Earlier this year we were asked by a new motorhomie what were the most essential items that she needed to pack in her new home. It prompted a blog on this very topic, which had a very purposeful female slant – The Top 20 Motorhome Essentials for Ladies.
We promised to draw up a male influenced Essentials List, which I delegated over to Mr Smilisie. Now clearly, I recognise that there are plenty of solo ladies out there, although we hope you will forgive the masculinity of the topic and get some benefit from our list.
* Affiliate disclosure – some of these items have a link to Amazon, with whom we have an affiliate partnership. If you click on these links and decide to purchase, you will not be charged any more – we just get a small commission from any purchases you make.
1. Duck tape
There will always be little incidents and accidents whilst you’re away and sometimes things may need holding together until you can get it repaired. One of our essentials is Duck Tape that is either translucent or the same colour as your van. It deals with a multitude of sins and allows you to hanging things together whilst you’re away and before you can get to a garage to get it fixed.
2. Velcro ( heavy duty and standard) rolls
This has been a god-send to us, as we constantly look to evolve the organisation in the garage. Having the Velcro allows us to keep everything in place especially in the garage and more importantly easily accessible. It has so many uses, we could go on and on and on!
Keep some on board, you’ll not regret it.
3. Zip ties
Who would have thought that ZipTies could come in handing whilst living life on the road? Buy a variety pack, you never quite know when they will come in handy. And yet they do. We’ve used them in so many different weird and wonderful ways. Now then; gripping a tyre when we were stuck on soggy ground, holding things together……. Not always with successful outcomes, although none-the-less, a great garage accessory to have.
4. Toolkit Essentials
For any garage, motorhome, cyclist or camper, there’s always a mini tool kit lurking somewhere in a tiny space somewhere. Whilst you may not be able to bring all your beloved tools away with you, well not if you want to keep within your payload, there are some essentials that you just can’t do without. Here are our vitals:
- Small adjustable spanner
- Stanley knife
- Tape Measure
- Good quality torch
- White Spirit
5. Assortment of fuses
This has been one of most recent purchases, as there’s something about our 12v charger point in the kitchen that keeps tripping out the fuse. So we’ve got a neat little box of fuses to replace the duffers.
6. Araldite glue
You always gotta have glue, it’s amazing the number of things that come unstuck that need putting back together again. If it works for Humpty Dumpty, then surely it must work for us motorhomies too.
7. Baby wipes
Now who would have thought that Baby Wipes would have got a mention on a blog like this! Yet these little babies are fantastic for cleaning off the bugs and grime on the outside of the van, as well as helping sterilise stuff on the inside. Marvellous.
8. Solar panel with pure sine wave inverter
This is one of our best ever purchases and whilst not a specific tool as such it is a great resource, especially as we do a lot of wild camping. It’s a 120W Solar Panel that together with an extra Leisure Battery gives us all the power we need to run some household appliances, like the Nutribullet and Juicer for the Mrs and keep our devices powered up.
9. Power Packs
Whether you are travelling as a family, solo or as a couple, you will undoubtedly have devices that will need constant charging. If you’re like us and do work on the road, these little bundles of power pack a right old punch and keep us connected both with the work we do and our family and friends back in UK.
They’re not expensive or difficult to store although essential pieces of kit. Just make sure you get enough of them – we have three and sometimes even that’s not enough.
10. Ratchet Straps
These straps are great multi-taskers and are just one of these pieces of kit that you need to keep in your garage somewhere.
We use ours for a bit of safety when we’re wild camping, strapping the two main doors together – it might not stop them getting in although they’ll certainly wake us up trying!
As always, not an exhaustive list, although these are the items we believe have been essential to us. There are other items we carry, although perhaps more nice to haves – which is a whole different post altogether. So for now, we hope sharing our experiences is helpful. Kx
So here’s the thing. We buy a motorhome which soon becomes our pride and joy and we float on Cloud 9 dreaming of adventures and the freedom of life on the open road! We’ve done our homework, we’ve got our insurance, put security measures in place and now happy times discovering the world is surely our reward! What could possibly go wrong?
