I think it was sometime around 36 that I turned from fearless go-getter to full-blown pansy overnight.
Apart from a pretty weird but resolved fear of flying, I’m not sure I can ever remember being particularly bothered about much. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve never been an adrenaline junkie – you wouldn’t see see jumping from a bridge with an elastic band tied around my ankles or catch me chucking myself off a cliff wearing a wing suit but many people would argue that the regularity with which I take bonkers, reckless and irresponsible life-changing decisions would however indicate that I’m not exactly one of life’s risk-averse line-towers. On to the pansy part.
WOMEN ARE 76% MORE LIKELY TO DIE IN A MOTORHOME, FALLING OFF A CLIFF EDGE THAN MEN
What a load of twaddle. But talk to any of us who struggle with the switchbacks and high altitude passes and you’d think this was true news. Thankfully it’s not.
I’ve spent a year and a half reading posts on our Facebook group and in the comments on our blog that not only can I relate to, but also that make me feel a bit sad (one particular post pushed me to write this so if you’re reading this, you know who you are).
The question is, why, with all these go-getter couples – intrepid powder-hounds – itchy footed globe trotters, are there so many otherwise adventurous women getting the wobbles about driving motorhomes and falling off cliffs?
Well – I looked into it via number of sources on the topic. I consulted medical journals, psychiatric reports and some pseudoscience-guff on the internet by entirely unqualified people. It transpires there are bona fide reasons why we as women might be experiencing a different level of anxiety than men when facing the doom of careering off a cliff edge. It’s because we’re not stupid. There is a genuine (but exceedingly remote) possibility that it could actually happen. Which means that rather than an irrational fear i.e. a phobia, it’s a legitimate concern. Boys are stupid and that’s why they don’t have the same worries.
So now that’s out of the way – I’m just going to share my experiences and maybe it will help someone.
This phrase has become almost as taboo as carbohydrate (with good reason) but ladies, in this case we need to ‘man up’ a bit. Let’s go to a space in our heads where, in the highly unlikely event of an off-cliff incident where the result is pretty grim, you meet your demise in the most epic Thelma and Louise-esque moment and well, you won’t be forgotten in a hurry. Let’s just say that’s the worst case scenario. Now we can address the real issues.
THE THINGS THAT GIVE ME THE WILLIES ABOUT MOTORHOMES
I hate being a victim so every time I’m faced with a problem I seem to go into ‘solve it’ mode. Which is why after 30 seconds of marginal discomfort on a plane once, I launched what became a 20 year campaign to rid myself of the fear of flying. Broader picture, this means that I become an evangelical loon about whatever miracle cure I discover for my latest neurosis.
My Motorhoming ‘Issues’.
1 – Twating the bodywork
I’m pragmatic with vehicles. Most dings can be mended and whilst not ideal (and it’s important to take care), there is no point in sending yourself demented worrying about it.
Unless it’s a motorhome.
If you’re in a coachbuilt motorhome, you know what we’re talking about. I’m pretty sure they’re made of recycled plastic cups so couple that with the crisp sub-zero conditions of the mountains and they seem even more brittle. Look at them funny and the bumpers disintegrate. We lived with a constant fear of compromising the integrity of the vehicle, letting in damp, crushing some gas pipe – the sides falling off… you know how it is.
How I overcame this: The vehicle we had on our season long motorhome ski trip was a loan vehicle and we looked after it better than we probably would have if it were our own – so I decided to stop caring about the fact that it was fragile. More importantly, we resolved that if we were ever to buy anything it would be the very best quality we could possibly afford, or we’d build one ourselves from the deck up. Motorhomes are tools – they depreciate at lightning speed and you need to get over it. It’s a weapon of freedom and like you, it’s going to get some laughter lines.
2 – Blowing up
I’m one of those people who knows enough about how gas works to be absolutely terrified of it. I think of it like a feral cat stuffed into a box. If it gets out, it’s going to FSU (another thing the kids say but basically translated means – it’s going to be quite a bother). The worst thing about gas in the mountains is that it expands and contracts and the volume never seems to make sense. It’s unpredictable and if it blows up, it’s going to make a considerable mess.
