Category Archives: Article

Pre travel check for a campervan or motorhome.

If, like us, the lockdown has left you staying put more than you would like to be, there is a good chance that your campervan hasn’t gone too far over the last year. The only good thing is that you are probably averaging about 3 weeks to the gallon! We have seen some of you put your campervans or motorhomes into storage, sorned them or left them outside your house, so how do we get them ready for when lockdown restrictions end? What checks should we be making on our campervan or motorhome pre travel?

We have compiled a list of things you need to check before heading off on the road.


Before you even think about turning the engine on you need to do some primary checks. A visual check of the vehicle first for any damage incurred either by other vehicles or storms etc. Look for any dents, scratches or changes to the vehicle. Ensure that there is no debris on the roof of the van that could fall off and cause an accident or damage.

Take a look under bonnet and chassis for any animals living in the van, nesting or causing damage to cables. Hopefully you remembered to take all the food out beforehand so as not to attract critters!


Prior to travel all lights should be tested. Enlist a friend to help you including hazards, fogs and all internal dash lights are in good working order and that no warning lights are displayed. Any bulbs or fuses that need replacing must be done so straight away. (We will talk more about the leisure battery and internal electrics later). Inspect the marker light casing and light fittings for any cracks or damage.

Screen wash and Wipers

Before taking to the road you need to ensure you have plenty of screen wash and that your wipers are working correctly, not stuck to the windscreen and the blades have not perished. Ensure the gutter between the windscreen and bonnet is clear from leaves and other debris, if not kept clear this could severely affect your engine such as water congregating and damaging the electrics and fuse boards. This should be a regular maintenance check.


Always check the oil when the vehicle is cold. Find the dipstick, no the one under the bonnet! Pull it out and clean it with an old rag or tissue. Note at the bottom of the dipstick there will be two lines, minimum and maximum. Carefully insert the stick back into the tube trying to keep it central. Once it is fully inserted, remove the dipstick again and see where the oil line is. Oil and coolant are the most important fluids in the vehicle so always check the owner’s manual for the correct specifications.


Check that the water reservoir isn’t frozen before starting the vehicle if it has been cold recently.  If there isn’t enough antifreeze/coolant in the water it could expand when it freezes. This can create cracks and leaks. If you see the water tank is empty you need to refill it, check under the engine afterwards to see if water is escaping from somewhere.

If you have topped up and it hasn’t leaked, turn the engine over and let it run for 1 minute and then turn it off. This will allow you to get water into the system and refill the tank again. Run the engine for a little longer whilst you are doing other checks to see if any water is escaping. Move the vehicle onto a dry flat surface if you can.

Wheels and Tyres

Visual Check – inspect your tyres regularly for lumps, bulges, cuts, cracking, foreign objects in the tread (remove with a blunt tool if you can) and make sure these are dealt with urgently by a professional. The pre travel check could stop a dangerous situation from arising when driving your motorhome or campervan.

Always check the tyre pressure from cold. Check that you have the correct PSI. Campervans and motorhomes can be heavy vehicles so ensuring you have the correct PSI will keep you safe and also help on fuel economy. Most larger vehicles will have a plate inside the cab that will give you the correct figures. Having a vehicle in storage or parked up not moving for too long can cause damage to the tyre. Rapid deterioration from supporting the weight of the vehicle on one part of the tyre is not unheard-of.

Why are tyres so special?

There are lots of different types of tyres. A range depending on your budgets and performance. The purpose of a tyre is to support the weight of the vehicle at speed, they must be able to cope with corners and shifting weight, deal with all weather and surface types, from ice and snow to extreme heat in summer and tarmac to grass. The tyre is the only part of the vehicle that should be touching the ground and as such, they have to deal with traction of breaking and acceleration too.

As tyres are one of the most important parts of the vehicle in terms of safety as well as actually being able to move, it is very important not to overlook these parts of your vehicle and regularly check them over for damage/wear and tear.

What are the markings on the tyre sidewall?

Sidewall.  This is the area between the tread and the wheel hub. You will often find writing on this area which to someone who doesn’t work with tyres, can look very confusing.

For example, a code such as 205/65 R16 95 V. Here we will explain what each parts mean.

205 – Width of the tyre in mm

65 – Section height in terms of a percentage. In this case 65% is described as the aspect ratio. It refers to the height of the tyre from the rim to the tread divided by the width of the tyre.

R16 – Rim Diameter. The letter R means Radial. The number is the diameter of the inner rim measured in inches.

95 – Load index in KG. related to the load each tyre is able to carry.

V – The last letter relates to the maximum speed for that tyre. You may need to search for this online to get the correct speed for your tyre. If you have different tyres, always stick to the lowest one.

Tyre Tread depth

In the UK, the legal requirement for tread is 1.6mm across three quarters of the tyres surface. The easiest way to check is to look for the tread wear indicators. These are small bumps built into the grooves of the tread. If your tread is level with the top of the bump, you are at the legal limit and your tyres need changing.

Tools and tricks.

Tyre gauge – the best way to check is to use a tool such as a tyre gauge. These come in many forms such as digital, pen shaped gauges and even laminated cards.

Trick – If you don’t have access to a tyre tread gauge, see if you can get your hands on a 20p coin! Place the coin in the tread and if the outer band is visible then your tyres may be illegal. Take the test in multiple places and in different treads as some tyres can wear herder if your tracking and balancing is out.

Types of tyres

Normal car tyre – Usually made from just two plies and inflate to approximately 40 psi and carrying up to 500kg

Commercial tyre – usually has about 2mm more tread to start with and made from 6 or 8 plies. This makes the tyre more durable and can carry a higher weight load up to 700Kg and inflate to around 65 psi.

Motorhome Tyres – A van of approx. 2700kg empty weight can put 675kg pressure on each tyre. Specialist motorhome tyres can be inflated to 80psi. They have tougher sidewalls and a better tread compound, helping in those tricky grass pitches in wet weather!

Here is a link for more information

Download our free Pre Travel Campervan and Motorhome Checks PDF below.

It is really free!


Damp and leaks

As our vans start to age, we see more problems arising and this isn’t only related to the engine. Age shows itself in many ways, rust patches, peeling paint and seals perishing can all cause leaks, as can screw holes, air vents and unaligned doors. If you have an Iveco Daily like us, you probably already know about the door seal leaking! Pre travel checks on your motorhome or campervan are not limited to the engine and external features, the habitation are needs investigating too!

Inspect the ceiling, door/window seals, air vents and floors for any sins of water damage. This could be staining, damp and mould or actual puddles. Remember water can travel so where the water pools may not be where the leak is.

Roof inspection

It is good to do a roof inspection and check any caulked areas such as sky lights. Door and window seals may also have perished and it is essential to replace these if damaged. External doors such as for a toilet access also should not be forgotten.

Rust must be sorted and stopped as soon as possible too. Any holes that have been cut in the body work, i.e. to fit a rear ladder or air vent, could quickly start rust. Treating rust with the appropriate products as soon as this work is carried out can stop rust from spreading.

