Last week, we went on yet another family adventure. This one ranks high in the list of innovative in terms of what we have done before. And it is high up there in terms of memorable experiences in my life. And possibly it would be one we potentially would not have dreamt up if it weren’t for Covid-19. We had been wanting to go to Cornwall for a long time, always deterred by the driving with the kids. So we decided to go all in and make it a road trip instead. On wheels. Best decision we have made. The kids were psyched (they did not know until Hubby B came out of the motorhome at our door). We were excited to try something new. And we had great family time together, building memories.
Now, I am not saying I am sold on motorhome holidays for ever! I admit the 5-star-resort is always a great option for me (I miss you Club Med). But under the right circumstances, I can share 5 reasons why holidays like this can work out well! And
If you have where to sleep every day, you can pretty much sleep anywhere, drive as much as you want, go where the will takes you. Or sort of. We have not chosen absolute freedom, which knowing us is unlikely to surprise you. We planned the route in a long Word document with routes, places to stay and potential places to visit, inspired by a few cool internet websites. So we knew the main stop points for the night. We pre-booked them as we were warned some places could be hard to get during half term. Moreover, we were rookies, so had no idea about the amount of campsites available.
What we did not define was where to eat, where to spend time, how much time, when to leave, when to do whatever. Time was not a factor.
With food on board we could pretty much stop at will to ensure the children would not starve. Or that my patience levels would not drop (I get irritable when I am hungry). We could easily stop at a beach where the kids would enjoy catching stones while I prepared a quick meal. Or do a puzzle waiting for the storm to wear out before we ventured outside. We did not worry about time at all. Even the arrival times at the campsites ended up being very flexible, though rule of thumb we always tried to make it before dinner. Driving such a vehicle too much into the night was not quite the experience we hoped for.
When we did a round of gratitudes after at dinner in the motorhome, Hubby B quoted: “that we did not have to worry about time”. Yes, I make my family go through that sometimes. Only Baby S does not fully get it yet but invariably this holiday his answer would be “I like your campervan Mummy“. Going back to point, time is one of the most limiting things in our lives, so breaking that barrier felt great.
Freedom allows you to explore as much or as little as you want. If you find a place that suddenly becomes very interesting (like Babbacombe Model Village), then you can dwell for hours without worrying where to head next. There is always a cereal bar handy. And a change of clothes in case the rain hits again (often necessary, this is the UK after all). It also allows you to suddenly hear about a new place from a local or read a new article and just decide to head there. There is no reason not to (unless of course the motorhome does not fit, like in Gorran Haven).
Exploring is something we want our kids to experiment. Find new places, take interest in the small village vibe of St. Ives or the wonder of the big stones of Stonehenge. And for that, we want to show them it is ok to wonder and see new places. Without a particular destination. We have not given exploring much of a chance with them. We started only in the Summer of 2019, but the more we do it, the more we know it seeds something in them.
Baby S may not be quite good at explaining what some of these places are, but in his mind he is absorbing information. And the teacher at school today certainly said he was all chatty about what he had done. She even asked with a curious look “did you really go on a campervan?”
Hoping with Convenience
This is a logistical point. If you are planning to go into a city, mountain or beach and stay there, I don’t see the point of a motorhome. It is static, and for static I might as well get a nice hotel room. With a shower or bath where I can reach my feet without flexibility tests. Or without measuring the water of my shower to ensure there is enough hot water for everyone. So if you think you are bound to stay somewhere, hotel is the right choice.
Now, if you want to be hoping through the coast of Cornwall or maybe Croatia, Italy, Spain or Portugal (in no particular order, the sentence reads well like that), then a motorhome can be the right vehicle. Provided you want to do more country side/ beach terrain. I don’t recommend it for cities, even though we did manage to get ourselves into a ferry boat (!!) into tiny Dartmouth, go up the castle road (not good) and come back to the harbour to parallel park with only inches to spare in each side of the van. Kudos to Hubby B, I wanted to close my eyes but instead was playing traffic warden pretending like I was giving instructions like I knew what I was doing.
