Our latest featured vanlifer is published author – Janey de Nordwall. Janey is a BAFTA award winning producer for her work in film and advertising. She decided recently to spend 40 days travelling Scotland with her gorgeous cat Kenny in her vintage VW campervan Charlie.
She documents her travels in her new book, which is available here called ‘From a wonky path to an open road’. Janey also became a keen sprouter while on the road – check out her step-by-step instructions here.
What country are you based in at the moment?
Do you travel in your van part-time or full-time?
What has been your favourite experience in your van so far?
Without doubt this would be my life-affirming, life-changing solo six-week road trip! I left the noise of London behind and travelled through England and up the west coast of Scotland weaving in and out of her Inner & Outer Hebrides with my two favourite companions.
Having no sense of direction certainly didn’t hinder me as I just kept heading north and didn’t stop. What could possibly go wrong?! The joy of traveling solo is that no one can tell you that you’ve gone the wrong way, so I happily tootled along single-track roads, long-winding roads and up and down vales singing all the way until I crossed the bonnie wee border. Kenny settled into his new domain pretty quickly and would either look out of the window with his whiskers blowing in the wind or yawn and stretch in the back.
Scotland is one of the most extraordinary countries on the planet. The west coast beaches are covered with white sands which have travelled up the Gulf Stream and sit there empty for van lifers to enjoy. Wild camping is such a luxury, waking in the morning surrounded by, well, nothing, to then enjoy a full cooked breakfast and a cup of tea in silence.
Driving without agenda is totally liberating. It allowed me to throw caution to the wind, make things up as I went along and work things out on the road. Like six weeks of the best therapy ever!
What has been your worst experience in your van?
I guess the thought of breaking down on a road trip when you’re alone is deemed the worst thing possible but, for me, it just turned into another adventure and challenge. I ended up being stranded on the Isle of Islay without a throttle cable and no power going to the battery, with the neared specialist VW garage in Sterling over 130 miles away on the mainland! But, through the over-whelming kindness of people helping a damsel in distress, I got Charlie back on the road and had a few more stories to tell. There’s always a silver lining.
Describe your van kitchen setup…
Charlie is an original VW Danbury Picnic so he doesn’t have any kitchen appliances or shelving installed so all cooking equipment is brought in – camping style. The upside to having no fixtures and fittings is that I have a lot more space in the van and therefore the whole of the back area turns in to one massive bed… and it also means that I can lay out my kitchen and cook where ever I like… like on a protruding rock on the shores of Loch Lomond.
What is your favourite van kitchen accessory and why?
I do like a bit of kit so I’ve covered all bases when it comes to cooking. If I find a campsite with an electrical hook up then my double hob is plugged in. In the absence of any electricity, then gas takes over and my two ring burner, with hot plate and griddle is fired up. And if all else fails, I strike a match for my trusty foldaway fire pit that doubles up as a BBQ.
Creature comforts are important so I have a whistling kettle that matches the colour of Charlie, a very cool roll up knife and bamboo utensil kit, a Swiss Army knife and a whittling knife (you never know when you might need to whittle something), a stackable set of pots, pans and handles, a mug with a matching blue VW campervan on it for morning cuppas, all topped off with my parents’ bright orange melamine crockery set from the ‘70s and individual sets of camping cutlery.
What couldn’t you live without in your van and why?
Kenny my cat. He is the most perfect travelling companion and I couldn’t even imaging going on an adventure without him!
Do you have any first hand funny van life stories to tell?
This has to be told as an excerpt from my book…
It was a two-hour ferry ride to Islay and I arrived right on time with 30 minutes to find my next ferry. I drove down the ramp from the boat and, while still sitting in Charlie, I leant out of the window to ask the first person I saw where I get the ferry to Jura.
Before I even opened my mouth he asked “Are you here for the bike ride tomorrow?”
“Eh?” I replied eloquently.
“Are you sponsored by Bruichladdich?” Bruichladdich is one of eight distilleries on this tiny isle.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about!!” I said, suddenly sounding rather too English.
“Well there’s a 100-mile ride around the island tomorrow and, as your campervan and bike handlebars are the exact same colour as the distillery colours, I just thought that’s why you were here. I thought they’d sent you!”
“Oh!” I laughed, “No! I was just going to go ask you where I get the ferry to Jura! But funnily enough I was meant to be doing the 100-mile ride in London tomorrow for UNICEF and already have sponsors in place so… why not, I’m in! I can always go to Jura tomorrow.”
“Great!” he said with a beaming smile. “Follow me and I’ll show you a campsite where some of the other riders are staying. And anyway, Jura’s covered in midges this year and they have no internet so you’re better off with us!”
And with that, my best laid plans changed and off we went. It turned out that not only was he the organiser of the 100-mile ride but he also ran the Post Office, the SPAR in Port Charlotte, and the petrol station which only had one pump named Pumpy McPumpface. He was definitely the man to know.
You can catch up with Janey & Kenny on her social media pages and website www.janeydenordwall.com
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