Junior’s journey from road to page.
Writing a children’s story book about your VW campervan.
We all know that owning a VW campervan brings with it a lifestyle, an obsession, a sense of pride and often inexplicable enjoyment to van owners all over the world. Some, it seems are natural fanatical petrol heads, others simply enjoy the shows, rallies and festivals and many just quietly sneak off at the weekend to get away from it all. But we all seem to share one thing in common; the simple outdoor life! Willing to travel at the drop of a hat, often not knowing where we will end up or, if we will ever get there; the sense of adventure motivates us all to get out there and do some crazy things.
Many people dream of having a VW campervan and for some it just ends up on a bucket list never ever accomplished. For those unfortunate people my heart goes out to them, because it’s not until you own one of these miracle buses that you can ever truly know what it means to love a dub!
I mean, I do not know of another vehicle in the world that has been customised and modified so much over the years. We supercharge, miniaturize, enlarge, colour change, reshape and even beat them up to look old, but we all take them under our wing to make them cherished members of our families; often ending up the spoilt one too! They are unique, a big part of us and usually part of our personality which is why we love them so much! So much so, we tend to name or label them somehow. Whether you are proud to shout the name of your bus out, stick a dirty great big sticker on the side or discretely whisper it under your breath when your non VW friends are around, deep down we all think our dubs have their own unique personality. Well we do, which is why we want to share our crazy experiences and explain how we went from road to page to create a children’s book that is now becoming much loved and followed by the VW fraternity.
For us, it all started in June 2009 when we made the big decision to buy our blue ’79’ bay Devon Moonraker at Bristol Volksfest, not knowing a thing about engines, body work or even the VW scene. Naive but full of great excitement and enthusiasm for hitting the open road, we had grand ideas about our future holiday plans and all the places we could visit now we had bought into the greatest vehicle club in the world. Hopeful of a shrewd investment, how could we have ever known what adventures were ahead of us, or even imagined how our lives would be transformed forever.
We took Junior on his first holiday to the Black Mountains in Wales and soon discovered the joys of travelling the open road, opening up opportunities to discover lots of popular resorts as well as many hidden places all over the UK. We stayed in well catered camp sites and not so well catered ones, but mostly we loved discovering new totally remote and beautiful wild camping spots. These are the places you get to feel like you are totally alive and living the dream!
But it’s not all blue skies and chocolate brownies. As wonderful looking and adaptable as VWs are, we all know they come with their own difficulties and they are not always reliable. Add this with a pinch of unpredictable English weather and it doesn’t take long before you realise you need to be well prepared for any occasion. For sure, we have had our own fair share of breakdowns and lousy weather but that’s what makes the whole experience worth talking about. When you are sat with other enthusiasts shooting the breeze and sharing what seemed like the worst experience ever, you are reminded about why you are doing this in the first place. So what if you breakdown six hours from home in Manchester, and it takes all night to be relayed home, or it rained solid for your whole trip and the wind blew your awning away five fields away. It’s all character building stuff and these misadventures are often what turn ordinary camping stories into exciting escapades. Actually, they usually make a story worth telling!
There is no doubt that VW campers turn heads and Junior is no exception, albeit not the most pristine camper, he usually brings a smile to passers-by and more often children’s faces. They point him out to their parents and whenever stationary there is often someone curious enough to look or sit inside him. This desire by non-enthusiasts inspired us even more and got us thinking about ways we could reach out and share some of our fun with others less fortunate than us who don’t own a vdub.
When we first came up with the idea of writing a story about Junior, our friends, family and even our own children laughed at us. “He’s just a campervan”, they would say. They thought we were completely mad, but how could they know, they didn’t own a VW camper! Need I say more? Actually, they stopped laughing after we started selling.
