We are often asked why we use a motorhome especially as we have a car that is ideal for extended touring. Surely, the questioning goes, wouldn't it be better to use hotels? After all a motorhome is expensive to buy and run, so the money would buy a lot of hotel nights.
For many years we did exactly that. We travelled around France and the UK and checked in to hotels as and when we found somewhere we wanted to spend some time. It worked well, when we were limited to a two or three week break from work. Even so there were frustrations. We would see fabulous produce on the markets or in the shops but could do nothing with it. We enjoy food and cooking but were reliant on other people cooking their choices for us in hotels or restaurants.
We also considered buying a property in France but the more we thought about it the more limiting it seemed. We enjoy France; Spain and Italy as well, for their regional variety. We would miss that if we were based in one place but we might gain from being able to become part of a community, perhaps, but many people tell us is not as easy as it seems. So to experience the richness of Europe's cultures and particularly the regional variation in it its food we would be back to travelling and staying in hotels, albeit journeying from a different starting point.
Over the last few years we have been increasing the amount of time we have available to travel and that creates a new challenge. Eating out several nights a week and often at lunchtime as well may be affordable for two or three weeks a year, a holiday. When it is possible to travel for several months of the year it gets expensive, and unwise for the waistline.
As our travelling started to increase we came to the conclusion we needed the independence that a motorhome provides. We went for a completely self-contained motorhome with full cooking facilities, oven, grill and hob so that we could prepare whatever meals we wanted based on what caught our eye in the market. That addressed that original frustration and allows us to adopt a different approach to travel which extends the amount of time we can spend travelling. We no longer treat it as the intensive break from work, a holiday. Instead it has become part of our lifestyle; for as long as we choose, we just live somewhere else for a few days, a month or more. We eat out once, perhaps twice, a week as we would when at home but have a choice of new foods that we can prepare for ourselves, as the mood and availability takes us.
Our first campervan trip (before we bought our current, more roomy and sophisticated, motorhome) was over the very wet weekend of Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee in June 2012. Despite the weather and a tiny campervan we were hooked. Much of the time we did what we would have done during a wet weekend in a hotel. Apart from visits to museums, galleries and the like, we sat in our room and read, the only difference, and benefit, was that we were able to move and change the view from our "hotel" window whenever we wished. We accepted life as it was, not as we might have wished it to have been - our first steps towards mindful travel, slow travel.
Being self-sufficient makes slow travel possible, even desirable, and allows us to properly experience the journey as much, or more than, the destination. Indeed diversions or getting lost have enabled us to find and enjoy places we would probably never have seen otherwise. But of course using a motorhome does not prevent us staying in a hotel if we want a break from its confines. That said we have not feltthat need yet, although we have occasionally stayed with friends both here in the UK and with those who have brought properties abroad. It is both a social opportunity and a useful way of getting clothes washed rather than using a launderette!
A motorhome is not actually a low cost option when the capital cost is considered; it would pay for several hundred stays in hotels or bed and breakfast. Saving money therefore was not the consideration but the flexibility and the lifestyle it provides was. We now take our time and try to limit our travel to no more than two hours a day on average. Often we will stay in one place for several nights to explore the area usually by bicycle or public transport (often more convenient and less expensive on the European mainland than in the UK). Slow travel is about getting closer to the experience of a place and the journey rather than speeding through the journey and missing everything in between home and a destination.
There is a lot to discover if one is so minded and a motorhome allows us to stay in places off the beaten track.