Going full circle – a campervan adventure into Europe. Week one.

This adventure has been a long time coming.  4 years in fact!

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Same same but different. 🙄. This van trip has been a long time coming 🤔. In fact, it was over 4-years since I stepped away from the comfort and security of what I knew and headed into Europe (and beyond) for an epic 4 month road trip in my campervan. A lot has happened since then, and It’s funny how life leads you along different paths….but, I always knew I’d be gearing up for another European adventure in my van! I didn’t actually think it be so long but, as a coach and friend once said to me: “you are exactly where you are meant to be right at this moment in time.” Anyway, just goes to show – if you want something to happen you can get there in the end – be it a van trip round Europe, running a marathon, writing a book, or backpacking across a country….sometimes, you’ve just got to make it happen. 👊 (And no – it’s not always easy!). You can read more about the last few years here : https://linktr.ee/JohnAlexClarke #samesamebutdifferent #backoutthecomfortzone #camper #campervan #campervanlife #vanlife #vanlove #vanlifestyle #roadtrip #adventuresinhappiness #lifestyle #travel #adventure #headingsouth #inspiration #lifeyourowndream #coach #choice #outdoors #outdooramore #hiking #mountains #kite #kitesurfing #yoga

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It actually feels like I’m going full circle as an adventure into Europe in my campervan was the first thing I did when I left behind my long term career and embarked on a new path. 

(You can swipe right to see both pictures on my Instagram posts).

But I’m not here to get philosophical!

As I sit here and type this I’m sitting in Switzerland sounded by 3000m mountains. I can hear cowbells in the distance, it’s getting cold and dark, I can see forests of trees colored by autumn.

I am also on my first campsite in 10 days – which really means I’m taking the chance to wash my socks, fill up my water tanks, and get a good night of sleep without the risk of being moved on.

Which brings me to this post.

My aim, for the next 6 weeks or so, is to bring you updates on life in a campervan, how it going, what I’ve seen, and share back any useful tips in case you’re lucky enough to create that ever-elusive balance of time/money/energy. 

So without further delay, here we go. 

Week one – from the UK to France.  

My first week was spent driving from the UK, taking a ferry across to Dunkirk, and driving through the North East side of France.

My original intention was to get into Switzerland as quick as possible to maximise the end of Autumn, but I soon realised rushing was a fool’s game, the weather will be what it will be, and I began to slow down to take in some sights and sounds of France.  

The ferry across to DK was £75 or a two-hour crossing.  I drove down the night before as I had a 6am crossing time, and slept (for free) 10 minutes drive from the terminal.

It was raining (and I mean raining) when I left for the ferry at 4.45am, and I made the mistake of entering the cargo lane.  The security guard sent me out with directions, and I spent 15 minutes getting lost and stressed and realised I was in the right place just the wrong lane. I’m pretty sure the security guard was having a laugh at my expense!

The ferry across is easy, as is the transition to drive in France.  Except for my roof vent on my campervan which after 5 years of being fine, decided to start opening itself on the motorway.  As I type this it’s still held together with 2 bungee ropes and some duct tape.  It’ll stay like that for the rest of the trip I imagine.  

But onto France – and I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, I’m not sure where I’ve been hiding! 

It’s easy to drive, there are places to stop and sleep all over the place, and, even though I was only passing through on my way to Switzerland, after I’d detoured through Belgium and missed all the toll roads (*top-tip!) I decided to check out a few of the cities and areas along the route. 

The first was Nancy. 

I’d recommend the Musee des Beaux-Arts (by far the best artwork I have seen – not that I am an expert – but you just know when good is good.

Also sending time relaxing on the Unesco Place Stanislas.

And, if you’re really lucky with timing Nancy Jazz Festival. I lucked into a ticket here for a sold-out show and had the chance to listen to some incredible live music.

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A few moments captured yesterday ~ and quite the introduction to France. Nancy is an interesting city to explore with its incredible #placestanislas, #museedesbeauxarts, and its #nancyjazzpulsations festival ~ which I was SO lucky to get a ticket for. The music was good. Really good. 😎🎵. I even slept in my van, in the city. Got to love #vanlife. *disclaimer alert ~ these are only snapshots. They don’t paint a full picture ~ such as getting lost in the city when my satnav fails, going to a festival alone, or paying €5 for a Lille machine coffee 😳* #travel #france #camper #campervan #campervanlifestyle #vanlove #music #nancyjazz #soul #ontheroadagain #adventuresinhappiness #perspective #reality #outofcomfortzone #lifestyle

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Don’t forget to swipe right to see more photos of Nancy. 

After a few days in Nancy, I stopped off in Colmar. This is probably one of the prettiest cities I’ve visited.

Yes, it’s heavily touristed, and yes, it’s novelty value at times, but it really is a cool place to spend a few days just wandering streets and gazing up at the Germanic and French-styled houses.

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Exploring the streets of #Colmar, a city in the north east of #France, part of the #alsace region. Very pretty and seemed a mix of #germanic and French styles. Also makes really good wine at this time of year – called #gewürztraminer, and has a well preserved old town and the famous #unterlindenmuseum! Definitely worth a day or two of your time. Even in the pouring rain 🙄 ☔️. Most of these were taken in the #petitevenice. Next stop – #switzerland ** Thanks for the tip @happy_officer 👍🏻😀 ** #travel #explore #cultural #exploremore #campervan #campervantravel #vanlife #vanlove #adventuresinhappiness #lifestyle #ontheroad #culturalhighlights #touristday #justkeepmoving #vivalafrance

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Swipe right to see a few more of these photos embedded into my Instagram post. 

I ended up spending two days and one night here. For me, it was enough, and that is one-week on the road so far (albeit, very briefly!).

To wrap up this post I’d like to share a few tips from this first week travelling.

  1. Last-minute ferries from Dover seem cheaper to Dunkirk than Calais.
  2. If you’re heading along the North / East side of France, consider driving through Belgium.  It’s toll-free and the roads were generally good.
  3. Park4night had been a real asset so far on this trip.  Check it out if you’re ok with not using campsites.
  4. French Aires are fantastic!
  5. I chose Autumn to travel because of my work commitments. I was concerned the weather may be against me but so far it’s been fine.
  6. Autumn is a wonderful time to be in Europe!

So long France, and into Switzerland – but I’ve been impressed so far and I look forward to returning on the way back to the UK 🙂

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