Having a friend who is a professional illustrator and another who is a web designer was a real bonus and it gave us the opportunity to be able to seriously consider the idea of turning our stories into an actual story book.With much deliberation, soul searching and several months of discussion over a few bottles of wine (I mean glasses) we decided to start Junior’s story at the very beginning and portray his life as being quite sad and lonely because he had been neglected by his previous owner. Being a vehicle designed for the outdoors he needed adventure in his life, but most of all we felt he needed a secure family life. He may be 30 years old but in our eyes he is still the youngest member of the family, unsure of the world around him, but always ready for adventure, bouncy and looking for fun. That’s why we called him Junior when we first got him, and for some bizarre reason the name stuck. It seems natural now to call him that but we do still get some strange looks when we do.
Anyway, the story was written so that it unfolds into an exciting adventure where Junior unexpectedly becomes a hero and meets his new family for the first time. It seemed a logical step really because that now allows us to continue with a series of him travelling all over the country together with his family to discover many wonderful places and have plenty of misadventures on the way.
With tongue in cheek, our illustrator friend Tim Charnick put pen to paper and after 6 months the Junior cartoon character was born. Excited with the prospect of what we had all created we decided to go ahead and get the book self-published and printed. Why self-publish you might ask? Well, we wanted to retain full control and rights to our books and hopefully develop the Junior brand further.
With this in mind, we eventually turned the Junior concept into a small business, travelling around the country, going to schools and VW events where we share and promote our story along with other related merchandise to gain funding for the next book.
We are now receiving a lot of positive feedback and recently the father of a 7 year old boy who won a head teacher award for his review of the book told us that Junior’s adventure was the first book his son had really been interested in reading; and can’t wait to see the next one. Proud of this great achievement we hope to inspire more young minds to enjoy reading and learning. Who knows this boy may be Prime Minister one day!
We are hoping that Junior’s stories will continue to bring to life the excitement of outdoor adventure and the world around us. Our long term aim is to inspire children to get off their sofas, put away their game consoles and explore their outdoor environment for all the benefits it will bring them.
The first book has been well received and we eventually intend to publish more stories to help them do that, but for now look at some of the amazing feedback we have had from children, parents and VW enthusiasts already.
‘Have just enjoyed 1st read of your book with my son, loved it!! Need 2nd book with 1st adventure!!!!’ – Bertie VW Camper
‘Your book was gratefully received by our 3 year old at Christmas. Highly recommend to all’ – Awesome Interiors
‘Many thanks for the book, arrived today, great stuff !’ – Boatyjangles
‘Junior, your book is fantastic!! I’m really looking forward to my bed time so I can read it. The pictures are fab too!’ – Jenny Nunn
We hope the subsequent series of books will follow the life of Junior as he develops a sense of belonging with his new family and friends. After all, he is young at heart with a great thirst for life and his stories will be educational as well as fun to read. The characters and personalities we introduce will educate as well as inspire young minds which we hope will win over the hearts of both young boys and girls as they travel along with him and his family.
If you are interested in finding out more about Junior or want to follow him and his many wild camping adventures to beautiful hidden overnight camping spots around the country, why not keep an eye out for our monthly reviews. We aim to do a series of small articles about the great hidden places we have discovered and wild camping sites all over the country where you can park up your van overnight, have a fire and wake up in the morning to a beautiful tourist free view. As these develop we will be adding them to our Wild camping page
What does the future hold for Junior? Well, besides the next book, we are hoping to hire him out so he can have even more adventures through our friends at Dorset Dubbers Retro Camper Hire www.dorsetdubbers.co.uk. If you love the story and want to have your own great time in Junior, he will be available for short or long breaks, daily hire, and children’s parties or simply for a fun day out. You can travel around the country to some of his favourite spots or just take him to places near his home in the New Forest. There are plenty of wonderful places nearby to visit such as Christchurch, Mudeford, Poole and Bournemouth.
Article by Mark Wadey and Emma Kite (authors)
Photos (Little Blue Campervan Publishing)
Illustrations Tim Charnick (illustrator)