Marshall and Debbie Hockett tell the story of Tripping 1975.
This is the story of a young couple on their year-long adventures through Europe in 1975 and finding their passion for travel and each other.
Please introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your story. How did you get involved in vanlife?
We are Marshall and Deborah Hockett. Marshall studied for one year at Stanford University in Britain many years ago. He took trips around Europe on days off to explore the continent and to say he loved it would be an understatement. When he returned to the states, he vowed that he would save up the money required for him to go back and see Europe alone and at a leisurely pace. Then he and I started dating (he was a young attorney, and I was a court clerk). We clicked, and that was the start of a beautiful relationship that has lasted over forty years.
Our mutual attraction posed a conundrum for Marshall. He did not want to go to Europe for a whole year and leave me–yay! One day out of the blue, he asked me if I wanted to come along. After waiting for about three seconds, I said “YES!” That required us to postpone the trip for a year and save twice as much money and to also think of ways to save money on the trip. A van seemed like an obvious winner for us. We ordered a new yellow VW pop-top van which we picked up in Luxembourg. We dubbed her “The Banana”.
You spent many years traveling together in a Volkswagen van. Can you try to explain what this kind of travel as a couple in a small space is like?
We knew that living in a van for a whole year would test our relationship.
Some of the drawbacks were:
- Sharing a tiny space with each other
- Learning to cook in the van’s minuscule “kitchen”
- Having no toilet in the van
- Trying to be a competent map-reader (this was pre-GPS)
- Very infrequently experiencing campgrounds with inferior standards
Some of the good things:
- Not having to go to work
- Meeting many helpful, good people
- Finding lots of beautifully-appointed campgrounds
- Trying the great cuisine of all the countries we visited
- Getting to read almost anytime we wished
You traveled all around the world in your van, including Europe, Egypt, and Israel. How did you ship the van around to different countries or overseas?
Sometimes, we were unable to take The Banana on side trips. For example, when we went to Egypt and Israel, we had to go to Egypt first and then to Israel because of political reasons. We got very lucky as President Gerald Ford had invited President Anwar Sadat and his wife to the White House. The Russians had been forced out of Egypt, and the time was just right for Westerners, especially Americans to flood in.
We were undoubtedly on the first wave of that flood. The Egyptians went crazy trying to make us welcome. There were parades, etc. We were treated like royalty. Then it was off to Israel until we returned to Athens where we picked up The Banana and continued on our journey. By the way, we found Egypt and Israel completely awesome and have returned on occasion.
What was your best or funniest experience in the van?
The best experience was being able to experience everything together without any time limits.
What was your worst experience in the van?
The worst experience was when I was guiding Marshall backward into a camping spot in Tarifa, Spain (across the sea, we had a view of North Africa). He backed up into a huge well wall and put a big dent in The Banana’s back bumper. He was really angry at me! I coolly explained that the well was so huge that I thought there was no way he could not see it for himself and stop before he hit it. That made him even more incensed! It’s hard to find an alternate place to sleep in a van when you are angry with each other.
It sounds as though you aren’t traveling full-time anymore. Are you willing to share the reason for stopping? And if so, how was the transition from full-time travel into stationary life? What was particularly challenging and maybe what was easier than expected?
No, we are not traveling full time anymore after our one-year van trip; however, we (and later, our son) have managed to travel to Europe, Asia, (and even extended in the U.S.!) every year since then. In fact, we were forced to disembark a ship in Rio last March because of the coronavirus. We were only able to complete three months of our six-month world cruise. We might try another world cruise when this terrible pandemic is under control.
The reason we stopped our one-year van trip is very mundane. We simply ran out of funds and had to return home to start working again in real life.
Tell us a bit about your book: “Tripping 1975”. How was the idea born? What was the inspiration behind it?
“Tripping 1975–Falling in Love One Country at a Time” is Marshall’s (almost) everyday diary of our one-year van trip in The Banana. This red-bound book sat on our bookshelves for forty years. All of our friends who read it told us that we should try to publish it. It was not until Marshall became a judge and his staff encouraged him to publish it that it finally happened.
Now that you have stepped away from living in a van full-time, what would you say your biggest lesson has been? Additionally, reflecting on your experience, is there anything you would have done differently or wish you would have known at the beginning?
You can live in any type of habitat (within reason) when you do not have grandiose expectations and, people of all nations (including the U.S.) are basically the same. Some are good, some not so much. The overwhelming majority of the people we met were extremely nice and anxious to help us out and also learn about the U.S.
Honestly, there is nothing we would have done differently. Sometimes it is more fun to find things out as you go along.
What are you currently up to? Any major projects you are working on or plans you have in the works?
With the pandemic raging around us, we are anxiously awaiting it to come to a quick end. When that happens, we might take another long cruise, hopefully without interruption. We would like to see a lot more of Asia.
Do you think you will ever live or travel long-term in a van again?
Our choices for travel are somewhat limited now. Marshall has had Parkinson’s disease for about five years now. This pretty much precludes living in a van, but he can still travel most of the other ways.
Are there any other details or stories you would like to add?
You must treat yourselves and read this book. There is so much information, history, and humorous stories in it (we need humor more than almost anything now – right?).
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