The call of the open road in a motorhome
PUBLISHED: 17:00 25 April 2016
Donna Garner and husband Phil don’t just holiday in their beloved Monty the motorhome, they live in him, as she explains
IT ALL began with a glass of wine, as the best plans often do.
Phil and I first met in Pwllheli, North Wales; we each, with our then spouses, kept yachts at the marina. Some years later, we were divorced from the spouses and married to each other. One evening, cuddled up on the sofa, glass in hand, we discussed our mutual desire to live on a yacht.
Although some thought it a crazy idea, we made the decision to buy a larger yacht, sell the house and contents, and move on board with the two of my three children who still lived with us. Of course, this took longer than the time it takes to drink a bottle of Chardonnay, but in 2003, we sailed off, with what remained of our worldly possessions, and headed to Ireland. After a summer of sailing, we moored in Kinsale, near Cork, for the winter. My son went to school; the rest of us found jobs. The following year we sailed to Plymouth, where my son did his GCSEs. Winding on to 2007, both my son and daughter had left home, either for work or college. Phil and I were left on a yacht which, at 13 metres, was too big and heavy for us to handle alone, especially in bad weather.
At that point, Phil was laid low by some very nasty gallstone problems, which took him to within a whisker of death’s door. There’s nothing like a brush with the Grim Reaper to make one re-evaluate one’s life, which is precisely what we did. Another monumental decision was made, this time to sell our beloved Misty Morn and to buy a motorhome instead. It was not as daunting a prospect as selling the house had been, perhaps because we had come to realise that life has a way of working out if you’re prepared to be flexible.
We were not entirely new to the motorhome lifestyle as we had hired one during a holiday in Australia some years earlier. We also had the advantage of having lived on Misty Morn for a number of years, so we knew what our ideal layout would be.
To anyone who is thinking of purchasing a motorhome, especially if it is intended for full-time or long-term living, I’d strongly recommend hiring one first, to give you an idea of what it’s like to live in a small space.
Having had a large yacht, we made the decision to buy a motorhome of less than seven metres. There had been places Misty Morn had been too large for and we didn’t want that restriction in our motorhome life. After 18 months of trying to sell the yacht, a buyer finally came along, gave us the required amount of money and we went off to search for our perfect motorhome. The 18 months of research paid off, as we knew exactly what would suit us and, consequently, found six-metre long Monty quite quickly.
We spent winter 2009 living in a friend’s static caravan, while we waited for spring to arrive. In March 2010, we boarded the ferry in Plymouth and sailed into Santander in northern Spain. We spent our first six months touring in Spain, Portugal and France, and fell in love with the lifestyle, the freedom, the people and the countries. We had a loose plan but often changed our minds, sometimes because we loved a place and wanted to stay longer, or if another traveller told us of a gem and we wanted to visit. On one notable occasion in France, we went into the supermarket with a plan and came out with the idea of heading in the opposite direction. Just because we could.
Six years later, we still love our lifestyle. We’ve toured extensively in the UK, Spain, Portugal, France, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. We’ve spent three winters in rented accommodation, either in Spain or Tenerife, in order to take time out from living in Monty. We also house-sit, in the UK and Europe, which gives us the same break without paying rent.
Do I regret that glass of wine decision? Never.