Another van arrives and dithers around for a minute, before turning around and parking in front of us. An older couple get out, our eyes meet, and for once they don’t pretend we haven’t seen each other. The lady comes over with a smile and says hello. They are French, though their English is excellent. After a bit of a chat, the husband joins us too, he is also very smiley and friendly. Most odd.
We talk a little about how long we’ve been in our vans, are we on holiday, where have we been…… I’m taken aback.
‘Yes” she says laughing at the madness of it.
“Wait, China?” I say again, confused. “You drove to China and back in your van?”
It turns out they took part in an organised trip with a number of vans to drive to China and back, via Russia, and the ‘Stans’ (some of which I have to pretend I’ve heard of).
This is incredible, these people are incredible, and indeed a very rare breed. Mainly because not many people ever go to these places, certainly not overland, and not (without being rude) a bit later in life.
They are the breath of fresh air I need, and in fact, camped out for two night by the side of Lac Cenis, we chat with two or three friendly and slightly mad couples doing something different with their vans.
Since we left Britain 5 months ago, I can count on my two hands the amount of people I have had a conversation with beyond a seemingly reluctant exchange of hellos. People in our age demographic, certainly less than five.
This has been a real shock to me, and frankly a huge disappointment. Before we left, we began to open up, and try to connect with people doing similar, travelling longer term, or even living in their vans. We found a few, mainly on instagram, and some blogs like ours. Though, if you look through social media, it would seem every man and his dog are at it. Casual shots of women in bikinis taking solar showers in remote beach spots from the backs of their vans. Guys standing on roofs triumphant from their 8 hour hike in the high mountains…..
All I can say in my personal experience, thus far 12,000 km of it, is that this, is bollocks.
Every day we turn up to old people in £75000 motorhomes sitting around in their chairs, doing fuck all. I can’t for the life of me understand what it is they ARE up to actually. It appears they stock up before they leave home, and never venture from the saftey of their vans. The first thing they do when arriving at a spot, is get the satellite to auto tune itself, shut most of the blinds down, and stay put. Quite why they feel the need to leave the comfort of their own homes is beyond me, and what they tell their friends on return is an even bigger mystery.
As you may be able to tell, I find myself irked by this. A large part of the trip for me was to connect with people, and see how other peoples lives looked, not necessarily lives in vans, but how their ‘normal’ lives are, and alas, I’d have had a more enlightening experience in solitary confinement. It is true, and fair to say, my language skills are all but absent (except a little french). I accept that to that end I am as much a part of the problem as anything else, but honestly, language or not, the body language, behaviour, and general interaction, has been at best, closed, and worst, non existent.
To that end, we are thinking of placing ourselves for several weeks in the the coming months to try to establish a connection, a feel for a place, maybe even make a friend or two in different areas?
I mean, it’s not like weve publicly come out and said we want nothing to do with the Europeans after all…..