The one thing we’ve learnt from 18 months on the road is that travelling; full-time or long-time still brings its own stresses. We don’t magically escape from life’s challenges just because we’ve decided to go travelling or have a long-term holiday… there are still a whole host of issues that may need dealing with.
So how do we cope when our tyre bursts, our bikes are stolen or our brakes don’t feel right? All situations that could well happen to any one of us, at any time, in any country. And when they do, they will most likely be completely out of the blue and throw us into a potential complete frenzy. Add to the mix that we’re likely to be in a country where English is not the first language and a whole dictionary of technical words and phrases may be needed to resolve the problem. Tricky!
Is this the stuff that travellers’ nightmares are made of? Perhaps, although let’s face it, if we worried about these types of issues, we would never leave the house, let alone go travelling into new and undiscovered corners of the globe. So knowing how to cope with these challenges is an important part of the travellers’ toolkit and once mastered will see us gliding through the problems with ease and minimal stress.
Why, you might ask, am I writing this blog today?
Good question… After being in the northern reaches of Romania heading south towards Bucharest, we drove down a gravel path from a car park, only to hear a strange noise coming from the front wheel. ‘It’s ok’, I said, as if I had some sudden hidden knowledge of motor mechanics, ‘It’ll be some loose gravel got into the brakes. It’ll be fine!’ I’m not sure who I was trying to convince more with my comforting words – myself or Myles.
As Myles has some mechanical knowledge from his youth, he decided to take off the front wheels to assess the situation. His report was neither full of positivity, nor was it a message of disaster. The brake pads on both sides were almost out and in fact he was adamant that both needed replacing ‘tout de suite’ as they say in France. They were fine for our short journey to the city, although it needed immediate attention.
So we discussed the options; we either stayed put in the hope that we could get fixed at the small Fiat dealer in town, or we limped our way very slowly to Bucharest, where being a city, we would hopefully have more options and a better chance of repair. Given that it was late Saturday afternoon and nothing would be open on Sunday, we decided travelling south was our only real option. The mountainous terrain didn’t help our nerves and a five mile traffic jam added to our intensity, although we made it to our destination.
With a bit of googling, we found four Fiat garages and with a plan of action conjured up over a glass or two of something soothing, we headed for an early start before the morning’s rush hour. Of the four garages I had found, the first one had long since closed! Hope slowly stumbled… The second was in a tower block where getting the camper anywhere close to the suggested location was an impossibility… Hope was sighing now! The third was on the opposite side of a dual carriage way. So with the dexterity of a spring lamb I hopped out of the van and armed with Google Translate I found someone at the garage and asked, in my best Romanian, if they could help. And indeed they could, on 28 August. Given it was 14 August and we needed to be in Budapest by 2nd September, my hope gasped in horror.
We consoled ourselves with the compromise of buying a set of brake pads and Myles fitting them. It was doable; not our greatest outcome, although doable. As we made said purchase, in a passing conversation with a young mechanic who had spent 12 months in UK, I asked him how long brake pads would take to fit. He said no more than an hour and, unprompted said he would talk to the boss. Now this was the boss who had already said ‘no way today’. So could my hope finally have a little rally? Oh yes! And then it did a dance when the boss started to fill out the job sheet – happy days. This young chap had secured us a place on their morning’s schedule and to say we were grateful is an understatement.
And indeed within the hour the job was done and Scoobie was back on the road, fit and well once again. And with a bill of €100 plus a little tip for the mechanic who saved our bacon, we were as you can imagine, over the moon.
So what have we learnt from this challenge, probably one of our biggest in the last 18 months?
- Don’t panic. These situations are going to happen at some point. We had little notion of how long brake pads would take to wear on the camper as we only have a car as a comparison. And whilst we have travelled 19000 miles there’s no rule book that says when to be prepared. We have a figure in mind now so that’s a great lesson for us. And of course wear and tear on brake pads is dependent on so many factors including the terrain you travel and how often you use the brakes. We all drive differently although for our travel style we’ll diarise to have them checked on 37000 miles.
