Thursday, 7 December 2017

Back home: What now? Where next.?

Homeward bound

Dear Old Blighty.... A Fray Bentos lorry!
One week back, the usual mixture - sorting the van, washing clothes, working through the mountain of mail (nothing scary), sorting photos, Christmas shopping, feeling odd at first at home, then adjusting. Two minor glitches: firstly, when we returned to car deck after docking in Portsmouth we noticed the moho's 12 volt habitation supply had failed, no obvious simple fault like a blown fuse, or a tripped isolation switch on the electrical block - so, we need an expert to check it out; secondly, I have developed lower back pain - pulled muscle, too much sitting still driving, change of bed? No idea, I guess it will improve given time.

The other thing I tend to do is some back of an envelope calculations about our trip - since mid September we travelled 3885 miles over 74 days and stayed in 42 different places. Our running total now looks like this, I suppose given the challenges of the past year the fact we managed to travel over three months in total suggests that 'wanderlust' is our obsession rather than a  mere pastime.

When we first began travelling I kept quite systematic records of our spending, these days less so; however, Gill notes all our cash withdrawals and bills paid using the Halifax Clarity credit card. Apart from ferry tickets everything we spend goes on the card as it's the best way we know to minimise currency transaction fees. One inadvertent consequence of this is that it is easy to calculate overall spending afterwards without needing to sit on some remote, sun-drenched shore staring at a laptop, meticulously noting the cost of each expresso macchiato on Excel. So, we know with a fair degree of accuracy how the costs of travel have changed over the last three years. In 2014/15, though we motorhomed from places as far apart as Portugal and Greece, and covered a good deal of S. Europe in-between, the daily cost of travel remained static - around £38.00 per day. This includes everything - food, accommodation, fuel, campsite charges, 'spending money', flights back to the UK for Christmas, Channel crossing fares. The only things that are excluded are motorhome repair costs and the longer sea crossings that we opted to take as these would skew the direct comparison. By 2016 the daily cost had risen to £42 and the trip we have just completed worked out at £47.50 per day.

What this means is that the cost of our particular style of  motorhoming has risen by 13% in the past year and since our first extended trip in 2014 costs have increased by 25%. Of course it is difficult to identify the precise the reasons for this because costs and inflation rates differ from country to country, fuel prices fluctuate due to the vagaries of the global commodities markets and our own behaviour differs from trip to trip - sometimes we eat out more, sometimes we use more free spots to overnight in. Two things however are irrefutable - weakening sterling due to Brexit and the fact that our Teachers Pensions - our sole income - have only risen by 2.2% over the past three years. After our first big trip we worked out that it was actually cheaper to drive around southern Europe during the winter months than it was living at home, even factoring the fuel cost, ferry fares and campsite fees. This is probably not quite the case anymore. Prices have risen both at home and abroad and our income is not keeping place. It will not reduce our enthusiasm for travel - if you are going to feel skint then on the grounds of health benefits alone it has to be preferable to feel the pinch somewhere warm and sunny.

Which brings me to the question of 'where next'? In the medium term there's an easy answer to that - on February 2nd we head off to New Zealand for six week with a stopover in Singapore on the outward leg and Shanghai when we fly back. All very exciting - we will be travelling by car and staying in motels rather than hiring a camper; we figured that a car was more flexible given we are mixing city visits with more remote areas and flying into Auckland and out from Christchurch.

Beyond that the question of where next becomes a more profound one as we are determined to move house during 2018 - most likely to Shrewsbury. After thoroughly exploring North Devon and Sussex last summer and settling on the idea of living near Ipswich or Felixstowe we had a day out in Shrewsbury and had a 'Yes!' moment - it just felt like somewhere we would feel at home in.

We discussed with the estate agent we had around in September to value our house how important it was for the place to be occupied while it was on the market. With remarkable candour he explained that he preferred taking people around while the owners were out as they had a tendency to point out the faults! So no problem with us heading off during the sales period. Once the house is sold we can concentrate on finding a new home in Shrewsbury; if there are none to our liking we could always rent for a couple of months.

So, May and June we are thinking Denmark and the south of Sweden for six weeks or so. After then I guess we will have to concentrate on the house move. Roll on 2018; this year has been difficult, maybe next will be a little less fraught.

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