You like to know the less exciting details of life on the road, living out of a 10m2 mobile home? Read on.
I also made a quick post that shared some of my favourite experiences of the journey. That post is filled with pictures of beautiful things. This post though, is the data, graphs, maps, and far less exciting things to most people.
I’ll get the big stats out of the way first, save you reading through volumes of mildly on topic rambling.
We visited 33 countries in 34 weeks over 35,000km, costing a total of about €15,500. I’ll have more of a breakdown of those stats in the sections below.
It took us five months to drive 37,000km around Australia. OK, in truth, it took 6-months, but only because we spent an entire month in total waiting on repairs to be carried out on our not-so-trusty chariot. Australia is kind of big, so I thought that it’d be relatively similar to travel Europe – rookie mistake, I forgot just how flat and empty Australia is.
Finding a route was one of the hardest things at the beginning of the journey. Countless hours were spent reading through guidebooks, trying to find what was worth detouring for, and just as importantly, what wasn’t. From this initial reading, we’d saved hundreds of locations that we wanted to visit. Now came the job of linking these points up in a logical fashion.
I tried to also consider the weather when choosing a route, sticking to the warmer southern regions in spring and autumn, and heading further north during the peak of summer.
This is the first route that I thought we’d roughly take, which included UK, Ireland, Faroe Islands, Iceland and right up above the Arctic Circle to Lofoten Peninsular in Norway! The roughest estimate came at about 40,000km, which wasn’t actually too far off the reality – though a subset of the original journey.
Other than the countries that we skipped, the actual route wasn’t too dissimilar to the plan. I did spend a fair bit of time making that original plan (though less time actually drawing it), so it’s probably no coincidence it lined up so closely. Also, those yellow lines, they’re previous journeys, which helps explain why some regions were skipped. Sorry, I know the map isn’t super clear, but attempting to explain it is unlikely to make it much clearer.
For the most part, the decisions to follow the weather worked out quite well, too. It was still quite mild while we were in Spain and Portugal, borderline bearable by the time we’d arrived in Italy, and then by the time we’d made it into Norway, it was about as warm as it was going to get for the year #fakesummer. The same held true for when we finally made it down into the Balkans, with temperatures being just about perfect for swimming in late October.
It wasn’t all perfect – though, it was never possible to have it perfect everywhere. By the time we were heading home through Romania, Hungary, Austria, Germany and then France in November, temperatures were regularly low single digits, with several occasions of us either waking up to fresh snow, or driving through snowstorms. Thankfully it was just our comfort that was impacted, and the roads remained free of ice. If we’d returned any later, I think we may have run into problems and required snow tyres.
I kept track of distance travelled in each of the countries, and it was no real surprise where the majority of the driving was done – hint: France. More on that later.
I’ve been asked how we budget for a trip like this, and I didn’t really have an accurate answer. I basically looked at roughly how many kilometres we were going to be travelling, looked at fuel costs in different countries, and then made an estimate with a rough fuel economy calculation. I also looked at costs of ferries that we’d be catching, which was going to be a BIG part of a journey to Iceland and the Faroe Islands, but otherwise not so significant.
Of course, there were many other costs, like food, activities, tolls, camping, and maintenance – among others. I couldn’t really work this out, but instead made a rough guess based on what we would spend on groceries (if I ever bought groceries, thanks to my previous job) plus a little extra to cover museums or other attractions. It was all a little guestimatey, without too much data to back any of it up. The value that I came up with was about £2000/mo. At first, we were close using this full budget each month, but later in the trip, we started spending much, much less, thanks to being in Eastern Europe.
Also, the British Pound was quite volatile against the Euro (and most currencies). Unfortunately, all our savings were in Sterling, so we had to ride with the ups and the downs.
As you can see, fuel was by and far the major expense of this trip, though thanks to the surprisingly good fuel economy of our van, it was actually much less than I thought it might have been. We also attempted to maximise fuel purchases in cheaper countries – though we didn’t always get that right.
I was tracking these stats from the beginning, monitoring trends – though, mostly for curiosity purposes, rather than with any motivation to change habits. It was a little surprising that we ended up spending more money on meals from restaurants than we did purchasing groceries. I think the combination of fatigue, and cheaper restaurants during the second half of the journey skewed things away from near exclusively cooking ourselves (and by ourselves, I mean Risa cooking).
I was also quite impressed with how little we managed to spend on camping. We rarely paid for camping unless necessary, which thankfully turned out to be not that often! I don’t know if it was the satisfaction at not having to pay for camping that skewed my opinion, but generally I preferred the free camping options, rather than being in a garden with dozens of other motorhomes.
There were so many things that we had to learn the hard way while we were travelling. We’d never used a motorhome before, so all the logistics of one had to be learnt. We’d also never driven across country borders before, so this too was new.
