A Caravan Trip Down Memory Lane

When we were little, we used to take trips to Cornwall, Devon, Wales – basically somewhere with a beach. Inevitably, as a lot of people did in the 80s and 90s, we stayed in a caravan. There was none of the ‘glamping’ or ‘yurt’ style accommodation that you find today, instead it was a good, old fashioned caravan.

My memories of staying in a caravan mostly extend to sleeping in strange 3/4 sized twin beds, feeling never quite warm enough and contending with bugs in the bathroom (apart from one trip which had an outside toilet – I think that this is where my fear of spiders might have originated!). Despite caravan holidays giving me the shudders, they are also a  source of lots of warm memories – spotting rabbits through a pair of binoculars (‘binos’ to me and my dad), long walks along beautiful beaches, some dodgy club house nights (usually Haven Holidays style – other holiday clubs are available!) and lots of laughter.

Whilst a caravan holiday isn’t something I’d choose, I was invited along to join my mum and dad for an evening in Cresswell Towers, Northumberland. In a caravan. With Wandering Beeb.

Whilst it was a long drive there and turning into the campground brought back a rush of nostalgia – caravans and kids running around – I was longing for the rabbits to be honest! The caravan was the archetype of all caravans, not quite warm enough, not quite big enough but at least there were no bugs that I saw!

Once we had settled in, we set off on a long walk down the beach. It was there that I remembered why I loved those trips to the beach as a child. The empty stretch of sand, the sound and smell of the sea and the lack of distractions to focus on anything but each other’s conversations. Me and my parents reminisced about the trips we’d taken when I was younger, telling Wandering Beeb stories of what we’d done and what we’d found. A pirate ship climbing frame where we were pirates off to Neverland, a giant jellyfish called Max (it looked a little like the shape of the ship from Flight of the Navigator), stories of giant pasties in Cornwall and the best fudge in the world from St Ives.

Whilst I’m not a fan of caravan holidays (I’d rather camp in a tent!), that trip reminded me of a whole host of experiences that have made me who I am today. I don’t think that I’ll be booking a caravan any time soon, but I might just think about a few trips around the UK to visit some of those places from my childhood.

Taking the Plunge: Anxiety and Travelling

I’m not going to pretend that I came up with the idea for this post by myself. I didn’t. I read a post by Lauren Juliff on www.nomadicmatt.com which brilliantly encapsulated some of the fears I have about travelling – especially travelling alone. You can read the post here.

Lately, I’ve been wanting to prove to myself that I can do things on my own. That I can pack up, travel to another country, talk to people I don’t know and join trips on my own. For all the travelling that I’ve done, I’ve always been with friends, a partner or family. There has always been someone else to double check my travel plans or help me plan a route from A to B.

I’m a big fan of the ‘Into the Wild‘ movie which covers the true story of Christopher McCandless – I was first introduced to his story in a tent one night in Yosemite and it had a profound affect on me. Whilst there are different views on McCandless’s story, the quote of ‘happiness only real when shared‘ really stuck with me. I’ve always thought that travelling is something to be shared. That being said, I’ve spoken to friends who have experiences of travelling alone and have found it to be life-changing; really helping them to build confidence and self resilience. It got me thinking that ‘happiness only real when shared‘ could still be true – but that sharing might also include sharing an experience with yourself or a group of strangers.

So, after much consideration and in a moment of recklessness / bravado, I booked a trip. I wanted it to have a focus so I chose to book something that allows me to raise money for a charity. I picked Mind, the mental health charity because mental health is important to everyone. I have my own experiences of anxiety and depression and in my working life, I’m involved in the commissioning of mental health services – so I understand how much they can help someone who is struggling. The trip is organised so I have some structure to fall back on, but I will be travelling with a group of people I don’t know, so I will have to rely on myself.

I’ll be camping for four nights in Transylvania, walking 5-8 hours a day in the Transylvanian Alps and reaching peaks of 2,400 metres. It’s a challenge, and a big one at that. I’ll need to train. I have to fundraise a minimum of £2,000 – on that note, please donate what you can and share the link as widely as possible!! I’ll need to face my fear of heights and my anxiety of new people, but I’ll be doing it for a brilliant cause. I’ll get to see somewhere new and I’ll be spending my time with like-minded people. I’m hoping that this will be amazing experience that will help build confidence and really show me what I’m made of.

I’ll be sharing some of my training hike locations through this blog, along with stories from the actual trip: ‘happiness only real when shared‘, right?

Top 10 Tips for a Road Trip

Top tips for getting the most out of your road trip

Road trips rock. There is no better way to see new places and meet new people. There’s something about getting out on the road – a sense of freedom that you don’t always get to experience in everyday life.

