Do Dreams Come True?

They say your dreams should remain just that, a dream, lest they get ruined by reality. You hear stories all the time about people meeting their celebrity crushes, only to find out they are total a**holes, or about couples moving into a dream home only to be crushed by debt and end up splitting up. But, I wasn’t going to let the perils of life stop me from fulfilling my dreams, so I let my 9-year old self take over when deciding on the first car I would buy myself – a Land Rover Defender.

Oh yes. My dream car is a 30+ year old farm hauler that has been inevitably beaten up by time and daily use and (probably) now standing on its last leg. Sometimes you can’t really explain why you’re drawn to certain things, but I will say that the Defender is the most practically beautiful and utilitarian vehicle on the road. As it turns out, I’m not the only one that feels this way either. There is a whole culture dedicated to taking these beasts out-and-about both on road and off to experience their full potential, and another that aims to beautify these tanks into refurbished, modern fashion icons.

This story really starts before I was ten years old, when I first discovered the Defender existed. I WANTED one. Time went by until I turned 16, ready for my first car, when I teased with the prospect of getting one imported (I had found a Defender 90 under $8000 at the time). The effort required to get one of these things to a spoiled teenager who would probably end up wrecking the thing as most teens do, proved not to be worth it and ended with my getting a hand-me-down from mom, a wise decision on the family.

Another 8 years passed, and there we are just a few months ago. I have just passed the one-year mark at my first big boy job in Dubai, but the corporate office and overly indulgent desert lifestyle is starting to wear on me. My manager (shoutout to Kaite!) is talking of packing up her life after 13 years in the region and going on her Eat. Pray. Love. adventure that would take her across the world. So I got to thinking. Why not start my own pursuit? A few google searches later and I’ve found out that I can just about make buying my dream car work. Having settled that this endeavor was going to happen, I call up Centurian Motors in the middle of nowhere U.K. and tell them to reserve the 1986 Defender 110 they have on their website.

For those of you who know me, I don’t need to say this, but for those of who are getting to meet me through this blog, I’m American. And I’m buying a car in Europe. Without a home address. Without a place to park it. Without a U.K. driver’s license. And with plenty of other difficulties (expect another post to come with the tribulations of trying to get the car back home towards the end of this string of adventures).

After a bit of back and forth with the folks at Centurian, the car is mine and I have quit my job to start following my dream. I must admit, though, this is where my dream starts causing a bit of stress. As it turns out, paying for a car internationally is not as easy as reimbursing your friends for pizza on Venmo. It ended up taking no less than 20 phone calls and 5 trips to the bank to arrange a couple of wire transfers to make sure my funds didn’t end up in the hands of strangers in Malaysia.

Finally (after we arrived in London) I receive confirmation that the final payment had come in and the car was officially purchased. Phew. Now that’s all the trouble, and I can start the adventure, right? Wrong. One thing that comes with driving an old UK car is a manual gearbox, on the right hand side - something I have no experience with and was not about to start by ripping up the transmission on my new car learning. So, I decided to take a lesson. After 3 hours with Yassir by my side in a Nissan Micra I was relatively comfortable with the new driving style. Ready to go? Still no. There was one small detail I had forgotten to take care of – insurance.

Being an under 26 in 2018, I had always been under my parents’ coverage on everything from auto to dental and had never needed to take out my own policy, so it had kind of just slipped my mind. Luckily the thought came along, as I learned that in addition to being stupid, driving without insurance is flat out illegal in the UK, as it is in most developed countries. I thought getting a policy would be pretty easy, considering that literally everyone on the road here has one. As it turns out, a driver under the age of 25 with a foreign license, on a car over 25 years old has about zero chance of getting insured, especially on a short term policy. After a lot of searching, we found one company who would help out a chap in need. With proof of insurance in hand, we made off to Kettering to pick up Nessie (what I’ve decided to call the beast, since she came from Scotland. Duh. 🐍)

We’re now a few days along the road, and Nessie is treating us well. A few rusty bolts aside, she’s ready for another 100,000 miles and I can safely say this dream turned reality was well worth the effort.