Ask Us Anything. Within reason…

While we’re be-calmed here at Valle de Abdalajís in Andalusia, Spain, a blog reader’s suggested we should do a Q&A, a question and answer session.

While we weren’t exactly, 100% sure what a Q&A entails in these time of live t’Interweb, we’re more than happy to answer any and all questions you guys might have about touring Europe, motorhome life, small space living, not killing your spouse on the road, surviving multiple foreign languages, travelling with a pooch, finding places to stay, navigating Europe’s towns and cities, escaping the clutches of the law, you name it.

For the next 10 days we’ll be here in our house sit villa, with big fat broadband access and just a Mediterranean garden and a small pack of dogs to to take care of. If you’ve any questions, please, please, please get ’em up here so we can get ’em answered, or at least we’ll try! Just comment below and we’ll do our best to answer. If we don’t know the answer, never fear, we’ll say so, but we’ll help out where we can or point you in the right direction(ish) if we can’t.

Cheers, Jay and Ju

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93 Comments

  1. Hello I have been following you guys for many years know and so admire what you have done .we have travelled most uk Scotland etc also Europe in our motorhome and would like to do a trip over the Alps to Italy but as I get older my bottle or nerve as you may call it has reduced with regards to small roads and steep drops HOw did you find it and any suggestions

    • Hi Neil, we went over Switzerland and down into Italy and loved the passes. We slept on a few of them (it was widely accepted) and left Switzerland just as the snow came! The passes were all easy enough to drive over, needing engine braking on long descents though. Much bigger vehicles than us were using them, and the traffic was light. The passes were very beautiful, so I hope you get a chance to do one or two of them. As a general rule, when I’m nervous in the van I just slow down. I pull in if I get cars behind me. It takes a while to get there but we’ve always got there. Good luck, Bonne Courage as our French friends say, Jay

  2. Hi, I was wondering if you have any breakdown cover while away for such a long time. We couldn’t find any companies to give us long term cover and it worries me, my worse nightmare is breaking down in the middle of nowhere! Especially driving through the middle of Spain where the only thing you see is olive groves for hours!!! We’ve been lucky so far apart from melting tyres but wondered what you’ve done if you’ve had problems on the road??

    • Hey Jo. Yes, apart from in North Africa we’ve always had breakdown cover. Our Safeguard insurance currently covers us, but we’ve also used ADAC, the German version of the AA and far more flexible in terms of covering motorhomes on long trips across Europe (ADAC also covers you in the UK). You have to call them to join, but just ask for an English speaker and they’ll take your details. Cheers, Jay

  3. Hi both
    Appreciate many folks don’t like to talk money – but find it refreshing that you do with such transparency and openness. It really helped us make our break away from ‘normal life’. I’d be interested to know which shares / etfs you’ve chosen to invest in to assist your financial freedom. Are they predominantly growth or income orientated and how did you decide on the ones you’ve invested in?

    • Cheers Rob. I spent a good while trawling personal finance blogs, books and websites before deciding to do a ‘trial portfolio’ in Vanguard passive index tracker ETFs – VUSA, VUKE, VWRL, VERX, VMID, VHYL, VFEM, VAPX, VJPN. We’re running with all these to get worldwide exposure across developed and emerging markets and across company sizes, but also as a test, to see how they (and we) react to the next roller coaster. The funds are all physically invested (no synthetics – actual shares rather than derivatives), low cost and passive – no expensive fund managers and we’re happy with average returns. All the ETFs pay dividends, which we’re currently reinvesting. We also have one Black Rock iShares fund – ISP6 – for the same reasons as above but just to give us a taste of another fund administrator.

      As ever this isn’t investment advice, I don’t really know what I’m doing, but am learning. Cheers, Jay

      • Thanks Jay – yes – always learning.
        I’m a fan of ETFs as well but am only invested in UK ones to date – I like how you’ve invested across different regions to spread the risk. Seems smart to me.
        Cheers Rob

  4. Hi Both,
    I’m sure I have read the answer to my question in one of your blogs.
    It’s probably my search skills or lack of them.
    We are off on the start of our adventure at the end of the month having spend the last year finalising the plans to stop working and see if we can survive on the passive income we have created.
    Still got a few things to sort, which brings me to my question.
    what do you do for travel insurance as it seems to be a mine field?
    The back packer insurances we have found either don’t allow you to come back during you trip or only allow for 14 days back in the UK.
    As we have to return to mot our van at the end of Aug and don’t know how much sorting out we will have to do before heading south for the winter this seems a bit restrictive.

    • Hi guys – yep, we had a 21 day restriction on time allowed back in the UK on the two year Alpha Insurance backpacker policy we took out (http://www.alphatravelinsurance.co.uk/backpacker-travel-insurance/). We got the van booked into our usual MOT station back home for the day after we got back, allowing lots of time to get any parts needed. It is restrictive, but it worked out OK for us. What we’ll do next time we’re not yet sure about, as we found policies generally require you to have been in the UK for the full 6 months prior to taking the policy out – and we might not want to stay in the UK that long – next challenge! Cheers, Jay

      • Hi Jay,
        Thanks for the quick reply, it does seem to be a problem when you don’t have any real plans. I wonder how folks that don’t have a 6 month stay in the UK go about things….
        Got first 3 months sort of Planned, take 4-5 weeks traveling though France into Spain (probably west side). Then some route across Spain to Rojales to villa sit for a couple of weeks. we are thinking it will be too hot in the van by mid July to will head for the French alps as never seen them without snow.
        I have had the idea to travel full time around Europe for about 15 years. A sister of a work mate done it for 18 months in the 90’s looking for a retirement home as it has stick with me ever since he told me of their adventure.
        Our final stages have taken just over a year to put into place, I was hoping to be underway by now, but I’m sure once we get going the tension will go from my shoulders lol

        Thanks again

        Paul & Alison

      • We’re in the same boat now as alpha would only insure us for 12 months as Tim turned 55 in the same year of the insurance. We have come up against the 6 months in the uk thing too. I’ll be trawling the insurers over the next week trying to get us insured for this year. If we get insured I’ll be sure to let you know!

