This weeks inspiration comes from Aaron & Nicky, who swapped their working lives for a more adventure filled open air existence on the road. They are currently in Sweden enjoying the sites in and around Stockholm and the amazing Rosersberg Castle
1. Tell us a little about yourself, like what is your name and where do you come from.
Hi. We’re Nicky and Aaron Hill, based in Northants, England when we’re not exploring elsewhere. We are originally from Cambridge, England and Lisburn, Northern Ireland respectively. We first met in Russia on a charity cycle from St. Petersburg to Moscow. We spent a few years flying back and forth across the Irish Sea before Aaron finally made the permanent move to England. During our busy careers (Head of HR & Project Architect respectively) we travelled the world together, got engaged at the Torres del Paine massif in southern Chile and later married in a small humanist ceremony on Arran Island, Scotland. We honeymooned in Borneo, sleeping in hammocks in the jungle and climbing Mt. Kinabalu.
We reached a stage in our lives where we were willing to risk living in a way that put our main personal interests ahead of material worth and the accumulation of possessions. Striving for a better life balance that incorporated our love of being active in the outdoors with being productive and creative, we hesitantly retired from our professional careers in August 2016, rented out our home, and began to travel full time in our newly acquired motorhome.
2. What sort of motorhome traveller are you?
We jumped right into full-timing from the start, and we are constantly moving rather than enjoying long stays anywhere. The longest we’ve stayed at any one place in the past year has been seven days when skiing in Serre Chevalier. We’ve had a few similarly long volunteer WorkAway stops as they offer a different dynamic to travelling, but on these projects we are still busy with volunteer work so the time isn’t fully restful or necessarily restorative.
We have completed many amazing hikes, cycles and wild swims as we playfully wallowed in the great outdoors, it all so much easier and accessible now than our former life allowed. We do find the constant moving, planning and daily exploration to be rather tiring, so we have future plans to mix up our current busy motorhoming life with a few longer-term house-sits this winter, in the south of France. We hope they will bring us a more stable, rooted influence, allowing us to rediscover specific aspects of our past life that we miss, like gardening and baking, and let us become a small part of a local community rather than simply passing through as tourists.
3. When did you first start motorhoming and what inspired you to start?
On a recent holiday to Australia we rented a campervan to explore the Red Centre region, around Uluru & Kings Canyon. We loved it, really appreciating the closeness to the outdoors and the simple freedom of the open road that motorhoming life offered. That was the seed that, when combined with our on-going dreams to escape from the shackles of the office, gradually led to us making the jump off society’s conventional treadmill for this more rewarding lifestyle.
We had lofty goals for our new-found free time; days filled with language learning, music performing, book reading and writing, sketching and painting, along with being the fittest and healthiest we’re ever been. It hasn’t quite panned out like that, as we’ve found that we’re much lazier and less motivated that we thought we might be. We had hoped to be multi-lingual award-winning photographers or Virtuoso Ironmen with books on the best-seller lists by now, but on sober reflection we’ll happily settle for the wonderful simplicity of having a surplus of freedom and time.
4. Tell us about your current motorhome like make, model, name, age and why you chose it?
Our van is called Benny. It’s a Spanish-built Benimar Mileo 201, made specifically for the UK market. It is right hand drive with the habitation door on the left, which has caused confusion as we’ve been travelling Europe, particularly when in northern Norway as they rarely see British vans. We visited the Peterborough and Birmingham shows as we researched what we hoped for and what was available. We had a long wish-list; a fixed transverse bed, a large garage for our bikes (rather than a carrier on the back) and other outdoor gear, reasonable worktop space, good storage, solar panels, all in a van under 6m long and 3.5t. We were new to driving such vehicles and, with Europe driving on the right, we wanted it kept simple. A smaller van offered more accessibility to the remote, quiet places we craved, and is cheaper for tolls roads and ferries, as we planned to spend time in Norway. The Mileo 201 ticked all our boxes.
We ordered and bought our van from new, partly because this particular model suited our needs so well and wasn’t then available second-hand, and also as novices we didn’t know what pitfalls to look out for in purchasing older vans, and were attracted to having a two year Europe-wide breakdown and full warranty cover. We love skiing and wished to take the van into the mountains, so being newer it was well insulated and set-up for that environment. We had an awning, an additional leisure battery and a few USB ports added in the factory before our exciting collection day.
5. Where is the best place you have ever been and why?
So many places stand out in our memory – cycling to Mont. St. Michel, climbing Dune du Pilat, exploring the streets of San Sebastian, chilling on Portugal’s beaches, spectacular Seville, the pueblo blancos of hilly southern Spain, the orange groves around Simat De La Valldigna, the stunningly rugged Costa Brava coastline, ethereal Avignon, exploring the many vineyards around Chateauneuf-du-Pape, skiing in the Alps, the tulips of Emmeloord; the majestic roads and fjords of Norway; the serenity of Sweden’s lakes. ‘Best’ covers such a range of overlapping and competing ideals, influenced by weather, culture, wildlife, landscape, activity, downtime and mood, and each category holds a different favourite place.
