Farewell 2017, you were a great year!

As I sit and type this I can’t believe it was only 12 months ago that we were parked next to our friends Phil and Jules at the aire in La Linea marina, overlooking Gibraltar. Little did we know that at the stroke of midnight 2017 would be ushered in with two hours of fireworks – to our delight and much to Charlie’s annoyance.Gibraltar New Year Fireworks2017 has flown by for me. We spent the first seven months on the road, returning to Morocco at the start of the year to run the Marrakesh half marathon. Our three month tour there was quite different from our previous trip in 2012, no doubt because we’ve changed a bit, now having quite a few more motorhome miles (and countries) under our belts. After visiting Morocco and Tunisia in the past the culture shock didn’t hit us as hard, and being more relaxed meant we were able to push ourselves to do things we would never have dreamed of last time. We managed to squeeze in my first 10k in Fes ahead of braving it in the guarded parking bang in the middle of this fascinating city.

Once the running was out of the way, we were able spend time relaxing on the Atlantic coast before heading inland to explore more of the country. We found that it wasn’t just us who had changed since our last visit, new motorways and former piste roads now tarmacked betrayed the age of our Michelin map. Morocco’s highways took us along amazing gorges, over snowy mountains, into the beauty of the Anti-Atlas and right to the edge of the desert dunes.

Another great change was the number of British motorhomers also touring Morocco; previously we saw hardly any. We would always pop over to say hello, but we also had several couples come up to us to thank us for publishing our Motorhome Morocco guidebook, it was wonderful to see it being used and to get such lovely feedback.

When we got back to Europe we decided we needed to stay still for a while. We arranged a house-sit in the hills north of Malaga looking after three friendly dogs in a large villa. The home owner kept moving her return date, so we ended up being there for nearly six weeks. This gave us time to thoroughly de-sand Zagan and completely rewrite our Motorhome Morocco guidebook while it was all fresh in our minds. Based on the feedback we had received from those using the guidebook, we also published it as a paperback which gave us a real sense of achievement when it arrived in the post.

When our house sit ended, we found ourselves on Spain’s southern coast in late May, in a heatwave. Our plan to go north through the middle of the country was soon discounted as temperatures reached the 40’s in some of the cities we wanted to visit. Our Plan B saw us in the mountains for a couple of weeks, culminating in a few nights free camping in the Sierra Navada to miss the worst of the heat.

When we ran out of mountains the temperatures were still too hot for us, so we hugged the coast. Driving in the day with the cab air-conditioning on and stopping on ACSI discounted campsites so we could sleep with the windows open and sit under the awning for shade in the day. Charlie spent most of June wrapped in a wet towel to keep cool.

Camping Oasis Mar Mont Riog

To avoid the huge firework fiesta that is St John’s day in Spain, we nipped into Andorra and enjoyed a couple of days of cool air free camping in the ski resort of Ordino Arcalis.

Ordino Andorra
Ordino Andorra

Reaching France, after nipping along the south to the Camargue nature reserve, it was time to tick off a bucket list item – see a mountain stage of the Tour de France. We studied the route and squeezed ourselves onto the top of the Grand Colombier for four nights. It was fantastic to see all the build up, barriers put in place, road signage, stages built, etc, all for a few minutes as the riders flew by.

At the end of July we returned home with a plan of summer in the UK, enjoying the beer gardens of our local pubs – but sadly we’d already missed the British summer, it had been in June! When we set ourselves up to be financially free, it gave us back control of our lives. This control means we have choices – we can choose when to travel, when to stay put and yes, even when to work. At the start of August Jay started a three month contract, which ended four months later at the end of November.

During those four months Jay got back that Friday feeling, as well as the Monday morning blues. We knew what day it was, and had to wear socks way more than our feet would have liked. We joined the local running club and our tans faded, soon you would never know the adventures we’d had by looking at us, but still the first question people would ask us would be, ‘when are you off again?’  This prompted many a discussion, mainly over a beer in the local, as to what we were going to do next (and a game or two so it didn’t get too serious).