- We Googled dealers that were close to us and made sure that we had a number of options, not just one. Don’t assume just because they are listed on the internet that they still exist. We were glad to have had a number of alternatives to choose from.
- Keep your phone charged so that you have enough juice to keep in touch with garages, friends or each other if you need to split up to assess your options on the other side of the road. A uncharged phone is like a chocolate fire guard.
- Get the co-ordinates of the places for your Sat Nav because if you have to navigate around a city with just an address, it could be costly – for your stress levels.
- I was so grateful for Google Translate on my phone so I could communicate clearly and without anxiety. We always go into countries with conversational basics, one of which is ‘do you speak English’. That is always a good starting point. From there Google Translate and its playback facility becomes your greatest friend.
- Have a back up plan. If this third option of ours had not worked out, then we planned on going to another car manufacturer and asking for their help. They could then at least ring around their network and source a solution for us, rather than us trawling around a town or city looking for a needle in a haystack.
- Worst case scenario. If we had needed to, we could have contacted our European Breakdown Cover and asked their advice.
- Our final option was to head for a campsite where we could consider our options. Whilst not all campsite hosts speak English certainly those we have come across have been incredibly helpful and they will, most of the time bend over backwards to get you the help you need. At least you will be safe and secure at a site and you can then look for options in the cold light of day.
- And finally, take one step at a time. It’s so easy for our minds to go into overdrive and start worrying about the ‘What if’ scenarios. Although this really doesn’t add anything to the situation. We just simply dealt with what was facing us in that moment and decided to suspend any other conversations until they arose. The situation has the potential for so much stress, so don’t add to your load.
We learnt a long while ago, and it was reinforced today, that you should never loose faith when incidents like this happen. Things going wrong with the camper are inevitable at some point on your journey and in fact it’s no different to a problem arising in a house. It just needs tackling with a clear head and a strong resolve. Thankfully we managed to get things sorted out and all is well. It tested us that’s for sure, although with some teamwork, we navigated around the problem and now we are ready to continue our adventure. Problem solved!
“One day I’m gonna write,
the story of my life,
I tell of the night we met…”
My God, I had the Marty Robbins classic stuck in my head for the whole day after I met Myles and Karen, The Motoroamers, whilst sat on a cliff top overlooking the Black Sea. It one of those infectious songs you just have to hum along to and that can’t be done without a smile on your face.
A few months back I’m not really sure if I had a smile, it could well have been a grimace.
A bout of stress and depression left me jaded towards a job and a life I should have loved.
Michele and I had the classic aspirational lifestyle, if we wanted it, we bought it. We had to have the lot; the sports car, a German Chelsea tractor, a 55” plasma downstairs and a 40” in the bedroom and the Caribbean holiday at least once a year. Come to think of it, I didn’t own any clothes without a brand name on them ( I still don’t, but that is because it will be a long time before I need anything new.)
And to pay for this lifestyle, I worked a 60 hour week, getting into the office at 0630 and leaving 12 hours later, having not even stopped for lunch. Once I was home, I was then plagued by the phone ringing or that annoying ping of another e-mail arriving. The side-effect of being on the go, was that sleep felt like a waste of time. So I was existing on about 3 hours a night; it was normal to wake after an hour or so get up for a bit, potter about and then go back to bed.
Then one day…
Me, of course!
.. it was all too much. I cracked and toys came out of the pram. It was just all too much. Thankfully we had a friendly GP whose only real question was “how long do you need”. That’s not the question you ask a man whose only other time off sick was 6 weeks to recover from an operation, of which I took 2! Apparently I had to admit that I had a problem.