If you find damp or mould in the camper, this mould needs removing and the items/panels replacing. Mould can affect the health of those living in confined space.

Leisure Battery and internal electrics

If disconnected, these need reconnecting. Clean the contacts and leads with contact cleaner. Reconnect battery ensuring the connections are the correct way around and test system. You may need a few days to charge fully if it hasn’t been charged periodically through winter. Using a battery charger indoors may be benficial to aid a faster charge.

Once the battery is charged and reconnected, check all of your wires and if safe, then your internal lighting and sockets etc. Please do check here for any water damage around electrics before turning on power.

Water systems

If you have water pumps or heaters installed, test and flush all systems. Reconnect all pipes, fill with water and run through. Sterilise the tanks and pipes following manufacturer’s instructions, refill with clean water and run through a couple of times. Your tanks should have been drained through winter to stop pipe bursts however always check for any seals breaking and monitor for any leaks for the first while.


Caravan and motorhome gas systems should be checked yearly by a qualified engineer as part of your regular upkeep.

If you have gas bottles in your campervan or motorhome, it is good practice to remove them over winter and store them in the garden shed, check them again pre travel. If you are travelling to cold climates, it is advisable to use Propane – the red bottle. This is because this gas will not freeze and can be used down to -43 degrees Celsius. In the UK during the summer months butane is a good choice as the temperature is usually well above 3 degrees and butane contains more energy per unit of volume than propane. However if you are looking to camp in cold temperatures, you will find yourself in a spot of bother if you are unable to boil a kettle for a coffee due to the gas freezing, so many year rounders will switch to propane over winter.

Print our Pre Travel Check list for your campervan or motorhome

We have compiled all the above in a handy printable list for you! Download it now for your ease when starting your campervan or motorhome pre travel check.

A good service is also recommended for the campervan or motorhome if you are able to, in order to complete a full pre travel check.

The future of vanlife post Covid

Listen on Anchor

The whole world has changed this year with the global pandemic causing chaos in societies world wide. Even now, in August, we still don’t fully understand the virus and its long-lasting effects on people. We do know however that it is unlikely that the world will return to how things used to be “pre covid”. So where does that leave vanlife in a post covid world?

Vanlife in a post covid world

mask and sanitiser on wooden table
Masks and Hand Sanitiser

Face masks and hand sanitiser still feel a little strange. They are becoming more normal and those that have been shielding since March are either starting to venture out or are now so used to shielding and listening to the news 24/7 that they believe the outside world to be too dangerous and are staying inside. There are also people that need to get back to the lives they had before.

I am talking about those who either live full time in their vans and have been forced to stay in one place, those who use their vehicles as weekend breaks and want a change of scenery or those who just enjoy camping out where it is quiet, when time allows.  Campervans and motorhomes have the means to be a safe and self-contained bubble. Many of us choose to avoid tourist traps, stay away from the major tourist towns and yet are seen to be the devil by many people.

Daily Fail

Last week the Daily Mail’s Mark Duell wrote an article calling for congestion charges for campervans in Scotland. He reported that police are sending patrols out to move on campers in the Lake District and New Forest as Fly-Camping becomes a new buzz word. “Fly camping” is the new practice of campers (the quote was aimed at tent users) just leaving their equipment behind for someone else to clear up. Broken chairs, tents and airbeds were mentioned. Post covid vanlife could be much harder to cope with.

The article, frowning on the community of holiday makers choosing to travel in a house on wheels, was quite offensive. Looking at the pictures used to illustrate their point it is clear that a car park full of 12 cars with two motorhomes parked up and a beach full of tourists seems to shine light on the real problem and it isn’t campervans after all. The picture of campervans parked by a sea wall is probably due to insufficient bay sizes in the car-park. Thus the article roused the community to take a stand.

They contacted local MPs to call for an educated look at the benefits campervans/motorhomes have on the local economy. Providing services like larger car parking spaces, service points for water/chemical toilet disposals and overnight locations, would only be a positive to their towns and local economy.

Self contained, self isolating.

Kitchen in the back of a converted van.
Rear Kitchen for a camper conversion

Vans are self-contained vessels, with their own water, cooking equipment, heating and toilets on board (in most cases). We are much safer than going to hotels, B+B’s and caravan parks where the cleaning of accommodation between guests cannot be verified appropriately and cause concern to users. We know a few people who are (not campervanners) still paying top whack to use a holiday park. Due to restrictions, none of the facilities are available to them. No pool, no restaurant and no entertainment.

The ability enjoy vanlife, in a self-contained vessel, park away from society and have a few days of fresh air with social distancing being at its optimum, is so important for the vulnerable among us too post covid. A dear friend and member of the campervan community has been undergoing treatment for cancer through lockdown.

She has been shielding to protect herself but is now in desperate need of a change of scenery. Some fresh air and some healing from being in nature. For her, the ability to ‘wild camp’ in a safe but remote-ish area and not go to a campsite with other people from who knows where is the safest option for her to get that break, whilst still retaining full social distancing.

Cost of camping – How much?

campsite post covid vanlife

As holiday companies struggle to recover from a poor season, thanks to covid, many are in a deficit. Brand names such as Tui, Virgin Atlantic and Hayes Travel are reporting job losses. It will be a necessity if they are to try and survive the pandemic, to make staff redundant. UK campsites are well set up to accommodate the safe return of holiday makers and vanlife post covid.

With pitches already designed to be 6 meters apart for fire safety they are keeping everyone distanced on pitches. Due to the losses they made in the first half of the season and the demand now for holidays, we have watched the prices sore from what was an acceptable £15-30 per night to over £50 on some sites. One near London was an astonishing £200 per person for 2 nights (minimum stay).

Rising costs

We all understand that site owners have been hit hard in the pocket. They are trying their best to recoup as much money as they can. This is in order to keep paying their bills, insurance, wages for staff and providing a clean site. That being said, however, holding people over a barrel for the highest premiums will really effect those most disadvantaged in our society. They will be forced again to stay at home.

Take a family for example. 2 adults and 2 children. They live in a high rise and had no garden during lockdown. Now desperate to take the children on holiday in the UK. Once they add on charges of up to £50 per person per night and factor in how much it would cost to buy a tent and all the equipment that goes with it – it is unachievable. We all understand that costs will rise post covid but there needs to be some policing of the rates to ensure that it does not become out of control for users either in a tent or vanlife.

Benefits of campervans and motorhomes in the community


Campsites are found all over the country, providing different levels of facilities. From rural and basic to all singing and dancing pitches, fully serviced with water, drains and electric hook up. Most sites have services to empty your toilet cassettes and larger sites even have entertainment, pools and restaurants.

For some, that is exactly what they are looking for but others are looking for a different pace of life. The joy of the journey, rather than the destination perhaps. Being able to park up means that you can visit many more places and stay longer in each one. A new view every day and a new place to explore, shops to spend money in and attractions to visit. We are boosting local economies and getting to relay information about the place to friends, family and in some case hundreds or thousands of followers on their blog pages. A free travel rep if you like!

