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Your Questions Answered About Two Years Of Full Time Motorhome Travelling

Your Questions Answered About Two Years Of Full Time Motorhome Travelling

by Ruth Murdoch  |  16 June 2019  | Summary Blogs

Today, 16th June 2019, we’ve been touring Europe in our motorhome full time for two years.

Initially, I was going to write a typical post about all the things we’ve done and all the places we’ve been to.

But then I thought, is that what people would be interested in? 

So… Using social media (aka a couple of the more proactive motorhome Facebook groups I belong to), I asked the questions…

If you were to interview someone who has been living full time in a motorhome touring Europe, what questions would you have for them? What would you want to know?

So that’s how I’ve written this blog post.

Be warned, it’s a bit long (obviously there’s lots of questions out there).  And in order to give you in-depth answers, I’ve linked to some more information.  So where you see orange coloured text you can click on this to delve deeper into a different blog.

If you don’t wish to read the lot, then just scroll through the table of contents for the questions you want to know the answer to.

Alternatively, save the post and read it over several sessions.

This is written from our perspective and may not be how others see the world or would respond.

Below are the questions that were asked.

Your Questions

Before we get going, I thought an introduction might help to set the scene.

About Us

We are a married Kiwi couple, Ruth & Alan, who decided we wanted to spend some time exploring Europe. Our initial idea was to travel for one year, then it extended to two years and now the actual end date is undefined.  We will continue with this lifestyle while our health, finances, and circumstances allow.

It helps that Alan, my husband, has an Irish passport, which makes travelling through Europe easy once you understand the Schengen rules.

We wanted to keep a diary of our travels, to share with friends and family so we set about learning the art of website construction, blogging, and posting about our travels.  We are yet to perfect it and www.travel-cook-eat.com still has a long way to go but we are getting there slowly. We love writing in a way that makes life easier for other travellers.

We hope that if you are reading this you can learn from (and avoid) our mistakes, enjoy our locations, follow in our footsteps and set your own treasure of positive travelling experiences.

We have a website, Facebook page, Instagram page, and a few videos on our YouTube page.

We have deliberately decided to not monetise our website, so you won’t be bombarded with adverts throughout our blogs.

Betsy, Our Home On Wheels

What Are The Driving Skills Like [in Europe]?

From the 26 countries we’ve visited over the last two years, the overall standard of driving has been very good.

Slovenian drivers will stop for pedestrians before you even decide you want to cross the road.  It’s almost the opposite in Italy.

At present we are in Italy and I’d have to say the Italian drivers can be a little aggressive.  The roads don’t help though, as they are in very poor condition and are narrow, particularly around Tuscany. We have spent more than five months in Italy during different times and my opinion of the Italian drivers hasn’t changed. I confirmed my thoughts with an Italian friend who is a courier driver and he concurs. Italian drivers, however, are not the worst.

Whilst Morocco is on a different continent, the Moroccan drivers win the prize for the worst drivers we have encountered on our travels, hands down.  (But don’t let that put you off visiting Morocco).

If you want to take a look at some of our driving in Italy, you can have a laugh here.

Typical Loads In Morocco

Is Overnight Parking Readily Available?

We mainly wild camp and have more often than not found free spots to stay the night.

There are some countries, however, that don’t allow wild camping (Croatia and Slovenia) and one country where it’s not such a good idea (Morocco).

For us, wild camping just means that you are not in an official camper parking area or camping ground.  This could be beside a beach, along the roadside, in the bush or even in a supermarket carpark.

In some of the Scandinavian countries (Sweden, Finland and Norway) there are laws allowing the right-of-access to wild camp providing you follow a few simple rules.  These rules state you must keep 150 metres away from inhabited buildings, if you wish to stay more than two nights you must seek permission and above all else you must be considerate and thoughtful.

The best place we’ve wild camped was in Greece.  We would often wake up to million dollar vistas; from crystal clear oceans of Vourvourou right outside our door, to the Greek ruins of Delphi, and the mountaintop monasteries of Meteora to name a few.  It probably helped that we were there in the low season as during the summer many of our spots could have been overrun with tourists and may have had parking restrictions imposed.

Are There Many Campgrounds Available With Full Facilities?

There are plenty of camping grounds throughout Europe that have varying levels of facilities ranging from very basic up to virtually five-star with top-notch swimming pools, restaurants and entertainment.

If the camping grounds cater for motorhomes only then they don’t typically have cooking facilities. The industry is very seasonal in many countries and you may find in the off-season that the great majority of campgrounds are shut. 

We found this particularly true in Greece and Turkey and you should research online to confirm opening dates.

On the other hand, during the busy summer season, many camping grounds are full, particularly in the popular areas, such as coastal Croatia.

As mentioned, it’s illegal to wild camp in Croatia, so we chose to use camping grounds rather than risk high fines.  They offered showers (some good, some not so), toilet blocks, black and grey water dumping points and electricity.  We were there near the end of the high season in August 2017, and had some trouble finding a vacancy if we hadn’t booked ahead.

What is the General Cost of Travel?

Most people want to know what it costs us to travel and for this reason we reveal all our travel costs in a separate post.

In addition, below is some more in-depth information regarding some of the main expenses.

Diesel varies from country to country.  The cheapest place in Europe for diesel that we have come across was Spain where it varied from between €0.98 to €1.15 (NZ$1.67 – NZ$1.96).  The dearest place for diesel was Norway where we paid 16.15NOK – the equivalent to €1.65, or NZ$2.82 per litre.  While writing this I spied diesel for €1.72 in Italy (NZ$2.93) – however we wouldn’t be buying any at this price as we filled up at an Auchan supermarket diesel pump recently for €1.42. We use a website (https://www.fuelflash.eu/eu/) to find Europe’s cheapest local diesel and LPG.

Tolls vary greatly and are expensive in Greece, France and Portugal. Interestingly, Portugal and Greece are both poor countries and the locals cannot afford to use the toll roads.  Due to French protests, we bit the bullet and drove on their motorways.  It cost us €39 to travel for three hours.  Never again!

Wherever there are toll roads however, there are also alternative secondary free roads.  These usually take longer (in some cases, eg Italy, it’s a lot, lot longer).  These roads are less direct, not well maintained, narrower, windier, and often travel through narrow built up areas.

Nevertheless, in most cases we choose the free roads because we see much better scenery.  Plus we usually have the time for a longer drive and prefer to save money (even when calculating the extra diesel costs).  Most navigation systems (Google Maps, Tom Tom, Garmin etc) have a setting for avoiding tolls roads so you can compare travel times and distance for both options.

We use the ViaMichelin app (ViaMichelin GPS, Route Planner) or website (www.ViaMichelin.com) to estimate the cost of travel and tolls.  A little planning beforehand can mean that you take the most appropriate route for you that day.

Food is our biggest cost at around €90 per week (NZD $156) for the two of us.  We rarely eat out and cook most meals from scratch.  And because we love cooking, we tend to eat well (better than many of the restaurants we’ve visited).

Fresh Prawn Straight From The Boat in Sweden

Is There a Breakdown, Tow Repair Insurance Available and at What Cost?

The subject of insurances comes up often on motorhoming Facebook pages and is a hot topic among UK travellers.

To be honest, virtually every thread you read seems to have people recommending some products and disparaging others.

In most cases, owners buy breakdown insurance as an add-on to their vehicle insurance, however, they can also buy separate policies.

There are two traps that are catching some people out.  Many policies limit how long you can travel for in Europe, either in a single trip or in a calendar year.  Some policies also limit the size of the motorhome they will cover for breakdowns and recoveries.  Make sure you are completely aware of the fine print and conditions.

It is a good idea to ask about other peoples experience on relevant Facebook pages to help make a short list of the better providers.

Betsy, our motorhome, is French registered, so we have French insurance with AXA.  This includes basic breakdown insurance and roadside recovery within the annual premium of €822 (NZ$1,412) per annum.  The coverage area is extensive and includes all of Europe, Morocco and Turkey. 

Thankfully we haven’t had the need to call upon this.

No Breakdown Insurance Needed Here

What’s The Best Time To Travel Throughout Europe?

The great thing about Europe is that there is something for everyone.

For us, we don’t like extremes of heat or cold, or crowds of tourist (even though this is us), so we plan our travels accordingly.

During the heat of summer, you will find us in the northern countries, such as Scandinavia, or Poland (where we are heading for now). 

During the winter the best destinations are the south of Greece (including Crete), the south of Turkey, south of Spain/Portugal or Morocco

Staying north during the winter is not so good unless your motorhome is properly winterised, with winter tyres, and double floor insulation with ‘wet’ type heating.  Ours isn’t so we head south before it gets too cold and the snow sets in. Planning travel around anticipated local conditions is one of the fun challenges of being full time on the road.

We absolutely loved travelling through Norway in the autumn, where our photos are stunning with the yellow and red leaves against the snow-capped mountains and fjords in the foreground.

It is a good idea to avoid the real summer hot spots during the high season as they can be totally overrun with tourists and locals.

The shoulder months of April/May or August/September can provide great weather but a more relaxed experience.  During our first winter, we went to Greece and Crete.  For our second winter, we travelled to the south of Spain before taking a ferry across the Straits of Gibraltar to enjoy the winter warmth of Morocco in North Africa.

Betsy in Norweigian Snow

Autumn In Finland

Stunning Autumn Colours Norway

Stunning Scenery From A Warm Winter in Morocco

Are People Hostile to Motorhomers or Friendly?

Throughout Europe the locals have been either friendly or neutral towards us.

When we engage others in conversations we nearly always receive a friendly and interested response.  Part of that is probably because as Kiwis travelling Europe, we have a point of difference and people want to find out who we are and what we are doing on their side of the world.

Some countries are well set up to accommodate motorhome travelling, e.g. France and Germany have a nationwide system of ‘Aires’ or ‘Stellplatz’.  These are areas set aside for motorhomes and typically provided by the local authorities.  They offer water, dumping stations and even electricity for free or a small charge.

Spain and Portugal have historically been havens for motorhomes with literally thousands of places you can park for a night or ten, provided you don’t engage in ‘camping behaviour’.  In recent years the local authorities and police have started cracking down on this due to the massive influx on motorhomes during the winter.

