Our first Product review. The Tribord Itiwit 2, an inflatable two man kayak. 14 KG’s in weight it compacts into a nice small bag and blows up in seconds. A nice safety feature are the removable seats the you can remove and use as floating devices for that t’just in case’ moment. We’ve had great fun so far and hope to continue using it as we travel around. We bought it from Decathlon in France and when it developed a split they immediately gave us a replacement so hats off to them for not quibbling about it.
After three weeks of our tyre tracks burning a serious amount of rubber as we wove through the south-western corner of France seeing family and friends, our anticipation of arriving in Annecy was high. 1000 miles of travel left us weary and ready to find a place to rest and take a breath – oh and give our home a well needed wash after two months on the road! This was a precious rendezvous point for us since leaving UK on 4 March, as my mum was flying out to join us for her Birthday and fulfil one of her ‘bucket list’ trips and we had lots to catch up on.
Now I must proffer fair warning that this blog may be overrun with plentiful and colourful adjectives, such is the impression that Lac d’Annecy has left in our hearts. I had a fancy that I would like it as I’ve seen lots of photos of the iconic Old City and its Venice-like canal, together with Myles’ teenage memories to whet my appetite. What I wasn’t expecting was the treasure that the whole Annecy basin would offer us. If I can leave you with the impression that Annecy is a region to savour and not just a city to tick off your list, then my job here is done. Let me see if I can share some of its magic with you.
Our first glimpse of Annecy was sadly shrouded by one of the regular mountain storms, so to see the lake in all its glory was going to have to wait for another day. Strange as it might sound, I love arriving somewhere in the rain as the first sight in the clarity of a new day just makes my heart skip a beat and I feel the same excitement as I did as a child on Christmas morning.
This particular ‘first morning view’ was to give me a jaw-dropping realisation that I had actually woken up to some sort of mountain heaven, as the once hidden majestic giants now revealed themselves to me, towering way above my head. Their dominance is carved into every piece of glacial rock and yet they sing a comforting lullaby that just melts me and makes me feel so safe. The snow-capped peaks, which in May are still very evident, have an air of a child that draw you into their mischievousness, if you dare.
Add to this veritable delight, the crystal blue lake nestled in the basin, held delicately by their parental mountain arms, which hums its own tune, as the various water craft sail, motor and paddle up and down its 14km length. They make for a powerful partnership that I defy anyone to not fall in love with.
I must first give space to Annecy’s Old Town as it is certainly a sight for sore eyes. You are magnetised into its charming labyrinth of cobbled alleyways that are graced by enchanting buildings, each one whispering its own tale of history. The formidable chateau keeps guard high above the city and calls you to climb the steep pathway to reach its square turrets, offering the historian plenty of battle and conquering stories. Beneath its gaze, Annecy’s bridges arch over the canal, offering intriguing pathways between the streets and the colourful eateries which lure you towards their ‘Plat de Jour’ menus. The Ice-cream shops present their sorbets and glaces with colourful creativity that entice you to buy a ball or two, even on the coldest of days – the Rhubarb is a must! The glacial river gushes through the streets with wild abandon and somehow sets a more intimate scene than the commerciality of Venice – and don’t get me wrong, Venice is my all-time favourite place to be – so you can gauge how special Annecy is as a mini-me version.
Ten kilometres west of Annecy, you must take a visit to Gorge du Fier; which offers a death-defying walkway for vertigo suffers to master that weaves its way alongside the 30 metre deep gorge walls. The gushing water that carves its way through the granite rock, demands your respect for its ultimate sculpturing power. Faces are moulded into the rock to challenge your creative brain and the sound transports you to an orchestral manoeuvre that Beethoven would have been proud of. Despite its greyness, the gorge’s pleasure is palpable and you will be mesmerised by its prowess.
Whilst in the vicinity, a visit to Le Jardin Secret is a must. This is not your regular, formal garden, strewn with rhododendron and topiary hedges. This is a family’s life-work, where they have lovingly restored a worn out farm into an eccentric work of art. 36,000 intrigued visitors make the journey to this very eclectic garden, which represents the family’s experiences, values and dreams. Internal and external rooms each tell a story of endeavour, travel and fun, each one sharing something meaningful. Trying to describe what you will see is fruitless and somehow feels as though it would undermine the energy and passion they have injected into their 35 year masterpiece. An hour or three will easily be invested in this slightly crazy yet beautiful sanctuary that feels incredibly intrusive on a family’s vision to create a personal statement that they now choose to share with the voyeur.
