Wandering Footsteps: Wandering the World One Step at a Time » Blog

A Love Letter to Totoyaya

March 24th, 2017

Dear Totoyaya,

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.

Totoyaya

Totoyaya’s new owner getting ready to drive her home.

Our last look at Totoyaya... snif.

Our last look at Totoyaya… snif.

What Totoyaya has always done best.

What Totoyaya has always done best.

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.

The first photo we have of Totoyaya and I, in Zimbabwe

The first photo we have of Totoyaya and I, in Zimbabwe’s Mana Pools National Park.

There

There’s an extra seat… I took it!

It didn

It didn’t take me long to make myself at home in Totoyaya.

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.

Totoyaya brought us up-close with the wild animals of Africa.

Totoyaya brought us up-close with the wild animals of Africa.

Ok, fine, this beach (in Oman) wasn

Ok, fine, this beach (in Oman) wasn’t coconut-tree lined.

Sitting on a sand dune gazing at the Red Sea off the coast of Sudan.

Sitting on a sand dune gazing at the Red Sea off the coast of Sudan.

Surprising visitors at our bush campsites.

Surprising visitors at our bush campsites.

Picnics wherevery we pleased.  (Bruno is very proud of his omelette, but let

Picnics wherevery we pleased. (Bruno is very proud of his omelette, but let’s be clear – I did 99% of the 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.

Bruno pampering Totoyaya.

Bruno pampering Totoyaya.

a beauty treatment for Totoyaya in Sudan.

a beauty treatment for Totoyaya in Sudan.

So much history.  This is Angola circa 2003.

So much history. This is Angola circa 2003.

And Gabon, 1998.

And Gabon, 1998.

Bruno

Bruno’s first snowstorm with Totoyaya didn’t happen until 2015!!

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.

Expats in Dubai stopped us so often we ended up writing our blog address on Totoyaya

Expats in Dubai stopped us so often we ended up writing our blog address on Totoyaya’s side!

Maasais in Kenya make friends with Bruno

Maasais in Kenya make friends with Bruno’s niece (and Totoyaya) when she visits us.

These gas station workers insisted on coming out for a visit and photo when we parked overnight at their station (in the U.A.E).

These gas station workers insisted on coming out for a visit and photo when we parked overnight at their station (in the U.A.E).

These Acadians saw our for-sale ad online and drove out to meet us (well, really, to meet Totoyaya!)

These Acadians saw our for-sale ad online and drove out to meet us (well, really, to meet Totoyaya!)

Even the strange encounter with this guy in Oman created an amazing travel tale!

Even the strange encounter with this guy in Oman created an amazing travel tale!

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.

Wading across streams?  Ain

Wading across streams? Ain’t no thing!

Rocky roads?  No problem with low gear!

Rocky roads? No problem with low gear!

Epic road trips sometimes mean epic roads.

Epic road trips sometimes mean epic roads.

Or epic tracks.

Or epic tracks.

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 OmanSnorkelling 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.

Breakfast with the hot-air balloons in Capadoccia.

Breakfast with the hot-air balloons in Capadoccia.

Camping along the northern Basque coast of Spain with overlanding friends.

Camping along the northern Basque coast of Spain with overlanding friends.

One of my earliest campsites with Totoyaya, in Botswana.

One of my earliest campsites with Totoyaya, in Botswana.

Another Botswana campsite (there were so many amazing ones).

Another Botswana campsite (there were so many amazing ones).

A monkey-filled campsite in Kenya.

A monkey-filled campsite in Kenya.

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.

Camper vanning in Morocco with my parents!

Camper vanning in Morocco with my parents!

A visit from my best travel buddy and her tent!

A visit from my best travel buddy and her tent!

Meeting up - and sharing the road with - fellow overlanding friends.

Meeting up – and sharing the road with – fellow overlanding friends.

A visit to Kenya from Bruno

A visit to Kenya from Bruno’s niece.

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.

Three

Three’s company, too.

In the salt pans of Djibouti, you were there.

In the salt pans of Djibouti, you were there.

In the tea fields of Burundi, you were there.

In the tea fields of Burundi, you were there.

In the oases of Morocco, you were there.

In the oases of Morocco, you were there.

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.

Bruno and I loving and living our dreams!

Bruno and I loving and living our dreams!

Slowing down, and watching the world go by.

Slowing down, and watching the world go by.

Being curious about the world around us.

Being curious about the world around us.

To never stop learning.

To never stop learning.

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?

Bruno and Totoyaya, Totoyaya and Bruno.  I can

Bruno and Totoyaya, Totoyaya and Bruno. I can’t even separate these two in my mind.

Early on, we were three.

Early on, we were three.

Never far from one another.  I can

Never far from one another. I can’t even express how Bruno must be feeling right now.

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.

Bruno giving a few last-minute instructions to Totoyaya

Bruno giving a few last-minute instructions to Totoyaya’s new owner.

Surprise - the buyer actually ended up being our original, Bostonian, buyer!

Surprise – the buyer actually ended up being our original, Bostonian, buyer!

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.

Bruno handing over Totoyaya

Bruno handing over Totoyaya’s keys to her new owner.

We love you, Totoyaya, and always will.

We love you, Totoyaya, and always will.

JMGP0887-001

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

 

 

  • Rcs - Oh lala… this was definitely a tough moment for both you and Bruno.
    But alas, Big Blue, with time and new travel experiences, will fill the void. With the work you have already given her, she is becoming your and Bruno’s new creation.
    A very nice tribute and capsule of your feelings and emotions.ReplyCancel

  • Totoyaya - My new driver will need some time to learn about my quirks and “features”. He had that smile for the next 3 days of our trip, even while he slept in the back, what a weirdo!

    So far so good B&B, I shall complain if he ever mistreats me. I hope Big Blue is treating you good!ReplyCancel

    • Brittany - It is SO good to hear from you, Totoyaya, and even better to hear that your new owner is treating you well! Don’t worry – you will really like him. He’s a nice guy (even if he’s a bit tall) and he has roots in a couple countries you’ve visited and loved, so you guys have a few things in common!
      Please be as good to him as you’ve been to us!
      We miss you and think of you every day! Big Blue is nothing compared to you!
      Yours,
      BBReplyCancel

  • Remy - Salut totoyaya , bonjour Big Blue Bus . Ce n’est pas une page qui se tourne mais un nouveau livre qui s’ouvre … Bon vent à vous les BB et le BBB . Et encore merci totoyaya.ReplyCancel

    • Brittany - Tu as tout a fait raison grand frere! Quelle sagesse!

      De BB et BBB :)ReplyCancel

  • Elizabeth S - What a heart-warming, poignant tribute to Totoyaya. I couldn’t stop the tears from coming and she wasn’t even mine. Knowing how much she meant to you both and reading about her for the past nearly-five years, traveling along with her in Morocco, as well as having her at our home last summer, she was ‘family’. Hope we get to hear aboit her future adventures.ReplyCancel

    • Brittany - Yes, if anyone got to see how much we loved her, it was you! I am so grateful we got to share a piece of the road together before we let her go so that you could see how special she was! Now we’ll have to share the road again, just with two totally different vehicles!ReplyCancel

  • Sabine - I actually cried a little, reading this post. What an amazing journey the three of you have had together. Your blog is so inspiring, especially for people like me in a humdrum corporate cubicle, who use their break time to check out your blog and dream of a different life.ReplyCancel

    • Brittany - Thank you so much, Sabine. She really has been so much to us… alas, it’s time to create new memories, right? We are really grateful to hear your heartfelt words and it is such an honor to provide you some armchair travel! Many, many thanks!ReplyCancel

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