Westfalia is not an option

Is there such a thing as an Eastfalia?

Is there such a thing as an Eastfalia?

I was walking through town on the weekend when I noticed a Volkswagen Westfalia for sale – old, drab, not the least bit sexy, and the van was pretty unspectacular as well.

“We should buy it,” said Deb, who usually doesn’t take much interest in these things (and, again, to be clear, I’m talking about the van). But Westalias are different. While Deb and I tend to scoff at the rolling resorts that clog up campgrounds and remind us that we have no money, the humble Westfalia van speaks to something deep and simple within us, emphasis on “simple.”

When we first got together in our twenties and it looked like, yes, well, this might work, our big plan was to quit our jobs and drive across Canada, surviving off our wits, the good will of strangers and the one-and-a-half Bachelor of Arts degrees between us. The other part of my plan was to write a book en route documenting graffiti in public washrooms. This was before the Internet killed the bathroom-graffiti-publishing industry.

When we ended up having our first child instead, we put that plan on hold. Then we had another child. And another. Well, at least we were having our children early, which meant that we could still plan for youthful excursions come empty nest time. Then we had another child.

Clearly, planning is not our forte.

So whenever we see a Westfalia – for of course we were going to cross the country in a Westfalia! – it taps deep into the nostalgia for those days when we were late-eighties pseudo-hippies nostalgic for late-sixties genuine hippies.

I peered through the driver’s window of the boxy grey-blue van – 314,000 kilometres but undoubtedly good-karma kilometres! – and I mentally noted the phone number, just in case, and also so I could do a reverse-lookup on the computer to see who was selling it, an invasion of privacy that would have appalled pseudo-hippie me and my genuine hippie progenitors.

But what if we actually bought the Westfalia? What if we did get our motor running, head out on the highway, looking for Tim Hortons or whatever convenient rest stop comes our way? (After four kids and with the ancient Volkswagen suspension, my wife’s going to need a lot of pee breaks.)

We’d ditch our jobs, naturally, and by “ditch” I mean “take our allotted vacation times plus some personal days we had coming to us.” Then we’d head off into the great beyond, with a pit stop first at the kennel for the dog!

"I'd join you for some haki, bros, but I pulled something taking out the garbage."

“I’d join you for some haki, bros, but I pulled something taking out the garbage.”

I can just see us driving down the road, grooving to CBC Radio 2 “Drive” and sporting our Peruvian hippie hoodies – with maybe a Roots sweatshirt on top, what with the chill in the air. We’d let impulse guide our decisions, pulling off to swim in a crystal stream maybe, or join a drum circle or – look! – a sale at Target!

Fate would determine where we’d stop for the night – the campsite near the washrooms or the one near the pool, we’d just go with the flow, man.

During the day, we’d hit the towns and earn some bread, me on the corner with my “Will Proofread for Food” sign, Deb offering to take people’s unwanted pets off their hands for $5 (negotiable).

We’d be super open and friendly with strangers, except for the ones who, you know, you can just sort of tell…

We’d attend all the open air music festivals, but at the back because of the crowds and the speakers being so loud, and I don’t think that’s cigarette smoke! The young kids would gather around us to hear our tales, like marching in the Earth Day parade back in ’90 and the importance of sunblock.

We won’t buy the Westfalia, of course, not because our dreams have died or that we ourselves are the Grateful Nearly-Dead. It’s because I’ve gained wisdom, and if I’ve learned one thing since I was in my twenties, it’s that tie-dye is not my colour.

About rossmurray1

I'm Canadian so I pronounce it "Aboot." No, I don't! I don't know any Canadian who says "aboot." Damnable lies! But I do know this Canadian is all about humour (with a U) and satire. Come by. I don't bite, or as we Canadians say, "beet."
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43 Responses to Westfalia is not an option

  1. List of X says:

    This would make a great radio monologue, Ross.

  2. After camping and sleeping on the ground in my 40s, a Westfalian looks like luxury. It’s taken me a long time to convince my husband that we are no longer roaming gypsies who can just hit the road and sleep wherever, especially with a child in tow.
    By the way, your post title is perfect!

