Life in Lockdown – Life in Micro

Life in Lockdown – Life in Micro

As we shut the door after our epic journey from southern Spain, the echo of Boris’ lockdown message rang in our ears. Within hours we had managed to secure our safety for the next three months at least. Relief washed over us like a cascading waterfall and the intensity of the situation was almost overwhelming.

Whilst we had little to make the house a home, we have learnt to live more simply.  This is one of our biggest travel lessons. The simplicity that has graced our lives has had an immense impact on us both, although me particularly. It still shocks me to see the amount of ‘stuff’ stored in our lockup. Did we really need all those things to be happy? Well we soon learnt that happiness doesn’t lie within the fabric of a house, a bread-maker or a set of pictures. It comes from inside of us, when we align with our most important values; freedom, choice and simplicity.

As we transferred our bits and pieces from Scoobie, who sat snugly on the driveway we set out to create our comfort zone. The last three weeks had been fringed with a nervous static that, in our high alert status, neither of us had really appreciated. Combining that static with relief – wow what partnership that was. It felt like the colliding of the seas we witnessed in Grenen in Denmark last year. Neither one winning the battle, although tempestuous waters none the less.

Yet that night in March saw the flood-gates open; so often what happens when our flight and fight reactions surrender to the safety of our secure ground. No more looking over our shoulders, no more tension or uncertainty about whether we would make it back in time. We were in our own little bubble. Close enough to my mum to support her from a distance and yet in a haven of safety, the price of which is hard to estimate. In our four years on the road, we have rarely felt threatened. We’ve had a few unnerving moments, although nothing to really make our hackles rise. Yet now with this invisible enemy, the presence of which hangs in the air, we were definitely feeling a tightening of the strings. So having somewhere safe to be was really priceless. We knew intuitively that this is where we were meant to be – for however long was needed. We could ride out the storm here.

With relief making itself at home, we were free to work out how we were going to structure our lockdown experience. We developed a strategy to support mum and her partner with the things that they needed most and we set about fine tuning our daily routines. A lie in, some work, a freshly made juice and a walk at 3.00pm for an hour. Although more pressing was the urgency for some creature comforts like some cosy chairs to sit on and a fridge/freezer. 

Sadly Scoobie’s slopey position meant that our fridge/freezer no longer worked, so we had to quickly resolve this before I lost all my freshly purchased provisions. To my amazement I really struggled to find anything suitable. Who would have thought that there would have been not only a lack of toilet rolls, also white goods? There wasn’t a  fridge freezer to be found anywhere. So as luck would have it we were  recommended an online firm that could help us. A mini fridge was secured and within 24hrs had arrived. And just in time as my freezer compartment had started to melt. Three days later, with all the excitement of a puppy, our chairs turned up in two surprisingly small boxes. As we opened the two cardboard presents, Myles first reaction was – ‘Where are the legs?’ Alas there were no legs! Oh my how we laughed, no wonder the price was so reasonable. Legs would clearly have been another £100 at least! So you can imagine how toned our leg muscles are now, as we raise ourselves from these floor level seats. 

Life in Lockdown once the practical stuff had been sorted, became a life in micro. Blessed with the best spring weather since 1897, we nourished ourselves in the sunshine on Scoobie’s deckchairs and watched the starlings go about their nesting business. I never realised how their songs could replicate that of a buzzard to ward off predators although also, more disconcertedly, the sound of an ambulance. Quite what survival method that offers I’m not sure. And when I close my eyes, I can almost imagine that their song is that of a golden oriel, transporting me to the heady heights of Greece or Bulgaria. 

We watched each day as the skies cleared from the fumes of airplanes and tuned into how the cacophony from the orchestral dawn chorus seemed somehow more noticeable. Spring felt like such a wonderful season to be forced to be still. Whist of course being static would not be a choice to the rolling wheels of our nomadic chariot, being in one place for long enough to watch spring unfold has been a complete blessing.  To see how the blossom ruled the trees and watch their leaves slowly unfurl, given the forest’s new shapes and textures.  Nature has truly been a privilege to witness from such a micro perspective. There are indeed some silver linings to the lockdown.

As the days morphed into weeks, we found our groove. Our fortnightly shopping expeditions became an art. Despite each visit delivering a drama (lost car keys, smashed wine bottles and a puncture), we managed to navigate our entry into the unsafe zone with the deftness of a gazelle. Our diving into Aldis once a fortnight had a strategy so finely tuned that Field Marshal Montgomery would have been proud. A trolley each, one for us and one for our family, we dashed through the store respecting our 2m distances reducing our shopping from a mooch to more of a Supermarket Dash feel about it.

Back in the safety of our home, we slowly saw our creativity being boosted to new heights. Thanks to Mother Nature, in our kitchen, foraged efforts have been converted into fresh and nutritious offerings; nettle soup and quiche, spinach and potato soup when we had a glut of both, dandelion massage oils, dandelion honey and elderflower cordial. With limited resources, we’ve developed a more resourceful mindset as we found baking cakes an interesting experience; no scales for weighing flour has tested us, no electric whisk to mix the batter and outside in the garden, with no edge trimmers Myles has been on his knees with scissors! Although we can always get by with a dose of ingenuity and creativity. 

Although on the shadow side, seeing my mum struggle with her self-isolating was heart-breaking. The whole mental health issue is going to have the biggest impact, second to the tragedy of the deaths, of course. And this inspired me to focus on supporting like-minded souls who were struggling with lockdowns in Europe and back on home turf. So my Lockdown routines focused on putting my energy into creating some useful resources to ease people’s boredom, stay healthy and fit and connected. It’s always good to have somewhere to put your energy – more time on that meant less time thinking about the future.

So many people have asked us, as nomads for the last four years, how we are feeling being grounded. And interestingly another thing that travel has taught us is to live in the moment. This practical strategy has served us well during lockdown, given that it would be so easy for us to lament over our road trip to Turkey planned for May this year.  There is little point thinking ahead to what may or may not be; as things are changing so quickly. The media is doing its best to add fear, uncertainty and doubt, although we don’t subscribe to their mass hysteria. We choose instead to accept graciously where we are; feel grateful for the home we have and focus on doing positive things during this period of stillness. We are determined to travel again, whenever it is safe to do so and we will don our travel shoes to tread upon new soil. Our desire to explore still beats like a well-oiled heart. Although for now, we are safe, secure and still and this is how it is.

Coming next; managing the Bubble Burst as we move into easing measures of lockdown.

 

Other blogs in our Lockdown series

 

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Covid-19 – Our Journey through the Chaos – Part 2

Covid-19 – Our Journey through the Chaos – Part 2

After a dash north from the fringes of Morocco in March, we finally arrived on UK soil, heading for a period of rest and quarantine – or so we thought.

 

After our race against what felt like time and tide, the idea of being stationary for two weeks was a blissful concept. Yet landing back in UK was a double-edged sword. Whilst it was good to be back on home turf during uncertain times, we had to sail past my bestie, because we were in quarantine. There was no reassuring hug with my mum, there was no care-free relaxing with peace by our sides. Ambiguity was our only friend, an unwanted companion that hung in the air like a city smog, making its presence felt as it swirled between the trees of our New Forest Sanctuary.

It was an odd twist of fate, that I chose Setthorns Campsite as our quarantine retreat. It held so many hallmarks from my childhood. A campsite deep in the forest that brought me close to my family even though they were not there. With my dad in the heavens above and my mum way beyond arms reach, I was left with the memories of my youthful games amongst the trees. I have a sneaky feeling that we even parked up across from one of the pitches we used to stay on, during our weekends away.  It felt nurturing to be in a place where I had happily played as a child, and to feel close to my mum and dad. My inner child craved to be nurtured and embraced, yet she had all grown up and needed to find her own way in this crazy, new world.

The animals offered us some familiar comfort; we were surrounded by deer, squirrels, nuthatches and wild ponies. Each one seemingly oblivious to our plight and yet bizarrely soothing in the simplicity of their tamed presence. How odd to see nature’s heart beating to the exact same rhythm, whilst ours had gone off-the-wall. Someone was laughing on the other side of somewhere, at this strange situation, not of our making. 

See our gallery of Mother Nature’s canvas by clicking below;

As we surrendered to our quarantine and immersed ourselves into the peace of the forest, a lurking air of suspicion wafted around our bodies. A sensation that whispered, “You must not yet rest on your laurels”. We knew intuitively that the art we had mysteriously mastered of being one step ahead, was needed once more. And after a deeply connecting conversation about how a Covid future might look, we knew that our stillness needed a gentle prod. We needed to stir our resting souls and again thrust ourselves into action, as that tsunami was nipping at our heels reminding us of its presence.

It felt as if something big was going to happen soon in UK, having seen our European cousins all take evasive action against the demon of death. And so for us, there were no real surprises about the Government’s course – it was all a matter of timing. We had second guessed their policy and we were, once again, just about ahead of the game, albeit by a whisker.

Pubs, clubs and restaurants closed on that Friday night and we knew in our hearts that we must look for somewhere more long-term to stay. We have always considered ourselves houseless not homeless, although with a situation as grave as this, with the threat of campsites potentially closing, we knew we needed something more permanent to keep us safe.

Given my mum’s precarious balance on this Covid tightrope, we had to find somewhere close to her so we could support her. So we secured a near-by campsite that would shelter us, even given the worst case scenario. We had a fall-back of a house we were selling that was empty, although this was 30 miles away from mum and with no car – we contemplated the enormity of the situation. We had, we reckoned a few days to perhaps buy a car and reach our sanctuary position before the doors shut completely. And then, Sunday morning the dreaded news came. Campsites across the country became the latest victim to fall to the devil’s imposing stench.

Whilst not wanting to sound dramatic, there was a dawning – for me at least, that suddenly our security was at peril. Whilst the campsite had offered us a place to be safe, our ‘what if questions’ filled our heads. We knew in our hearts, however kind their offer to stay was, if they were inspected and we had to be evicted, we had no alternative. The tsunami was closer than ever to our wheels and our primal need for safety and security drove us into a battle strategy action to protect ourselves, first and foremost. We were reminded of the safety demonstration on board a plane, where you are instructed, in an emergency, to place your own oxygen mask before helping others. This was what we now needed to do.

In my corporate leadership training days, I often used the analogy of ‘thinking outside the box’. How apt was that advice right now? And despite the potential of this situation I am always amazed at just how resilient our primal being is. It kicks in without being asked; it just takes over and moves you into that sympathetic nervous system of fight, flight or freeze. My thoughts were as crystal clear as a highly polished diamond, my problem-solving as sharp as a sabre blade. With the precision of a chemist’s measure, my mind considered all the possibilities for us to stay safe and be close to mum; and within five minutes a solution emerged, thanks to the brilliance of one of our followers. A mere ten minutes later, we had the prospect of a rental property that had, in the last four days become empty. We spoke to the lovely landlords, explored options, agreed terms and secured a three month tenancy with a rolling month thereafter. Boom! I just love how the strands of synchronicity weave their web and conspire to create your destined next steps.

