Who am I and what on Earth is this?!

Katie Featherstone Feathery Travels budget travel blog

 

Hello there, I'm Katie Featherstone and if you hadn't worked it out yet, this is Feathery Travels- a blog about some seriously budget travel and the experience, art and music I come across en route.

 

When we aren't too preoccupied by the refugee crisis, Dan and I now travel in a carpet van called Burt. 

 

 


Fri

17

Feb

2017

Take two, step one - grazing through six countries.

Morgins, Switzerland
Morgins, Switzerland

 

If you've been dropping by for some time, you probably remember a little hype around last June. We'd saved and stagnated for over a year in Exeter. Unexpectedly, I'd found many things to love in that sleepy South-Western city; a small but solid medley of people, plenty of camping on Dartmoor and Devon's coast. Still, I was restless, we were gearing up for a great adventure. Burt the carpet van spluttered into our lives as a kind of tiny home on wheels, a fortified tent with space for a duvet, and we finally set of on our epic European road trip. Though the weather was better, things started that month the same as we just have, with a trip up to Scotland. As you might also know, that first drive up North and down was our last great road trip of 2016. We finished the year in Calais, laughing and crying and forgetting to shower. We're starting that original plan from scratch. 

 

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Sat

28

Jan

2017

Why and how we should be trying to preserve our Oceans.

 

Having spent quite some time ranting about the refugee crisis, I wanted to write about something else close to my heart, incredibly important, but not yet personal enough to make me shake with rage. 

Covering almost three-quarters of the Earth, holding 97% of our water, producing almost half of our oxygen and absorbing carbon from the atmosphere, I can't exactly overstate how important oceans are to our planet's survival. Despite being vital to our economies and way of life, gone are the days when it was possible to believe the deep blue sea was simultaneously an infinite wealth of resources and an invulnerable dumping ground. 

 

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Mon

02

Jan

2017

2016, thanks...

For the irritable lefties amongst us, those not fans of bombs or anyone who'd rather not think about thousands of people drowning off the coasts of their favourite holiday destinations in pursuit of a better life, 2016 hasn't exactly been the new page of peace and opportunity we'd been hoping for. Maybe every year is the same if you mull upon it in the right way for long enough, but somehow this one doesn't feel like anything I can round up in a listicle.

 

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Wed

21

Dec

2016

Christmas Camping

Frost over Dartmoor, Devon, England

 

Anything I write or do now seems trivial and trite compared to what's been on my radar the last half of this year. I've almost forgotten how I used to write about beautiful things, but here we go...

 

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Mon

19

Dec

2016

Trying to be a human after Calais.

In the end we spent five months in Calais; stretching over nearly half of 2016, it went by in somewhere between a flash and a lifetime. Days were over before they'd begun, but the weeks dragged out endlessly. Now that we're out, it feels like waking from a bizarre hallucination.

 

Dan and I with some of our lovely Woodyard friends (the hardest working bunch in Calais)
Dan and I with some of our lovely Woodyard friends (the hardest working bunch in Calais)
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Thu

01

Dec

2016

The Jungle is finished, but we haven't quite...

Help Refugees L'Auberge pre-eviction distribution team
The broken distribution team at the end of the very last day.

 

For months the "Jungle" was our entire existence; warehouse, jungle, warehouse, jungle, lidl, warehouse, junglejunglejungle...

 

We lived and breathed it until there was little left of our previous selves, but then they were taken away. We have no idea what has happened to the vast majority of the people we saw every day.

 

Exhausted and lacking direction, most of us left. It seemed like our work was done, but Dan and I faffed, tying up "loose ends" and fitting

new brake disks to our long immobile van. After the children were finally gone, I languished around the yard for the best part of a week, occasionally attempting a little clothes sorting or answering the questions of new volunteers with dead eyes and monotone half sentences.

What were we doing?

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Wed

02

Nov

2016

The fate of the "Jungle" Bambinos.

 

I'd gone from taking clothing and shoes to almost exclusively adult men and older teenagers, to spending all of my time trying to care for children. Frankly I had no idea what I was doing and neither did 90% of us. We tried to occupy them with football and games in a field next door, but spent most of the day and evening listening to their problems and trying to make sure they have working phones before they disappeared. They were growing boys and hungry however much we try to feed them, there was no running water inside the containers and many told me that they washed their faces in the water from the toilets. Helplessly I worried for their teeth.

 

CRS destroy jungle school, Calais eviction
CRS destroy the school- photo credit- Help Refugees http://www.helprefugees.org.uk/
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Fri

28

Oct

2016

Disconnected stabs of consciousness from Calais.

I've written very little about Calais over the last three months I've been here. There is so much to say and yet none of it forms in my head into a coherent narrative, message or anything even close to a solution. The jungle is finished, but I still feel like I have so much to learn. I never took any photos, I never said my goodbyes, all lost threads from a tapestry of unsolved problems.

 

Photo : Hassan Akkad from https://www.facebook.com/HelpRefugeesUK/
Photo : Hassan Akkad from https://www.facebook.com/HelpRefugeesUK/
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Mon

24

Oct

2016

Jungle halas.

The impossible task we've been attempting is drawing to a close and I feel both absolved of responsibility and drowned in sorrow about the people we've had to leave behind. I'm not allowed in anymore and am suddenly redundant. Strings of half made thoughts race around my brain; jobs I never got around to, referrals lost in the depths of my phone. 

