Of course it is. We’re not daft enough to think we can move into a road vehicle, be it for a weekend or indefinitely, and not understand there are going to be some trade-offs to make.
So we think it’s time to stop selling the ‘home from home’ marketing BS and start selling the real dream – the one where the compromises are fun (rock, paper, scissors for who’s going to empty the toilet cassette) – and living a life more connected to your consumption is actually quite refreshing.
Our generation wants a simpler life to escape to every now and then.
Don’t get me wrong, in our journey across the Alps this winter, we’ve seen some motorhomes that make 2 bed luxury riverside apartments over-looking the Thames look like nasty holes, but the vast majority of motorhomers, particularly those who tour in winter, live a life of compromise. If you don’t like the following realities, book an AirBnB.
Our top motorhome compromises:
You have a tank – whether it’s 20 litres or 200 litres (ours is 100 litres), when it’s empty, you have to fill it back up and that means one of you has to move – you or the van.
Moving the van requires some preparation – putting stuff away, taking out cables, removing screen covers… it’s not a small list. Moving you probably means backwards and forward with jugs or watering cans or bowsers, and in winter it’s a full waterproof get-up for you too. Either way, it’s effort. The only way to avoid this is to stay on campsites with plug in water or whopping great hoses and where’s the fun in that?
So – how much water do you need, and how often do you want to exert the effort to refill your tank? Simple equation. That’ll give you your consumption/day and you can work the rest out yourself.
Not having endless flowing fresh hot and cold water. Do you even know how much you use a day? If you’re interested, try it and then Google ‘Cape Town Water Crisis’ and give yourself a little reality check. You can also check out this YouTube video which explains the situation.
Waste water disposal
What goes in, must come out. You know when you flush the toilet at home that stuff goes somewhere right? If you’ve got a septic tank you know all about this but it’s out of sight, out of mind…
Well in a motorhome, it’s very much front and centre. James actually apologised the other day for taking 3 dumps in one day and insisted that even though it was my turn, he had to empty the loo because he filled it.
The same goes for the rest of the stuff that comes out of the tap or a bottle…
Off grid living with running water and a flushing toilet means you’re limited to the capacity of your waste collection tanks before you have to dispose of the contents (responsibly).
There is a sector of the #vanlife community that chose a different way – opting to use buses and leave toilet paper everywhere, wash in fresh water rivers with their toxic shower gels and fly-tip their rubbish at pristine picnic sites….
Normal waste disposal
Gotta love France. Mountains don’t have personal refuse collection – say that back to yourself.
In the UK, someone comes and takes all the crap you generate and the stuff you chuck out and takes it away for you so you don’t have to think about it. What a crock of 54!7.
Here in France, you’re responsible for your own waste disposal. You use your legs and you take your waste to a service point (probably no more than 50 metres away). You sort your own recycling and as long as you keep on top of it, you never have a smelly bin in your house or on your drive etc. Imagine?!
Compromise: You have to use your legs.
A huge bathroom
It’s so lovely. We have an actual shower and an actual toilet and the two are separated by carpet and a sink. It’s awesome. Especially for people living full time in a motorhome engaging in athletic activities on a daily basis. But…
We have a metric tonne of kit. We chose skis and boards and boots and tools over knickers and shoes. This van is designed for clothes and bits and bobs and not for snow kit. So we put all our kit in the shower when it’s not in use and outside when it is. We have a snowboard tucked behind the toilet and bindings stored where toothpaste should be. So what? It’s our van. If we had a pimp heated garage for our snow kit we wouldn’t have a pimp bathroom and still be under 7.5m and 3.5t (and James is a bit precious about his skis anyway and likes to be able to see them at all times).
Compromise: multi-purposing spaces
A place to work
In our motorhome we have galley facing sofas in the living area (not sure if that’s what the marketing people call them but you know what we mean). This means that both James and I can work at a table. We’re both at computers a lot and we’re not just away for a wet weekend in Wales. We’re here for months and months and for our posture and health, we need to be sitting like grown-ups. It also means we have somewhere ‘proper’ to eat.
Compromise: If we want to sleep in the same bed, we have to make it up each night. It’s no biggy. In fact, it’s part of our evening ritual and it takes 30 seconds. It also means our van changes shape every day and that’s nice too.
Weight and length
This is a big one for us. James can’t drive anything over 3.5 tonnes without an expensive licence and a bunch of time and admin. Limited weight essentially means there’s only so much you can take and only so big your van can be.
Compromise: We look at vans with epic garages and belly lockers and slide-outs and double height fridges and 50 inch plasmas and we don’t really want any of it.
It’s not a compromise. We couldn’t go half the places we have if we were any bigger.
When you move back into your house from you motorhome you’ll have to compromise on freedom; waking up to different views each day; and not being able to reach everything you need from where you’re sat. I think we’re in the camp where that sounds like a compromise we’re just not prepared to make.