      • Hi, I have now got a travel policy that covers us for up to 120 days at a time but with no stipulation as to how many times you can do 120 days in a given year. The sales person on the phone said you had to be in the UK 180 days a year anyway for nationality reasons (without expanding on it), but the policy itself makes no mention of a maximum of 180 days. I know for tax purposes 180 days is the defining number in any particular country i.e if you are in France 180 days you pay tax there not in the UK.

        It is a Nationwide Building Society basic policy that come free with certain current accounts and you then pay a large amount to extend the length of time and add people and existing illnesses. You can extend up to 270 consecutive days for a price (which seems to conflict with the 180 day comment the salesman made earlier!).

        120 days fits our current habits and we have just set off for a week or two in France, then following Ju and Jay’s path approximately through Italy and Greece. Then back to France and the local lake before it gets too hot down south!

        Best,
        Robina

        • Hi one an all,
          Think I have just found the policy that meets our needs.
          It’s a bit more expensive than most backpacker policy’s. But not restriction on number of visits back to the UK or length of time on those visits. Only have to have UK address and right of entry back into UK. you don’t even have to be in the UK when you take out cover.

          https://www.worldnomads.com/

          Hope this helps someone
          Kind Regards
          Paul & Alison

      • Thanks Tony, Had thought of that but still want the option to come back after a few month to do any sorting fine tuning of “stuff”

  5. Hi Julie and Jason,

    I have read your blog with interest, especially hoping to pick up tips and information as my wife and I have never experienced a motorhome or camped in our lives! However, it is something we have talked about, along the lines of “we should give it a try”.
    Having read lots of websites the general advice seems to be to rent a motorhome for a week or two to see whether it matches expectations. Would you agree?

    As people who enjoy their home comforts and, to paraphrase Terry Wogan, never stay anywhere less comfortable than our own home (well, why would you?) can you reassure us that a motorhome is indeed a good idea?

    We have a somewhat vocal Cairn Terrier Cross who is so badly behaved we cannot let him off the lead, ever. He is very friendly but hates cats, squirrels and German Shepherd Dogs and will take all of them on. Apropos nothing, he sleeps in a crate at night. How would you approach accommodating such a lively and spontaneous creature? He is lovely, we just appreciate his flaws and foibles.

    Cheers,

    Peter

    • Hi Peter!

      Picking up your points:

      1. Should you rent? I’ve never rented, but my gut feeling is that you should. You’ll learn a great deal from the first motorhome you’re in – the layout, what it’s like to drive, if the fridge is in the wrong place, do you need an oven, can you comfortably use the shower, is the table too much of a faff, is the bed comfortable, the list is long. We had a small panel van as our first motorhome, and quickly learned we needed a fixed bed, or at least one which drops down from the ceiling ready made up, or our marriage wasn’t going to survive. If you’re not sure about owning, or what your exact needs are, renting makes sense IMHO.
      2. Can I reassure you it’s a good idea? Nope. It works really well for us, as you might have guessed, but the only way to know if it’ll work for you is to try it. For us the van is home – we take our bed, clothes, food, kitchen and bathroom with us everywhere – so we always know we’ll have a comfortable place to stay when we arrive.
      3. Sounds like you have a great guard dog there! We’ve met and seen folks with all kinds of pets, including HUGE dogs and some pretty angry ones, and they all seemed to cope fine. Motorhome life is naturally a fairly outdoors existence – you don’t want to be sat in a small space for days on end – as your first few days of bad weather might reveal. If your pooch likes being outside, then he’ll like the life I think. One thing to ponder though: what are you going to do with him when driving? Charlie (our Cav) sleeps most of the time when we drive, and we have a small barrier to stop him getting under the driver’s feet, so he’s easy in that respect.

      Cheers, Jay

  6. Hello J&J, thought I’d ask a question affecting all Brits in the near future.

    When the UK is separated from the EU in a couple of years, will that influence your thoughts on how and where you will travel even though we don’t yet know the pluses or minuses?
    For example would you consider other continents as it may be as easy to be in Australia or the US as to be in Europe?

    • Jamie! How the devil are you! Been meaning to contact you and thank you for persuading me to shell out on those expensive tyres. During a long stray off road in Morocco they were worth every last single penny.

      For your question, we’re already sighting further afield, regardless of the UK’s decision to leave the EU. Sub-Saharan Africa, the USA, southern America, India and Australia are all vying for top spot. We were just chatting and have come to the conclusion we might need to start doing some planning and thinking. At the moment we feel held to Europe by our wee pooch. Yep, pretty daft to let a small pet animal guide your entire life, but he’s important to us and we don’t much fancy putting the old chap on a flight anywhere or leaving him. There’s also the question of distance from our parents but at the moment all of ’em are battling on fairly well without us, and we’d gear ourselves up so we could come back sharpish if we needed to.

      Your approach of using trains looks like a possibility, but we need to get that research done and come up with some ideas around costs. Interesting times. For the moment we’ll wander about Europe a while longer.

      Hugs to Rosie, Jay

      • We have rented motorhomes in Australia, including Tasmania, the US, one of those huge ones by Cruise America, New Zealand, and even Cuba (wouldn’t recommend that) and of course Europe before we took the plunge and bought one….

        All very different, but amazing, it is, however, an expensive way to do it; we would buy and trade in after a while if we were younger (~70 now)….

        We met a Chinese couple in Riga; they had come overland from Beijing through Russia, in their motorhome…. didn’t get much info as our Chinese is limited to dim sum and chow mein!!

        US trains are great and you meet some very interesting people!

        Lots to look forward to at your age…. we are still following you…. now in Finland… many thanks for the blogs.

        Carol

  7. Yes this travelling is an addiction, we’ve decided to call our recent escapes Topsy Travels as we start with a very simple single idea and they just grow and grow.

    We had to drive to the UK for our camper MoT about 12 days ago and then to return here. We returned back to Calais and turned left instead of right! Mistake really as you well know we have plenty to do here and just back from an almost continuous 6 months away .

    Ended up visiting with friends in northern Holland for 3 days, an evening with old friends in the German Ruhr, then down the Rhine and onto the Mosel to pop in on a friend in Neef right on the river. Didn’t give up there though, as we returned via Saint Jean de Losne as a few of our barge friends were in town.

    You too look as though you are fully addicted, there’s always something new around the next bend isn’t there.

