What Has Two Years of Full Time Living in a Motorhome Taught Us?
Back in May 2020, we reached a milestone – we had been travelling Europe in a motorhome full time for two years! We already shared what we learned in our first year of motorhome travel in this post. These are our thoughts, musings and lessons learned in our second year of full time motorhome life.
A new overnight spot every couple of days and facing the inevitable confusion as you navigate around yet another supermarket is the stuff of motorhome travel, especially if you like to wild camp and keep on the move. Chuck in Brexit coinciding with a world-wide pandemic, and the last year of motorhome living has found us being more adaptable then ever!
We changed our van at the end of year one. An expensive mistake (more of that later), a motorhome which we were too nervous to take to anywhere remotely adventurous, we had to learn the quirks of our new-to-us, considerably older motorhome, on the road.
It was like going from a five star spa city hotel to a tired three star rural B&B in need of a make-over! Elderly motorhomes need regular attention as they grind to life every morning, ready for another day of being lived in. We had to learn the inner workings of the electrics, water and waste pretty quickly and got used to things breaking a little bit more often!
We headed to Morocco for a few months and loved the experience. But it’s nothing like motorhoming in Europe, and not remotely like taking a city break in Marrakesh. We found the poverty, and children begging, very difficult, and also struggled on occasion with the unsanitary nature of some parts of the country.
Morocco touched us in many ways though, and we learned to accept the harder aspects of the country alongside the sheer beauty of the incredible landscapes and its people.
Year one was a scramble and a come down. In the space of three months we sold our house, most of our stuff and quit our stressful corporate careers. We bought a motorhome and changed our lives about as much as we could have done …other than going to live in a monastery on a mountain in Tibet!
We left the United Kingdom to tour Europe on a high, with the adrenalin from all that change still coursing through our blood and pushing us to see more and do more.
In hindsight, it took nine months to relax and really believe that we had done it, we didn’t need to set an alarm or go to work – freedom was ours for the taking.
Now we slow travel, spending weeks in one area, travelling maybe 10-15 miles a day. The countries we pass through and people we meet are endlessly fascinating, and we have the time to fully appreciate that, along with the knowledge that we can.
Less is Usually More
Although we understood that we would have to make a lot of compromises to change our lives and live in a motorhome, I don’t think we truly, fully embraced it in year one, certainly not for the first nine months anyway.
This is reflected in the fact that we bought an all-singing, all-dancing motorhome that had just 1200 miles on the clock. It was a beautiful vehicle that ended up just not fitting into our evolving vision of motorhome life.
We sold it and bought a twelve year old van with 40k miles on the clock and it suits us perfectly right now. With no pretensions, our quirky beast does exactly what our previous van did, but with more character, and a few more moans and groans too!
We no longer worry about damaging pristine paintwork or putting our feet up on plush leather – we don’t have those things and certainly don’t need them (our motorhome insurance is not eye-wateringly expensive either!).
We went adventuring to Morocco in our perfectly suited van (before Covid stopped play) and have lots of plans for some of the more rough and ready countries of Europe and beyond, as soon as we can travel properly again.
We are two pretty frenetic people who love a project. Beach holidays have never been for us …we like activity, big skies and wide open spaces and met in the Falkland Islands, one of the most remote places on earth. Living in a motorhome helps to facilitate that need, but at the same time, it can be constraining.
Big miles, long hours of driving, noisy and unwelcoming free motorhome overnight parking and rainy days which don’t lend themselves to outdoor adventures, have made us feel cramped and bored at times.
We have learned to occupy ourselves in different ways, slow down and appreciate wherever we are. If we can’t go for a 20 mile hike, we go for a gentle amble.
If we can’t find any white water for our inflatable kayak, we drift around on our paddle boards instead. The big mountains and white water will wait for us, and we are now content to wait for them.
I can’t remember the number of courses I took on resilience when I had a career – but it was a lot. This much vaunted skill, we were told, would help us bounce back from difficulties and develop ‘toughness’ in the workplace.
