I work for the retail company John Lewis, which has a rather lovely tradition of giving employees six months paid leave after they’ve completed 25 years service. When I began working for them, initially as a Christmas temp back in 1987 then as a graduate trainee in 1988, I had no intention whatsoever of staying that long. But, you know, the years went by, and in about 2002 I realised it was probably quite likely I’d make my 25 year anniversary (I’ve actually done 29 years).
And it was in 2002 as far as I recall, that we first had the idea to use my ‘long leave’ to do a campervan trip around Europe. We earmarked 2017 as the year, as we calculated that by then both sons would have left home. (They’re both at university, one in his 4th and final year at Sheffield and one in his 1st year at De Montfort, Leicester.)
In 2001 we hired a campervan in New Zealand around Easter time (so, autumn) and toured both the north and the south islands with our kids who were then aged 6 and 3. In 2002 after Ignatius’s brother’s wedding in the US, we hired an RV (as they are called there) and toured Washington state. It was the success of these trips that made us think we’d like to tour Europe by campervan for my long leave.
Since then we’ve had another family holiday to New Zealand over Christmas 2005 in which again we hired a campervan, and Ignatius went back to New Zealand again in 2011 with his brothers, following the Irish rugby team in the world cup.
So, we’ve been pretty certain for a long time that the touring life would suit us, and we know we enjoy living in a little box on wheels. I love the freedom that comes with knowing you can go anywhere you want, and that you have everything you need right there, with you.
We bought Gertie last year, and took her away on a few trips to get used to her (south-west Ireland, the Lake District, the Peak District). She turned out to be perfect – we’re very happy with her.