Some areas are banning motorhomes, or the police are moving motorhomes on, or in some cases, people are being heavily fined.  Generally though, as long as you are respectful, don’t stay too long, don’t set out your chairs, hang out washing or show other ‘camping behaviour’ Spain and Portugal are still great places for motorhomes.

Morocco in Winter on a paid site, just €1.50 (NZ$2.40) per night

What Class of License is Needed to Hire a Motorhome?

The typical motorhome available to buy or rent has a maximum allowable laden mass of 3.5 tonnes, which is the total weight of the vehicle including the driver, passengers, fuel, and water. 

A standard drivers license in Europe allows the license holder to drive a vehicle up to this maximum weight. In Australia and New Zealand the car drivers license allows up to 4.5 tonnes and 6 tonnes respectively, however, you are unlikely to be able to rent anything over 3.5 tonnes.

Many countries also require a foreign driver to have an IDP (International Drivers Permit) that is issued by an organisation in your home country, such as the Automobile Association, the Royal Automobile Club, or your local Post Office. 

The IDP is used together with your national driver’s license and acts as a translation into an agreed international format.

So in summary, you should have your normal national car driver’s license and an International Drivers Permit when you hire a motorhome in Europe. 

Betsy In The Sahara Desert

What Size Is Best?

 

There is a reason why motorhomes and campervans are made in all sizes, from under five metres to over ten metres.

We all have different preferences, needs, and ideas about what is best. For us, we believe our motorhome is sized perfectly. 

Betsy, our motorhome is 7.4 metres long, 3 metres high and 2.2 metres wide and is considered a big (but not very big) motorhome.  She is not so large that we can’t tuck into [two] car parks for a quiet night’s sleep while giving us room to move around.  She has separated living and sleeping quarters and a decent sized separate shower and toilet (which we love).

A smaller motorhome is more manoeuvrable around tight roads and small villages and can park in [one] smaller car park.

A campervan type vehicle is narrower, which gives less space inside but is also easier to drive and park.  Some campervans are deliberately set up so they don’t look like campervans.  This is so they can be stealthy and sleep overnight in spots that don’t allow motorhomes to stay. 

We have electric bikes so we can avoid those parking problems and explore some amazing old town centres by bike.  We didn’t want to be overly cramped and haven’t regretted going bigger.

In fact, we recently drove a 6m motorhome and felt it was just too small for full time living. 

The very big motorhomes can be limited in where they can drive and free camp but of course, can be really nice inside.  They obviously cost more to buy, run and maintain.

In summary, you need to decide what suits your personality, the type of travelling you want to do and the places you want to visit.  Another important consideration is how will you use your motorhome?  Is it just for the weekend, or will you live in it full time?  Then rent a couple of motorhomes before buying to see if you can cope with the size you are considering.

What Happens If Your Van Breaks Down Or Need Repairs And Is Not Usable For Days?

Great question.

Most motorhomers have some type of breakdown insurance.

Depending on the insurance policy you may only have vehicle recovery or possibly a replacement vehicle or even accommodation supplied.

If the worst happens you will need to find somewhere else to stay, alternative transport if you need that and adjust your plans to suit the reality of your situation.  

We have just experienced this exact situation.

Our motorhome needed some repairs, which meant that we were without her for two weeks. Our dealer generously loaned us another (6 metre) motorhome but we found this to be too small and cramped for our comfort. 

We, therefore, spent this time staying in AirBnB’s throughout Tuscany, Italy and used the loan motorhome for transport only. 

Had we not been given a loan vehicle we would have hired a car and still stayed in AirBnB’s.

Making the most of our time in Tuscany, Italy we indulged in some truffle hunting.  

What Happens If You Any Health Issues?

Life and health issues still happen, especially when travelling long term and it is certainly more difficult to get medical treatment when you are in a foreign country.

If you are a European citizen, you will have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) which gives access to state-funded medical treatment while travelling in Europe.

Other countries have reciprocal agreements with some European states to treat each other’s citizens.  It is wise to make yourself aware of any that may assist you (see also the next question).

We have both been sick at different times.

We’ve had to find doctors, get blood tests taken, find specialists, and even had a recent experience in a public hospital.   Luckily there has been nothing serious so far and we hope it stays that way.

For us, to return home to New Zealand for medical reasons (relating to our health) would be a huge blow so we try to stay as healthy as possible and avoid risky activities.

We have the time and flexibility to just stay put if we need some recovery or downtime. 

Luckily, we can and do both drive which is fortunate should one of us sustain a physical injury like a broken leg.

Preparation and planning are important.

Take all the medication with you that you expect to need as well as any relevant medical records. Find out about how you can get repeat prescriptions filled if necessary or stock up. 

Also it’s not a bad idea to bring doctors scripts with you as you may get them filled, depending on which country you are in.  Have any dental checks and work completed before you leave home.

I’m asthmatic and needed some Ventolin.  I walked into a pharmacy in France with my empty inhaler and they [reluctantly] replaced it with a new one for about €5 (less than NZ$9).

We hope to look this good by the time we finish travelling!

What Insurance Can Be Put In Place To Cover Health Issues?

When we visited a hospital recently we were pleased to learn that Australia has a bilateral health agreement with Italy

That meant that I could be treated free of cost as I had the required documents due to having lived in Australia for many years.

Our health insurance with QBE from Australia covered us for the first two years. It wasn’t cheap but gave us comprehensive cover (which we haven’t had to claim on, fortunately). 

After two years, our options were to find alternative cover or self-insure. The insurance cover we are considering is called World Nomads. It’s not as good as our original insurance, which means that we have a certain amount of self-insurance but on the positive side it was significantly cheaper.

Best, Worst And Funniest Stories

Our best story would have to be the time when we saw the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) in Norway.

We arrived into Norway on 17th September 2018 and were told it’s far too early in the winter season to see the lights.

Not only did we see the lights that night for several hours, but earlier in the evening we witnessed a rare and stunning sunset that is only possible two or three days of the year (weather permitting).  To see more photos or read the whole story click here.

The worst story would have to be the time when I got locked in a toilet in Greece.  It was the most frightening thing that has happened to me on our travels.  Here’s the story.

The Worst thing that happened to us both was getting stuck in a snowstorm driving in Norway.  We had full sunshine in the morning, and by 6pm we were in serious trouble.  Here’s the full story.

The funniest story was when the locals in Sicily, Italy coaxed us on.  We had to ask a  local man to move his car so we could get through to Ancient Noto. For the full impact make sure you watch this video through to the end.

How Do You Budget Your Money?

We use an app that’s loaded on my iPhone called MoneyWiz to record every expense (both cash and card purchases). 

We don’t leave the shop until the expense is recorded. With this app, we can quickly see our spending for the month, both overall and individual categories. It also handles different currencies easily (eg Morocco, Russia, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Croatia, Turkey, etc).

We have a set monthly budget but only loosely watch it to ensure we don’t overspend. All our costs are published on our website and in different blogs.

Knowing what countries are cost-effective helps too, as we can plan to stay in those places to compensate for other times when we travel to more expensive countries.

Turkey, Morocco, and Greece are low-cost places to spend the winter months.

We are heading up to Hungary, Poland, and Czechia this summer and we understand these countries are cost effective.

Having said that, we don’t shy away from the more expensive countries, such as Norway

We did plan our trip and made sure to stock up on supplies in the neighbouring cheaper country of Germany.

Do You Work While Travelling?

Alan has been working remotely part-time while we’ve been away, however that has now stopped. We spent eight years planning this trip and saved up hard to ensure we would have enough money.

While at home we would sacrifice going out and spending money on the weekends, while we watched our friends socialising, eating, drinking and going on holidays. Our business in Australia was teaching people how to value their money and spend on what’s important to them. 

We denied ourselves for years and even now we are careful about where our money is spent. We don’t eat out often but thankfully we like cooking and attend cooking lessons in different countries.

We do spend money on experiences; for example, we hired a yacht in Greece and went sailing for a week.

We are currently exploring options to earn money and supplement our savings while staying on the road longer.

This little fella was working hard planning for his winter

How Has It Changed You?

It’s true what they say about travelling.  It will change you.

When attending school as a teenager I was not at all interested in history.  That’s changed now and I love learning about what happened to the people in the countries we have visited.  I like learning about the different battles the countries had, the rise and fall of empires, who took them over, how the people used to live and what life, in general, was like.

It makes me sad to see beautiful countries spoilt by rubbish.  As Kiwis we were brought up with the slogan “Be A Tidy Kiwi”.  That meant that littering was a big no, no. 

We find ourselves wanting to leave the countries, towns, and parking spots in a better condition than we found them.  That often means removing rubbish the locals have left behind.  We hate seeing rubbish left lying around, particularly when there are rubbish bins available within easy walking distances.

Alan (and I) collecting rubbish left over from other campers in Greece

What’s The Scariest Thing About Travelling Full Time?

The fact that we may not want to stop and we could find ourselves nomadic for many years to come.

The thought that something might come along and stop us travelling forever, before we are ready to stop is scary.

The concept that we might have to return to the real world one day and have ‘normal’ lives and jobs is downright petrifying.

We are often asked about how safe we feel wild camping in Europe and is it scary?  We have a routine to ensure that we are as safe as possible, which you can read about it by clicking here.

What On Earth Will We Do After Brexit?

Since we are from New Zealand, Brexit doesn’t affect us.  And as Alan has an Irish passport, we both travel freely together throughout Europe as mentioned earlier.

On that note, Alan spent months researching the legalities of Schengen and has put together a comprehensive blog that includes correspondence to the different embassies and the actual documentation that we travel under.  For Kiwis and Australians travelling to Europe this is worth a read.

Even if you are from the UK, you might find this blog well worth reading.  You could even find that there are some loopholes that allow you to travel long-term in Europe post Brexit.

The Schengen Countries (click to enlarge)

Are You Satisfied With Your Motorhome?  What Attributes / Accessories Do You Wish You Had?  What Could You Do Without?  What Gear Is Necessary?  

I expect that what we think is necessary, others might think of as a luxury or totally unimportant.

However, we believe we have the perfect setup for our long-term travel and have thought long and hard about what we believe we should carry or have on board. For example, we wouldn’t be without our solar panels. 

