We’re Home, Kimberley, Nottingham, UK

Zagan the motorhome’s been placed in stasis, a bit like Han Solo in Star Wars (so he likes to think). He’s been frozen in hibernation, and is stood in his secure storage location on a farm a mile from our house in Kimberley, Nottinghamshire. When we finally got up there yesterday, we found we’d been away for so long someone else has used our space! Matthew (who runs the place) quickly found us another spot, which is much easier to get the van into, so we’re happy. Zagan’s cupboards have been emptied, his tanks drained, and he’s now getting some well-earned rest. Much fettling is needed before whatever we do next – new front tyres, new exhaust, servicing for the fridge and heater, possibly stiffer front suspension springs, a damned good wash and umpteen other smaller things.

So, that’s it folks. Another long-old wander done, and we’re all in one piece, woo hoo! We set off on a rainy November day last year and arrived back on a rainy July day, having travelled through France, Spain, Portugal, Gibraltar, Andorra and Morocco. Thinking about it, as our travel insurance only allowed us back in the UK for a short while, which we used to get an MOT, we’ve been on the road pretty much since January 2016, visiting over 20 countries from the Arctic Circle to the Sahara Desert. We’re a bit knackered, travelling about sometimes doesn’t feel like the holiday it is, and are ready to call a halt for a while and regroup.

Our mates, and in many ways inspiration for life Jules and Phil, met up with us last year, and our paths converged for a few months of the tour in Europe and North Africa. Coming to the end of these trips is always a little emotional, and we were both really pleased when they said they’d booked the same ferry as us home. Brothers in arms, if you like. We last saw them in Gibraltar after a roller-coaster trip in Morocco, before they headed to the Alps for some skiing then making their way south into Italy and Croatia, then back north through Switzerland and Germany. On the way they used meetings with friends and running events as a way to get closer to local life, and to add focus to their journey. In Morocco we all ran the Marrakech half marathon, in Croatia they ran the Plitvički Lakes half marathon, and in Switzerland Phil (who has the character/nadgers to ski off the Aiguille du Midi), did the Zermatt half marathon, which basically involves running/walking/crawling 21km up the side of a mountain, I kid you not.

So, on our last night of the tour we nipped around the free motorways across northern France to a municipal aire next to a small walled town called Bergues (50.9652382, E2.4361002). Looking at the place now on Google it looks a historic and pretty town, but that was a little lost on me.

motorhome aire Bergues Francce
The Hymers are reunited

Pulling up alongside their van we jumped out, hugged, and started talking and supping beer. That was about 3pm in the afternoon, and we were still at it 7 hours later, having made it into the town for food and some jug-sized head-hammering delicious Belgian Trappist beers. The two of ’em had recently turned up at a Belgian town to enter a run (Phil and Jules, not our beers), and found themselves to be the only foreigners in a small village event, and in turn the guests of honour. They were instructed to park up on the vicar’s driveway, were given a special prize of assorted weird foods (jar of de-shelled snails anyone?) and pretty much fed and watered for two days. Fantastic.

The next morning the alarm went off, a shock in itself, and once Ju had had a whiff of my beery breath it became obvious she was driving to the ferry. Under rain-laden skies and on a lorry-fat motorway we cruised the 50 minutes to Calais. Anyone using the port these days will know the sight which greets you there: miles of high security fencing and razor wire, like you’re entering a maximum security prison. Just before the fences started we saw a handful of dejected-looking migrants, sat around waiting for something. A sad sight, these guys have probably crossed the Sahara with next to no means to get this far, and for what?

The Calais migrant camp used to be around here but it's been cleared out and the majority of the people in it spread across France
The Calais migrant camp used to be around here but it’s been cleared out and the majority of the people in it spread across France

On board the ferry we caught up with Phil and Jules again, and just before we left the port I headed on deck. Looking off to the west I was rocked a tiny bit by the sight of the beach. Almost four years ago we stayed on the aire which used to be next to that beach (it’s gone now) on our last night of a two year life-changing adventure. I’d walked the cold, windswept beach and watched the ferries come and go, one of which was about to rejoin me to ‘normal’ life. Since I’d left that old life under a cloud of depression, the thought of being forced back into it was less than appealing, and a battle raged within me. This time, I smiled a little. That feeling’s no longer there. This time we were both keen to come home. Our options are open, which is a massively liberating sensation.

