Rolling with it
He’s touched the 60 mark, but Abu Bakar Taib’s passion to see the world from the confines of a caravan again is as strong as ever.
WHY own a house and live a static life when a caravan accords freedom and the chance to see the world from your own bedroom?
“You eat, sleep, live and travel in the comfort of home and your bedroom,” said the retired general manager of TV3, Abu Bakar Taib.
“Caravanning was a lifestyle from the 1970s, which has endured to this day and is a form of luxury budget travel.”
The 60-year-old used to live and travel in a caravan during his student days abroad. He reckons that “it is fun to live and travel in a mobile home.”
He is nostalgic about his caravanning days and has been toying with the idea of hitting the road on a caravan again. “The itch to travel is eternal,” he said.
Abu Bakar got his first caravan in the early 1970s when his Aussie friend in London mooted the idea of living and travelling in a caravan. Needless to say, he’s been hooked ever since.
When he came back to Malaysia, he bought three caravans. He has since sold one off.
His remaining two caravans are parked in his mother’s compound in Petaling Jaya, Selangor. One is a caravanette and the other is a collapsible caravan, which once served as a chalet. Old and weather-beaten, they are now retained in the name of nostalgia.
He named the two caravans – Jazzy’s Hideout and Ezzy’s Hideout – after his two sons.
His eldest son, Adam Jazzy, 29, used to work in the hospitality industry in cities in the West Coast of the United States. The younger of the two boys, Alif Ezzy, 26, is a pilot.
Caravanning is an expensive past time though, and Abu Bakar knows this first hand. “I need sponsors if I want to go caravanning,” he revealed. “A caravan consumes a lot of petrol. But it pays off in the long run as accommodation is free,” he said.
He hopes to get tourism and corporate bodies to sponsor his dream journey when he embarks on it.
Abu Bakar said: “The American dream is about how immigrants can become millionaires.” After all, the land of the free has realised many an ambition for those who’ve put their shoulders to the wheel.
“My Malaysian dream is to travel in a caravan to promote the 1Malaysia concept to the whole world. I want to meet as many students all over the world to share with them that they, too, can see the world in a caravan!”
In his student days, Abu Bakar travelled and lived in a caravan while in England and the United States before returning to Malaysia to settle down to a life of normalcy.
Then in his youth, he even regarded himself “a disciplined hippie: not the type who smoked dope but one who loved freedom and peace.”
Abu Bakar returned to Malaysia recently after being abroad for several years.
He spent a year in Leeds, England, accompanying Adam Jazzy, who was there to pursue his education in hotel management.
After that, they headed to the United States and spent four years there as the elder of his two sons found work in hotels in Seattle, Los Angeles, San Diego and Las Vegas.
Abu Bakar was only too willing to show his caravanette, and said: “A double bed can fit inside this caravan. My family used to travel like this. We even had guests sleeping in it.”
He acknowledges that this is perhaps part of a more Western culture. “In Europe, the US and England, there are people who live in caravans because it is too expensive to own homes. Once, I met a caravanning couple, where the 80-year-old husband pleaded with me to drive his caravan for them. He told me he would keep me all the way,” he added, recalling the funny incident.
Playground of the rich
In the early 1970s, Abu Bakar studied for three years at the Southwest London College and got his diploma in marketing.
“Actually, in 1972, I was already caravanning. I bought my first caravan (which had a kitchenette) together with a friend and lived in it. It was so comfortable,” he said.
He travelled mostly during the summer holidays and after graduation, he was footloose for one-and-a-half years.
“We travelled all over England and then Europe,” he said.
“We drove along the Mediterranean coast to the Spanish, French and Italian rivieras.
We parked in front of Prince Rainier’s palace and had fish head curry, which I cooked myself. I was in a sarong, having local coffee and had the picturesque Mediterranean Sea for company. It was fun.”
Lifestyles Of The Rich And Famous beckoned for a moment, but Abu Bakar was firmly attached to reality.
“Being a student, I didn’t have much money and it is very expensive to spend your holidays there. Yet, I was frolicking in the Mediterranean, the playground of the rich,” he said with gusto.
His strategy was to earn money along the way to finance his travels and thankfully, jobs seemed easy to come by.
He once sold ice cream in Cannes and earned RM7,000 in less than a month. It was easy to make money in the 1970s, apparently. He would work for a few months and then hit the road again. It was a hippie existence.
He also worked in luxury yachts of the super rich in the Mediterranean, doing odd jobs.
“They paid good money just to keep you going,” he said, reminiscing on those halcyon days.
In 1978, Abu Bakar returned to Malaysia and worked for Cycle and Carriage as an advertising executive. A year later, he got married.
In 1980, he and his wife departed for the United States.