We are self-confessed power hungry travellers.  We need power for our laptop computers, phones, electric toothbrushes, TV, blender and other appliances.  So making the decision to install two solar panels, a large inverter, and an extra leisure battery came quite easy.

Other things we wouldn’t be without are our electric bikes.  Given Betsy’s size, we cannot always park near the city or town centre, so we find a parking spot outside and use the bikes to explore.  That way we get some exercise and have easy freedom of movement to sightsee.

The only item that we thought we needed but don’t have is a gas oven.  This was supposed to be installed but for various reasons that never happened.  It’s a long story, however, we have ended up with an Omnia stovetop oven and thankfully it’s lightweight, easy to store, and can do about 90% of what a full sized, heavy and expensive gas oven does.

We purchased a microwave/convection oven at the beginning of our travels because the oven we ordered hadn’t been installed.  We only ditched it about six weeks ago after lumping its weight around for nearly two years.  The occasional use didn’t justify the weight and space it took up.

Oh and I nearly forgot.  One thing we had fitted was an external gas point so we could BBQ outside.  After having used the BBQ once only, we gave it away.  I don’t know why we thought this was necessary because we never BBQ’d at home (I hope I’m not going to lose my Kiwi citizenship by admitting to this fact).

If you would like to know how we have achieved the perfect set-up, have a read of our blog

Our Omnia Oven

Do I Miss A Bath?

One of the all-time luxuries for me is to have a bath and yes I do miss this.

Therefore if we are staying with friends who have a bath we will ask to use it.

Or if we are planning a stay in an AirBnB or a hotel, a bath is the first criteria we look for.

Our hotel in Russia only had two rooms available with a bath and we requested and were given one of these. 

Likewise, when staying in Tuscany recently, all of the AirBnB’s we stayed in had a bath.

Sometimes big sacrifices need to be made to enjoy the bigger picture.  This is one.

Why Did You Leave Me Behind?

I’m happy to share the secrets of how anyone can have the same lifestyle as we do. In fact, it’s not a secret at all, it’s dedication and hard work. It starts out by having a desire to want something different in life.  And wanting it badly enough that you will sacrifice the here and now for something in your future.  We call it delayed gratification.

Interestingly it is, in fact, cheaper for us to live on the road than to live in our home back in New Zealand.  True story.

Okay, we don’t have some of the ‘things’ around us that we would have at home but it’s all a matter of choice.  Imagine living rent-free, with no water or power bills.  Imagine being able to go into shops and not be tempted to buy anything – because you just don’t have room to store it.  Life on the road can be quite low cost.

So here’s how you can achieve this lifestyle too.

Start with a plan.  Work out when you want to travel, what you’re willing to give up to get it, and then work out how much it will cost.  It doesn’t matter if it takes you ten or twenty years to achieve it (providing time is on your side).  What matters is that you have a goal, break the goal down into manageable pieces, and then start a plan towards achieving your goals.

Most people will give up because it’s too hard, then look at others thinking how lucky they are.  Luck has nothing to do with it, plan, plan, and plan!

We have met lots of people on the road who have in fact put a plan in place and then executed it. 

If you want to read a blog of someone who has a very similar story to ours, then take a read here

What is that saying, if you can visualise it, you can achieve it!

Has It Changed Your Views About Climate Change And Recycling And Plastic Usage?

We have seen first hand how damaging plastic usage is to the environment.

We made a conscious decision to try and avoid drinking water from plastic bottles and use our water tank for all our water needs.  We have reusable bags for carrying groceries so very rarely need to use plastic shopping bags.

When in Morocco recently we were thrilled to hear and see that plastic bag usage has been (largely) abolished.  They need to go one step further with plastic drinking bottles as these are an eyesore.

In Scandinavia, the recycling of cans and bottles (plastic and glass) is encouraged financially.  When you buy products in these containers, a deposit is added to the purchase price.  People turn up with bag loads of bottles, feed them into a machine located at the entrance of each supermarket, and receive a credit for their deposits.

Sweden has one of the lowest footprints in the world in terms of its refuse.  In fact, Sweden is so good at recycling that, for several years, it has imported rubbish from other countries to keep its recycling plants going.  Less than one per cent of Swedish household waste has been sent to landfill since 2011.

In order to answer the question about climate change, I don’t think that travelling for just two years to only 26 countries is long enough to form an opinion about such an important issue.  I will leave this one for the experts.

Rubbish is a sad fact of life, especially in Palermo, Sicily, Italy

Do You Miss A Permanent Home?

Yes and no.

We do have a permanent home in Auckland, New Zealand, which is rented out.

What I miss (apart from the bath) is having a garden where I can grow and then harvest fresh herbs, fruit and vegetables.  I do know of some motorhomers who have set up small herb gardens in their vans though.

I don’t miss the maintenance, however, like mowing lawns, trimming hedges, painting houses.

There is some comfort in knowing that our house will always be there when or if we return.

The advantages of living in a mobile home seriously outweighs any desire to be in a permanent home at this stage.

Are You Happy?

In a word, YES!

We sometimes have to pinch ourselves to make sure that where we are is real.  We look back on some of our photos and can’t believe we’ve been to so many wonderful places, seen so much, had lots of different experiences and met so many amazing people.

I do miss my family and friends back home and do my best to keep in touch through social media, phone calls, and I even write postcards occasionally (particularly to my elderly father who isn’t online).

Where Do You Go When You Have A Fight?

I am lucky to be travelling with my soul mate and we just don’t fight.  The key to this, I believe, is due to clear communication.

That doesn’t mean we always agree with each other.  Sometimes we have opposing opinions, but it doesn’t get to the point of fighting, as we know to allow space and let the other person have their own opinions that differ from ours.  We accept this.

As a life coach, in my previous life, I specialised in relationships and I used personality profiling and NLP techniques as tools to help couples understand themselves, as well as each other.  Learning to communicate in your partner’s value system will provide a more harmonious life.

I often taught people how to identify the VAK communication style.  People have a preference for how they see the world, either visual, auditory, or kinaesthetic (feeling).  Understanding your partner’s style this can go a long way to improving communication.

To find out more information about this you are welcome to contact me, free of charge and I can explain more.

If you are contemplating travelling full-time with your partner and you argue a lot, disagree a lot and frequently need your own space and time, then maybe you should think again.

What Was The Inspiration / Catalyst For Travel?

Initially, the inspiration was to celebrate my 50th birthday in Venice enjoying a gondola ride with my husband.  This had been an eight-year dream, one we talked about regularly.  I visualised every part of that day and it turned out perfectly.

Another catalyst for me was to tick off a bucket list item.  I’ve always wanted to learn a foreign language and knowing myself I felt I should live in a country and surround myself with that language. 

While travelling we’ve been learning Italian and Spanish (and French for Alan) and have just recently decided that Spanish will be the language of choice.

We plan to spend more time in Spain so I can attend language classes and delve deeper into achieving my goal.

Do You Feel Divorced From Society And If So, How Do You Counter It, Without The Use Of Social Media?

I think our ‘society’ has shifted.

I don’t feel divorced from what others would consider as society, but have made a new society, being the motorhome community, which is very large in Europe. There is often someone you can talk with who understands your lifestyle choice.  Social media is certainly a big part of this.

We also make an effort to engage in conversations with other motorhomers wherever we park.  We particularly like to see those motorhomes with GB (English), NL (Netherlands) and/or D (Germany) registration plates, as we are usually guaranteed an English conversation.

Food is something that brings us together.

As mentioned we like to cook and share food with others.  Occasionally I will cut up some fruit and hand around the platter for others to enjoy, or share cake or cookies.  If it’s cold outside, we invite people in for a drink (usually BYO).  Food is friendship.

In Finland last year we turned up at a free parking spot with about 10-12 other vehicles.  It was cold and getting dark and I knocked on the door of everyone inviting them over for a drink and conversation after dinner.  Not everyone came (thankfully as Betsy would have struggled) but those who came enjoyed themselves (at least we think they did).

As we don’t have English TV channels on our TV (our choice) and we can’t read local newspapers, we are often behind in hearing about world events.  But guess what?  It doesn’t matter.  Most of the news is bad news anyway and us not knowing it isn’t going to affect anything one way or the other.  If it’s important someone will let us know.

How Do Friends And Family React To Your Choice Of Van Life?

For the most part, our family tells us to enjoy it while we can.

They know how hard we worked to get this far and are encouraging of our lifestyle choice.

My parents-in-law travelled a similar route in the 1950’s and it’s fun sharing our locations with them via Skype.  Sometimes my mother-in-law will pull out her diary and read paragraphs from the same location as we are in.  It’s amusing when they ask if the same bar or store is still on the corner.

We know van life isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but we are sure our friends are happy for us.  

What’s The Most Common Question You Get Asked?

Three things;

1. How can you be retired so young? A: Planning.

2.  Did you win lotto? A: No.

3.  How much does it cost?  A: Not as much as you expect (see our earlier answer about costs). 

We Donated A Kiwi Tea Towel To The Boomerang Cafe In Turkey

If You Wash Your Underwear…How Can You Dry It On The Go, Or Outside Without Arousing Unwanted Attention?

We have our own washing machine, just a little thing we bought from Amazon, which is fantastic.  And actually, my husband does all the washing and given we mainly wild camp we find spots where hanging out washing won’t be a problem. We pick our spots carefully to not offend others or attract attention from the police (hanging out the washing is seen as ‘camping behaviour’ and banned in many areas). As long as we have a water supply close by, and sun to supply power to our batteries (and dry the clothes), we can wash everything without needing a laundromat. They can be expensive in Europe.

Do You Ever Miss Sitting On A Proper Toilet?

It’s not something I’ve really thought about.

While travelling we’ve noticed the toilets throughout Europe are all different.  I think I could write a book on toilets alone!

That said, it’s funny how many times when I sit on a normal toilet that I find myself reaching down as though I have to open the hatch.

The toilet in Betsy is very comfortable and the toilet space is relatively generous, so no I don’t miss a proper toilet.  Thanks for asking, Andy Spencer.

How Do You Decide Where To Go?

We have a loose plan of where we want to travel.

