At the end of 2011 we quit our jobs and set off in our 1984 Volkswagen Vanagon, "Nacho". Our plan? To circumnavigate the globe, slowly, while discovering culture, food, recreation, and emergency roadside Volkswagen maintenance. We are Brad and Sheena. Just wingin' it.
We had arrived in Turkey in the Spring, and as a result the days were generally chilly and the nights cold. Beyond Anatolia we knew it would only get worse; we’d been to Europe in Spring before and knew that our experience would be, to our Arizona-bred bodies, the equivalent of living in a van in the Arctic circle. And let’s be honest, Europe is almost entirely above the same latitude as the Canadian border, and everyone knows that Canada is a frozen, uninhabitable tundra eleven and a half months out of the year. That’s why it has come to be known as “The Dangerous North.” It was with this information that we decided to drive as quickly as possible from Turkey to Morocco in Northern Africa, where we could wile away the Spring until better weather transpired in the North. But we faced an immediate challenge: we had only three days to legally exit Turkey, and we were a full three day drive from the border. (more…)
As the months pass and we continue to wake up each morning in a van, our sense of adventure rises and falls like phases of the moon. One day we wake up in a Colombian junkyard and it can only get better from there. Then one day over our morning coffee we regard with amazement the way that the jagged tip of Tierra del Fuego slices into the sea, the very end of the Americas, the end of the road. But for every momentous morning coffee view there’s a nondescript parking lot or a filthy Indian petrol station. Still, no matter where we wake up and how our desire to carry on is tested, I still come back with the same suggestion to my sweet and forgiving wife. (more…)
Sleet had been falling on and off all morning. In the village the men huddled around a tea shop next to a barren mountain in the gray, bleak Turkish countryside. Inside—that is, inside of the mountain—I was precariously wedged midway up a 30 foot vertical shaft that connected two levels of a vast, hidden underground city. I paused in the darkness and looked down into the abyss, a lone useless rope dangling between my legs and disappearing into the black space below. The space above me was illuminated by a flashlight held by a mustachioed man in a leather jacket, a Turkish Burt Reynolds. The chute was no more than 24 inches square, having little pockets dug into its walls to serve as toe and finger holds, carved into the solid rock by villagers seeking protection from invading Hittite tribes some 3,600 years ago. I tried to imagine how I might utilize the rope should I lose my grip on the walls, seeing as how both hands and feet were busy keeping myself wedged in the shaft, but every mental scenario ended with me lying in a crumpled heap, the dangling rope faintly tickling my lifeless body. (more…)
Almost two years ago when Europe still felt like a world away we were contacted by a fellow Volkswagen owner and mechanical engineer from Turkey, interested in obtaining a copy of the CAD file that Brad made of Nacho’s body, which he had used to design our cabinets. Eren, after receiving the file, invited us to his home for tea if we ever happened to pass through his city of Ankara on our world tour. (more…)
From the moment we set foot in Istanbul it felt like we had fallen into a love affair of sorts. It didn’t matter that we had unknowingly stationed ourselves for the next month in Balat, or Little Tehran as it’s known, Istanbul’s most traditional Muslim neighborhood. It took us a while to come to this realization but Balat was quite literally like no other neighborhood in the city. Our apartment was directly on its fringes; one block downhill put us in a rather typical Istanbul setting while one block uphill was a scene plucked right out of the Middle East. Women flowed down the cobblestoned streets in shapeless black burkas, their eyes and noses peeking out of small triangular openings in the fabric while their fathers, brothers and partners wore sported thick beards and dressed in long gray trench coats and finely embroidered flat-topped hats. (more…)