We’re Adrian and Ellie, and back in December 2010 we started making plans to do something different with our lives. We weren’t quite sure what though, but it had to include travel in some form while we figured out what to do next. Eventually we decided to buy a campervan. In January 2011, we bought our red Volkswagen T25 Westfalia high top camper. Being used to tent camping, it seemed very big and red and shiny to us then, and the height of luxury.
Our jobs came to an end around March 2011, and after Ellie embarked on a short interim trip to India, Adrian started making the preparations for the trip. It took a couple of months to clear our house, which we rented out to a friend. We had a lot of stuff (well, Ellie did anyway) and it was hard work and not untraumatic delving into the past and getting rid of vast chunks of it.
If we were worried about such an undertaking, I can’t remember it. It seemed the most natural thing in the world to us – just packing up and heading off, and we haven’t regretted it at all.
After leaving parties and goodbyes, we were finally able to leave on 19 May 2011, and headed to Dover where we simply took the next available ferry to France. On the first part of the trip the road took us down the west coast of France, across northern Spain, and into Portugal. Looking back it was all quite rushed as we flew back to the UK from Lisbon for a few days in early July for a wedding, and then had to be near Orleans in France two weeks later for the World Meeting of 2cv Friends. We then spent slightly longer than intended in France, due to a major breakdown, but are ever grateful to our rescuers, John and Steve Gallimore.
We crossed over into Italy in mid-September, and we were able to slow right down with no firm dates in the diary. By November we reached Sicily where we spent a couple of months, crossing over to Tunisia in mid-January 2012. We were constrained here by our ferry booking – we had allowed two months – and this proved to be the perfect amount of time for us. With Libya and Algeria as neighbours though, we had no choice but to return to Europe where spring enticed us to stay in Sicily for longer than intended before we crossed back to mainland Italy, spending Easter in Puglia region before getting a ferry over to Albania. We then spent most of the rest of the trip in south-eastern Europe and the countries of former Yugoslavia, followed by Romania, and then slowly heading back to the UK via Hungary, Slovakia, Poland and the Czech Republic. A last dash saw us visiting friends in Germany and Belgium before catching a ferry from Hoek van Holland to Harwich.
Although the main part of our trip is over, we are still on the road in the UK while we figure out what we’re going to do next. There has been no sudden eureka moment but keep reading to find out what happens. One thing is for sure, we will be travelling again before too long.
Our way of travel
We chose a smaller campervan for ease of travelling on the smaller roads and back lanes we love so much, for getting lost in narrow cobbled streets with washing hanging down from balconies, and for taking up only a car-length parking space. We may miss out on the creature comforts of the large motorhomes we’ve dubbed ‘fridge-freezers’, and we’re ever grateful to our friends’ hospitality in their sleek vehicles over the winter, but we wouldn’t swap.
While we’re keen to see all the major sights, we also search out the unusual and out-of-the-way places and smaller more likely to be family run, rather than corporate, campsites, and have enjoyed the wild camping we’ve done.
We avoid making plans, preferring the flexibility of staying longer somewhere we like or leaving after half an hour if we don’t. We avoid motorways and don’t use Satnav. We try to buy locally as far as possible, and especially try to find the local specialities of the regions we travel in. We cherish the people (and cats) we’ve met along the way, and have a special place in the van for them.
Most often we wake up in the morning and have only the vaguest idea where we’ll be that evening. We love the freedom of following wherever the road goes. The journey is no longer ‘our big trip’, but has become our normal way of life.
Reading our blog
We welcome you to read our blog and follow our progress, there is plenty of space in the van for vicarious travellers. Some people are brave enough to start reading from the beginning, but you can also pick posts by country or subject category. We are happy to answer questions about the trip and welcome your comments and suggestions. You can contact us directly, or add a comment to a specific post.
If you are planning a similar trip, you may find the insights in our FAQs post helpful. We’ll post more information, tips and reflections soon.
Ellie & Adrian