Explore and give back

Mobile tourists are able to enjoy the locations and learn about its history. From the castles to museums, the beach and National Trust locations. We purchase lunch, dinner and usually a bag of chips to accompany a stroll along the promenade… At the end of the day we are looking for a quiet spot, where we can park up and relax. Tomorrow we will be heading off to investigate another location.  It is a very small percentage of people that are disrespectful as you get anywhere in society. The majority of us do leave no trace, even clearing up the mess others leave behind.

Many European countries have already seen the benefits of welcoming motorhomes and campervans with ‘Aires’ easily accessible when on the road. Coming back from Spain earlier this year, we had our first experience of them driving to Calais. We stopped to sleep in 2 of them and also parked up for short rests in others. Some were just gravel car parks, others had toilets (although not open at that time due to Covid) and others were a motorway service station. These also had the facility to fill up with water and empty toilet waste for a small charge of about a euro and shop for essentials. We even saw some that you could pay to hook up to the electric for a quick boost.  Perhaps studying the positive impact of Aires in Europe could smooth a transition for post covid vanlife and highlight the required infrastructure.

We used an Aire in France

This one spot was close to a town that had the most beautiful architecture. Lots of cats that all came to greet us as we walked around. We would have driven straight past this town and not know it was there if not for the Aire. We also purchased some local products as a thank you to the town for their hospitality.

Lack of parking spots

Van overhanging a drop
Overhanging parking can be scary!

Here in the UK we seem to have a totally different outlook on campervans and motorhomes. There are very few parking spaces large enough to fit us unless we pay for two spaces or find an overhang. Many car parks are planting shrubs on green areas which limit once more the spaces we can overhang.

We visited Robins Hood Bay in North Yorkshire a week or so ago. The local information prompted us to park in the coach parking spaces and pay coach prices. In a car space, if we could have found an over-hang, we would have paid just a few pounds for our visit. Instead we had to pay £10 for an all day coach parking spot even though we were only there for a couple of hours. It was a flat rate for coach bays. Not only was that an inconvenience to us, but also to any coaches that wanted to park in their designated spaces.

Robin Hood Bay

With tourism being encouraged in the small fishing harbour, bursting with holiday rental properties, ice cream shops, gifts shops and beach front catering huts, the parking situation was problematic. It is on a steep hill and the main car park is at the top by the train station. Two small other car parks can be found lower down the hill but for small cars and permits only. Just by making 2 or 3 larger spaces for motor homes could provide a solution. That ensures there are spaces for larger vehicles and does not interrupt the use of the coach bays for other tourists.

Same goes for supermarkets, town parking and attractions. In some situations where there are either low barriers or insufficient sized spaces, we have had to park in residential roads. Residents are then put out by large vehicles parking in front of their homes for the day. The council looses out on this lost revenue and residents are inconvenienced. In our own town, we can not park in our local supermarket. We have to drive to another one, 20 minutes away for heavy items. Our camper is our only mode of transport.

Aires in the UK for post covid vanlife.

local tea room
Mad Hatter tea room, Barnard Castle, Yorkshire

As mentioned above, Europe has really grasped the benefits of Aires stop overs. France (as we have physically seen them) having many situated along motorways and within walking distance of towns. This enables parking in locations where money will be spent in the local amenities.

The majority of us want to spend one night, to see the location and then relax in it. We are looking for quiet spots tucked away from busy roads and residential streets. Not the motorway laybys, roadside parking or apparently passing places like the daily mail has reported.

In a survey held by a reputable Facebook group over 81% of participants agreed that they would be happy to pay £10 a night with most of the others selecting a lower fee. We are happy to pay for the facilities and the ease of being able to park up. Don’t think that we are freeloaders as often called.

Town Car Parks and attractions.

parking campervan
Lou parked Chewy in the smallest overhang!

Car Parks nearer towns or the coast mean contribution to local economy. Visitors eat out, buy gifts or visit the arcades for example. If local councils were happy to make space for us with appropriate charges for over nights, the money raised could be ring fenced to initially provide the facilities like drinking water, grey water dump and chemical toilet disposal. Then the extra money could be injected back into the area. The benefits would speak for themselves and with very easy profit.

In a town near us, there are free overnight parking spaces for motorhomes. Situated at the back of the overflow car park, a 5 minute walk from town. The town council did debate whether to remove them and the local business were up in arms. As a small town in North Yorkshire, outsiders coming and purchasing items is important to the economy. Many independent shops rely on the passing trade to keep afloat. They felt that their business would be severely impacted on if motorhome/campervan owners were rejected from parking in the town and the spaces remain in situ.

Rise in motorhome sales

Popularity of motorhomes has been steadily rising over the last decade. The Motorhome sector reported increase of sales climbing 81% in the ten years running up to 2019. Since Covid, the demand for such leisure vehicles has sored to see traders selling a months’ worth of stock in just 1 week. Prices for these motorhomes are £30,000 – £60,000 on average. Some smaller motorhomes can be found in the £25-30,000 bracket but these are harder to find.

Self build campervans are also increasing in demand. Sales have also risen with websites such as Auto Trader reporting a surge in searches of caravans and motorhomes up 18%. Long waiting lists are in place with traders. The rental market has boomed with people trying multi stop destination holidays in such vehicles.

Responsible renting

motorhome under the stars

With the demand for rentals, it is a worry that the users of the vehicles are not being given clear instructions on how to use the vehicle properly. We read a first hand report where a member of the community approached a gentleman emptying his toilet waste into a brook that runs into the sea just a few yards away. When approached, he felt that it would be ok as it was ‘just water’. He was instructed that there are chemicals in there that are dangerous. Then he admitted he was a first-time renter of a motorhome and was unaware of what to do. He didn’t know there were chemicals in it. He literally picked the van up and drove off with no instructions.

This poses real concerns that rental companies are not giving clear instructions to the holiday makers. A little bit of education about not emptying grey water in a car park, not emptying you toilet where you feel like it and about the responsible way to conduct yourself could make all of our lives a little easier, especially in the tourist areas that these people are visiting. With people choosing to holiday closer to home post covid, the popularity of vanlife keeps growing.


Often, campervan and motorhomers get tarred with leaving litter. In fact it rarely is us – we are just more noticeable perhaps. Many of us are used to litter picking at places we stop and clearing the area. We apparently are responsible for leaving toilet paper and faeces in the car parks. However we have toilets on board so I can’t see that it is motorhomes or campers. It is more likely to be car drivers, hikers, motorbike riders etc.  

With regards to rubbish, in a recent excursion we parked at the rear of a car park on a hill. The town was about a ten minute drive downhill, with the road being barely used except for farmers and people want to use the car park. We were very surprised when cars appeared about 9pm, emptied loads of bin bags from their boot and drove back off again.

Be accountable

Not an isolated experience either. It is too easy to blame motorhome and campervan drivers for the mess the locals are leaving. I am not defending bad behaviour. If ANYONE litters and it is witnessed then I firmly believe they should be held accountable, however, pictures of waste that has clearly come out of a house can not, and must not, be blamed on visitors when all the bin bags are the same make (easily identified as the same brand in a picture we saw) and looked like it was a house clearance. Vanlifers just don’t do that.