Pub games Kerplunk

When Jay’s contract got extended to the end of November, we had agreed to stay at home until after Christmas and New Year. Then we’d head off somewhere in January – maybe some more time in the snow in the Alps, or perhaps head for some sunshine in Croatia or Portugal. Zagan has been fettled with new tyres and front suspension springs and he’s MOTed and ready for us to throw our stuff in him and head off, but the desire to get back on the road isn’t as strong as we thought it would be.

More pints (our thinking / honesty juice) and we admitted to each other that we didn’t fancy any of the places we had talked about visiting. At the moment, the only place tempting us is Norway. We were ready to leave after our 11 week tour in 2016 (partly because our food and booze stash was depleted), but looking at our photos it is such a beautiful country, and so big there is still plenty more to see.

The decision we’ve reached is to stay put in the Cooler for a while longer, as we’re enjoying being in one place and part of the local community. We’ve both become members of the local leisure centre and are making the most of the gym being quiet in the day while folks are at work, and I’m signing up for Spanish classes which start in a couple of weeks.

Jay is working on a new writing project and we have a few other ideas buzzing around. Don’t worry, Zagan won’t be neglected, he’ll be taking us on trips around the UK and to visit friends, but right now neither of us fancy another long adventure. By May, when Norway thaws out, we might have itchy feet again, but right now we making the most of our choice to stay put when we want.

Even Charlie is travelled and partied out!

In a few days I’ll be totting-up our annual spending for 2017, and it will be interesting to see if living in the UK can be as cheap as touring abroad. We have our ‘budget’ (which we use as a benchmark rather than something to stick to) of £15k a year, and I think we may be a tad over that figure after being home for five months of the year. However, as we see our lives as one big financial experiment (we have no idea if we have ‘retired’ too early), it won’t hurt to find out now if we’ll need to top up the money pot if we plan to stay longer in the UK!

Ju x

15 Comments

  1. We understand your ‘home’ feeling! Getting some rest and homely social contact is important too. It’s all about the right balance, I think. Have a nice New Yera’s Eve party and a very happy 2018!
    Might see you on the road in Norway! Yesssss, we are free from work now too! And want to visit Scandinavia from spring till autumn next year…

  2. I look forward to seeing how your next steps play out. It’s been fascinating watching the travel/stability/work dynamic in action and it’s something I could also foresee happening with us. As we FIRE in 2018 my better half has the travel bug but I’m more looking for a decompression phase focused on setting up a home combined with some serious exercise. I suspect we’ll end up with a bit of both. Get Med residency sorted out to protect us from Brexit nonsense and then travel for a bit while ensuring we stay residents.

    Thanks for all your posts in 2017 and a Happy New Year to both of you plus the little fella.

  3. Happy New Year!
    It is interesting reading that you no longer have itchy feet at the moment – we still do have itchy feet because we have not yet traveled for more than three weeks in our motorhome since we first bought one in 2011.
    I have often wondered at what point the novelty wears off although, as you have said you two still retain your freedom to set off when and where the fancy takes you.
    Will keep an eye out for your blogs to see what happens.
    Happy travelling.
    A

  4. Its great to hear your honesty about how your feeling, to travel or not to travel and to have the choice you have means you have that luxury.
    Get some UK places under your belt for the short term and once the novelty has worn off I’m sure you will be off with gusto.
    Happy 2018, keep us posted on blogs, always great to read.

  5. Happy New Year to you all. You have been an inspiration to us this last year & we are in the process of selling up to buy a van & covert it ourselves as we have a limited budget. We had three good friends diagnosed with cancer & others with depression in 2017 which has spurred us into deciding to ‘do it now’ rather than wait for the ‘right’ time which may never come or may be too late. We are going to do it differently as we are members of a church with Branches throughout the world so we will locate close to a Branch for three months at a time to get to know the area & the people and do some charity work before moving on. We will have the van, two motorcycle cruisers on a trailer & our two Border Terriers who ride with us on our motorbikes in doggy carriers with ‘doggles’ to protect their eyes. We can’t wait to start sometime late 2018. Meanwhile we are renting a Gite in Brittany as it is so much cheaper to live there we can save money for our van & convert it on site. We are looking forward to reading your blogs in 2018. If you see a couple of mad hatters with 2 dogs & 2 motorbikes on your travels – please say hi!

