You don’t have to be mad – but it helps!
From 0 to Full Timing faster than Usain Bolt!
It was all Rick Stein’s fault you know.
There we were June 2011 sitting in our house watching Rick do his cooking thing on TV whilst travelling through Spain in a VW campervan. What a lovely series that was, great scenery, great cooking, and it seemed like it was a great way to get out and about and away from the rat race.
We’d always enjoyed travelling and over the past few years Jackie and I have pretty much explored the world – but neglected the UK and Europe. Weekends away involved a bit of planning and booking hotels etc. and always the struggle to find a dog-sitter – especially when we wanted to take off at the last minute when both a bit of sunshine and a bank balance in the black coincided!!!
Being the impulsive type when I get an idea in my head (as you will soon see!)– it was straight onto Ebay.
Gobsmacked at the price of VW Campers – I broadened my search. A week later, we were the proud owners of a 1986 Renault Master Autosleeper!
She was old but solid, and did the job! A week spent re-fitting the interior and getting a Hab check done, spending money in camping stores on things we didn’t know we might need – and we were ready to go!
Did we have a clue – did we heck!!!
The last time I did any camping I was in the boy scouts, and we were both more used to the kind of 5* hotels we tended to book in exotic parts of the world! But - she had an engine, steering wheel, a gas cooker and water heater, a fridge, and a bed which was able to be made only if you were good at jig-saws and yoga! Still – first weekend off we went! Did it all go smoothly I hear you ask! Well, actually yes! Loved it! I don’t need to preach to the converted here – you know – but wow, why hadn’t we done this sooner!!!
Still, happy as we were with our little old van – something was missing.
Yep – a loo!
So, a month after getting ‘Gene’ (after Gene Hunt – 80’s throwback and well ‘ard!) it was back to Ebay again!
Being of course experts by now (with a whole month of ‘camping’ weekends under our belts) we decided a Motorhome was the way to go. I quickly sold one of our existing 2 cars as well as Gene, and the same day I had the cash from those sales it was off again to buy another one- this time a newer (!!!) 1988 Swift Kontiki – a 22’ long huge monster (so it seemed at the time!) with a loo and a shower – what luxury!!!
By now it was August 2011and we were on our second van! The space in that motorhome was a revelation to us, and we still enjoyed our weekends away – always sad to get home, park her up and go back into the house.
That’s when we had the mad idea – just how long can you stay in one of these for?
That got us thinking again, and we started researching larger newer European motorhomes. This search lead us somewhat inevitably to the show circuit, and our first ever show at Lincoln in September 2011.
We needed some melamine plates, and had a list of other bits and bobs we thought we wanted. ‘Come and look at these’ shouts Jackie, staring up at some RV’s. ‘Forget it’ say’s I – they’re not practical, they’re too big, too expensive, and I don’t even want to look!’. Did I have a choice??? You know the answer! In I went.
I was like a kid in a sweetshop! I’d never seen such space, such luxury, such practicality – ovens, microwaves, sofa’s, fidge/freezers, large screen TV’s !!! Wow! It was love at first sight, and I was hooked! RV’s were the way to go!
So, did I go home, do some research, look at lots of options, raise the finance in a sensible way, make an informed choice having spoken to the experts and other RV owners, and take my time?
Did I do the right thing – absolutely 100% YES!
She was at the show – beckoning to me, saying ‘make me yours’ – how could I resist! We’d been van owners for about 3 months, and were about to make the most expensive purchase of our lives – based on gut feeling and passion! What better reason is there!!!
We paid a deposit at the show, and spent a frantic month selling not only the KonTiki but just about everything else of value we owned! We raised the required cash and hey presto – became RV’ers!
October arrived, we moved out of our rented house and we picked her up - the intention was to go ‘Full-Time’ from the outset! Scary at first, I was soon happily driving along with that smile only an RV driver gets! A 2004 Coachmen Mirada 290KS – a single slide RV with a beautifully re-fitted interior. She was fantastic and changed our lives, but we kept wondering ‘how long will this last’ !!! Well, it lasted, and was the best thing we ever did!
So what did the future hold ……
In the words of Britney Spears - Oops! We did it again!
Yes – it was time to go even bigger! Well, we’d had the Mirada for some 10 months (an age by our timescale!) Less than a year after starting out we were now in the summer of 2012 - we sold the Mirada for a 5th Wheel which belonged to a friend and were enjoying our 2005 Keystone Challenger triple slide 37’ fifth wheel trailer, and loving the different driving experience of the massive Dodge Ram – which strangely enough looks quite small hooked up! Fortunately we had a seasonal pitch at a site convenient for work, so didn’t have to move the huge rig too much!
We’d had the ‘fiver just over a year, and had done just the one trip, we did a ‘tour’ of Cornwall and the South Coast for a month - which was interesting to say the least - Cornish lanes ain’t made for RV’s !!! But things were getting a bit ‘static’ and forced a re-think as to why we started this in the first place - the fun of going wherever whenever, and the big rig just didn’t allow that so easily.
It was time for a bit of reconsidering what we were doing and why. We love the lifestyle, and had enjoyed the travelling, but with the size of the rig we had (some 60’ total length and around 10 tonnes!) decided that to get back to what we wanted to do (live FT in a motorhome and travel about a bit on days off work) we would have to go smaller and find something that we could happily drive around, and wouldn’t break the bank every time we visited the fuel station - but still give us enough space for full timing.
We considered ourselves experts by this time (whatever one of those is!) - having tried just about everything except a caravan - and for me that’s a big no no!!!
We had spent a couple of weeks in Spain in October 2013 - albeit by that big orange jet and an apartment in Benidorm (where else!) at the same time that some friends of ours were out there in their motorhome.
We visited just about every campsite in the area, looked at loads of ‘euro-vans’ and chatted with plenty of ‘snowbirds’ and realised it was easily ‘doable’ so that set the wheels in motion again!
No sooner were we back in blighty, the Rig was on Ebay, and sold within a week! Luckily, we had a week before the buyer collected to find an alternative, and a Burstner 747 came up trumps offering us enough space and storage as well that all important ability to get moving about again - without the limitations imposed by a large American RV.
Yes - the space in an RV was great - but we did feel that we had lost the ‘raison d’etre’ and had become quite ‘static’ - not the idea at all!
So, that’s the story so far - since November 2013 when we bought the 747 we have done more miles than we had in the previous RV’s, and are booked up for trips, rallies and shows for the best part of 2014, as well as 2 weeks in France to look forward to!
Most importantly - still loving it, and no plans to go back to a house!!!
With time counting down until retirement (less than 2 years now!) we are already planning for the next van, and - inspired by the many motorhome travel blogs - looking forward to leaving these shores for some long term continental travelling - starting with a return to Spain in 2016 - can’t wait!
Oh - and if we bump into Mr. Stein down there we’ll be sure to shake his hand!
Dave & Jackie