Post after post are appearing on social media about the dumping of rubbish by motorhomes and quite frankly we are concerned/frustrated and angry. During the covid pandemic we all marvelled at how the lands were healing. Yet as the first sign of lockdown easing the beaches were trashed, picnic spots were trashed and no regard whatso ever was given and this was not down to irresponsible motorhomers. This is a problem across all walks of life.

Where does this leave us?


Right now, the community is fighting for the right to resume traveling safely. None of us want to break any rules and have observed the guidance from the government with full time van lifers finding places to park up. Now that travel is allowed, we are free to move once more in line with the law. We are campaigning for the ability to install Aires in suitable locations and provide facilities for people to use. Motorhomes and campervans are here to stay and as mentioned above, the demand for them is clear.

If governments can see the potential goldmine they are missing out on and agree to install water, chemical disposals and appropriate car parking in appropriate locations then maybe we can all work together. Maybe who ever is leaving rubbish, will use the bins. Perhaps having chemical waste points will stop people from leaving faeces in the woods (although I still think this will continue due to it being other people) and perhaps local economies that are struggling to recover post covid, will get a cash boost from vanlife and tourism, helping to rebuild the towns they are so proud of.

What can we do?

Have a look at your towns, contact your MP’s and try to calmly explain that the motorhome and campervan community can be a real benefit to them in the future. Perhaps in this new post covid world, vanlife will finally be recognised as a positive thing and not frowned upon. Look at the facebook groups dedicated to promoting responsible parking and camping as they often have templates of letters that you can use to send to your local MP.

As always, camp responsibly, ensure you leave no trace, and give back to the locations you visit.

Travel Work Exchange and our experience.

Why you should consider a work exchange experience when you travel.

Travel has been important since the dawn of time. The explorers in us have always roamed this earth in search of new lands, experiences and views. Through all of it we love to learn about new places and cultures. For those of us not content with 2 weeks a year and who try to travel either full time or regularly, the costs can mount up. Looking for ways to save money when we travel is essential to make the most of our free time.

Why not consider a ‘travel work exchange’ programme?

Paint brushes

What is a work travel exchange?

A work travel exchange is an amazing way to travel on a budget. You get to meet lots of people. You usually get to stay for free in exchange for some work that they need doing. This allows time for you to see the local area in your free time.

Travel/work exchange programmes have been around for many years. They have given those that love to travel the ability to move around for low costs. It is beneficial for businesses owners, private land owners, social projects, farms etc. to get assistance with an endless amount of roles. It’s a collaborative exchange between you and the hosts looking for a certain type of work to be done.

What type of work can I do?

You do not have to be trained in obscure roles such as ‘listed house roofing specialist’ or have a degree in landscape gardening. There are plenty of other roles available for almost every type of skill you can think of. However if you do have certain skills, particularly being able to speak foreign languages, it will certainly help you in some work travel placements. There are so many opportunities to learn on the job. The most important thing is to have an open mind and be willing to work hard.

Some roles could be helping out on campsites, in hospitality, fruit picking on a farm or helping to clear land. Teaching a language or subject, renovation and maintenance, cooking, child care, working in a rescue centre for animals. The list is endless and they are all across the globe. They are enticing you off of the beaten track into the more remote locations to get a real feel of the land and local communities.

What do I get in return for working?

In most cases accommodation is provided, sometimes a spot to park your campervan (sometimes there may be electric hook ups). All of this is relative to the individual location and host. It is important that you clarify all benefits before you travel to ensure you are prepared for what to expect. Occasionally they may be shared dorms and bunks similar to a hostel environment, if they are having regular volunteers. You may be lucky and have your own accommodation and bathroom or it may be shared with others.  

In most cases we have found that one meal is usually provided communally. Cooking duties are usually shared amongst the volunteers so having some basic cooking skills will serve you well. Pun intended! If you are a really bad cook then perhaps agree to be the chief washer upper!

Chopping wood
Wood Chopping

What don’t I get?

In most cases, do not expect to earn money. You are working for the host in return for your board. It is very unlikely that any wages will be included on top of that.

You will be responsible for your travel costs to and from the location. Any visas and vaccinations if you are going abroad, and medical costs will be your responsibility.

Food may be included for communal meals. All other food will need to be purchased by yourself as well as money for excursions and leisure activities.

Each work/travel exchange will be different depending on the host. You need to make sure you clarify all the fine details before you commit.

How long do I have to work for?

This will vary from host to host, however the usual amount is around 20 – 25 hours a week. We undertook a placement in an animal sanctuary and volunteered to do almost 12 hours days at times. In addition we also had night duty and were very happy to do those hours. I will stress that we didn’t have to and that the host was very accommodating to our needs. We loved it so much that we wanted to as much as we could.

What travel insurance do I need?

Due to the types of work you will be undertaking, there are some grey areas as to whether you are a worker or a tourist. In reality, you are neither and both at the same time. We did a quick search for volunteer travel insurance and found some information on gap insurance. This is catered for the younger age bracket taking their gap year between collage and university. Some of these insurance companies have a maximum age bracket as low as 35. We recommend speaking to insurance brokers and explaining the type of volunteering or work exchange placement you are undertaking to ensure you have the correct cover.

Any advice?

We suggest that for your first experience, consider starting in your home country. Once you feel confident then start to look further away. Perhaps arrange to go with a friend to have someone to travel with and share the adventure. Make sure people know exactly where you are and check in regularly. Provide your family with contact details of your host.

Where can I find out more.

There are lots of websites set up specifically for work travel exchange programmes, volunteering and working abroad. A quick internet search will bring them up for you. There are also lots of facebook groups set up for this. Connect with others that are looking to sign up for, or have experience in, travel work exchange programmes. Build a network of like-minded people. Start to make friends with them and ask them about the highs and lows of their involvement in the programmes.

Voluntary work
Voluntary work

Our experience of Travel Work Exchanges.

Arriving at the campsite

We have only done two so far but are looking at other experiences for the future. Our first one was in the UK and we found this on a facebook group for van-lifers. It wasn’t done through a specific website or company. We saw a post from an lady that had purchased some land. She was looking for people to help clear it and turn it into a campsite. The land was in Tairgwaith, Glamorgan, Wales. This is a part of the UK that we love near the Black Mountains. We were looking to give something back so volunteered to lend a few days helping out.

Speaking to the host a little bit about the types of things that were needed, it seemed like general weeding, tidying, maintenance etc. In return she would let us park our campervan on the land for free in exchange for the manual labour. We were looking forward to hearing about the business plans she had. Perhaps learn a little bit about what would be needed if we ever embarked on a project like that in the future.

We arrived at the location and were greeted by wild horses. The site was on a slight hill with a gravel path marking the small site, only catering for approximately 3 or 4 campers at a time. It wasn’t a large plot of land but it was beautiful. We met our host who was, shall we say, a unique character. After being given a tour of the site, she told us all about her exciting plans. We could quickly see that there was a LOT of work that would need to be done.