The very next morning, we launched into Phase 2, as despite having a place to go, we still had some critical actions to tick off our list and with precious little time to do it. It felt as if we were in a Hollywood movie, where impending doom was shadowing the earth and everyone was scattering like ants. Although paradoxically, we also felt as if we were one step ahead of the game, given our European escape. We had seen first-hand how quickly the world could change and, in many ways, we could see those around us almost oblivious to what we knew instinctively was coming soon! Real soon.

So with focus in our eyes and determination in our hearts we headed north; our lockup was our first call. A need to pick up some furniture as we had none in our new four walls. Reacquainted with our familiar yellow door, we retrieved a few bits that would give us some creature comforts. The beauty of our travel experiences over the last four years, is that we don’t need much – our surrender to simplicity was certainly going to pay dividends in this war against an unknown enemy. Doing a last supermarket shop was like walking through a set for an Apocalypse film as empty shelves and and just a handful of  desperate shoppers, took whatever they could to feed their families. It was a surreal experience. I’ve never seen a store so eerily devoid of people or food. Still, we managed to get what we needed and armed with supplies, a bed, our favourite rug we arrived at our new home. Scoobie snuggly fitted onto the drive within an inch of his life and with a huge sigh of relief we knew we were safe. Our lovely landlords welcomed us with open arms and we embraced the effortless coincidence as we shut the door behind us.

At 4pm we set foot in our temporary home made of bricks, and at 8pm that very same day, Boris announced the UK’s version of lockdown.  A mere four hours grace! We sank into our bed that night with the biggest sense of gratitude and relief as the enormity of the last 72 hours became real. Our high alert state could finally rest and the waters that now lapped up against our walls could no longer consume us. We were safe, secure and protected, at least for the moment.

Our mission was complete. We had had won the second battle of this war and could now ease into a new way of being with bricks and mortar as our protective walls. We drifted off into a deep sleep, immensely grateful to those who made our passage to safety so smooth. The kindness of strangers humbled us greatly and, as the following weeks would show, would continue to be a dominant feature of our fight against this invisible demon. For now we were safe; for now we could rest.

Virus 0 – The Motoroamers 2

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Travelling to Morocco by Motorhome

Travelling to Morocco by Motorhome

In our Travelling to Morocco by Motorhome series of posts, we take an in-depth look at everything to do with bringing your motorhome to and touring around this fascinating north African country. In this first blog we focus on what you need to do before you come and how to arrive smoothly in Morocco by Motorhome.  There are a lot of reports about where to sail from, and whilst everyone’s experiences are, for sure, valid and personal, we wanted to share our practical tips based on our journey in February 2020. Our aim is to quell those raging doubts and fears and give you both the knowledge and confidence to make this epic journey to Morocco by motorhome.

 

Part 1. What to do before travelling to Morocco by Motorhome

Whilst you may be like us and enjoy winging it – there are some destinations that really need some fore-thought. Morocco is one of them and Norway another. For Morocco, plenty of preparation is required. In part because it’s a different continent and the requirements are different to a majority of Europe. And also because, for many of us Moroccan newbies, it has a feel of taking us out of our comfort zone. Travelling with huge anxiety is not a great mix and so we must do some homework to make sure that our experiences are positive and fulfilling and not fear-making. 

We hope that this section might allay some apprehension as you begin to dream and think about taking your motorhome to Morocco.

 

1. Check out your Insurance and Breakdown cover – Green Card

Morocco is not often covered under standard UK motorhome insurance policies –  European firms may be different.  So your first step is to enquire about your particular company’s terms and conditions.  If they do allow for you to travel to Morocco in your motorhome, then you may require a Green Card which gives you Fully Comprehensive cover during your stay in the country. Sometimes these are offered free and others charge.

Comfort Insurance charged us £20 as an admin charge and then £22.40 per week of our travel through Morocco. 

If your company doesn’t cover Morocco even with a Green Card, then don’t give up. Speak to HIC Herts Insurance. They  offer a bolt-on cover and Green Card, so if your van is under £40,000 in value, then talk to them.

It’s worth mentioning whilst talking about Green Cards and Insurance, that you can get Third Party cover at the Port which is around 90€ so this is an option.

You also need to have a conversation with your Insurance company, if you have Breakdown Cover included in your policy. Or of course, call your Breakdown agents if you have separate cover. Just check what your cover is for visiting Morocco. With Comfort we are covered for breakdowns although DAS, our recovery company is not present here in Morocco. So their instructions are to arrange and pay for any mechanical issues whilst in the country and then make a claim for a reimbursement when we are in EU or back in UK.

 

2. Check your Travel/Health Insurance

If you already have Travel Insurance, then check that Morocco is covered, because whether you are travelling in the Brexit transition or not, the EHIC card is not useable here. As we travel full-time, we needed to secure our cover whilst out of our home country, and most UK companies will not therefore instigate cover.  So we sought the best deal from those that will cover you whilst you are already travelling. The quote ranged from £113.20 to £355.80 for two people without and pre-existing conditions. We chose True Traveller as they had the lowest quote for us for our one month road-trip. Make sure you choose the European Cover and not Worldwide, as Morocco is covered under the EU countries. The other insurer options are:

                                              World Nomads      True Traveller    Worldwide Insurance

 

3. Internet/Apps/Telephones 

Talk to your telephone supplier as their coverage and packages don’t cover Morocco and you will be charged crazy prices for calls and data, as it comes under International Rates. You will need to buy a Moroccan SIM card for calls and data, so you will need them to unlock your phone (you can do this online with most companies). Whilst some campsites have wifi, it’s not always great, like anywhere and whilst you are out travelling, you will want to have connectivity.

Our advice is to make sure you have off-line versions of the apps you use most often. Before you leave Spain for Morocco, make sure you have downloaded all the Moroccan maps for your maps.me app, if you have it.  Also we use Park4Night for wild camping and so bought the off-line version for £8.42 per year, and the Search for  Sites app for campsites for £5.99 per year. 

 

4. Documentation to take with you

Like with travel to most countries, you will need:

  • Passports and copies in case you loose them
  • V5 – in Morocco this is known as the Carte de Gris – the grey card
  • Your MOT certificate as it is reported that sometimes Police wish to check this
  • Hard copies of your Travel/Health Insurance and your Vehicle Insurance
  • Your Green Card

                                             

5. Plans for maximising your LPG

Because Morocco doesn’t have any LPG as we have heard, you will need to judge the use of gas carefully, especially if you are coming for over a month or more.  So think about options for conserving your gas. Obviously campsites will give you access to EHU, although from a cooking perspective and for wild camping, then may be you will need to look at other gas saving approaches. Some visitors have told us that they have been able to buy Red Moroccan gas bottles for 50MAD and swapped them in for 20MAD and this has got them through a 10 week road-trip.

We invested in a Remoska which is a fabulous electric oven that cooks pretty much anything, in about an hour, just like a normal oven.  It even works off the inverter whilst you are driving and is a great gas saving resource. 

Others have reported buying small, low wattage, two-ring hot plates and electric kettles. However you choose to conserve gas, it is certainly worth thinking ahead for this. 

 

6. Maps/Reference books

There’s a ton of blogs out there about Morocco from motorhomers and overlanders. Some you buy and some are free on the web. It’s definitely worth researching and having a read. We bought the book by Chris Scott called Morocco Overland, which offers lots of off-road tips if you are travelling with a 4×4, which also has great info on how to travel to Morocco by motorhome.  Whist the latest edition is 2017 and some of his information is out of date, there’s a load of really helpful tips in there.

One of which is to buy paper maps of Morocco. Given that whilst travelling in Morocco you need to buy a data SIM to stay connected to internet that apps like Google Maps feed off, hard copies can be essential.  So we bought two maps based on recommendations; the Reise Know-How 1:1 Mill and the Michelin Map. 

 

7. Stuff to take with you – and NOT!

In terms of stock-piling before you go, unlike our trip to Norway, Morocco doesn’t have the same price issue. Although these are the items we did buy;

 

  • the wine we like in boxes for easy storage
  • some chicken for the freezer
  • a few tins of staples that create the meals we enjoy.
  • we heard that crisps and nibbly bits are expensive so have plenty of these
  • Hand Sanitiser to keep carry around with you for their public toilets
  • a shawl for me walking through towns or mosques.
  • some long sleeved shirts and a head scarf to ensure my attire was appropriate for visiting towns and mosques
  • two tyre repair canisters in case of a puncture.  Although we would recommend you investing in TyrePal or a similar  notification system that gauges the pressure of your tyres and advises you of potential punctures or deflating issues.

And a final point – DO NOT TAKE YOUR DRONE WITH YOU. Either leave it at home or leave it with someone you trust as they are illegal in Morocco and if you van is search and your DRONE found it will be confiscated.  

 

Part  2 – Travelling to Morocco in your Motorhome

So armed with the results of all your research, you are now ready for the exciting bit – the travelling to Morocco. In this section we offer you a detailed and step-by-step account of the whole ferry and Custom’s procedure. I am driven to write this because of the plethora of reports out there and to share exactly what happens when you leave Spain and arrive in  Tangier Med (as of 6 February 2020).  So much of my EXCITYSCARED feelings were because of some of the horror stories we had heard about getting through Customs and what was to be expected. Now I have been through it, I felt it was really important to share how it was for us and give you top tips for navigating it smoothly.

 

1. Choosing which port to sail from

There are plenty of Spanish ports to sail to Morocco from along the south coast – you can even choose to go from Sète in southern France, Italy or Barcelona. As long as you are prepared for very long sailings of up to 60 hours. For the purposes of this blog, let’s stick with Spanish ports for ease;

  • Barcelona to Tangier Med; offers two ferry companies and up to 5 sailings per week and is up to 32 hrs sailing time
  • Almería to Nador or Melilla;  offers 7 sailings a week to Nador & 8 weekly sailings to Melilla taking around 5-7 hrs
  • Motril to Nador, Tangier Med or Melilla; for Nador there are 4 sailings per week, Melilla 6 sailings per week lasting aound 4-5 hrs and Tangier Med 7 times per week and is up to 8hrs
  • Malaga to Melilla; offers 14 per week sailings of between 4-6.30 hrs. You can also go to Tangier Med although only once a week
  • Tarifa to Tangier offers two companies who sail 11 times per day and 36 times per week. The sailing is just 1hr
  • Algeciras to Cueta and Tangier Med, offering 8 sailings per day and is about a 90 minute crossing.

