The Best Laid Plans of Two Best Friends: A European Road Trip
The memories of two friends who piled into a van and headed for Austria, Northern Italy and Switzerland
25 June, 2020
What an adventure. I'd go so far as to say it's the best trip we've taken to date. My best friend and I had briefly stayed in Germany for a photography job, after which we drove in my 80s Westfalia van through Austria, into Northern Italy and Switzerland.
We'd planned a stop in the Dolomites, but it didn't quite come off. The temperatures were unexpectedly high and the roads long and steep, and we couldn't risk putting the old van through the strain. It was a huge blow and a real lesson in managing expectations. Setbacks should not ruin a trip.
It took us about 12 hours to drive south and across Italy then back up to the Swiss border. In the northeast, we stopped in a stunning mountain town for a night - it was perfect; we wore jumpers and drank wine.
We'd planned to hike to a mountaintop lake in the morning, but a bout of rain changed our plans. Later that day, fate made up for it when we stumbled across an alpine stretch of water glistening by the roadside. For a while, we simply stopped to watch ducks splash about, rippling the picture-perfect reflection. The joy of having no schedule and sleeping in your van is that you can stop whenever and wherever you want. You move with no restrictions except your own imagination.
Switzerland was the country I was most excited for, and it didn't disappoint. In the five days we spent travelling around, the sky, hot but thick with clouds, created a soft light that impelled me to shoot. The mornings in particular were beautiful.
Towards the end of our trip, Ophelia and I parted ways; she left for the South of France while I stayed in the Alps. During two days in Chamonix, the weather turned on me - and yet it was one of my favourite parts of the journey. My days were spent reading until the rain had stopped and the fog was low. An impromptu 10-mile mountain hike at sunset was my best decision to date - of course, I had hoped to camp up on the summit, but I'd left my tent back in Reading.
Van trips will always be my chosen way to travel; the flexibility of sleeping where you like, eating breakfast in front of jaw-dropping views and deciding where to go each day is just perfect. Here's to many more memories made on the road.