From a chance campervan purchase to a whole new way of life, discover the transformative effects of touring on Practical Motorhome reader Mark Lawn

For years I was a teacher and, latterly, a village-school head teacher. One evening, when driving home from school, I spotted an old Auto-Sleeper Harmony on a garage forecourt. The price was cheap, and my dreams of driving freedom and year-round holidays to escape schoolwork began. My wife, my three children and I had never even sat in a campervan, but we went back the next day and bought it.

We took a few holidays and short breaks in the Auto-Sleeper, but found that the camper was too small for us. It also had a dislike for steep hills (we live in North Yorkshire, so that was a problem). So a few months later, it was time to upgrade and a CI Carioca 656 was put on the mortgage.

For two years we stayed in the UK touring in our Carioca, suffering wet trips in Scotland and Cornwall, longing, hoping and praying for sunny holidays, before the decision was made to travel abroad. This was the tour that changed our lives.

Despite worries about passports, currency, strange laws, driving on the right and much more, we took the plunge, sailed to Saint-Malo and our foreign adventures began.

Stopping in Dinan, we stayed at our first aire and bought crêpes in very poor Franglais. OK, so we cheated once and stayed in a hotel (my wife insisted on having a bath on her 40th birthday), but otherwise we drove and camped – and were converted.

Our motorhome holidays haven’t been the same since. The following year we drove to the Mediterranean and stayed in Cannes: at last, the hot weather we had always craved! A week was spent visiting Monaco, Nice and towns on the Côte d'Azur. We have returned every year since, staying at aires and France Passion stopovers.

Our next plan is to explore south-west France, with a drive along the Pyrenees into Spain for the ferry home. All this after a chance glance at a drizzly garage forecourt, and those first tentative steps across the Channel.

But more than our holidays have changed. After 21 years in education, I left school at Christmas; a couple of months later, our company – Northallerton Motorhome Hire – was born. We now help other families take those first steps into motorcaravanning, and we share our stories of the freedom and joy that a touring holiday can bring. Touring has changed our lives for the better and we hope we can help more people share our passion. Maybe we'll inspire you to get out there!

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