In order to get the most out of the time we had, the host set us to work on one area. Rather than just do bits here and there it made sense to concentrate on one area. During the time we worked there we managed to make a safe bonfire pit. We used this to burn small amounts of wood at a time. In the evening we also used this to cook our dinner on.

From moving big heavy branches, pulling weeds and moving rubble, the area took a fair amount of time to clear. We used rocks to line the edge of the path and discarded tree stumps as seats around the fire pit. The host would pop out every now and then to see how we were doing. She would remind us that we could stop when ever we wanted to but we were quite happy just pottering along and keeping the fire going.

Out for an adventure

On the second day, our host wanted to show us part of the local area. We all bundled in her yellow campervan and headed for the hills. She took us to a stunning part of the Black Mountain range to where there was a disused mine and lime kilns. It was lovely to go out with the owner and learn more about the surrounding area. After a little while she headed back to the van and told us to take our time investigating. We agreed to meet her and her dog back at the van when we were ready. This allowed us time to look at the views and poke about in the rocks, looking at the ruins.

Live Streaming

After our walk we headed back to the camp site and continued to potter around. The next day saw us doing something slightly different. A beautiful stream runs through the site at the bottom of the hill. It had been all snagged up with fallen branches during recent bad weather. The host had asked us if we would be happy to help her clear it. With my wellies on I gladly followed her down the bank into the freezing water. We walked along the trickling stream that was largely rocky and very slippery. The host and I cut some branches back and cleared the debris that could have posed a problem if left to build up over time.

We passed the branches up to Louise who stacked them to dry out. The whole site was like something out of a hobbit film. Down in the stream the whole site looked completely different. The purple flowers appearing on the banks looked like a spring carpet. Tracks from animals could be seen using the water as either crossing locations or for a water source. Further along, back on land, were the remains of an old cattle shed. Sadly it hasn’t survived but would have been a beautiful building in its day.

We thoroughly enjoyed this experience. Even though there were not facilities to shower, it didn’t stop us from enjoying our time. We were helping this semi wild and basic site get a head start before opening properly.

It was thanks to this experience that we were eager to have another go at a work travel exchange, this time in Spain!

Galgos Del Sol

Parked up on site

After our first season of travel, we settled up in Yorkshire for the winter. Being in a house just felt more restrictive and we needed to get out and about. We saw on another facebook group that an animal rescue charity was looking for people with a campervan. They wanted people to come and volunteer for a few months. This was to help do the night duty and care for the dogs. An interesting work travel exchange that was close to our hearts!

We love dogs, both having long careers in animal welfare under our belt, and we had a camper. Spain was warmer than Yorkshire and it was an area that we were sort of familiar with. A year prior we had stayed about an hour from there in my aunts villa. We loved it very much so we knew that should we have any major problems, there was an area (and possibly a villa if it wasn’t being used) nearby that we could find safety in.

Making the arrangements – even with the van rebuild not entirely finished, we made our way to the centre. On arrival, we were very impressed with the set up and facilities. This is a working canine rescue centre and it is still under some construction. Although most of the kennels are now built some work is still underway. Accommodation areas for volunteers and a communal shower facility for those camping are in the pipe line. We were able to use the shower in one of the finished apartments with permission from its current guest.

Agreement to volunteer

In the agreement we made with the hosts volunteer co-ordinator, we were given all the information we needed. This included hours we were expected to be available, safety information and site rules. It was clearly stated that there was a strict vegan policy in communal areas. You were allowed animal products in your own areas but not permitted in the communal kitchen or meals. Louise and I would be expected to work with the dogs 8am – 2pm then have lunch. The afternoons would be free time as long as we were back for evening duties. Duties would include being responsible for feeding, cleaning and training the dogs, caring for the guard dog at night and reporting any problems to the owner.

Louise and I were happy with these arrangements but it soon became clear there was a lot to do. We ended up working almost constantly, rarely taking any time off. We felt guilty on our occasional time off (due to covid, we couldn’t go anywhere anyway!) when we knew there was so much we could be doing.

For some of the longer term dogs, we would try to focus on enrichment ideas. This was to keep them stimulated and introduce new games and puzzles that they would need to figure out. We taught basic obedience, handling, touch acceptance, agility, lead work and settle. We loved them and played with them. After a snack we went to sleep and did it all again the next day.

Food Glorious Food!

Cooking is a passion for Louise and eating is a passion for me. This is one of the reasons we work so well together! Learning a whole heap of new recipes was a great joy. Being able to collaborate with other volunteers taught us a lot. We all took turns in the cooking and cleaning of the kitchen. At the busiest time, we were cooking for 13 people. That was until Covid hit and everyone had to leave, leaving just 4 full time and 2 part time helpers.

From aubergine parmesan, curried cauliflower and chick pea curry to vegan burger and chips. We had a real variety of food and everyday we would look forward to seeing what had been created. It was the one time of day that everyone could be together. We would discuss the plans for the next day or so. Through these experiences we made some really strong friendships that cover many countries and have remained in place even since we have returned.

Giving back


Although we know we gave a lot to the dogs we cared for they also gave a lot back to us. They were our comfort, our security, our children and our friends. On one particular day I was feeling really tearful and frustrated so I went to sit with Fiji and calm down. She knew something was wrong and kept licking my face, practically sitting on me and forcing me to stay still until I felt better. Fiji is a heavy girl and if she sits on you, its hard to move her! We all loved Fiji and know that she will make an incredible therapy dog!


The puppies needed us to be on top of our game. Constantly feeding them and picking up poo whilst nursing their mumma back to health as she was in such a poor condition was one of the most rewarding elements of our time there. Nerina, the mother, was very wary at first about strangers coming in and touching her puppies.

She didn’t have any milk so to start with her babies needed feeding until she was able to take over again. She had to quickly learn to trust us. We took it as slow as we could. Always wearing gowns and respecting her space. After a day or so it was clear that Nerina was happy we were helping out and used us coming in as an excuse to have some alone time away from the pups and stretch her legs. Once we were done she would come back and settle down with the pups, once again latching on and starting to feed from her.


Louise and Marie

Some of the dogs needed a lot more socialisation than others and just spending time building bonds of trust were the most important sessions we would be involved in. It was a slow process with some of them but Marie, a dog who had spent almost her entire life at the rescue centre, was very scared of leaving her kennel. Louise and I spent lots of time slowly getting her to trust us and accept touch before we even tried to do any more than that. After a week or so we were able to start work putting the harness on – still not leaving the kennel.

Once the harness was able to be put on and off we started just going outside the gate. Marie had a favourite spot in the weeds just outside the block and we used this as her thinking spot. She felt safe there. Over time, and using lots of food bowls with high value treats in, Marie felt able to investigate the bowls and get a reward for doing so. During our time there we slowly moved the bowls further away, replacing them with vocal rewards and treats from the treat pouch. Now Marie can walk with other dogs and on her own, she is now kennelled with a friend and is enjoying playing in the large paddock.