Nador and Melilla are smaller ports that encounter less traffic and so their Custom’s processes tend to be swifter, according to Morocco lover and author Chris Scott.  And Tangier City has the reputation for being a nightmare as you have to drive through the city. And Cueta is a Spanish enclave so you have to drive a mile or so before hitting the Customs areas.

Algeciras to Tangier Med is the most popular crossing route and this was the one we chose. We stayed overnight just across from the port in a free car park, joined by four other vans. You may be approached by a man who says you can pay some money, although he is not an official car park attendant and whatever money you give lines only his pocket – you are not obliged to pay anything.

 

2. Buying your ferry tokens

There are plenty of Ticket Kiosks around the city, although the one that is pretty well famous these days is ‘Carlos’ from Agencie de Viajes on the Zone Commercial, just a mile out of Algeciras city. The coordinates for the Agency are  (36.17932 -5.44126). Whilst it is said that ‘Carlos’ no longer works there, there is  a toothless old man with a  kind  smile who greets you with a hand-shake and a Spanish kiss, looking like he owns the place. So whether it is him or not, for the purposes of this, the Agency is known as ‘Carlos’.

You must travel to ‘Carlos’ and buy the tickets face to face, there is no online facility. You can park your van in the parking area opposite and you are able to stay here for the night for free too. You have a Carrefour and Lidl within walking  distance and you are about 15 minutes driving time to the port.

Make sure you take cash with you as no credit card payments are accepted. If you don’t have a chance to get any before hand, there is a Santander in the main street opposite the Agency, although you will be charged 7€ transaction fee. You will be offered two ferry firms – FRS offers just three sailings per day for 180€ or Transmediterranea that offers six crossings for 200€. The latter has the better record and we chose this because of the timings, which start at 0800. You then get a pack with your tickets, Immigration Entry Card and a free gift of wine and biscuits. And that’s it – all done in under 10 minutes. 

Top Tips for your tickets

1. Take the early sailing.  Given the reputation for ferry delays and Customs Checks in Tangier Med, we chose the early morning sailing. Our thinking was, get on the first ferry and there will be no impact for backlog from previous ferry delays. Also when arriving in Morocco, there’s only one boat load of vehicles to deal with, so the process should be more efficient. You also guarantee landing in Morocco in the light, which if this is your first time and you have any apprehension, is sensible. 

2. You don’t book a specific sailing. You receive a printed token and take it with you to the Check-in, at least one hour before your desired ferry departure. We are guessing that if the boat’s capacity has been reached you will be put on the next departing ferry.

3. Take enough cash to exchange into Dirhams. Whilst the Agency doesn’t have a lot of cash to exchange, you will be able to get a small amount of Dirhams. The rate was 10.20 MAD to the Euro, which was slightly less than at the port, which offered us 10.36 MAD to the Euro.  Although I thought it was useful to have cash just in case. You can only get this cash  as part of your ferry ticket transaction.

4. Don’t worry about not speaking Spanish. The admin team speak French and English, although old man ‘Carlos’, if it is him – the god of Morocco tickets – does not. Hand signals worked pretty well. He doesn’t work behind the desk though so don’t worry – his admin team area great. 

5. Complete your Immigration Entry Card before boarding the ferry. This will save you time and stress when queuing up to get your passport stamped. Completion notes are in the next section. 

6. Keep all your documents and tickets together. I know it might sound a patronising tip, although in the stress that inevitably comes with ferry embarkation, arriving in a new country and not knowing what is expected, having everything in one envelope keeps your sanity in check. And I talk from experience and Myles will back me up for sure. 

 

3. Completing your Immigration Card

Whilst I may risk insulting your intelligence, I do want to go through the completion of the Immigration Form that you will receive from ‘Carlos’. I know it sounds ridiculous, although I spent a bit of time working out and researching all the categories I had to fill in. And because I didn’t want to risk getting it wrong and causing unnecessary delays, making sure the details were right felt important. So to save you that stress, here are sections and their interpretation.

  • C.I.N  This is a National Identity Card number and only needs completing if you have been to Morocco before and had your Passport stamped. You will find this number on the stamp, written in ink. If this is your first time to Morocco, then leave this blank.
  • Composteur No. This is some sort of validation number and we left this blank and it caused no issues.
  • Nom. Your Surname goes here.
  • Prenom.  Your first name.
  • Nom de Jeune Fille. This is your maiden name ladies.
  • Date et Lieu de Naissance. Date and place of Birth as in your Passport.
  • Nationalite. Nationality goes here.
  • Pays de Residence Habituelle. Put your country of normal residence here, ie where you live most of the time.
  • Profession. Your job or retired.
  • Passeport No. Passport number here.
  • Date de Delivrance. This is your Passport Issue Date.
  • Provenance. Where you are travelling from – so the Spanish or French port you are sailing from to Morocco.
  • Destination. The Moroccan port you are sailing in to.
  • Adresse au Maroc. Give the address of the first campsite you will be staying at or something like Hotel Fez.
  • Motif Principal du Voyage. What is the reason for your visit to Morocco? So holiday will do fine.

 

If you make a mistake on the forms that Carlos gives you, you can get blank ones on board the ferry.

 

4. Boarding the ferry

We recommend getting to the ferry at least 90 minutes before the ferry is due to depart. This way you can be sure to get your chosen sailing. Follow the signs for Puerto through Algeciras and then at the port, the signposts for Tangier Med.  You will then take these steps for boarding your ferry.

  • Check-in 1. Hand over your token from ‘Carlos’ and your Passports. You will be guided to park up in a line.
  • Check-in 2. One hour before the ferry sails, you are guided to another kiosk where once again you hand over your token and Passports. In return you receive a Boarding Pass per passenger. You then proceed to another parking lane.
  • Check-in 3. Five minutes later as you head for the embarkation parking, where a ferry officinado will check your Boarding Passes.
  • Final Check-in.  Another officinado will approach the van and take one of your Boarding Passes and leave you with a copy. And that’s it. You wait for the lorries to embark and then it’s your turn. Chances are that you will go up to the top deck, which means if you have a big bottom like Scoobie, it might be a very tight clearance.  Although there was no scrapping for us thankfully.
  • Park where indicated and turn off your gas.

The whole process was very simple and we only left 45 minutes late, which given the reports from others, was nothing at all. Now the final bit you need to do before grabbing a coffee, is to queue up to get your Passports stamped and hand in your Immigration Form. Each boat will probably have a different location, although it is likely to be by the cafe area.  You will now be in possession of a mighty fine stamp in the back of your Passport. 

Do bear in mind that the ferries are functional. It is only a 90 minute crossing so they are ‘no frills’. There are not enough seats for all the passengers – our boat was only 2/3 full! And be warned that the cafe is very basic. So either bring your own water, coffee or breakfast, or wait until you are the other side. The toilets though are clean and have paper. 

In terms of the question over whether dogs are allowed on board –  we found nothing definitive. There is a No Dogs sign although we saw two passengers both with dogs on deck. So make of it what you will. I would attempt taking your dog with you until someone says you can’t.

Check out our gallery by clicking below.

 

5. Disembarking the ferry and getting through Customs

Now this is the bit that I think, in all reality, I was dreading the most. That moment in time where the horror stories of chaos, money-greedy touts and stress would ensue. So I was prepared and mindful of what could happen next. Although I was also keen to see how the process worked in practice given all that I had read. So here is the most up-to-date information about how the disembarkation from Tangier Med looks like (based on February 2020 arrival.)

  • Getting off the ferry. This did take a while as it does often with all ferries, so nothing major to report here. Even our low-slung rear made it off the boat without incident. So far so good.
  • Passport Check. We were guided by an official to have our Passports checked, which he gave a rudimentary check for the stamp on the back page and he waved us off. Still doing well.
  • A long drive to Customs. You then, most disconcertedly follow the EXIT signs for what seems like ages. It feels like you are heading out of the port and it left me wondering if we missed something. We finally saw the signs for the D16.  We headed for the lane marked ‘Our vehicle is not registered in Morocco‘ and waited.
  • D16 – Vehicle Import and Export form. This is the vital piece of paper you need to show that you and your vehicle will be leaving the country. I had read that this could be completed on-line although this is no longer the case. The Customs’ Police do it all for you. So sit tight until you are asked to drive to a holding area. Within 15 minutes our V5 (Carte de Gris) and Myles’ Passport were collected and taken to the Kiosk. We had a little panic at this point, as Myles is not the Registered Owner on the V5, that’s me. So we wondered whether the discrepancy would cause a delay.  Thankfully it didn’t and we were on our way. The D16 is a small Credit Card sized card that you must keep safely as you will be asked for it on your return journey. It’s good to see that things have progressed with these official procedures.
  • Another Border Control Check.  Once D16 and Passport are firmly back in your grasp, it is wagons roll. Well as far as 100m where there  is another Border Control Check. That takes seconds and you are on your way.
  • Money and Insurance.  The final step in the process is to drive a further 100m where there are some cabins on your left-hand side. Here you buy your 3rd Party Insurance if you don’t already have your Green Card and exchange your money. There are lots of cabins to choose from although they are not all occupied. So I chose the one that had a name I recognised. They are all kosher and there are no touts milling around putting on the pressure.  The attendants speak English too, so if your French is minimal, then you don’t need to worry.  They give you a receipt for your money and that’s that! You are good to go. I strongly recommend that you do the money  exchange, because if you head off south on the A4 motorway, it is a Toll Road and you will need cash to pay.

 

So our verdict of the Customs’ process? Easy as anything and nothing to worry about at all. From getting off the boat to hitting the road having got our D16 and our money was a mere 65 minutes. So my ‘catch the early ferry’ strategy seemed to work really well and I highly recommend it, to keep you and your family sane. 

Check out our gallery below.

 

Part 3 – Leaving Morocco

We thought it would be worth a quick mention as we’re talking about the process of arriving into Morocco, to share our experiences having just left. All in the spirit of preparation, knowledge and confidence, it feels important to take you through the steps for leaving the country.

 

1. Staying somewhere safe overnight

Depending on the ferry you have decided to catch for your return will partly dictate where you stay. Somewhere close to the port would be sensible if you are on the ‘red-eye’ 0830 with Transmediterranea.  Although there don’t seem to be many  options. There is a public parking area which is guarded by staff that some people have reported staying at (35.884201 -5.50203) although it depends how comfortable you are with staying  so close to the port. We decided to stay at a wonderful wild spot that was just 45 minutes drive and chose the 1100 ferry. Given the advice we received numerous times about not driving in Morocco at night, taking the ‘red-eye’ was not an option. So this was the perfect place to be. We left at 0800 and were having breakfast in the queue at the docks by 0920 having gone through Customs. More on this in a moment.

