2018 IN REVIEW – WHAT A YEAR !

In 2018 we finally achieved our goal which was five years in the making. We went on a road trip in our motorhome, travelling over 14,000 miles all over Europe, from the South of Portugal to Northern Norway well beyond the Arctic Circle and back. Europe is a huge and fascinating place, there is so much to see and do. We’ve feasted our eyes on amazing landscapes, felt the wind in our hair, the sun on our faces and the sand beneath our toes. We’ve experienced freedom like never before.

There are countless places we’ve really liked, but here are some highlights.

Norway: Bodø, Lofoten Islands, Briksdaal
France: Biarritz, Brantôme, Rosans
Portugal: Costa de Caparica, Serpa, Tomar, Vila Praia de Ancora
Spain: Somiedo, Picos de Europa, Parque Nacional de Garaio
Germany: Nuremberg, Bavaria, Saxony
Slovenia: Kranjska Gora, Lake Jasna, the Trenta Valley
Italy: Lake Garda, Cuneo

What was it like?

From our blog with it’s nice sunny pics you might assume it’s hunky-dory all the time, but its accurate to say there are good days and bad days just as there are in everyday life. Being away from friends and family has been our main challenge, and there hasn’t been as much socialising with other motorhomers as we thought there would be, due to lots of reasons such as sparsity of other Brits in many places, age gap, language barrier etc. However we have had the time to meet up with quite a few old and new friends around Europe: Matt, Sharon and Tips in France, Camilla and Carlos in Portugal, Nick and Dee in the Netherlands, Bernd, Karin, Christiane, Tamsin and Chris in Germany. Each of these meetings has been extra-special as it’s so nice to see friendly faces on the road.

To begin with I struggled with the daily uncertainty. There are endless possibilities of where to go and where to stay and this was hard to get used to. But now I’m much more OK about not knowing where we’ll be tomorrow or the next day, or what type of place we’ll park up in.

With the dogs, we sometimes feel quite constricted in what we can and can’t do. Cities are problematic as Bodger can’t walk very far with his arthritic paws, and we’ve missed out on quite a few places we had wanted to go, such as Stockholm in Sweden. We also can’t take them on the long hikes in national parks that we’d like to do. We can leave them in the van but we often end up feeling guilty. Sometimes we feel like rubbish travellers as we are not getting the most out of our travels by doing enough city sights, museums and hikes in the country, but we’ve just had to accept that is life and all we can do is our best.

Coming back to the UK is a treat and a pleasure, and we make up for lost time with lots and lots of socialising. But we’re soon looking towards the horizon again. It’s a yin-yang thing and we are finding a balance. With this in mind, we’ve decided to spend a maximum of three months away at any time, before a trip back to England.

What I liked about travelling:

  • Being with Bodger and Charlie all the time
  • Seeing Bodger happy swimming so often
  • Amazing scenery (especially mountains)
  • Learning about new places, culture and history
  • Having time to read actual books
  • Not working and commuting
  • Really good sleep and not feeling tired all the time
  • Eating healthily (we cooked from scratch most days)
  • Affordable and good wine

What I missed:

  • Friends and family
  • Log fires
  • British telly
  • Good curry
  • Our dishwasher
  • Hot baths
  • The Right to Roam (freedom to walk in the countryside pretty much anywhere)
  • Having our trusted vets around the corner
  • Pubs

Challenges:

  • Navigating (or more to the point, righting mistakes when it goes wrong)
  • A lot of decision-making all the time (where to go, stay, see, and what to miss)
  • Driving in the mountains (not always for the faint-hearted in our front-wheel drive behemoth!)
  • Low points e.g. the fridge breaking down and reversing into a lamp post and damaging the Elf
  • Being together 24/7 and not having a social life
  • Getting a balance between doing things we want to do and doing what’s best for the dogs
  • Keeping the van clean inside with two dogs in wet weather 🙁
  • Trying not to drink wine every day (see benefits above)

I’ve written a bit about impressions of the countries we visited and about what it’s like travelling with dogs, so I’ll post these very soon. There are also maps of our route and places we stayed.

In the meantime…

2018 in numbers:

Total miles driven: 14,000
Countries: 13
Days abroad: 217
Places stayed: 149
Average time stayed in each place: 1.5 days

Other:

Broken clutches: 1
Fridge repairs: 2
Collisions with other vehicles: 0
Thefts from van: 0
Reversing collisions with stationary objects: 2
Conversations with other Europeans about Brexit: 0
Bumped heads, trapped fingers, stubbed toes: countless

What’s the plan for 2019 ?

2019 is all about Bodger and doing what’s best for him. At twelve and a half years old, he’s getting older now, and we want him to have the best time we can give him in his latter years. We will drive down to Spain for 10 weeks from January for some winter sun, then come back at the end of March and do some travelling around the UK. Grassy surfaces are much more comfortable for him to walk on, and England has a lot of that compared to hot mediterranean countries where there tends to be a lot of gravel and stone surfaces. There are also places I’ve never been like the Lake District, and I’d like to go back to Scotland and see more of Wales too. After that we hope to rent a cottage somewhere near the sea. This could be the South-West, Wales or anywhere really, but probably not in the South East which will be out of our budget. This is our plan but of course things can change, so lets see what next year brings.

If you’ve got any questions about our trip or anything related, feel free to ask away on our questions and answers page.