Libby and Javi

As you know these two dogs became very close to our hearts. We spent a lot of time with these dogs and they gave so much back to us that kept us engaged with them. Javi has a broken back. He was hit by a car and when found, he had learnt to walk on his front two legs only. Sadly, Javi was paralysed from his hips down and his injury was inoperable. Tina, the director of GDS did not give up on him and was able to start him on hydrotherapy, electronic stimulation and physiotherapy.

Working with a dedicated team of vets and specialists, Javi began to make progress and can now walk again as his muscles are strong enough to hold him. Not only that, but he can play again almost like a normal dog. He still has the occasional wobble and certain weather may make him stiffer in the mornings but he was given a second chance to live and he has embraced it with both paws. Javi always looks happy, always has the biggest smiles and never complains about anything – other than that breakfast is always too late! He was a true inspiration to us both.

Libby is his best friend in the whole world and she look after him like a mother/son relationship. Libby has spent her life at GDS too and although her needs were very much looked after, she needed some Basic training to help give her the skills she would need in a home setting. We taught her to sit, to lay down, to wait and also a few tricks such as weaving, paw and using the agility equipment. She was a lovely dog who had so much enthusiasm for human interaction.

A shared experience

It is hard to sum up the experience of volunteering with GDS and the above are just a few examples of the different work we were doing with different dogs – however there were over 200 dogs on site and to tell you about each one would take some time. Lets just start by saying that we will never forget this experience and it taught us so much about ourselves, as well as about breeds of dogs that we had never worked with before.

We got to learn all about how front line rescue works, the effort it takes to rescue these beautiful dogs in the first place (countless hours sat waiting for these stray dogs to go in the humane traps to be captured, vet checks, medical bills, food and rehabilitation) before they can even be put up for adoption.

Volunteering at Galgos Del Sol

We learnt about volunteers from all over the world that came to help, including America, Belgium, Denmark and beyond. Connecting with other like minded volunteers and staff was incredible and easy as we all had a common interest in the well-being of these dogs, and therefore had a subject to talk about straight off the bat.

We also learnt a lot about ourselves, working under pressure in a foreign country in the middle of a pandemic – not knowing if we would be able to go home at any point soon and having to navigate another countries requirements with a significant language barrier proved quite entertaining at times.

Travel Work Exchange programmes

Travel Work Exchanges can leave an important mark on you, as we found out. They can help you grow your knowledge of people, places and skills as well as change you forever. You will meet people like you that like to travel and have common goals, adventurers, wonderers, hard working passionate people that want to get as much as they can from life. Above all, you will be able to travel with a low budget and have the most amazing time of your life!

If you have been on a work travel exchange, please tell us your story below and tell us how it changed your life!

Our first week with Galgos Del Sol rescue centre.

As we drove from Santander, via Madrid to the rescue centre called Galgos Del Sol, the nerves were building. Of course, going into any new situation can be overwhelming or cause anxiety but that is the fear of the unknown.

As people who have worked in an English animal rescue charity on the front-line, we knew roughly what to expect on arrival and had seen pictures, videos and read the stories about Tina and her incredible rescue centre. However nothing can ever fully prepare you for the moment you walk through the doors for the first time.

Once in the care of Galgos Del Sol, the dogs at the rescue centre are treated with kindness, compassion and a relaxed atmosphere in which they are able to live comfortably whilst waiting for their forever homes. The vision that this woman has for animal welfare is incredible and she knows every single dog in the kennels as well as their back story. A mean feat when you have around 200 dogs in your care.

Driving to Galgos Rescue centre

Odd clouds above the mountains

Our drive to Galgos Del Sol was a long one but so beautiful. The first leg of our drive saw us set off in fog from Santander. We drove towards the mountains and entered tunnels that provided welcome shortcuts through them. We happened to be videoing at the time and captured an amazing sight when we came out of the other end. The fog was now clearing and showing the jagged mountain skyline laid out before our eyes.

As we climbed higher on the mountain road, the fog stayed low in the Valley, becoming a fluffy carpet floor and hiding the towns below. The drive was full of varying landscapes but the roads were easy to navigate. Duel carriageway or motorway most of the way there. Service stations were pretty easy to locate but we never let Chewy get lower than half a tank as we didn’t know where the next station was located.

Out on the horizon, about half way there, the familiar sight of a few high rise buildings replaced the jagged mountain passes. A city skyline took over as we approached Madrid and then we noticed the reflections in the sky as Aeroplanes stacked ready to land at the capital cities airport. We stayed on the outskirts of the city and bypassed the main parts but there it was, in the middle of nowhere, a metropolis.

Returning to the roads heading now towards the coast, the radio stations’ phased in and out of signal at every high note or chorus. Our excitement was building with every kilometre sign we passed. We would go from intense conversation about what we would do, what it might be like and whether we would want to leave to sitting in silence collecting our thoughts and preparing ourselves for this experience.


Just before we arrived at the rescue centre we decided to find a supermarket and stock up our groceries for a few days. We also took the opportunity to familiarise ourselves with the town and find out where to empty our chemical toilet.  Louise had done all of the driving and even though I could do it, I haven’t driven on the other side of the road before and Louise has much more experience. I decided it was safer if I was designated Navigator (Sat nav reader) and set the course for Lidl. We drove through the town and found the supermarket, collected some provisions and then set off for the local petrol station to empty our chemical toilet.

We found it on Search for Sites, it is just a service point but you can empty your toilet and fill up water for free. They also have washing machines and tumble dryers that you can pay to use. We will surely be back here soon so make a note of it on our map. Its only 10 minutes from here to the kennels and we can’t quite believe we are here after all of this planning.

We follow the directions, knowing that the centre is in a rural and secret location so are not surprised when we veer off of the Auto-vista down a dirt track in the middle of agricultural land. From nowhere, two gates appear before us. With mountains in the distance, a musky blue colour in the shadow of the sun and a clear blue sky above us that seems to go on for miles, we wonder how on earth we found it! Finding the centre easily and being let into to the compound, we are amazed to finally see it in the flesh.

The kennels

Penny Galgos del sol

Passing reception into the kennel area we are greeted with happy Galgos either in their kennel chilling out or in their exercise compounds playing with volunteers. A few volunteers are practicing agility in one paddock and another is treating a young Galgo to a sensory walk amongst herb pots and flowers.

The kennels are new and some are still being built. An outdoor washing up station has clean bowls drying in the hot Spanish sunshine. Its like a 5 star palace for them and they are all really calm and happy inside them.

A staff kitchen area has communal outdoor seating and all the equipment needed in the kitchen to feed the army of staff and volunteer that dedicate their time to the dogs.

The team are welcoming and make us feel comfortable straight away as we get our bearings. After a while of saying hello and having our tour, we retire to the van to start getting things straight. Currently everything is packed away in boxes in the garage area under the bed and slowly, a box at a time, we sort through the kitchen boxes and clothing etc.

It takes a while to get things where you want the and almost 2 weeks later we still haven’t finished unpacking. (Update – we just had a major clean out and its almost done now! We even purchased two fake planks to give it a bit of green!)