Our overnight was lovely, overlooking Erraouz Reservoir. It’s on one of Morocco’s  Provincial roads, which means that it varies in quality from a bit bumpy to good quality tarmac. It was one of the lesser quality roads we had driven on, although none the less very doable, just slowly. Here are the coords. (35.713367 -5.52351). It is a peaceful spot with herds of goats and sheep passing through from the village directly above you and there were four of us staying there, without any issues from the locals.

 

2. Arriving at the port

The port is as easy to arrive into as it is to leave. Whether you come in on the back roads or the motorway, just follow the signs for Automobile Access. You will pass all the cabins where you may have picked up your money on the way out and be guided to park up. This is so that you can validate your Ferry Token that you received from Carlos’ Agency. If you have asked for an open ticket, then you can choose the time you wish to depart. Get there earlier enough and it should be no problem at all. 

Take your Passports and your ticket, and in return you will receive a triplicate ferry ticket for the next available ferry.

 

3. Going through Customs

After the ease of arriving through Customs four weeks earlier, we wondered whether the process would be as simple on  our return. After validating your token and receiving your ticket, you have four stages to go through;

  1. As you leave the Ticket Validation car park, an Official will examine your ticket and wave you on.
  2. You then arrive at the first of the Customs’ Checks. They will check your Passports and give you a stamp to say that you have exited the country.
  3. You then move forward 100yards to the next Kiosk where they ask for your D16 – the small business sized card you received on  arrival. They stamp this saying that you are officially exporting your vehicle.
  4. Then you drive a mile up to the X-ray machine. Two vehicles at a time drive on the examination platform and you are asked to exit the vehicle.  They are searching for drugs and arms! Whilst we were there a converted, rally Renault who came through the day before had been impounded for carrying 52kg of Hashish. That’ll not be a pleasant extension to their holiday I’m sure. After a couple of minutes you are allowed back on your vehicle and you exit the platform. Then you take another short journey to find the departure  gate for your chosen ferry carrier and park up and wait. That’s it.

 

All of that took us just 30 minutes from arrival to parking up. So make sure you allow yourself enough time to go through that procedure for your chosen ferry. 

 

3. Getting on the Ferry

Just a word of caution. If they send you up on the top deck of the ferry, if you have a large overhang, as we do  then you are likely to scrape at the back. They will however give you ramps that will lift your rear end enough to clear it.

Once parked up chill out and wait for your passage to be completed, reflecting on your memories of your African Adventure. Just bear in mind that the boat only accepts Euros and not Moroccan Dirhams. 

 

Conclusion

So there we have it, in a rather large nutshell. Our entry into and exit from Morocco. Armed with plans, preparation and some conflicting information, I am pleased to report that it all went incredibly smoothly. I’m sure on another day it could have been different, although I am convinced that taking that first crossing made a huge difference to our whole experience. So I hope this detail helps you, if you are thinking about travelling to Morocco by motorhome or are about to do it imminently. As always, if you have any questions just drop us an email at themotoroaming@gmail.com

 

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Celebrating Birthdays whilst travelling

Celebrating Birthdays whilst travelling

Celebrating Birthdays whilst travelling

 

Celebrating Birthdays whilst travelling or living on the road can be a tricky affair. Buying the right gift that you can keep a surprise, no room for parties, not being close to friends and family.  It’s a big conundrum that has vexed me since we left UK in March 2016.

Yet choosing a nomad life or even just spending a lot of time on the road means that life becomes a whole lot simpler. You find yourself thrust into an existence where your needs are few and your desires for material things dwindle with the speed of a gazelle.

A streamlined life with a back-pack, camper or boat may take on the look of a minimalist hermit, although the truth is that we really don’t need much to be happy. We are conditioned by the commercial marketeers that we need the latest leather sofa or car with go-faster stripes to define ourselves, yet we know in our hearts that it isn’t true.

Our stuff may well be decluttered, recycled or stored whilst our wanderlust takes over the reigns of our chariot, although our habits take a little longer to be reshaped. We are programmed to celebrate Birthdays, Anniversaries, Christmas, New Year with the gusto and flamboyance of a Royal Wedding. We go to town decorating our homes, buying gifts that no one in their right minds would purchase any other time of the year, bake cakes, write cards and generally set out to spoil the people around us in order to make them feel special.

Yet is love buying the latest gadget, the trendiest outfit or the most adrenalin filled experience? No with a capital N. This is what we have come to learn, although it is not the truth. And it is what life on the road is teaching me.  Life and gifts are so much more than purchases we make to bring happiness. Although I’ll not lie, breaking that materialistic bubble is tough when it comes to Birthdays. Even four years on, for me celebrating birthdays whilst travelling is a hard one to overcome.

Deep within me I love to make those I love feel happy – it’s an engrained pattern deep in my DNA;  a people pleasing trait. In turn, I feel more worthy when others acknowledge my Birthday. I’m not proud of this flaw and it is something that I am constantly working on  –  although there we go, this is my truth.

And it is these legacies that have me recoiling when it comes to celebrating my loved one’s anniversaries. Strangely I have overcome the whole Christmas thing as we’ve not sent cards or bought presents for over 12 years. So my habit has changed over time. And I hope the same will happen soon when it comes to Birthdays.

So as I sit here pondering on this non-Birthday Birthday phenomina for Myles 53 celebration, I thought it might be helpful to work this one through for those Life on the Roaders who, like me struggle to know how to approach it. I’ll be honest though, this is still work in progress, so I am no means cured from the society norms that have carved their patterns into my psyche.

 

10 Ways to celebrate without consumerism

 

 

1. Celebrate with a home-cooked meal 

As they say, ‘The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.’ Lots of people enjoy showing their love through the food they cook.  It’s so lovely to be able to design a menu of food that would make their hearts sing.  Ask if you had to design a ‘last meal’ what would it be.

 

2. Spoil them with breakfast in bed

I always enjoy the whole breakfast in bed gesture and whilst wholly impractical, it’s the thought that counts.  Going to extra effort on a special day is so much more meaningful than pile of presents that satisfy only our own desire to please.

 

3. Wake up to an appropriate song

“If music be the food of love, play on.” Shakespeare

For our Birthday’s we always have a song playing – often it’s Stevie Wonder’s ‘Happy Birthday’. What a fabulous way to start the day. Music has such a great vibe to it.

 

4. Create a personalised collage or gif and post to Social Media

I love putting collages together with my favourite pictures of times spent together.  Using an app like canva.com you can come up with some great designs that share  so much more than a present can ever do. The thought that goes into creating, building and designing something is worth its weight in gold.

 

5. Make a video from friends sending Birthday greetings

For Myles’ 50th Birthday, I asked friends and family (many of whom he hadn’t spoken to for a long while) to put together a 2 minute video sending him their Birthday greetings. I then put all those together into a video with music and made this his main ‘present’. It stunned him into silence and he still plays it three years on!

 

6. Celebrate with a meal out 

It’s always fun to be with people you love and being able to share the celebration with special people makes the day more meaningful. So if you’re in a place where you can share with loved ones, find a way to celebrate together. We are often stationery in a campsite on Myles’ Birthday, so we have the chance to be with friends or visiting family who are with us for the Christmas period. Otherwise we might delay a celebration so we can be with fellow travellers who we want to rendezvous with.

 

7. Buy a local tipple or tasty bite

If buying a gift still feels important, then look for a special tipple or traditional food from the country you are travelling in. It might make a nice change to try something cultural that they wouldn’t normally have throughout the year, that feels like a treat.

 

8. Send an ecard

If like us, whilst on your travels, having cards that cover every eventuality is impractical, then you always make one or send an e-Card. Increasingly saving resources is important so an e-card is a lovely way of celebrating that special day.

 

9. Kiss, hug and squeeze just a little bit more than normal

Special days come each morning we wake up, although when it’s a Birthday or Anniversary, then the most priceless gift is your time and affection. When we recondition our beliefs to realise that buying a present isn’t the only way we can show our love, then the options are endless. Take more time to spoil your loved one with even more hugs and kisses.

 

10. Do what they want to do and not what you think they would like

I remember last year’s Birthday for Myles; I asked him what he wanted to do with his day. His needs were simple – just a walk along the beach. Whilst it didn’t feel ‘enough’ for me to acknowledge his special day, it was a perfect for him. And that’s what really mattered.  Sometimes the most simple pleasures have the most meaningful impact.

 

Celebrating Birthdays whilst travelling is just one of the many things that require a shift in thinking and a change of habits. Finding a different and more simple way of showing someone you love them is so important. After all, moving away from the traditions of the Matrix was what motivated us to live an alternative life in the first place. So as we evolve our behaviours, we continue to find more simple ways to give gifts, show love and acknowledge important dates without the commercialism that we have grown up with. For inspiration on creative gifts whilst on the road, read my post by clicking here.

How do you celebrate whilst travelling? Would love to hear how you approach this tricky conundrum.

And I’ll leave you with one final thought thanks to Henry T. Ford….

 

“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”

 

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Strategies for Planning your Road-Trips

Strategies for Planning your Road-Trips

Our Life on the Road series comes as we glide into a period where we finally feel experienced enough to share our insights. Having left UK shores at the beginning of March 2016, we have 50,000 miles under our belt and lessons galore that have expanded our minds. Whilst we don’t ever consider ourselves experts, we have built up a wealth of knowledge about life in a motorhome that we are passionate to share. Whether you are long-timers, full-timers, weekend warriors or new timers, there will be something in here for everyone. 

This latest blog in the series focuses on planning strategies for your next road-trip. Thanks for the overwhelming vote from our Facebook community this was bar far the most popular blog request. And so, read on if you would like some practical tips for making your next road-trip an adventure and not a nightmare. Enter into our world where we share how we plan for and prepare for the countries we visit and get a sneak preview of how we do things in Motoroaming HQ. This is especially relevant as we begin our research for our month-long adventure to Morocco in 2020. 

 

How to make your next road-trip an adventure and not a nightmare.

Travelling is such a personal affair. From the transport we choose, the accommodation we select to be home and the philosophy we hold when it comes to places we want to visit. So I enter this blog with a degree of caution as our approach may not suit everyone. That said, we offer our loose strategies in the hope that it might offer some inspiration.

Before I launch into my 10 Road-Trip Planning Strategies, here are some thoughts about how be a confident travel planner which makes the art of travel so much smoother. 