That said, big walks and jagged mountain tops are always very special places to us, and of these, hikes in the Picos de Europa, Spain and along the Besseggen Ridge, Norway would rate most highly in our memories.
6. Where is the worst place you have ever been and why?
We have an aversion to crowds, and unnecessary noise. In rural Portugal we had a lot of wild dogs to contend with, from an ‘excessive barking at night’ or ‘being violently chased while cycling’ perspective, so we can’t say we miss those times. The country itself was otherwise fantastic. We’ve been eaten alive by mosquitoes on several riverside stops, them somehow getting inside Benny through closed windows, fridge vents or seemingly by magic, and have spent long nights unable to sleep as we constantly squashed them, and with them our own blood, over the walls or ceiling of our van.
Crashing at a few anonymous rastplats in Scandinavia where lorries have ran generators or their diesel engines all night have brought the worst ‘sleep’ we’ve experienced, along with our stay in an (otherwise lovely) free aire near Barcelona where we had noisy, vomiting drunks outside, hiding themselves behind our van to throw up or urinate.
7. What 3 places are on your bucket / wish list?
At the moment, anywhere sunny and dry – we’ve had rain following us for three weeks straight now. We’ve still got so much of Europe to see before we even begin to narrow it down to a specific wishlist. We plan to spend a part of summer 2018 in the Alps, before heading along Italy and across to Greece, where we hope for some autumn warmth.
Away from our van travels, there are a few big trips we have our eye on – Japan, Madagascar and Antarctica always hover near the top of our many lists. With our new found love of this rolling life, we are also beginning to look into potential options for long term motorhoming trips in Canada/US and Australia/New Zealand, weighing up whether we could buy a van out there or somehow ship Benny out. Early days though, so our short-term focus is still on visiting a myriad of European countries, and it will be a few years before we start seeking out more far-flung locations to visit.
8. What things (apart from the obvious) do you always travel with?
Scarlet & Falcon (our two travel buddies – a fluffy blue sheep and penguin toy to the outside world), our bikes, our walking boots, our swimming wetsuits. We did have our inflatable kayak with us for the first six months before we decided to leave it behind, in favour of large storage tubs full with hard-to-find foods from home. We have a small travel guitar that appears from its case only rarely but has been an ever-present traveller. We have books, lots and lots of books, along with sketch books and pencils for when those creative moments take us. We have an essential laptop and several hard drives filled with TV shows and movies, as we made the decision not to have a TV installed.
9. If you could share one handy motorhome hint or tip, what would it be?
Although we’ve now been on the road for a year, we still feel like relative novices and as such don’t feel qualified to be handing out advice, but, if you’re considering giving it a try, just do it. It’s certainly a great life, but worth noting that, with the extent of time spent with your partner in such close proximity inside a little white box, be sure to bring lots of patience, understanding and a decent, robust sense of humour with you.
If you’re already motorhoming, then our one tip would be to bring the appropriate essentials with you based on research of where you’re planning to go. We took a lot of canned or packet food staples with us for our Scandinavia trip, where we knew groceries would be expensive, and it not only saved us time and money, but was really convenient to have our favourite eats easily on hand. (three bottles of single malt and 2000 tea bags included).
10. Any finally, what’s your funniest motorhome moment?
Every day we still laugh at the good fortune of us not having to be at work, and Monday mornings especially bring a skip to our step as we remember those who are making their way there whilst we enjoy a lazy start to our free day.
Some moments are much funnier in retrospect – visiting fellow motorhoming friends near Limoux, we followed the SatNav route to their home completely, its final shortcut along a narrow, gravel path through a vineyard seemed, at first, vaguely plausible, until we reached the final right turn to their road. Here we faced a steep, stony and muddy bank with a tiny opening through a tall hedge that we’d have struggled to cycle through. With no chance to progress with the van, and no possible opportunity to turn, we had to slowly reverse for a long, awkward kilometre, cursing our trusting silliness as we studiously avoided the very soft verges that fell away abruptly. It was comically ridiculous.
Nicky has requested an honourable mention to my Narbonne ‘commando roll’, a personal favourite of hers. This was where I misjudged a kerb when wandering along a side street, lost my balance and with my opposite leg still in the air mid-step I had no means of righting my impending fall, so I rolled sideways then straight into a full forward roll before popping up to my feet immediately and confidently declaring it was all deliberate. I don’t think I got away with it.
If you would like to check out Aaron & Nicky’s Travels then click here! They would love for you to stop by and say hello! Their blog is a descriptive travelogue of their adventures and activities as they travel around Europe in their motorhome. Along with visiting key sights and cities, they search out the quiet, rural places where they can cycle, run, hike and swim, living their lives outdoors. They record their days with words and photos, to ensure they remember where they’ve been and also to share a small taste of their travels with others.
Thanks for the interview folks, and don’t forget to drop us a line when you plan on treading your tyres further afield, we might join you!
If you would like to join in the fun then drop is an email at email@example.com