I forgot all about resilience until we started blogging six months into our camper van life. Boy, am I glad I did all that training! Getting to grips with the IT side of starting and running a website, coupled with growing a new business and all that comes with it, has been one of the hardest things we have ever done – even choosing the right laptop when you know nothing about them can be a challenge!
Somehow we found a shared inner core of determination and grit to push us out of our mental comfort zones, to achieve our wannabe digital nomad dreams.
Eighteen months into our blogging journey, we now run a successful touring Europe in a motorhome blog, where we collaborate with other bloggers and businesses and help motorhomers make their dreams come true.
There’s No Place Like Home
When it became clear in early 2020 that Brexit would take place, we had some decisions to make. Our life plan was to continue travelling in a motorhome across Europe (and beyond) for at least the next ten years with no fixed address, but it looked like Brexit might scupper that because of the Schengen Area and the 90 in 180 day rule.
We decided to buy a house in Spain, mainly because the cost of living is so low, houses are cheap (in comparison to the UK) and the accessibility to the rest of Europe is good. After we had bought our tiny mountain off grid bolt hole, we found out that an obscure EU law means that I can travel Europe with Phil on his Irish passport (although he’s a UK citizen, he was born on the island of Ireland, which entitles him to Irish citizenship) because we have ‘the right to a family life’.
Although we don’t need our Spanish house, we have discovered that having a base, albeit humble, feels good. Coming home after a motorhome road trip is somehow comforting; the familiarity welcome. The transition from house to van is exciting and lends a richness to our travels which we lacked when we lived in the van permanently.
Our desire to travel far and wide long-term is still strong. Our time at the house will be fleeting, but we value knowing we have bricks and mortar in which to retreat should life on the road change – and 2020 has taught us, if nothing else, that life can change pretty quickly!
Take Nothing for Granted
Several times during our years of living in a motorhome in Europe, we have found ourselves becoming complacent. Stunning new landscapes have failed to wow us, the thirst for knowledge about a new place has been missing and life on the road has felt hard. This is known as travel fatigue and, yep, it’s a real thing.
We have learnt to recognise the symptoms quickly. Staying in one place and holing up for a week on a campsite, binging on Netflix and long hot showers usually helps, as does meeting old friends for a good catch up or making new ones we meet on the road.
Planning road trips – thinking about our next adventure – is a great way of whetting the appetite for something new.
It’s easy to slip into believing that the extraordinary is normal when you travel full-time, and complacency can creep up on you. We have learnt to value every precious day we have, whether we’re stuck inside wild camping with the rain pounding on the roof of the motorhome or hiking to the top of a mountain for spectacular views.
After years of chasing the career dream, constantly pushing for the next promotion and following the money, motorhome life has rewarded us with contentment.
We don’t have much, because we don’t need much. Once we work out how much money we really needed, and realised that all the hamster wheel did was fund a lifestyle we didn’t need, we were free.
Our Top Reads for Long Term Travel in Europe by Motorhome
- If you’re reading this because you’re thinking of selling up and living in a motorhome permanently then you’re in the right place! Check out our post about living in a motorhome, to get you thinking about whether it’s really for you.
- Unless you’re a seasoned motorhome traveller, motorhome hire is the absolute best thing you can do. Take a motorhome holiday for a few weeks – France is a great starting point – and see if you like the motorhome lifestyle before you think about changing your life.
- The cost of living in a motorhome can be expensive. Check out our post about motorhome costs and start to do your sums before taking off and touring Europe.
- Check out our motorhome tours and travel guides for different countries in Europe, to get a flavour of motor home life in a different culture.
- If you’re a motorhomer but haven’t ventured over the Channel yet, find out about taking a motorhome to Europe in this post, a comprehensive guide full of tips and hacks for traveling Europe in a motorhome.
- If you want to tour Europe in a motorhome from 2021, then read up on what Brexit means for long-term motorhome travel here. It is still possible, but will require some advance planning before you go.
- Road trip planning is critical to get the best from your tour of Europe by campervan or motorhome. Learn how to plan a six month or year long tour of Europe in our motorhome route planner for Europe.
- If you’re buying your first motorhome with the intention of living in it, this must read guide about buying the right motorhome for you will be invaluable.