Typically we follow the birds and travel north for the summer, thereby avoiding the sweltering summer heat, and then south for the winter trying to avoid the cold and snow.  We don’t carry winter tyres or chains so this restricts our time in certain countries where there are legal obligations about chains and tyres.

We use a very good app called Park4Night to find suitable stopping points for the night.  We are often attracted to the coast or lakes (we are water people) and oftentimes other travellers tell us places we should not miss.

Our travels are fairly fluid, meaning we can chop and change on a whim.  We can stay longer or move on should we wish.

Where Did You Buy Your Motorhome?

We bought Betsy from a motorhome dealer in France, located not far from Paris.

She was built in Italy and we collected her, brand new, from Genola, a small town in northern Italy.  Betsy has French registration, an Italian flag in the logo, and New Zealand decals on her.  That confuses people but typically we will have people say bonjour to us. 

Alan speaks a little French so he converses until they realise we are English speaking.

The process we used to select and purchase a French registered vehicle without actually having a French address can be found by clicking here.

Betsy’s photo of us Wild Camping on Lemon Beach in Greece is on a 2019 calendar

Do You Miss Having A Connection With The Same People Regularly? For Example The Mail Person, The Grocery Store Clerk, Familiar Faces?

Having been away from our home country, New Zealand for ten years, we are used to not having that connection so this feels quite normal for us.

Having said that, when staying in one spot in Istanbul for four weeks we began to feel like locals and were soon recognised by the local shopkeepers. 

That was a nice feeling.

We hope in future years to spend much longer spells in one spot and feel part of a local community.

The service type person I miss the most is my hairdresser.  I hate having to find a new hairdresser in different countries.  They do their best but it’s often hit and miss whether I get a good haircut or not.  Although you know the difference between a good and bad haircut, don’t you?  Two weeks!

While living in Perth, Western Australia, we didn’t really connect with our locals like folk do in English villages.  I envy the English for having that special connection with their local greengrocer, etc.

Do You Miss Not Being Able To Do The Conga During New Years Celebrations With The Neighbours?

I might have to come to the UK for New Years Celebrations to experience the Conga – that’s a new one on me.

When living in New Zealand we had a street party each year on Guy Fawkes night and I was named ‘Little Lucifer’ for my interest in pyrotechnics.  I miss those times for sure.

What Contingency Plans Do You Have Should…

1 – your vehicle get damaged

We would get it fixed and take temporary accommodation if necessary – we have a four-year mechanical warranty on the vehicle from Renault and insurance that will pay for accommodation while accident repairs are carried out.  We had this happen recently and stayed in AirBnB for a couple of weeks while Betsy was getting some love and attention from the manufacturer.

2 – your partner is taken ill or dies?

We have both been sick and just stay put until we feel better.  We have travel insurance that will repatriate us to New Zealand if there is a major medical problem.  We’ve talked about what would happen if one of us dies.  You never really know until the time comes, but if I were the surviving partner, I would relocate back to New Zealand.

3 – the money runs out?

We have insurance to cover us for big costs that would affect our savings.  We watch our money carefully and live within our means so that it doesn’t or shouldn’t run out.  However, if that did happen, we would go back home and get jobs.  We are both in our early fifties and are university educated with good corporate skills.  Let’s hope the New Zealand economy stays strong, just in case.

 

How Do People “Survive” With No Fresh Water Supply?

When travelling full time and free camping in a motorhome you have to be very mindful about fresh water supplies.

You have become very good at foraging for water and it is everywhere if you know where to look.  Motorhome service points, public water taps/fountains, beach taps, service stations, friendly people or businesses, cemeteries, streams…. there are many options.

Sicily was the most difficult place to find water as most of the public fountains had been disconnected to save money (we think).  One of the few times we had an issue trying to find fresh water was in a place called Aqua Dulce.  This literally translates to sweet water, only there wasn’t any.  We found a cemetery on the outskirts of town and topped up there.

We carry 100 litres of water in our tank, which with mindful usage, lasts for about 3-4 days.  This includes a daily shower, cooking, and washing dishes.  It doesn’t include laundry usage.

We carry an additional 20 litres in containers in our garage and we use a funnel to empty these into the tank. Our spare water containers can be carried on our electric bikes, and on many occasions, these have been used to ferry water back to Betsy from public water supplies which have been up to 2 km away.

The Park4Night app we use identifies many locations with available water so we look ahead and top up.  French Aires always have water

Once in Greece we asked for water from a tap located outside a Taverna and paid €5. Camping grounds have water but we haven’t yet needed them as they usually want you to stay the night (quite reasonable really) if you want to use their services.

Fortunately, the great majority of water in Europe is safe and good to drink. 

However before filling our main tank we will taste the water and even make a cup of tea with it.  If it passes the taste test, we fill up.  The water goes through one filter before reaching the tank and there is a second filter after the water pump. 

We have been caught out a few times with poor quality drinking water.

That’s all folks.

So these are the questions you’ve asked and I hope the answers have satisfied your curiosity.   If you have any other questions, please feel free to leave a comment below and I will do my best to answer them.

Safe travels if you are on the road and you see us please toot or come over for a cuppa (or vino).

Please feel free to PIN and read later.

Related Posts You Might Find Interesting
24 Months Costs of Travelling Full-Time In A Motorhome Around Europe

24 Months Costs of Travelling Full-Time In A Motorhome Around Europe

Introduction

I’ve been asked what does it cost to live a lifestyle of travelling full-time through Europe in a Motorhome.  So, what better way to answer this than to show you all our costs.

It’s often not as expensive as people expect and you will see by our figures that the further we travel the cheaper it has become.

There are two reasons for this.

1.  During the last six months, we spent nine weeks in Morocco where the cost of living was low.

2.  Everything we need to set up our motorhome has now been purchased.

We have travelled 39,226 km to and around 41 countries, 26 of them unique, in two years.

All Our Costs Revealed

All figures are in Euros

Here is what the weekly average costs across 24 months looks like in a chart format.  Starting from the largest expense being groceries (in blue), follow the graph clockwise, ie diesel is next in red, eating out next in green, etc.

The following costs are excluded from the above figures:
* Insurances (for our Motorhome, Healthcare, Travel and Personal Insurances, eg Life, Trauma, etc)
* Setting up costs, eg cups, plates, linen, blankets, etc basically everything that we needed to live in a motorhome.
* Extra-ordinary Maintenance on the motorhome. Our first and second year habitation inspection costs are included.

We haven’t incurred MOT expenses as yet as we purchased Betsy new and only need a MOT after she turns four in 2021, and then only need a MOT every second year (she is French registered).

Betsy Juice (Diesel for our motorhome)

Our running costs continue to be fairly consistent with our fuel economy based on the odometer, and actual diesel purchased, working out at around 10.45 l/100km or 27 mpg.  The Renault on-board computer reported us running around 9.6 l/100km (close to 30 mpg) so I don’t know which one to believe.  The low diesel costs in Morocco helped to keep our fuel bill down to a respectable level although travelling through Portugal, France and Italy bumped it up again.

Total Cost for Diesel € 5,096
Average Cost per Litre €1.24
Average cost per km € 0.1265
Average Miles Per Gallon27.01
Total Kilometres traveled 39,226
Average Litres/100kms
10.45
Total Litres consumed
4,101

If you happen to notice the difference in diesel costs recorded here against our cost above, then well done.  The difference relates to driving two different vehicles, ie while in Tuscany when we had a second motorhome.  Therefore we didn’t include these costs for Betsy, but they must be recorded as an expense.

Accommodation

Below is a look at the split in accommodation costs.  In 24 months (730 nights away) we have stayed in 369 different places.  That’s like saying we had 369 homes during this time! 

Of these 74% were wild camping (free of cost), 12% were spent in camping grounds, 11% in camper parking and 3% in AirBnB accommodation.

The nine weeks of staying in Morocco has pushed up the camping ground usage (and reduced our wild camping figures).  Thankfully the cost of staying in camping grounds in Morocco is very reasonable.   

Moroccan Goats Interested In Betsy

18 Months Costs

18 Months Costs

The reason we disclose our expenses isn’t to show how cheap or expensive it is to live on the road, but to give others an idea of what it might cost them to live this lifestyle. We believe, after talking with others, that our costs fall within an ‘average’ range. We spend according to our value system. We certainly don’t live to ‘exist’ and we do enjoy visiting the local attractions, to see and do things designed for tourists, which is what we are.

For those of you who have stumbled across this page without clicking through the link on our 18 month blog, you could be wondering why the cost of diesel has increased in the third six month period. Reason; we travelled through Scandinavia from July to November 2018 including the notoriously expensive country of Norway. It was a surprise to us that the average weekly costs didn’t go up more, however we managed to avoid many of the expensive activities, eg eating out.

The following costs are excluded from the above figures:
* Insurances (for our Motorhome, Healthcare, Travel and Personal Insurances, eg Life, Trauma, etc)
* Setting up costs, eg cups, plates, linen, blankets, etc basically everything that we needed to live in a motorhome. Although there are some ongoing setup costs that come under the category ‘household’, for example our vacuum cleaner and additional sets of sheets (winter).
* Extra-ordinary Maintenance on the motorhome, eg air shocks that we had fitted in Greece. Our first year service cost is included.

We haven’t incurred MOT expenses as yet as we purchased Betsy new and only need a MOT after she turns four in 2021, and then only need a MOT every second year (she is French registered).

Betsy’s Winning Photo in The Inspiring Camper’s Calendar for 2019

Fun, Fears & Finances frolicking fulltime for 18 months through Europe

Fun, Fears & Finances frolicking fulltime for 18 months through Europe

by Ruth Murdoch  |  January 2019  | Summary Blogs, Fun, Fears & Finances frolicking fulltime for 18 months through Europe

Introduction

Fun, Fears, & Finances, Frolicking Fulltime for 18 Months Through Europe is a look into the Motorhome Lifestyle from a couple of Kiwi travellers.  We hope that this account of our journey inspires you to visit some of the sights, attractions, and countries that we have had the pleasure of enjoying.  We are lucky that Alan’s Irish passport allows me, as his wife, free right of movement throughout Europe including the Schengen zone.

Throughout this blog when you see orange text that indicates more information.  To access this, just click on the coloured text and a new window will open and you can read further on that particular subject.