    Places to go. Have been advised by the Russian military of a really remote area of Russia that is a must visit for wildlife alone, have a hankering to return to Chita on the edge of Siberia, were given a master class of stories about South America by a sleeping car attendant on a long distance Amtrak train between LA and New Orleans, and a lovely lady from the deep south wonders if we can all get on a Mississippi paddle wheeler at the same time, and that’s not even scratching the surface of the last 6 months.

    We’re concentrating on updating our new to us camper as we’ll be a week at Le Mans in 5 weeks time, then heads down and continue getting this place together for as long as we can stay in one place.

    We’ve re-found your van jack several times now, it is currently in the bathroom lest we forget.

    Good to see you both writing so well, you really come across as though you are having the time of your lives.

    As you say, bonne chance!

  8. Hi Julie and Jason,

    We are starting our MoHo adventure in July, mixing workaways with our travel.

    I wondered how you manage changing / spending money, do you use Credit or Prepaid cards while in europe? Or have you found a better method?

    Cheers
    Neil

    • Hi Neil
      Exciting times, I bet you can’t wait!
      We actually use both. When we are in Euro countries we use a Caxton pre-paid credit card for taking out cash. Here’s our review on the card http://ourtour.co.uk/home/review-caxton-fx-prepaid-euro-credit-card/

      For transactions in Euro countries and all the time in non-Euro countries, we use a Halifax Clarity credit card. This generally gives a slightly better rate than the Caxton card, but charges interest on cash withdrawals.

      So I guess you could say:

      Caxton card = getting cash in Euros
      Halifax card = all transactions and other currency withdrawals
      Bank account card = for emergencies when they won’t take credit cards (as the fees make it too expensive for anything else).

      I hope that helps a bit. Of course we got our stuff a while ago and there may be better deals about now so it’s worth checking out moneysavingexpert.com to see what’s best at the moment.

      Cheers Julie

      • Thank you Julie

        Do you use the cards for fuel or do you use cash?

        I have had some bad experiences using cards in fuel stations :(

        Cheers Neil

        • Hi Neil

          We use both cash and cards to buy diesel. We’ve not yet been stung in terms of fraud, but we have found that some automated fuel stations hold more money than we spend on our pre-pay (Caxton FX) card, which has meant the accessible funds on the card have hit zero when in fact it’s had plenty of money on it still. Ju’s had to contact Caxton in the past to get ’em to release it, so we now use a Halifax credit card to pay for fuel at automated pumps instead. We (well, Ju, but she’s busy making a beer bottle jigsaw at the moment) also make sure we’ve enough cash to pay for the fuel, just in case our cards aren’t accepted for any reason.

          Cheers, Jay

  9. Hi Jay and Julie,
    Loved your blog since my Jules and I decided to follow a similar route about a year ago (one year till freedom now, woohoo)
    I have 2 unconnected questions.

    Firstly I am hunting for the correct Wifi booster for European surfing. Are you still getting on with the WiFi Antenna from Motorhome wifi?

    Secondly, we are considering upgrading from our 6 berth C class to an A class with drop down bed for long term travelling. My question is a little personal but I am keen to know how you guys have gotten on for so long with crawling over each other for those little early morning comfort visits?

    So glad you are getting back on the road soon. Hope our paths cross in the near future.

    Aus + Jules

    • Hi Aus & Jules

      One year to go, exciting times! I guess that’s why you are now into the nitty gritty questions ;)

      We have a couple of bits of kit from motorhome WiFi and they are both still going strong. We have a directional WiFi booster (a predecessor to the iBoost) which we use to pick up free WiFi signals. This is now mainly used if we’re on a campsite to and want to pick up the ‘only available in reception’ WiFi! That’s because the roof mounted aerial we have, combined with their MiFi until and a 12gb data sim from 3, means that we hardly bother to look for WiFi anymore as we always have an internet connection through that. This is a great bit of kit – http://ourtour.co.uk/home/zagans-connected-motorhomewifi-com-4g-internet-system/

      As for the bed! Hmm, what can I say. It just isn’t a problem for us (especially after our first motorhome where I had to assemble and deconstruct the bed every day with cushions like a game of tetris). We take it in turns to sleep on the outside. If the person on the inside needs out, either tuck your legs up to your chest and they have an easy path to crawl out the bottom of the bed or they clamber all over you and ensure knees go where they aren’t wanted! It’s really no different to when I had my flat and the double bed was against a wall.

      Have fun finding out for yourselves!

      Ju x

  10. Hi both, tempted by your suggestion for insights into not killing your spouse but will stick to something more boring… What is the tax position if you are out of the U.K. so much of the year? Presumably you have to do tax returns but are not actually resident in the UK. Ditto voting! Have you enjoyed being stationary as much as anticipated? Best, Robina x

    • Hi Robina – we’re UK residents and pay UK tax via tax returns. We have a home in the UK, and only rent out some of the bedrooms under a license (not an AST), and spend enough time there to be UK resident. Same goes for voting. Yep, staying still a while has done the job, we’re feeling refreshed! Cheers, Jay

  11. Two or three questions if I may ask?
    In terms of your solar panel set-up, what size is the arrangement and what runs off the power generated? Is what you have in terms of solar enough or would you rather have more? In terms of clothes, how do you plan what to bring and how much without trying to cover the 4 seasons!

    • Mr D, we’ve a 120Wp panel feeding two 85Ah leisure batteries. The batteries are also charged by the alternator while the engine’s running. We’re often in sunny places (woo hoo) and the panel is enough to run all of our electricity needs. The fridge runs on gas and we only use high-amp kit very sparingly. We have plenty of solar and battery for our needs. We carry clothes for any weather, from winter ski jackets to swim wear. We have no formal clothes (no suits in here) and cut down on volume, so leave most of our clothes at home. Means we have to wash clothes more often but also means we can close the wardrobe door. Cheers! Jay

  12. We’re off for a month to France in June and are getting conflicting advice on the Crit’Air certificate. Some say it is necessary and some say it has been abandoned, have you any views/further knowledge on whether we need one or not? Cheers, Sandy

    • Hi Sandy. As far as I know the Crit’Air vignette is only needed for a handful of French cities, Paris, Lyon and Grenoble. Like the German umweltzone stickers, you don’t need the vignette unless you will drive into the zones it covers. Avoid driving into those cities, and you avoid the need for the vignette. Cheers, Jay

