On April 5th 2018 we set off on our year-long journey leaving behind secure jobs, our home, family and friends to embark on the adventure of our lifetime. And what an amazing year it’s been.
Apart from returning to the house to prepare it for rental and to sort Hannah out with her place in London, we’ve been travelling non-stop since then. In that time we’ve covered over ten thousand miles, stayed on 85 sites (some of them more than once) met some absolutely amazing people and generally had a fantastic time.
There’s an oft-quoted phrase amongst motorhomers which says “home is where you park it” and that is certainly true for us. We have become so used to living in our van that it’s hard to imagine living in a house again. When everything we need fits in a floor area of 25ft x 7ft 6ins (7.5m x 2.3m for those used to new money) anything else seems extravagant. In fairness, Annie more than me still sometimes harbours a desire for a bricks & mortar shack and there’s no doubt that we will eventually return to having a static base.
But not just yet.
So, what have we learnt from our year on the road? Well, in no particular order (except for the first point):
- We love this lifestyle!
- We don’t need much to be happy – having done a serious amount of decluttering before we left we’ve discovered that we don’t need many possessions to live a happy life
- The state of British A-roads is appalling. Having travelled the length and breadth of the country we can certainly attest to this fact. The worst of all is probably the A429 (although there are many other contenders for this title!) Obviously local councils feel it’s far more important to give their Chief Executives unwarranted, unjustified and certainly unearned six-figure salaries than provide decent road surfaces to their electorate.
- People in the north are friendlier than people in the south. A generalisation for sure but, based on experience, northern people are far more likely to stop and chat, or even just say hello when walking past our pitch, than southerners
- We still hate London (sorry Hannah)
- Never say never. We always said we’d never have a van over 7 metres long. Our van is 7.5 metres. We said we’d never have a car – particularly one towed behind our van. We now have a car and will more than likely end up towing it behind the van. (At the moment, I drive the van and Annie follows behind in the car. We have a couple of Motorola walkie-talkies to keep in touch – which are legal to use whilst driving before anyone complains – but it’s not the same as travelling together) We said we’d never spend winter in this country in a van. We spent last winter in this country, in a van. Like I say, never say never.
- We have to be adaptable! Following on from point 6, because our plans have regularly changed as the year’s progressed we’ve had to constantly amend things as we’ve gone along.
- We miss family and friends. Although we both thoroughly enjoy each other’s company, we still miss catching up with people on a regular basis and this has probably been the most difficult thing to come to terms with.
- It’s been a lot more expensive than we initially thought. Our biggest expense isn’t wine, surprisingly, it’s pitch fees. We average between £600 and £700 per month just having somewhere to stay for the night. Add to this fuel, food, wine (of course) and boring things like insurance, tax, maintenance etc. and those monthly bills really do start to add up. Despite having the income from renting the house, we’ve been regularly dipping into savings to make up the difference.
- Ultimately though, we’ve discovered over the last 12 months that all we need to live a very happy life is food, shelter, love and good health. Oh, and wine.
So what about the next 12 months?
Well, we realised the implications of point 9 after the first 3 months – we can only raid the savings pot for so long (and the piggy-bank was already plundered outrageously to swap the van) so in order to continue this lifestyle we had to reconsider our plans.
Whilst staying on the numerous sites on our travels we inevitably talked to a number of site wardens and came to realise that theirs was a job that still allowed them to live the lifestyle (minus the travelling bit), was largely stress-free and that they were actually being paid to do it.
So last August we applied to the Caravan & Motorhome Club to become Assistant Site Wardens for the 2019 season. It was largely due to this (and changing vans) that our continental plans had to be postponed as we were interviewed in December, had a 3-day work experience stint up at Coniston in January followed by a week-long induction course at Lingfield in February before being appointed for a 5-month contract beginning at the end of April.
Although it means our touring plans will be temporarily suspended, at least this ensures the continuing longevity of our lifestyle. And from what we’ve experienced so far, we know we’ll have a great time.
We’ve also learnt to be careful what we wish for. Annie always wished she lived somewhere with a gated drive – the site has gates at the entrance; I always wanted a lawn big enough to require a ride-on mower to cut it – the grass on site is cut using a tractor; we both wished we could find a job where we could work together – we now have a job where we’ll be working together; Jack wishes he could enjoy sleeping in the comfort of our king-sized bed.
Sorry Jack, wishes don’t always come true.