The Story Behind...with Clare Vasey

14th June 2021

We always delight in learning the incredible stories behind the books our customers make- the how and the why. In this new series, we meet customers with a story to tell. We spoke with Bob Books customer Clare Vasey about a remarkable trip taken by her family in 1968 when she was just 5 years old- her father was stationed in Singapore with the RAF and the family decided to embark on the journey of a lifetime home to the UK. The family created a photobook together during lockdown to remember this extraordinary road trip across 12,00 miles and through 16 countries. 

Your photobook 'The Journey' documents an extraordinary trip taken by your family in 1968, can you tell us briefly what this journey consisted of/the circumstances around it?

My father was stationed with the RAF in Singapore. Originally my parents had wanted to sail home to the UK at the end of his tour of duty, but with the closing of the Suez canal in June 1967 (following the 6 Day War) and with no possibility of it reopening for some time, they changed their plans to driving overland across Asia to Europe and England by VW campervan.

The road trip was a journey of 12,000 miles through 16 countries, completed in 13 weeks; tail-ended by two boat crossings, the voyage from Penang in Malaysia to Madras in India, and from Calais to Dover.  My Mother’s dream was to cross the Khyber Pass on her birthday and my fathers to see the splendours of Isfahan in Iran, both of which they achieved.  It was a voyage of discovery on many levels and by the end, we had discovered each other as a family.

What motivated your parents to want to do this ambitious journey, with kids in tow no less!

They were great sailors; it was their passion.  The journey was an opportunity to experience another type of voyage, this time on land in their “land yacht” the VW van.  They spent 6 months researching, planning and preparing for the trip which to my mother was half the fun! They wrote 200 letters, read 25 books and completely refitted an ex-chemist’s delivery van into a campervan by themselves.  Van Life is not a new thing, it was very much in existence in the 1960s!

What do you remember from it?

Unfortunately, I only remember snippets, little flashes of memories; I was only 5.  I do remember arriving at the Khyber Pass, I remember being giving glass bracelets in India, I remember swimming in the Caspian sea, I remember the gondolas of Venice.

Have you been back to any of the countries since?

Yes, I have inherited my parent’s thirst for travel, and have often travelled back to the far east, India and Europe of course, but have yet to discover Afghanistan and Iran.

You began making the photobook during the first lockdown last year- whose idea was it and what was your vision for it?

My mother’s Book Club asked her to give them a talk and slide show about their journey in January last year.  We all loved looking at the slides and decided that it would be great to create a photo album, so much more convenient and easier to enjoy than slides, and so the idea of the book was born.

What was the experience of making the book as a family like? I imagine it brought back so many memories for your parents- did they tell you more unknown stories from their journey?

It was great, it brought back many memories for my parents, some of which were completely new to me.  My father had written a ‘book’ recounting the journey, but never published it, and my mother had kept a diary.  She had also kept a file of letters sent and received in researching the trip, articles written by others and her own letters home to her parents.  We used these to tell the story of the journey; so, it is not just a photo book but a personal account of their adventures from inception to completion in their own words, with their emotions and thoughts in “real time”.

Any plans to make another book?

They would love to make another book, 'The Voyage', recounting their 1 year sailing trip around the Atlantic in 1987.  In the meantime, I am having fun completing photo books of my own journeys in Asia.  Bob Books have provided me with a great opportunity to get creative during lockdown, providing a gateway to virtual travel, and hours of enjoyment.  It has opened up a whole new world.  So yes absolutely, I will do more.

Inspired by Clare's story? Make your own book now and tell your story.