Is owning a campervan as carefree as we all make out? Does life really begin on the edge of your comfort zone?


09.21.2018 bilbao small
The spider looms next to the Guggenheim in Bilbao

You don’t speak the language and your much loved campervan is unhappy and slightly broken … a nightmare or just another day in a campervan travellers life?  Putting my trust in people and a system I don’t understand has happened to me so often I am starting to expect it but never find it easy; this is way out of my comfort zone.  People say, ‘Life begins at the edge of your comfort zone.’  It seems to me this is where my adventurous spirit could shrivel and die, even when everything turns out fine in the end.

I am as guilty as anyone of writing about our campervan trips as carefree and relaxed but, as canny readers will know, this is only part of the truth.  I always say I love the campervan life because we have the freedom to choose where we will be, if we don’t like somewhere we move on and we take our home with you, no strange beds, just a different view every morning.  I am not lying when I tell you this and when things are going well it is truly an idyllic life.

But there are anxieties and I do share them on the blog.  The Greek Tragedy shook my confidence massively and demonstrated so clearly how quickly a relaxed and enjoyable trip can abruptly end.  My obsession with checking we are in gear when we are parked even on the flat has not gone away and can be irritating for Mr BOTRA.  If I don’t check and double-check I am unsettled and return to the ‘van expecting it to have once again rolled in to a wall or worse.

You probably all know those signs of anxiety; I get that sense of dread, the sickness low in the bottom of my stomach, feeling on edge, irritable with the people I love and unable to concentrate.  This is the worried me and no amount of deep breathing will quell the anxiety when I think a crisis is around the corner.  But I do relax while we are away and it is while I am travelling in that carefree manner I enjoy that I am hit the hardest when something goes wrong.  Picture the scene … The sun feels warm on my arms, I am smiling and unaware that a problem is on the horizon, then wham!  From left field something we hadn’t even thought of happens to our campervan and everything changes.

With modern ‘vans it seems there are so many things that can go wrong, more than I could list or dream of.  In September we had only driven 30 km from the port in Bilbao in Spain and our Blue Bus started beeping and flashing red lights in alarm.  The power steering had failed!  Who knew this could happen!  Fortunately we were in a car park, rather than on an autovia and after Mr BOTRA wrestled the 3.5 tonnes of our van into a safe and shady place we rang our breakdown.  Once again we were trying to deal with a complex technical problem on our campervan in a foreign language, with a phrase book that was written before power steering was invented!  We had little idea what was going on and were totally in the hands of the garage.  Déjà vu!  This has happened now in Greece and in Italy as well as Spain, never in France or Germany where our grasp of the language is so much better!

Although we deal with the phone calls, the breakdown lorry driver, the rearranging of our plans, each of these incidents doesn’t make me grow in confidence, each one gradually chips away at my courage and my certainty of the freedom of the road.  I can no longer fool myself that all will be well.  For weeks after an incident the sense of dread about what will happen next invades my brain regularly.  What will be the next problem to come along, slap me across the face and say, ‘You didn’t see that one coming did you?’

Given all this anxiety, the temptation might be to only travel in the UK but I’m not a quitter and certainly not quite ready to give up my passport just yet.  The benefits of continuing on the edge of my comfort zone are visiting exciting and beautiful places.  I work hard at keeping those dark worries in check by planning and preparing for [almost] everything and paying for the best insurance money can buy.  Fingers crossed 2019 will bring some incident free trips!




Author: Back on the Road Again Blog

I write two blogs, one about my travels in our campervan and living well and frugally and the second about the stories behind the people commemorated in memorial benches.

25 thoughts on “Is owning a campervan as carefree as we all make out? Does life really begin on the edge of your comfort zone?”

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    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m happy you aren’t letting it beat you down. Travel is all about the unexpected and learning about yourself along the way. I think it’s all a matter of perspective and how you deal with the situation. 🙂 And it gives you memories to look back on, whether they are good or difficult! Keep up the fun travels!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I sm glad you are continuing to travel, and not letting the “tragedies” scare you! I agree, it is smart to check, and recheck everything before you hit the tosd. The Mr. is lucky to have you along! Happy Travels!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I think there are no free lunches and therefore nothing is hassle-free. It is about what we love that leads us to take the pains happily. We don’t have this trend of camper vans in India and finding a lonely spot is so difficult because we are densely populated country.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you and you have got it totally right. Travelling to new and interesting places is always worth the hassle. I haven’t been to India and I am interested to hear how hard it is to find a peaceful spot there. From the UK, we hear how crowded Indian cities are. In the 1960s and 70s people used to travel to India overland in campervans from Europe but those routes are less easy to make these days unfortunately.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The places near the roads are always inhabited. But it is possible to find seclusion away from these roads. Even then you can find some peaceful spot in densely populated places too. Some people do travel from Europe to India taking the roads less traveled.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I must admit I had to giggle a little by the way you talk about your “travel tragedies” in the van. But then we will start travelling in our own trailer in July, so I might just as well remember you when we encounter such despairs! It is so true, I find, that older vans were so much easier to repair and it also seems they never broke down that often. Safe travels! Check, check, double-check. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Travel is not always fun and roses as most people think. Some days would be disappointing and disastrous and will make you question your choice. But you will have to fight out those days as the feeling of joy on good and wonderful days overwhelms those bad days by far.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes great stories and also brings out the kindness in strangers that is one of the wonderful things about humans. In Croatia last year when I fell off my bike a young Croatian guy sorted us out and went out of his way to help.


  7. Your posts are so well written. I always find it helpful when people share the pitfalls they encounter when travelling. Sometimes things happen that are out of our control and we just have to let it go. Always makes for a funny story later right?

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I can SO relate to this post! I have threatened to quit traveling in our campervan at least 6 times over the past several years, but we are now planning to ship it to the UK for months of “carefree” travel there. Hope to meet up with you on the road somewhere. Will be following your blog in the meantime. My blog is if you would like to get acquainted. Cheers, Sunny

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Sunny. Thanks so much for getting in touch and how exciting bringing Harvey over to the UK. Fingers crossed it all goes smoothly:) . Yes do let us know where you are. We are always out camping so could meet up and if you have any questions please ask. Look forward to following your journeys. I’ll add your blog to my following list. Good wishes Carol


  9. I was just thinking about the same thing! Not much freedom in these finicky systems…I find myself obsessing over the state of the batteries constantly and I am not the worrying type. Looks like I am not alone in my anxiety.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re certainly not alone, I think lots of people just don’t like to admit how they feel. I just have to come up with strategies to manage the anxiety and have excellent breakdown cover! Thank you for reading and getting in touch. I’ve had a look at your blog and I am following it now, it is a great read.


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