Hands on at the rescue centre!

Fiji galgos del sol
Fiji and Emma

The next morning we woke early with excitement, today we get to play with the rescue dogs and start doing what we came for. We met the most incredibly friendly dogs, with Tania – A white Galgos who had been seriously ill before Christmas – stealing all the limelight with her markings and ‘feel sorry for me’ eyes. Don’t believe a word of anything she tries to tell you, she is spoilt rotten although she will make out otherwise!

We met a fair amount of the Galgos but there are also Podenco’s, lab crosses and Mastines at the site that we have never worked with before. We were tasked with working with some of the more challenging dogs to either get them ready for transport or work on some basic training with them.

This week we have be been blown away by the passion, enthusiasm and care for these dogs at the rescue centre. More often than not staff and volunteers are on site from dawn until dusk. Tina is like an octopus, juggling so many aspects of running a charity, out on rescues, social media releases, write ups for dogs, organising transports and visits and spend time with her family.

Here are some of our special dogs so far…


Louise and Javi
Superstar Javi

Javi is a Podenco cross who was bought to Galgos after a rescue mission to save him. Javi was in a really bad condition on the street as he had a broken his back. The specialists reckon it happened about 3 weeks before he was rescued and in that time Javi had learnt to crawl on his front legs as he was unable to walk on his back legs. Tina took him to a vet who took x-rays of his back. The prognosis was poor with the vet saying he was paralysed and unlikely ever to regain the use of his legs.

Tina knew that poor chance, meant some small chance and decided to bring him back to the centre. Following months of intense therapy including Physio and hydro, he started to improve – to everyone’s amazement. The vets were not able to operate on his back and he was incontinent due to the nerve damage he sustained. Against all odds, Javi can now walk again. Not only that, but he can play. He can run and he is able to do the agility ramps with ease.

Javi loves a fuss, has a great attention span and also can live with other dogs. He is such a sweet cuddle monkey and would make a great family pet. Javi deserves a second chance in a patient, understanding and loving home where he can be spoilt rotten. Every day he is still improving and he seems to be regaining some control over his bowels. It is hoped that this will continue and in the right home should not be an issue as long as he has access to a toileting area.

Check out the facebook page and watch the video of Louise working with Javi here He is the real hero of Street life to Sweet life! What an amazing dog and rescue recovery.


Wella Galgos del sol
Wella, Our darling!

Having been on the run for weeks, Wella was finally captured on a rescue mission after she became stuck in a well ( hence her name). No one knows if she fell in, or was put in there however she was taken to the centre and is now safe. It was quickly evident that Wella was a little special. She was unsteady on her feet and after she had been sent for a brain scan, it was deemed most likely that she was born with a damaged cerebrum. The other possibility was a Youth Degenerative Disease however the vets feel if it was that, she would likely be a lot worse than she is by now and she seems stable at the moment.

Wella has a little twitch, or a dance as we call it and this is due to the condition. She bobs her head and then hops from front foot to the other a couple of times. She is not in any pain and is able to run and play with her friends. She can just be a little wobbly now and then so needs understanding owners with a non slip floor!

Nativity and her puppies.

Nativity's pups
Nativity’s puppies

Nativity evaded capture on the streets whilst pregnant. Once she had delivered her babies she was able to be relocated to the centre and her puppies looked after. Born on 30th November, they were all given festive names and have been put up for adoption now that they are old enough.

They are not pure Galgos but we have no idea who their dad is. With 4 black dogs and 3 white/golden, they are picture perfect. Rudolph has found a home and has left the centre but the others are still up for adoption. Take a look at their video below too!


Tania and Montana
Tania, Montana and Louise

We will try and bring you further information about their journeys and tell you more about the other dogs that we are working with but there are so many we are in love with. To say we have only left site once since our arrival and we only nipped out for groceries should show you how much we are enjoying the role. Some of the dogs we have been working with are scared and we have seen so much improvement even during our time so far.

We love to see them take those first steps and build their trust. It inspires us to keep working with those dogs and we are putting in 10, 11 hour days, before undertaking our night duties too.

If you want to donate, please check out to donate directly. You can follow them on Facebook too! They may not all be Galgos, but they are all deserving of a new home and for their care to continue.

Now YOU have funded our trip here, we are working closely to ensure any left over money gets put back into Galgos Del Sol so you can still donate on the GoFundMe too.

We still have what seems like forever here before we come home and I think both of us would be happy to stay longer, however we are sure it is going to fly by!

We made it to Spain on the ferry!

It was a long and at times worrying journey to Spain on the ferry with Brittany Ferries. The rough sea and weather we faced was enough to turn even seasoned veterans green. We know that because we met them! This was all part of our journey to get to Galgos Del Sol to start our volunteering time.

The 24 hour crossing from Portsmouth to Santander was delayed by two hours because of the weather. Where we were supposed to leave at 5 pm it was actually gone 7 before we set off along the English channel towards Spain, via the Bay of Biscay.

When we arrived at the ferry terminal, excited to reach Spain, drove to a booth that took our reservation details and registration number. They gave us our boarding passes and a ticket to put on display in the windshield. From there we were ushered down to a multi laned waiting area. We were able to get out, stretch our legs and have some lunch before we would board.

Tornado Warning!

Only we could decided to get a ferry to Spain during a Tornado warning! We knew that if Brittany Ferries felt it was too rough to sail that it would be cancelled, however we hoped that we could sail. From the outset we knew it wasn’t going to be a pleasant crossing. We have heard too many stories of rough crossings in the Bay of Biscay, or the Bay of certain death as one lorry driver told us!

Map the route

Map of Spain
Spanish Map

Although we had an idea of the journey we were taking (we had looked into toll roads etc) we took this time to look over the large European map that we had with us and carefully studied the roads we would be using. They all seemed to be main roads and hopefully wouldn’t lead us down narrow lanes!

It was only the day before that we had heard of a van conversion missing a sign for a narrow road. They needed a police escort to get them unstuck and out of the town! We don’t want this to happen to us so it is best to look at a map and not trust the sat nav as she forgets we are larger than a car!

Boarding the ferry to Spain

boarding the ferry
Boarding the Ferry

When prompted, we drove Chewy onto the ferry easily and followed instructions to get her parked. We were able to see her from the decks which gave us great comfort to know we could see her. The ferry was a large one called Cap Finistere. She sails this route on rotation with her other trips from Portsmouth to Bilbao.

After boarding the upper decks where passengers would travel, we were welcomed aboard by the Brittany Ferries crew. All were very helpful in showing passengers around the boat to their cabins. We were located on Deck 7, the same deck as the main bar and restaurant, spa and shops.

A lovely twin room with a TV and an en suite bathroom and shower waited for us as well as a bowl of fruit, complimentary cocktails and sweets in the room. The decor was basic but adequate. A European plug socket was available. It would have been great if we had thought to bring an adaptor but that is a learning curve!

