Each year we expect most of Europe to be some what overrun with British campervans and motorhomes, 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, so 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, huge numbers of campervans filled the Costa’s, an incredible sight. The campsites were full and private camper stops overflowing on side roads.
Many were booked up until the end of the Winter season, giving no option for those with no booking, to park up wherever and however they could.
Not realising that you could book camperstops, we ended up 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 wanting to begin travels, which they’ve craved for so long.
Add to this, the many Facebook groups which have sprung up in recent years, here thousands of followers and topics have amounted to mass 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 imagined being joined by a mass of GB number plates. Thinking we’d be amongst a selection of vans, coming in all shapes, sizes and configurations.
It started out promising enough, parking 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 years put together. The British were venturing more into Europe, we were now not alone, or so we thought!
Travelling on through Germany, the trail became less and less, 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. Parking amongst these incredible overland vehicles, descending on Bad Kissingen, it was interesting to engage in conversation with some fellow travellers.
As our Sprinter wheels drove on through the neighbouring countries of Switzerland, Austria and Liechtenstein, our destination of Italy came closer. By this stage, we’d lost sight of fellow GB stickers and instead found ourselves alone, on the great roads of Europe.
Despite a 9 week trip, covering many of the great tourist hotspots of Northern Italy, we struggled to spot other British motorhomes.
This had us thinking, if social media pages are correct and so many campervan-mad enthusiasts have taken up the hobby, where is everyone going in their vans? Or is it actually reality, that most people don’t venture too far from home? Possibly 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 people buy a campervan now instead of a holiday apartment purchase, so favoured in the past?
Whatever the reason for a lack of British company on our Summer travels, those lovely British people that we did encounter, around the busier tourist towns of Lake Garda, were a pleasure to exchange notes with and hear their own travels.
The opportunity to travel across these amazing European countries is a privilege, that we feel fortunate 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.
Australians, Germans, Dutch and Italians, to name a few, always finding them friendly, interesting and welcoming.
For example, one of our first stops in Germany, saw us welcomed by our neighbours, an elderly German couple, providing us with a selection of cold meats to try with our lunch time snack.
As language barriers were broken down by polite gestures and a mix of broken English and odd German school words, we 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 an overnight wild camping spot, alongside a small lake. Here, we were joined by a young German couple in their VW campervan. The previous occupants had already built a campfire which was lit, so we settled down to a memorable evening under the stars.
Talking into the small hours over a few beers in the warm glow of the embers, the conversation flowed, thanks to their near perfect English.
Later on in our trip we accidentally got talking to an Australian couple. Enjoying interesting conversation we recommended them to try our local Welsh mountain bike trails and campsites, for their up and coming trip to Wales.
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 our arrival at our last Stellplatz stop, at a German vineyard, our fellow neighbours, were already sat out under their awning to protect them from the Summer sun. They 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, involving crossing 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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