Our first European tour began in June 2003 and it was big. We were setting off to find a new life abroad. We sold our house and belongings. Careers were quit and loved ones told not to expect us back.
We realised our first mistake within hours of landing in Europe. It was a Bank Holiday weekend and we had no plan. We spent our first night at a motorway service area in Holland, something we advise people against doing now.
Our itinerary was vague. Chris wanted to fulfil a dream of fishing for cod off Norway and so that was where we headed. We intended to soak up the autumn sun and wine in Italy, then ski our way through the winter.
Our aged Hymer motorhome clocked up 27,000 more miles before we sold her. We swam in emerald-green glacial water, hooked a halibut, and saw the sun at midnight.
In Siena we argued over the best home-made grappa. We drank beer in a thermal spa in Hungary. We were scared witless in the midst of a mountain whiteout in Transylvania and we lost our top box on a plain in Spain, while we were driving.
Despite having put in at least a year’s worth of research about full-time motorhome touring, we were all but clueless and spent far more than was necessary. Aires were used by only the bravest people 13 years ago. British motorcaravanners were as rare as rocking-horse shoes and the ACSI CampingCard hadn’t been invented.
We took the wrong stuff and went to the wrong places at the wrong time. How did others do it? Armed with an ice-breaker (a bottle of wine) and a map we quizzed motorhome owners of all ethnicities about what they were doing, where they were going, why they decided to do that, and how they knew about it in the first place.
We ended up living in a beach hut in Somerset, with our motorhome parked outside. During the winter we compiled our notes and realised that we wanted to share our new-found wisdom. Surely there were other people – new would-be full-time motorcaravanners – who would want to buy a book explaining all they needed to know about touring Europe?
We thought about everything we would have liked to know when we were newbies, from the maiden voyage to all the other kinds of motorhome holidays that people might want to do.
We’d explain driving licence restrictions, seatbelts, security and weight, awnings, gadgets and all the documents needed. We’d identify the places that you can stay in a motorhome, from campsites and motorhome stopovers (‘camper stops’) to vineyards and farms. By now we also had enough travel notes to write a chapter on each of the European countries we’d visited.
During March 2006 we published Go Motorhoming Europe and had just enough money to print 100 copies. We placed small adverts in magazines to promote it and put flyers on every ’van we came across on our travels. The book sold.
In three years we went from rookie travellers with a lot of camping gear and little idea to seasoned travellers, authors and publishers. That was 10 years ago.
We updated that first book and the second edition, Go Motorhoming and Campervanning, by Chris Doree and Meli George, was published in 2012.
We still enjoy life on the road, but now our tours are vicarious.
We were scared witless in a mountain whiteout in Transylvania