  6. It’s not a job.

    The light at the end of our tunnel is getting quite close now. I “cashed-in” my final salary pensions because there’s no way I can take another year at work, never mind the 8 years required to get the full pension. (Those companies with employees still entitled to such pensions are currently offering some VERY generous buy-out deals…I took one). With a prevailing wind (redundancy/house sale) we may get ourselves to Norway this summer. If the timing doesn’t work out for Norway then mainland Europe is plenty big enough. I just can’t cope with a British winter (by winter I mean dark, mostly wet, and horrid from October through to April).

    I have feelers out for a property in France. One thing is for sure, once Brexit finally happens the paperwork for buying and living in France will not get easier, so we want to get a foothold there, maybe more than just that….campsite for motorhomes ??? just a thought.

    Anyway, back to my initial point. Remember that motorhoming isn’t supposed to be a job. If you don’t fancy doing it for a while…don’t. I remember you getting a bit bogged down on your big trip, doing short stops and endlessly moving, like you were trying to see it all, an impossible task. Taking a few months out to drink “Honesty Juice” at your local and get in shape sounds ideal at this time of year.

    Got to dash..new year in the Cotswolds for 3 night. Nothing planned apart from avoiding the “forced fun” of New years Eve.

    Have fun. Maybe catch you in Norway next year (or Moreton-in-Marsh tonight).

    See if we managed to avoid it at http://www.gohumberto.com
    Lee @ Go Humberto!!

  7. I would just like to thank you for blogs. Very often I refer to your advice. thank you again. I hope you have a Happy New year. I also cant wait for your next adventure 2018

  8. Just come across your blog when searching for plans of our Norway trip in the summer and you have helped tremulously. I think we will be following your website from here on in and buying your Moroco guide as that is on our list too. Thank you so much for investing so much time to it. Happy New Year and happy travelling.

  9. Hi J and J. I`ve been following your blog for a few years and been inspired by it. I bought a B544 nearly three years ago and enjoyed trips around UK and France. Im turning 60 this year and planned a three month trip around Europe. However as it approaches, the other half is getting collywobbles about being away from home for so long. It also made me think about how much I like to get home from a two week holiday and settle back into that familiar work routine (comfort zone) and question how I will cope with long term travel.
    A few years ago I read a post of yours that talked about the “wall” you hit after being away for two weeks and how your sub-concious expects you to get back into that routine. The trouble is I can`t find the post now ! Can you direct me to it please ?
    Keep up the good work
    Chris

    • Hi Christopher.

      I think you might be referencing our ‘in work 2 week limit’, where we had to be back at work so couldn’t get too far. The travel wall we (I) hit took many months. I found the biggest hump is getting out of the country. Once everything is set, and we’re on the continent, everything else seems to drift away and the freedom sensation sets in. Long term travel isn’t IMHO like being on holiday, it gives you a chance to be a new version of you, to truly relax and soak up all around you. Definitely worth trying at least…? Cheers, Jay

  10. Hi J&J, I’ve followed you since the beginning and you were one of the main reasons we pushed off into the sunset in 2014. Three years later (4 thrillers written) and goodness knows how many countries later we’ve gone firm in Bristol until the summer – part time teaching again at a school. Like you its fascinating the balance between travel and staying still in a house and a community. It will be interesting to know how we feel this summer: whether to push off in Doris or stay still for another year? We, like you, are lucky enough to have a base and some certainty of employment.

    I guess my advice for others reading this is be careful that you don’t stick all your eggs in a basket. We have both shown that the excitement and freedom of travel is fabulous, but it’s not necessarily enduring. We will go away again – possibly for months. But we will always have the luxury of coming back to a ‘home’. I think it falls to us to be honest about the reward of travelling, and it’s few drawbacks.

    Keep up the good work. You are the light around which us butterflies flutter.

    • Thanks Roland, good information. I guess I would add there is a trade-off between having a base in the UK and the increased cost in terms of money (which translates to more years working), mental overhead and beaurocracy. That said, we’re glad we have the option to be at home, same as you guys. Cheers, take it easy, Jay

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