Most of my posts so far have been trip reports – sharing a glimpse of where we have been and what we have done. But people have asked a number of questions about the trip so I thought it might be worth doing a kind of FAQ for the trip. If there is anything you want to know just ask!
Are you scared?
I think this is mostly in connection with free camping
though perhaps also doing this alone. The honest answer is I haven’t been yet.
The closest I got was when a car pulled into the layby where I was parked alone,
just as I was getting the dogs out for their final ablutions. But it was weird
rather than scary – they drove on past and straight out the other end. Either
they got a sight of Martha and didn’t fancy their chances or they weren’t on
the look out for an overweight middle aged woman!! Either way there was no
When we are on our own at a park up, particularly if it is on the road, I will strap the front doors together so they can’t be opened even if someone broke the lock. But to be honest Martha is a great watch dog and would not take kindly to anyone entering without permission. Even Otter would make a lot of fuss! I think it would feel very different without the dogs but with them it is all very relaxed. And almost everywhere there has been at least one other van so it feels much safer.
Do you have a set route?
Not really. I am following the coast as closely as I can but in reality there are bits where it is just not possible by vehicle. So we have a big atlas and each evening we plan roughly where we will go the next day. Sometimes that has to change when we see the road – it has to be sensibly passable by a small motorhome – and sometimes we decide to follow a route that we had not found on the map. We keep going – stopping for breaks, walks and visits whenever we want to – until I get tired and then I look for somewhere to stop. I have pre-booked (the day before) a couple of sites when I knew I needed to service the van. I have popped into one or two on spec (there are spaces at this time of year) and I have rung CLs on the day for that evening.
I don’t want to book any further ahead as it just puts pressure on us to cover distance.
How far are you travelling each day?
This question has come up both from those who think we are covering the ground quickly – and those who feel we are taking our time! The short answer is “it depends” but it is averaging around 80 miles a day. Any more than this feels really tiring. We would do less if we wanted to spend a long time at a place but this pace allows us to pause where we like, do several decent walks a day and stop off to visit the odd gallery, shop or visitor attraction.
I am doing very few café stops – except the ones where we make our own – and have not visited too many attractions simply because of leaving the dogs. It has been ridiculously warm for most of these first two weeks and the van, while not getting dangerously hot, does get stuffy. So far, we have stuck to things we can all do together. That may change as the weather cools down – we will see.
Are you coming to … [insert where you live]?
If it is on the coast then almost certainly. I am not making it to many islands and if you are up an unmade track then I may miss you but I will be visiting as much of the coast as I can reach. At the moment it looks like it will be Scotland until the start of October, the West coast and Wales until the start of November, the South West and South East until December, then the East coast in late December/January. I have a few workshops planned so may be taking a few days out of sync to do those if I am not there at the allotted time but otherwise will be steadily working my way round. Give me a shout if you’d like to have a coffee – and even more so if you have a coastal park up you can offer!
How are the dogs finding it?
Great question especially as Martha has famously been extremely car sick in the past. They are actually taking it all in their stride. Martha has amazed me by not only not being sick at all but actually looking quite cheery when I have checked on her on some of these very windy and bumpy roads. She either sleeps or seems to be getting her sea legs and just watches where we are going. Otter travels in her box in the front and loves it as always. She is excited when it is time to leave a place and asks to go in her box.
But they are both also enjoying the variety I think. Otter is becoming more tolerant of dogs and children – and Martha is only barking when she feels something needs sorting. Both are sleeping really well and are very relaxed in the van.
How do you manage off grid?
The van is self-sufficient – especially as the battery charges when driving so we always have enough electricity for our free camps. There is also a solar panel which will have been working over-time recently! We have an onboard toilet (lasts me on my own 2-3 days before we need to empty at a campsite) and water and waste tanks last a similar amount of time. The van also has gas heating (not required at the moment but we have had a couple of cold evenings) and gas water heater – though to be honest I just boil the kettle if needed. Cooking is gas (calor). Aside from a slight problem we have at the moment with a calor gas bottle which seems to be mis-threading, it all runs smoothly (we have two gas bottles on board so this is not a disaster just an annoyance).
When running on 12v battery, I have an inverter which allows me to still charge my computer and camera batteries and we have several 12v to USB charge points. So I can function off grid perfectly well for 2-3 nights.
At the moment I am aiming for at least 2 off for 1 on, where the on can be a small site or CL as long as it allows basic servicing of the van.
What about showers?
There is a shower in the van and I have used it to wash my hair when on hook up without a shower block. I could technically use it to shower fully every day but it would use a lot of water and gas – and frankly make a wet mess in the bathroom! So I just have a thorough flannel wash or do a “baby wipe shower” (with biodegradable, plastic-free baby wipes!) on the days when we are not on a site. So far I have managed to have a full shower one night in three and I don’t think I am smelling badly!
How do you get internet?
Mostly I tether my computer to my phone or iPad both of which have 4G through different companies. Even so much of the North and West coast so far have been without signal, so the answer then is that I don’t. It is much less of an issue than I would’ve expected. Having taken an official break, I am not feeling guilty if I can’t get online. I can write blog posts in Word to upload when I get the chance.
Occasionally sites have decent wifi which is a treat. The bigger sites have it for a price and I haven’t used it yet but I may need to – it is reasonable if you pay for 12 months.
Do you get lonely?
Not yet – but perhaps ask me again in 3 months. So far in a fortnight I have met up with three lots of friends, which is probably more than I would do at home! The dogs are great company and I am happy on my own. I thought I would miss online communication more than I do but so far I am not minding being without for a lot of the time. Plus I have met new people and got involved in some community things while staying with friends which is a lot of fun.