How I overcame the fear of gas: Well this is a funny one. Firstly, the fear of gassing yourself in the night in a motorhome is completely unfounded because most of them have 10 times as many gas drops (holes in the floor) as is required by law in British building regulations so you’d have a job unless you’re sucking it directly from a leaky pipe.
The fear of actually blowing up was abated over time simply by the fact that we hadn’t blown up yet. The Safefil Gas tanks we borrowed from the Grey Gappers were made of materials familiar to me from my career in motor racing which is always reassuring because it’s a ‘safety first’ business. Better still, James removed the all the gas appliances and applied jointing compound to all the joints on the pipework, I felt a bit better.
NB – We have since discovered that there are minimal regulations regarding gas installation in motorhomes – you don’t need to be Gas Safe certified to work on the systems or install them as you do if you’re a household fitter, and the safety testing is sketchy at best. This does not mean your motorhome isn’t safe. It just means that the manufacturers aren’t required to meet a standard. Our advice for what it’s worth is to get a Gas Safe engineer to service your system and do any work – even if just for peace of mind. There are a very large number of motorhome gas fitters who are unqualified and not certified – would you have someone without the right papers work on your home? Nope. Me neither.
3 – Falling over the edge of a cliff (and then blowing up)
It’s totally reasonable to be concerned about this or indeed just have the physiological responses that go with it. I think this was probably the cause of the greatest number of tiffs between James and I on our trip. I’m scared, he doesn’t get it, telling me it’s fine DOESN’T CHUFFING HELP – sound familiar?
I really don’t know what it is – I know we’re not going to fall off the edge. I know that coaches and artic lorries make it up most of the roads we travel on to reach aires, campsites and resorts. I know that good, full spec winter tyres keep you pretty much welded to the ground and I know that statistically, you’re more likely to be killed in a ski resort transfer bus than a motorhome!
That still doesn’t stop me wincing as we pass traffic, leaning over to make extra sure my weight doesn’t tip us over the edge and sniffing out of the window convinced that the engine, brakes and windscreen wipers are all on fire.
How I got over it: I’ve been driving in the mountains a while – just in a trusty Volvo and not a motorhome. Did you know that when you buy a Volvo you’re magically bestowed with vehicular invincibility? You can drive any conditions with style, grace and confidence.
Somehow, get into a motorhome and I realise that that magic is transferrable. It’s just about confidence – that and physics. It’s all fine. I take my time, I joyously ignore people ‘up my arse’ and we don’t travel on Saturdays if we can help it.
4 – Falling out of a ski lift – falling off a ski lift – a ski lift careering to the floor in a headline maker of a catastrophe – having to be rescued from a ski lift by the SAS on ropes
I have no idea when this cropped up on me but I blame YouTube, Vaujany and James Bond. I also blame James for discussing in detail, exactly how he’d extract himself from a chairlift in an emergency using a whole host of skills and experience climbing, I simply don’t have. If you want to travel to Vaujany, stay in the aire and get across to the Grand Domaine, don’t Google it.
How I got over it: Valium.
No – I actually take a much more hippy approach than that – breathing exercises if I know I’m going on a lift that’s likely to freak me out (Aiguille du Midi is particularly good at making my bottom twitch). I’ve managed to master deep breathing in a way that is relatively discrete but if you’re on a big lift, the chances are you’ll spot fellow white knuckle riders so worry not.
I have one more trick up my sleeve and that’s specifically to deal with people who think it’s funny to rock and swing lifts, particularly when they stop. If someone you know is swinging the lift tell them they’re a complete prat and tell them if they don’t stop, you will start screaming. If you don’t know the people, just start screaming – you do not have time to negotiate. There is truly no faster way to stop people being idiots that to yell like you’ve lost your mind. However, keep it brief or the S.A.S. might come to try and rescue you.