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The Full Cost of a Year on the Road

The full cost of living in a motorhome in 2017

Last year, 2017, was our first full year living a nomadic lifestyle in either our Hymer motorhome or on our Dutch motor cruiser. Because we needed to drive to some clinics for Cynthia, and because we had to wait for upgrades and repairs to be completed on the boat, we spent most of our nights on wheels rather than water.

We enjoyed one hundred and eleven nights, nearly four months, on our boat. Here’s the cost of living in a motorhome for the remaining eight months.

We drove 10,748 miles through ten countries; England, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg and Austria. Much as we enjoyed exploring new countries and cultures, I often felt that the driving was too tiring and far too stressful. We are driving less and relaxing more this year. read more


Sanglier at Windswept Étang de Leucate

Sanglier at Windswept Étang de Leucate

Little things bring me so much joy. Simply having electricity this morning pleased me immensely. I woke yesterday to a dead battery bank, no electricity, and because we had no electricity, no lighting and no heating. Being able to briefly sneak out of bed this morning, click a switch and hear the gas boiler roar into life was a real pleasure.

Another simple pleasure was glancing away from my MacBook screen as I typed to see the distant snow-capped peak of nine thousand feet high Pic Canigou. The mountain was bathed in an orange glow from the sun rising in a clear sky behind our Hymer. It was a chilly thirty degrees. Thank God for electricity and a plentiful LPG supply. read more

Electricity generation problems in an off grid motorhome

Another day, another set of problems to overcome.

Yesterday, as we settled in for the evening, a red light blinked ominously from the control panel above the Hymer’s habitation door. It indicated that the motorhome’s 12V system was about to fail. No 12V system means no lights, no water pump, so no water, and no heating.

Fortunately, the night was mild, so we wrapped ourselves in blankets and settled down for a couple of hours watching a few episodes of one of the many sitcom box sets we keep on board. When we purchased the Hymer we decided not to install a television. Watching DVDs on a MacBook linked wirelessly to a Bose speaker is a much more pleasant alternative. read more


Leucate, Surfing and Tristan the Tramp

Motorhome laundry in a Leucate laverie

Another day of chores ahead of us; hand fill our one hundred litre potable water tank, empty the grey water tank and empty our toilet cassette. Fill up with diesel, buy more petrol for the Honda generator, replenish our depleted gas supply, and drive to Leucate and our favourite laverie to meet Tristan-the-tramp.

We met Tristan two weeks ago. A stack of dirty clothing littered a sheltered corner between a supermarket and a laverie, a launderette, in a small shopping centre on the edge of town. Tristan sat at a small table inside the launderette with his whiskey bottles, rolling tobacco and cigarette papers lined up neatly in front of him. He smiled as we entered and offered us words of encouragement as we washed and dried, occasionally lurching from his improvised bar to volunteer more advice or assistance. Despite his circumstances, he seemed a happy chap. We left him with an au revoir and a bag of fruit. Both Cynthia and I looked forward to meeting him again. read more


Upstairs, Downstairs: Sleeping in a motorhome

The sound reminded me of a blunt handsaw cutting hardwood; a low rasp rising and falling, endlessly cycling through the night. The sound was enough to make a grown man cry. Which was a shame, because the offensive noise was a recording of me snoring after a night of overindulgence after a party in the mid-nineties. I blamed a nose bent out of shape in countless teenage brawls. My then wife blamed excessive drinking.

I don’t drink much these days, and I don’t snore as much as I used to. A couple of beers a night is usually the limit. I suspect that now I’m rapidly approaching sixty, age is more to blame for my nighttime racket. read more


Hunters’ Hides, Wild Boar and Wilder Landscapes

Etang du Doul from the hills above Peyriac

The area surrounding Peyriac-de-Mer is a hill walker’s paradise. Our aire in the grounds of Stade Municipal d’Alès de Boscaud, the village rugby and tennis club, is a stone’s throw away from the start of the nearest trail.

Abbie and I explore a new route most days. A rough track covered by loose rocks ascends steeply from the nearby lagoon through marquis scrub and under wind-bent pine. On a calm day, I can hear the distant murmur of heavy traffic on the coast’s arterial A9. Calm days are rare. This is an area renowned for its wind. read more


A Voluntary Night in a Motorhome Prison

A voluntary night in a motorhome prison

A high chainlink fence surrounds us. We’ve voluntarily incarcerated our Hymer home for the night. The only way to escape is by parting with cash, or plastic in this case. On a nearby roundabout, two stone Roman columns point towards a grey sky. We’re at a Narbonne aire to give our batteries a little tender loving care.

We needed to connect to a mains supply. Constant recent cloud denied our single solar panel the opportunity to provide us with free electricity. Constant rain and strong winds have made using our Honda suitcase generator a challenge. read more


On Storms, Draughts and Wearing Coats Indoors

Heavy rain imprisons us. We have been locked in our little box for thirty-six hours now, trying to judge gaps between downpours to take the dogs for essential toilet breaks. The one saving grace is our sea view, which is revealed to us when the rain briefly eases off to a steady downpour.

We lay last night in the drop-down bed above the driver and passenger seats listening to windblown rain bouncing off our thin plastic roof like handfuls of thrown gravel. Thunder crashed and lightning flashed, but we were warm and dry in our duvet cocoon. Getting out of bed this morning was less pleasant. read more


An Eccentric Frenchman at Narbonne Plage

An eccentric Frenchman at Narbonne Plage

Gruissan’s Quatre Vents aire was pleasant enough. It had a fully equipped service point with two motorhome bays, potable water, a grey water drain and a couple of chemical toilet disposal points. We had an open view of the Étang du Grazel on one side and a harbour filled with sailing boats on the other. A big plus was the surprising lack of motorhomes. It’s a big site which can hold two hundred and fifty vehicles if they’re packed in like sardines. We shared the space with one hundred and fifty of them last Christmas. We counted just thirty this time. read more

winter sun in Gruisan

It’s 6:30 a.m. The thermometer is registering 45°F (7°C). If we’re lucky, it will claw its way up to 52°F (11°C) by mid-afternoon. The mid-January days we enjoyed basking in the sun from the comfort of our lightweight sun loungers are a distant memory. We’re at Gruissan’s Le Quatre Vents aire parked with a view of hundreds of bare masted sailing boats.

Even though we can’t wear tee shirts and shorts, we’re still happy to be here. We’ve seen one light frost this winter in France. The weather isn’t as benign in Leiden where Julisa, our Super Favorite mahogany and steel Dutch cruiser, is stored open to the elements in a steel cradle. read more