Wednesday 21st February 2018, I’m sitting at my new desk, laptop in front of me, headphones in typing away creating lines up on lines of little letters that then flow into words. Occasionally looking up to the left where a large bright window allows the light to flood in were I wish I could be on the other side.
Note that I am not wearing a suit; no tight shirt that scratches at the neck, no polished shoes that send light bouncing around the room, no ten storey office building. Jeans, a baggy paint stained second hand jumper, a green beanie and socks. Sitting in a little bungalow type house on the West Coast of France creating this; a blog to share with others, my stories.
That’s the point of books and blogs right; to tell stories and allow you to take something from them to ponder on and toy with.
Though I am not sure that anyone will take anything from this I am going to carry on anyway. That is why I am here in the first place; to test my creativity and determination to get where I want to be… Wherever that may be.
It was coming to the end of my gap year in 2017, I knew that I wasn’t going to university; I didn’t want to and even if I did I wouldn’t be able to, as I declined the ones that accepted me. I had spent my previous year both working and traveling. I started by earning as a barman, waiter, freelance photographer, website designer and gardener (all at the same time) until I landed a job working as a social media manager, photographer and cameraman for my local TV station. I had bought my first ever vehicle, a Peugeot Expert van which in turn I then converted into a ‘stealth’ camper van, my home on wheels. I had done some volunteer work as a young carer and also undergone my first ever part solo photography exhibition in the heart of Cambridge.
I had enjoyed this year so much and, in my mind, had achieved a reasonable amount. I wanted to delve further into this passion of mine that had allowed me to do what I had done most of the year - visually creating (photography and film).
Luckily for me one of my very good friends, Clement, was in the same boat. He had spent the last year working as a visual creator, working on other part time jobs and bought a small van as well. Although he knew that some point in the future he would go to university, he too wanted another year out doing what he really enjoyed.
When we both realised our thoughts were the same on the matter of another year out we talked about moving somewhere away from our home town of Cambridge to really push our creative skills. I am not at all saying Cambridge isn’t a creative place, but after growing up there for 19 years of our lives we knew every street, cool location and bend of the river Camb like the back of our hands. We wanted to find a place where we could create a hub of work and balance it with outdoor activities such as hiking, as well as a place we could find like minded people. People who didn’t look at you as if you were some crazy nut job when you occasionally slept in the middle of a field in a bivvy bag for a night just to get outside, or go camping in the back of your van in the heart of Cambridge because you wanted to spice up a boring week of work - which I do admit can be sometimes hard to find people as weird as we were.
We talked and planned about this move nearly every time we met. From Scotland to living on a campsite near Cambridge, we brainstormed.
In the mix of ideas we had a possible location in France. With Clement being half French he had a family home on the West Coast of France on an Island called l’Olreon. No one would be living there for the majority of the next year as they primarily used it for a summer getaway. Clement asked his Mum whether or not she would allow us to stay.
After a few discussions whether or not Clement was going to go to university and the possibility that he was making the wrong move she agreed to let us go.
All we had to decide was when we would move out. January? A new year with a great new start; we both agreed.
With the half year that followed I went on as many trips as possible. From Canada, Wales and the Peak District I explored as much as I could. I went on micro-adventures; trips in and around your home town, whether it be canoeing down a river and slinging a hammock for the night or camping in the vans, and even completed a pretty odd version of the classic Land’s End to John O’Groats trip across the UK. This trip consisted of just Clement and I; we started in Land’s End with no money, no clothes (just shoes and underwear or we would have been arrested), no bikes and two simple rules. Rule one, no hitchhiking, and Rule two we weren’t allowed to spend any money. The aim was to use the British public’s kindness to get us to John O’Groats (a northern point in North East Scotland). We got given food, beds, bikes and clothes. Over 19 days we walked\ cycled over 1000 miles, didn’t spend a single penny, met many amazing people and raised over £2500 for charity. One of the most incredible trips I think I have ever done!
The New Year! Our original plan consisted of driving there within the first week of January didn’t exactly go to plan. After working and saving up from my time in Canada I had a few priorities to pay off before I could save up for the move. The major one being to get my van back on the road. My previous insurance ran out just before our crazy August trip and with my trip to Canada I decided not to use it and leave it uninsured for a couple of months.
My plan was to insure it within the first week of coming back to Cambridge after Canada in October… I finally got it insured in February.
Because I bought the van when I was 18 my van insurance was stupidly expensive; for my first year I payed just over £2000! As my 20th birthday was in early February I thought that I would see if I could get insured on my birthday - with one year no claims and with being 20 I managed to get it all sorted for just over £1000 - still very expensive but SO much better than last year.
Some of you may be thinking why the hell would he insure a piece of junk like that for so much money!? The reason for this is because I definitely got my money’s worth when it came to trips. Everywhere I went in the van I saved on paying any rent or campsite fees, I would just park up wherever and sleep in the back; like a tortoise with a home on its back (which is a fair resemblance as the van is pretty slow).
With my lack of van insurance and slight underwhelming amount of funds we pushed the move back a month until February.
To fill the time and to keep moving we flew to Morocco in mid January, we managed to find super cheap flights and thought we would start 2018 off with a relaxing trip to Marrakech and the beautiful coastal town of Essaouira. We spent the time surfing/ failing at surfing, met new people and explored the local markets.
Clement caught a ferry on the 8th February and I got one on the 10th. I drove over with both my Mum and sister as it was their half term so I offered they join me for a getaway to relax and see where I was moving to. With an overnight ferry and a 6 hour long drive in the cramped full to the brim van we arrived on the island of O’leron in the early evening.
This was the start of my ‘creative experiment’. I have a small pot of money to use, no ferry back home, I have no idea what or even if I will gain from this and I have 3 months of EU cover on my van insurance… Let’s see what happens.