I never took a gap year, and it’s something I’ve kind of always regretted, and initially it wasn’t at the top of my priorities. It would tend to rear it’s head when I’d had too much wine. It all started when I started running off into the night, when on a night out. Coming to it’s crescendo when I caught myself trying to leave a pub through a toilet window, during a pub quiz. It was actually the pub toilet window escape that pushed me over the edge. I kept feeling completely stuck and just really needed an adventure. Which probably explains why I ran away to Greece, without any real plan.
The longest I had been on a motorbike, before Greece, was a day trip to London from the Isle of Wight. I had no gear, lots of fear and didn’t really know Andi at all. We’d only been dating for a couple of months (distant friends for 4 years before that) when we left. I didn’t tell my parents, so they wouldn’t worry.
We had no plan, apart from buying a road atlas of Europe, Andi had a compass and we’d brought our bike gear from ebay and car boot sales. I didn’t have a proper jacket until the day before we left. We had a budget of £20 a day for food and accommodation. The bike could do 200 miles a tank, each tank was 10 litres of petrol, approximately £14. We were riding a BMW GS650, an enduro bike (a kind of road/dirt bike hybrid). It was restricted to 125cc as Andi had just passed his full test (I didn’t know this until much later in the trip). We also brought a water-proof 72 litre bag which we strapped to the back of the bike using a skateboard as a support.
With me wedged between Andi and the bag we set off for Margate from Guildford. After spending a couple of days doing final prep for our trip in Margate with Andi’s family we set off for Dover to catch a boat. I’d never been to Dover and I have to say how spectacular Dover is. It’s cut out of the chalk cliff, as you drive down a slope after lots of super flat countryside you suddenly go down a hill and your surrounded by chalk walls and boats. We found the cheapest boat they had, which was to Dunkirk. Leaving England on that boat was electric. I felt so free, I even considered going Braveheart on the whole thing.
When we got to the other side we instantly got lost, we hadn’t got the map out and ended up on a motorway heading to Belgium. Andi had glued the compass to the tank of the bike and was trying to drive in a south east direction, we ended up in a town (maybe Dunkirk). We decided to regroup a bit, ordered some tea and found a tourist information who gave use a map (getting anything out of the bag was a pain as it was strapped on). He still maintains that he would have found Greece even without my directions! We got a system going, I tapped his waist for left and right and straight on. We eventually found a campsite and had dinner. All on budget.
Dunkirk is a weird place to visit if you know anything about World War II. We stayed in a campsite, next to the beach which used the old ramparts as walls. It felt like an eerie place with a washed out tourist attraction style seafront. Europe is weirdly scarred by WWII, the further we headed into it the more you notice little things which just hint at the past, especially along the French/German border.