Dark Clouds and Campsite Life in Salamanca, Spain

Salamanca, Spain
The view from the motorway, we hope to get in and see it close up tomorrow

Zagan the motorhome is having a few days of campsite life in Salamanca (N40.99961, W5.67900) riding out the dark clouds over him, one is the weather, the other more ominous. The site is in Villa Mayor, about 4km outside the city, and we’ve  had the place to ourselves.

Rewind a few days and with a fixed satnav we left Bilbao in the early afternoon. Phil and Jules had set off in the morning up to the aire just south of Santander to see the elephants. Sadly getting satnav working was a higher priority for us, so no chance to say hello to Dumbo and friends. As headed across country through agricultural plains, we drove through tiny villages, each restaurant was packed with families out enjoying a Sunday lunch. It was great to see extended families out enjoying the December sunshine.

Mountains Spain
Wave-like mountains hemmed in the agricultural plains
Deer on road sign, Spain
Cows, sheep yes, but no deer were spotted

We arrived in Aguilar De Campoo (N42.78624, W4.25709) just a few minutes behind Phil and Jules and set off for a look around the town with them. I could tell Jay wasn’t feeling the love for the place, and on a cold December Sunday when pretty much everything is shut why would you. As Phil, Jules and I headed into the local Chinese Shop (think Wilkos crossed with the poundshop) Jay went back to the van. Emerging from the Chinese shop it was now growing dark – yes we were in there that long – and the town was starting to come to life. The lights were on and we could see into the busy bars, with tapas stacked on the counter and locals enjoying a beer or hot chocolate. We were tempted to join them, but after quite a few days on the ‘pop’ we decided against it.

Aguilar De Campoo Aire Spain
Aguilar De Campoo Aire
Aguilar De Campoo Spain
Aguilar De Campoo

The following morning Phil, Jules and I set off on a run to the nearby lake. Frost covered the ground and the temperature hung around freezing, but we still managed to catch sight of an otter out fishing for his breakfast. Discovering the lake was a created by a huge dam, we saw it as an opportunity to warm up further by climbing up and across it. The view out across the lake was beautiful in the rising sun. After 7 kilometres in my new, slightly bigger, trainers, I still had the blisters that my old trainers produced, but at least my big toe hurt less. A piping hot shower in Zagan soon warmed me up.

Aguilar de Campoo Dam
Jules looking out from the top of the dam

I could tell something was troubling Jay as he’d hardly slept all night, and had been very quiet for the past few days. Finally, he broke the news. He just wasn’t enjoying traveling as much as he had previously. The shine of adventure and this lifestyle had tarnished, and now was no longer there. He wants to head home. We talked for a while, but in the end decided it was only fair to Phil and Jules to let them know what was going on. They were so understanding and offered some sound guidance, they too have hit the travelling wall in the past. We agreed to go our separate ways for a while, to give us time to talk and decide what to do. With farewell hugs we hope to meet up on the coast for Christmas, maybe.

With this plan in mind we carried on south, but a dark cloud was looming over us. The vast plains stretched out as far as our eyes could see, and huge birds of prey circled the fields searching for food. Reaching Salamanca we found an empty aire in a car park south of the city at Terradillos (N40.88023, W5.58208) and stopped for the night. It was a tough night. We are at total odds with each other we couldn’t see any other options. We talked, and talked and there were tears.

Bird of Prey, Spain
A smaller bird of prey having his breakfast on a road sign

The following morning as we hit the road south again it was clear things still weren’t right. So rather than go north or south we headed to a campsite just outside Salamanca, and spent a few days here talking things through. You’d think we’d have it made with our lives and lifestyle, but maybe all this freedom is a bit of a curse. I can totally see Jay’s point of view, we’ve been on the road since January pretty much non-stop and our days follow the same pattern – get up, breakfast, drive somewhere, arrive, walk around the place, back in the van, dinner, read or TV and bed. Then repeat. It’s a bit like Groundhog Day but with different scenery every day. In fact now we are visiting countries we’ve already been to, the scenery isn’t changing. There’s no excitement or challenge, and this is becoming a problem.

I know, I know, we’re fortunate, we don’t have to be in an office every day, no ‘end of year reviews’ or office politics, but still we need something in our lives to feel fulfilled, and at the moment Jay isn’t getting that feeling from what we are doing. I’m getting fulfilment from getting closer to my goal of running a half marathon, with each training run getting longer. Jay’s already run half marathons, so this goal doesn’t work for him.

The dark cloud of our moods, was joined today by dark storm clouds. We had planned to go an see Salamanca, but instead have holed up in the van and watched some movies. Some well needed down time for our brains. We think we are getting close to some sort of a plan that will suit both of us. A change in the way we travel for a start; longer drives each day to a destination and staying longer once we get there. We also have an agreement that if that doesn’t work, we head home. Maybe we need a longer break from doing this so we can appreciate it all the more.