  13. Hi Interested to know how you budget for replacement eventually of Zagan I seem to remember you had the last one (Dave?) for quite a few years so wonder how you plan this bearing in mind the high use it gets. Thanks Chris

    • Hi Chris. Our finances are geared up to account for the ongoing depreciation of the vehicle (we have enough income and cash reserves to easily cope with buying another motorhome). This is one advantage of getting used to using (relatively) low cost motorhomes too: the depreciation hit is that much smaller, even with high use. Cheers, Jay

  14. A question for both of you but would be very interested in Ju’s view – do you ever feel threatened, frightened or unsafe?
    I am considering travelling as a single (older) female but this issue is always at the back of my mind. Thanks

    • Hi Roxane
      The first night we wild camped I didn’t get much sleep, if any. I was convinced that we were a huge target and were going to be attacked! Since then I have come to realise that most people don’t give two hoots about us, we’ve even had folks leaning on the van having a natter while we are inside, totally oblivious to us.
      There have been a couple of times when I have vetoed our planned sleeping spot because I didn’t like the look or feel of the place. We have a rule that if one of us is unhappy for whatever reason, we move.
      Otherwise though, I feel quiet safe. I am not sure how I would feel if I was travelling on my own, but I guess if I was to do that I would simply make sure I stop at places with plenty of other people around – aires, campsites etc.
      Jay fancies a bit more adventure, something like the silk route which does worry me. I have already said I won’t do it in a land rover with a tent. However if we were to stay in hostels, riads, campsites etc and only use a roof tent in an emergency, then it might be a goer.
      Travel however you want to and do what makes you feel comfortable enough to sleep at night. But do travel, it’s amazing.
      Ju x

    • Hi Roxanne, I’m a middle aged lady travelling by myself in a van and have just spent the winter mainly in France and Portugal and am now back in the UK for an MOT before returning to Europe in June. During those first 6 months I was very careful where I stayed, mainly avoiding big cities and only staying in places where there are other vans. I use the Park4night app on my phone to find places to stay and read all of the reviews to see what feels like it might be an ok place. In both France and Portugal I have felt very safe. I wasnt so sure about Spain so only stayed in campsites. However I do have a dog with me for both company and a little security which does help ease the nerves a little. During my time in Portugal I met quite a few other single women traveling in motorhomes and hardly anyone of them had had any bother at all. When I arrive somewhere I get out of the van and wonder around a little to decide whether I feel comfortable or not. Like Julie and Jason, if for any reason I dont like somewhere then I move on to a second or very occasionally a third choice place for the night. The biggest thing I have learnt is to arrive somewhere around lunchtime so that if you dont like it, you still have plenty of time to move and find somewhere else before it gets dark. The other thing I do is ensure that someone at home always knows where I am and where I’m going to stay for the night. Feel free to take a look at my blog (notsograndblog.wordpress.com) as that may help you feel reassured that it is really very easy and once you get into the swing of things you really will enjoy the freedom that you get when being in a motorhome. good luck!

      • Thank you Robyn and Ju for your helpful replies. They are really appreciated and have definitely helped me make some decisions :-)

      • Robyn.
        Sorry if I am missing something but have been unable to find your blog? I clicked on your name hoping that would do it but no luck. Thanks

          • Jay, Ju,

            Its a pleasure to read your Q&A. Do you have some generic advice on security and or deterrence when you leave you MH unattended? Blinds down, steering/door locks, a safe et al. Maybe there’s a balance between not making it look too attractive as as target or a fortress with goodies inside…
            Good stuff guys,

            Nick

          • Hi Nick. I guess our number one piece of advice on security is to assume that you will get broken into at some point, so don’t take anything away with you that you can’t replace. When we go out I always have a portable hard drive with a back up of what is on our laptop, so if that goes at least we don’t lose our photos, scans of documents etc.
            We tend to shut the blinds or curtains, but that is to keep it cool in there for Charlie if he has to stay in there or us when we get back. We haven’t added extra door locks (although our last van already had a fiamma handle that went over the habitation door when we were out that was quite good, especially to help you up the step when you have had a few too many) as the easiest way in is through the windows, and there’s not much we can do about that.
            I have seen a debate on one of the Facebook forums about open or closed blinds, for us it depends on where we are and how hot it is. In our old van, if we were somewhere a bit dodgy we’d make up ‘false Dave’, a body of pillows in the pull down bed and shut the curtains almost fully so you could just see it. Sadly our drop down bed now has a curtain around it, so false Dave hasn’t been called on for a while!
            Ju x

  15. Great blog.

    I was wondering how the SOG kit is working out for the toilet? Especially, in the hot and cold climates, any issues or complaints from neighbours and how frequently you have changed the filter? And are you considering any additions to the van in the near future?

    • Hi Neil

      The SOG is working very nicely. We’ve had it going in temperatures from -10°C to over +30°C, and at all times it has (in our humble opinions) outperformed any of the chemical options we’ve used. No-one’s ever complained about smell or noise (the fan makes a low hum when running). We haven’t changed the charcoal filter since we fitted it so (thanks for the reminder!) we need to get a new one the next time we have the chance. That said our mates haven’t ever changed the filter in their SOG and we never noticed a problem when parked next to them.

      The van’s well set up, we’ve added a new TV, SOG unit, new leisure batteries, 4G roof antenna, SOG and GasIT LPG tanks – that’s got it well geared up. The only thing we need at the moment is a couple of new front tyres.

      Cheers, Jay

      • Yep, the SOG is brilliant, we fitted one for our Norway trip and wish we had done it sooner…

        Tip for Finland, a lot of ABC petrol stations have emptying facilities, just ask for a key… only one had charged us €5, so far, otherwise free and we have been getting water from the garages too… love Finland so MoHo friendly, except for the lack of LPG….

    • Hi Lee

      Good question! The answer would depend on when we were starting from. I’ll pick the start of our first long trip in 2011, as if we go any further back the list would get out of control!

