March 24th, 2017
This morning, you left us. I watched you turn down the road and out of sight, and felt the gravity of what Bruno and I had done. We had sold you, our beloved home-on-wheels of nineteen years. The vehicle that had transported Bruno for 400,000km around the world, had brought him to me, and had taken me along for the ride these past almost-five years – you were gone.
I remember the day I met you, parked in a haphazard camping along the coast of Mozambique. You’re the reason I noticed Bruno, really. Your bright Petit Prince paintings and your one-of-a-kind camper cell were hard not to notice. You drew me to Bruno, and through you, I heard his story. It was because of you that I decided to join him: There’s an extra seat for you, if you’d like, he had said to me.
I remember the first night I slept inside you, in Chinhoyi, Zimbabwe. You were cozy and comfortable, like a mother’s arms. I prepared dinner under the protection of your awning as though I’d never not cooked here. I bumped along at a snail’s pace down the wavy dirt track to Mana Pools National Park. It was hot and we had to keep the windows up to protect ourselves from the tsetses; you didn’t have luxurious seats or luxurious air-con, but for some reason, I was totally and utterly happy.
I loved you early on, Totoyaya. How could I not? You gave me experiences I had only ever dreamed of before – private safaris, wild camps on coconut-tree-lined tropical beaches, nights under the stars in the middle of sand dunes, impromptu picnics wherever we pleased. You gave me my dreams on a platter, gift-wrapped with the comforts I’ve always appreciated, like sleeping in my own bed, unpacking, cooking.
I respected you, too, Totoyaya. I knew you were Bruno’s first love, and for good reason. You were strong, reliable, sturdy. You’d brought him to places to which regular vehicles couldn’t venture. You promptly started every morning with a consistently robust hum. You and Bruno had major history. I may have been the new, younger woman in Bruno’s life, but you would always be the one he pampered. I wasn’t even jealous – I knew you deserved his coddling.
We got so much attention during our travels because of you. Sometimes it was slightly embarrassing to turn so many heads, and sometimes we were too tired after a day’s drive to entertain the ogling of curious locals. But mostly, your existence led to welcome – and sometimes serendipitous – encounters with people. The photo shoots with gas station employees on the Arabian Peninsula and the dinner invites with expats in Dubai; the hospitality Bruno received at seemingly every stop in Iran; even our bizarre afternoon with the tourist collector of Tiwi made for an amazing travel memory.
You took us on epic road trips. Trail-blazing in Angola, off-roading through waist-high mud in Gabon, navigating through the high plains of Mongolia and Siberia, testing obscure and undocumented border tracks in Zambia, even driving down Route 66 a few months ago.
You took us to camping spots of unparalleled charm and beauty. Parked in the middle of a baobab island surrounded by a giant dried-up salt pan. Preparing dinner by the Zambezi River while hippos waltzed by and hyenas scurried past and lions roared in the not-too-far distance. Sleeping in the desert just beyond the ancient pyramids of Sudan. Gazing out at the sunrise from a cliff overlooking the Turkish Mediterranean Sea. Trying not to fall asleep on an isolated nesting sea turtle beach in Oman. Snorkelling among the coral reefs in the sea just beyond our private coastal bush camp in Djibouti. Nestling into the lush coolness of date-palm oases in Morocco.
Because of you, we got to give Bruno’s niece, Lucile, her first taste of international travel. I welcomed my best travel buddy on a camping road trip through Morocco. Most importantly, we were able to share the road with my parents, who rented an RV and followed us around Morocco for a few weeks.
When we visited the fjords of Oman’s Musandam Peninsula, you were there. When we searched for whale sharks in Djibouti, you were there. When I experienced my first U.S. National Park, you were there. You were the third member in our company – Bruno, Brittany, and Totoyaya.
Even though there came a time when our love affair became fraught with complicated mixed emotions, I can never forget all that you taught me. To slow down. To do less, be more. To really see the world around me. To appreciate the little things. To de-clutter my life. To re-evaluate my priorities. To live life fully. To love fiercely. And that experiences are worth more than their weight in gold.
I knew it was time for us to part – and indeed, I have wanted it for the past year – but I didn’t expect it to hurt so much. No one ever told me that to achieve new dreams, letting go of one’s old dreams would be so painful. We had spent so much energy in recent months organizing a life for ourselves that didn’t include you. So when I cleaned you up for the final time before our buyer came to pick you up, and the tears streamed down my face until I couldn’t see and I was bawling on your floor – my floor – until Bruno came and held me in his arms and cried too, I was dumbfounded.
How can a vehicle – a mere object – cause me so much sadness?
But you’re more than just a vehicle, aren’t you? You’re the place where I found my life partner. You’re the home and the life we created together. You’re the vehicle of our dreams – literally – because you are the means with which we have pursued our dreams.
This morning, as Bruno explained a few last-minute things to your new owner, all these thoughts came flooding through me. This thought, too: this may be the last time I ever see you, ever touch you.
And so, I circumnavigated you, with fingers lightly caressing your smooth, familiar surface. Each step, I paused, and quietly thanked you for the gifts you’d given me. Those thank-yous aren’t nearly enough, but, along with this note, they’ll have to be.
Totoyaya, you’re on another road trip now toward your new home on the east coast of the United States. You’re going to live with a really nice man, a Land Cruiser lover, and someone who will treat you well. You’ll travel a bit – probably not as much as you traveled with us, but you’re getting old anyway and deserve a nice semi-retirement. You’ll be pampered, for sure, and maybe even get a little makeover. Your history will be honoured, we know.
And you’ll never – ever, ever, ever – be forgotten. Our beloved, forever-in-our-hearts, Totoyaya. Our home. Our family.
We love you.
Brittany and Bruno