A Grand Adventure | Driving to Montenegro

You may remember a recent post, January Blues, in which I lamented the loss of adventure in my life.  A fully fledged 9-5er, my ability to ‘seize the day’ is hampered by the modern (wo)man’s necessary evils – e-mails, meetings, bills, finances, appointments.  It’s frightening how quickly we get used to these ingredients of our life without questioning them.  We commit our sense of adventure to the realms of childhood, and even our escapes from the doldrums of life seem bittersweet, brief and fleeting and within the confines of our ‘annual leave allowance’ – a two-week holiday and then back to reality; whisked through customs and back to our desks.

I don’t believe it has to be that way and I’ve tried to use my annual leave to allow me to retain a sense of adventure and exploration despite my other commitments.  A couple of years ago I took five weeks’ of it at once and explored Thailand.  Since then I’ve been to America twice, France, Greece, Spain, Jersey and many trips within Britain – Cornwall, the Lake District, the Cotswolds, the Wye Valley and so on.

My trip to Thailand really was what one might describe as a ‘trip of a lifetime’ – backpacking through jungles, sleeping on night trains, visiting ancient temples, bartering in the night markets, swimming in waterfalls and exploring archipelagos with iridescent seas – snorkelling coral reefs and sleeping in sleeping bags on the beach.  It gave me my first proper taste of freedom and a snapshot of a simpler life; clothes folded into a backpack with a camera, a book and a wallet rather than vast wardrobes of clothes and shoes and material possessions.

Island tour from Krabi, Thailand
this was taken in krabi – part of our islands tour 

This year we’ve booked two weeks in France and also hope to enjoy four days in Marrakech.  Nonetheless, when Money Supermarket recently contacted me about their ‘A Grand Adventure‘ competition, neither of those trips seemed to quite fit.  The challenge was to plan an epic adventure with a £1000 budget – detailing where I would go and what I would do.  I immediately thought of ‘Montenegro 2014’ – next year’s travel project.  Ticking off number one in my ‘to visit’ list – my favourite Google Maps planned route  Nothing short of a 3000 mile round trip.  You might be slightly confused by the last two, but the intention is to undertake this as a *only to be said in a shout-y American accent* ROAD TRIIIIIP.

We are lucky enough to own Scarlett, a VW T5 Transporter.  Kitted out with a full width double bed, lots of cupboards and drawers, a portable gas cooker and (thanks to Tom’s Mum and Dad for a very practical Christmas present), a portable toilet! We spent three weeks touring France in it in 2010 and it was an absolute dream.  We had barbecues by the road side, drank wine from mugs whilst watching the sun set, visited countless beaches and little towns and drove through beautiful countryside (and up mountains in the Pyrenees!) with Fleetwood Mac blaring out. (And of course we started every day with a bacon and egg sandwich!)

Montenegro has long been at the top of my ‘to visit’ list – after seeing it in films and hearing of other people who’ve visited (my friend worked on cruise ships for several years and says that the Dalmatian Coast is her favourite of all of the places in the world she has been).  Montenegro has it all – beaches, lakes, mountains, forests and rivers, and a lot of history and culture too.  It looks breathtaking.  Of course we’re not planning on solely driving there and coming back (not sure Tom would fancy the 26 hour drive!) – here are some other stops on our journey.

And then, of course…

And what would we do? We’d treasure every moment; we’d soak up culture – padding around museums, and exploring new cities, we’d eat and drink – trying out new cuisine, finding little backstreet restauarants, eating market food, we’d get lost and enjoy every second of it, take hundreds of photos, wash our clothes in laundrettes and watch them dry in the wind, dip our toes in rivers and oceans, learn new words that sound different on our tongues, climb mountains, read maps, meet new people and immerse ourselves in adventure.

Of course, staying in the van  means we can do this trip on a fairly frugal budget.  If we had £1000 for the trip we’d use it to add a few more luxurious touches to our shoestring holiday. We could space out some of the van stays with some hotels; perhaps a spa hotel in Dubrovnik to soothe our weary feet, or a funky B&B in Frankfurt.  We could add some extra activities – cycling in Instria or visiting Roman remains in Split, sailing in Hvar or hiking Mount Biokovo (all Croatia).  We could push the boat out and enjoy some more expensive restaurants and take time cooking and eating different foods as we travelled through new countries (remember our little gas cooker?).

All in all it truly would be a grand adventure, and even though I’d eventually return to my desk job I’d have the memories (and photographs) from driving to Montenegro to treasure for the rest of my life.  What would your grand adventure be? 

img credits: wikitravel.orgomega-grupa.hrzagreb-touristinfo.hrgogermany.about.compcdesktopwallpaper.comim9.eude.wikipedia.org.

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