How great it is to have ideas and make plans. Having enjoyed my time back, seriously considered quitting vanlife. Deciding to go on, landing a great volunteerjob as a bodyworker in Sweden. Really looking forward to being on the road again and visiting friends in Berlin. And then finally, having to focus on my practice of being with whatever life brings me (or throws in my face, however you want to put it), which was not what I had planned… Vanlife…
Like I’ve said and experienced many times before: plans change. Maybe it turned in too much of a mantra. I hadn’t even planned on visiting my aunt. My idea was to leave from my parents house and drive to Berlin. Vaals wasn’t really on the route (neither was Berlin, when going to Sweden, nor Switzerland last year when going to South-West France… What am I talking about?). A few days before I left she messaged me, saying that it would be nice to see each other again before being away a while. So, I changed my route.
Honestly, I don’t even exactly remember when and how everything happened. Just that, the cooling liquid light started to blink again several times (which, because I’ve seen it blink too often, doesn’t make me take action immediately anymore…). I refilled it. And saw white smoke coming out of my exhaust, while being in a traffic jam. This started to make me worry. I was actually hoping it would be something that would just go away again, like magic you know ;). When I arrived at my aunt, I refilled the liquid again and decided I needed to go to a garage to fix the leakage. This was a bit more difficult than expected, since all the garages are superbusy right before the holidays. I was able to make an appointment with a garage in Aken, but decided I would drive by 2 more on the way to Maastricht, where I wanted have lunch with my aunt in between her work. During that drive the liquid started to come out from under my van. Refilling wasn’t an option anymore. I didn’t dare to drive, because I didn’t want to mess my engine, little did I know… And the garage I was at, didn’t have time for the next 2 weeks. So, I kind of freaked out, not knowing what to do.
I decided to call my insurance, see if they could tow me to the garage I had an appointment with the next day. Since I was still in Holland and not across the border it was a bit of an insurance issue. Apparently, I am only insured for breaking down abroad (cause in Holland you can always just walk home?). They also normally don’t do delivery to a garage you organise, but since they were surprised that I had actually been able to arrange a garage on such short notice, they agreed (and even said I should come and work for them). After 2 hours (after the first hour, I called again, turned out that they hadn’t arranged anything) they put me behind a truck to bring me to Germany.
At the garage, they fixed the cooling liquid leak. I was good to go again. But the white smoke had become worse, which indicates a cooling liquid leak in the engine. So, I called the garage again. Brought my van back and a few days later heard that the head gasket and cylinderhead were damaged. They told me they could only do a partial repair, because they couldn’t order a cylinderhead. Fortunately, I have some VW LT connections and was able to arrange a second-hand one. I rented a car to pick it up. They gave me a VW T-ROC, brand new shiny car. I’ve never been so uncomfortable in a car :’). All of a sudden, I had a big nose in front of me of which I couldn’t see the end, all the peddles were super sensitive, I had power steering, 6 gears (I normally do 60 in 3rd gear, now I understand why one would want an automatic gearbox), airco, no armrests and hardly any engine sound… Where is the fun in that? I really missed the driving experience of an old van. It did drive me around fast though.
The garage told me they needed 3 days to fix the engine after I brought the cylinderhead. But after 2 days I got a message that they weren’t able to level it, to make it fit. Luckily, they could order a brand new one through the company that does their levelling. A few days later it arrived and they fixed Lotjes heart. All in all, it took almost 3 weeks. With a weeks’ time left to drive to Angsbacka in Sweden, so no scenic route this time. But in those weeks I learned a lot about my engine, improved my German quite a bit (yay for google translate :)), experienced the effects of stress on my body (losing weight, skin issues). But, I also got to spend a lovely time with my aunt.
She had to work quite a bit, which gave me time to myself during the days. I worked on my website, made my privacy statement, fixed my surfboard (about 10 layers of epoxy) and translated my e-book.
During our time together we visited the spa on a lovely day. It was nice to be able to relax with all the stressiness going on. Most days were really beautiful for that matter. We went to a biodanza dance evening, which was lovely experience. I’ve attended several tantric dance evenings. These are a bit more intimate, because 1 person is blindfolded, while the other leads the dance. This can be a beautiful experience, but I’ve also had a fair share of rather unpleasant dances. Biodanza was much more barefoot dancing by yourself, with some contact exercises/dances, which was really pleasant and well guided.
We also went to a lavender farm open day, made beautiful moodboards, played a few games of scrabble (I won :P) and watched ‘the Before’ trilogy (really beautiful movies) and Utopia (very addictive…). She also arranged a free haircut for me at her hairdresser :).
We complained to each other about each other, shouted, argued and laughed really hard while imitating others, making fun of ourselves and our ‘arguments’. It’s really helpful for me to be able to say pretty much everything and that it can be heard as well. It’s a wonderful practice for me.
In the end, my travel plans changed, but I received the help I needed from my aunt, my dad and friends.
It remains a bit confusing though, that when I received the message that my van was ready, a day earlier than expected, I felt relieved, but also quite sad. I was really looking forward to my own home and travelling, but had really come to enjoy the little routines my aunt and me had developed. And we both feel that goodbyes suck. So, we hugged it out, shed some tears, and that evening, I went on my way again.
The first drive was pretty uncomfortable, as I was super conscious of unwanted blinking lights and smoke, which never came. Lotje also sounds different now. But as with most things that change, I’m getting used to it.
Leaving for the start of my second vanlife year, besides cartrouble, did feel quite different. Last year I was super exited, exhausted from everything I had to arrange and the goodbyes. I didn’t really know how everything was going to go and if I would be able to deal with it.
Now I can say that I feel much calmer, even though my engine problems gave me stress. I know I’m happy on my own, that I don’t have to meet new people, but I’m very capable of doing so. And whatever happens, it will work out eventually. This is also the first time I really feel free, not having feelings for someone special in my life. I did when I moved to London 13 years ago (wow I really am getting older…) and last year when I left as well. That really influences how I feel about leaving, being away and experiencing my journey. There’s then always some part of me that really wants to be somewhere else and a lot of ‘what ifs’ crossing my mind.
I guess I’ve always been exactly where I needed to be (I mean, where else would I be?), but this time it feels more true.
So, here’s to another year of adventure, friendships (new and old), growth, challenges, fears, tears, laughter and love, together with my home Lotje and everyone else <3