“Our dream was a simple one, retire early whilst we still had our health, tour wherever we wanted, when we wanted and for as long as we wanted with the bonus of having a nicely furnished home base to return to between trips“
The above extract is taken from one of the ‘Pages’ on my ‘Home Page’ (Live The Dream), which I actually published before we took to the road, and this was to be the way we had intended to do it. The initial dream, and more importantly the financial plan, was for me to retire at the age of Sixty, but it didn’t quite work out that way !!
When I started to write this travel blog in July 2013, we had taken the decision to commence ‘living our dream‘ three years earlier than planned. Although at the time we were still living conventional lifestyles, Shazza was on the verge of retiring early from her teaching career and I still had three months to work, although our ‘bricks and mortar’ was up for sale, we were still living in it. The plan had been to downsize to a much smaller property, mortgage free, which would be our ‘bolt hole‘ to which we would return to between extended trips away, however, getting on the road three years earlier than anticipated rather scuppered those plans as we would have needed what would have been those three years worth of extra savings to both purchase and re-furnish the new property. No matter, we had a contingency, if we could secure seasonal Summer jobs with the Caravan Club this would then provide those additional ‘bolt hole’ funds so that after three years we could get back to the ‘original plan’. If you have been regular readers of these my humble ramblings then the rest, as you know, is history, well as far as the ‘Elf and Elfette’ jobs are concerned !
Of course, when we actually drove away from what had been our home, neither of us really knew whether we would actually take to this ‘fulltiming’ lifestyle, there was of course the huge sense of excitement at the adventure ahead of us, we had already had the ‘Oh my God, are we insane conversations and sleepless nights’. However, at that time we hadn’t received any notification of an Interview for the Summer jobs just a confirmation that our initial applications had been accepted, so as far as we were concerned, this was it, we were now free spirits, free to wander where we wanted and for as long as we wanted even though we hadn’t originally intended to actually do it 365 days of the year !! You can read as many books, or blogs, as you like about this life on the road, written by people who have done it or who are currently doing it, and believe me in the six years prior to embarking on this Adventure, I had read a lot of books and blogs and had asked very many questions on various Motorhome Forums. However, those resources can only provide you with so much information and it isn’t until ‘you‘ actually get on the road for yourselves that you find out from your own experiences if this is the life for you. I think it would be fair to say that we took to it like the proverbial ‘Ducks to Water’.
Perhaps I would be stating the obvious by saying that we always have some sort of plan, well at least one half of this nomadic partnership generally does, the other half of the team spends most of the time trying to sabotage them, but as I am not one to tell tales out of school, I will leave it to you, the reader, to decide which is which in this partnership !! However, in all seriousness, that is one of the greatest bits of this lifestyle over our former conventional lives, we were now enjoying “A Life With A Freedom To Make Changes“. Although to be perfectly honest, generally, those changes just involved amendments to a route, or to where we were going to park up and for how long, but the change in the plan that was on the horizon, well, on this occasion neither of us had planned for and it was going to have quite an impact on our future travel arrangements……… !!
I have mentioned the word ‘Fate‘ a couple of times during my previous blog ramblings and it really was fate that brought us to a new ‘unplanned’ stage within ‘Our Big Adventure’. I hadn’t wanted to go to Morocco on our last Winter trip and I made no secret of that, however, Shazza did. Now, had I have got my way, which, in itself would have been a miracle and a huge first, and as such, a potential contender for an entry in the ‘Guinness Book of World Records‘, but had we not have travelled to that god forsaken place we most probably would not have suffered from the ‘Fuel Contamination’. That incident though, was the catalyst for what, unbeknown to either of us at the time, was about to change the way we conducted our future travels. The contaminated fuel saga led to both of us becoming a little stressed, a bit despondent and so with a knackered ‘Big Momma’ we found ourselves in the beautiful Spanish Seaside Resort of Estepona. Okay, so you already know all of this from previous posts, but things happened there that, at the time, we kept to ourselves.