Salamanca, Spain
Salamanca viewed from the motorway, we hope to get in and see it close up tomorrow

Ju x


  1. Totally understand the ‘wall’. For me it happens about 3 months out of the UK and that’s when we book our return ferry for about 6 weeks later. Two weeks later I’m over it and regretting booking our home trip. Have now told other half to make me delay booking for two weeks and then think about it. It works for us! hope you find the solution for you.

  2. We published a blog today about our dream, which is to follow a similar path you have taken, your comments above are as important as any good-times blog for us, but understandably difficult for you currently, so thank you for the honesty. I suppose some people climb mountains their whole lives and others climb one mountain then move on to swim an ocean, both inspirational. Best wishes. Steve & Deb

  3. Shocked – really enjoy reading your blog and envious of your life on the road but I can see that we all need a purpose in life and a goal to aspire to. Repetition can become a chore no matter what your doing and I think I sensed from your recent blogs something was missing.
    With hindsight maybe you should have had Christmas and New Year with your family and decided where to travel in the New Year.
    Good luck with whatever you decide.

  4. Maybe you have done a lot of Europe and now a new challenge would be a whole new continent…such as America or Asia? I am sure you will work it out and come up with a plan that will excite and stimulate you both again.

  5. Really appreciate the post and keeping it real and true. Maybe start planning 2017/2018 head to another continent, explore some places totally new in the world (Asia, South America, Post-Trump-U.S.A). I’ll be setting my alarm for 7:00am to sit behind a cube for 10 hours, but the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Wishing you two the best – JPC

  6. Happened to me too! We’ve been on the road for nearly 8 months and I’ve run into the same problem. I caught the Fado. We solved it by going further south to get more sun. However, these days we travel very slowly compared to you and we’re currently staying on a campground for a couple of weeks. Hope your plan works. Liebe Grüsse /Reto and Sabine from Living in a Box

  7. Rosie thinks you were eaves dropping Julie, we almost said this word for word. Again Rosie’s comment after reading today’s blog was “Paradise can have it’s down sides as well”
    Our un-asked for advice, turn around, surprise and delight your families and spend Christmas with them. Then hunker down in your bolt hole, make no plans at all but each take some very short term temp work and then see if you want to re-join the real world. We guess within a month or two you’ll know what to do.
    Living inside your Groundhog existence you can’t easily see the future you really want.

    Thinking of you


  8. Maybe consider a total change? Perhaps 3 months in Chiang Mai, Thailand which I’ve read is reasonably cheap and has a good expat community, for example. Probably not a lot to blog about which will dismay the rest of us but I’m sure we’ll all manage. Maybe :)

  9. Hi folks. Sorry to hear your news but here is a tip from us which may help as it did us during our summer tour of France this year. Like you we always seem to be on the go, so this time we made a conscious effort to stop somewhere for the whole weekend. It helps to give you time apart and finding your own space and as my husband is disabled this can be quite a challenge. But the weekend break
    worked for us as you can enjoy your surroundings more, take more of the journey in and above all give you time to enjoy what the places have to offer. Then once batteries are restored metaphorically speaking you can then set off again with a clear head.

    Just a thought, but full understand where you are coming from and whatever you decide our thoughts are with you xxx

  10. Certainly understand hitting the wall. 39 years in offices and I hit that wall some time ago, but with no options because of the financial treadmill. Getting your financial independence so early in life at least means you’re free to try other things. Maybe you need a long holiday, but in your case something that does not involve travelling every day.

    The best of luck with whatever you decide. You’re an inspiration.

  11. Your honesty is the key to everything,follow your gut feelings guys. I was working away some years ago and got tired of meals out every night so no matter what you do in life too much of a good thing can be tiresome. We have loved your Blog and it’s been an inspiration to many as it has to us. The best of luck with whatever you both decide and I’m sure all of us that follow your adventures feel the same. John & Kay.xx

  12. Janette and I have had long discussions about this very thing. We are not in the same place as you – as in on the road 24/7, we are still working and have only just this year ventured into the wonderful world of motorhoming. Our plan is to gradually spend longer and longer in the van over the coming years as we are pretty close to retirement. Goals are funny things – only today we heard about Ben Smith who completed 401 marathons in 401 days and raised over £250,000 – he is now in a similar place to Jay – he has done it. What next he is asking himself? Whilst I can’t offer any great pearls of wisdom I feel sure (having followed your adventures) you will both work this out – after all look how far you have come already. This is not the end of your achievement – you are only part way through the journey. Wherever you go with the next step it also will be part of that journey and who knows what that might be and where it will lead? :-)

  13. Hi folks fully understand the wall, we have been travelling for nearly 3 Months now and have often sat down in the van and discussed going home – however, our experience also tells us that once we are home we will regret it after two weeks ! We do find that the sunshine helps with our moods as when it rains it feels a bit depressing. We have also found that 3 or 4 nights on a site is a bit more settling than driving every day and staying on wild camps. We reckon we will spend Christmas in Javea or Moraira then high tail it back up through France and then home. Our advice would be get down to the Sunshine and make your minds up then. Good luck with your journey whatever you decide.