 

The Art of Travel – The Skills of a Travel Planner

 

To Plan or Not to Plan, that is the question

Back in my corporate days as a Leadership Development Consultant, planning and preparation were key to my business. Without it, my reputation would have sunk as low as the dipping sun. So having an organised mind became part of my raison d’être. Those skills have remained with me ever since. Although I have to say that my insatiable, almost obsessive need to have precision plans has faded enormously since we hit the road.

Before we left UK, I bought maps, spent a fortune on Guide Books and invested heavily in highlighter pens and post-it notes. I was determined that our supposed gap-year travelling around Europe in our Pilote motorhome would be as co-ordinated as a war-time battle strategy.  The only danger with this mindset is that whilst you have a vision, a checklist and a route-map they can become far too rigid. Perish the thought that there’s a road-block to take you off course. Or may be a Point of Interest offered by a fellow traveller that you are curious to see. 

So yes plan, research and mentally have yourself geared up for the journey ahead, although then let go of that plan. Leave enough space for a change of route, a longer stay and revisions along the way. These are what make your trip into an adventure. 

Adopt a Travel Philosophy

Surely just pack up and go right? You’ve spent six months planning, now the wanderlust, itchy feet are urging you to travel. Although part of the planning process that has served us well is having a travel philosophy. What does this actually mean?  

Give thought to things like:

  • Do you want to blast it or do more of a slow-travel?
  • What sort of campers are you? Wild, campsites, Aires or a mixture of both?
  • How many hours or miles do you want to travel each day?
  • Are you motorway lovers to reach your destination or do you prefer to meander around the countryside and explore?
  • What type of traveller are you? A reach your destination and chill type? A curious explorer? An adrenalin junky? A fitness lover?

These questions help you to discover the type of traveller you are or want to be. Whilst the answers may be uncovered the more you travel, giving some thought to it before you head off will influence your plans. If you are travelling with family or a partner, discuss this together and accommodate everyones’ needs.

 

Be Inspired by Others

It’s easy to develop a mind-set of ‘I’ll do it alone and I’ll learn along the way.’ And there’s nothing wrong with that type of exploration. Although these days there are so many people who are travelling and writing about their experiences, that they are an amazing resource. I used to have a skewed attitude that to learn from others was somehow a weakness and almost lazy. As if I was cheating. Learning from my own experiences, I thought would be far more life-changing. And that is true to a degree. Although when others have the voice of wisdom and insight it would be crazy not to dip into this. Travel can be exhausting so making our trip the most meaningful and fulfilling, when life is so short, is really important. Not only that other people’s knowledge can save you money, stress, time and expensive mistakes. So be willing to read blogs, ask questions and cherry pick from other people’s experiences. 

 

Be a Responsible Traveller

When we make time for planning a road-trip, it allows us to think about the planet. It gives us the space to ponder on how to minimise our carbon foot-print – especially if we are travelling in a diesel guzzling camper/Motorhome.  Whilst the miles we travel may not be a conscientious choice for the earth, the way we choose to live can be. So when planning a trip, explore ways to be responsible travellers in our country destination, and indeed those we travel through to reach it. For example when we travel through a country where animal welfare is poor, we take cat and dog food rations. If our research tells us about irresponsible littering, we take refuse bags so we can clean up rubbish as we go. We also consider the use of our refuse and find ways to limit the amount of plastics we travel with.

Sometimes when we are already on the road, getting ethical resources can be harder than when we are in our home country. So plan for ways to look after the planet. Look at whether products like Norwex or ECover can make your trip easier and cleaner and think about purchasing products like this before you leave home.

 

10 Planning Strategies

 

1. Good old fashioned research  – Checklist of Considerations

Once you have selected your country of choice then the exciting part begins. Although it can be such a minefield of information to gather. Using a checklist like this one, can help bring together all the questions that are running through your head. Whilst the follow set of strategies might be more technology based, there’s nothing, in my mind, that can replace just getting a list and running through all the things you need to think about. At the time of writing, we are planning a trip to Morocco for a month, so I used this as a basis for the strategies I used and hence how the checklist came to be. I realised how many of these questions I ask naturally when  we visit a new place. So having them all in one place certainly makes the planning phase so much easier.  So arm yourself with the checklist and then get jiggy with Google and begin answering the questions you have about your chosen destination. Click the image to download your free copy.

 

2. Pinterest

Social Media channels are a huge resource for planning our trips and Pinterest is one of my go-to channels. Whilst these platforms have their downsides and feed obsessive habits if not managed, if you know how to use them, they are a gold-mine of information.  

Pinterest might be a relatively new kid on the block in Social Media terms, it is one of the best places to search amongst the thousands of travellers who write blogs about their experiences. With a simple search of your chosen destination, you  will be presented with literally hundreds of posts that will highlight a diverse range of aspects of the country you are about to visit. From food, culture and ‘best bits’ to road-trip itineraries – Pinterest has it all. When we visited Sweden I did a search for alternative visits to Stockholm, which influenced a completely unique city experience in the summer of 2019. 

Once I find an interesting article, I then pin it to my own Pinterest Boards, take notes or pin the places to Google Maps so I can come back to the information nearer the time. More on that shortly. 

For information on the boards I manage, click the image below.

3. Facebook/Instagram

Facebook is another place where a ton of experienced people can be a font of knowledge for you. Forums and Groups have a great collection of topics for discussion and I often explore these for nuggets of information about our next destination. Whilst in the process of planning Morocco, synchronistically a handful of motorhomers were visiting and posting valuable information and images that helped prepare us for our trip. So watching their videos, seeing their photos and reading their challenges has been really helpful. 

You can use Facebook as part of your research either by watching it day-to-day and hoping you catch the relevant posts. Or you can use the search facility in a specific group to pull up past posts on your chosen country. Check the images below to see how to make Facebook work in this respect. If there is a post you want follow as people in the community continue to comment, then there is a save facility which means you can access the post easily when you need it. 

Alternatively you could use Facebook to ask specific questions that are concerning you and that help you fill in any gaps that you can’t find answers to elsewhere.  What a fabulous planning tool this can be. You will often find me checking out a wild spot, a pretty town or location recommended by someone else and pinning it to my Google Map. 

Instagram is another source of visual inspiration, depending on the people you follow. Whilst it isn’t a significant planning resource, as a visual person, I do love the images and it whets my appetite. Thanks to an image of Hallstatt in Austria, we made a diversion to this picture perfect location hidden in the Alps. How lovely it was too. 

4. Ebooks and Country Guides

In the olden days before Google, we used to rely on books like Lonely Planet Guides. And whilst they have their uses for sure, they are weighty. And let’s face it, we all need to watch our weight when we travel. So I started to use eBooks dowloaded to my iPad to learn about new countries and their cultures. Whilst they don’t give me the intricate detail I might need for our love for ‘off the beaten track’, it can be really useful as a first level planning tool. These Guides are written for a certain genre of traveller, which often does not include the road-trip camper and motorhomer. Although they do give some valuable information that goes into the melting point, so they do serve a purpose. 

Again for Morocco, the books I wanted to read didn’t come in eBook versions, so had to rely one particular book that caught my eye on Amazon. So with interest I bought it and it will become an important source of research and learning. 

5. Note Taking

When I’m in a creative mode, which sometimes battles against my need for structure, I just get out my notepad and coloured pens and just mind-map. A technique I used in my corporate life serves me well as a traveller. This is especially helpful when I’ve read through my saved Pinterest articles, got the all-important information from Facebook and ticked off  my checklist through the internet. I just love to jot my highlights and main points on paper randomly. It gives all my thoughts some organisation and I can see things coming together. This is where excitement fills my belly and enthuses me to do more reading and count down the sleeps before we go. If you want to have some fun, get paper and pens and just write down randomly what you are learning. See it all coming together before your eyes. Not everything needs to be high tech. 

6. Other People’s Experiences

When we adopt an attitude of asking others about their experiences, we can learn a whole new perspective of a place. Of course we all have our own journeys and personal views, although collecting those invaluable memories will help you make your own decisions. So whether it’s through your own network of friends, your motorhome/camper fraternity or through Social Media, pick people’s brains. Learn about their highs and lows, extract advice and get their recommendations. Whilst you are unlikely to take on board all that they offer, it will give you more information from which you can make choices that suit you and your travel philosophy. 

 

7. Google Maps and Maps.me

Ok, now we’ve done some fabulous planning, we’ve scoured the internet, read until our heads hurt and our excitement is off the scale. We’ve started to organise things that we need for the trip like Green Cards or Insurance – so what next?

For me, it’s time to drill down a bit and start to explore more of the specifics. The high level planning is great, although as the trip gets nearer, having a plan about the routes you might take, the border crossings and priority places you have on your must-visit list now becomes a priority. Whilst we need to balance our plans with a degree of flexibility, having a rough route or direction feels important. It would be a bit like running a race and not having a defined starting line. It would result in chaos. 

This is where two apps come into play for me. Google Maps and Maps.me. I love Google Maps, it offers so much to the organised traveller; it’s a Sat Nav, walking guide, services search facility and Point Of Interest guide. I see it like a paper map that we might have used when we were kids, peppered with drawing pins of places we dreamt about visiting. This digital version is so much easier to manage when we’re on the road, thanks to our many devices. 

There are two ways of using Google Maps. The first is using the App on your phone to search for and then pin places that you want to visit, taking notes of why it appeals. (Don’t forget this bit as you risk having a collection of random pins that you’ve forgotten their relevance.) The second way I use Google Maps is on my Laptop to create a personalised map of a particular road-trip so that I can track both our potential and actual routes. I can upload pictures, write my thoughts, link to websites and develop it into a whole exciting interactive map for our followers. It’s awesome. Check out some of the maps we’ve created here

Maps.me I came across through a fellow motorhomer in year two of our travels and it revolutionised our journeys. As a free App and community sharing tool, it allows you to create your own pins for overnight stays, UNESCO sites, Service Stations, LPG and campsites. Most powerfully though, it enables you to share with other travellers. So you start to build up a collaborative resource amongst like-minded people. Best of all it is an off-line facility. So once you have downloaded the maps for the country of your choice, then you can use it to navigate to a place to stay, visit for the day or do a city walking tour without it costing a fortune with your data. Perfect. I love Maps.me, it’s an incredible resource and if you click the blue link you can go to the website for more information. If Maps.me is new to you, I have written a PDF guide about how to get the best from it, which is yours, for free by clicking this link here

8. Search for Sites and Park4Night websites/Apps

Given that we are now at the stage of planning a very rough route and possibly ear-marking some places to stay, it’s time  to get more detailed. Now we love wild camping, although some countries don’t allow it, frown upon it, or it is simply not appropriate. So having a bit of foresight into places to set up camp, especially somewhere like Morocco, seems appropriate.

