The world of motor homes and the authentic journey

19/04/2021

anna-bove_alumni-htsi-1“My name is Anna Bové and I’m a former student of HTSI. I love travelling and the simple things in life. I consider myself a restless adventurer, but I’m also a calm person. My partner and I were talking about buying a van and adapting it as a living space so we could travel the world in it. Finally, in 2019, we took the plunge: we bought the van and began to transform it into our home on wheels (@viajandoenblue). Now, we tell the story of our project on the website Viajando en Blue

 

Tell us about your trip. 

In the summer of 2020, we started our first long trip—almost 5 months—in our old VWT4 with our little dog, Xena. More than travelling, it was about living on the road in a new region of Europe. At first we’d move somewhere new each day, but later on we adapted a calmer approach. We visited towns and did our shopping, but we loved nature the most: discovering lakes, rivers or forests. Still, every now and then we’d also visit big cities and capitals.

What made you decide to take on this nomadic lifestyle?

We like being in contact with nature, and with our van we can stay practically anywhere. It’s a discreet, smaller van, so we’ve been able to sleep on beaches, by lakes, in natural areas or by springs, but we’ve also slept near the Eiffel Tower and in other not-so-glamorous spots like supermarket parking lots or residential neighbourhoods. This form of travel allows you to connect much more directly with the place you’re visiting, as well as with locals and other travellers. 

I travel because… 

…I love the feeling of freedom. I love not having a schedule, not being in a hurry, not having much in the way of plans. Just letting the road carry you and getting lost in hidden spots while knowing that there’s still plenty for you to discover.

How many countries have you visited? 

I’ve been to Portugal, Spain, Andorra, France, Switzerland and Italy by van, but I’ve also backpacked through Thailand, and I’ve been on trips with family or friends to other countries in Europe, the US, Japan and Mexico. 

Choose one country and tell us why.

France is an amazing place to explore by van. The entire country is prepared for motor homes, and people are used to them. You find everything you need in many towns. There are lots of places where you can spend the night, even some beside beautiful lakes. They’re years ahead of us, and there’s a lot we could learn from them.

Is there anywhere you’d never visit again? 

Our trip to Paris wasn’t exactly what we were expecting. It was the first big capital city we visited, and we didn’t prepare our stay very well. We ended up leaving earlier than we had planned because we couldn’t take it anymore: high parking fees, lots of traffic, few places where we could sleep comfortably, having to worry about robberies… This type of travel isn’t ideal for visiting cities. Still, after Paris, we learned to manage those sorts of visits better, and our trips to Rome, Venice, Florence and Bern were a big success. 

Imagine your ideal destination. 

It’d be someplace with plenty of green, some mountains to climb, and a beach nearby—a swim is always nice after a day of hiking! The sun wouldn’t set until late, and then you could enjoy the bright red sunset from the comfort of a great bar or a restaurant while enjoying an ice-cold beer and some delicious tapas. People wouldn’t be in a hurry. They would be nice, carefree, and you would hear them laughing in the background. You don’t have to go too far to find something like my ideal destination.

What travel story makes you laugh the most?

This is more of a positive story. We spent a month in one French town where my partner was working temporarily. We found a place to park near a school where we lived from Monday to Thursday. It was a really small town where everyone knew each other, and we were the new big thing. Every day we’d walk past the schoolyard on the way to work, to fetch water or just to go on a stroll. By our second week there, all the kids would shout “Hola! Hola!” as we walked by; their teachers also taught them how to say buenos días and buenas tardes, and they were excited to greet us whenever they saw us.

Plus, there was a local woman who had spoken with one of the teachers who would always say hello to us; on days that were really rainy or hot, she would come by and invite us to stay at her house or use her shower. It was a very welcoming town. We spent less than a month there, but we felt like neighbours.

Now the opposite: what travel story frustrates you the most?

This may be hard to believe, but I swear it’s true. On one trip, we’d spent more than 130 nights sleeping in our van. We had mostly slept in parking spaces for mobile homes, natural areas and parking lots, and we hadn’t had a single problem. We only spent a few nights at campgrounds; one of those nights, we went to a campground in a French town near the Swiss border. Someone from a group that was partying at the campground and had taken control of the place started arguing with my partner. A couple of women from the group had to intervene; they held the man back as he shouted at my partner for no reason. Once he got back to the van and told me what had happened, we decided to go somewhere else—we didn’t feel at ease there.

It’s hard to believe that after so many nights sleeping “on the street”, as it were, with absolutely no problem, we ran into a situation like that at a campground. Of course, we’d also spent plenty of nights at campgrounds and nothing like that had ever happened; we usually felt perfectly safe. That night, things just happened to take a turn for the worse, and we left in the middle of the night.

 

“Travelling in a mobile home helps to relocate tourism”

 

If you had a magic wand, what would you change about travel or destinations?

Sometimes, when we get to places where we plan to spend the night, we find they’re full of garbage. They’re normally places where people go to have a barbecue, spend the day, take walks, or where young people gather; in other words, they aren’t just places to spend the night. There are plenty of initiatives in the world of mobile homes to address situations like this: some people pick up all the trash within a certain radius of their van to leave the place cleaner than they found it. I think those kinds of initiatives are great and can help to raise awareness, but I wish they weren’t necessary—I wish nature and parking areas weren’t full of trash. That’s what I’d use my magic wand for.

My biggest struggle is… 

My personal struggle is to travel around the world… if possible, by van. More generally, I’d like for people to promote this sort of travel because I think it has plenty of positive aspects. For example, around here, in the Alt Penedès region, there are plenty of great mobile home parking areas with free services. This helps to relocate tourism, and it helps small businesses in towns that wouldn’t get many visitors otherwise. This type of tourism helps local restaurants, and people pay to visit things like caves and vineyards… plus, they do their shopping in town. 

What’s your favourite travel novel?

It isn’t exactly a novel, but it is a book that I’d recommend to anyone who wants to travel by van, who plans to buy one, or who’s interested in them. It’s called Cómo vivir y viajar en furgoneta, by Íñigo Mendia. He shares his experience in the world of mobile homes, with everything from what to consider when buying a vehicle to tricks that can come in handy when travelling.  

What’s the best type of music to travel to?

Every now and then, I like to turn on the radio and listen to local music. It’s another way of getting to know the country you’re visiting.

Name three things you would take with you to a desert island.

With just my van, I’d have everything I need: a bed, a kitchen, a fridge, utensils… but that’s cheating! I’d bring my swimming goggles, a knife and a box of matches.

 

 

#Wewilltravelagain

 

 

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