If you are an active person, then Lac d’Annecy will certainly appeal to you; with Annecy as a world acclaimed site for Paragliding, hosting many major championships, you can float amongst the thermals over the lake, launching yourself off one of the many mountain giants. Or you can indulge in water sports if that is your thing; plodding, paddling, speeding or sailing. 30km of dedicated cycle routes are available to you, along a disused railway from Annecy towards Olympic village, Albertville or you could search for beavers in the Natural Reserve at Le bout du lac at Doussard. The choice is yours!
One thing Annecy is not, is a city break resort. It has so much more to offer and my descriptions merely scratch the surface and perhaps don’t do it the full justice it deserves. Although Paris, Stockholm, Strasbourg undoubtedly all have their own treasures, Annecy has an under-stated beauty that will mesmerise nature lovers, sport enthusiasts, peace seekers and adventurers alike. There is a poetry about Annecy that offers travellers and tourists a place to fall in love with and it will touch you deep within your soul, leaving you wanting to return and recapture her magic.
Visit you must, stay if you dare and leave richer for the experience
And for more information on this stunning region why not check out these little video gems;
So, you’ve bought a Motorhome. Great, congratulations, you’re on your way, the world is your lobster. All you have to do now is to kit it out with extras and the one I want to talk about here is ‘THE INVERTER’. Do you install one or don’t you install one? If you’re desired travelling option is to use campsites and only campsites (and there’s nothing wrong with that), probably not but if like us you fancy a bit of ‘Let’s go off the beaten track and see what we can find’ type travelling then you’re going to need power. The next question, therefore, is can you live off just 12V from the Leisure battery (or batteries) or do you need to convert your 12V into 240V.
`Well, that depends on what equipment you take with you and whether there is a 12V option. Two items that were an absolute must (take along) for us were the Nutri-bullet and the Philips compact juicer. So irrespective of what else we would use it for we decided to have one installed. Here are some pictures of our installation.
Whilst we were given an option to have the inverter wired to all the sockets in the motorhome we decided to adopt the K.I.S.S ( keep it simple stupid) method and just have a single socket and a switch installed in the kitchen and a double socket in a cupboard to charge all our devices. The inverter itself is under a seat, out of the way and you can hardly hear it humming when it’s on.
We purchased the Bestek 1000w pure sine wave inverter from amazon and had it fitted and hard wired to the batteries by the dealer. I have to say that it has been brilliant and we have used it for 3-4 hours continuously charging laptops and for just a few minutes whilst juicing in the kitchen and it hasn’t missed a beat in two and a half years.
In terms of the technicalities should you decide to have one installed follow these basic rules and you won’t go far wrong.
Purchase a ‘pure sine wave’ inverter for motorhome use
In terms of what size always buy more watts than you will use at any one time. For instance, if you need to power a 900W nutribullet only, a 1000w inverter will suffice. If you need to power a nutri-bullet ( 900w) and a hairdryer (1000W) at the same time you will need a 2000W inverter. Bear in mind the more powerful the inverter the more drain on the batteries.
We have a 120w solar panel on the roof to keep the batteries topped up and had an extra battery installed
Since leaving the UK in 2016 we have added two electric bikes, a drone copter and a Gopro action camera to our list of devices that need charging and together with in-car charging devices, the inverter keeps us ticking along nicely.
All in all, I would whole-heartedly recommend adding an inverter to your motorhome but we are heavy users of electronics so for us it was a no brainer. You, on the other hand, might find that everything you want to use comes in 12v format and you don’t need one. It’s horses for courses but if you do decide to have one take a look at the Bestek. At £69.99 it’s a billy bargain. Ours has been great. Check out the links below for more info.
Having said ‘goodbye’ to Blighty, we are now rocking and rolling with the waves of the notorious Bay of Biscay, which gives me time to reflect on the last six months leading up to our nomadic lifestyle. And what an interesting journey it’s been, with so many lessons. Here are my Top 10 Tips for navigating this period sanely:
1. Time flies
I can’t quite believe what we’ve done in six months. It has been epic when I stop to think how it was only April 2015 when Myles put forward the idea of locking up and leaving Somerset and going travelling in a motorhome. It took me until the end of August, with a little help from my mum, to work through my potentially sabotaging fears and sign up to his vision. In that moment, life turned on a six pence and the months seemed to fly by, even though the waiting often seemed painful.