Number of Countries and Capital Cities

We’ve visited 23 countries in 18 months, 14 of these included visiting the capital city. Here’s an alphabetical list of those countries.

Albania, Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Russia, San Marino, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, and lastly the Vatican City.

Capital Cities included Tirana, Andorra la Vella, Vienna, Zagreb, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Paris, Athens, Rome, Amsterdam, Oslo, San Marino, Stockholm, and again the Vatican City.

Below is the map of our 281 stopping points over the past 18 months.  To look at photos or receive the GPS coordinates, just click on the marker.  The different colours are for the different years, 2017 in blue and 2018 in red.

Biggest Country

Russia (although we only visited St Petersburg and then by ferry, leaving Betsy behind in Helsinki). Russia’s size is 3,972,400 sq km making this the latest country, not just in Europe, but in the world, with a population of 144.5M!

The Winter Palace, aka The Hermitage Palace, St Petersburg, Russia

Smallest Country

The Vatican City is the smallest country in Europe (as well as the world) with 110 acres or 0.44km2, which lies within the city of Rome and has just 840 residents.

The Stunning Ceiling Inside the Vatican Museum, Vatican City

Scariest Moment

Without a doubt it has to be the snowstorm we found ourselves in while driving through the mountains of Norway.  We were enjoying glorious sunshine in the morning, but by later that day it all turned to custard (or snow, actually).  To share our horror and relief when we escaped, have a read of our blog here.

Betsy in the Norwegian Snow

Top Spots

We had to shy away from picking just one top spot because there are so many interesting, beautiful and varied places to see throughout Europe. Choosing just four still seems limiting but more realistic, so here goes. The top four spots of Europe (according to Ruth based on what we have seen so far)

#1       St Petersburg – for the architecture, food, and unique culture.

#2       Istanbul – for the vibrancy and interesting city life, the friendliest people ever, and the unique buildings, eg mosques.

#3       Norway – for the simply stunning scenery, which of course includes viewing of the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights).

#4       Greece, nice feeling of freedom, great history, diverse culture and stunning landscapes.

Architecture in St Petersburg

Mosque of Istanbul

The Reflective Waters of Engan, Norway 

Delphi Ruins, Greece 

Museums

We have visited umpteen museums as you do when travelling and at one point I am ashamed to say that I felt a bit ‘museumed’ out. (Is that even a word?) However there have been some very interesting finds along the way.  Here’s my pick:

#1 Vasa Museum in Stockholm, Sweden.  This museum has just one ship, the Vasa, which was built in the 17th century and had a short life at sea of about 20 minutes before she sank.  She wasn’t re-discovered until the 1950’s and was raised in the 1960’s.  If you are interested in anything with a nautical theme, then this is worth a read and if you ever find yourself in Stockholm don’t miss out on seeing this incredible sight for yourself.

#2 Nobel Museum in Stockholm.  Just a small museum but packed with the stories and memorabilia of lots of interesting people including ex President Obama and of course Malala Yousafzai, two of the recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize.  What is interesting, of course, is that Obama was awarded this prize and then later as President of the United States, he declared war.  He offered to give his prize back but this was refused.

#3 ABBA from Sweden, again in Stockholm. This was nostalgic because it’s music I grew up with and felt I knew these singers pretty well.  The museum is about them all individually, their life, how they came together, their successful music career and their life struggles.  It’s a very real and moving account and worthy of a visit.

Stockholm was the city of museums, as you can see above. There are fifty-three museums in Stockholm alone!

Here’s some others of note that we visited:

#4 The Holocaust Museum in Norway provides a real sense of true stories from wartime and
#5 The Renaissance Museum in Oslo also is worthy of visiting.

ABBA Museum

Vasa Museum

Nobel Museum

Cathedrals

I could probably write an entire book on Churches and Cathedrals of Europe alone, and may do this one day.  You would think that once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.  That is not the case and I strongly urge anyone travelling through Europe to pop your head into any church or cathedral as you pass, there are some real gems out there.

#1 Monreale is my pick of the most beautiful church.  It’s situated just on the outskirts of Palermo, Sicily, Italy and really must be seen to be believed.  The time, effort, expense, and creativity of this church left us speechless.  It is one of those places where no matter how many photos you see, they can’t do this justice.  If you are in the area please don’t miss the opportunity to be wowed.

#2 Milan Cathedral – from the outside this cathedral is stunning, but head inside and it continues in that vein.  This church took 600 years to build, possibly by several generations who dedicated their life work to this beautiful building.

#3 Erice – There are several cathedrals and churches in Erice and all are worthy of a visit. For more information here’s our blog.

#4 The Sanctuary of Vicoforte in Northern Italy is worthy of a mention and a wee look too.

Cathedrals To Wow You

Wild Camping Number of Nights

In the past six months, we have used camping grounds 15 nights (8% of the total nights), camper parking 5 nights (3% of the total), and 162 nights free camping which represents 89% of our sleeping places. 

Over the past 18 months (547 nights) we have stayed at 281 different stopping point, and of these 49 (9%) were at camping grounds, 54 at camper parking (10%) and 444 or 81% were FREE camping, thanks primarily to Park4Night.

The only reason we stayed at camping grounds typically is due to family or friends, country regulations (Croatia), safety (Turkey), and requiring EHU (electrical hook up) for electricity (Norway).

 

We have been fortunate to encounter no problems during our free camping and in fact we have a routine that we follow to ensure the maximum safety for us and Betsy.  If you want to know our method then read our blog on how to safely and successfully wild camp by clicking here.

 


Costs

When analysing the costs over the past six months I looked back on the previous twelve month period to see how we compared. Given we travelled from July to November 2018 in the Scandinavian countries, including seven weeks in the notoriously expensive country of Norway, I was expecting the costs to be somewhat significantly higher. What I found instead was that the past six months came in just marginally higher on a per week basis, ie €403 per week, compared with €394 per week in the previous twelve month period.  It may have helped that we did stock up on groceries, wine and beer in Germany before heading further north, something I highly recommend if you are heading into Scandinavia.

For an entire account including a breakdown of our costs over the past 18 months, click here.

Motorhome Running Costs (aka Betsy juice)

For all you petrol heads out there (or should that be diesel heads?) who want to know about Betsy’s juice, here’s the stats showing the number of kilometres travelled and how thirsty our girl is.  Alan’s even included miles per gallon for the English folk reading this.

Betsy is built on a Renault Master base and sports a 2.3 litre 130bhp diesel engine.  We think that getting close to 27 mpg dragging 3.5 tonnes around Europe isn’t too bad.  If you want to see more about Betsy, how we came to have her, and all the extra bits that make her a wee bit special, then click here.

Like every proud parent, we think our girl is rather special.  Nice to have that external validation when Betsy’s photo was chosen to adorn the Inspired Campers Calendar for 2019.

Best Gadgets for Motorhomes

As times goes by, there are more things we discover we ‘need’ to make life easier.  One of these has been a window vacuum for the condensation issues from the colder countries.  This has become Alan’s all-time favourite gadget.

Next, I’d like to introduce you to Jenni.  She is my best friend and has saved us quite a bit of money on camping grounds and saved Alan stressful periods glued to the battery readout. (Ladies, do your husbands do this too?)

You see, we discovered that in Norway the sun hardly rises above the horizon in the autumn time which means it doesn’t get high enough to effectively charge the batteries from our solar panels.  Therefore, it doesn’t take long before this power hungry couple runs out of power.  We knew that our batteries were not holding charge as they should and looked at replacing them with AGM batteries.  AGM’s can be discharged more without damaging them which would effectively give us more usable power between charges.  A Norwegian chap we met was going to sell us some top-of-line Exide AGM batteries at a really great price, however they were bigger than the current batteries and just wouldn’t fit.  Instead, we opted to buy a small compact generator and now have as much power as we need.  This one is actually relatively quiet and we use it sparingly and considerately so as to minimise any disturbance to others.  Alan wrote a review of Jenni here.

We love to cook, hence our name Travel Cook Eat, and without an oven, cooking a variety of foods becomes challenging.  Therefore we purchased an Omnia oven, which you’ve probably heard us talk about before, but now there’s a review of this baby and you can read all about it here.  Or if you are in need of some inspiration or would just like some new recipes, please see some of our favourites here.

We have recently invested in the Tyrepal TPMS (Tyre Pressure Monitoring System), which has individual sensors on each wheel sending the tyre pressures to a small display on the dashboard.  This will alert us if any of our tyres develop a leak, which is important because we don’t carry a spare wheel.

Generator

Omnia Oven

Window Vac

Saddest Place

Without a doubt this would have to be the little French village of Oradour-Sur-Glane. On 10 June 1944 the German SS stormed the village and rounded up and killed all those people who lived here before burning the buildings.  The village remains standing as it was left back in 1944 as a sobering and constant reminder of war and what happened.  For more information, I highly recommend a read of our blog and if you are in the region make this a ‘must visit’.

Main Street Burnt Out; Forever A Memorial

Town of Oradour-Sur-Glane

Biggest Lesson

History is everywhere you look in Europe, and this is especially apparent to us when we reflect on how young New Zealand is.  November 11 2018 signified the 100 year anniversary of the end of World War One.  Throughout Belgium and France we visited many of the WWI sites and paid our respects to the thousands, actually no make that millions, of young men who lost their lives fighting for our freedom today.  What really struck me was that each white cross or headstone not only represented one person who never made it home, but the family and friends behind that person.  I really struggled when thinking about the ripple affect each death had and how a generation of men were wiped from the world, forever!

At school I didn’t take history as a subject, however actually being here and seeing the places that history talks about has changed my perspective.  So I’ve devoured as much information as I can to finally learn what really happened, thereby coming to realise that history is an important subject. Better late than never, eh?

Thousands of Remembrance Poppies

Special Moments

#1 When staying with Paul in the Netherlands we went for a cycle to an oyster processor and scoffed oysters and chardonnay in the late summer sun overlooking the two varieties of oysters that were being cleaned and prepared for sale. The reason this was so special is that Oysters and Chardonnay are two of my favourites.

