What would we live in? What would we need to manage on a longer term? Canvas, campervan, hut or bricks and mortar? We have tried all at various times but usually situation specific and short-term i.e. holidays. The campervan was a revelation. I was so surprised at how much storage space there was and how the minimal space is so effectively utilised. I’m glad I’ve been watching George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces for lots of ideas, not just about storage but more importantly about reducing your baggage, literal not emotional, to a minimum. Travelling light can be quite liberating but you can still be sure that you left behind the one item you wanted. However, that can apply when you have a bulging suitcase as well.
The campervan was great but would we need to drive it from the UK to wherever we ended up? That would be an adventure in itself. Access to fuel may be a little difficult depending on where we were and we would have to be familiar with a variety of national road regulations. The main drawback to campervans is having to move house every time you need to go somewhere, even if only to buy a pint of milk or loaf of bread. Bikes or mopeds can be carried relatively easily if need be, although security would need to be tight as a ‘garage’ would probably outside our price range and towing a small car equally so.
We are happy campers – provided the weather is compliant. How would we cope in adverse conditions and when nothing gets dry, quite the opposite? We have camped in the UK, even at festivals, in both damp and glorious conditions, in fact on the latter occasion they couldn’t get rid of us. The whole extended weekend from the Thursday night through to the Monday morning was dry and the clouds disappeared altogether from Friday. Don’t believe all the Glastonbury pictures if you haven’t been to a festival. It was quite amusing to see people arrive on the glorious Saturday morning in their Hunter wellies. We were in flip flops (thongs if you’re an Aussie or Jandles if you are a Kiwi). The weather made the camping very easy and so enjoyable even if the tent did become rather warm, even hot in the afternoons, we were loathed to leave on Monday morning but by the time they were clearing up the garbage from around us we thought we’d better start making tracks.
Whilst we have an adequate stock of camping equipment for a holiday I don’t think we could manage a longer episode, we don’t even have an electric hook-up. One September weekend last year we had nothing planned and the forecast was good so we packed up and escaped to a lovely site near Dovedale. Our neighbours had been there for a few nights and were moving on the following day. They had given up their jobs, rented out their house and were just travelling around campsites looking for the best deals with no particular prospect of returning home provided someone wanted to be their tenant, how appealing. They appeared to be very well provided for including a television! We were intrigued to watch them the following day pack everything into the back of a Fiesta. They had obviously been doing this quite often and had it down to a fine art but it was amazing to see all of their equipment disappearing into such a small space.
One of the delightful features of a camp site is sitting outside your tent in the sunshine on a chair, which would normally be deemed too uncomfortable to sit in for any length of time, sipping tea/coffee or wine/beer (delete as applicable) watching everyone else. After we had marvelled at the previous couple packing up we were entertained by the arrival of another with a huge tent which was better equipped than my home. They had an incredible amount of goods and gadgets that we asked ourselves why they came to a campsite at all. Camping certainly doesn’t necessarily mean meagre but practically there is surely a limit? We were even more amazed to observe them the following morning as they packed everything away again. Was it worth it? We surmised that they must have been trying out all the kit at once, possibly.
Huts come in various guises, whether they be reasonably substantial perhaps with a tin roof or 3 sided shelter but usually without much in the way of mains supplies – electricity if you are lucky. As a child I went on holidays to Achiltibuie, north of Ullapool, to my Grandparents’ hut. That was its name ‘The Hut’, it was actually an old signal box which had been transferred onto a foundation with a wonderful view over Loch Broom and The Summer Isles. The tin-can loo around the back was enhanced with the application of a toilet seat but that’s where the luxury services ceased. There was no electricity and the running water was the adjacent burn but it was very cosy and comfortable inside. I could certainly live in somewhere like that for a reasonable period provided there was a nearby hotel for more thorough ablutions.
My other experience with huts was in Iceland in the early 1980s. These were very basic, often with stalls on ground level for the animals. Fortunately the ‘holiday company’ I travelled with supplied the huts with food and fuel (gas canisters) by truck whilst we walked from one shelter to the next over a landscape which felt to be at the dawn of time and relatively speaking was and is. One hut had the luxury of an old iron radiator which was fed from a nearby hot spring the size of a dinner plate. However this resulted in the triangular structure becoming so hot on the mezzanine level that several of us had to decamp to outside to sleep, lying under the night sky in the relative cool. As it was the end of July we did not have a particularly good view of the stars due to the lack of darkness. I would like to say that it didn’t get too cold at night but as we were in a blizzard on 31st July and sunbathing on 1st August (my birthday which is why I can remember) we had to be prepared for anything.
We felt ourselves fortunate to have this accommodation at that time but I was amused recently when watching a programme about walking in the outback of Iceland. The ‘huts’ now provided appeared luxurious, they had electricity from a generator and even had showers! Our washing facilities were from streams of glacial melt or sulphur impregnated warm water, not always an easy decision. On this programme the emergency shelters shown as last resort refuge, were the very huts where we had stayed in what we considered to be relative opulence.
Slightly more substantial structures are advertised for sale in the overseas section of RightMove. They are regarded as properties but to say that they are in need of renovation would be a massive understatement. Ruins would be more accurate but some do have a roof. I wonder whether, if the floor surfaces were soft enough, you could actually pitch a tent inside or failing that park a camper or caravan in the ‘garden’ whilst ostensibly restoring the building. Perhaps we need to consider the idea of accommodation more carefully when we know where we are going, what we will be doing and what the prevailing weather conditions will be but be prepared to consider all options.