We always find somewhere for our first two nights. Sarah from Veedubadventures lovingly calls this her ‘soft landing‘. I think this is great. We call it grounding ourselves. Arriving in a new country can initiate a stressful response with all the build up. Language challenges, ferries and a host of uncertainties all combine to potentially create a storm of anxiety and sometimes just a bit of edginess. So we always make sure we have somewhere to stay for the first two nights and have this destination in our plans ahead of time. After that we then get a sense of where we want to go next and take flight.

These two grounding days, if we haven’t done it already, become a playground for exploring wild camping options or nice campsites that are in and around the places we’ve pinned. And our two ‘go-to’ apps for this are SearchforSites and Park4Night. Both sites give us untold treasures when it comes to recommended places to stay. Park4Night for wild options (although can be a bit tricky for a 7.5m motorhome) and SearchforSites for good quality campsites and Aires from trusted UK comrades.  Both of these resources are excellent for planning purposes and the recently upgraded SearchforSites App gives you a much more robust route planning tool and off-line navigation if you want it.   We do though, tend to use these sites on a day to day basis rather than mapping out all our overnight stops. So much of our journey depends on the weather, road conditions and our frame of mind that booking ahead is not really an option for us.  Although our strategy might differ in Morocco as our plans unfold and we learn more about the country.

 

9. Good old fashioned Maps

Whilst technology serves us well on the whole, sometimes, just sometimes, a good old fashioned map is appropriate. We started out on our travels with a huge A5 Europe map that I had littered with post-it notes and coloured highlights. Although over time this was relegated to the footwell of the cab and fell victim to curls, frays and tears. So it made way for our Google Maps instead. That said, for Morocco the advice I have read is to get a proper, recently updated map that allows you to see the big picture and plot a route according to your highlights. There is something quite cathartic about the feel of real map and a Guide Book – and it excites me to use them again. Crazy eh? If there is enough detail in the map (go for at least 1:250,000 for detail and 1:1million for a bigger scale) then it will give you POI that may not have come up in your research so far. The Book Depository based in UK has a great range of maps – nearly 32,000 of them and is where I sourced my Morocco maps from. 

10. Now go with the flow!

The final strategy that you need for planning a great and memorable road-trip is to now let go! It may seem counter-intuitive based on everything that I’ve just said, although let go you must! It’s so easy to become too obsessed with a plan and in doing so you miss things that could be one of your greatest highlights. We also love meeting people along the way, especially locals, who will tell us about things, that take us completely off-piste. And to those people, we are so grateful. We love off the beaten track places and it’s often the locals who know about these places. So being willing to let go of the route plans and pins you have created and go with the flow a bit, is really important.

I love that I have the knowledge, route options and highlights running in the background, although there’s nothing better than going left instead of right sometimes. So be free to move beyond your plans and allow your trip to open up in ways you’d never thought possible. Trust your intuition and put your curious, explorer heads on and see what delights emerge. The beauty is that you always have the safety of the plan to come back to whenever you need it. 

 

Closing Thoughts

Eisenhower once said that ‘Plans are nothing, planning is everything.’ And he is right. Whilst going out on the road with no plans might seem really exciting and adventurous, these days that doesn’t really work as a philosophy. Travelling is an art and that art doesn’t just happen. It needs a little thought and clarity. We learnt this after our trip to Scandinavia in 2019. Without the plans and our detailed research, our trip could have been messy, expensive and far less memorable than it was. So we are happy that there is a planning queen on our team! 

Although the art of a great traveller is also to have enough courage to let go of all the plans if your intuition tells you so. The plan is just that, a plan! It is not caste in stone and, for a truly memorable experience, sometimes letting go is important. So armed with these planning strategies, we hope it has given you an insight into how we plan our life on the road.

Let us know how you get on with these techniques and whether you have any other top tips for road-trip plans.

 

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Don’t miss THE most popular post from our Life on the Road series

Life on the Road – Top tips from the experts

Life on the Road – Top tips from the experts

When every day is a school day, then let the teachers appear.

After leaving UK soil in March 2016, we have travelled over 50,000 miles and visited 23 countries and provinces, which has expanded both our minds and bodies, thanks to the cultural diversity we have witnessed. With experience, miles and time under our belts, we finally feel like we have amassed enough exposure to this full-time life on the road to share our insights with a degree of authenticity. 

And so we have created this brand new series Life on the Road, which encompasses our observations, lessons and experiences, to which we add a dose of wisdom. Whether you come to the RV/Motorhome/Camper life as full-timers, long-timers or newbies, we hope that this series of blogs will help inform, influence and provide food for thought. Whilst we don’t consider ourselves experts, we do have some experience to share.

That said, we are never complaisant. We have come to appreciate that every day is a school day and no matter how many months we have been travelling, knowledge sometimes comes from the hardest lessons and biggest challenges. And we’ve had plenty.

 

​Top Tips from the Experts

I love collective noun names like a gaggle of geese, a drove of donkeys or a school of fish. I wonder what the collective term is for a group of motorhomes or campers? Perhaps we need to make one up. One thing is for sure; there is one hell of a lot of us. Some full-time, some long-term, others are gap-year travellers. And we all bring a heap load of unique perspectives to the table. And this is our inspiration for this first in our new Life on the Road series. 

Whilst I hesitate to call anyone an expert, as it has a ring of elitism about it, it does allow us to use it as a turn of phrase for those who have gathered a basket full of experiences and knowledge. And so in this blog, we have brought together a diverse group of people who we have been privileged to meet in our time on the road, from all walks of life and from across the globe.  They have all been travelling for a period of time and generated their own personal philosophies about what travelling looks and feels like to them. We have invited 10 of them them to share their Top Tips for how they live a meaningful, safe and memorable life on the road. Check out these fabulous ideas from our Top Team of Travellers.

 

Karen and Myles from The Motoroamers

After 50000 miles and 23 countries, Karen and Myles have taken to full-time life in their motorhome Scoobie like ducks to water. Leaving UK in March 2016 they left behind their traditional life for a gap-year around Europe, and are still going they loved it so much. Working as they go, they write about their travel inspirations and their real life challenges and joys, bringing a genuine, entertaining and honest look at life on the road.

For inspirational, informative and entertaining blogs and videos check them out over on their website; Motoroaming, join their Facebook community or follow them on Instagram.

Don’t let fears rule your life
Our fears play such a noisy and destructive role in our lives and it is easy to be swept along with them. Through my work as a coach, I have helped others rationalise fearful thoughts and reframed my own. This is so important for planning and managing life on the road.  Whilst a degree of fear can keep you alert in real danger, more often our fears are irrational and simply False Expectations Appearing Real. So look at your fears objectively and identify how real they are. Are they just thoughts holding you back or genuine concerns based on real and tangible evidence? Once you are clear, then you can take appropriate action rather than giving into knee-jerk reactions.  For more info on help limit your fears click here.

Learn to Let Go!
Letting go has been a big part of our lives on the road. Firstly letting go of stuff in our house that I thought defined me. Letting go of the idea that there were things I must have, when in fact they were things I just wanted rather than really needed – and there is a big difference. And letting go of expectations as they only create disappointment. Life in our van is so much simpler than it was and our needs significantly less. So be ready for a new mindset that has you living a less cluttered life and one that focuses on what you need to make you happy.

Life on the Road is not a Dream Life it is Real Life
We feel so privileged to be living the life we do, although we worked hard to create it with passive income streams to support our day-to-day expenses. It was a choice to live this way and each day we are grateful. Although beneath the pretty pictures and funny videos is real life. A life that has challenges with banks, tenants, agents and tax departments. And challenges with the van; tyres blow, radiators leak, bikes get stolen and you have rows. Staying mindful that things will go wrong and this is just a different way of living –  yes one that is full of incredible moments, although still one that is framed by reality. So recognise problems just as they are – problems. Issues to be resolved together. Challenges that all have solutions and that, once implemented allows you to return to the joy travelling gives you.

 

Julie and Jay from Our Tour

Julie and Jason opted to leave their jobs in 2011 to travel Europe in an aged Hymer B544 motorhome called Dave. Two years later they reluctantly returned home, heads full of memories, enthused for life, the burnout of previous years a thing of the past. Implementing lessons from folks they met on the road, they ploughed their energy into getting financially-free. Only two years later they were again free, and have been enjoying life both on and off the road since. 

Feel the freedom of continental motorhome touring at our travel blog: Our Tour

Appreciate the wonderful world we live in
Travelling exposed us directly to people, places and landscapes without the over-dramatic filters applied by the media. The result was we got to see with fresh eyes, which lifted our spirits and drove us forwards in life. Our feeling is this happens to most people who choose to cut the ties with home, if only temporarily and the results are priceless

“Momento Mori, Tempus Fugit”.
Nope, they didn’t teach us Latin at  our comprehensive school in Nottingham, but we’ve come across this phrase since, and it’s a  powerful one. It means, ‘Remember death, time flies.” Seriously there are 100 reasons not to change your life, not to take that leap into the unknown. But we’ve met  a number of people loving their life out on the road, who now longer breath the air on this Earth.  And thankfully none of those 1000 reason were enough to stop them achieving their dream before they died. We  hope they’re not enough to stop you either.

Travel lessons will be many
We chose to live  and travel in a motorhome, learning a ton of lessons as we went. Like many  long-term motorhome travellers, we wrote a blog as we travelled, sharing both the good and not-so-good sides of motorhome life (the former massively  outweighing the latter). As the years passed, the blog posts became  so many, information was hard to find and  update. So  we pulled the key lessons together into a book “The Motorhome Touring  Handbook.” That book contains all the practical advice we can muster. 

 

Roger and Anna – Bo i Husbil

Anna & Roger from Sweden have lived full-time in their motorhome, called FrankieBoy, as digital nomads since April 2018. They have chosen this life-style because they can, because they are curious and wanted to try it. Through this life of travel they experience more in life than ever before. Essential for them is to spend more time together and to enjoy the daylight. They love change and personal development, and they love to explore what ever comes to mind. 

Here is their travel blog and Instagram: Boihusbil and Roger on Wheels 

Embrace Change
No matter what lifestyle you live, changes happen and it is easier to embrace that change than fight them. The difference we noticed is that in this lifestyle, the changes come more often and are often unexpected. Because we often change country, city and surroundings, the changes are something that needs to be embraced. An example for us is that we were all set to wild camp although we have realised that we like campsites and well-organized aires. We are struck by how many changes are happening all the time and it is a lesson we are happy to share, because they can be difficult for someone who is not driven by and likes changes, as we do.

