For the final instalment of our #WhereItTakesYou autumn Microadventures we hit the road with long-time friends and builders of fine automobiles, Onwards Adventure Vehicles.
Creating bespoke four wheeled craft designed specifically to facilitate adventures further afield, we asked owner Calum for his thoughts on what makes a good adventure vehicle, and the Onwards attitude to seeking those adventures out.
What is a vehicle? It moves you. It moves your things. Your food, your water. Your clothes and equipment. It keeps you safe, as you travel at relative speed. Dry, warm and comfortable. It might be a boat, or a van or a bike. It is a collection of parts that make a whole. These walls, this sandy floor. This fold out bed and sleeping bag. This steering wheel. Every mile, every pause. Every nervous turn of the key. Vehicles may well be our best inventions. True expressions of human spirit. Built right, they can become the reasoning and the means of adventure.
Sure, there is such a thing as a well-earned adventure. You have to graft, toil and sweat for it. Sore feet and legs make the summit that much more spectacular. The colder the water, the more intense the swim. Yes, vehicles take away some of the physical effort to get from A to B. Yet if you have built the craft that takes you away, or even just kept it alive, those miles feel very well earned.
It’s not always romance, laughing as you run off into the distance. It is planning and preparation. It’s stringing together a familiar group of souls, working to point yourself and your companions in the same direction. Then heading off in unison. It’s checking the oil, listening for strange noises amongst the symphony of a whirring machine. Squeezing into the front bench seats. Some of the best trips start shoulder to shoulder. Many of my fondest memories are being parked next to travel companions, or driving in convoy. Down lanes, up mountain roads and across deserts. The dots move on the map as the world moves beneath our vehicles. I once called them a catalyst for true adventure, and I stand by that.
When I received the keys to the first Onwards workshop, I knew I had to put the camera down, delete the apps and pick up the tools. Realise how much I didn’t know, and set out on a path to learn, refine, innovate and make better. The timbers once grew tall, reaching for the skies. The woollen fabrics are skilfully combined. The cavity insulation, once single use plastic bottles-now recycled into fleece to keep the compact space warm. We have to celebrate to every material choice and design decision.
The vehicles we build are nothing short of a celebration. Both of the process and the people. Their new owner’s – love filled souls and growing families – are going to experience resounding happiness in these vehicles. The children will have memories of trips and holidays etched in their minds as they grow up. It is a special process to be a part of, and I have never felt a deeper level of fulfilment than when a finished vehicle leaves the workshop.
Then there is the making. The aspirations of craftsmanship help us slow down. You can’t be frantic, there is no place for unwelcome speed. Only a dream of flow. It’s not creativity as I’ve experienced before. These things have to function, to stand the test of time. Looking good isn’t enough. Think compact, think beautiful in both form and function. The ultimate design challenge. Like well-designed garments and equipment. One of the few things that you take with you, that takes you. Sure, design an object to look beautiful in a single context, but how about hundreds of different places, weathers and environments. Always resilient, reliable, dependable and ultimately sustainable.
The missing piece in the puzzle was how to combine the making, the people and the adventures. Investing so much time in the vehicles, we needed to bring them together in a way that is lasting. This is why we created The Onwards Club. Now, the mission is simple. To map and archive the places each vehicle travels to. In the same way that you keep a record of your vehicles maintenance, this is a lasting history of adventures. What the new owners find down dusty tracks, in forgotten forests and along bustling city streets. Pointing them back in the direction of friendly places to setup camp and interesting environments to explore. Who sat beside them? Who held the map? Where did they camp for the night? Our new owners mark it all down in the pages of the logbooks that are supplied with every vehicle.
As the club continues to grow we hope to share and collaborate even more. Starting with the logbook entries; this is community gathered knowledge at its very best. Each vehicle is given a unique number, displayed on a badge. It shows its place amongst a likeminded community of wanderers. There is power in numbers, knowledge to be passed on and wisdom of the road to be shared.