One year ago, David Nolan and Karen Whitney, embarked upon the journey of a lifetime. Giving up their jobs and renting out their house in London, home for the next year was to be the new Encore 254 motorhome, on loan from Elddis.
above: Home for the past year has been 'NiKi' the Elddis Encore 254
As novice motorhomers, their dream was to hit the road on a ‘grown-up gap year’, blogging their adventure and sharing their experience and advice with other like-minded travelers.
Having enjoyed the past 12 months so much (and, perhaps understandably, not quite ready to return to London on a grey January day), Elddis has extended their trip … with a twist.
above: Initial plans for an inspiring motorhome adventure
“The easy option,” says Elddis’ Rachel Moncrieff, “would be to tootle back at leisure through France. And as nice as that would be, we want David and Karen to push their boundaries, whilst continuing to show what one of our motorhomes can enable you to achieve.”
“With this in mind, we’ve challenged David and Karen to drive ‘The Long Way Back’, taking a route that will prove both exciting and inspirational.”
“The aim of their Year in Spain was to completely immerse themselves in one country’s culture, which they absolutely did – and could not have done without the motorhome.”
“‘The Long Way Back’ flips this idea, encouraging David and Karen out of the comfort-zone that Spain has now become to them into the unknown. Leg two of the journey will be a relatively fast-paced odyssey through many countries and terrains, with seas to cross and literal mountains to climb – with the obvious language barriers to navigate … and all in their trusty Elddis motorhome!”
THE ROUTE: Spain > via Sardinia and Sicily > Italy > Croatia >Slovenia > Hungary > Slovakia > Poland > Czech Republic > Germany > Belgium
The pair set sail for Sardinia on the car ferry on Fri 20th January where they will spend two weeks exploring the island.
A further ferry will take the duo and their motorhome on to Sicily for to experience the island's dramatic architecture and history.
Then, hopping over to the ‘boot’ of Italy they will work their way along the West coast, crossing Tuscany and Umbria to the East.
In March, the next ferry crossing with take the Grey Gappers to Croatia and then on to Slovenia.
The beauty of motorhome travel is that it allows David and Karen a great deal of flexibility – so, should they decide to wander off-course now-and-again, jewels like Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina may well become part of the adventure.
Heading North, they will motorhome through Hungary, Slovakia, Poland and the Czech Republic.
The latter stages of the trip are still to be determined, but will no doubt take in the delights of southern Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium, before returning ‘NiKi’ the motorhome back home to Elddis HQ in County Durham and a homecoming party.
We caught up with David and Karen as they prepare to set sail from Barcelona to Sardinia to ask them about what the next few months will bring:
What are you hoping to get out of ‘The Long Way Back’?
Essentially delaying going back to work and the UK in January, when the weather and job market is poor. However, joking aside, we have enjoyed our motorhome experience so much thus far that to be able to extend for another few months is just brilliant. We are looking forward to seeing many countries haven’t seen before and those we have – but all from the viewpoint of the motorhome.
Many of these will be countries you won’t have visited before? What are you most looking forward to?
Italian Ice cream for David!! But on the whole, experiencing and seeing such a variety of different countries and their cultures, food and people.
How do you think you’ll find motorhoming in unknown territory?
Our confidence in our Elddis Encore motorhome is now very high having spent a year in the van. We do feel we know the van and its workings very well.
However, we do realise that every country has its own peculiarities and we are looking forward to this challenge and expanding our knowledge, not only of of these countries, but also of motorhoming in them.
We are looking forward to continuing our Blog and engaging with fellow travelers and would-be motorhomers on the next leg of the journey and the challenges it will pose us en-route.
Is this taking you out of your comfort zone?
Absolutely. We have, over the past year, grown to know and love Spain and even without full knowledge of the language, it has become a second home.
You’ll be covering all kinds of terrain and a wide geographical area? Is there a plan and are you prepared?
Yes and no. As we have learned, one of the main benefits of motorhoming is the ability to be able to change your mind - and direction - according to many things, even just your whim at that moment. It’s what makes motorhoming such a free adventure, as you are not tried down by hotel, plane bookings etc.
Having said that, we do have an outline route and for the first stages we do have the ferries booked. We feel we are prepared in other ways- we have the right connectors for water and gas and also we have invested in books and maps to assist the journey … plus of course the vast quantity of apps that David has built up over time!
Do you think there will be a language barrier?
For sure, as we have failed miserably with our Spanish of rather they have failed to understand us! But what we have learned is to be very good at charades and we assume this will continue. Plus, of course, the wonderful Google translate. It is one of our rules to be able to say ‘please’, ‘thank you’, ‘hello’ and such basics in every country we visit.
above: Camping options in Spain have included wild camping, Aires and full-facility pitches
How do you think the campsites will compare to Spain?
We believe them to be more expensive, so we will look for the cheaper options such as Aires. We expect the quality to be just as good, as motorhoming is becoming so popular everywhere!
How long will you spend in each country?
This will vary – and, as said, we have the opportunity to be flexible - but overall 2-3 weeks in each area, other than Italy which will be longer due to the island stays. We will also try to stay in warmer climes, before Spring reaches Central Europe.
Country by country – what do you anticipate each will have to offer …
This is a tough one to answer … and we’re looking forward to the element of surprise in each place.
Certainly, for Italy, it is the history, culture and again, like Spain, the food and wine as well.
Elddis has challenged us with a motorhome itinerary that takes in islands and beaches, mountains and volcanoes, plains, lakes, rivers and forests – so no day will be the same.
It’s also the people in each country that intrigues us. We have been meet with such warmth and friendliness in Spain by the people and it has restored out faith in people.
The world really is a nice place overall – and we’re loving discovering it in our motorhome!