#2 We paid homage to those fallen soldiers of the First World War at a ceremony of the Last Post played nighly at the Menin Gate in Ypres, Belgium.  This tradition started on 1st July 1928 and apart from one exception (during the German occupation of Belgium in the Second World War), the bugles have sounded every night since at precisely 8.00pm local time.  It was November, so we stood, wrapped up warmly against the bitter cold, with about two hundred others waiting in anticipation of what was to come.  In complete silence we witnessed four buglers and one bagpiper carrying on this unique tradition.

#3 Not long before heading to Europe I was told about my great uncle Bert from the small town of Te Aroha, who came to fight in WWI alongside his brother. Sadly Bert didn’t make it home and we visited his memorial where his name is engraved on the New Zealand Memorial wall at Buttes New British Cemetery outside Zonnebecke.  Sadly his body was never recovered so he doesn’t have a grave.

Fresh Delicious Oysters in Yerseke with Paul

Stunning Reflection of Menin Gates, Ypres

Buttes New British Cemetery

Fun Times

Everyone said it was easy to catch fish in Norway, so being keen fisherpeople we decided to give it a go. We headed out on a small boat and learnt how to use the traditional hand lines.  Alan caught the first fish, followed by me catching a small coalfish, before I then showed the skipper how to fish NZ style and caught a large (>10kg) fish by hooking it in the tail! That filled our freezer with about 16 meals of fresh fish and required me to be creative on recipes to try.

This time, Alan couldn’t claim his baiting skills were responsible for me catching a bigger fish than him, because we didn’t use bait!

Alan’s Fish

Ruth’s Fish

Unusual Local Foods Eaten

Horse – in Italy (dried). It tastes like any other red meat that’s dried, like beef jerky.

Reindeer in Finland. While in Lapland we partook in Reindeer cooked three different ways.  Sauteed and simmered with sliced Reindeer roast, lingonberries, pickled cucumber and buttery mashed potatoes.  Then sliced Reindeer sirloin, and slow-cooked Reindeer neck with creamy juniper berry sauce, cranberry jelly, local root vegetables and game potatoes breaded with rye.  Dining in a restaurant allows one to taste this meat cooked properly, and our preferred option was by far slow-cooked.  While it might sound unusual, the meat was lovely and there was nothing I could think to relate it to, or how to describe the taste.

Elk in Norway at a truck stop.  Not exactly the place you expect to try exotic meats, but there you have it and it was tasty enough, served with cranberry sauce,  boiled whole potatoes and crunchy vegetables.  Alan’s meal was another traditional treat, bacon with a creamy cabbage and potato mix.  Wasn’t really my cuppa tea but it was tasty enough.  We can’t remember the name, so if you know it, please send us a message below.  Thanks.

Wild Moose in Sweden while staying with friends.  The Swedish Government allows one moose and one calf to be shot per year per 1,000 hectares in order to regulate the numbers.  For our friends who cooked and served us the Moose they have a group of ten shooters and they share the meat between the group. Otherwise, the moose become pests to the farmers.  It tastes similar to beef.

Don’t freak out when I tell you about the most unusual food we tried in Norway.  I am already feeling a little defensive when writing this but stay with me.  The meat, again tried in a restaurant, was Whale!  I know, I know, it sounds like I’m supporting an industry that is reviled around the world.  However, keep reading for more education about this dish before judging.

The whale was served lightly fried (meaning almost raw) with mushroom stew (aka sauce), fried vegetables, red onions and potatoes.  My first impression of whale meat was that it reminded me of liver.  Then I felt the meat was rather dry, and then it had a gamey taste. By the end it was just like eating steak. No fishy flavour whatsoever, obviously. The restaurant cooked it extremely rare and it had sinew or veins running through the meat, but it wasn’t really chewy.

I wouldn’t go out of my way to eat it again and by comparison, Elk and Reindeer were much tastier.  Overall I was happy to experience just once in my lifetime.

Now here’s the thing about eating whale in Norway.  The Minke Whale, which is native to Norwegian waters, is not endangered, the catch is very strictly regulated and the is 100% sustainable.  The industry is far smaller than historical levels, largely due to the relatively low demand but whaling seems more a cultural thing for the people than just a source of protein. 

The Norwegian Government recently ran a promotion of whale meat as a fine dining experience.  It was a complete failure.  Younger, environmentally conscious people struggled with the whale meat concept and now all government funding has ceased.  It will gradually die out over time.

A local ex-fisherman we spoke with said the economics of whaling are poor, people have stopped eating the meat and therefore less and less people are fishing them.  He also told us about the problem that the large whale numbers were causing to the declining small fish stocks.

Reindeer Sirloin

Reindeer Slow Cooked

Elk Steak

Pork and Cabbage Delight

Tasty Homemade Moose Loaf

Whale Steak

What Took Our Breath Away

Without a doubt it would have to be the Aurora Borealis, aka Northern Lights and also a unique sunset that is only possible to see in Finland during two or three days per year.  We, in fact, also witnessed the Aurora Borealis in Finland before reaching Norway, however the Norwegian light display was ten times more powerful and spectacular.  For a detailed account, plus to find out what time of the year we saw them, read our blog on the Aurora Borealis.

Most Beautiful Scenery

The Åland Islands. This archipelago of 6,500 named and 20,000 unnamed islands lies between Sweden and Norway and island hopping across them was a fun and enjoyable alternative to taking a direct ferry for Stockholm to Turku.  We spent an idyllic 12 days there in total. The scenery was lovely, the weather warm, and given their three-week summer peak period had finished, it was lovely and quiet.

We couldn’t go past the simply sublime scenery of Norway.  Not only were we blessed with fine weather, we had the autumn colours and a sprinkling of snow on the mountains.  Take a look at some of our favourite scenery photos.

Calm Waters of The Åland Islands

Kumlinge Island Boathouse

Original Farm Buildings

Norway, Spectacular Countryside

Videos

Sometimes the best way to show the beauty of a country is with video.  Take a look at these two videos of the stunning scenery in Norway and let us know what you think.

People We’ve Met

One can’t help but meet people along the journey and we consider ourselves very fortunate to meet some of the loveliest travellers around.  Some of them have even invited us to stay with them as we passed through their home countries on our travels.   Let me introduce you to the people we’ve met.  The place name in the box is where we met for the first time.

If we’ve met you and you can’t find your photo here, please email me at [email protected] and include details of where we met and a photo. Thanks.

Hover over the text for the right arrow to appear, then scroll through to see our friends.  These appear in the order we met people.

Vojo & Susi

We met Vojo (Croatia) & Susi (Switzerland) in Arenzano, Italy.  They were the first ‘other’ motorhomers we met and interestingly enough they didn’t speak any English but thanks to Google Translate we managed to communicate.

Mr & Mrs Emichetti & Ettore

I first met Ettore in New Zealand many years ago and had the pleasure of meeting his parents in 2017 & 18.  His mother was concerned we didn’t eat enough – her cooking was superb!

The Family

The great thing about being in this part of the world is getting to see family. Here Carrie (Alan’s sister from the UK) and his Mum Jan (NZ) came for a visit and to meet Betsy.

Jan & Marja

This couple are bad news! Especially when it comes to lavishing us with food and alcohol.  We had two ‘filling’ visits with them and their children in Holland, they took us around their countryside and introduced us to many yummy foods, including bitterballs and fricadelles.

Pip & Ross

Love having friends join us for a wee sail around the Greek Islands.  I used to sail with Ross & Pip in NZ and now they live in the UK it just made sense to hire a yacht in a gorgeous location.

Spyros

Like a Knight in Shining Armour, Spyros helped us tie up the yacht in a fresh breeze on Skopelos Island. We were indebted to him. We then met up again in Volos where Sypros played tour guide sharing the beauty of the surrounding mountains.

Paul

Paul (lives in Holland and is from Belgium) kindly opened up his home to us for a few nights.  We shared a special time together, in particular cycling to the oyster farm and tasting the oysters with Chardonnay.  Paul is an uber-talented photographer, pity his skills didn’t rub off on me when taking this photo.

Detlef

Originally from Germany, but living in Turkey, we met Detlef in Greece.  He’s working with local government to install campervan stops in their towns and increase tourism.  Detlef is very knowledgable about most things, including the politics of Turkey and Germany.

Mesut

Mesut is the owner of the Boomerang Cafe in Eceabat, not far from Gallipoli.  If you are in the area stop by and have a drink with him.  He has memorabilia from Australia and NZ, although not enough from NZ, hence the tea towel we gave him taking pride of place in the middle of his cafe.

Naciye

Mrs Savas is the mother of the owner from Troia Pension & Camping where we stayed in Canakkale, Turkey.  She taught us how to make Gozleme’s, Turkish Style. Yummy.

The Chef

Affectionately known as ‘The Chef’ by everyone around him, this chap has a huge heart for people.  He ran the Yanecapi Sports Centre in Istanbul where we hung out for four weeks and he would often invite us over for a meal.

Tommy & Zoe

We first met this cool couple, Tommy & Zoe, in Istanbul, Turkey in November 2017, then again recently in Spain.  Tommy is from Ireland and Zoe from the  Canarias Islands.  Here we are celebrating Tommy’s birthday with a shop bought delicious and well-decorated cake.

Pinar

One of the best experiences we’ve had was at Turkish Cookin, a class with just Alan and I in attendance.  We laughed, ate, drank, and enjoyed the evening. If you ever get a chance and want to experience something fun, then I can definitely recommend this.  Or to try some of the recipes visit our website.

Dan & Cornelia

We first met these guys in December 2017 travelling with their lovely family from Romania in Alexandroupolis, Greece and then again in Crete.

Vaggelis

Vaggelis showed Alan how to fish in the Greek waters of Nea Peramos in December 2018.  Afterwards, he took us and the fish to the local nearby Taverna where it was cooked and served to us, yum.

Jordan and Alex

Our first meeting was in Greece in December 2017 and I had to laugh when they were running around outside their motorhome in the snow!  That’s Aussie’s for ya. We caught up again in Amsterdam where Alex has landed herself a pretty cool job.

Dorel, Oana, Ciprian & Irina

This photo was taken while celebrating Christmas lunch 2017 in a Greece restaurant in Thessaloniki.  The four people named above are from Romania who we met up with again in Athens around New Years Eve 2017.

