Living in a motorhome is a hugely appealing lifestyle for many. Selling up and living in a motorhome is not for the faint hearted though and will undoubtedly mean compromise. Read on to understand what living in a motorhome permanently is really like.
Living in a Motorhome - All You Need to Know
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Top Tips for Making the Move to Living in a Motorhome
Successful full time motorhome life is mostly about preparation and the dirty word; compromise! If you are thinking about renting your house or selling up for a life of motorhome travel, follow our top tips; Spend some serious time living in a motorhome. Consider the following;
- Does the motorhome offer what you need?
- Do you physically have enough space?
- Can you live in a motorhome permanently?
- How would you manage if one of you got ill?
- Are you going to travel or live on permanent motorhome sites?
- Can you live in a motorhome in the winter months when it gets dark early?
- Or worse, when it rains for a week solid?
These are such simple things to manage when you live in a house, but living in a motorhome is different, you feel the changes in the seasons and elements way more.
If you have yet to buy a motorhome and are wondering what is the best motorhome to live in full time, then head on back to the Motorhome Advice page where you will find loads of helpful info about choosing, buying and kitting out a motorhome or camper van. If you are thinking about a van conversion, check out the website of our friend VanDog Traveller, who writes inspirational stuff about such things!
Can you live in a camper with your other half in a confined space full time or manage alone if you are a solo traveller? Read our post about relationships on the road to get an idea of what it’s like travelling as a couple.
You have to give up a lot to achieve your dream; we sold our house and almost all of our possessions. A good question to ask is whether you think you can do without all the trappings of your previous life? Unless you’re willing to fork out huge sums of money (and OMG it is expensive!) on storing your stuff, then you will probably be looking at selling most of it.
Really dig deep and ask yourself and each other whether you are running away from work, family issues, money problems or whatever else is going on in your life? Camper van living is unlikely to solve any of those issues and may magnify some of them.
What do you want to achieve from living in a motorhome? You could tour Europe in your motorhome without a plan but will get so much more from your experience if you understand the why. Check out this post if you’re thinking about touring Europe in a motorhome during an adult gap year, there lots of information about working abroad and how you could extend and vary your trip
How will you finance your motorhome life? It will always cost more than you think! We keep a spreadsheet of all our € costs and another with our £ costs so we can keep a track of where our money is going. There are a number of other blogs such as Our Tour which go into a lot of details about costs which you may find useful if you’re new to this and wondering if you can afford to travel full-time In our first year, we spent somewhere in the region of £20k, this includes all our living costs but not annual costs such as insurance and costs of travelling home for Christmas. Now we are towards the end of year two, we think living in a motorhome in Europe could be managed on around €800-1000 a month (not including annual costs such as insurance) and depending on how often you wild camp.
Are you happy to be away from family and friends in the UK? Can you accept that they may not all be delighted for you (a sad reality of following your dreams)? We talk about this more in our post‘Ten Things We Have Learnt in the Last Year of Motorhome Life’.
Can you live with paying €1.29 for a good bottle of wine? Oh…wrong post…….
If you’re cool with all that, then this guide will help you understand the finer details of full-timing and not only how to survive it, but how to have the best time of your life doing it!
Top Tips for Living in a Motorhome
Living on the road in a motorhome, unless you are filthy rich, will result in a process of elimination; what do you want and what do you really, really need. Whether your ‘suitcase’ is a rucksack or a motorhome, something is probably going to have to give.
How much you take will of course depend on the size and GVW (gross vehicle weight) of your van and what is important to you. If you are intending to write a cookbook on your travels, then food storage will be a priority. If, like us, you want an inflatable kayak, two inflatable paddle boards, kite-surfing gear and two bicycles, its fair to assume that some difficult decisions about shoes might need to be taken. If you’re not familiar with motorhome weights, read more here.
At the end of our first year of living in a motorhome, we were having the van serviced and there was a weighbridge right next door. Out of curiosity, we ambled over and got weighed…oops! We were half a tonne over our GVW of 4,500kg (and that was with an empty fresh water tank!) So, we had a massive sort out and were a bit stunned to realised we had been carrying around half a tonne of stuff that we never used! Our rule now is that if it isn’t used in a month, it doesn’t stay!