Ju had been worried about the weather and impending sea-sickness. We’d used the chunnel on the way out to avoid the problem, which was a fun experience, but the ferry was so much cheaper so we took a chance on the way back. Although the surface looked rough, the boat was steady and cruised the sleeve (the French call the English Channel La Manche – the sleeve) smoothly. Sat looking back at a retreating sliver of France, the grey-white cliffs of Dover came at us in a rush as we spun around in the dock, and my heart beat went up a little as I tried to persuade myself I could remember to drive on the left. Another farewell hug with friends at the top of the car deck stairs and once again we were alone.

Phil and Jules: thank you. Thanks for sharing your time with us, and for graciously putting up with me being, on occasion, a miserable git. Thanks for giving us the push to do the runs in Morocco, we’re so pleased we did ’em. Thanks for continuing to gift us ideas and thoughts for the future. Thanks for being delightful, adventure-seeking nutters.

Out of Dover, onto the M20, and into traffic. Traffic, if you spend any time in Blighty, is a fact of life. Traffic, once you’re out roaming around Europe, is an oddity. This is the fifth longish tour we’ve done, so I’m used to the immediate weight of vehicles on the roads now, and the pressing rush to be somewhere. On previous occasions I’ve been appalled at just how full Britain’s roads are, at the sudden signs blaring away about parking charges in motorway services, height barriers and the manic-desperate manoeuvres cars would pull off to gain a few seconds here and there. Our 4 hour journey home took closer to 7 as we detoured around, or sat in various lengthy delays all the way along the route north, and I was relieved to make this final section of travel home in one piece.

Getting home Charlie went a bit mad. He’s always a little barky when we arrive somewhere new, keen to get out and sniff around do a bit of ‘marking’, but back in the Cooler he embarked on a barkathon, yapping away in excitement as we emptied, emptied, emptied Zagan, bags and bags of clothes, food, beer and wine, books, half of our lives. The Cooler is deliberately a small space, designed to be just enough for us. It works perfectly when everything’s packed away, but as it all piled up in here we felt crammed in, unable to move. Thankfully my mum and dad had offered a lift back from the storage place, so after we’d hugged ‘hello’ back to them, and re-introduced an even more barky dog, we were dropped off and able to empty some of the bags (we being Ju, I sat and stared at the roof, knackered).

A bag of fish and chips from the chippy a few doors down for tea. We’d drooled over the idea in France, and the deep-fried Englishness didn’t last long out of the paper! After that we collapsed. The end of a tour. It’s finished. We’re back, safe, secure, in our own space. The highlight for me, by the way, was Morocco. I enjoyed the way it stretched me. It made me, again, peer inside of me to work out a bit more of who I am, and what I really think about the world and the people in it. I enjoyed both the Fes and Marrakech half marathons (once I’d finished ’em – I put in way too little training to enjoy the actual slogs themselves), but the day which really stands out for me was the one where we drove through the Ait Mansour oasis gorge and onwards, all the way across dirt roads and river beds to Icht on the very northern edge of the Sahara. What a bloody amazing, beautiful and stupid (for a 2 wheel drive vehicle) drive that was, I’ll never forget it.

Driving the Ait Mansour Gorge in Morocco
Driving the Ait Mansour Gorge in Morocco
The 'road' went a bit rubbish later in the day - the worse track we've ever been on, doh!
The ‘road’ went a bit rubbish later in the day – the worse track we’ve ever been on, doh!

Last night Charlie snored louder than ever, happy to be back in reasonable temperatures and his home bed. We both zonked out from sheer exhaustion. This morning Ju’s completed the put-away and the Cooler again feels great. My dad’s been up here from time to time, keeping an eye on it, but I’m still surprised to find everything works! The tenant’s taken good care of the rest of the house, and our little shop (which we rent out separately, we don’t run ourselves) is in the process of having a very professional-looking fit out to make it a phone sales and repair shop.

Part of our self-imported beer and wine stash
Part of our self-imported beer and wine stash

What next? Well, I’m in the final stages of getting geared up for a three month contract, doing some technical writing for an old manager of mine, a guy who is also a friend and I’ve a lot of respect for. We don’t really need the money, but I need the focus of work for a while, and the money will no doubt find a home. Various ideas are bouncing around as to what we do in the coming year, but nothing has firmed itself up yet. Having a purpose is important in life, and we’re turning attention to finding that purpose again. What’s important to us? Not quite sure yet, we need a bit of reflection I think.

