Each year we expect most of Europe to be some what overrun with British campervans and motorhomes. Mainly, following the large uptake in the hobby by both British and Europeans. It seems that so many like minded people want a slice of life on the open road. But we hardly see Brits abroad where are they? Do they not venture that far from home? Maybe they just head for the same destination?
A couple of Winters’ ago, we toured Southern Spain . We couldn’t believe the number of campervans filling the Costa’s, with campsites full to the brim. Even private camper stops were overflowing on to the side roads. Most being booked up until the end of the Winter season, giving no option for those without a booking to just park up wherever and however they could.
Not even realising that you could book on some camper stops, we ended up rather stuck for a place to park up. It was no surprise, that hundreds of others were in the same situation.
Glancing through the pages of Social Media, the increase in campervan or motorhome ownership seems to be at an all time high. There are so many reasons to pack up the day job and turn to buying that dream van. Many are wanting to begin those travels, which they have craved for so long.
Add to this, the many Facebook groups which have sprung up in recent years. Where thousands of followers and a complete range of topics have amounted to a mass of information overload.
It had seemed, that most of Great Britain had taken the plunge into the world of vanlife, motorhomes and campervans!
Venturing across the Channel for the start of a Summer tour of Italy. We couldn’t help imagine being joined by a mass of GB number plates. We thought we’d be amongst a selection of vans, coming in all shapes, sizes and configurations.
It started out promising enough. As we parked on one of our favourite Aires at Brugges, we counted several GB stickers. These were proudly attached to an array of vans, more than some past years put together. The British were venturing more into Europe, we were now not alone! Or so we thought!
However, as we travelled on through Germany, the trail became less and less. Although a 3 day stop at the biggest off road overland truck show in the world, Abenteuer and Allrad proved a little more promising.
Here, we discovered several British enthusiasts, mainly 4×4 owners and potential buyers of the big truck market. As we parked up amongst these incredible overland vehicles, descending on Bad Kissingen, it was quite interesting engaging in conversation with some fellow travellers.
As our Sprinter wheels drove on through the neighbouring countries of Switzerland, Austria and Liechtenstein. Our main destination of Italy, we came closer. By this stage, we’d lost sight of fellow GB stickers and instead found ourselves alone, on the great roads of our Europe.
Despite a 9 week trip, covering many of the great tourist hotspots of Northern Italy. We struggled to see any other British motorhomes, despite touring the big name Lakes of Como, Maggiore, Iseo and Garda. As well as some of the incredible, iconic cities such as Verona, Milan and Venice. Venturing onwards through the idyllic wine routes North to the dramatic Alpine Mountain towns of the Dolomites. We were amazed, to be a rather rare commodity in terms of country of origin.
So, this has got us thinking and even made us slightly puzzled. Because, if the social media pages are correct and so many campervan mad enthusiasts have taken up the pastime. Just where is everyone going in their vans? Or is it actually reality, that most people don’t venture too far from home? Maybe choosing to stay in Britain or perhaps travel a short distance to France, in their early days of owning that first van.
Perhaps it’s still Spain that’s the Summer hotspot as well as the Winter getaway? Has the traditional British holidaymaker made the transition into the motorhome world instead of flying down to the Spanish coast? Maybe even buying a campervan as an alternative to the holiday apartment purchase, so favoured in the past?
Whatever the reason for having a lack of British company on our Summer travels. For those lovely British people that we did encounter, mainly around the busier tourist towns of Lake Garda. It was certainly a pleasure to exchange notes and hear of their own travels. The opportunities to travel across the amazing European countries, that we are so fortunate to be able to enjoy.
Whilst there may have been a shortage in our fellow countrymen to exchange conversation with. We certainly met some wonderful people from other various nationalities. Ranging from Australians, Germans, Dutch and Italians, we always find that people are so friendly, interesting and welcoming.
One of our first stops in Germany, saw us being welcomed by our neighbours. An elderly German couple, providing us with a selection of cold meats to try with our lunch time snack. With language barriers being broken down by polite gestures and a mix of broken English and the odd German school words. We got by and enjoyed a pleasant short spell of time in their company.
On another occasion after a day hiking in the glacial valleys, North of Lake Garda. We parked up at a welcome overnight wild camping spot, alongside a small lake. Here, we were soon joined by a young German couple in their VW campervan. As the previous occupants had already built a campfire which was lit, we settled down to a memorable evening under the stars. Talking to the small hours over a few beers in the warm glow of the embers. Whilst the conversation flowed, thanks to their near perfect English.
Later on in our trip we accidentally got talking to an Australian couple. Enjoying a really interesting conversation and even recommending them to try our local Welsh mountain bike trails and campsites, for their visit to the UK, which was their next destination.
A week or so later, sure enough, they had ventured up to North Wales and experienced our local area including the forest trails that we’d suggested. Including a lovely campsite overlooking the majestic Moel Siabod moutain peak. It was lovely to exchange our Instagram profiles to capture the moment.
Finally, on one of our last Stellplatz stops at a German vineyard. Our fellow neighbours, were already sat out under their awning to protect them from the intense Summer sun. The soon invited us over to sample the wine that they’d just bought from the local vineyard co-operative.
Happily supplying us with the local tipple and exchanging tales of adventures that they soon hope to have. They were hoping to cross to Canada in their own campervan. Language, as we so often find, is no barrier among those with the same interests and ambition for travel in the van.
Last but not least, we did engage in a very lovely conversation with an English lady at Gravelines. This was our last Aire before the morning ferry from Calais. Talking for some time about the joys of campervan travel and our joint love of this amazing way of seeing the world. We’d come full circle and once again found a fellow Brit abroad enjoying the delights of Europe and all it has to offer!
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