We are Mark and Lucy Walland, a pair of 50 somethings who have given up on working for a living and have decided for a number of reasons to go travelling in our motor home.
I’d decided nearly three years ago that I’d had enough of the rat race and wanted to get out. It seemed that all we were doing was working and paying taxes to people who end up wasting them so we looked for an alternative. How do you stop paying tax? The simple answer is to stop earning money, go self sufficient and grow all your own food. I had a look at land in this country and soon decided that was not an option due to the high costs so I started looking at land in France.
If I sold my shop, sold my house and went to France I reckoned that we could live quite comfortably for the rest of our lives pottering round the vegetable patch and feeding some pigs and chickens in the heart of France but Lucy wasn’t very keen. She’s not very good at speaking French and my abilities are very limited but she suggested getting a motor home as well so that we could travel around a bit and then come back to home base every so often.
I didn’t think this could work because vegetable plots need attention for most of the year and any animals would need daily attention but the motor home idea seemed quite sound. We’ve both been rallying for the last 20 years with East Essex DA of the Camping and Caravanning Club going out most weekends in our caravan so we knew something about living in a confined space – it could work, but we would need the right motor home.
As our daughter grew older we noticed that the caravan layout that suited us best changed. When she was young the best layout for us seemed to be beds at the back for Emma so that end could be hers and she could invite friends over, while we were up the front with a decent sized lounge area.
As she got older she spent more time out in her tent so her area in the van was less important and she was relegated to a side bunk giving us the luxury of an end wash room.
Then the time came when she didn’t really want to come out with us any more so we went for an island bed at the back and a big lounge at the front. A twin axle caravan seemed to be the perfect two berth (sometimes four berth) end bedroom layout.
All of the caravans were very easy to choose, they just seemed to be at the right place at the right time but looking for a motor home was incredibly difficult. First you have to untangle the naming conventions, every manufacturer seemed to have their own system of designating a motor home so we concentrated on the things that were essential, things we would like and things that we didn’t want.
We didn’t want an overcab bed because Lucy isn’t the most agile person in the world and couldn’t make the climb up. We didn’t want a “French” bed because I’m not the shortest person in the world and I would end up sleeping in an uncomfortable position. In fact we really didn’t want a fixed bed at all because having spent the last six years with an island bed we knew that despite it being very comfortable and convenient, it meant that half the van was dedicated to sleeping and that meant that the motor home would be longer than we really wanted. We were aiming at just under 7 metres. Lucy had it in her head that anything longer would be difficult to drive and I could see that parking could become an issue.
We did want a big lounge though and after looking at various options we decided that an A-class motor home with a pull down bed would meet our needs. It took nearly a year to get to this point but we had narrowed the selection down to a couple of makes and were very interested in a Burstner 681. It had the large lounge, four seat belts and ample storage (volume and weight) but for some reason they had been discontinued in 2006/7. We needed something that could get into the Low Emissions Zone so finding the right one wasn’t easy.
Finally I decided that we should have a weekend off camping and go up to the Newark area where we knew that there were five motor home dealers in fairly close proximity and we could get a good look at all the layouts.
First stop was Brownhills who I knew didn’t have the right layout for us but it doesn’t hurt to look and since every motor home is open and unlocked there is plenty to see. Next we visited SMC just round the corner who I knew had an older Burstner 681 which we were going to have a look at just to make sure it was the right layout for us. I loved the layout but it had been round the block a couple of times and Lucy fell out of love with the model.
Next stop was Lowdhams where I had told Lucy we were going to visit a mystery motor home. It was a slightly different layout to what we had been looking at but it still ticked all the boxes. Unfortunately another couple were in it when we arrived so we had a look in the motor home next door. As Lucy walked through the door she said “This is the one, we’re having this one” and she was right! It was a Frankia I680SD which was a model that we had never heard of. It ticked all the boxes and then some. It had a huge fridge, oven, 875kg storage, large lounge, two toilet cassettes, cycle rack, two wardrobes and a full height larder. All in a package less than 7m long. It was so right for us that we didn’t even bother haggling prices.
Postscript – After nearly two years with Frankie we know that we may have taken our time finding the right layout but it was worth it in the end, there is almost nothing we would change and we have seen nothing else that would suit us better.
Don’t rush out and buy a Frankia i680SD, it might not be the right layout for you. Work out what you want and don’t want and keep looking until you find the right van for you.