Right-o, that’s it I guess. We’ve friends and family to catch up with, paperwork to sort out, washing to do and more British food to eat! We’ll do some more blog posts while we’re still for the next few months, summarising costs, how our equipment performed, highlights of the countries we visited and the like, so keep an eye out for ’em if you’re interested, or subscribe to the email updates and we’ll send you a Sunday email reminder when we’ve written a post. In the meantime, if you’re after a motorhome travel blog fix, we can recommend our friend’s blogs: ourbumble.com and charliethechucklebuss.com, or there are a ton more on our Fellow Traveller’s page.

Thanks for following. Thanks for all the support. Thanks to all the folks we met on the road who’d read some of this here rambling life-blog. Thanks for all the comments and help we’ve received as we’ve rumbled along. Generally, thanks, ta, cheers, merci, gracias, shukran, and happy travels!

Cheers, Jay

29 Comments

  1. Welcome back to Blighty! I will miss your regular blog posts, but glad you are going to keep the blog alive. It has been great to follow your adventures. Enjoy your time with family and friends back in the UK :)

  2. Glad you’re home safe and well, I’ve read your blog for years, it’s inspired us to buy our own van, although we’re not in a position to go for months just yet, it is our goal.
    Thanks for lightening many a dull evening with your blog. Julie and Richard

  3. Only came across your blog a few months ago, just to say how much we have enjoyed following your travels. How do you find time to write so much? Shall look forward to seeing where you go next. We also motorhome in Europe but for maximum of 8 weeks at a time not the marathon sessions you do.

  4. Thanks for a great Blog, the locations travelled too and detailed info is so informative.
    We are heading back to Europe in the Autumn year three in our adventure.
    Look forward to next years update

  5. Thanks for the latest episode of you great motorhoming blog. We’re 5 months into our own adventure, in no little part due to you and loving it.

    As I’ve mentioned before, if you’ve enjoyed Morocco you may also love India, but not in Zagan! I think we may well head there for a month after this trip.

    Thanks for your inspiration and great writing.

    Tim

  6. In a very selfish way, I feel a bit sad that your adventures have stopped but I understand that, after a while, travelling could feel like normal life so you need to stop for a while in order to start afresh. I’m sure you will have a nice time with friends and family, do very different things and hopefully you will find your way back on tour with Zagan and Charlie to seek pastures new. You’ve been an inspiration for me and I wish you the best for the future.

  7. Brilliant blog, thank you for inspiration and all the valuable information. We’ll miss reading about your adventures.
    Stay lucky, very best wishes.
    Paul and Kerrie

  8. Welcome home . To help me through the depressing day at work I look forward to the evening when I catch up with your adventures what wil, I do now :( your adventures spur me on with my plan to give it all up next year and explore . Enjoy your time wth family, friends and good old real ale
    Regards,
    Jeff

  9. Going to miss this blog, would still like to know what and how you are doing, we have our own tour planned and you and Julie first and foremost , we found your blog first, are our inspiration and then others, our bumble, world is our lobster and Charlie the chucklebus plus life in a slow lane , we’d planned to be off last January but for many reasons it looks like next January now, good luck and enjoy the holiday! I guess in some ways that’s what it is!
    Cathy and Dave

  10. Great read as always and will miss the daily updates.
    Thanks for the recommendation guys and enjoy time with the family. Will catch you on our way back home!

  11. Welcome home and back to reality of life in England though I find it all very depressing and yearn to be back in the road again. Be good to meet you sometime and Jules and Phil too. Loved your blog. Feel free to add ours as follows wwe.offexploring.com/marylou and for 2015 2016 2017 add each year after Marylou. Take care guys xxx

  12. Always enjoy reading your blogs, and yes you were the inspiration to buying our own Hymer two years ago and have never regretted it. Thanks for all your comments and advice,enjoy the UK and look forward your next adventures😆😆😆

  13. And we were at Bergues Monday and Tuesday – think we missed you by a day. Booked our return on a hopefully quieter Sunday, as we loathe the M25 and solid traffic too. Don’t envy you the grey skies going into winter, but you will have the autumn leaves and England has the best forests and woodlands.

  14. Thanks for the fabulous blog. Good luck settling back and exploring new ideas. Your blog inspired us. We bought a Hymer B544 in 2016 and have enjoyed a few wonderful trips. There’s nothing quite like this! Looking forward to your future posts.

