Chapter 1: Making it Happen
What do you do when your partner comes home from work and says ‘I like my job but I can’t see being there until I retire. Why don’t we do it?’ – and ‘it’ was something you’d always wanted to do but never thought he’d want to?
Slightly hysterically because we could see our lives changing forever we got out the wine and a large foolscap pad and started to plan.
‘It’ was selling up, buying a motorhome and travelling around Europe, something we’d talked about for years but never had the courage to do.
I was amazed and excited. My job as a Personnel Manager in the NHS was getting more and more difficult and I was soon to be able to get my pensions. John had already opted out of teaching boys with emotional and behavioural problems and gone to work on the shop floor of a garden centre, so we were both more than ready for an adventure.
At the time we were living in a Cumbrian village with two pubs and a shop and we were beginning to want to move nearer to ‘civilisation’. People tell us that it was a brave thing to do but we’d already decided to sell the house and downsize anyway. When we worked out the figures we could go away for three years with the money in the bank at the halcyon interest rate of 7% plus my pensions and still have the money to buy a house on our return.
The house went on the market straight away and we set out to find our new travelling home.
There are so many decisions to be made when you are looking for a motorhome you are going to live in and not just use for holidays; what make, which layout, what size, do you want to tow a car, carry bikes, new or second-hand, has it enough storage space, are the beds big enough and comfortable enough? Finally, by sheer chance in January 2007 we found a Swift Firebrand at our local motorhome dealers. It seemed to have everything we wanted (or thought we wanted having no experience whatsoever of living, or even holidaying, in a motorhome).
We’d not had much interest in the house so decided to reduce the price to something that seemed more realistic and just go ahead with our plans. If it didn’t sell we would leave it in the hands of the Estate Agent.
By now we were so excited that we gave in our notices immediately and set about getting rid of everything knowing that once it was gone we could move in to our new home – the motorhome! The date of early April 2007 was set to leave and the ferry to Roscoff from Plymouth booked (more about the reason for going here in Chapter 2).
We’d put up some notices locally, given things away to friends and taken loads to bootsales but by the end of February we still had a lot left so we cleared out all the personal stuff and took clothes etc to the charity shops, moved on to a local campsite and advertised.
Quite a number turned up. It’s weird to hear your furniture, pictures, crockery, cutlery etc being discussed between people you don’t know, and who don’t know each other either. They got everywhere. Upstairs, in the conservatory, taking pictures off walls, rooting through the rubbish in the garage that was left over from the bootsales (and buying it!). I was very glad that we’d cleared out all the personal stuff because they were opening drawers, looking in wardrobes and bargaining with each other over who was going to have what.
Finally, nearly everything was gone and the larger stuff was being carried out.
I wondered where John was and looked in to the sitting room. He was sitting in a small armchair testing out a television balanced on a camping table in front of him. He was oblivious to the two people discussing the merits of the chair and they seemed to be oblivious to him. Eventually he realised what was going on and joined in the conversation, took the money from the highest bidder and left them to carry it out.
That was finally it. The rubbish went to the tip, keys to the Estate Agent and we were set to go.
There was nothing now to keep us back in the U.K. Family and friends were right behind us in the great adventure. Over the next three years email and Skype would help us to keep in touch.
Next: Why we went to Roscoff and our first not-as-scary-as-we’d-imagined drive on the ‘wrong’ side of the road.
• Read Chapter 2: Saint-Pol-de-Léon
• Read Chapter 3: Part 1 – Idling our way to the Italian Riviera via France and a litle bit of Switzerland
• Read Chapter 3: Part 2 – Pietra Ligure and beyond
• Read Chapter 4: Part 1 – A Winter ‘Cruise’ along the Costas and a Christmas Rally
• Read Chapter 4: Part 2 – La Manga and beyond