Romanian Family

A friendly family who we met beside a hot spring called Thermopylae.

 

Mitch & Sue

We shared a couple of dinners with this lovely couple, from the UK, in Pylos and rode out a pretty terrific storm together on the pier.

Katherine & James

We had a pot luck dinner together in the van of Katherine & James (UK) and also rode out the storm in Pylos.

Helena & Harkin

Kind-hearted and excellent tour guides are just a few of this couple’s attributes.  Having met them in Pylos, Greece (riding out a storm together with others), we were invited to stay with them in Sweden and did so, not only once, but twice.  They kindly played tour-guide and showed us their beautiful part of the country, including a ride out on their boat to a swimming spot.  Louisa, their little dog, is such a delight and also greeted us warmly.

Michelle & Tim

We met Michelle and her partner Tim (from the UK) in January 2018 at Camping Thines camping ground in Greece.  Michelle is the life of the party as you can see here by her dancing style.

Ulla & Bodo

Silicy, Italy was the original meeting place of this fun couple.  We hit it off straight away (the wine helped) and soon were invited for dinner.  It was our pleasure to stay with them in Germany where we were treated as royalty to their wonderful cooking and tourist hosts.  I even attended Italian lessons with Ulla.

The Family Again!

A little cooler this time, but again a wonderful visit in Holland with Carrie (UK) and Jan (NZ).

Monica

We first met Monica online through Facebook and then met both Monica and her partner Chris (from the UK) in person in Denmark. They came for a quick cuppa then stayed for dinner and parked up overnight. Here’s Monica’s first attempt at an eBike.

Lisbeth, Christian, Mikkel & Bertram

Lisbeth is my oldest friend (since 15 years old) and it was wonderful meeting her family again in Denmark where I celebrated and was spoilt on my birthday in July 2018.  We then went camping together for a week in Skagen.

Mette & Polle

I’ve known Mette since I was 20 years, and it was great meeting her husband Polle for the first time (and she got to meet my husband, Alan).

Vladimir

Vladimir was our friendly guide in St Petersburg, Russia.  He was uber knowledgable about his city and gave us an insight into what it was like growing up in the Soviet regime.  If you need a guide I’d be happy to connect you.

Jan

Jan took us out on his fishing boat in Moskenes, the Lofoten Islands, Norway where Ruth caught a large Coal fish.

Grethe & Villy

The parents of my oldest friend, Lisbeth, whom I first meet in Denmark in 1996.  We enjoyed a lovely evening catching up again. I love that the Danish speak such great English. X

Wilbert

Wilbert is responsible for part of my education (NLP Master Practitioner) when we met in Perth, Western Australia.  Lovely to see him again in Holland and share a meal together.

Wilfried & Lisbeth

The very talented Wilfried (artist) and Lisbeth (people person) graced us with their fun, laughter, and project (www.face-europe.eu). Here Wilfried is painting Alan while Lisbeth interviews him about his life.  If you want to be part of this project, please contact them through their website above.

Click here to read about our first six months (including newbie mistakes we laugh about now) and our One Year of Wilding Living.

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A Year of Wild Living

A Year of Wild Living

One of the many sites we wild camped in overlooking the stunning Piazza Armerina, Sicily

Ruth Murdoch | June 2018 | Countries, Summary Blogs

If the title has piqued your interest and you are expecting to read about a year of drunkenness and debauchery, then you will be sorely disappointed.  This is a family blog after all, one that our mothers are likely to read.

Wild camping, otherwise known as free camping, has been our main form of bunking down overnight, in fact for seventy five per cent of the time, hence the title.

Happy Birthday to our motorhome Betsy.

One short year ago from today (29th June 2017) we picked up our beloved, much anticipated Betsy. Eight months in the planning from conception to birth, every part of Betsy’s entrance into our world was meticulously planned and thought out. Like expectant parents, we had Betsy’s first year or two of her life roughly sorted. We knew she was destined for wild camping. We knew she would be our home away from home, and that we would have many awesome adventures together.  If you would like to know how we set Betsy up, click here.

And she didn’t disappoint.

Italian built, French registered, and driven by two Kiwis who had been living in Australia for the best part of the previous decade, Betsy already had an international feel about her.

She continued in this vein.

Twelve months have seen Betsy visit sixteen countries including Italy, Vatican City, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Albania, Greece, Turkey, San Marino, France, Belgium, Netherlands and Germany and travel over seventeen and a half thousand kilometres.

For those of you interested in such details, here are Betsy’s stats for the last twelve months:
Total Cost for Diesel € 2,215.35
Average Cost per Litre €1.34
Average cost per km € 0.1265
Average Miles Per Gallon29.26
Total Kilometres traveled 17,511
Average Litres/100kms
9.65
Total Litres consumed
1,690.31

Our Stopping Places

We stopped overnight in 170 individual locations over twelve months.  This shows we moved every second day on average, although we stayed in one stop for a month in Istanbul alone.

Out of 170 stopping places, 136 (275 nights or 75%) were free. These were a mixture of car parks, beaches, and other public or more remote locations which we call ‘wild camping’.

We paid to park in 18 designated camper parking area (51 nights or 14%).  Most of these were in Istanbul where we found an excellent base for exploring that wonderful city.

And we camped in 16 campgrounds for a total of 31 nights (11% of all nights). The only times we stay in camping grounds is when we had family staying with us, we were meeting up with friends who are there, or where it’s the law, e.g. Croatia doesn’t allow wild camping.

Betsy’s two large solar panels allow us to wild camp easily because we very rarely need external electric power.  We also carry an extra toilet cassette just in case we are caught short, although so far we haven’t needed it.  We can go for three-four days with our 100 litres of fresh water and before we need to discharge our black water (toilet).  Not bad for each of us showering daily.

We usually turn up at a location in the late afternoon, dismount our bikes and ride into town, then ride again into town the next day if there’s plenty to see.

Below is an interactive map of our stopping places for the year.  If you click on the different stopping points you will, usually, see Betsy parked here and the details for other motorhome users, e.g. water, power, dumping points, costs for the night (where applicable), etc.  The blue markers indicate our stopping places for 2017, and the red markers show where we stopped in 2018.

Top City

People ask us ‘what is your favourite country’. I cannot honestly answer this, however, I would have to say my favourite city is Istanbul hands down. The vibrancy, energy, people, attractions, food, ease of cycling around and the cheap prices are just a few of the reasons why Istanbul gets my vote.  Below you can see the different places we visited while there.  The photos below are of the Blue Mosque and the Basilica Cistern, (underground water storage built by the Romans).  To open the list of places we visited, click on the window icon with an arrow in it, on the top left in the grey bar.  Then click on a name to see where it’s located (make sure you zoom into the map first).

Our Favourite Places

That being said, here are just a few of our other favourite places we have visited over the past twelve months.

1. Meteora, Greece: This is as close as you can get to God from Earth. Monasteries built literally on top of rocks standing hundreds of metres in the air, this is one place not to be missed if visiting Greece.  Visit our blog here for more information and pictures of this beautiful and majestic place.
2. Acrocorinth, Peloponnese, Greece: – located about a hundred kilometres from Athens, this intriguing and diverse ancient Acropolis provides spectacular 360 degree views as a suitable reward after one climbs its gentle (and not so gentle) slopes. Whilst I’m not into hiking I hardly noticed the climb or distance due to being wowed with the view of the surrounding mountains and overlooking the ancient and new towns of Corinth. If you have ever read about the Corinthians in the Bible, this is where they hail from.
3. Olympia, Peloponnese, Greece: As the name would suggest, and you may have already guessed, Olympia is the original home of the Olympic Games, founded way back in the 8th century B.C.

Walking through the ruins it’s not difficult to imagine the buzz and excitement of the athletes training around the now silent and extensive ruins. A stadium and temple built here were dedicated to the gods Hera and Zeus. I managed to stand in the place where the Olympic torch is still lit today.

4. Delphi, Greece: This town is situated on Mount Parnassus in the south of mainland Greece. It’s the site of the 4th century B.C. Temple of Apollo, once home to a legendary Oracle. You may have heard about “The Oracle of Delphi”. Well this is the place where the Oracle hung out, so look no further. The archaeological site is literally sitting on the side of a mountain and contains the remains of the sanctuaries of Apollo and Athena Pronaia, as well as an ancient stadium and theatre and dozens of other buildings and structures.  We managed to park off the road nearby, backed up close to the edge of a steep cavernous valley (a bit too close for my liking and  I was nervous all night we might slip and wake at the bottom) and high mountains in front.

 

If you have Greece in your sights for a visit, then you might want to check out our blog Greece:  The Good, The Bad, The Ugly (And the Costs).

5. Monemvasia, Laconia, Greece: This town blew me away more than any other. Why? Because it wasn’t at all what I was expecting. Having visited castle ruin after castle ruin, I just thought this would be the same again. Boy was I wrong. Monemvasia is ancient, however, it wasn’t in ruins, it is still being lived in, just like it was when founded in 583 (although with more modern people wearing more modern clothes). The town, built on top of a rock on a small island off the east coast of the Peloponnese, is linked to the mainland by a short causeway just 200 metres long. I was so impressed with Monemvasia that we had to visit twice in two days so I could soak up all she had to offer. Please read my blog for further amazing facts and details of this little gem in Greece. This one is totally unmissable.

6. Erice, Sicily, Italy. The castles in Erice have been designed and built exactly how I would imagine kids would draw a castle nowadays. Erice (pronounced Ee-reach-ee), which sits at 750 metres on top of Mt Erice, is a medieval hilltop town located near Trapani, with superb views over the coast. A cable car joins the upper and lower town and although we didn’t use this because we rode our electric bikes, the cable car had just recently become operational again after a forest fire in 2005.

