We along with all the other motorhomers who escape the UK for winter (or in our case longer) are incredibly guilty of bragging about all the fun stuff we’ve done, what is often left unsaid is the more unsavoury part of motorhoming, the dark side which should also play a part in the decision making process when taking off for long periods with loved ones. A lot of the things that we take for granted when living in a house are a consideration when living in a motorhome. If you don’t know the person you are travelling with intimately at the start of your travels you certainly will by the end………
Our Studio Apartment on Wheels
Having travelled now for 11 of the last 14 months, I feel we are now qualified to comment on living in a confined space with your loved one(s). If anything’s going to test a relationship then this could be it, after all there is literally nowhere to escape (especially on rainy days). If you have opposing taste in TV programs for instance one of you can’t just nip upstairs and watch the telly. On a finer point if or should I say when you do have crossed words then likewise there is nowhere to skulk off to and sulk for the remainder of the day, so you’d better either be very good at making up or excellent at living with an atmosphere. There is also of course the tidiness issue, if one of you is tidy and the other one not so, this confined space will drive you nuts, it’s an absolute must that everything has its place and that when you’ve finished with it, it goes back in that place, otherwise the limited space that you have will become even more confined. Living under these conditions means there is little or no privacy, with only a door between you and the smallest room in the motorhome, all matters that happen there can become rather public for the inhabitants, we normally combat this by turning the radio on, although of course this doesn’t suddenly soundproof the van (it also doesn’t illiminate any accompanying smells). The kitchen area is also a much scaled down version of what we are used to at home, so some adaptation has been necessary here to. We have a smallish fridge so have removed the freezer compartment in it to extend the space, but this means we have to shop more regularly. It also means that only one person can be in the kitchen at any time as there is simply just not room for two. Personally I love the times that we can cook outdoors, which frees up kitchen space and passes the batten to Paul for cooking! If there are going to be stressful moments these are normally when we are driving, even though we now have a sat nav which we can enter our vehicle dimensions into, however it’s still not faultless and has still sent us down roads which are just impossible to get down resulting in some fractious moments and several crossed words!
Water & Showering
The things we take for granted at home are not such a given when on the road, in our motorhome we do have the benefit of 100 litre tank for fresh water and if we are wild camping (somewhere without facilities) we carry extra water, but it’s amazing how much water you can go through when it’s in limited quantities. This therefore has to be taken into consideration when showering, the general process is as follows, run cold water off by filling the kettle (this water can be used later for hot drinks rather than wasting it), turn shower on wet hair, turn shower off, shampoo hair, turn shower on to wash shampoo off hair, turn shower off, put conditioner on hair and shower gel on body, turn shower on and shower off conditioner and shower gel. Exit shower! We have now got this down to a fine art and can both shower in around 20 litres of water.Before starting this lifestyle I showered much more often than I took a bath, however now this isn;t an option I’m sure there may come a time when I occasionally find myself craving a wallow!
We also have to consider water consumption when washing up too which follows a similar process.
Waste or Grey Water
Think all off the water that goes down any plug hole and you now know what grey waste is. This is something we never have to consider when living in a house, however in a motorhome it’s an integral part of living. This is the held in a tank underneath the motorhome which has to be emptied by opening a tap on the outside into specific emptying drains. Simple really, although over time this can become very stinky (especially in heat as we found out last summer!). We wipe out all pans and plates before washing up in the moho to try and avoid anything too smelly entering the tank (we learnt this early on with garlic the smell of which literally filled the van for days after we’d enjoyed it)! We also periodically clean our tank by melting some dishwasher tablets in boiling water, allowing it to cool and putting it in the tank when empty with some clean water. We then go for a long drive to allow the water to slosh around in the tank.
Excuse the pun, but this has to be the ‘crapiest’ job of all and once again something we don’t ever stop to consider in a house, however the same as us whatever goes in must come out. As this is deposited into a cassette someone therefore has the very unpleasant job of emptying it (all campsites, most aires and even some service stations provide dedicated emptying points) of all it contains. Not only does a cassette toilet make you realise how much you pee, it also makes you go j.i.c (just in case) at every opportunity when not in the motorhome!
Modern motorhomes are very high tech (some a little over spec’d so that when something goes wrong it’s hard to put right) gone are the days of the old gas lights of old. Other than when we are on a campsite though we are not plugged into mains electric. Although Boris is equipped with low voltage LED lighting throughout, we added an extra leisure battery and a 150watt solar panel so as long as we have sun (or day light) we have power although this is only 12v, so we have had to adapt. We have purchased a 12v adapter to charge our laptop and lots of 12v (cigarette lighter) plugs for charging other stuff. We have 2 x 12v sockets in the habitation area of the van and 2 that we can use whilst driving along. It does mean that once the sun goes down we have to take things off charge to ensure the batteries don’t drain. It also mean that I can’t use a hairdryer or straightener’s, but I’ve got used to having a casual look now and I’m sure my hair’s appreciating the break! We do struggle though to charge the batteries for our electric bikes by this method so currently we can only charge these when on mains, although we have now purchased an inverter which should enable us to do this once fitted!
Thirty years ago if we were travelling the way we are now we would have needed to send a letter or postcard back to the UK, but now we all rely on always having wifi to communicate. Although this has been a learning curve for us, this year we seem to have nailed having access to wifi constantly as long as we have signal. Originally we purchased a mifi unti (a mobile wifi devise) which is a portable devise that we could purchase a local wifi sim to give us wifi in whatever country we were travelling in. Last year we relied heavily on this, but costs varied greatly from 10 euros for unlimited usage for 30 days in Portugal to 25 Euros for 4gb of data (which lasts for 30 days or until the data is used up) in France and when rural it wasn’t always easy to find places to buy them. This year we have re-organised things and now have 10gb of data as part of my phone package (Carphone warehouse ID takeaway package) which we can hotspot to other devises, this also gives us 2000 minutes and 5000 texts back to the UK as part of our package for £25 per month. We also invested in a wifi booster so when in range of a free wifi on a campsite or near a restaurant the devise boosts the signal meaning we can use it from inside our motorhome for free! So far this year we have not needed to invest in any sims.
Our dirties are another consideration on our travels, as we only have access to a washing machine either when we stay on a campsite or when we find a launderette, by which time we have normally got quite a pile. As this normally tends to be several loads and we are paying for each one we have discovered that by using colour catchers in the machine we can load it with a mix of dark and lights and the whites don’t turn out grey!
If you want 5* luxury and to be waited on then motorhoming is defiantly not for you, but if you consider all of the above as part of a way of life (like we do) then there won’t be many moments you don’t enjoy.
Happy Travels All