We fell in love with not just this lovely town, but with the whole of the Coastline area between Malaga, South to Gibraltar. We needed to kill time over a period of days whilst we waited for Big Momma to be repaired, whilst we wandered through the streets we would stop and read the adverts for properties in the numerous Estate Agents windows. Then another piece of fate, or perhaps just sheer good luck, but the UK Pound at that time was really incredibly strong against the Euro and we were quite astonished when we discovered what our limited savings Capital could purchase. We decided to be a bit cheeky, without any real intention of buying, we arranged with a couple of Estate Agents to view some properties just out of curiosity, to have a look at what our money could buy us. We know from previous experience that what you see in Estate Agents photographs isn’t necessarily the ‘true picture’, and at the majority of the properties we viewed that was certainly the case, yes some had sea views if you stood on your toes, or leaned yourself half way across a balcony or craned your neck at ninety degrees !! However, whilst we had been enchanted with Estepona and even with a very good Exchange rate, we still could not find the right sort of property, in the right location, with the right views, well not on our budget at least !!
‘Big Momma’ eventually got fixed and so we left Estepona and got on with our pre-planned itinerary which, once we had decontaminated the fresh water tank, entailed us making our way, slowly, Northbound, ready for our appointment with a Ferry Crossing back to the UK. It also gave us an opportunity to question ourselves on what we had been doing looking at properties in Spain, perhaps the Moroccan incident had affected us more than we had thought, it wasn’t just the fuel contamination incident but the whole Moroccan experience, we know that some people love the place but we didn’t share their enthusiasm and have no plans to return. I had also taken ill whilst in Morocco and even after returning to Spain, after several weeks, I wasn’t getting any better and Shazza confided that she was getting more than a little concerned. However, in my opinion I wasn’t seriously ill, at least not to the stage where I needed urgent treatment by a doctor, but I had become quite lethargic, had no energy and I was getting very tired very quickly, without going into too much detail I was having difficulty in retaining any food that I had eaten beyond an hour of swallowing it, as a consequence I started to really struggle my way through many of the Shazza Expeditions that followed. Perhaps we just needed to rest for a while and with my love of the sea, Estepona had been a welcome respite but I hadn’t recovered.
it was a welcome distraction looking around Spanish Town Houses and Apartments, however, my dream has always been to travel throughout Europe in a Motorhome, that includes places in more Northern parts of Europe that are too cold to do in Winter so really have to be done in late Spring and Summer. Not being able to work to the ‘Original’ plan, our Plan ‘B’ was to work for perhaps three or four Summer Seasons until we had enough Capital to either purchase and furnish our ‘bolt hole’, or once we had the Capital in the Bank with any Interest it earned, keep it until we had finished our travels and retire back to ‘bricks and mortar’, but then do the full touring thing. So spending all our savings on an apartment in Spain had never been an option that either of us had considered.
It was Shazza that made me take my blinkers off, she asked a pretty good question, “Who said that our ‘bolt hole’ had to be in the UK ?” I have to admit that she had actually made a very good point. In the short-term, whilst we were working for the Caravan Club we would always headed South to either Portugal or Spain for our Winter Sun break, Morocco now being ruled out as a third option. Generally we would be working eight month contracts, from the middle of March to the first week in November, but before heading to our Winter sun we had things to do, family visits to conduct and the same when we returned so that meant that we really only had three months to unwind before having to return for another Eight month contract. So our conversations turned to more serious discussions about purchasing a Spanish ‘Bolt Hole’ instead of a UK home base, one which we would use during the Winter months between contracts. But that of course led me to ask the inevitable question, “What about fulfilling all our dreams of touring Europe in Big Momma ?” We discussed everything in some real depth and came to the conclusion that actually we really could have the best of both worlds !!