      • Given another go at all of this, I think we’d gone a little slower. We averaged 1.5(ish) days in each place over a period of 3 years, which I think was too fast. We were eager to see all that we could as quickly as we could, and most of the time it felt right, but we did burn out from time to time, and felt like we were skimming across the surface of places.
      • I wish I’d not bought that blow up kayak. It was kack.
      • We’d have bought a SOG unit sooner, they’re great, and would have saved us hours of trying to find chemicals.
      • We’d (I’d) have stressed less about what people thought of us, and taken criticism of us not being ‘real travellers’ with a pinch of salt.
      • We realised fairly quickly after starting out that we were trying to hammer down our budget too hard. We were missing out on eating out, visiting attractions, buying the books we wanted and so on. We’ve since met folks who have lived on £5000 a year for 30 years, and we bow down to anyone who can do that. We soon learned that’s not for us though, which is how we ended up with a whopping (**wink**) £15k budget.
      • Pulled our fingers out and learned more of the local lingo – an ever-present laziness-driven regret!
      • Read books like The Dark Heart of Italy or Venice BEFORE visiting the place!

      That’s about it, so far. We feel we’ve not been too far off the mark so far, but there’s plenty more time to go yet.

      Cheers, Jay

  16. Hi Guys,

    Kudos and large pats on the back for diarising your Moho travels in such an honest and factual way. You’ve been our mentors this last two years! We’re based in Palm Beach, Queensland, Australia but we have a bolt hole in rural Cheshire (ex-Mancinian) that we tour EU from.

    Gas-it/SOG/solar gets a huge tick from us too. We’ve also taken to packing another C200 cassette in our lower locker for longer free camp range. (Hymer B-584).

    A few questions we’ve been meaning to ask is you:
    1. What way do you collate your free camp/aires/camp ground intel? We too find a 3 mifi 12Gb the way to go so Camperstop/SearchForSites/Part4Night is our stock in trade. Have you a system of cataloging blog recomendations to integrate with the above?…We often feel we’re missing the odd gem of an overnight because we’ve missed the info!

    2. How did you manage the frozen pipe risk when you camped in the cold/snow/alps? Was running the Trumatic at say 15C 24/7 OK? …and how long did the blower heating run on your two house batteries without charge (or did driving every day or so fix the problem?)

    There’s probably a few more, but as we enjoy a Rioja in Central Spain on on our way back to Blighty, these two spring to mind. One thing’s for sure…one never stops learning on tour ;-)

    Cheers,

    B&L

    • B&L

      Yo! Thanks for the virtual slap on ‘t back, appreciated.

      1. Hmmmm. Good question. We have the OurTour Google Map with all the places we stayed laid out, and we do the odd top 10 list with favourite places. Apart from that we’ve not really managed to rate the 800-odd places, but we could certainly do some more ‘favourite places’ if folks there is any mileage in that?
      2. We were real novices in the cold! Our van has a double floor, and we left the heating at about 15 as you mention. The heating ran pretty much constantly and our batteries took a hammering. They weren’t fully charged when we headed up high, and our LPG was only a 3rd full. We also managed to arrive just after the start of the French school hols so the aire was packed and all the hook-up slots we gone. Ju managed to scrounge one for a few hours to get some amp-hours in, but we then had a problem where the auto-switchover valve between our gas tanks didn’t switch over in the early hours. By this point the locker door was well frozen and took some opening! We also had no ladder, so couldn’t clear the roof without borrowing one, which created a car-crushing size slab of ice when we got down the hill. We learned a bunch of lessons in those few days in the mountains.

      We’re off out shortly, and a rioja might well touch our lips too! Enjoy, cheers, Jay

  17. Hi you two. Look forward to your blogs & this q&a is a great idea. Keep it going. I not sure if you will be able to answer my query but here goes. We are a family of four but our kids don’t want to come with us any more so we are planning a long break in the future on our own. We have always towed a small car behind our motorhome & found it invaluable as we often find it difficult to park an 8 metre motorhome near attractions etc. Do you think you would have explored more places and stayed longer if you had had a car in tow? I also worry about leaving the motorhome parked on the outskirts of a city with all our valuables inside and feel more comfortable with it parked on a secure camp site and using the car to explore. Look forward to your feelings on this.

    • Cheers Jeremy

      But this Q&A wasn’t our idea! We’re really enjoying it, but the credit goes to David and Dawn (http://www.ddtravelers.com), they suggested we give it a go.

      We’ve long pondered your question in all kinds of guises – do we tow a car (we used to own a Smart Car), tow a moped, try to get the van weight up-rated and carry a moped on a rack? In the end we opted for shorter vans (5.5m first one, 6m this one), and no other vehicle. In cities we usually pay for secure(ish) parking, and use public transport to get in and around. Whether we’ll stay that way, I cannot say, and I spot Wayne & Angie (charliethechucklebuss.com) nipping about cities on their stripped-down Cub 90 and ponder how handy it would be.

      As we all know, choosing a van is an art in compromise. The smaller vans work well for us at the moment, but I still find the thing to be not the most relaxing to drive. Adding length and weight probably wouldn’t help with that I guess, and the additional insurance/tax/MOT/servicing/consumables/depreciation/tow equipment costs of a car or bike just don’t add up for us personally.

      Being in Spain, I looked up the cost to hire a car the other day. It wasn’t much, in fact it was almost nothing compared with the costs of ownership. Just another option!

      Cheers, happy travels! Jay

  18. Hi Both, really glad this Q and A is working out well with some excellent questions and answers. I know this is new to you both so I won’t point out that I meant to do it via youtube once the questions were in :) I’ve actually found this better to easily refer back to should we need. I have a further question, how easily, in each country, was it to fill up on LPG? I remember you said Morroco was short but was it none available at all? I’ve not read the book yet it’s in my queue. keep up the great work your an inspiration to many, including us.

    • Hi Guys
      We did think about doing it on YouTube, but like you say we figured this was easier for people to refer back to – and we wouldn’t want to upset anyone with our sunshine setting ;)
      With regards to gas, some countries are easier than others. France = oodles of it. Italy = they even fill it up for you. Finland = no LPG at all. Morocco = very, very limited. I won’t go into it all here, as I don’t want to spoil your reading and we’ve covered it all, including alternative options, in our Motorhome Morocco book (cheap plug!).
      Before heading to a new country, it’s best to check out the website mylpg.eu as this lists where you’ll find it (or not as the case may be!).
      Ju x

  19. Hello to you both,

    Please could you share your thoughts on how you find the fellow travelling community to be? Is there much of a community? Does it vary by geography? Is it important to you?