Once we got the hang of how to empty the dirty water, and how to refill the clean water, it quickly became second nature – though, still somewhat of a chore. At first we were reluctant to use the built in toilet, but you quickly get used to it. It’s clean, it doesn’t smell (unless you’re the poor soul emptying it) and it’s easier than trying to find public toilets.
For the most part, things went smoothly from the beginning. Border crossings were rarely a problem (it wasn’t until Bosnia and Herzegovina that we even had passports checked). Language was mostly OK, with most people able to speak (or at least understand) some English – and Google Translate was able to do the rest (when we had mobile coverage).
ADAC – We purchased roadside breakdown assistance from this German company, as they offered coverage for the entirety of continental Europe (as well as UK) for a very reasonable price. We had to make use of them once while worried at the top of a 2500m mountain pass with a failed brake vacuum pump. Thankfully we didn’t have any need to be towed, or any serious breakdowns, but it was a small piece of mind to have.
park4night and Camperstop – Two applications that we would use almost religiously. There is a huge database of places to sleep, park and service motorhomes. park4night tended to have more free, unofficial parking locations, whereas Camperstop had more paid camping areas, as well as service/dump locations. The best thing about these listings were the comments from other travellers, advising if the ground was flat, or if there were problems with theft etc. We ended up paying a few pounds for the full version of both applications, just in case we didn’t have mobile service when we needed to find a place to sleep for the night.
Mobile Roaming in EU – We left the UK and continued our UK mobile contracts, knowing that with the carrier Three, we were able to roam for free in the EU and EEA. However, I thought that it was only allowing up to one month of roaming. However, we continued to use it for free for eight months. The one limiting factor though was the quality of the service. We didn’t seem to have access to the 4G/LTE networks, only 3G and earlier, making mobile internet a little slow/frustrating.
Insurance – This is only really applicable for Australians in the UK. Get your license converted as soon as possible to a British license. Insurance providers here don’t take into consideration the length of time that you have been driving, only how long you’ve had your UK license. As I’d waited until I was no longer able to use my Australian license (12-months) before doing the translation/transfer, it meant that I hadn’t had a UK license for a full year when it came time to find vehicle insurance. They wouldn’t insure someone with less than a years experience to drive a motorhome – even though I’d had my Australian license for over half my life. Our only option was with a specialist provider, Down Under Insurance, who unsurprisingly cater to Australians/Kiwis in the UK. It wasn’t a great policy, but it was the best that we could get. We paid nearly £600 for a 12-month, third-party property policy. We were not able to get comprehensive nor fire and theft coverage. I wasn’t comfortable with this, but it was the best that we could find.
My suggestion with the policies, should there be a choice, is to also check the countries that are covered. We weren’t covered for non EEA countries, such as Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina or Montenegro, and we had to purchase additional insurance at the border.
Servicing and spares – This also only really applies if you’re planning on servicing your vehicle yourself. Parts aren’t hard to come by while travelling, but they are much, much more expensive than purchasing online. It was a small challenge finding shops that sold parts in different countries, though it was more of a frustrating challenge than a fun/rewarding one. I wished I’d bought a few filters before leaving London.
Money – This was a big one. I wholeheartedly suggest getting a Revolut card (or two, since we lost one). It wasn’t perfect (the service was unavailable a few times, forcing me to use my regular UK bank and facing their international fees – which Revolut refunded), but it was much, much better than the standard UK bank accounts and their fees. The only thing that gave us problems were the automated fuel stations in France – they wouldn’t work with the Revolut card, only our other UK cards, due to it attempting to block a fixed amount of money prior to using the pumps.
On the whole, it was thankfully uneventful for problems. It didn’t start out so peachy, with us missing the ferry to Calais after the alternator belt snapped – thankfully I had a spare, though it did take some time to work out how to change it. We had two more breakdowns along the way: one costing €500 and taking four days to repair a worn bearing in a drive shaft; the other costing €40 and taking 5-minutes to replace the brake vacuum pump. We also had two tyres burst. The first was due to me misjudging the width of the van in some road works, clipping something with our back wheel and tearing the sidewall. The second came from the spare that could very well have been the original, living in the engine bay for 200,000km and delaminating plies on the internal sidewall shortly after being put into service.
We had one night that we didn’t feel safe free camping, after some people threw rocks at our van in a very, very remote area of Corsica – I’m sure it was the nearby caravan park staff. We also had two occasions with police asking (telling) us to move along – once in Italy, another in Croatia. Thankfully both the police visits were in the morning, and we were getting ready to move anyway.
We got one parking ticket in Oslo, which we were not able to appeal, and to my knowledge, no other traffic infringements or fines.
