Inspired by an ad on the Tube, touring newbies Ian Beharrell and wife Melanie jumped into the unknown, bought a ’van and hit the road! Here's their story

“Why have all the lights gone off?” My wife’s voice pierced my eardrums in the darkness.

It was not the start I’d hoped for to my very first motorcaravanning adventure!

Squashed on London’s Victoria Line in 40C temperatures a few years ago, I spotted, through the armpits of my fellow sardines, an advert for a camper van sat amidst lush pastures and valleys.

“You don’t have to be there,” its slogan declared. “You could be here.”

My obsession with campers and motorhomes started then, and when I suggested to my wife that we quit work, buy said motorhome and travel across Europe, she didn’t look overly enthused.

And now a lack of lights wasn’t helping my cause.

A voyage of discovery

Just for the record: I don’t like camping and neither does my wife, Melanie.

We’ve never been caravanning and never hired a motorhome before.

Undeterred by our lack of outdoor experience, and with some specifics in mind of exactly what our first motorhome should have, we set about finding one.

My dream was a cool VW camper van for cruising around Europe – this was dashed when Melanie declared the need for a shower, a loo and a fully functioning kitchen!

We also realised that if we were spending six months in a motorhome, we’d like some space and different zones to relax in.

Another factor was the bed. We decided that after hiking, sightseeing or mountain biking, we didn’t want to make up a bed every night, so a fixed bed was a must.

One of our main criteria was a big garage for storing outdoor gear and, more specifically, our two mountain bikes, with the idea being that they’d be more secure out of sight.

Lastly, as it would be our first motorhome, we wanted a 6m-long ’van for economy and manoeuvrability.

The perfect motorhome

After months of looking for the motorhome to match our needs, we settled on a few different models, with the Benimar Mileo 201, reviewed favourably by Niall in the recent series of Practical Motorhome TV, being the main contender.

My personal favourite was the Swift Rio 340, with its fabulous, rear-opening tailgate and modern, spacious feel.

Two problems prevented it from being ours, though. First, there’s nowhere to store outdoor gear and bikes other than on a rack at the back, thus making that opening tailgate redundant.

The other problem was the price, as even used Rios were just too expensive for us.

We tracked down a Benimar at Brownhills in Newark and ‘Benny’ became our first official motorhome purchase!

Driving off the forecourt was a bit of a sobering experience, though, as I tried to manoeuvre out onto one of the busiest roundabouts in the area in my shiny, long ’van!

That was six months ago.

Since then we’ve had an eventful time touring in France, Spain and Portugal. And you can read all about it in a future issue of Practical Motorhome.

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