Speaking, not speaking.

Another van arrives and dithers around for a minute, before turning around and parking in front of us. An older couple get out, our eyes meet, and for once they don’t pretend we haven’t seen each other. The lady comes over with a smile and says hello. They are French, though their English is excellent. After a bit of a chat, the husband joins us too, he is also very smiley and friendly. Most odd.

We talk a little about how long we’ve been in our vans, are we on holiday, where have we been…… I’m taken aback.



‘Yes” she says laughing at the madness of it.

“Wait, China?” I say again, confused. “You drove to China and back in your van?”

It turns out they took part in an organised trip with a number of vans to drive to China and back, via Russia, and the ‘Stans’ (some of which I have to pretend I’ve heard of).

This is incredible, these people are incredible, and indeed a very rare breed. Mainly because not many people ever go to these places, certainly not overland, and not (without being rude) a bit later in life.

They are the breath of fresh air I need, and in fact, camped out for two night by the side of Lac Cenis, we chat with two or three friendly and slightly mad couples doing something different with their vans.

Since we left Britain 5 months ago, I can count on my two hands the amount of people I have had a conversation with beyond a seemingly reluctant exchange of hellos. People in our age demographic, certainly less than five.

This has been a real shock to me, and frankly a huge disappointment. Before we left, we began to open up, and try to connect with people doing similar, travelling longer term, or even living in their vans. We found a few, mainly on instagram, and some blogs like ours. Though, if you look through social media, it would seem every man and his dog are at it. Casual shots of women in bikinis taking solar showers in remote beach spots from the backs of their vans. Guys standing on roofs triumphant from their 8 hour hike in the high mountains…..

All I can say in my personal experience, thus far 12,000 km of it, is that this, is bollocks.

Every day we turn up to old people in £75000 motorhomes sitting around in their chairs, doing fuck all. I can’t for the life of me understand what it is they ARE up to actually. It appears they stock up before they leave home, and never venture from the saftey of their vans. The first thing they do when arriving at a spot, is get the satellite to auto tune itself, shut most of the blinds down, and stay put. Quite why they feel the need to leave the comfort of their own homes is beyond me, and what they tell their friends on return is an even bigger mystery.

As you may be able to tell, I find myself irked by this. A large part of the trip for me was to connect with people, and see how other peoples lives looked, not necessarily lives in vans, but how their ‘normal’ lives are, and alas, I’d have had a more enlightening experience in solitary confinement. It is true, and fair to say, my language skills are all but absent (except a little french). I accept that to that end I am as much a part of the problem as anything else, but honestly, language or not, the body language, behaviour, and general interaction, has been at best, closed, and worst, non existent.

To that end, we are thinking of placing ourselves for several weeks in the the coming months to try to establish a connection, a feel for a place, maybe even make a friend or two in different areas?

I mean, it’s not like weve publicly come out and said we want nothing to do with the Europeans after all…..

9 thoughts on “Speaking, not speaking.

  • 5th October 2018 at 5:17 pm

    Great to hear your stories! As someone with a background of being born and brought up in Cornwall, the image you conjour of those who arrive in cars/vans/caravans all stocked up to enjoy all the natural beauty without thought or contributing to the livelihood of those who live and are trying to make a living there is so familiar. And now so many stay these days in rental homes and make no effort to engage with the locals either. So do as you suggest, stay a bit longer but find your community with the locals – they’ll appreciate you hearing their story and hearing yours.

    • 6th October 2018 at 6:08 am

      Hi Suzanne, great to hear from you! We try wherever we are to be ‘locals’ sometimes it isn’t possible, but the idea was to experience other cultures as much as we could, not take our current lives around with us, i guess were all different?

  • 6th October 2018 at 12:53 pm

    I watch with depressing regularity the rotating of the satellite dish on the roofs of vans as the newly arrived owners attempt to set up their television viewing for the evening. As you say, why bother to leave the comfort of your own home if you just want to continue with your home existence but in another location? Sometimes you only ever see one occupant actually leave the van even though you know there are more than one in there.
    Basing yourself in one place for a while is a good idea and linking in with local resources and facilities. Good luck.

  • 6th October 2018 at 2:50 pm

    Your post is making me laugh so much because it’s exactly what we have noticed. We lived and traveled in a van 2 years ago and we are back on the road again now, and nothing has changed. When we first traveled we were really surprised and kind of upset, because we thought we would meet a lot of people, but at least this time we know there aren’t many around, only see young couples and families on Instagram 😀
    But from our previous travels, we can say that in Portugal is where we met the most young couples and families.

  • 8th October 2018 at 11:30 am

    We are all tourists, Craig.

  • 10th October 2018 at 3:59 am

    Hi Craig, Sorry it’s taken me five months to get here. There’s some fantastic pictures and I’m working my way through your posts and you’re making me smile. As a man of a certain age I have to say those people who just lock themselves in there vans, their probly just trying to get away from their kids and anybody elses for that matter. Hide Mabel and I think the old people might be a bit more forth coming. Let’s be frank they see a young couple with a toddler and their instinct is to shut the curtains and hide.

    I hope that you’re not shirking your driving responsibilities and just larking around on the bike. How many cycling shirts do you have anyway?

    • 15th October 2018 at 5:53 am

      Hi Clive, good to hear from you.
      Never considered the little one! I just thought people were practising their best cold shoulder for brexit?
      I have indeed been driver A for the trip, hence why its nice to get out on the bike. I have several jerseys.
      ‘BUTTY’ is my favourite, but the Renault elf is a close second, and makes me look nearly as skinny as the pros 🙂

  • 16th October 2018 at 9:48 am

    Hi Craig

    Been keeping track in between hip replacements (walking upright again, hooray) and loving fabulous pictures and reflections! Really good idea to stay somewhere a bit longer I think, especially in south now it is winding down a bit. By the time you read this you will probably have left Venezia – my Italian evening classes not entirely wasted – but really atmospheric lagoon island visit, and not too touristy, is Torcello. Original lagoon settlement with extraordinary frescoes in very simple, ancient church and good boat trip although more infrequent.

    Italian friend also said people miss Padua which is easier to get around and beautiful. And the villas in the Veneto etcetc. Green with envy but will get back one day and stay..
    Love, Kay

  • 7th January 2019 at 2:58 pm

    Hi just wanted to say your blog put a huge smile on my face. We are also a travelling family I think we follow each other on Instagram 5_go_wild

    What you say is so true I would love to have conversations with all the other motorhomers we come across but as you said they avoid us and try not to make eye contact! I thought from Facebook groups that they were a friendly happy community. It feels hard sometimes turning up with 3 kids and everyone ignores you and I feel like we are ruining their peace and quiet! My husband often has to remind me we have as much right as them to park somewhere. We’ve been on the road since September and have only managed to be lucky enough once to have a couple of travelling families in the same place as us and it was amazing to speak to people. There have been a few people mostly German though who will smile and stop for a chat.

    Anyway we are headed to Italy soon so maybe our paths will cross at some point.


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