  14. I think the key is NOT to make any rash decisions.

    Make sure you get a few weeks of sun before you decide. I can promise you that January & February in Northampton won’t do much to list the spirits.

    Of course there’s also no shame in thinking, “Been there, done that”. That’s how my mind works.

    We’re probably going to follow in your tracks in the next year (touches IKEA fake wood desk for luck) but I never imagined doing it for ever, more as a way to get away for a year or so, to have time to decide what to do next, maybe a way to travel around and find our next home but with no deadlines for doing so.

    But NO rash decisions (“….repent at your leisure” and all that).

    Lee @ GoHumberto!

  15. Hi Ju and Jay,
    I’ve been following your blog for years – it’s what got me interested in old motorhomes and eventually led to me buying an old Hymer S580, which my wife and I love to travel in. Your adventures are an inspiration and I’m sure you’ll work through the current crisis. Your position is unusual, since you’re financially independent at a relatively young age, but that brings lots of choices, and choices can be difficult to make. My own feeling would be that slowing down the rate at which you travel might give you more time to take it all in, and might prove more fulfilling. Or maybe you just need to stop travelling altogether for a while, and spend some time with family and friends back home in the UK, to recharge your batteries.
    Whatever you decide to do, I’m sure that you’ll find a solution that works for you both.
    Wishing you all the best,

  16. I feel for you both and hope and pray the path you choose will be good for both of you. Tiredness doesn’t help decision making. Lack of vitamin D adds to tiredness. Keeping up this blog, much as your readers would miss it, is also maybe an added unneeded pressure. Only you know, but be assured you are both loved and cared about.

  17. Oh dear sorry to hear your concerns. Personally I would be making an immediate bee line to morocco and start getting some sun and being back in places where it’s not so out of season. In terms of excitement if your stress levels can handle it drive into Russia, or head to Istanbul to get the excitement back that mainstream europe does not always deliver. X

  18. Sorry to hear you are going through this difficult time, but maybe not totally unexpected. You have probably been driven for so many years to achieve corporate goals for your employers, then your own goals to achieve independence and all the hard work you went through to achieve it. Now you have reached your goals there can be a sense of ‘what now?’ It’s easy to get stuck in a rut even if the rut in most people’s eyes is to be envied. we have had a motorhome for a year and are just planning a longer tour for the first time. It seems great, but I imagine it can be quite hard work. Harder than just living at home. In some ways maybe harder than going into an office and doing a job which you are comfortable with. Perhaps you need to find a lovely spot, like Croatia was for Jay last year, and just pause for a bit and relax. You are still quite young. You have enough time to find other challenges and to perhaps find a balance between them and travelling. Good luck with what ever you decide. Thanks for all your blogging. I recently recommended your blogs to a Facebook friend from Oregon who recently had an op and is quite housebound. She loves to follow our travels and I thought she would enjoy following yours too. You are an inspiration to many people the world over. Thank you. X

  19. Hi Both, My wife and I have travelled in a similar fashion to you and have had similar moments. For what it’s worth the winter travelling is not the most stimulating generally as site/aire/location activity is very low and it is always the encounters with others and events which spur us on to find more places. We also slowed down in the winter and centered on Andalucia with great sun, unspoiled countryside, super beach walks, some other British travellers and really friendly locals. We then went to the French Alps and had some adventures in the snow for a few weeks learning cross country skiing (now that keeps you fit). En route from Andalucia we went to Rhonda for the Three Kings Festival, the Festival of Young Wines at Beas de Granada and the Festival of the Pig at Val de Labuan. At all of these places we were welcomed by the locals and had the most memorable times – which make travelling completely worthwhile. I also do some online work for the Professional Institute of which I am a member to keep the brain alive! Our suggestion is to seek out local events, get off the beaten track into some smaller villages, stay put in each place for a few days, talk to the locals, use the winter snow to have fun (Pradolano in Spain is superb). The foregoing has worked for us and may for you too. Have you tried France Passion sites? All the best to you both, Steve and Helen.

