This is the last of Denise McLaughlin’s guest blogs for the current season. I want to thank her profusely for filling in the gap whilst I was travelling. Although, I am not yet home, I can now settle down to writing again. When I asked Denise to share her Festive Journey with my readers, it was because she is such a wonderful example of not letting life’s circumstances get her down. Are her circumstances ideal? No of course not, but she has taken what she has and made it into the best she can. I just love this final blog about making her dream of travel come true. Please share this post with anyone you think can benefit from Denise’s ‘can-do’ approach to her life’s journey.
For 26 years this little blue Mazda Soho 1.3 has served me and my wanderlust well. For years it was time-share places and self-catering accommodation. I had however always yearned for longer road trips along the back roads into the beautiful countryside. I thought of the self-drive typical mobile campervan but knew it was beyond my means.
My longing for camper-van road trips, off-road adventures or in fact any kind of camping led me to binge-watch all the Youtube videos on conversions of this type. I discovered the wonderful world of camper-vans being converted from cars, panel vans and even buses. In the USA this kind of lifestyle is big!
Then I happened to see a South African video of a similar small car converted. This was apparently possible, and I set about finding this gentleman who lived about a three-hour drive from me. He agreed and invited me there to discuss the conversion of my Mazda Soho.
Not at all daunted I drove to his town, it felt like a real adventure! He had arranged for me to staying a caravan on a nearby farm. After he had measured my car up, and realising it could be done, I made the decision to leave the car there and come back on a taxi-like bus…in itself a brave thing to do as I live in a rather dangerous country- South Africa. However, the excitement of making this happen, drove me to take a chance – Nothing ventured- nothing gained! I arrived home safely.
Soon after the conversion I took my first solo trip and camped beside the wide Breede River in the Bonnievale area – a region of vineyards and fruit trees and prosperous farms. I spent two nights sleeping in my car – and waking up to the river right beside my window – magic. I felt so daring and free…I had a table top which served three purposes – either outside, on Ironing board like legs, or across the back where the hatch opens as a kitchen table but also as a bedside shelf for all my night time necessities. I had a comfy camping chair and a shiny new kettle to fit onto my minute little gas stove. After making the car into sleeping mode which is no mean feat – as you have to push the passenger seat far forward and down- then add the wooden extension for the bed, get your tog bag with clothes out of the way in front then place the sturdy cool box back to be under the bed, put up silver sunscreens at front and back windows- for privacy – my side windows have little vintage- looking curtains to draw. Then the table top comes in, lighting organised for reading which could be electric lamp, or several other lights – battery, LED’s, large torch or yes-in my case even a candle! (OK, I know that could be risky, but I am careful, and I do love the warm ambience it radiates.
While I am driving, I listen to music like Willie Nelson’s ON THE ROAD AGAIN and other favourites. What a glorious feeling to know I can stop when I like, go anywhere and am living my dream. My next stop was at Greyton, a quaint and lovely village but I instinctively knew; when I saw the campsite I had pre-booked, that I would not feel safe there. They actually gave my deposit back but then the fun and games started as the surrounding towns had no camping spots and my cell phone was losing battery power fast! After an inquiry at a police station, I drove further and luckily found a good spot near Stanford – another small town. This one had a wooden Wendy-house type of kitchen as a bonus. I ended up swimming in the river and got a passer-by to take the necessary photo of me…
To get back to the trimmings, I took an old duvet cover in a soft feminine pale blue pattern apart to cover the mattress of foam and the curtains- my idea of vintage!
My very handy tabletop was painted and decoupaged with travel slogans, maps and pictures it became quite a talking point with fellow-campers. So, with a nifty camper-car – good enough for solo road trips, I was ready to roll. Despite warning from friends re safety and security and the dangers of being a woman on the road, I can now say it works for me- and I feel much safer in my locked car than I would in a tent!
I remain delighted that this conversion was making camping road trips possible and very affordable! I can now live without those lovely big RV’s
Moral of the story – keep looking for ways to make your dream come true and take a risk if it will help. Do not let your age and mindset stop you from living your dream!