Eighteen days to ferry time and those infamous, cliched butterflies are having a fiesta in my stomach. A rowdy one. With bells and whistles. And mucho, molto enthusiastic dancing! I like butterflies as well as the next crazy nomad. But those wee guys are starting to get on my nerves!
But why are they dancing? Where is the party? In Scotland it’s cold. Cold and dark. Daylight is disappearing at a rate of nearly 30 minutes a week. So where is it going to? Who is guzzling all our light? I hear New Zealand is getting a lot of it but we’re not quite ready to drive that far this winter. But wait! The butterflies are tapping out tiny Morse code messages on my innards. Sicily…Sicily… It’s like an infectious drumbeat. Calling me to follow. To chase the winter sun. South; to where three seas meet in the land of the volcano. If only the tapping of all those tiny wings wasn’t making me feel quite so queasy!
These pre-departure jitters are a familiar feeling for me. It’s all part of going on a trip. The excitement. The anticipation. The constant checking I’ve got my passport. Cause, you know, that sneaky Passport Eating Goblin may have slipped in and gobbled it up with chocolate sauce while I wasn’t looking. That is a thing, right? Right?
Okay maybe the Passport Eating Goblin is a myth. And maybe there are no gloriously colourful butterflies partying down the days until departure. But the nerves are real and increasingly annoying. Each day lasts an eternity. The weeks vanish in a blink. Jay and I hardly talk anymore as all focus is on making as much cash as possible while we still have the chance. Sleep, work, eat. Repeat.
Jay works for a nursing agency. Ad hoc shifts that give perfect flexibility – and zero security. It’s a great company and there’s usually plenty of work going around. It’s just not guaranteed and not always there every day. With only a few days to go, if he’s not working or sleeping, he’s scrolling through the shifts on offer. Hunting for one suitable for him. Then pounce! Grab it quick before someone else does. I watch him scrolling and imagine him getting repetitive strain injury to his finger. He looks like an old time bank teller counting money. If only he was counting money! That lottery win he promises me is coming… Any day now…
Every day we don’t work is half a week’s travelling budget. I don’t count things in money anymore. I count money by how much time on the road it will get me. Count purchases by how many shifts it will take to pay for. How much time off the road it will cost me. Because for every day I’m working I’m not travelling. And I ache to be travelling. Ache I tell you!
I too work in the land of insecurity, on a relief staff contract with a homeless hostel. Like Jay, and many others like us, I sacrificed the security of a guaranteed pay packet for the flexibility to take off when it suits me. I’ve been lucky over the past few months to be covering for a night shift vacancy, so I’ve had regular hours to count on. Also like Jay, the awareness of our imminent departure from the land of income has me trying to pack in extra hours where I can. I love my job, but boy am I tired of night shifts!
Two weeks today is my last shift. My last going to bed with the first light of dawn. Waking in the dark to work through to the glimmers of the next one. The short days in between shifts aren’t enough to satisfy my craving for daylight. I constantly click on my calendar. Count up to that magical day:
- 26th November – FERRY!! 🙂 – DFDS Seaways – Newcastle
And oh how the days crawl! And oh! How the days rush!! I write to do lists and lose them. I stress out as Iggy’s cupboards get messed up and I can’t seem to keep any documents where they can be found. My list of “Things We Should Get/Fix Before We Go Away” keeps growing, but there’s no more money to spend on it. We’ve spent too much already.
- 4 new Michelin Agilis Camping Tyres
- Air compressor
- 2 new leisure batteries
- Full base vehicle service & MOT
- Broken thermostat fixed and new sensor fitted
- 12 volt lap top charger
- All weather jackets and walking shoes
- Zoom lens for Nikon
- Aerophone (electric saxophone)
We still really need snow chains. A lightweight folding stepladder. A tripod. And a new switch for our electric step. A set of silver screens would also be nice. Oh and bicycles. We really need two bicycles. And a camper specific satnav. And…and… Where’s Santa when you need him?
I’m not sure where the jolly elf is, but I’m hoping he’s waiting in Sicily. Sitting in the sunshine at the foot of Mount Etna. Waiting for two Scottish pilgrims, one stuffed mouse and one German motorhome (with an Italian engine!) to roll up for Christmas!
I hope we have a smooth journey and arrive safely. I hope the weather is kind to us as we flee south from the winter. Netherlands, Belgium, France? We’re not sure of our route yet. We’ll decide for sure each day. But we think we’ll take the long way through France and try and skip the most of the mountains. We’re not quite ready for Iggy in the snow yet.
Christmas will be strange. We’ve never been in another country for Christmas before. Either of us. The thought excites me, but it will be very strange not to be with family. To have them all so far away. This poising on the brink of leaving is hard. The joys of the road seem distant. The uncertainties crowd close and whisper, unwanted, in my ear.
And after Christmas? Who knows what the New Year will bring. We will start it in Sicily, that ancient land, gazing out across the Ionian sea. If all goes well we will cross it to Greece to finish out the winter wandering through human history in the Peloponnese. And then the Spring and the slow, winding journey back to Blighty before our money runs out.
What will we see? Where will we go? What will we do? Who will we meet? What will we learn? What will we feel?
The questions set nerves jumping in my gut. A cloud of ecstatic, glorious, dancing butterflies. Pushing against my skin as they try to fly, far, far away across lands and seas. Trying to see round corners I haven’t yet reached.
Eighteen days and counting…