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.

This Week

So it’s Sunday and the day that I have to get on a train back to the big smoke and resume my working life.

I’ve lived in London for the majority of time over the last seven years. It’s an amazing city full of beautiful things, places and people but I currently yearn to live in my North Eastern flat full time, take life a little more slowly and surround myself with the lovely people that I’ve chosen to make my friends over the years.

Or do I?

I love my life generally but I have always had a huge restlessness and belief that the ‘next step’ should be taken imminently. My current plan is to become self employed, base myself at home and basically travel and live across Europe (to start with) for extended periods of the year. The van life dream is real to me and, I think, obtainable but it will take a lot of guts and work on my part. I’ve always worked for large organisations after a couple of drifter years after college so I’m not sure I have the confidence or skills to put myself out on the freelance market without a substantial financial safety net. I’ve also been in the same profession for the last thirteen years and so I don’t have any first hand experience of the current job market.

This said, my varied career history surely must lend itself to freelancing. I’m used to figuring things out, I’m organised and do relatively well in whatever field I find myself. I’m au fait with technology and can use/learn it quickly. Although I love my colleagues, and in fact they are probably the biggest reason I don’t leave now, I am very happy in my own company and love being on the road.

The difficulty is that I really do love my current job. It was something that I always aspired to and eventually did despite much concern from my family and friends. I believe that everything comes to a natural end and due to ill health and age I suspect that this is fairly imminent, although there is nothing yet to force my hand. My workplace is about to undergo another change; maybe this is the time to cut the cord.

So the big question is am I still daydreaming or should I put my notice in, brave the leap and put all of my energy into creating this new amazing life in my head. As I’ve mentioned, I’ve bought a little Romahome and plan to get out in that as much as my schedule allows to see if I really can hack life on the road. Maybe if I look hard enough I might actually find the happy place that is so defined in my mind.

These are my breakfast musings. This week this is where I am. Next week it may not be so.

Expectations

This vanlife trend has recently begun to appeal to me again. I have a job that I like, a home that I look forward to arriving at and a group of people that generally make me happy but for some reason I still feel the same pull to travel that I’ve had ever since I was young. This is perhaps why I’ve decided to try road travel on a very careful and small scale by acquiring a Romahome R10. While not one of my more considered decisions, now that I have made it I am very excited. My amazing converted van of the future is still looming with my next change of career but for now I plan to see how far the little R10 can take me.

In my mind I can see endless picturesque roads winding off into the hills, beaches, exciting cities with ample and safe parking facilities, many interesting yet-to-be-met people and some unexplained source of income to sustain me. Washing and power facilities are far away notions that should all fall into place without too much concern and obviously the weather will be lovely all of the time. My previous travel has been mainly by train, which I love, but this new gritty road approach will surely lead me to an entirely new far-away-land where everything will make sense and my future will be laid out… Wish me luck!

Unfortunately my first van style road trip will not be up to the fatherland next week like I had hoped, but my current little VW will do nicely until my new minihome arrives. Meanwhile instagram will just have to appease my need for instant escape until a suitable time comes. Here is an old picture of my back garden in the early 80s to get me in the mood for the long drive up north.

Sally the Duck with her family, Central Scotland 1980