van maintenance distracted us from all that time and money we also needed to be spending on the boat. When we had the narrowboat, it was easy to zip off in the van on long trips, but once we got a sailboat, it wasn’t as easy or as safe to leave the boat behind. Poor Vannie was often sadly overlooked, as her new duties were mainly confined to shopping trips and serving as a sort of shed-on-wheels for all of the stuff we couldn’t fit on the boat.
Boatlife and van life are in some ways a perfect combo. You have two self-sufficient touring homes, one on land and one on sea, and can go between beach and mountains as often as your heart desires. This especially works if you have a) a house to leave the van when you’re off in the boat or b) a friend with a large driveway who doesn’t mind you parking in it. If you have neither of those things, however, you find that you are always worrying about the van when you’re off in the boat or vice versa, and having to shuttle a massive vehicle around from harbor to harbor doesn’t make tons of sense.
Now Vannie has a new owner who is going to take her/him to Spain, which is infinitely more fun for a little camper van than going to Tesco in Maldon. Saying goodbye is bittersweet; it’s hard to bid farewell to our best four-wheeled friend, but seeing the van go means that we can finally fully commit to living aboard Pas de Deux.
Because…after 2.5 years floating around East Anglia, we are leaving! Goodbye to the van also means goodbye to Essex, to land life, and to living in limbo.
So, here’s a tribute to our dear Vannie, the van that helped us escape from Berlin, taught us to love boats, and showed us just how beautiful, diverse, and fascinating these British Isles can be.