    Best,
    Gareth

    • Hmmm, good one Gareth.

      Our particular mode of travel is certainly a popular one. We see thousands upon thousands of fellow motorhome, camper and van dwellers as we move about. The great majority of them are not from the UK, but seem to be mainly French, Dutch and German, mixed in with smaller numbers of Brits, Italians, Austrians and Swiss, then even smaller numbers of the other Western European nations and a tiny number of ‘Eastern Europeans’. Fortunately for us, lots of non-Brits speak some English, which opens up more of this community to us.

      Yes, the community varies with geography. Travelling northern Europe in the summer, or southern Spain, Portugal or Morocco in the winter, will put you closer to many more of your fellow Brits (or motorhomes in general) than heading to Ukraine in the summer and Scandinavia in the winter.

      The travelling community is important to us. In it we find a huge range of people and ideas, tales of fun and ingenuity, inspiration for the future and the warmth of our fellow man. The local community is also all around us, of course, and has the same draws plus the opportunity to learn about different cultures and ways of thinking, but this latter community is much harder to access due to languages/our idleness in learning more of ’em.

      We also find we’re often more exposed to this community virtually than being sat with ’em sharing a cheeky glass of wine. This blog is priceless in that sense, and we’ve found many friends that way, meeting folks all over Europe after initial contact through this ‘ere blog.

      Cheers, Jay

  20. Hi Jules and Jay
    Thanks for a brilliant blog. It’s both encouraged and calmed my itchy travel feet.
    I did a similar thing to you more than 20 years ago when there was only the post and phone boxes to keep in touch with home.
    So my question is: would you be doing what you are doing without modern communications?

    • Hi George. We’re both old enough to have travelled pre-Internet and pre-mobile phones, having headed off down under in the early 90’s. I can’t recall the more difficult communications being a problem, we were too busy enjoying ourselves! If modern comms didn’t exist then yes, we’d still be out here, but we’d miss out a bit I think. Being able to video call home for free (unthinkable not long back of course) is a great way to stay in touch with friends and family. Cheers, Jay

  21. Hi Jay, Ju and Charlie
    You have inspired us to take the plunge. Motorhome purchased, resignations accepted at work (everyone jealous), and we set off the end of June for our full time adventure, with dogs. Your budgeting spreadsheet, in particular, has given us the confidence about affordability and this Q&A is brilliant for us as first-timers. My question is about setting up a blog (we are flattered that friends and family want to follow our adventures). I am not as IT-literate as you Jay, what with your IT consultancy background and all. How intuitive is WordPress? Will it be a sharp learning curve or can I learn and upgrade on the way after initial set-up? Also, do you do all of you blogging on a laptop or do you use the WordPress App on iPad?

    • Congratulations guys, the world awaits you! You know what, I’ll knock up an ‘how to start a blog’ blog post later on today. I’ll keep it simple. But the short answer is yes, WordPress is intuitive as long as you’re not too bothered about fancy layouts. We write posts on a laptop (the keyboard and mouse make it much easier) but we reply to comments using the WordPress app on an android phone. Cheers! Jay

  22. Hi – like others, we’ve been regular readers of your blog and it’s been an inspiration (thank you). So much so that we’ve made plans, done the research, bought our first van (also a Hymer) and worked out our finances to enable us to travel and leave salaried employment. My question is if you miss any aspect of regular work on the assumption not all jobs are 100% miserable experiences?

    • Hi Tony
      Don’t worry, I do know that not all jobs are bad, I did used to enjoy my job before I got promoted to doing something that I didn’t want to do!
      When we returned back home after our first two year trip we had two options:
      – get a well paid job that we didn’t really like but would only need to do for a short time
      – get a job that we would love (sadly these all seem to be lower paid)
      We went for the first option, because being financially free gives us the chance to do the second option when we want to. Right now, we aren’t thinking about working, but in the future we may choose do some work, but it would be something that we enjoy. The reason for this is because we do miss things about regular work. I can’t answer for Jay, but I miss
      – the camaraderie that you get with your work mates (and having someone other than Jay to talk to).
      – doing something that Jay doesn’t so we have something to talk about (we do this, but not as much as you would if you were apart all day).
      – the satisfaction, and recognition, that comes from doing something well.
      – the feeling of being stretched and learning new things.
      – some form of structure, not so much the being told what to do, but a bit of a routine.
      I guess I would miss that pay day feeling, but we still sort of have that when the rent from our properties goes in.
      Currently I don’t know what day it is, so I don’t get the Friday feeling, but then I don’t get the Sunday and Monday feeling too, so they sort of balance each other out.
      I was never one for titles, so I don’t miss no longer being a job – standard introductions used to be what is your name and what do you do. However I know it is hard for some people to lose that sense of identity.
      To sum it up, I miss the social/human side of going to work. You can keep early morning alarms, going to work in the dark and being told to do something that’s not worth doing. So, through this blog, meeting folks, writing books etc, I try to get into our lives a little bit of what it is that we miss.
      Ju x

  23. Hi Jason, Julie & Charlie – I am still trawling through old blog entries (have got up to Nov 2015) and am now trying to keep up with new entries too. I seem to remember when you set off on your first trip that you said having Charlie along sharing your adventure, helped keep the budget down as it meant you weren’t spending money on entrance fees into attractions as the places either weren’t suitable for Charlie or it was too hot to leave him in the ‘van – we are planning a short (minuscule by your standards) 10 day trip to France in July and are wondering on whether to take one of our dogs or not as it will (hopefully) be too hot to leave her in the ‘van, we will be leaving our 14 year old boy behind with family as feel he is too old to cope with the heat and so much travelling, so we could leave both at home but find that walking just isn’t the same without a pooch. So my question is – if you had only 10 days to explore France and wanted to spend some of that time exploring towns (museums, churches, chateaus, restaurants) as well as countryside and beaches would you take a dog or not? She hasn’t got a pet passport yet so we need to make a decision soon. We have only had our motorhome since last Sept so haven’t had to worry about hot ‘vans yet. I have downloaded your early retirement budget spreadsheet and my homework for this weekend is to add our figures to see how soon we can escape the rat race. Glad you are enjoying your house sitting, our friends have just finished 3 months house and dog sitting in a house next to a beach in New Zealand. All the Best Sarah