Clever motorhome storage will give you more bang for your buck, if you can be organised about where things are this will also help; this will evolve as you are on the road. What’s important on day one will have changed by day 60! We bought all of our storage boxes from Ikea, from hard plastic stacking boxes for the garage and under the bed, to soft felt boxes for the overhead bins; they are innovative and cheap…happy days!
You also need to consider how you will get about on a day to day basis. If you mostly free or wild camp, then you will probably be moving on regularly but if you are intending to visit cities (many of which you won’t want to drive into and will need an emissions vignette to do so) and stay on sites, you will need some form of transportation other than your motorhome. This could be a tow-car, a scooter or motorbike, e-bikes or good old-fashioned pedal cycles. Weight, space and cost will be massive factors here but it is an important aspect of living in a motorhome. Being stuck on a site without means to get to the nearest village for a pint of milk is a real bummer! There is information about the right type of bike for your motorhome life in this post.
There are other (perhaps not so exciting) things to think about. What address will you use if you’re selling up or renting? You will need a UK fixed address for your driving licence and V5 document and this address will also need to be used for motorhome insurance, so think carefully as some parts of the country will increase your premium exponentially due to high risk factors. You can ‘rent’ an address which works for all those things (as long as you are taking our full-timing insurance but you won’t be eligible for the electoral roll form such an address and it won’t be recognised by any local authorities should you need their support if/when you return. The only way to achieve this is to use a relatives address.
And what about motorhome insurance? This is a complicated and often mis-quoted and mis-understood area. Read our guide for the facts about full-time motorhome insurance.
You will also need travel insurance to supplement your EHIC card (get one if you don’t have one) if you are intending on living in a motorhome in Europe or beyond. Back-packer insurance tends to be the best as it will cover you for up to 24 months. Most companies won’t let you take this out once you’ve started travelling, so plan ahead. Our friends over at forsomethingmore.com have written a great post about why World Nomads (who we also use) are the best choice for travel insurance.
Living the Motorhome Life!
So you’re actually doing it! You’re on the road, living in a motorhome. For some people it’s an easy transition, less so for others.
We spent the first two weeks of van life euphoric, the third week wondering what the hell we had done and the following six months loving every moment. Most people who live in their motorhome full-time tell us they went through a similar process.
After about six months, we took a nose-dive; the weather and clocks changed and with it we became a little desponded and struggled to adapt. We were also a little travel fatigued (yep, it’s a thing) after seeing so many new places and having so many new experiences; we missed being in one place. But we bounced back and accept that not every day will be perfect, life is life after all…we’re just living it slightly alternatively!
We have found purpose by setting up and running this blog but there are lots of other ways you can fill your time. Try house-sitting or volunteering with WorkAway. If you’re a keen photographer, sell your images through Pexels or Unsplash and earn a bit of dosh. Perhaps learn a language or take up a new sport; Phil has learnt to kite-surf and we are both (trying) to learn Spanish as we have enjoyed living in our motorhome in Spain so much.
Connectivity is also really important; we thought we would do away with mobiles and become virtuous hippies but the reality is we use our devices and the internet to research, map, stay in touch and blog. Our email address is a lifeline for keeping in touch with friends and family. How did we ever think we would manage without on such an epic (and permanent) road trip? Read this guide to understand how to get wifi and internet when you’re living in a motorhome.
It would be easy to sink into a life of motorhome slobbery (and you may want to, that’s fine) but for us it just wouldn’t work. We spent the first six months revelling in not having to get up for work but eventually our body-clocks kicked in and now we are up at around 8am. We try to eat well and have managed to cook all sorts on our Cadac, including bread, which we would never have had time to make before we lived in a motorhome!
We hike a lot and have completed some incredible hikes across Europe, often also wild camping nearby to maximise the experience of the place.
But mostly living in a motorhome is a way to explore, to see, to absorb and to expand our minds. Along with all the ups and downs of this slightly crazy and alternative lifestyle choice, that is and will always be our why.