Saudi Dreams of a Campervan

‘Saudi Dreams of a Campervan’

Winner of Clarion International Women in Media Award, 2016

Producers: Ronan Kelly, Grainne McPolin

Broadcaster: RTE Radio 1 Documentary on One

Date: September 2015

Winner of the 2016 Association for women in Communications (AWC) Clarion International Radio Award

This documentary was produced in collaboration with Ronan Kelly for RTE Documentary on One. It was broadcast on RTE 1 in September 2015. This documentary is copyrighted to RTE Radio 1 and Documentary on One.

I finally had a good enough connection to hear the documentary all the way through.
This is to say well done on seeing it through, especially as your time
in Saudi turned out to be so difficult.  I thought it was well put
together as a story and of course the great positive is that the whole
episode has given you a new career direction and way forward
Nancy, United Kingdom, October 2015

I really enjoyed listening to the documentary in its entirety last night. Adam, United Kingdom 3/10/2015

‘Tralee woman Gráinne McPolin, a student of radio broadcasting at the Kerry ETB Training Centre won the 2016 Clarion International Radio Award for a documentary about her experience of working in Saudi Arabia –‘Saudi Dreams of a Camper Van.’

She along with documentary maker, Ronan Kelly, were announced as winners at the ceremony in California for their production. The Clarion Awards have honoured global excellence in journalism and broadcasting for over 40 years.

 In 2013, Gráinne McPolin wrote to the Documentary On One team in RTE. She was working as a nurse in Saudi Arabia and suggested that they make a documentary about life there for Irish nurses and for women in general. The Documentary On One team wrote back and asked her if she had a smartphone and would she do some recording herself.

So, Gráinne started recording her life in Saudi Arabia. She was working out there to try to earn some extra money while on a career break from a Galway hospital. Her dream was to make enough to clear her debts and for herself and her partner to head off touring around Europe in a camper van.

However, Gráinne’s smartphone soon became more than a device for recording life in Saudi Arabia. Gráinne used it to record her thoughts on her own life and what was happening in it.

As the months went by, her relationship began to become strained and Gráinne returned to Ireland several times during her contract period to try to rescue the relationship, but eventually they parted. Gráinne eventually ended up coming home and doing the Kerry ETB/Radio Kerry course.

The documentary is an insight into the life of an Irish emigrant in Saudi Arabia but also about the difficulties of trying to find happiness and start life all over again in your 50s.


I have just listened to the Saudi Dreams of a Camper Van documentary and I can’t tell you how true to my life this rings at the moment.
I am currently working in the UK going through similar circumstances. My partner is back in Ireland and is not coping very well with my being here, despite the fact that I travel backwards and forwards a lot. Things are very difficult for us at the moment and I can relate to everything Grainne is going through. I am not hopeful that our relationship will last.


If you can, please pass on my wishes and let her know that I am so glad she was brave enough to record all of her thoughts. While many people travel abroad for work these days, I think it is particularly difficult for women who face the constant struggle of trying to ‘have it all’ – the fulfilling career and the independence that comes with it, and the desire to be close to someone and settle down. Both come with sacrifice. Michelle, Dublin September 2015

Lovely documentary today. Grainne could have a career in radio.  Imagine being able to open oneself on radio like that. I wish her well. .Theresa O Farrell, Santry, Dublin 26/9/2015

I heard the programme today , it was excellent , 

It took a lot of guts to make it as it is so honest and open .

I was just locked on to every work .I felt your pain and understood what all of this meant to you and the pain and suffering you went through .

You came out the other end and survived  where most people would have buckled .

You are a survivor ….Harry Hamel, Riyadh, KSA 26/9/2015

Pulled in to listen to your documentary today and I was in tears by the end of it. It was a very poignant story, honestly told, a very strong lady I hope she is doing ok now.  Mary Brennan, Dublin 26/9/2015

‘Hey doll I have only just listened to your story on rte about your life in Saudi WOW so powerful , tragic , truthful , emotional , open and honest account of what u went through!!! would love to give u a huge hug xxx u are so much more than anything or anyone gives u credit for ……‘Fiona Doherty, Donegal, July 2016

I loved the documentary really – it drew me in – sincerely. My wife listened too and she was glued to it also. Well done….Mark Loughrey, Cork, November 2016

Just heard your documentary is now on RTE website (yes, before actually being broadcast)! Wow. You were exceptionally (dunno the right words here….brave, crazy, phenomenal, tough, enduring….I could go on forever, but above all very honest)! Definitely an inspiration for others! Even made me cry (especially when I write this). Don’t think I’d be able to do it. Well done xxx.  I’m not surprised that the radio documentary has won an award it definitely deserved it. Well done!   Fergal Donnelly, Belgium, July 2016

Congrats to my Saudi housemate – well done Grainne McPolin– such an achievement in such a short time xx big hugs ? Maria Gaughan, Scotland, December 2016

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