  15. Thanks again for sharing your adventures, it’s inspiring. We’re preparing for our own first long trip, starting in October. Having unexpectedly FIRE’d a year early after a mental breakdown at work, the butterflies are both large and fidgety. But by sharing your thoughts and experiences, I feel better equipped for living in a tin box for several months (not much different to my months at sea in a warship!) – so thank you and enjoy your time at home.
    Paul

    • Cheers Paul. Thankfully you can get off your motorhome and go walk/run/cycle/bus around the forest/beach/town/city/mountains/desert/fields! Bring on October, it is a real hump to get through those weeks I know, but once you’re rolling the weight disappears. Jay

  16. Welcome home! Sure you are going to enjoy it all, esp. Family and friends! Crossing our fingers for your stay in Blighty, your contract, etc. All the best.
    Will continue reading your future posts with interest! And rereading lots of the previous ones just because they are great and an inspiration! Little secret: Peter will stop working end of this year, so …. the dream will come true next year …

  17. Enjoy your time back at home. We’ve enjoyed following along with your blog and you are an inspiration to many many people including us. So, thank you again for sharing your stories and insights :)

  18. Thanks for the months of Blogging. It’s flown. Humberto the B544 is entirely your fault (and I’m so glad we bought one. I owe you a few beers just for helping us choose the perfect vehicle).
    We just completed our 78th and 79th night away in our first year, which I’m pleased with as we both work.
    What I’ve noticed is:
    1) Time behaves differently in a Motorhome. Weekends seem longer, presumably because you fill them with places, people, adventures..etc, rather than pottering about at home.
    2) I prefer to spend at least 3 days somewhere, preferably more, rather than dipping my toes into a place and moving on. I was sad to leave Beaulieu sur Dordogne.

    I’m a photographer by hobby and I like to get under the skin of a place. I realise this will limit the number of places we can visit but I’m happiest exploring, and photographing, the small alleys and streets of a place. Humberto has proved the most fantastic base for my photography and hopefully I can share photos of our travels over the years…. now where’s my damn redundancy package????

    Lee at http://www.gohumberto.com

  19. Hello again Julie, Jason and Charlie. We are now coming to the end of our latest European jaunt going to Scandinavia – Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland – with Nordkapp under our belts. 68 nights gone and only 10 more to go.
    We just wanted to say thanks for all of the time and effort that you have put into your blog and travels. Without it we wouldn’t have contemplated the trip. By writing about where you had been and how to do some things (like not being worried about Norwegian ferries – and being slightly economical with our exact dimensions…) we have had an amazing trip.
    So have a good time back at home and we look forward to your ongoing adventures.
    Nigel, Linda and Bunty the Westie – and of course Dolly the Autotrail.

  20. Welcome back Julie and Jason – your blog has been a great help to us on our year of travelling which is almost coming to an end. We have a weekly blog at http://www.campervanmatters.com and it’s hard to believe we have only 9 weeks to go before going back to work. Like you, Morocco will be a standout memory for us. All the best back home and we look forward to following your adventures in the future when wanderlust hits you both again. Many thanks again for your informative blogs, Helen and Stuart of http://www.campervanmatters.com

  21. Hi, welcome back to a cool and rainy UK…. We have been back from our 3 month tour of Scandinavia for a couple of weeks…. The washing is almost done and we are getting through all the things that we should have done! Dentist, hospital appointments, MOTs and servicing, new tyres, catching up with friends and family… the list is endless…

    Thank you for all the blogs and information, your research helped us so much and saved us so much time, we have followed you to Morocco and Croatia too; however, I have a suggestion:
    Even in a year so much changes, two examples are the Copenhagen Brewery, where the parking was really expensive and the brewery was being partially knocked down, and in Stockholm the parking that you used had all but disappeared under road works…. So, is there a way of adding updates to your blogs, other than in the comments like this, to indicate to readers that things have changed… this is why we love campingcar-infos, the comments are so useful…

    I hope you are enjoying being back, but also hope you are planning future adventures, we can recommend New Zealand, Australia, the USA and Cuba (well with some reservations), in a motorhome… although renting is expensive….

    Anyway, thanks once again and maybe we will catch up with you somewhere in the future…

    Best Wishes
    Carol & John

    • Thanks Carol. Yep – there’s only really the comments section on this blog which can be used for adding updates. My feeling is any effort reviewing locations might be best directed at the dedicated databases of stopovers – campingcar-infos.com, park4night.com, searchforsites.co.uk, campercontact.com etc. Thanks for the suggestions – we’re enjoying being home for a while and mulling over ideas for the future. Cheers, happy travels, Jay

  22. Can I ask which forum you used to ask others for advice? We are in our motorhome up a mountain some distance from help and our 12volt has stopped working completely ie no fridge\pump\etc. Its not the battery or fuses. I know a forum helped you with your crash switch and they may be able to advise us. Thanks Hilary

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