So, the short-term plan, if we were to purchase a property in Spain would be to leave ‘Big Momma’ in the UK at the end of our contracted Summer season, travel to the Apartment in ‘Wuxly’, it would only be a nine-hour drive from Santander, with both of us taking turns in driving we could be there in one day but then once there we would have our own transport for getting around. However, and this was the long-term important bit, once we decide to stop doing the ‘Elf and Elfette’ stuff, whenever that may be, we would then get back to our ‘Original Plan’, to tour wherever we wanted, when we wanted and for as long as we wanted with a ‘Spanish bolt hole‘ to return to between trips !! That’s all fine and dandy of course, but first, there was a little matter of finding that all important Spanish ‘Bolt Hole’ !!
As you may recall from an earlier post, by this time we were now on our way North and were due to go to a certain ‘Iberico Pork Festival‘ but ended up back on the South East Coast just a mere 300 miles in the wrong direction !! We stayed on the Camping Bella Vista campsite, this was no coincidence as we had seen an Apartment on an Estate Agents website that we had liked, it was on a small secure gated Residential Complex with its own pool, beautifully maintained Gardens and with wonderful views of both the Mediterranean and the Andalusian Mountains. Just a fifteen minute stroll to the gorgeous ‘blue flag’ beach, a superb Marina and just thirty minutes stroll along the Promenade to the lovely town, it was perfect for our immediate and future requirements.
Sadly though, it was not to be, we had made what we both considered a very reasonable offer, however, it was declined and before we could put in an improved offer, the property had already been sold, we were extremely disappointed but not surprised and perhaps something was telling us that this wasn’t the one for us !!
Now I know that I keep going on about that word ‘fate’, you may also recall from an earlier post that we also extended our stay on Camping Bella Vista, that was because just before we were originally due to leave, another Apartment on the same complex went up for sale. The first one, that we had lost out on, was ‘East’ facing and measured a total floor space of Eighty Two square metres, but this, ‘new on the market’ apartment, was ‘South’ facing, One Hundred and Two square metres and came fully furnished, we quickly arranged a viewing !!
The ‘Vendors’ were an elderly British couple who were wanting to return to the UK to be closer to family, the Apartment had certainly been well looked after and they had spent some money on improving it by installing a larger thermostatically controlled water boiler and installing more modern lighting. They had purchased in the ‘Boom’ years and they realised that they were going to take a big hit on it, the recent drop in the value of the Euro against UK Sterling had not helped their situation either.
We went away and discussed what we had seen, it was perfect, we wanted a place for ourselves, a home rather than a holiday let and this fitted the bill perfectly, we wanted to have South facing so that we had Sunshine most of the day and this Apartment had that. Other than the sizeable pool and the wonderful well maintained garden area on this small complex, we would also be just a short stroll from the Beach, Marina and Town. We had Estepona within seven miles, Gibraltar just thirty-minutes drive away, Marbella within half an hour, Malaga (and the International Airport) within an hour, both Seville and Granada within a three-hour drive, the Algarve four hours and of course we were surrounded by the Andalusian Mountains. We didn’t want to lose this one so we went for a second viewing the following day and made our ‘offer‘ directly to the ‘Vendor’, after a short delay the Estate Agent sent us a text and stated that our offer had been accepted !!
That was just Eight weeks ago and on Wednesday 15th April we received formal confirmation from our Solicitor in Spain that ‘Completion’ had taken place and that we now own our very own ‘Spanish Bolt Hole’ !!
Some may view this as a very short-lived full timing adventure, but actually it isn’t, it is actually about ‘us‘ getting back to now having secured what was the ‘Original‘ dream. In the short-term, whilst we continue with our ‘Elf and Elfette’ duties we will use the Apartment for our Winter breaks, but once we decide to stop working, our much wider extended periods of travelling around Europe will commence !! We will still spend some time in the UK, especially now that we are soon to have twin granddaughters and we still have family and friends here, but also, we will not be restricted to just using the Apartment in Winter, we can use it whenever we want throughout the year.
That is what is so great about our lives now, we certainly have the freedom to make changes, and make changes to plans that we do make, there is only one thing that is for certain, that is that ‘Life is not a Dress Rehearsal‘, you only get one attempt at it so go and live it whilst you can !!