We’ve done a few road trips (some successfully and some less so!) and we’ve put together the top 10 tips for a successful road trip to help you get the most out of your travels:

10. Try to travel light. Over packing the car means a heavier car to steer and all those extra clothes will mean less space to stretch out. Not much fun. Particularly when leg room is at a premium. Trust us! One year we had four people, luggage, food for a week (we were camping) and camping gear, all in a small SUV. When we pulled in to a rest stop to get firewood, the guy chopping the wood actually called his mate over to take a photo of how packed the car was. They couldn’t stop laughing and we were so cramped, it was hard to find the gear stick. Not something we’d want to repeat as it was uncomfortable as hell, but looking back it was one of our funniest trips.

9. Find your travel companions along the way. Road trips are a great way of making new friends – and finding new destinations. Ask other travellers where they are heading, share routes and split rides. When in Egypt, a mother and daughter shared our felucca down the Nile and ended up sharing our car for the ride out to the pyramids. They gave us loads of ideas that helped to inform our trip, and enhanced our experience by doing so.

8. Build in flexibility in to your trip. Planning everything out is great for providing some certainty and structure to your trip – but travel is about adventure! Being creative with your travel plans means that when your new-found travel companions mention the beautiful beach they are heading to the next day, you’re free to change your plans and join them – yeay!

7. If you aren’t confident driving in another country (or on the other side of the road for that matter), you might want to consider joining a long distance group bus trip such as Green Tortoise. Maintaining the road trip vibe, this company ensures that you have none of the stress and all of the fun by doing the driving for you.

6. Explore everything! Look out for places to pull over and spot things en route. Travelling down the Big Sur, we pulled in multiple times to admire the view and managed to spot some sea lions on the beach. Without random pit stops, we’d have missed scenes like this.

5. Shortest route vs the fastest route – the Sat Nav told us the shortest route between Tahoe and Yosemite. We believed it. We quickly realised that the road had turned into a dirt track, meaning that our top speed was approx 5mph to avoid ripping the underside of the car to pieces. The other route suggested by the Sat Nav turned out to be a well maintained road. The shortest route was absolutely not the fastest.

4. Have enough time for the trip. It’s horrible to say but we have to be honest; google lies!!! When you put your destination into google maps, don’t believe it when it tells you that it’s a 4 hour drive. Add more time. Add even more time for gas stops, rest stops and food. Add a bit more time for good measure because, you know; traffic and google lies. Do all that and you might have a more accurate estimate of your journey time. So many times, our planned four hour trip has turned into a 6 hour plus journey. Which can result in sleeping in the car. I’m not sure how it happens. Except; I think google lies.

3. Maps vs Sat Nav – Don’t rely on the Sat Nav provided with the car. They tend to drop signal and are not very accurate. Instead, download maps to your phone and use them as your Sat Nav. Don’t forget to take a paper map too – you never know when your battery may run out and you don’t want to be stranded in the dark with no idea which direction to head in. This is especially true for places with limited road signs – here’s looking at you Yosemite!

2. Sort out that playlist – if you are anything like me, the music on a trip can make or break a journey. Develop a playlist for each place that you are planning to visit – create your own travel soundtrack. Download a range of playlists to your device and make sure you have a way of connecting it to the car. Bluetooth, USB – whatever works, make sure it’s sorted. There is nothing worse than travelling in silence. Wandering Beeb will still start a ‘remember when we..’ story based off what music I’m playing – it’s a great way of remembering your trip by linking the places you’ve visited to specific pieces of music.

1. Pick your travel companions wisely! Spending a long time together in the car or on a bus for vast stretches of road can take a toil on even the best of friendships. Long journeys in close proximity can bring out the best and worse in people – make sure your friendship can stand the test! Luckily, we’ve travelled with some brilliant people and always managed to stay friends by the end of the trip!!

What are your best road trip tips? Did we miss any?

National Tree Week

Apparently, last week was national tree week – who knew? Mind you, we have all sorts of ‘national weeks’ (‘national talk like a pirate’ week is one of my favourites!) so why not one for trees?

Skipping through twitter, I found loads of posts on trees and it got me thinking about the most beautiful trees I know: those in Yosemite. There’s something about the noise of the wind through those tall, solid trunks and the smell on the breeze that captures my soul.

Although I’m generally in love with the trees in Yosemite (ours just don’t seem to cut it over here), flicking through my photos reminded me of the most impressive specimens I have ever seen: Mariposa Grove.

Mariposa Grove is a Sequoia grove filled with giant Sequoia trees, and when I say giant, I mean humongous! These things were like massive pillars, rising up to cut shadows out of the sky. The grove is home to some of the most interesting trees in the park, including the tree that is now a tunnel, the grizzly giant, the fallen giant and the telescope tree.

Standing in the middle of those trees was like being a tiny ant; insignificant and very humbling. We often take trees for granted, despite knowing their importance on the eco-structure of our planet. If it takes a hashtag to remind us to marvel at the trees around us, then I’m happy to bump #NationalTreeWeek up my list of favourite hashtags.