 

Stay a bit longer occasionally
Before we started our tour down in Europe last autumn, we thought that we would travel and experience here and there, just keep on moving all the time. We had of course scheduled time to work in between, since we are digital nomads, but no plans for standing still. However fun and wonderful our lifestyle is, there are clearly limitations. So when we came to the Spanish Mediterranean coast in October 2018, after a month on the road, we understood that it’s nice and necessary to stand still sometimes too!
 

The eagerness to do and see new things can sometimes cause us to leave a place too soon. We know today, after approx 600 nights as full-timers, that we don’t need to stress about our decisions and we have no hurry. Staying for another day can sometimes give us completely different reflections and better decisions.

Let everyday life take its time
Throughout our lives, it has been about working for affordability. All the ‘must do’s have demanded that the most essential things in life need to go faster. More money needs to be earned and time for our own needs have fallen away. Time for cooking, washing, social life for example has been minimised to almost zero. Now that we have let that go, we are in even greater harmony than we thought was possible. Cooking for several hours or hand washing clothes are big factors to our satisfaction. Slowly strolling around the food market or in the store to find exactly what attracts us. Not controlled by anything but desire. Campsites/aires that require us to collect water in a jug and empty the gray water with buckets, feels good. Not only do we automatically get the body moving, we also meet other people who do the same thing. Conversations occur and we have time to stop and talk, gain new insights and extend our social life.

 

Kathryn from Wandering Bird

Kathryn quit her job as an air traffic controller to travel Europe in a motorhome with her bewildered husband and over-excited puppy. Since March 2018, they have visited 20+ countries and driven over 60,000 miles. Kathryn loves sharing stories of their travels, but she is passionate about helping others change their lives and find their own freedom, whether that means quitting your job to travel, taking a sabbatical or squeezing adventures into whatever time you have.

You can follow their adventures on Instagram, Facebook or find more travel tips & advice on their award-winning travel blog Wandering-bird

DO IT
If you are considering getting out of the ‘rat-race’ and living life on your own terms, do it. Life is short and tomorrow is promised to no-one. There will never be the ‘perfect time’ and you will never feel 100% ready. But do it anyway. As soon as you can sustain yourself in whatever way you choose, then go for it. Yes, you will be scared. Yes, there will be unforeseen problems to deal with. But you will NEVER EVER regret stepping outside your comfort zone and having more adventures in your life.

Have an emergency fund
Twice in the past 18 months we’ve had essential expenses which we hadn’t budgeted for while travelling Europe with a motorhome. One was maintenance needed on our vehicle with an engine issue, but the biggest unforeseen event was when my husband flew back to the UK for a few days to work… and ended up in hospital with a severe kidney infection. I am so grateful that we worked that extra time to build up an emergency fund which allowed me to find dog-care for Mac, secure the motorhome somewhere safe, book the next flight from the nearest airport and fly back to the UK.

Learn to slow down
This has been the HARDEST thing for me… which is probably why I started a travel blog! But if the reason you want to change your lifestyle is to get a better life balance, then you need to learn to slow down. It’s ok to spend days ‘doing nothing’, lazing by the beach or curled up with a book while it pours down outside. Not every day has to be an ‘adventure’ or have something amazing happen. This whole lifestyle is an adventure in itself, so don’t burn yourself out trying to fit everything in at once. 

 

Sarah and Tabitha from Veedubadventures

Sarah is the face behind Veedubadventures & Mohobo, the online store for quirky motorhome gifts. Tabitha is her teenager daughter, navigator and first mate. Always a keen traveller, taking trips across Canada to Chile by motorcycle, when Sarah hit 50 they set off on a year-long adventure in their trusty 21 year old motorhome, Eileen. Together they are true adventurers who seriously carpe the hell out of every diem.

To follow their adventures check out their blog Veedubadventures and their Facebook page. Click here for Mohobo gifts.

Warning:  Full Time Family Travel Can Permanently Alter Your Perspective!

When The Motoroamers asked if I’d like to guest blog in their Life on The Road series I was excited and daunted in equal measure. Although working out how I could extract just THREE tips from an epic year on the road with Tabitha my, then, ten year old daughter felt the same as the prospect of condensing a 4 bedroom London house and life into a 6m Campervan. 

It’s NEVER too early to start
Prepare yourself, your family and your environment. Dream BIG!  The possibilities really are endless and this is the time to go hard or don’t leave home! Choose your new rolling home early, it can sometimes take a while to get a 2nd hand vehicle mechanically sound.  There might be modifications you want to make for it to feel like home. Start thinning out possessions as early as you can, mentally if not physically at the very least.  Categorise everything you own and be ruthless.

Get the kids motivated by putting their sales cash into their own Trip Fund – Tabitha paid for her own ice-creams for the first 3 months from what she sold! And, talking of kids, getting them onboard, with what is essentially your dream, is imperative. The wheels can literally fall off if the whole gang aren’t up for the adventure. It’s a BIG upheaval for everyone, even the most intrepid explorer is not always going to love the sacrifices being made.  Much loved toys, precious teddies and best friends will all have to be left behind.

Do return to the the plan and dream regularly but don’t over egg it so everyone is fed up with hearing about it!
Do ask for their input on where to go, what to take, how to learn – even the smallest of humans can contribute here.
Don’t try to plan and control every tiny detail.
Do plan ways for maintaining friendships.
Don’t rely on technology like video calling for this.  Postcards, letters, blogs are great and if the kids are in school, get their class to track your route.  

It’s NOT all cocktails on the beach at sunset
Assuming you get lucky, the first couple of weeks up to the first month will be everything you ever dreamed it would be. The motorhome will drive like a dream, every item you couldn’t bear to leave behind will miraculously find a place, your Sat Nav will unfailing find each destination, the kids will love long driving days and emptying the toilet will be splash free and smell of roses!

Or, maybe it’ll be less utopian dream and more dystopian nightmare and you’ll wake up in a cold sweat wondering what the hell you’ve done! Hang in there! It’s going to take some adjustment moving from a house to a metal box on wheels and working out your new normal. Being together 24×7 was NOT the delight we had anticipated. So consider what I call a ‘soft landing’ to ease yourselves into it. Choose campsites if you’re not confident with free camping or using aires. Travel slowly, stop frequently, find things to do and places that interest both you and the kids. I found it took us at least a couple of days to adjust when we crossed a land border.  A new language,  potentially a new currency, certainly new foods, road signs and rules.

The end of the road
In the blink of an eye, the end of the road is suddenly in sight.  Be it one month or twelve once the end is in sight you will be astonished at how quickly the time has passed. You’ve gone from slightly terrified full time family travellers to seasoned old hands. You no longer worry about how the kids will learn without school – you’ve mastered your own family approach. Be it structured and aligned to the national curriculum or unstructured and child led you have discovered the secret: you can’t actually stop a kid, not to mention and adult, from learning. How on earth are you going to fit all that freedom and surround sound vision back into the life you had before? If you’re like us, you actually won’t…

During our time away we realised that we didn’t want to go back to a full time job or state education. I no longer wanted to work the sort of hours necessary to pay a mortgage or rent. I no longer wanted to pack Tabitha off for 8 hours a day.  More importantly Tabitha no longer wanted to be constrained by a school timetable.Finding our new normal involved me developing new income streams and us moving out of our faithful campervan and onto a narrowboat.

The ever lasting legacy of our year on the road has been the lived experience and confidence that we can pretty much make anything work. The most precious nugget of learning is that anything is possible – if you go at it slowly,  with a bit of forethought and some precision manoeuvring you can make it successfully through the smallest gap.  What a Wonderful World.

 

Ruth and Alan from Travel, Cook, Eat

Ruth and Alan are a Kiwi couple, who have been travelling through Europe full-time in their motorhome Betsy since June 2017.  In their previous lives, Ruth ran her own business and Alan was an engineer.  However after 30 months on the road, those times are now a distant memory; they can’t imagine doing anything else. They absolutely love their lives and are extremely grateful to have this opportunity to travel and share their experiences with others.

Check out their blog over at Travel, Cook Eat and their Facebook page

It’s not easy to pick out our top three pieces of advice because we are all so different regarding what’s important to us. The following gems however, have been instrumental in making our travels safe, enjoyable, and immensely fulfilling and we believe they will serve any full-time motorhomer well. 

Plan your travel but don’t over-plan your travel
When embarking on a full-time life on the road it’s so important that you take time to find and setup the motorhome which will suit you, and your lifestyle.  Research other’s blogs, maybe even hire or borrow a motorhome or two, and work out what you like and don’t like. Once you have bought your pride and joy, you may need to install some larger extras such as solar panels or an inverter, so you truly have an independent home on the road. Smaller items can be picked up as you go and once you know you really want them.

Part of planning your travel is getting your finances lined up. It’s no fun being stuck in a foreign country with a broken-down motorhome and no money to fix it.  Be realistic and have enough money for your travels, plus reasonable contingencies. You will spend more than you expect, so plan for it.  Take out suitable insurance and breakdown cover. Once you are on the road, keep track of your spending and be ready to make adjustments to keep in your budget – either spend less, earn more, or change your plans.

Once your travels start however, it’s time to dial back on the planning. Be open and flexible enough to change direction or destination, or speed up, or slow down. Some of the best experiences occur when you give them the opportunity to happen.

Slow down and smell the roses
We have met people who just love driving and don’t like spending more than a single night in one place. Most of us though will have a deeper and richer experience by spending more time in less places. We suggest allowing plenty of days in each country and a loose schedule with just a few key dates, such as MOT time. This gives you more freedom to be where you want, for as long as you want. Less miles also means lower fuel bills and less wear and tear on your motorhome, yourself, and your relationship.  

Engage the locals
Your overall travel experience is comprised of what you see, what you do, what you experience and who you meet along the way. Our most cherished memories almost always include locals we have met and who have shared with us their friendship, local highlights, and culture.  Many of these locals have actually been fellow motorhomers, whom we met far from their own homes, and then invited us to visit them in their countries. They know exactly what fellow motorhomers and usually offer parking, EHU and a washing machine.  So make the effort to talk with other motorhomers, especially those from other countries.  

Engage locals in conversation, invite them in for a coffee, and you will set yourselves up for some amazing memories and new friends. When you are full-time on the road it’s great to feel you have friends and connections all over Europe. 

 

Ian and Jill from Search for Sites

Ian and Jill have owned a motorhome for 10 years, having previously graduated through tents and a touring caravan. They are not bloggers although do run the popular campsite search facility website and mobile app Searchforsites. So are regularly out and about travelling, researching and gathering data for the website.

