Ever wondered what it would be like to set out on an adventure that waves goodbye to the stresses and strains of everyday life, the long, tiring hours at work and the rising cost of living?
Well, now you can ask Gainsborough duo Meisha Jackson and her boyfriend, Vincent Jacklin-Idczak, because they spent six months of 2018 doing exactly that.
They hit the road in a converted camper van and toured Europe, visiting 13 countries, for an alternative lifestyle and dream holiday rolled into one. And what’s more, they can’t wait to do it again!
“It was the most amazing time of our lives,” beamed Meisha, 23. “It really opened our eyes to a new world out there.
“It was fantastic, and such a fun and thrilling thing to do. The big plan now is to do Australia next year.”
Meisha and Vincent’s intrepid journey can be traced back to the day they got together three years ago. Although they had gone to different schools -- Meisha to Gainsborough Academy and Vincent to Huntcliff at Kirton in Lindsey -- they had been friends since they were teenagers, and now discovered that each had a great sense of adventure. “It was nice to find someone with the same outlook on life and wanting to do the same things,” Meisha said.
The plot to buy a camper van hatched in Vincent’s mind while he was travelling in Australia in 2016. He returned home to buy a Fiat Ducato van and transformed it into what the couple now lovingly refer to as ‘our little home on wheels’.
After the installation of wood panelling, insulation, running water, storage space, a bed, a fridge, a sink, a hob, a grill and other necessities, the van was ready to roll. As Vincent said: “Nothing fancy, but just what we needed, all for the cost of about £8,000.”
So far, so good, but what about their jobs? As a self-employed kitchen fitter, 25-year-old Vincent worked hard to save up enough money that gave himself the chance for time off. While Meisha was generously allowed a year’s sabbatical by her bosses at Gainsborough Nursery School. With everything in place, they set off on their European tour in May.
Meisha said: “Initially, we thought we’d visit three or four countries because we had to be back in Gainsborough by August for a wedding.
“But we ended up doing many more, going from France to Spain and then to the beautiful island of Sardinia, which was probably the best place we visited. From there, it was on to Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Hungary, Slovakia, Austria, Germany and Holland.
“After the wedding, we left again and took in Germany, Holland and Poland. It was incredible. We loved it. We came across so many other people who had converted vans and even double-decker buses. It was a whole new experience.”
Meisha and Vincent freely admit that family and friends thought they were bonkers, but it didn’t stop them following the duo’s exploits on Instagram via @gander_overlander.
Only twice, when the brake pads on the van had to be replaced and when they were moved on by police in Austria, did they endure scary moments. The rest of the time, they were able to pitch up at recommended spots and enjoy sightseeing, exploring, walking, fishing, surfing, snowboarding and general chilling out, all for minimum expense and all in glorious weather.
Yes, they had to buy their own food, and no, the van didn’t have its own toilet. But as Meisha said: “There was always a Lidl and always a public toilet just around the corner.
“And it wasn’t a case of two people being cooped up in a such a small space. We used the van just as a base for sleeping and eating. For the rest of the time, we were out and about.”
Meisha added: “We enjoyed it so much, we’d like to think it was just the start.” And to prove the point, the couple are off on their travels again on Monday to spend six months in the ski resort of Morzine in the French Alps, where they are to work to fund next year’s grand tour, hopefully Down Under.
Meisha will take up a job as a chalet host and Vincent as a maintenance driver. But you can guarantee their hearts and minds will be on taking out that camper van for another spectacular spin around the world.