The freedom to travel where we want in our motorhome is important to us.
We call it “The Freedom Trail”.
That is also what we call our newsletter, but what does The Freedom Trail mean?
Firstly, what is freedom? And does the motorhome give us that freedom?
When we dreamed of buying our own motorhome, we wove into that dream the idea of the open road, being able to travel where we wished in a self-contained mobile home. No worries about shelter, food and basic amenities, or concerns about being late for breakfast or sleeping in strange beds with mattresses that have had someone else on. No shared bathrooms! Just our own space where we accept each other and our peculiarities.
That is freedom in a motorhome!
And in many ways, that is how it is. We live that dream. Not as often as we thought we would, but such is life.
But is it truly “freedom”?
What does freedom mean?
In the wider sense, what does freedom mean?
There are three main categories of freedoms:
Freedom TO – to be who we want or need to be without needing the consent or approval of society. To be independent. On a spiritual level that could mean the freedom to follow the calling of the soul. On a personal front it is the freedom to live, act and dress as we choose.
Freedom OF – of speech or thought, expression of self.
Freedom FROM – from persecution, constraint, coercion, enslavement.
But, despite claiming to set its people free, can any organised society allow complete free-will? We have laws and restrictions drawn up to keep the peace. They prevent the stronger willed from infringing the rights of others. They instruct and inform us as to what we should do and how we should do it to prevent chaos. These laws curtail the freedoms of every citizen by general consent. In losing certain freedoms, we protect ourselves.
We compromise complete freedom to prevent the disintegration of society.
So, let’s get into van life! Freedom in a motorhome!
Our definition pertaining to van life implies the freedom to travel where we want. Then to rest there. It is the freedom to be self-sufficient and self-contained – to be independent from anyone else.
But in the motorhome, we are not free to stop wherever we like – especially in England! Nor can we travel anywhere we wish; the height barriers and “No Motorised Caravans” signs soon send us packing. We must obey the rules of the road and we must keep the vehicle roadworthy.
So whatever freedoms we claim must be taken within the laws and boundaries set by our authorities.
Those freedoms could be considered akin to the Wiccan creed
So Long As It Harms None, Do As You Will.
But more, So Long As it Is Within Traffic Law, Do As You Will.
So, what is this Freedom Trail?
Freedom from worry?
You’ll have seen the idyllic photographs of the gleaming vintage campervan parked up at the foot of a mountain. Snow-topped peaks and verdant flower meadows framing the perfect road trip. The beautiful young couple standing, hand in hand, secure in their wonderful life. That’s epic freedom!
It is not always like that!
Look stage left – she actually wanted to go to the beach! And they are waiting for the breakdown truck! There is always some sort of repair looming on an old vehicle. Financial woes go hand in hand with motorhome ownership. But balance that against bed and breakfast costs or the financial implications of other holidays and hobbies.
Security is something else that keeps the motorhome owner awake at night. Either pay for a good storage yard or have that niggling concern that your prized van is hurtling down the nearest motorway with false plates on.
But surely freedom begins when we start the motorhome engine…
So long as we agree on a destination or route!
We were discussing “package” and “coach” holidays where holidaymakers are herded around from landmark to stately home with an itinerary. Not “freedom” at all.
BUT with all-inclusive holidays there is the freedom from responsibility. If anything goes wrong, the holiday provider is obliged put it right. Fast! Too there is no second-guessing which road to take; it is planned for you. You settle back into your seat and let someone else do the worrying. So, there is freedom. The relaxation is complete knowing that you need do nothing other than be there.
If Cree, our motorhome, breaks down or we take a wrong turn, it is our problem to sort out.
In the motorhome we have the freedom to change our itinerary
Yes, we can visit places when we wish, change our minds or stay as long as we like then move on. We can decide to simply drive until we want to stop. Then we have everything we need for a good night’s sleep.
Except the attitude towards motorhomes now means that it is not guaranteed that we can find anywhere to sleep.
Stopping in a lay by or similar overnight is usually tolerated but there is a growing band of those who take exception. Goaded by tabloids baying for blood, headlines screaming of mountains bedecked in toilet waste and choked with the grey mist of exhaust fumes, they have taken to attacking stationary vans. No, it has not happened to us, and it is infrequent but the thought that we may be woken tends to lead to poor sleep.
Wild camping is not for everyone! We do it sometimes.
The answer? Camp sites of course. Herded into neat lines and lines of vehicles, plugged in, enjoying the same TV programmes they would have been watching at home. Fine if that’s what you want…we don’t.
Then can you find a site in the school holidays which has spaces at short notice? Booking months in advance hardly smacks of freedom – it sounds more like the package holiday than the freedom of the open road!
But at least we can leave the campsite and visit whichever local towns and attractions we want to. When we want to. You think? Parking a motorhome within walking distance of many town centres and attractions is a nightmare! Some are fantastic with designated spaces provided. But others are unfriendly at best.
This all sounds terribly gloomy doesn’t it? Like we are in some kind of dictatorship. What freedom does our motorhome give us?
Despite all the above – and more – the main feeling we get once we are on the road is freedom. Sure, Cree will throw us a curved ball, but breakdowns and home-remedies are what the best road trip stories are made of.
We sit higher than the workaday traffic and travel slower. We watch people racing along. The whole world is in a hurry. It’s crazy!
We don’t need to rush.
The freedom from that self-imposed sense of getting from A to Z via the fastest route, racing against your personal best, is invaluable.
We don’t have to open the bag labelled “STRESS”.
Stress free travel!
It is our space, our stuff. Just us two. If something isn’t clean, it is our dirt. If it’s broken, we broke it. Everything is where we left it. Bliss!
Pulling over for a brew or using the “onboard facilities” is sheer luxury, especially if the view is decent. If tired, we can stretch the sofa into a day bed and rest. We are not anxiously scanning the horizon for the next services area with cafe and toilets. That is freedom in a motorhome!
As for camp sites, we just don’t try to book the club sites – especially during August! Once the holidays are over, there is usually a space to be found – sometimes half an hour before closing time in our case! And if we don’t find one, we’ll drive until we find somewhere to sleep. No, it isn’t always the best night’s rest but if things do hot up, we are free to move on.
The smaller independent, certified or affiliated sites often have a space, even during school holidays – especially if you can live without electric hook up! Those are the ones we prefer!
On those, there is usually a list of requested behaviour to follow. But that applies to everyone and “No Loud Music” is fine by us!
So yes, there are restrictions and regulations. But those maintain order and safety. In fact, they keep us free!
In all honesty, we find the “no rules” sites a little disconcerting. There are usually one or two people who embrace the lack of restriction and make others uncomfortable. It’s hardly “Lord of the Flies” but generally where there are no rules, the dominant personalities will prevail.
Freedom comes from consensual restrictions.
Consider it this way, a kite flies freely but only whilst it is tugging at its string. Without the tether, the kite lays dormant or just skids along the ground. No string, no freedom.
What is YOUR definition of freedom in a motorhome? Let us know in the comments below!
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Freedom in a motorhome is on a road trip – read more about ours!