We started this adventure with a vision of our family backpacking around the world. Our vision became increasingly pragmatic once we looked at the actual costs of doing so with three people.
As the old saying goes, “Necessity is the mother of invention”. We reinvented our vision of how we travel to better meet our budget. It began by Aaron suggesting that we replace the cost of on-the-ground travel by public means to leasing a car instead. That idea morphed into replacing hostels and apartment rentals with renting or buying a van and camping. After trying to visualize the three of us living in such close quarters, the idea soon evolved into buying a small motorhome where everything we needed we’d take with us. Our transformed dream started to take shape.
Now, after more than a year on the road living this dream, we have found there are even more advantages to traveling by motorhome through Europe than budgetary considerations.
The first benefit of traveling in your motorhome: you sleep in your own bed every night. We outfitted our motorhome beds at IKEA the day after we picked up Charlie. Having the comfort of our own pillow, knowing the cleanliness of our sheets, and being able to change out bedding according to seasons has been a blessing.
Driving ourselves means we stumble upon places we didn’t know about beforehand. Check out our previous article “24 Hours of Open to the Possibilities” or “Travels with Charlie” to get an appreciable example of stumbling upon places only possible if you’re driving yourselves.
Not only do you have the opportunity to discover the unexpected, but traveling by motorhome encourages slower travel. We arrived in Ksmali, Albania, with the intent to stay for two days while we recuperated from days of travel. This seaside village had some unexpected treasures and our two days were extended to ten! In Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic, two days turned into five! Selcuk, Turkey was so sweet, one week turned into two and a half. You get the idea. Slower travel enables you to absorb the culture of a place more thoroughly and authentically, for locals to start recognizing you and to make new friends. If you are traveling without an end date, your time is your own (except for visa limitations).
Road trips give you a better sense of the topography of a place which in turn tells us more about how people feed themselves, why they use certain types of transportation, and why they build the shelters that they use. We found that noticing the topography also helps us understand why country borders truly do demarcate a different place. For instance, the forested mountains of Montenegro turn into the rolling hills and valleys of Croatia which then turn into the more barren hillsides and plains of southern Bosnia Herzegovina.
Traveling with your own wheels mean your approach and effort is different – we tend to camp outside of cities and their attractions to get a better sense of how locals live. Although we’re driving Charlie on the major legs between places, we also take the time to travel by public transportation from our campsites to the attractions.
We also tend to navigate on roads less traveled. While minor roads are generally narrower and sometimes bumpier and have slow trucks and even tractors, carts, or donkeys, the payoff is worth it in terms of views and seeing how locals live.
Traveling with a small garage means you have space to carry your own leisure equipment (bikes, kayak, workout clothes, hobby supplies, etc.) and outdoor furniture that you might not otherwise have access to traveling. Our Charlie is outfitted with bicycles, art supplies, outdoor equipment, and our home office.
A major perk to traveling by motorhome is that you can cook for yourselves. Previously, whether our holiday was a month long in Italy, or our travels were 14 months long through Asia and the South Pacific, we got really tired of eating in cafes and restaurants. From supplying our camper with our favorite kitchen tools, buying foodstuffs at the local markets, and even using on-the-road cooking school recipes and techniques, we love having our own kitchen. We choose when and where to eat out much more thoughtfully.
Our initial impetus to buy a motorhome to see Europe was budgetary and we have found it IS cheaper for us: costs are lower especially if you cook at least 2 out of 3 meals a day for yourselves and/or you have 2 or more people traveling together. We have found we make more meaningful choices with our money such as spending admission fees on an unexpected museum then eating dinner in our rig rather than needing to eat out. We also enjoy an occasional pint of beer in Europe’s cafe culture without the guilt of what it does to our pocketbook. We sold our cars in the US and used the money in exchange for an entire home. When we’ve outgrown Charlie or our path has shifted, we hope for some return on our investment upon resale.
One of the great unexpected gifts of traveling in a motorhome in Europe is how it decreases the chance of getting “homesick” because you have many of the pleasures of living in your own home, one with wheels.
-written by Tammy and photographed by Aaron and Tammy