Introducing Wolf 2 and getting her ready

Our van – Wolf 2 or Wolfie for short – is a 15-year old Elddis Autoquest 100. She is officially 4-berth but I would say actually perfect for one person and a couple of dogs.

Yesterday, I started my preparations for the trip by getting everything out and sorting through it. You can see more of that here:

Next step is a big clean and then working out storage and layout so we can fit everything in within our payload. Preparations are half the fun!

Who am I?

I am Janet Finlay. Formerly a computer scientist and academic, I jumped career a few years ago to become a full-time dog trainer and coach, through my business Canine Confidence, and I have never looked back. I enjoy the freedom of being self-employed and have built a business that is predominantly online, offering online courses, a membership and now a book. Now edging closer to 60 than 50 and responsible only for my dogs, I am getting itchy feet and want to do something different. This trip is to give me a challenge and to see whether this nomadic lifestyle is for me in any more permanent way (part-time, full-time, regular extended trips?).

I have been asked a lot about how I feel about doing this alone. To be honest I am really looking forward to it! I have always been independent and self-sufficient. I am a natural introvert, finding company draining even when it is fun. So this suits me perfectly. I have lots of friends and family on the route round and I am sure I will meet random strangers, so I won’t be isolated, but I will always have my own space to go back to. I have some concerns about the practicalities – what I will do if I run into mechanical problems, how I will manage with the dogs on my own etc. But I will find my way through things as they arise. Security I am less concerned about. I will be careful about where I camp – and Martha is a formidable deterrent to anyone attempting to enter the van!

So I am looking forward to travelling, walking on lots of beaches, playing with new technology and editing techniques, writing, reading, spending time with the girls. I plan to learn to drop spin and crochet. I used to have a small flock of Shetland sheep and I still have bags of their wool waiting to be processed. Plus I will be taking the time to evaluate where I am, what I am doing and whether I want to change any of it. Everyone needs thinking time and space.

About this blog

In every outthrust headland, in every curving beach, in every grain of sand there is the story of the earth.

— Rachel Carson

This blog is the record of an adventure. In September 2019 I am taking my two dogs, Martha and Otter, and setting out to travel anticlockwise round the coast of Britain in our camper. We will be staying as close to the coast as we can, bearing in mind we are in a small motorhome and Martha has a tendency to being queasy when roads are unmade! On the whole we will be sticking to the mainland, though we hope to take in one or two of the closer Scottish islands.

I’ve called it Dogs on Board as I expect their presence will make the trip very different to what it might be without them. My choices about what we do and where we go will be as much about them as me! And I hope we can discover and share the best of dog-friendliness – from cafes to pubs to beaches – as we go round.

We have allowed ourselves four months for the trip – though that is flexible and it will take as long as it takes. There are few fixed points. I will be doing a handful of workshops as I go round and have scheduled them for roughly when I hope to reach those places – but if necessary we will simply jump on the motorway, do the job, and then return to our meanderings. Otherwise we will take it as it comes and just enjoy the journey.

So that is the trip in a nutshell as I see it before we start. But who knows what it will be by the time we finish!

Who are the dogs?

My two dogs who are accompanying me on this trip are Martha (r) and Otter (l), collectively known as “the girls”.

Martha is 8 and is a Smooth Collie – like Lassie but without the fur coat! She is very loyal and loves being with me and she enjoys van life – especially the stationary parts. She gets very excited when we do almost anything and likes to make sure everyone knows it! She is not a natural traveller being prone to motion sickness but with a lot of work, a memory foam mattress to sleep on and careful driving, she is finding a whole new world out there. Last year we did a 1000-mile round trip in the van without any incidents – she sleeps most of the time while we drive and certainly finds the van much easier than the car. The bonus is I am becoming a more relaxed and thoughtful driver. Martha gets on with everyone, human and canine, when she has to but she is happiest just being with her family and friends. She is a great watch dog and one of her roles on the trip will be security patrol.

Otter is 2 and is technically a Chihuahua x Papillon x Miniature Pinscher – but she is mostly Min Pin in attitude and character! Bright, enthusiastic and funny, she is up for anything. She has a terrier heart in a lap dog body – the perfect combination. She loves nothing better than going on a trip, jumping into her travel box whether it is in the car or not, so she is going to love this trip. She loves adults and dogs if she has the chance to check them out first. She can be less comfortable around very young children. She needs a few moments to reassure herself that everyone is safe and, if approached too quickly, she will get alarmed and bark – so we are careful around loose dogs and children particularly.

Why this trip?

So why this trip and why now? Well I have always been fascinated by the coast. I love beaches and cliffs and I am drawn to the sea. In the UK we have thousands of miles of coastland so it makes sense to me to go to see more of it. Plus the dogs love the coast – lots of opportunity for play and off lead fun. So when I was thinking about a possible adventure the coast was an obvious one for me. I have since read that the coast is boring, one beach or seaside town is much like another. I don’t believe it – but we will find out!

And if not now, then when? I can go now. My work is largely online. My only responsibilities are the dogs, who will come with me. I am fit and well enough to do this now. I have the resources I need (a share of a van, enough savings to cover my costs, time). Who knows if that will be the case in a year or five years? So why wait? I am going in Autumn/Winter for several reasons:

  • I don’t want to fight through holiday crowds. Going outside of school holidays means that roads, camping areas, beaches etc will be quieter and there will be fewer restrictions on the dogs visiting beaches.
  • It is the time my sister is least likely to be house sitting, so there will be no long periods where our house is left empty.
  • I will be able to explore van living without worrying about whether the dogs will overheat while I go shopping.
  • I do cold a lot better than I do heat!

People have also asked what the trip is for. That’s a hard one to answer because, first and foremost, it is just for itself: exploring, enjoying time together, seeing new places, travelling. I won’t be working as such but I will be keeping my online membership going and doing a handful of hosted workshops to top up finances. I also hope to play with video editing and possibly some craft stuff. I am definitely intrigued by how easy or otherwise it will be to travel alone with two dogs – just the practicalities about how that will work and the places that we can enjoy together – and I will blog about that as I go. I definitely want to spend time writing – I will decide what as I go.

But mostly I just want time out to reflect and review where I am. I have had a couple of years of extreme change and have just completed a major project that has been on my mind for many years. So now is a good time to take stock and to reflect. It sounds corny to say get back in touch with myself but that is part of it. Stripping back my responsibilities will help me to explore what I want from the next stage of my life.

So that is the trip in a nutshell as I see it before we start. But who knows what it will be by the time we finish!

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