Saturday, July 20, 2024

Couple quit their jobs to travel round the world in old van with two cats

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Willow Rolfe, 33, and Lee Hodges, 37, quit their jobs as teachers in July 2019, shipped their classic 1976 Volkswagen van over to the US and have been travelling ever since

Willow Rolfe and Lee Hodges quit their jobs to travel the world in a 48-year-old campervan(Willow Rolfe/Lee Hodges/SWNS)

Meet the former teachers who quit their jobs to travel the world in a 48-year-old campervan with their two rescue cats.

Willow Rolfe, 33, and Lee Hodges, 37, decided to take the plunge in 2019 – they quit their jobs, shipped their VW to the USA, and embarked on the trip of a lifetime. What was originally meant to be a one-year trip has become the couple’s new life – they are now on their fifth year of exploration and don’t plan on giving up any time soon.

Willow, from Birmingham, West Midlands, said: “Our original plan was a sort of ‘gap year’ – we planned to take a year out and travel from August 2019 to September 2020, and then return to our jobs and to normal life. We shipped our van across to New York. The plan was to explore just two countries – the USA and Canada – but to be honest, we got through America quicker than expected and we wanted to do more.

Willow and Lee’s campervan on their travels(Willow Rolfe/Lee Hodges/SWNS)

“We decided to extend our trip and headed to Mexico – and of course, when the pandemic struck in March 2020, that’s where we were and that’s where we stayed. We’ve now visited 15 countries and had so many incredible experiences – we’ve hiked up active volcanoes in Guatemala, seen thousands of turtles laying their eggs on a beach in Costa Rica, had Colombian police buy us lunch… It’s just been amazing.”

While the pair enjoyed teaching, they decided to quit after realising “waiting for retirement to be able to travel is somewhat backwards”. Lee added: “Why spend arguably the best years of your life working 40 hours or more a week so you can spend the weekend cleaning your house?

“We have never been particularly interest in owning ‘nice’ or expensive things. We would rather have an experience, so we put our time and money into setting that up rather than buying a nice car or expensive holidays.” The couple bought a classic 1976 Volkswagen van from Gumtree in February 2015. It had no interior, nor engine or wiring.

What was originally meant to be a one-year trip has become the couple’s new life(Willow Rolfe/Lee Hodges/SWNS)
Willow Rolfe and Lee Hodges in Las Vegas(Willow Rolfe/Lee Hodges/SWNS)

Willow used to be a motor vehicle lecturer at a college in Birmingham and took the van into work to repair with her students. It took three years to refurbish the van – which the couple named Ruby – and was finally ready to go in April 2019, after numerous test runs. The next few months were spent painting and cleaning their house. The pair planned to rent it out – rather than sell it – to ensure they had a source of income while they were away on their travels.

By August 2019, their belongings were packed up, their van prepped with the possessions they would need for a year – and they were ready to go. Ruby was shipped to New York from Southampton Port on August 16 – and Willow and Lee quickly followed. They arrived in the USA on August 28 – and their adventure began.

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