In a slight detour from my usual posts of what we have been up to I thought it would be a good time to maybe reflect on the first six months of our new lifestyle. It’s actually been just over seven months since we passed over the keys of our house to the agent, closed the doors on our storage container and said our goodbyes to family and friends. Over the course of that seven months we have had ample opportunity to chew the fat, as it were, on what we are making of it all and how we, and our van ‘Ollie’, are bearing up!
Just to let you know, there will be some random photos interspersed with my musings to break it all up a bit as this is a long one and I wouldn’t want anyone to lose the will to live whilst perusing this post.
How is the van bearing up?
Ok, let’s start with our van, which is affectionately known as ‘Ollie’ (until this extended tour he had only been used for ‘ollie-days’!) How’s he been bearing up to the extra stresses and strains of full time living? Mmmm, let’s see. In the past 7 months we’ve had a list of little niggly minor things that have needed attention. These being, in no particular order:
- The small plastic catch on the fridge door, to stop it flying open when driving, snapped into two pieces
- Various pieces of cosmetic wood trim have fallen off
- Several door hinges have needed tightening up
- A blocked sink
- Various screws needed to be tightened on bits and pieces
- The tow hitch electrical socket has grounded out several times when entering carparks and the like
- Indicator lights on the bike rack not working
- Glass door underneath the oven jammed
- Slight leak on the gas pipes which needed tightening
- The roof vent above the bed got stuck in the ‘open’ position
- The van radio has ‘cooked’ in the sun a few times and been too hot to work properly
So, as they say in France ‘ce n’est pas grave’ with Tim able to fix them all with a bit of glue and a smile 🙂 In truth, Tim has enjoyed the whole make do and mend thing and is, more often than is surely necessary, rummaging for his toolbox at even a slight sniff of a problem!
The three ‘issues’ we currently have that we need a pro to look at are:
- The boiler is leaking
- The shower tray has a crack in it around the plug hole and is, once again (sigh), leaking after the last running repair
- The habitation door catch broke three months ago so we can only open the door via the window like you do on a train
On the whole, things aren’t too bad as any motorhome isn’t really designed to be lived in full-time and we have to expect some things to go wrong from time to time. The good thing is that, unlike at home, where a niggling problem would be left for months, if anything needs attention in the van then Tim is onto it like Usain Bolt out of the starting blocks!
How are we coping with living in such a small space?
Living in such a small space hasn’t really been a problem. We’ve always holidayed in a campervan or caravan of some sort so we had a fair idea of how things would pan out.
Throughout the summer and autumn the weather has been so good that we’ve spent pretty much most of the day outside so haven’t really felt cooped up in the van at all. I think being able to chase the sun makes a huge difference when living in a van for an extended period of time as does moving on every few days for a change of scene. Winter is now upon us though so things could well change. I, personally, prefer living with less stuff and still feel that we have more in the van than we really need. I’ve already put half my clothes in the locker with the spare tyre just to get them out of the way as I really don’t feel I need them.
Have we missed any of our possessions we left behind?
We haven’t missed any of the possessions we have put into storage and, frankly, we can’t really now even remember what is in there. The jury is still out on what to do with it all but we have agreed that a decision needs to be made as to whether to get shot of the lot at the end of our first year on the road……or not! After twelve months of this lifestyle, having done a winter in the van, we hope to have a better idea of where this life is taking us and whether or not our possessions fit into it.
What about Internet access?
For internet access we have two options.
- Mobile mifi device using 3G cards
- Picking up free wifi where we can
In preparation for our trip we cut the cord on our Virgin Media internet package exactly one month before we left home. Tim coped with this remarkably well with no complaints. I, on the other hand, felt like my right arm had been cut off! Boy was I frustrated when I didn’t have internet access on tap. It didn’t help that our mobile wifi, which we’d had no problem getting a signal on whilst on holiday, seemed to have an aversion to working from the house.
Since being on the road we have been through the internet woes and come out the other side. At first, I used the mifi device everyday but even just browsing the internet for short periods was just gobbling up our data cards. Tim continued to just use free wifi when he could get it and has settled into that with no problems. For me, let’s just say, it’s been a gradual process of adjustment! Now we just tend to use the mifi data cards for our online banking and if we need to look something up in a hurry. The rest of the time we try to stick to using free wifi.
We’ve purchased a wifi boost which has been working pretty well but I’ve just had to get used to not having wifi when I want it. In my defence though, trying to update the blog with flaky wifi has, at times, been a nightmare and tested my patience to the limit. Now I try to let it all wash over me and remain in a state of karma. Yeah, right!
How’s the Budget bearing up?
In the years of planning for our trip I’d spent many many hours perusing the blogs of others who, very kindly, have shared all their expenditure whilst on the road. Info from a few of them can be found here, here, here and here. Combining all this information we were able to have a fairly accurate guesstimate as to what we thought we would need per year to do what we wanted to do. We have also allocated a large margin for error within our budget as well.
When we left the UK in May 2016 the exchange rate was at €1.30 to £1.00. Following the Brexit vote it has steadily tumbled and is now hovering around the €1.12 to £1.00. Has this made a difference to us? Well, yes and no. We obviously aren’t getting as much bang for our buck so to speak but our view is that the less we spend the less it affects us.
The lifestyle we are leading, which wouldn’t be for everyone, is not particularly expensive and we have several different options available to us if we felt the exchange rate was an issue. We could do more volunteering, another house sit, stay longer in one area or even, ahem, work!
It’s not an issue though and we are still under budget by quite a margin and we are more than happy. We’ve spent much less on overnight stops than we’d anticipated so all is good.
Is Helpx for us?
Since leaving home in April 2016 we have done four Helpx assignments each lasting between 2 and 3 weeks at a time. They have all been different and we have enjoyed all of them. We weren’t sure how we would get on with the whole Helpx thing but we have been surprised at how well we slotted into other peoples lives and routines.
The important thing for us on all our Helpx experiences is that we want to feel we have made a difference to the hosts and moved them forward on whatever tasks they needed help with. On balance, I think we’ve achieved that and learnt some new skills in the process. We’ve really enjoyed the physical side of the work and improved our fitness. Tim has shed loads of weight and is a shadow of his former self. I’ve kept off the weight I lost working as a post woman for the five months before our trip started.
Overall the last seven months have been pretty amazing. We’ve only visited three countries, well four if you count the UK, but that is all in the grand plan. We don’t want to feel that we are in any hurry and under any pressure to get round the whole of Europe in a year. There is so much to see that we don’t want the ‘fear of missing out thing’ to stop us enjoying the whole experience at a pace that is right for us.
That may mean that we perhaps don’t see as much of Europe as others have seen on their travels but we are both in agreement that spending at least a few days in one place to explore is far less stressful and enjoyable than moving on every day. Equally, spending three days in a city is enough for us before we feel the need to get back out into the countryside, away from traffic, to do some walking or cycling.
So, tomorrow I’ll be off back to sunny Yorkshire to see my parents whilst Tim holds the fort here in Portugal. We’re staying at an excellent aire at Praia da Falesia on the Algarve. Tim’s going to spend the week here whilst I’m away. He’s got wifi and a list of chores to do to keep him occupied in my absence as I wouldn’t want him to get bored without me!
Adeus por agora!