Choosing A Motorhome - A Vehicle You Can Sleep In vs. A Home That Moves?

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Sunday 23 October 2016

Choosing A Motorhome - A Vehicle You Can Sleep In vs. A Home That Moves?

A while back, during our post-Egypt stay in Italy, I reflected on how our motorhome-less summer adventures had reminded us why a motorhome was the perfect travel option for us....and since then we've been keeping our eye out for the next motorhome in our lives. The problem is that for several weeks now we've been getting ourselves all confused about what it is we're actually looking for. So the purpose of this post is to get our thoughts straight and outline the choice we see ahead of us.....indeed the choice in the title of this post. And we thought picking our second motorhome would be easier than our first!

Way back around Easter when we sold Homer we wrote that it was a van conversion we saw in our future. After Homer we reasoned that a van conversion would be both more mobile and more discrete, allowing us to visit and camp in the wild places we'd maybe not been able to access before. Homer was great and not a large coach built by many standards, but she had a bulky shape and a not too great power-to-weight ratio so some steep, twisty and precipitous roads were either incredibly stressful or right out of the question.

We tried some with me driving, but Esther didn't feel comfortable driving on them and I didn't especially enjoy it either. For us this was a big hindrance as, for reasons I'll come back to later, its important to us we both feel comfortable driving our vehicle. We don't want to be a couple where one person does all of the driving.

So, based almost entirely on thinking of the sorts of places we love to spend our time in summer we reasoned a van conversion was the obvious choice.......but then we started thinking about the downsides.

For example, van conversions do have much less living space than a coach built or A class motorhome, often tiny food prep' areas, limited storage and in bad weather can be very cramped. Frankly, the image of coming back to a tiny space covered in wet hiking gear then trying to use a juicer as we squeeze around each other didn't seem too attractive either. Especially as this summer has also reminded us how vital a focus on food, nutrition (especially juicing) and self care is to us for long term health and vitality...actually more important than a few nights sleeping in remote valleys or in mountain summit car parks.

All of which sent us a full 180 degrees and had us looking at much bigger, typically A class, motorhomes with big fixed beds, spacious seating areas, expansive food preparation areas, larger fridge and freezer options and garages you can put almost all of our possessions in! This, we thought, was a more sensible option for us longer term. We could more easily meet our self care needs and provided I did most of the driving and we stayed on large enough roads it would be fine....except that reminded us what we'd been looking for in a van conversion.

But then, of course, you still can live in a van conversion full time and you can take huge A classes to remote places. We know because we've seen it done plenty of times by plenty of people. Its just neither sounds especially optimum to us.

We got very confused. Plus, added to this decision was the fact we have already committed to a 4 month winter apartment rental in Spain, during which time we'd really like a vehicle we can use day to day. So much so we have even considered parking the motorhome question (pardon the pun) until spring and get a car in the meantime. Except, again this wasn't obvious as we'd quite liked the idea of having a motorhome in Spain to take the odd weekend away, maybe even independently. One thing we've increasingly recognised is the importance to us of planning independent time into our routine since our lifestyle doesn't offer many chances spontaneously. But to do this by using a motorhome as a moving spare room again requires a motorhome we are both happy driving.

All of which has left us alternating between cars, van conversions and A class motorhomes over the past few weeks. What is it, we began to wonder, that was really holding us back in making a decision?

At first we came up with at least 3 factors:

1) We don't know long for? Another topic I wrote about in Italy was the insight we'd had this summer about the importance of commitment and identifying sacrifices up front when making life choices and also to know how long we'd commit to those sacrifices for. We were being much too vague about how long we were trying to plan for. One year? 5 years? Until we die? By not putting a time limit on it we were trying to have our cake and eat it, looking for perfect mobility with all the creature comforts as well.

2) Similarly, we have to admit we like apartments as well as motorhomes! Another reason we were so attached to creature comforts was we've now been in apartment for 6 weeks after spending much of summer in a tent. Yet the truth is, we realised, that no matter how huge an A class we get it won't be an apartment. Essentially, no motorhome (big or small) was satisfying this need.

3) Finally, we recognised a definite element of nostalgia for the experience we had in Homer with some active days separated by lots of days lounging around in a comfy living room on wheels which we know wouldn't be possible in a small van conversion. Homer had been a compromise - not too cramped but not especially mobile or discrete either. Our gut was telling us to commit one way or the other but our nostalgia remembered enjoying compromise.

These three points might sound slightly unrelated but recognising them really did help a lot, because they made us realise that maybe what we were looking for was a third way. We'd been focusing on 2 extremes and trying to work out which sacrifices we could live with for longest but not recognising the biggest assumption of all....namely that we had to live full time in the motorhome.

What if being in a van full time didn't actually suit our life goals right now (compared to an apartment) and that the reason we couldn't choose which type of motorhome was because no motorhome of any kind could give us what we really wanted?

Way back in March we outlined a range of goals we had in mind, such as raising awareness about our health conditions (like my incontinence) and the importance of self care in managing them along with some other areas we are very passionate about, which is possible in a motorhome but with unavoidable restrictions.  Not least of which is the fact that 'travel' is inherently tiring. Making plans, laundry (see photo), finding places to sleep, refill water, empty the toilet every other day, finding shops in new places etc. all takes energy that then can't be invested in other things. Full time travel can bring ultimate freedom but can be as much of a trap as being static. We want to do more than travel, hike and cycle up big mountains. I mean, we still want to do that, but not exclusively.

All of which brings us to a third way. Namely, use a motorhome for discrete, time limited adventures but remain static in a house/apartment between times. We've met people doing exactly that from their home base (whether the UK or elsewhere), with adventures varying from several weeks to months, then returning home to work on other things, which feels exactly like what we want. The only difference is we could choose to rent a single base in one place for the whole year, or we could play 2-4 places in between the traveling times.

We do have to be mindful of the costs and aware it may change our budget. We know how much it cost us to travel full time for long periods in a motorhome from before (which is inexpensive) and rentals might increase that. On the other hand, some of the prices we've seen for 6/12 month terms (for example) in amazing places have been surprisingly low. Plus when remaining in one place there are certain cost savings which we've written about elsewhere. The only time it gets really expensive, as we saw for parts of this summer, is when looking for a few nights at the last minute.

So, I started this post by asking the question, a vehicle you can sleep in vs. a moving home? The answer, for us, it seems at the moment, is the vehicle you can sleep in because we want to have a static home the rest of the time. Not what we expected when I started writing it I have to say! Besides, we mustn't forget a motorhome isn't a house and selling it doesn't involve mortgages and lengthy legal work.

The real take home message then, an increasing theme for us in the past few weeks, is to make a decision we really need to define our priorities, expectations, sacrifices we are willing to make and all over what time period. We have decided to focus on the next 12 months and that although we still want to travel because it fills us with inspiration, as we have been mostly travelling for the last 2 and half years now, we feel ready to prioritise other projects, stability in our environment for health reasons and therefore compromise slightly on our travel to do so.

What's been holding us back is indecision. Now we've made a decision, largely through writing this post, we feel ready to move forward, commit to it and make it happen.

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