Check out their website over at Search for Sites and their Facebook page

Our top tips for travel have recently been upgraded since the availability of mobile data in mainland Europe has increased massively; that coupled with generous data packages from mobile providers. 

Get Connected!
We need reliable internet access every day to run our business, so we invested in a 4G roof mounted aerial with a Huawei 4G compatible mobile wifi router (Mifi) coupled with a Vodafone data sim which gives us an unrestricted 100gb of data for use in any of 40 destinations all for just £20 month – such a good deal we bought a second sim to use in our iPad. 

This enabled us to not only have internet access available 95+% of the time the quality and speed of a 4G connection was sufficient for use with streaming services such as BBC iPlayer, Netflix etc so no need any more for satellite TV or piles of DVD’s. This leads us on to our second tip:

Take the tablets!
Go large with your mobile device and get a Tablet!  The stress levels of finding stopovers are greatly reduced when browsing using a tablet over a mobile phone and using an app such as searchforsites where you can browse a much greater area makes it much easier to find that next must visit place.  Having a large screen is also a god send when using the tablet as a Sat Nav. 

Digital Banking
On previous trips we always used to take cash only which meant we would leave home with a great big bundle of euros – coupled with a  Nationwide credit card. This worked well for shorter holidays but would not be practical for longer term travel. After reading some good reviews we applied for a Starling Bank Account and Card and this has been a revelation coupled with its brilliant super simple banking app. Fee free banking plus free payments, free cash withdrawals all at near bank transfer rates.

So now whenever we visit a non euro country it is easy to get some local currency without getting ripped off with poor change rates. The app tracks all your spending by merchant and category and is updated the instant you make a payment. It has been so good we have now closed all our other accounts and have four Starling Accounts, two personal accounts, one joint account and a business account all run from the same simple app.

 

Cynthia and Stuart from Flipflops and Woolly Hats

Stuart, Cynthia and Luna, their dog, were about 30 years off retirement when they moved into their motorhome in November 2017.  They were inspired into their version of ‘vanlife’ by their love for VW campers and camping in general. They gave up their comfortable life, careers and their nice house for a life of freedom on the open road. They haven’t looked back once! They keep busy, not just with travel & exploring but also with photography, videography and writing. They love this unique lifestyle; the opportunities it gives them, the places it allows them to see, the people they meet and the friends they make.

Check out their website over at Flip-flops and Woolly Hats and their Facebook page and Instagram

Here at Flip-flops HQ, we are continually learning as we travel and live life on wheels so when Karen & Myles from Motoroaming asked us to contribute our top 3 tips, we were only too happy to contribute. The challenge would be to select the top 3 tips but we think we did it! Here goes…

Follow your Heart
No matter what your plans are, if your heart is asking you to go somewhere or do something, be flexible, do it and do it now. Now is the best time, as you may not get to the same place again or if you do, even if it is tomorrow, the place might be different. If you want to explore that lane, do it as you might not pass it on the way back. If you want to take that photo, take it as the sun might not shine tomorrow or a coach-load of tourists might be obscuring the view. If you’re thinking of filling up with fresh water, do it as the tap might be broken in the next place. The list of examples is endless but you get the idea. Following your heart will help make this lifestyle the best it can be for you as it is different for everyone. Following your heart will make your version of ‘vanlife’ authentic to you and you will enjoy it all the more for it!

Find a balance
All your time is yours now, to fill with journeys, exploring and whatever other things you enjoy doing. You may find that covering large distances in a short time may leave you feeling tired, zapped of energy or unmotivated. You may also find that staying in a single place for a longer time may leave you tired, zapped of energy or unmotivated. These opposites can have the same effect but for different reasons, so it is important you find a balance in the way you spend your time that works for you. Creating some structure to your days, continuing with your hobbies, exercise, creating (eg crafts, writing, photography etc) or even doing some work are all ways to help you find that balance and prevent you from feeling adrift on your big adventure. 

Every day is a school day
Sometimes things go wrong or are different to what we expect, maybe we have made a mistake. It can be stressful but it’s how we learn so don’t sweat it! We learn to carry the right equipment, like a multitude of watertap-connectors to deal with the myriad of different taps out there, or the right gas connectors which can differ per country. We learn that colder countries turn their taps off in winter to protect them from the frost, leaving us without water. We learn that we really should have emptied the toilet cassette at the last stop… We learn that we need a bigger coffee pot. We learn that there was a bollard at the back of that parking spot… Ouch! Things can go wrong, but they can be fixed even in a different country across a language barrier, so don’t worry if something does go wrong. It will be OK. 

 

Jenny and Jason 

Jase and Jen left Bristol in March 2018 in their T4 Volkswagen Westflia California Exclusive. Both had given up their jobs, rented out their property and with £18,000 in the bank and set out for an 18 month adventure around Europe. Their route started in France and Belgium following bike races for the early part of 2018, then they headed further into Switzerland, Austria and Germany. Winter was spent in Spain and Portugal, with a 4 week pit stop in the UK for Christmas covering the all important family catchup as well as getting the van MOT’d. After an adventure in Scandinavia, they are currently on a pit stop in UK planning their next set of adventures. 

Follow their adventures over on Twitter.

Be inspired, not restricted
There are literally hundreds of stories like ours, and believe me, we read them and learn a lot. Sometimes that was more how not to do it though. The key piece here is while time allows for a longer and perhaps broader adventure, you don’t have to have months available to have a brilliant experience. In fact, you could do far worse than picking up 1 location or idea for your next holiday. Take our experiences and make them your own. The key is finding what works for you.

Research but it isn’t everything
By all means read the guidebooks, and pour over maps, but also read between the lines. Travel is all about finding your own way and interpretation. Some of the best places we’ve been to, are those dismissed by the guidebooks. Equally, when we decided to hit Scandinavia for our final 3 months, we did so without a map or book between us. It only cost us one unnecessary toll, but in terms of unexpected experiences, it was simply knock out. Sometimes being unprepared delivers in way you don’t expect.

When wild, think Water, Waste and Washing Wild
Free or off grid camping isn’t for everyone, but it’s definitely worth a go, from a budget perspective as much as anything else. It won’t all be glamour sites either, we’ve had more than our share of car park views, but when you find your slice of heaven, they pale into the background. Just take a moment to consider your basic needs, and you will find the experience life changing.

 

Paul and Michele from Our Leap of Faith

Paul and Michele write a Travel blog called Our Leap of Faith and in 2017 they dipped out of the rat race, taking an adult gap year to potter around Europe. At the end of their trip, neither of them had any desire to return to the normal life and chasing the consumer dream, so they opted for a work-life balance, spending the summers in England working as Campsite Wardens and the winter living their dream of exploring the world.

You can follow their adventures over at Our Leap of Faith and Facebook and Twitter.

When we escape away from the humdrum of ‘Real Life’ we like to travel slow and take short hops in our motorhome from Town to Town and divert to see things that sound interesting along the way. When we were asked for our top tips on how we travel, we jumped at the chance!

Never plan too much
Well almost never, how many times have you had a plan and it’s gone array? These days we try to look at what and where we will be tomorrow. All too often in the past we had grand dreams and endless list of things to see and do, mainly from well read travel guides. Then we would get side-tracked by something small and local. Never wishing to turn off the personal touch of travel, the bigger things get bumped from the list, well onto the next time list at least. So now we travel with a rough plan of what today might hold.

It’s about the journey not the destination
Who ever said travel was about getting from A to B, needs to rethink their plans. How easy would it be these days to pop in your destination into a Sat Nav and follow it, turn by turn. Go old school and by a map and pick the roads you are going to follow based on what might happen along the way. As travellers i think that the journey is probably more important than the end destination. Often you can be going down a route and then at the next turn you see a sign or a point of interest and you have to get out and explore and so your journey takes a different route.

Live like a Local
We remember well one of saddest travel memories was arriving in Spain around Christmas time.  We met an English couple, who looked amazed that we had tackled the minefield of the Spanish butcher and bought ourselves a Rib of beef for our Christmas Day lunch, whilst they had resorted to a frozen Turkey from the ex-pat Iceland shop. Although our language skills will never run to full blown conversations, we always make the effort to learn a few key phrases. And then thanks to human nature, our few local words, plus a bit of pointing and maybe a splattering of understood English words we manage to get by and hopefully improve our skills.  he same works when we fancy a beer; we actively avoid the tourist hotspots and seek out the locals’ bar, where the drinks are better and the atmosphere authentic. You should never be afraid of going local – the experience far out-weighs the fear.

 

Sharon from Off Nomading

Sharon is a solo traveller who has long held a dream to get out on the open road in her van and live a nomad lifestyle. After leaving UK four years ago, Sharon travelled, working her way around Europe using public transport and getting involved in the Work-away Scheme, before finding a great gig in the Alps above Annecy, in France. Living and working at a skiing resort, Sharon’s love for cycling and winter landscape meant she was living one part of her dream. And then she bought a van and had it converted and in October 2019 set off on the road working digitally as she goes. Combining travel, working and housesitting, Sharon’s vision has now come to fruition.

Here are 3 things I have learned and would like to share with those thinking of setting off on this path, or who are already on it:
 
Life on the road is far more than just about the travel or a freedom lifestyle
Whether your plan is to live on the road for a matter of months, or maybe indefinitely, it will really stretch you at times. However, these challenges can also provide you with countless opportunities for incredible personal expansion and joy if you let them. It all depends on your perspective. Then if you take that a step further and consciously put yourself way outside your comfort zone on a regular basis, the rewards can be phenomenal. 
 
Such as overcoming a long-held fear, meeting someone you wouldn’t otherwise have met, having new and unexpected experiences and all kinds of amazing opportunities coming your way. 
 
Always follow your intuition
If somewhere doesn’t feel right, move! Even if it’s the middle of the night and you’re in your pyjamas. If someone doesn’t feel right, walk away. On the same score, if your intuition is guiding you somewhere listen to it. Some of the biggest mistakes I have made are because I didn’t listen to my intuition and some of the greatest blessings, because I did. 
 
 
Keep your batteries constantly charged
Keeping all of your devices charged at all times is so critical for life on the road. Plus having spare batteries AND carrying them with you. Also make sure you plenty of memory space, with spare cards. It sounds so obvious, although the amount of times I have take my camera out on a walk and the battery has run out, or the card gets full and the spares are in the van. I have a multi-way cigarette charger for when I’m driving so that I can charge multiple things at once. I also have a car charger for my drone, to ensure that it is always charged as well along with the spare batteries.  Before I set off driving anywhere, I always ask myself, ‘what needs charging today?’ Then I make sure that I have back-ups of everything with me before  leaving the van. You never know when a great opportunity might come along that you might never get again – don’t miss it!

 

 

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