Marlo’s First Night Out

Two days ago I found out that today was to be an unexpected day off. Unexpected days off are by far my favourite type of unexpected days and I was particularly delighted about this one as I had inadvertently planned a rather busy weekend. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to take my recently acquired Romahome R10 for it’s first proper overnight trip.

My original plan was to leave around seven in the evening on Wednesday and drive to some picturesque place on the south coast until Thursday evening. This way I would miss the congestion charge both ways and have a mini experience of spending a day in my new (to me) and very tiny camper van. Ultimately I ended up gaining extra shifts both nights but I just left after nine and came back after lunch so I was still able to spend a night out by the sea and all was good.

I know a little bit about the Dorset coastline but I wanted to stay within easy distance of London so I settled on a visit to the Isle of Sheppey in Kent. I used an app called park4night.com to find some free overnight parking stops. This type of travel is completely new to me; I did some minimal camping in my twenties but I’m more of a hostel/backpacker/train dweller type usually and I tend to plan ahead fairly meticulously.

I am excited in general about the park4night app. It doesn’t have the most attractive interface but has reviews and tips about cheap and free overnight parking across most of europe. After reading the reviews I decided on an ocean view parking spot so that I could potentially take some amazing lying-on-my-front-overlooking-the-ocean-with-a-but-cheek-out pictures to put on instagram and set out at about ten o’clock in the evening. This did not go totally to plan as it was very dark and I couldn’t find the entrance to get behind the sea wall. I found an alternative spot a little but further up in Minster which had plenty of space and was super quiet so I decided to bed in for the night.

Strange stick-on window blinds

I named my new steed Marlo the Motorhome. I’m not a namer generally but I was encouraged to and so there we have it. It wasn’t intentional but Marlo is the name of a travelling companion that I met while exploring Russia this Christmas; she was/is a very interesting and inspirational individual so I think that will be alright. The Romahome R10 is a Citroen Nemo conversion and so is very small. The bed is made by using the table top to bridge the gap between the doubled over front seat and the single seat in the back. I had played with this before and had a nap on my drive down to London but never tried to have a good night’s sleep. I had also not really tried out the stick-on window blinds so that took a bit of figuring out. It was very late so I just got into bed and settled down for the night. The mattress was comfortable and although I did struggle with a slight lack of arm room I managed to have a pretty good night’s sleep. In the morning I realised that the side of the seat was actually detachable and gave a body shaped sleeping space so I think my arms will be happier in the future. I got up and dressed at about half past six and went for a wander along the beach.

It was a lovely morning, not too cold and almost sunny. There were already a lot of dog walkers about on the Minster Seafront and everyone smiled and said hello. I took a walk down to where I had seen some large motorhomes on the other side of the sea wall to see if I could find access. Right enough there was an entrance right off the main road so I decided to go and buy some breakfast goodies, park up and feel the #vanlife properly. I had seen the road the night before but it looked like it let to nowhere and I’m just not quite that brave yet. I headed to Tescos to use their facilities and buy a few bits and pieces for the van and came back to make breakfast.

My first van breakfast

I started by boiling the kettle. This took much longer than I expected but I didn’t mind as I was embracing the lazy seaside feeling that I knew would disappear as soon as got within a few miles of the M25. I made myself a cup of instant and tried to make scrambled eggs; this was when I realised the importance of parking on the flat. The kettle had been heavy enough to stay on the hob but the pan slipped straight off until I got the hang of it. All ended well, however, and I had a lovely breakfast overlooking the sea. I relaxed, read a book and almost felt like proper traveller until I realised that I had to drive back into central London within the next couple of hours but even that felt quite relaxed – there really must be something in that sea air after all.

So now I am sitting at my desk doing my painless but horribly mundane second job so that I can save up thousands and thousands of pounds to fund my general wonderlust of the future. I can see the light, the story is out there.