A four-year period from 1980 saw Abu Bakar studying at the California State University and subsequently, graduating with a degree and Masters in marketing.
While in the United States, he bought a caravanette, longing to enjoy the freedom of travel once again.
“Back then, caravans were so cheap. They cost less than RM10,000 a unit in America. My ex-wife had no problem living in a caravan. We lived in an apartment but moved around in a caravan. Every weekend, we would travel,” he recalled.
“Sometimes, I studied in the caravan parked in the mountains. I had a different life. Few people were exposed to such a lifestyle, which I first experienced during my London
days,” he explained.
Caravanning, he said, offered “freedom, timelessness, a borderless environment and comfort with minimal expenses”.
His first son, Adam Jazzy, was born in the United States in 1984. Six months later, Abu Bakar returned to Malaysia.
Once he was back, he bought his caravans through a local car dealer who imported them in for him.
Caravanning aside, Abu Bakar also has a “hideout” in Tuba Island, just off Langkawi.
The hideout, a kampung-style chalet on 0.8ha of land, sits on the only waterfall in the whole island with a pool at its base.
“My guests would stay for months to enjoy the waterfall and the serenity of the environment,” he said. He merely returned the favour to his kind European friends who took him in while he had little money as a student.
Many of them who came had his address since the 1970s.
“Some were hippies with beards,” he said laughing and recalling the good old days.
“They stayed at my home for nothing and I was promoting my country in my own little way,” reminisced Abu Bakar.
He chuckled recalling how they enjoyed dipping in the natural pool below his chalet.
Abu Bakar occasionally goes back to his island retreat for some relaxation.
“I meditate when I’m there as it’s so serene,” said the retiree. These days, he would sometimes ransack his house to find books he bought but never touched, and also indulge in some writing on the values of life – something to leave behind for his sons.
“My late father, Mohd Taib Abdul Rahman, a TNB engineer and avid golfer, introduced me to golf in 1969 at Subang Golf Club and I’ve been hooked ever since. I’m still a member of the club. In my heyday, I was playing to a single handicap,” shared Abu Bakar proudly.
“My dad and I would go on golfing sprees during my student and caravanning days in England and America.”
In Los Angeles, Abu Bakar used to work part time at the Rancho Park Golf Club run by Jerry Barber (a PGA champion in the 1980s).
“That’s where I got to meet (the late American actor) Telly Savalas (famed for his title role in 1970s crime drama Kojak), who frequented the club. I also met Seve (the late Severiano “Seve” Ballesteros Sota, a Spanish professional golfer) and Jack Nicklaus (an American professional golfer) several times at the PGA championships, where I regularly followed the sport and was a part-time caddy,” he revealed.
Good old days
Abu Bakar feels “fortunate” to have spent his teenage life during the “flower people” era.
“It was fun – I treasure those memories to this day,” he said.
“Those were the days of love, peace and harmony. Life values were also so different then. And, I still practise the good deed of reciprocating kindness until today.”
He also cherishes the fond memories of the birth of his eldest son, who was born in Hollywood.
“The Malays believe that if you bury the child’s placenta with pencil and eraser, he would become a scholar. I broke my golf iron and buried it with a golf ball and my son’s placenta in a golf course in Los Angeles, hoping that someday he would be a pro golfer. That was crazy,” he said.
In the late 1990s, he was the general manager of a bank. “Like a rebel, I rode a Harley (Davidson motorcycle) into KL Hilton’s Nirvana Ballroom with my secretary for the annual dinner,” said Abu Bakar, previously an avid biker of 12 years, who also loved antique Triumph motorcycles. Once a member of a bikers’ club, he travelled throughout Malaysia and even rode up to Phuket, Thailand. He gave up motorcycling when he went overseas several years ago.
Whenever Abu Bakar gets dreamy, he thinks of Willie Nelson’s song, On The Road
Again, a tune etched in the recesses of his mind. And as the song goes, Abu Bakar “can’t wait to get on the road again.”
“Hitting the road again is a dream I’ve had since my younger days. I want to go on that nostalgic route again in Asia and Europe,” he concluded.
For that, he may just get a new caravan.
Park and ride: abu bakar longs to embark on a road trip by caravan again, like he did back in the good old days when he parked his mobile home and enjoyed the sights.
abu bakar was fortunate to rub shoulders with Hollywood luminaries, like Telly Savalas, while pursuing his golf interest.
The trailers also came in handy for camping adventures while his two sons (adam Jazzy, left) were growing up, as this picture from 1992 depicts.
abu bakar Taib (right) and his son adam Jazzy, now all grown up, both enjoy caravans, like the one behind them, which has been converted into a chalet, complete with roof and attap-dressed walls.