7. Monreale, Sicily. This stunning town sits overlooking the city of Palermo and I kicked myself after Carrie, my sister in law left us, that we didn’t take her up here. Having travelled around and visited cathedral after church after basilica soaking up the many styles throughout the previous eight months, nothing could have prepared me for the jaw-dropping beauty, craftsmanship, and sheer magnificence of the Monreale Cathedral. Instead of the typical painted frescos, this cathedral’s pictures were made using the painstaking and time-consuming art of mosaics.  We were told that each mosaic piece was hand placed on just the right angle for the light to reflect off the golden piece, hence giving the illusion of glistening, expensive and decadent gold.  Each of the  216 mosaic frescos illustrated a different story, which could be a Biblical parable or story or an event or person from the church history.   This remains today as my most favourite of churches, surpassing the impressive Milan Cathedral, the Blue Mosque in Turkey, and of course the very famous Sistine Chapel in Rome.
8. San Marino: I knew very little about this impressive place, but soon discovered that San Marino is the fifth smallest country of the world’s 196 independent countries while enjoying one of the planet’s highest GDPs per capita. Not only is it cute, but San Marino, which boasts just 61 square kilometres of landmass, has unsurpassed views, the greatest we have ever seen in our lifetime. Everywhere we looked the word ‘wow’ just slipped out of our mouths. The locals also know how to cook up a pretty good traditional Italian style lunch accompanied by a warm fire and a cold Chardonnay.
9. Milan, Italy. When I see the word Milan (Milano in Italian) the words ‘fashion capital’ come to mind ( ‘Paris, London, New York, Milan, Hong Kong’). So off I went looking for something to tempt me, but alas my purse stayed firmly shut, despite walking and biking for miles in search of something special to buy.

What I did like about Milan was the variety of architecture throughout this city. Some very old, some gothic, some ultra modern. The Gothic Duomo Cathedral of Milan, having taken some 600 years to build justifiably takes pride of place in the centre of Milan, check out the photos to see what I mean.  But first, click on the video below to see the Cathedral.

Now it’s time to share our…

Outstanding Experiences

1. Mother Nature showing off her power in Pylos. Read our blog about our exciting night where the waves tried to claim our Betsy for themselves.
2. Cooking classes in Istanbul, Turkey and Palermo, Sicily – follow our recipes here and see the pictures below.  For both these cooking classes we were fortunate enough to be the only participants and for Palermo we were joined by Carrie (on the right-hand side wearing red), Alan’s sister who flew in from London to be with us for a few days.  The Italian cooking class was a birthday gift to us from Carrie and Geoff (Alan’s brother in the USA).  A very memorable experience.
3. Experiencing a two Michelin star restaurant in Sicily – read our blog and then go out and book your own two Michelin star experience. You won’t be disappointed.
4. Standing on a live volcano at Mt Etna – just glad she didn’t erupt. Even the scoria under foot was warm.
5. The south-eastern corner of Sicily is a USECO registered area of unique baroque architecture.  The principal towns including Noto, Caltagirone, Siracusa, Ragusa and Catania were all rebuilt in the baroque style after the devastating earthquake of 1693.
6. Crossing the Italian Alps into France – over the top instead of through the tunnel and then we came to an unexpected and grinding halt – see why below. This tested Alan’s skills of reversing uphill and around bends (thankfully no-one came down the road).  The location we ended up parking for the night afforded us beautiful views (when the cloud lifted).
7. Le Quesnay in France – for it’s continued tribute to Kiwi soldiers from WWI. Look at the photos and if you are from New Zealand then please feel proud of what your forefathers did to protect the people and infrastructure of this quaint French village.  Here’s the statement which sits on a plaque in the New Zealand memorial garden.

On 4th November 1918 the New Zealand Division attacked and bypassed the fortified town of Le Quesnoy, consolidating positions beyond it and gaining around 10 kilometres.  After the success of their advance, they determinedly turned their attention to the town itself, which had been invaded by the Germans in 1914 and held ever since. 

The 3rd New Zealand (Rifle) Brigade penetrated the town’s outer ramparts.  However, when a section of the 4th Battalion reached these inner walls they found that the walls were too high for their ladder.  They positioned the ladder on a small ledge atop a sluice gate and scaled the wall one by one.  After exchanging shots with several German defenders, they went in further.  When the rest of the Germans inside learned that the walls had been breached, they promptly laid down their weapons and surrendered. 

The relief of the French inhabitants was immense.  Not only had their town been liberated, but it had been done with relatively little impact on the local population.  The armistice was signed a week later, and to this day, Le Quesnoy people remember and honour the New Zealanders who rescued their town. 

8. Louis Vuitton Foundation – a hidden gem of Paris and an un-miss-able experience. If you are visiting you must check this out.
By now you will probably be thinking this is a long blog. So in the interests of not over-boring you I’m just going to bullet point a few other highlights.

(a) Hiring a yacht in Volos, Greece and sailing with our good friends Pip and Ross (Kiwis living in London)
(b) Paris – who can go to Paris and not mention something wonderful about this city. We didn’t spend a long time here but managed to see the Eifel Tower (Alan says my facial expression was priceless when I first saw it), the Louvre (to see the Mona Lisa), and the beautiful gardens and buildings.
(c) Ghent in Belgium is worth a mention. We stopped here to watch the second All Blacks test against French in an Irish Bar (yes, you can find one of these in every city).  Ghent was a surprisingly vibrant city and a great alternative to the usual tourist destination of Burges. (We will probably go here another time).
(d) I must mention the churches. One would think we would get sick of going into so many churches but every church is so very different. I will endeavour to post some photos (and I have lots of them) in another post so stay tuned to see these.

That’s where I’m going to stop on this subject.  Needless to say, we have seen and experienced so much in just one short year.  We are looking forward to what this next twelve months will bring us on our travels.

Hiccups or unsettling experiences

• Putting a hole in Betsy’s head. When hearing a crunch from a low hanging tree branch, it’s best to take a good look as there could be more damage than you think! Then when it rains there could be a water leak inside! Dhu!
• My Worst Fear Realised (you will need to click here to see what it was, as that’s all I am saying.)
• Ruth turning on her bike in front of a Tram in Amsterdam – don’t try this at home kids. Thankfully no damage done to Tram, Bike, or Person ☺
• Not knowing to turn the gas off when traveling on Ferries (why wasn’t this obvious and why were we not told by authorities that this is a requirement?).  All sorted now.
• Scary roads in Italy – watch the video below
• Scary roads in Greece thanks to our GPS, Emily, who forgot how big we were and how narrow the roads could morph into.

Additions to Betsy

• Air suspension fitted in Greece to help smooth out the potholes around Greece and in Italy
Omnia oven – negated the need for an oven to be installed, saving us over €800
• USB/powerpoint in the living area has made the world of difference.
• Household Dyson Vacuum cleaner (don’t look at the price Alan, it will be worth it). This proved accurate when our stovetop glass exploded leaving splinters of glass splattered all through the kitchen, floor, sink, bench, and of course stove top. Grrr!
• Portable washing machine – the convenience of having this on tap has been priceless.  Typically the cost of laundry is about €16-20 per time and it is often a hassle finding a laundromat that we can get to easily.  It’s an equation between time and money. When traveling for an extended period of time we have time, however, we don’t want the money to run out just yet and don’t want to spend half a day hunting for a laundromat.  Therefore being able to do our laundry in our own washing machine has been a godsend.  We just need a water tap handy, a sunny day to power the solar panels and a place to hang out the washing line.

Best Buy Ever!

If you’ve read any of our other blogs it is possibly obvious, especially when we were in Turkey. Have you guessed it yet? Our best ever buy has been our electric bikes, by far. These allow us to park up where Betsy can’t fit, then cycle in to see the sights or top up on groceries.  We are particularly grateful for these in Paris, Belgium and Holland where the cycling infrastructure is fantastic.

The Costs

Before starting our adventures, we read a few blogs about the costs of living in a motorhome. We wanted to get an idea of what we should expect to spend.

However, the reality is that everyone is different and people will adjust their spending to suit their available money, the type of travel they are doing and what is most important to them.  Whether you are just on a holiday or full-timing in a moho, also makes a difference.

You can live the life of Riley, drive thousands of kilometres, stay in flash camping grounds, eat out every day and visit every attraction known to man and you will spend a small fortune.  At the other end of the spectrum, you can hole up in a free parking area for months on end and live on pasta and water and spend bugger all.

We sit somewhere in between, where we choose to spend our money on what is most important to us.  We avoid camping grounds, toll roads, eating out and anything that feels overpriced. We spend gladly on quality experiences, diesel to get to cool places, quality groceries and things that make our lives easier and more enjoyable.

We track ALL of our spending on an App called ‘Moneywise’ and review it regularly together.  Luckily Alan is still working part-time while we travel which helps to keep us on the road longer.

When reading this you must remember that we live full time in our Betsy; we don’t have rent or mortgage payments to pay, or another vehicle at home, or any other typical costs of living, e.g. electricity, rates, water, etc.  It also means that all our costs are lumped in here somewhere.

I’ve averaged the weekly costs into Euros (€’s) as follows. These are sorted by most to least expensive:

  Per Week
Groceries97.38
Diesel44.83
Eating out40.77
Repairs & Maintenance29.3
Attractions29.04
Household26.06
Transport, ferries, parking18.82
Pharmacy and Medical14.71
Telephones/internet14.28
Camping Grounds13.78
Clothing, shoes13.34
Camper Parking11.25
Haircuts9.85
Alcohol9.26
Tolls6.99
Gas5.93
Books, tools, insurance3.73
Gifts3.56
Laundry2.62
Net Total€395.49

Additional to these costs are our annual healthcare insurance back in Australia (where we had been living prior to coming to Europe), vehicle insurance in France and the initial setup costs for Betsy.

Phew, that was a lot.  If you want any further information, please feel free to contact us via email at [email protected] or [email protected].  We are happy to share our experiences with you.

Newbie Mistakes You Can Laugh About

Newbie Mistakes You Can Laugh About

Click the link below to read about our highlights and lowlights from our first six months, including best tips from fellow travellers, how we’ve kept busy, unsettling experiences, run-ins with authorities, best buys for our motorhome (before and after purchases), newbie mistakes to laugh about (now), the biggest whoops, and the worst roads we’d encountered.

To save myself from reinventing the wheel, I have loaded up my first newsletter, rather than re-formatting it into the usual blog style.

This was written in the days before I learned how to set up a website or write a blog.  It’s easy to read bullet points and a few pictures thrown in for good measure.  Please forgive the format, but I’m sure you’ll understand.

http://travel-cook-eat.com/wp-content/uploads/Newbie-Mistakes-to-Laugh-About.pdf