  20. Hi guys
    We have been following your blog for a long time and truly admire your dedication in keeping up the blog and the continuous travel.
    Sounds like a rest is needed, a reframe, you have lots of choices after all. Maybe a change of continent or something entirely different. Whatever, when you do decide I am sure your energy and drive will ensure it is a success.

    Regards Stuart and Jane
    Ps if you need a room in Auckland we can offer one. Sunny down under after all.

  21. Hi to both of you… Oh that’s a shock, reading about Jay “hitting the wall” but fully understandable! You need time to think it over, you can talk to each other and you love each other, and all this is important and will work for you!
    A suggestion I have not read in all previous comments: travel to Morocco, enjoy the blue skies and the sun there while getting involved in a small village by doing some volunteer work for the community… Who knows!
    Anyway, who am I to make suggestions. Oh well, I am an enthusiastic follower!! Thanks for all your posts and honesty!
    All the best!!!

  22. Your blog hasn’t sounded quite right for a while but it was still a shock to hear your news. People who retire later get bombarded with how to cope with the loss of structure, status, (no problem for you two as you are more famous and influential than you can imagine), and meaning. There seems to be a thread which runs through the advice about volunteering being very fulfilling. I’ve noticed that lots of overlanders are associated with a charity, or teach english in schools as they go along or delivery materials to a place they have adopted – all good black dog medicine. Remember too that a good day for a lot of people trapped in their lives is when they switch on and there is a fresh blog from Jason and Julie.

  23. Wow – that’s a shocking revaluation that as fellow travellers we have just spend the last hour discussing. You two were our inspiration to travel in a Moho, but we’ve often remarked when reading your blog how much moving from place to place you do. We now know that in itself that element can be exhausting. Coupled with the fact that the ‘goal’ you’ve strived for has been reached, I suppose it’s deciding where the next sense of achievement comes from (along with other things). I hope the two of you find a path that suits you both. Maybe a longer stint back in the U.K. would make you appreciate your travels once again. I know this is still new & exciting for us as we only started travelling in January, but our recent 3 months back in the U.K. certainly gave us itchy feet again. I’m sure we too will get frazzled by it all at some point. Wishing you lots of luck & love keep smiling :)
    Love Andi & Paul (followourmotorhome)

  24. Oh guys, you are so honest about your feelings, thank you so much for letting us into your lives. Personally I found retirement a really hard grind for about a year after the novelty wore off. Every day same old, same old. Have now managed to get variety into my life and am loving it. Our trips in Luca Leika last at most six weeks quite deliberately. My husband could go walking every day, but I need more variety. Good luck with whatever direction you go in.

  25. I was fortunate too to retire early at 43 with enough to live on. First I passed 2/3 years in Tenerife leasing apartments. Hit the wall and sold up. Bought a 60 foot sailing boat, renovated it, spent 3 years sailing England to Med. Tired of the big seas and hit the wall. Sold yacht and bought VW camper. Travelled Spain to Holland. Found camper a bit small so bought a 22 metre Dutchbarge. After cruising French canals for two years sold the barge in Aigues-Mortes, delivered it to Calais and bought 39 metre hotel barge. Cut it down to 30 metres and returned to Aigues-Mortes for 5 years doing bed and breakfast on board. Hit the wall, sold boat. Moved to Venezuela, bought property. Now return to Europe every year to small Ford Montana MH for 3/6 months, spend rest in Caribbean.

    To sum up, I find I hit the wall every three/five years. So the solution: change direction like the wind as soon as you feel the breeze on your cheeks. Don’t be afraid of change and look to new projects and different challenges. What ever pleases you.


    • Hey, thanks very much for taking the time to write about your experiences John. Sounds like you’re living one extraordinary life, and makes me realise there’s plenty more opportunities to pursue. Just need to work out what next! Cheers, Jay

  26. Hi we are older and have been traveling for fifteen years. Jim retired at 59 I was 51 we are slowing down now, but we decided years ago just because we have the MH and the house does not mean we have to live there all the time. Take this year for example we spent the first three months of the year in South Africa we used to work there, then sailed back from Cape Town with MSC picked up the MH. Visited daughter no2 in Wales, spent the summer in our house in Scotland. Left for Wales then France in Sep. We then went on to the north of Spain left the MH and walked the Camino de Santiago Primotivo route, then picted up MH drove down to Altea. Spent six weeks walking all over that area. Dropted the MH in the south west of France fly back to SA. Next year we are walking both sides of the channel sailing to the Carabean in Nov. We use Aires but also stay at caravan parks usually for a month at a time,it is cheaper that way. We don’t like to rush take time to stop and stare. In between iin the past six years both daughters got married and have produced four grandchildren and a fifth on the way. No we are not rich though noit poor we do this on a budget of 15000 a year.
    Do what you want but on your terms good luck this is not a rehearsal

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