  3. Oh, man.
    Killing me softly with this post, tellin’ my whole life with these words. . .
    If you change your mind and buy it, please consider stopping to pick up the quasi-hippie hitchhiker with sensible shoes and a Talbot’s cardigan. Will braid hair and play the tambourine for food.

    Great post. :-)

  4. Paul says:

    You bring back memories of times gone by Ross. I never was one for roughing it, so when I got a similar urge one year, my wife and I rented a 40 foot motor home with every conceivable gadget known to mankind, loaded up the 2 tweens and the in-laws and toured Eastern US and Canada (yep, it was just like the Clampetts). Ah the joys of peeing without stopping – at the cost of a liter of gas per 2 miles. It got boring after two weeks (when we’d emptied out all the gas stations along the way) and we were happy to get back home, even though I still hadn’t mastered all the gadgets (my favorite being the hydraulic levelling jacks that could be manipulated from the driver’s seat to make a can of beer roll from the back of the unit right up to my waiting hand when we were stationary). Sigh. The itch to travel raw (as raw as I get anyway) had gone and was only a memory. But what a glorious memory. Thanks for the reminder that I’ve grown wiser (I too prefer to call it that – *nudge, nudge, wink, wink*).

  5. candidkay says:

    My first laugh of the day:). Thank you! And I just bought a tie-dyed skirt that I now regret buying. Something about being in my 40s . . .

  6. Ned's Blog says:

    Though I wouldn’t consider myself a hippie, I owned a 1961 VW van, a VW Thing (I think several different years were involved) and a Karman Ghia (Not to be confused with the Japanese monster movie). Whenever I hear the tinny gurgle of a VW engine, I can’t help but get that long-ago but still tangible feeling of my youth. Your post did the same.

    Thanks, man.

  7. Every time I see one of those vans, I have the same reaction as Deb: “We should buy that.” Even if it’s not for sale. Just make ‘em an offer. They’re Westfalia owners–they’ll be open to that, right?

    We do currently own a Jetta TDI. Not AT ALL the same thing.

  8. All this talk about cars is making me hungry, ja!

  9. ksbeth says:

    what about just make a campfire in the backyard and everyone sit around in their sandals and batiked wrap skirts and listen to grateful dead music while drinking tang? it’s cheaper and very doable and you don’t have to deal with as much time off.

  10. I’ve not a clever thing to say, only this is GREAT.

  11. franhunne4u says:

    I just unliked this post- just to be able to relike it ..

  12. markbialczak says:

    I like the empty-nester couple that still dances to the sound of their own imagined drum circle, and knows enough to keep it that way.

    Good job dreaming and quickly discarding, Ross.

    I like Beth’s idea of the backyard mini-Woodstock. Just invite Nash.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      Part of the fun of dreaming is the sky’s the limit. Hey, it’s only been in the past year that I ever listened to Songs for Beginners. Nash is boss.

  13. byebyebeer says:

    When I was a kid, my parents bought an orange Vanagon, which felt exotic and uncharacteristic. Maybe they were working through some things. It didn’t have the pop-up camper space (maybe that’s what makes it a westfalia?) but it was great for road trips. I kind of miss it. I like your dream of dropping out and have entertained similar ones. It requires a certain ability to travel light and eat even lighter. Maybe one day.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      We made it cross-country in a Tucson and a five-man tent, so we have experience living out of trunks.
      “Maybe they were working through some things” made me laugh.

  14. Letizia says:

    What a fantastic looking vehicle! Is it my imagination or does it have curtains inside?

  15. The rather conservative and unimaginative reason it’s called a Westfalia is because the contractor that converted the vans in Westfalias was named Westfalia-Werke. And here, all these years I that thought that it was just an imaginative way to get people to head east. You know, to the Maritimes. “If going West falia (kinda like “fails ya”), then go East.” Marketing 101. Get people moving everywhere. At once.

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