However far away your D-Day is, watch how quickly the days dissolve. It is imperative to have plans in place, otherwise time will bite you on the bum.
2. Time also drags – especially the last two months
Whilst tempus fugit, there were moments where it felt like we were walking through treacle, in particular the last two months. After New Year we had two months to D-Day. Excitement was building, although each day seemed to have a ball and chain wrapped around its timepiece. I think when you want something so badly, the Universe has a very subtle way of keeping humility ever present.
Be aware that depending upon how you are feeling, time will speed up or slow down in response to your own energy. Just be mindful of this and you will navigate it just fine.
3. Stay grounded – life is now – avoid counting down the days
Myles put a time counter on the website and I remember feeling super excited when we reached 100 days. From this point we could see the light at the end of the tunnel and we began to count down the days. On reflection, I think this is really dangerous. As a Meditation and Mindfulness Teacher, I knew that spending too much time in the future was losing my life in the here and now. Yet when you’re doing something so life-changing, it’s so easy to get caught up in the dream.
So bare in mind that your excitement and expectation will hold you in an empty future – remind yourself to come back to this moment. Life is too precious to waste it wishing for a date to come quickly. We must honour the life that is happening for us right now.
4. Focus on the practicalities
Whatever shape your life-change is taking, there will be a bucket load of tasks to do and even more research needed to bring everything together. The ideal is to have everything in its place so that there is as little noise as possible when you set off on your adventure. We found it very easy to get lost in the dream of what we were about to do and forget the detail that would make it a great experience. And that detail has now paid off.
Being the organised one of us, I drew up a timeline of tasks, which we took individual responsibility for. It’s easy in the wave of excitement to miss something off the list, so the plans help you keep focused and work through the ‘To Do List’.
One a very practical note, watch out for anything that involves UK Government – they always take a lot longer than you think. Our Driving Licences are one such example. You should be able to do a change of address on-line and a new licence issued within 24hrs – unfortunately there are a small number of cases where the system fails. Being part of that ‘Club’, we had to do a paper application, which can take up to three weeks. After a few sobs down the phone when I explained we didn’t have three weeks, the DVLA offered me a high priority department to deal with our request. There is always a way around things, although they often add to the stress load that is an inevitable visitor.
5. Make emotion your friend
The practicalities are easy in many ways – it comes naturally to us as human beings to have a ‘To Do List’. What is perhaps more tricky is the emotional rollercoaster that will stealthily creep up on you and pounce when you least expect it. Change evokes some very primal responses, especially if you are letting go of your home, job and everything that defines you on a day to day basis.
Be aware of your sensitive points – what triggers you to feel unhappy, angry, fearful, tired. If you can go into this period with your eyes open, you will navigate the emotions with dexterity. Listen to your body, your mind, your heart and tune into how they are feeling. The emotions are not to be judged, just understood. Be mindful of your emotions and make them your friend.
6. Work together
If you are making plans with a partner, family or friends, it’s essential to work as a team. Once again, with the primal nature of change, even a good change, we can find ourselves in different places at different times, creating potential conflict.
We had regular check-in points with each other – often in the evening, when we talked about our days and the progress we had made – or not! We always gave each other the space for arising emotions and tried not to fix them. If we became snappy, we both recognised why we were feeling this way and rather than cobra-bate the situation, we simply gave each other space to be, at that moment in time and let it pass.
Communication is key. Talking through where you are emotionally and practically is really important as you navigate these life-changing waves. Whilst they may not be as tempestuous as the Bay of Biscay, they will exist from time to time. Be open, listen, understand, appreciate and support.
7. Learn to let go and release
Locking up and leaving for us was the chance to declutter our lives from the stuff that we think defines us. We’ve done a couple of huge moves in the last five years and yet every time we engage in a clear out, we still seem to chuck out a load more non-essential items. I guess we outgrow household ornaments and clothes, so they’re easy to let go.
Other elements are less easy to release. Friendships, jobs, passions, activities and hobbies that used to fill your life with some sort of meaning. I was holding on to a corporate client from my old life and yet it was causing me all sorts of stress – yet the money was good. In the end, I chose to let that go as the money versus the stress equation was seriously out of balance. I also had a job, as part of my new life, at a local school, teaching children relaxation and meditation. Yet this life-change meant I needed to let go of this and the voluntary work I did at the local Donkey Sanctuary. It was hard, although necessary if we were free to follow this dream.
