• Lara Flanagan

Our vintage van

Since I shared this week that the kids and I had acquired an original 1969 vintage Viscount caravan I have received many questions as to why, what our plans were, how long had I been planning this and was my car even capable of towing a caravan!!!! So I thought it would be easiest to explain a little of the story behind our vintage van.

I had to laugh when my dear friend Julie-chan said this week, that receiving a text from me telling her that I had just bought a caravan, rather reminded her of receiving a text from me 4 years ago advising her that I had bought 3 round the world tickets! Admittedly the van acquisition was rather spur of the moment, but there was a history of thought there!

When the kids and I had our big trip, the goal was always to come back and get a camper van or a very small van. Tiney and Al were moving to Tasmania and I imagined tripping up and down the east coast to visit them. My last conversation with Tiney we planned our Tasmanian Christmas together. I remember the conversation vividly as she had thought that a vegan Christmas sounded fabulous so I could cook all the food. She also specified that the kids could decorate their tree in a back room somewhere, while she had some sort of pristine Christmas tree out the front. I even costed secondhand vans and the ferry trip over to Tasmania.

As we know, the best laid plans often get turned topsy-turvy by life. We ended our trip to come home to farewell Tiney and even though I did scout out some vans, my heart was no longer in it. I just wanted to go home to Tenterfield. Since then we have saved and budgeted all year and every year so we can go to Italy on an annual experience that for me, is pure soul food. I have done a lot of soul-searching over the last 4 years. When it comes to travel, I used to want to see the world and I have seen so much of it. I lived in a Japan for a year when I was 20 and later lived in the UK for 5 years in my mid-late twenties. There I was lucky enough to travel for work and I saw places I had only previously dreamt of.

I had thought that my wanderlust would never die. In a way it hasn’t, it has just become more focussed. When a diagnosis and loss makes you assess everything, you quickly focus on what is important to you. I have realised that the two places I love best in the world are Australia and Italy and knowing life is short, I want to spend the rest of my life getting to know these places. When the kids are off following their own future paths, I dream of spending 6 months in Australia, 6 months in Italy in a sort of chase of a perpetual autumn and winter.

After we returned from Italy this year in late January, it did not take long to become apparent that the world was in crisis as Covid-19 rapidly spread from China to Italy first, and then to around the world. In late March everything changed and now I can’t see anything happening in terms of international travel for quite some time. By the time July/August came around my tax was done, my kitty for my annual Italian trip was looking healthy and I was getting really itchy feet.

I fancied maybe a small holiday with the kids and I started looking into beach shacks on the NSW coast that were dog-friendly and must admit I was gobsmacked by the prices! Then the kids and I contemplated camping and I looked up trailers, tents and camper vans. I had to be honest with myself though as I hated the idea of camping. I hated the idea of packing, setting up and packing away and having to have a plan. I also had to be realistic as I don’t think I could substantiate investing in something that we would possibly only do for a few years until the kids got older. I knew 100% that camping was not something I would do on my own. I am not criticising it, it is just not for me.

So then I thought of a caravan. If it was going to be a caravan I wanted it to be a vintage van. I am a big believer in using what we already have, in recycling, reusing and re purposing. I also thought a vintage van would lend itself beautifully to lovely imagery for my blog. When it came to a small caravan, I knew that once the kids were off doing what they want to do, it was something that I would enjoy doing on my own with Kevin and Rosie. Maybe random road trips to meet producers and create recipes. Maybe a bucket-list trip to the outback or travelling the Eastern coast and finally getting to Tasmania, taking all the time in the world. It was not so much the planned trips that made it right. It was more that I loved the idea of a caravan because it could be set up ready to go, at anytime. And vintage and quirky felt like me.

I then found out how much I can tow, (yes my car can tow a small van) and then I started stalking gumtree, facebook and ebay. The first van that I found that appealed was north of the border bubble so I contacted the lady to see if we could maybe meet in Warwick. As soon as she told me it was not tow-able, it would need a gas certificate and also something to do with the lights, I sort of panicked. The fact of the matter is that I would have no idea of what I was looking for, how to tell if a van was structurally sound or if it was even safe.

So then I started searching for people who renovate vintage vans and was amazed to find quite a few. Jess and Jamie from Retro Caravan Renovations were the ones that appealed to me the most. They were super friendly, enthusiastic, their work was beautiful and I felt like my little dream was in good hands. We had a big conversation on Saturday and by Sunday morning, Jamie and Jess were off looking for caravans for us. It was a day of dodgy caravans, people asking too much, hail damage, water leakage and two incredible people who would not accept any crap!

Finally I got a call that they had found a possible van, that it was in original condition, to not be scared by the state of the interior because the structure of the van was solid. They sent me some photos which made me go Yikes and WTF then asked me if I wanted to make an offer. 10 minutes later I got a call saying, “you are the owner of a caravan!!!” I had a little cry and the kids did whoops around the lounge room. I then felt rather similar to that evening after I bought the tickets around the world and the travel agent advised me they were non-refundable! I thought I might chuck.

There was only one name for our van and that is Tiney-Boppa. Tiney will forever be in my heart and mind, and she was always the biggest supporter of our crazy adventures. I actually felt like she was swinging on a star, flicking cigarette butts at me and goading me all weekend.

I do not have a tow bar, but I am getting one next Friday. Yes I know that it is probably a little strange getting the caravan before the tow bar, but it is organised!

What are our plans? The lovely thing is we have no plans. We can’t even escape the border bubble at the moment but the idea of just doing little trips initially sounds fabulous before we are inspired one day to perhaps plan a longer trip.

What happens now with Tiney-Boppa? She is in the hands of Jess and Jamie. Today she had a deep clean, which considering she was born in 1969 was probably long overdue. The kids and I were amazed to see the change in one day of cleaning. Our little dream is starting to feel like a reality!!!

Following the deep clean we will find out what Jess and Jamie recommend once they have properly inspected her.

We can’t wait to meet Tiney-Boppa and to introduce her to you all. We also can’t wait to plan some glorious adventures exploring a little bit more of my beloved Australia. We shall be like the Famous Five heading off in our little van with lashings of ginger beer and hopefully a little kitchen where I can whip up deliciousness on the road!

Stay tuned for renovation updates……..

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