Bairbre Power: This summer I’m going to road test my dream of owning a camper van. Contrary to what some may think, this is NOT a midlife crisis!
I'm a sucker for a vintage car. I love those glorious, old motoring machines with their curvaceous bodies and gleaming chrome.
I remember when The Edge from U2 used to drive around the hood in a Triumph Herald with its gorgeous wooden dashboard. A neighbour has a sleek gold Mercedes which I always admire on my walks. If fate had been kinder, I might by now be driving a VW Karmann Ghia, but my current fixation is slightly bigger... camper vans.
The Instagram feed I like to scroll through every morning used to be all about fashion. Then it moved to interiors where I 'crushed' on various home improvement projects with their shades of grey, lofts with chic navy panelled walls and vintage-find drinks trolleys.
Now I'm all about Instagram posts tagged #vanlife , #RVfixeruppers and best of all #vwcampers, where I swoon over vintage vans as old as myself. My heart beats faster when I spot really unique ones with split windscreens and fold-out doors.
When I heard that Jamie Oliver had a 23-window VW Samba camper van dating back to 1959, it made me love the cheeky chappie even more.
So what's the plan? Well if I had my way, I'd take a half day every Friday and set off in my camper van to rediscover favourite spots in Ireland. Just me and Romy, the faithful Yorkie. I can see it, almost smell it. Open road, map open on the passenger seat, James Taylor and Neil Young on Spotify, the world our oyster. Hippie van or midlife crisis? Definitely the former.
I have friends who have a big posh white Recreational Vehicle (RV) with all the trimmings, while I'll be in something far more humble. I'm sure they have lots of insights they can share about van life - like where best to park for the dream views when you pull back that door in the morning, gazing out on some coastal or rural heaven instead of pulling open the curtains on landlocked surburbia.
What do the adult kids think? They are too well brought up to accuse me of having a midlife crisis, but there are others who would. Hands in the air, I'm a hotel girl rather than campsite aficionado, but I'm fully confident that I would embrace a camper van lifestyle for weekends. And who knows what might happen after that? Europe here we come - but first, I've to rent one to experience the realities.
The plan to buy a camper van started, if I remember correctly, on a beach in Brittany, and as the sun disappeared again behind those infamous Breton grey clouds, we hatched a plan.
Someone knew where you could buy an old Citroen 2CV for a song. Should it be a van, we pondered, for bringing all the gear and a BBQ to the beach? I brought the nugget of a plan home from that holiday and, fingers crossed, I will finally get to action it.
Years ago, I got my hands on a rooftop car tent from a place in Crumlin. It basically sat a few inches above the top of the roof and you clamped it to the sides. Then when we got to our destination, a field near Skerries with a sea view, we pulled it out and climbed up a ladder to our overnight palace.
It had a pocket on one wall for essentials like the bottle of wine and two glasses. Next morning, we folded it back down and headed into the Monday morning commuter traffic to the city. I was smitten with the idea of accommodation-on-the-move but it was a no to caravan life, unless of course it's a shiny vintage Airstream, and the closest I ever came to that was sipping Cosmopolitans in one parked on the roof of the Morgan hotel!
There are those who might say I'm a sad hippie trying to recreate happy memories from the past with this camper van malarkey. Or maybe I'm just trying to create new memories for myself going forward?
Apart from the initial investment, all this solo traveller needs is a map and an open road.
Sure, old vehicles, like ageing bodies, require TLC, so we'll both be stress-tested for leaks and tired bodywork. But you know what, I'm really looking forward to actually stopping to see all those gorgeous views rather than being driven past them and saying wistfully 'oh that looked nice, I must come back there.'
Not too much taxing driving though, just enough to enjoy a new dinner spot every night and constantly changing views every morning.
Should this work out, the serious stuff would come in Australia, which is where I first heard of the 'grey army' zig-zagging across the country. If I ever get there, the bucket list plan is to go on an RV adventure from Noosa up to Fraser Island.
Yes indeed, some people have midlife crises where they buy themselves a new head of hair, or stop talking to the kitchen wall like Shirley Valentine and run away to a Greek island.
Others buy the big, fancy, shiny car but me, I don't want a major shift in life direction, or appearance.
I just want a retro camper van with my bike tied up to the back and let the happy adventures begin.
To all the friends, north and south, who I've said "oh, I'll be up your way soon, I'll pop in," well I've news. I'm coming and I don't need a bed - because I'm bringing my own.