We had a few minor thefts (and one major, which I don’t wish to talk about), with a tripod being stolen overnight in Latvia (I shouldn’t have left it outside) and our pink flamingo mascot being stolen while we were driving in peak hour traffic in Tirana, Albania. Thankfully, other than my one large thing, we made it through unscathed. We were always quite careful with possessions, and where we parked. Having the small safe for the valuables also gave us some piece of mind.
We had a few small illnesses, but nothing that rest and a healthy dose of ginger wasn’t able to fix.
We ran out of fuel once in Hungary, and stupidly didn’t have any emergency cash to buy more, making it a little more difficult to get some spare from strangers. But, thanks to the kindness of strangers (who were thanked financially), we got by.
So, as mentioned much earlier in this lengthy post, we travelled about 35,000km over 238 days, and visited 33 different countries. I’ve got all kinds of stats that I’ve kept from this trip, because I’m a nerd, and I enjoy seeing this stuff shown graphically like this.
Budget – It’s all really been mentioned above, so I’ll not repeat myself. But, I did find it interesting the breakdown of spending per country. Everything was normalised into Euros, rather than British Pounds. The values seem to relate to the time spent and distance travelled in the country – which I expected, and I realise it sounds obvious. I also removed the maintenance costs, since they weren’t really indicative of the country.
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||€104.48|
Distances – What I really loved seeing was the breakdown of those 35,000km. I kept note of the odometer each time we crossed a border. I’ll be honest, I was a little surprised at how much driving we did in France! And, this doesn’t include the driving we did on Corsica (or Sardinia) – as they have their own sections. I also found it interesting that we averaged about 150km/day
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||170|
Time – This is another stat that I found really interesting. There is quite a bit of overlap, as some days we visited three countries, however, all three of those countries registered in my logs for that day, skewing the grand total a little. Does that even make sense? It does to me, but probably because I collected the data and created the graph.
Another slight skewing is that I decided to include Corsica/Sardinia in the totals for France/Spain, as well as them living in their own slices. Because reasons.
Fuel – Our biggest expense. I was really excited every time I bought fuel, because it meant that I could track our economy from the previous tank, as well as collect more information about the average fuel prices around Europe. I know, exciting!
So, we purchased fuel 68 times and used a disgusting 3,732 litres and €4440 to travel 35,000km. This worked out at about 10.6 l/100km – which was fantastic – and about an average pump price of €1.18/l. For reference, we travelled 37,000km in Australia, and spent about €5,000 on fuel – though, our economy was much worse, and fuel was generally much cheaper.
It was really interesting to see the chart of prices against the countries, with massive dips for fuel in Andorra, Lithuania and Bosnia and Herzegovina – and a giant spike in Norway, which generally wasn’t that expensive.
This was just as interesting to me, seeing how many posts I wrote (and how wordy they were), as well as how many photos I shot in that time.
I wanted to analyse all my posts, to see the distribution of the words that I used – however, I couldn’t find a way of doing this without writing a custom Python script. So, since I was super rusty at Python and needing some motivation for practise, that’s what I did – source available here.
I know that I’m probably the only one that is interested in these stats (and, I can’t really explain why I’m interested. Here goes. There were 120 blog posts, containing a grand total of nearly 215,000 words! Of those 215,000, there were nearly 12,000 unique words used – though, the parsing did do funky things with hyperlinks, and other ‘words’ like numbers were included in the list, further inflating the count. Yes, I could have probably filtered them out, but ain’t nobody got time for that. The average post had nearly 1,800 words, with a maximum of just under 4,000, and a minimum of just over 500.
All pretty boring, but what I thought would be interesting was the type of vocabulary used. I was a little worried about what I would find, as I’ve been told that I use the words ‘sadly’ or ‘disappointed/ing’ far too frequently. Neither of those words show up in the top 250 words, which might only be due to me changing my writing – FYI, those words are used 27 and 18/16 times and are #265 and #817/937 respectively.
So, what were the top words? Not all that interesting, to be brutally honest… Top 10 below.
I had to manually search through the chaff to find the goodness, like 369 occurrences of ‘beautiful’ or roughly three-occurrences per blog post! Even ‘weather’ was only used 164 times, and was outside of the Top 50 5+ letter words.
I also took nearly 15,000!! photographs while travelling, of which I kept about 5,000 – about 250GB worth. I thought this was a rather large number of photographs, but it worked out to about only 60/day. I have no idea how much drone footage I have, and am dreading the day that I start to edit it all into a single piece of work.
So, what I’m trying to say is, I loved keeping this, and having it for the future to look back on – but it was a lot of work! I expect there will be many more of adventures in the future, and I hope I can manage to minimise the amount of effort that I put into it (unlikely).
I think that a motorhome is the best way to travel, simply for getting the opportunity to see more than just the major cities. Yes, it can be a pain sometimes when you arrive in cities, but the freedom and the comfort outweigh the issues in my experienced opinion.
Now, I just have to think where the next trip will be… North America? Stay tuned I guess…