Be prepared to let go of things that could be excuses holding you back from making your life-changing decision. Whilst it may be hard to do, your dream holds another, more important purpose for you. You can always re-engage with these things at another time. The letting go can be a really cathartic process so challenge yourself around it and then let go some more.
8. Make time for good byes
When we choose a new way of life, we inevitably leave something or someone behind. Ensure that your precious relationships are handled sensitively and with respect. Family need nurturing with reassurance of connection as you leave for new horizons. Although it might feel like lots of time is invested in saying goodbye, it is as important for your friends to have the opportunity to say farewell as it is for you. Whilst it’s not a true grieving process, important relationships need holding with love as you set off on your adventures. Give space and time to them all and work out how stay in touch. True relationships will survive all the twists and turns of life’s adventures and in this period of your life, it will be no different.
9. During tough times, hold the dream
There are going to be difficult times before you reach your D-Day, be assured of that. Our expectations and fears will always throw up hurdles to climb over. If we understand this natural passage of things, then it will be far easier to navigate. When you find yourself stressed, then take time to refocus on what you are doing and why you are doing it. Picture how your life will look and all the treasure that will enrich your lives. Keeping the dream alive is really important when you feel like you are struggling.
10. The journey starts now
Our philosophy is that it is our inner journey that will define us far more than the miles Scoobie’s tyre tracks travel. And we decided at the outset, that our journey started the very moment I overcame my fears and committed to the dream. Every twist and turn is shaping you and ultimately is remoulding the very fabric of your life. Allow this part of the journey to be as meaningful as the eventual adventure you are about to take.
And so I hope these Top 10 Tips of how to navigate the Lock up and Leave journey can help you as you, tread this exciting life-changing path.
‘Make every day an adventure and each moment count.’
Tick tok, tick tok…. The clock is ticking, very, very slowly.
As we look ahead to our impending departure for foreign shores in March, I am left feeling so impatient. Now I must say, that I have never been blessed with a huge dose of patience, although boy, what little I do have is being severely tested. Apparently ‘tempus fugit’, although not in our house right now, completely the opposite in fact.
Have you ever looked forward to something so much that you feel like you’re wishing your life away? This is how it is for us – a bit like a child waiting for Father Christmas and wondering whether he will ever arrive. The anticipation of our new adventures feels almost unbearable – so much excitement is running through our veins that it feels like we might burst. Just like that child, we watch our new website’s clock counter; tick tok, tick tok – getting giddy with excitement as it finally moves into double figures. I am sure though that the more we watch, the slower the counter moves – almost as if to prove a point.
The last six months have been incredibly busy with work projects and social commitments, which have been a welcome distraction. Although now, with our lives slowing to a more manageable pace, we approach our remaining 99 days with a list of all the things we need to do to prepare ourselves for our new, life-changing choices.
It’s so interesting because with my meditation and mindfulness practice, you might be forgiven for thinking that ‘being in the moment’ and allowing life to naturally unfold, would be dead easy for me! What my training teaches me is that I am human and that our natural instinct, when something new is coming into our world, is to look forward to it, often with a child-like anticipation. Although I also recognise that life is short and to be counting down the days feels somehow dishonourable to those who wish they had more. So amidst my impatience, I acknowledge my feelings and just let them be, whilst containing them with a degree of humility. They exist because something amazing is about to happen and for that we are blessed.
I’ve come to learn over the last few weeks, that patience is a traveller’s virtue, of that I am sure. Whether in an airport departure lounge, waiting for our travel date or simply in a traffic jam heading for our destination. Wait we must – things never move at a pace that suit our needs. If we remove our urgency for life to happen quickly, we can really appreciate this very moment. So many of life’s gifts are missed by us living in the past or the future. We only have the present – that’s the reality of it all.
Our departure will soon be upon us and whilst waiting; we plan, research, connect and we build. Wishing our lives away is not a healthy pattern and we’ll soon want to reverse the ticking clock when we’re on the road. With a mindfulness of my impatience, I give myself permission to experience it fully, whilst also being humbled by the very reason my impatience exists. Meanwhile I will practice my ‘being in the moment’ and avoid longing for March to arrive. It will come, it will go and our lives will still unfold as they are destined to. And so I remind myself of the Christmas child and with tender loving care, tell my eager inner traveller – patience, patience my little one.
Hi, Karen & Myles, The Motoroamers here. We are a fun-loving couple travelling full-time around Europe in Scoobie our trusty camper. We're driven to deliver seriously entertaining travel through our blogs, photography and humorous videos. We hope to inspire you too to travel.