 

photo credit- refugee info bus https://www.facebook.com/RefugeeInfoBus/
photo credit- refugee info bus https://www.facebook.com/RefugeeInfoBus/
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Sat

01

Oct

2016

Uncertainty in Calais...

 

Time melts on as if it has no meaning. The rumours are rife- "Jungle finish?" we're asked each day. Nobody wants it to be here but they (and we) are constantly anxious about what that means. Nobody wants another eviction, we can't loose any more children in the process, but there's no way we can sustain over 10,000 people over the Winter without being allowed to build more solid homes. We live day by day, maintaining their existence, providing clothes, food and some sort of shelter, but it's not getting better. In over two months, I've taken a few days to myself, but there are others who've been at it since Christmas. 

 

A recent flood. Photo from my friends who work on the Refugee Info Bus- facebook like below.
A recent flood. Photo from my friends who work on the Refugee Info Bus- facebook like below.
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Sat

03

Sep

2016

"Converting" the carpet van for under £200.

 

Searching for a van was a mundane daily hell...

 

It took us months. We were looking for something that didn’t have a massive amount of miles (many under £2000 had around 200,000 on the clock), with no major mechanical problems and that wasn’t too big. More importantly, it still had to be long enough for Dan (who’s 6’4) to lie down in.

 

Having never owned a car before, we took vital and occasionally contradictory advise from the internet and other more experienced family and friends. Dan’s dad (Rod) came along to view and test dive any potential options and we listened to the advice of a friend's trusted mechanic before we finally took the plunge*. Our budget was £1500 and eventually, after many false starts, we eventually spent £1150 on a Hyundii H100 from 1997, an old carpet fitter's van, and £350 on repairs and a new MOT. 

 

Deciding what to do with it next and getting materials... 

 

  • Dan read many blogs and other advice online to give us ideas on how to convert a van cheaply, treat rust and generally maintain cars as we were previously clueless.
  • We kept a look out for sources of free material and hit gold outside a laminate workshop where we found (with permission) lots of off-cuts of kitchen splash board, MDF and wooden pallets. Rod also gave us some plastic political placards (who’s party will remain unnamed…) which were going to be thrown away.
  • We used Gumtree and searched other similar second-hand sites to find a jigsaw, foam mattress, camping chairs.
  • To treat the rust we bought Kurust (phosphoric acid), wire brushes, rust inhibiting paint, fiberglass sheets, resin and a premixed tub of fiberglass mush.
  • We also bought uniform lumber to create frames for our cupboards and bed, several tubes of grip adhesive, some extra screws and insulation fluff made from recycled plastic bottles**.
  • Luckily Dan and his parents had quite a good collection of tools and paint.

 

Before we could begin, we spent a day dismantling and removing the ugly carpeted wooden platform and shelving from the back of the van, removed the mouldy panels from the walls and cleaned the van inside and out.

 

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Thu

11

Aug

2016

Some time on Islay, Scotland and the carpet van makes it to France.

The Dower House, Isle of Islay, Scotland
(a glimpse of the sun on my parents' garden)

 

After a very slow and somewhat arduous trip up to Swansea, Wales the week before, we were particularly relieved to make it up to Scotland in relatively good time without any major mishaps.

 

In between fixing rusty holes in the van, changing our oil (and spilling a whole tank full onto my parents’ drive) and generally trying to sort ourselves out a bit better before leaving the UK, we found a little time for the beach... 

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Tue

19

Jul

2016

...and we're off! The beginnings of life in a carpet van.

Haweswater Reservoir, Lake District, England, UK

 

Having got to know each other over long, stressful nights in the library, the least organised History students in our year, it's hardly surprising that Dan and I struggle to get ourselves together before a (hopefully) long trip. Despite slogging and saving for over a year in preparation, we found ourselves committed to leaving our jobs forever in two weeks time, with no van to move into, half a flat full of things and Dan still learning to drive. 

 

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Tue

21

Jun

2016

Storms, sea shells and sand boarding in Mui Ne, Vietnam.

Mui Ne beach, Vietnam

 

After over a year's waiting and saving, I'm soon setting off on another adventure. I couldn't be much further from travel burn out right now, but somehow this sprung to mind...

 

Trying to loop through the North of Thailand, floating along a portion of the Mekong, through Laos and down the entire length of skinny Vietnam in just a few weeks, had turned into somewhat of an ordeal. Vietnam is a beautiful country, with some of the most impressive sights in South East Asia, but after spending around one hundred hours trying to sleep on hard train benches, sweating on endless busses, occasionally getting shoved and ordered around by unfriendly men and fighting off moto drivers, the continuous traffic noise and incessant beeping was beginning to grate.

 

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Tue

14

Jun

2016

Illustrator Laura Wilson on art, feminism and the odd mermaid.

 

Floating around the restaurant with an enviable aura of calm, Laura never seemed repressed by the sometimes stiflingly misogynistic atmosphere of our work place half a decade ago. After her smile, I first noticed her tattoos- a tall ship, mermaids and an intricately twined circle on her back. Getting to know her a little better, I learnt she designed them herself. I've been in awe ever since and could not be more excited to introduce you. This is Laura Wilson. 

 

Were you artistic as a child? How did you get into illustration?

 

I wanted to be an artist from a really early age! Art was my favourite subject at school from when I was very young, and it was something I’d spend hours each evening doing. I drew an awful lot of mermaids! I had a few years during my teens when I gave into the ‘art isn’t a viable career option’ rhetoric that sensible adults were telling me, but eventually I decided that following my passion was worth not being as financially stable as I might be if I chose a different career path! 

 

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Where's our van now?