    • Hi Sarah
      Sadly this is one of those questions that only you can answer. Hopefully here is some food for though.
      Having a dog with you can curtail what you do to some extent. While France is much more dog friendly that the UK, and we’ve seen dogs looking around Chateaus with their owners (inside and out), there will be some places that you won’t be able to take her – some beaches for example.
      As this is your 10 day holiday you need to decide how much of a compromise you are willing to make to have her with you.
      Personally, if it was me, and I knew she would be well looked after at home with her fellow pooch companion too for company, I wouldn’t take her. I would see it as a 10 day break from being a pooch parent and do anything I wanted to without worrying about getting back to check she is OK.
      I know many will disagree as there are loads of people who do take their dog on holiday with them, us included in the past. But like I said at the start, it’s a question only you can answer. We love having Charlie with us, and wouldn’t change things, but we know that we are happy to have him dictate our lives a bit.
      Ju x

      • Thank you for your reply – it’s really hard as we got the ‘van thinking we would just automatically take the dogs (as we have been doing for weekends away so far this year and a week in Cornwall last October) and so it feels selfish to think about leaving them with my parents. I was interested to see on one of your old blog posts that you got rid of your bike trailer as Charlie didn’t like it, we had considered buying one, but maybe I should borrow one to try it out first. Sarah x

  24. We really enjoy the blog, thank you!! It encouraged us to re-think our lives and as a result we no longer work. We’ve replaced our VW camper with a bigger van and we head to Scandinavia soon for a few months. we are both much happier, so we owe you a beer if our paths ever cross!!

    Our question – what do you do about drinking water? We are sick of buying and storing bottled water and currently debating installing a filtration system. Some folks use water from Aires/camping sites but we are a bit concerned about that.

    • Hi Karen
      Great to hear from you and that your heading to Scandinavia soon – a beautiful part of the world!
      With regards to water, we carry a 5l bottle of drinking water with us and use that for, err drinking! We use the water in our tank for showers, pot washing, teeth brushing and hot drinks. But because Jay got poorly drinking out of our old vans water tank, we don’t drink straight from it – even though it’s a different van, habit I guess.
      The tank is filled from water in campsites and aires, as is the drinking water bottle. We make sure we wipe the tap / hose well with an antibacterial wipes, and run some water through first before putting it in the tank or bottle. The 5l water bottle gets changed every month or two depending on where we are and how easy it is to get one.
      Some folks drink from their tanks, others use filters, there’s no right or wrong way, it’s just personal choice.
      Cheers Ju x

  25. Hi… firstly, wow! What a life.. fantastic reading and detail.

    What have been your worst situations? Do you ever feel threatened at all being from the UK? Notice your on a private plate, is that intentional? Have you ever felt insecure due to the migration levels?

    Thanks – happy trails!

    • Hi Craig. We had a tyre blowout in Spain once. We stopped OK but it took out part of the underside of the van and scared us! No one has made any mention of us being British, our plate isn’t private, that may be our mate’s. We’ve seen almost zero sign of migration, except for Europeans heading to the sun, only one small incident with a bloke in Morocco. We really haven’t had many scares. Cheers, Jay

  26. Hi Jay & Ju,
    Currently on our NC500 tour and is our first taste of being away for more than 3 weeks. My question is (without wanting to divert attention from your blog) is how to get a blog noticed! I think as a point of research yours is absolutely the first point of call for most motorhomers seeking independent advice. There may be a little room for Janette and I, albeit in a small way.
    Ian & Janette

    • Hi Ian

      There’s room for plenty of these ‘ere blogs. They all have different personalities, histories, struggles, triumphs and experiences behind them.

      How to get it noticed? You might be asking the wrong people sir. We did as most folks do and started off writing for our parents and friends, which we still do, but we just kept going and going, we just didn’t give up. ‘Like a dog weeya bone’ as they say around our way. It seems the best way to get noticed, if we had to hazard a guess, is to be passionate about giving back as much as you can. Give people useful advice on problems you’ve faced, pass on useful information, if you’re on forums feel free to link to your blog but we aware forums get a lot of this stuff, so you need to be linking to good quality info. Oh, and always try to be yourself.

      For anyone reading this, Ian’s blog is: hilmathehymer.com, please support him and Janette!

      Cheers, Jay

      • Thank you Jay – am writing the blog whilst we are on the NC500 and uploading every 2-3 days. It is addictive! Will take on board your comments. I just know when we finish this tour I’ll be itching for the next one. Scenery here is just stunnnnning :-)

  27. Hi you 2

    We are still following you, after doing Maroc and Croatia we are now in Finland….
    This is not a question, but thought you might be interested…. we are at Kylmäluoma at the moment…. there is snow everywhere and they have cleared a few pitches… the lake is frozen, a bit different to your experience. Semis it is a bad May, we have had snow on and off, interspersed by lovely sunshine, for the last few days, in fact all the way up from Helsinki…. not sure what to expect further north…. I think we came too early, but wandered to avoid the mozzies!

    Popped into the UNESCO church that you missed, it was amazing and open for a special visit…. most stuff doesn’t open until 26 May or even June it seems…

    We saw lots of reindeer yesterday too, but not a big herd yet…

    If anyone wants any info let us know….

    Thank you so much for your blogs…
    Carol

  28. A question, or two, where did you get you first LPG when you entered Norway from northern Finland?

    We are slightly worried about our alcohol stash when crossing the border, any comments?

    We have the Finnish camping book and use CampingCar info for sites, which others do you recommend for Scandinavia. We have had a few problems with sites not being open, we are using more sites than planned in Finland due to the snow and low temperatures…

    • Hi Carol

      The only LPG we could find in the north was in Alta. We managed to squeeze our tank out long enough to pop up to North Cape first, then filled up on our way back down. But with snow and the cold, you might want to go their first! If you are heading up to North Cape, you can sleep overnight in the car park, but there are no services, so you’d need your gas to keep you warm.