The motorhome experience is best suited for large beach parking lots, country side fields and not so narrow nor walled roads.
The most convenient part, from a logistics perspective, is that in comparison with a hotel, you don’t even need to pack and unpack every day. You don’t have strict check in and out times (though they exist). You don’t have the fear of leaving the cuddle toy behind. The kids packed 3 sleeping toys each (and a large one that was sneaked into the van as I pretended not to see it), their duvets and pillows and each morning those would get tucked into the rooftop. It was not until Sunday evening that I had to check if we had all that we needed. We could carry games and entertainment, our own BBQ, lawn chairs and an external heater, books (that we did not open) and all sorts of comfy food that gets handy for kids. Convenient is the word. And if safety is part of convenience, I think that played a role too in Covid-19 times naturally!
I hear people go to campsites and make ever lasting friends. We were a bit nomad in our approach. So whenever the children even managed to connect with others in the campsite, that was usually the morning as we were filling up the tank to leave to the next stop. We did not make this the most sociable holiday, though I am sure we could have. Little Girl C still has as one of the highlights of the trip to meet new friends in the one campsite where we parked next to another family and both of us decided to have a BBQ in the first dry night of the week. For us Picanha, for them marshmallows. The kids enjoyed the play pretend freedom of being on their own in the dark. Up to 3 meters away from the campervan, haha.
Other than that, our holiday was a family holiday. We were there to spend time together. And to try and not annoy each other too much (I think we made it in c. 80-90% of the time, which is not a bad performance). We gave the kids as much attention as we physically could, played louds songs on the radio dancing in unison, went through multiple rounds of I-spy or a version of STOP (as Baby S practices his phonics), practiced gratitude and had lots of raised hands for questions during dinner or drives. We let them be children as much as we could, gearing them up to the rain and allowing them to jump in the famous muddy puddles (courtesy of Peppa Pig). Probably a bit too much as at some point even Baby S overalls and wellies starting failing. He even had a sort of encounter with the waves fully dressed and did not get told off.
We went for long walks for the sake of walking, threw stones to the sea for the sake of watching them jump (I am a fail at that), drove to the next beach just for the sake of watching the sea one more time. Not surprisingly, none of us can get enough of the sea.
It was about building memories, and memories we built. Even if Baby S does not remember much about the actual holidays, hopefully he will remember the feeling of it.
I did not go into a digital detox, though admittedly maybe I should do that at some point. But between google maps and the camera with the family sharing of photos the mobile phone is always handy. I was pretty good at the computer and we got to use it mostly for Netflix in the 2 nights we were not too tired to watch Scorpion (a must see despite its effects on my heart sometimes).
But more than a social media or even media disconnect, we wanted to disconnect from the day to day. The routine, the hamster wheel, the new jobs, the old jobs, the lockdown or not, the commute or not, the schools, the homework, the duties, the everything.
Whilst switching off ones’ brain is still a work of art that I am due to find out how to execute on, I did find myself disconnected. I had a few email check ins, which some people would criticize but that honestly allowed me to stay at peace with being away. I had one single work call in the entire week. We did no homework, intentionally (only read books and played phonics games, mostly on their choice). We had very little schedules to follow. And until we got to lockdown announcements, our radio station played only music rather than news. Funny enough, I even disconnected from my good habits, such as my morning yoga (where would I fit anyway) and my journaling. I did use the journal instead as a travel diary as I am committed that for once I will print this one out with photos. Keep you posted on that one.
We allowed time for adrenaline to crash (I had a lot of that), for sleep to catch up (I could have gone on), for energy to rebuild (barely started I must say). And most importantly, for connection to strengthen between all of us. We came back more loving and connected to each other than when we parted.
I don’t know if I will ever go on a motorhome holiday again. I figure we might. We kept on thinking about “next time maybe we do X or rent Y”. So it is not off our plans. But whatever the case is, these are holidays I will cherish in my heart as one of the best memories of this year, if not of my life.