I opted for a week off, leaving that morning with my prescription for a course of sleeping pills. I felt like a failure. One week passed and with loads of sleep I started to feel normal. I went from eating one meal a day to two or three. After the second week, the fog had lifted and I was in need of something to fill my days. At the time we had an old campervan and I threw myself into updating her, on the dry days and, when it rained (you get a lot of these in March) I started to read a travel blog called “Europe by Camper” – a young couple Adam and Sophie had taken a year out and were driving around Europe.
A 5-year Plan was hatched
It was one of those ‘daydreaming – never really going to happen’ type of plans. After a couple of month’s rest I went back to work and I was determined, at the beginning, that I wasn’t going to slip back into the old habits. But as the months rolled on it was too easy to step backwards.
That moment you never forget, happened one Wednesday morning on a cold September day and I pulled into the car park, parked in my normal space and just sat there. I sat and sat. I couldn’t go in. Eventually I manned-up and went to work, but the whole day I was a mess…
Michele and I had discussed my hair-brain scheme, and we decided that we would need 5 years so we could be debt-free, buy a nearly-new motorhome and be able to afford to travel for a year.
That weekend, that plan changed. During a typical trip into town for some retail therapy, Michele pulled off the dual carriageway onto the roundabout and straight off the other side. Not once did she look; not once did she see the oncoming car. Thankfully after a lot of hooting and some angry looking drivers we got back on track. But what had happened? She had suffered a panic attack.
A trip to the GP for Michele left her with more fear, after rounds and rounds of blood tests and high plasma readings – it felt like it would never end.
After a long, late night heart to heart, we decided that we both needed to get out of the rat race – but how where we going to do it? We had originally said 5 years, but now it needed to happen yesterday. So our dear old campervan ‘Roxy’ was sold, the X5, that I had craved for years but only driven 2000 miles, was sold and we started looking for a larger motorhome. Night after night we scrolled through eBay and Autotrader and, eventually. we found the one.
Enter Paloma – it was time to travel
After a bit of haggling, ‘Paloma’ was ours; a 7m, 6 berth, left-hand drive van ready to travel Europe. Just the small question of sorting out all the loose ends.
We knuckled down, choosing rather than to go shopping at the weekends, to work on the van, doing all the bits and bobs to make her ready to be our home for the next 12 months.
The next hurdle was Christmas. This year, like the last, we agreed to not buy presents and, for once I stood by it (last year the diamonds, this year not a bean) – but that meant a whole heap of money directed into our savings for the big trip. We also told all of our family on Christmas Day that we were travelling for a year; they were very supportive and didn’t let on how much they would miss us.
Fast forward to the middle of January 2017, where I’m sat at my computer typing that resignation letter and it was probably the one of the happiest days of my life. Although with only three months to go, we had a lot to do !
With pretty much all the unused stuff we had collected over years, (why had I got so many screwdrivers? Probably because I couldn’t find one, so just bought some more) we were ready. It felt like a long time, almost living a half-life, as the end approached we were trying to live off all the odds and ends in the kitchen cupboards, whilst sitting in deck chairs in our now empty front room, with no tv, no phone and no internet connection.
There’s no ‘going back’
Me and ‘er!
Although the day did come and we hit the ferry port on the 26th of April and we haven’t looked back once!
Someone once said to me that you measure success, by what you had to give up to achieve it, but I now know that I have only given up things that meant nothing to me. We are so rich in time, that we have reconnected with each other and have fresh faces to take on the world. And all because Michele was willing to take a jump out of her comfort zone, give up her cosy life and blindly follow me off into the sunset, with my ‘let’s see how it goes’ type of plan.
A few months in and we are not thinking “This will be over next year.” Instead our mindset is changing to “How do we make this real life last a lifetime?” I’m not sure either of us could ever, wholeheartedly get back onto the treadmill of work, sleep, work …..
Bentley, our travel companion
“So Michele it …..
Starts and ends,
Starts and ends,
Starts and ends with you.”
Paul and Michele Kingston-Ford
Read more about our travels over at; www.ourleapoffaith.co.uk