      I was worried about our stash too, so I sort of hid it. It was in one of the under seat benches with a load of stuff on top. There were a few bottles of wine and beers in the wardrobe too, just in case we were asked if we had any alcohol (happened going into Hungary once and I opened the wardrobe door, showed him the few half empty bottles in there and that was it). In the end there weren’t any guards at the post when we went through.

      We used a mixture of park4night and campercontact app/websites to find places to stay, but we were quite a bit later than you so had better weather so we didn’t use many campsites. We would also use maps.me and go along our proposed route looking for picnic areas or small campsies by lakes. This site is good when you get to Norway for places to stop – http://bobilportal.no/11959/wild-camping-in-norway-gps-positions-stopoversnorway/ http://bobilportal.no/11959/wild-camping-in-norway-gps-positions-stopoversnorway/

      Have fun and keep warm.
      Ju x

  29. I’ve been following along on your adventures for a while now and enjoy reading them during my lunch break. Planning on starting our FIRE adventures in August with a vehicle purchase (Hymer likely) in September. We are complete newbies to the lifestyle, but can’t wait. So 3 questions for you:
    1. Showers – I am a lover of showers and being clean. I realize this may pose a challenge in this lifestyle! But my question is, I notice that when you are at campgrounds you enjoy long, hot showers, but what is stopping that in the Hymer. Couldn’t you just refill the water and LPG more often or am I missing something?

    2. Kitchen – Husband loves to cook. With your years of experience, what are your must have in the kitchen as far as appliances incl size of fridge, number of burners on the stove, etc.

    3. We’ve been going along on the assumption that September is a better month to buy a used vehicle than August as people will be done with their summer adventures and ready to sell. Any experiences or tips on this?

    Thanks for your help and hoping we will run into you on the road in the near future!

    • Hi guys

      Congratulations on freedom! Here are our thoughts:

      1. Showers – water isn’t always easily accessible – in France it’s everywhere – on the Mani in Greece not so much. Same goes for LPG, but in reality you could enjoy long hot showers in the Hymer most of the time, woo hoo! Be aware though – these things tend to have small water pumps so the flow of water is more of a wetting experience than a power shower…
      2. Kitchen – if you’re moving a lot fresh food is normally easy to get at, so you’d not need a huge freezer. We have only a small fridge-freezer, the exact size of which I’m not sure about, but it’s much smaller than the standard ones at home, and that’s never been an issue for us. We have three hobs, which is enough for us. We don’t have an oven but instead use a double skillet which does a passable job, but if you’re into baking you would need a real oven. Think about preparation space too – this tends to be very limited. We also carry a gas cooker and an electric hob so we can cook outside when the opportunity arises. You could also consider getting an external gas BBQ point, so you could use something like a Safari Chef when on campsites.
        3. When to buy – Sept sounds like a good time of year to me, or maybe even later in the year, but I’m no expert on this as we’ve only ever bought 3 vans and one was from a dealer!

        Right-o, take it easy and congratulations again, Jay

      • Thanks so much for the detailed response! The links to the kitchen stuff is very helpful as well as we will be needing to kit out everything from zero!

        So happy to hear that I have shower options in my future; always good to keep the expectations realistic.

        Not sure what we will do about the over, not much into baking, but french fries, broccoli tots, etc sure do come out nice in an oven. Don’t want to give up the cupboard space for the oven though! We will see what we find on the market when we start looking.

        Thanks again for the tips and the congrats!

        ~ S :o)

  30. Many thanks, we hadn’t found the Norway link….
    We have been very frugal with our gas and stayed on a few sites to get electricity… we were not expecting so much snow, but are coping…. in fact we recommend it so far…

    I have replied to a couple of comments further back, the main one being about travel outside Europe, happy to give advice as we have travelled quite widely, having kids living abroad etc…

    Is there a way of being alerted to additional comments, or is it just a matter of trawling through?

    Thanks again
    Carol

    • Thanks for the offer of your advice Carol. I don’t know if there is a way of being alerted to new comments and questions as we reply via the blogs ‘dashboard’ so all I see is a list of comments. Sorry. Julie

  31. Not sure if you have already been asked this, but you have had so many questions, that I haven’t been able to look through them all! Me and My husband and our Hungarian Vizsla, are planning on leaving for a trip from July for a few months around Europe (van still to be purchased :os ) I am worried about it being a busy period and wanted your thoughts and experience on how much in advance we should be booking camp sites?

    • Hi Lisa. We use campsites sometimes, but also use aires and free camps too. We’ve only booked ahead a handful of times in several years of travel, but if you plan to go to very popular places in July and August, you may need to book. Have fun! Cheers, Jay

  32. Hi Jason, I’m afraid I am another new convert, and after much concideration I too have come to the conclusion that B544’s for 2 people to tour in are a great option.To that end we found the one we wanted (2012 version) in Feb this year, for one reason or another we cannot hit the road until mid March 2018 so we now have this beast sitting on our front garden aching to depart. What this does give us is the time to prepare for the future; I note that you have a sat dish, you don’t mention if you utilised it a lot? I am not a TV addict however do you find it to be a usefull asset? Apart from bulk gas and effective wi fi what would you consider to be the most useful additions you could make to your mobile lifestyle? A rambling series of questions I know and apologies but your experiences are worth their weight in gold.(potentially)

    • Hi Al! If you’re not big into TV, I personally wouldn’t bother with a sat dish. Ours was fitted when we got the vehicle but we’ve not used it a great deal (it won’t pick up British TV in the far south anyway). This is what I’d fit for long-term, multi-country touring, for someone who plans to be on and off campsites: Self-Refillable LPG – biggest system you can get unless you’re pressed for weight, SOG Unit – for no-whiff, chemical-less loo which can be emptied in Scandinavian long-drop loos, Solar panel – 100W or more, Additional leisure battery – only if you plan a lot of off-hook-up camping or you’ll be in northern Europe in winter – 150Ah or more, an inverter so you can use 230V AC kit on your 12V system (we only have a cheap modified sine 300W one, but probably should have spent more!), shelves in the wardrobe rather than hanging rail, steadies are handy for windy conditions, a roof-mounted 4G antenna has worked well for us, an extra lock for the habitation door. We wouldn’t bother with: reversing camera (helps with insurance but really if you have someone to spot for you they can see stuff a camera can’t) or a satellite dish. Cheers, Jay

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