Getting our bearings

Deck 8
Exploring the ferry

Once we had put our overnight bags in the room, we decided to have a look around the ship. We started at the top (deck 10) where we found a play area for children one side and a dog exercise area on the other. A cafe shielded by perspex panels was also situated up here and a set of stairs down to level 9.

From here we could see Chewy from the back of the boat and took a while to watch the view as we sailed into the channel in darkness. The bulk of the cabins were on decks 8 and 9 and the boat was easy to navigate once you had your bearings!




On deck 7, we found a nice bar at the back of the boat with cosy, informal seating areas and tables. Lovely mood lighting and entertainment greeted us there. Getting ourselves a drink, we relaxed here for the evening with live music, bingo and a music quiz. It was much more than we expected as the website said the ferry to Spain was a no frills journey. We were very surprised by the standard of luxury we had.

There was also a fine dining restaurant, an informal cafe, duty free, clothing store and a shop on board. Lounge areas with TVs were located all around the ship so there was plenty of choice and space for everyone.

table in the bar
Nautical themed tables in the bar area

By that time we were getting tired as it was about 10pm and we had been up since 6am and driven over 400 miles to Portsmouth. We headed off to see if we could get any sleep as the sea just got rougher and rougher.

The weather was awful. The waves were crashing against the boat and we were swaying from side to side. Having taken our sea sickness tablets a few hours ago we were glad of the drowsy side effects. Feeling a bit dopey, we decided to see if we could sleep through it. It felt at times like we were going up in a lift and then being dropped as the boat crested over the massive waves and landed again. It kept us awake worrying about how the van was. Had she fallen over or bounced overboard as they hadn’t strapped the vans down.

A Rough Night on the ferry to Spain

Cap Finistere outside area
The calm after the storm!

There was nothing we could do about it. We couldn’t get up and check as they doors would have been locked to the deck for safety reasons. We were also just too drowsy from the tablets. If the boat had started to sink I don’t think we would have been able to do anything about it! It was a very long night of rocking and swaying. It took a long time for us to settle into a proper sleep. Around 10am when we finally woke up the next morning and a quick look on google showed our ferry heading towards Spain, in the Bay of Biscay.

It took us ages to get over the effects of the travel sickness tablets, but I managed to stagger to the bar and order tea and coffee for us to get us going. Although the sea was still choppy it was much better than last night where the waves had been battering our window on deck 7!

We took a walk around the boat and went outside to get some fresh air. A lot of people were grey or green as they all felt sick from the storm. All hanging on to the railings and looking like they had seen better days! Chewy was where she was supposed to be and all looked a bit better in the light of day,

Reaching Santander

Santander harbour

By late afternoon we had almost reached Santander and excitement was brewing about the next stage of our trip. We packed our belongings up and headed for the lounge to relax and wait for instructions. We were delayed coming into the port so pulled up at dusk as the sun was setting.

Santander port is beautiful. With lighthouses welcoming you to the Spanish mainland and a bustling port town with hotels, bars and restaurants all lit up, it look breathtaking against the colours of the Spanish sunset.

It wasn’t long before we were docked and advised we were able to access the garage area to prepare for disembarking via passport control. We were so happy to be getting off of that boat and swore never to do it again!


Sunset on the ferry
Sunset pulling in to Santander

The crew on board were incredibly helpful and went out of their way to ensure all passengers were happy. Nothing was too much trouble for them and even though they were tired and also feeling the strain of the storm, they delivered an exceptional service.

Would we use Brittany Ferries again? Yes – but on a calmer sea for sure!

About Cap Finistere

The boat was made in 2001, originally being used by a Greek company and transferred to Brittany Ferries in 2010. She is 204 meters long and has a crew of 86.

There are 265 cabins. Enough room for 500 vehicles. Free WiFi in public areas. A cinema, spa, shop, restaurant, multiple cafes and a bar (on 2 decks).

It has pet friendly accommodation and kennels on board for those taking their dogs. There is also a heated outdoor swimming pool in summer months using sea water! If you are going to get the ferry to Spain, it is a lovely boat to travel on!

Our Boat
We are on the ferry to Spain!

Campervan Toilet Guide

Campervan Toilets

campervan toilet guide

Going to the toilet is a basic human requirement but still something we tend to be a bit taboo talking about. Especially when it comes to how you cope with needing to go to the toilet in your campervan. The internet is full of information to the point where it can be overwhelming but not always easy to navigate the pros and cons.

However we are here to try and write a simple guide breaking down the basic elements of each one. This should give you a basic overview on the principles of each design. you can then research further into the type of toilet you like the idea of and find out more information.

The main two components in choosing a toilet seems to be how expensive and how eco friendly is it. Companies are listening to the customers and trying to provide less harmful chemicals that was has been on the market until recently and a variety of designs mean there is a toilet fit for every bum.

Best seat in the van!

When thinking about vanlife, it is important to have a list of essential things, that are important to you, included in your design. You may be starting a conversion from scratch or maybe you are buying one ready to go. Either way, your dream home on wheels will have several must haves such as windows or no windows, what type of heater, fixed bed or a pull out?

Almost every person will have their own list and vision. Often these are then impacted by costs, van size and layouts. It may not be practical to have an automatic flushing toilet in a Caddy where space is a real issue, for example.

Feeling flushed?

One of the things that both Louise and I were adamant about was that we needed a toilet of some sorts. When we saw our campervan we were glad to see that she came with a toilet already installed. We currently have a Thetford toilet and cassette in place half way down the campervan on the drivers side. This model features an electric flushing pump, a waste compartment accessed from outside, a tank for the flush liquids and a toilet roll holder.

In this post, we look at some of the types of toilet you can get for your campervan, talk about the chemicals and how they work, look at some more Eco friendly toilets and how they compare cost wise.

From the Bottom Up!

Mobile app to locate toilets. Cost – Free, Installation – Mobile app.

Where is public toilet app
Mobile app for android

Let’s start at the rear end of the scale, no toilet. For some people, having a toilet is a luxury they just can not manage. Either space restrictions, cost or just a lifestyle choice not to have one! When we had our T5 campervan, we didn’t have a toilet on board. We just made sure we took advantage of public restrooms in supermarkets, pubs or dotted around towns. The only problem for me was the first pee of the morning where we would have to make sure we were parked near a 24 hours supermarket or public toilet for the morning dash!

Vera the Wanderlust also decided to forgo a toilet when they left in their VW.

“We hit the road in our VW T3 in July of 2019. We had packed everything we needed; food, clothes, music, bedding, tools, you name it and we’d packed it. Everything except one thing- A toilet.

To be honest we were so excited to start our journey that we hadn’t even considered what it meant to not have a toilet in the van. For the first few months it wasn’t much of a problem, it was warm outside so even if we need to go to the toilet in the middle of the night we just got up and found the nearest public restroom using the app ‘Where is public toilet Europe’.

Insta @verawonderlust

However, as our trip progressed in to winter and the weather started turning for the worse, it became more of a challenge finding the courage to brave the elements, to find a restroom or a suitable natural space to do our business. As a result we have started to think about investing in a chemical toilet, although we think we may decide against it as they are not overly environmentally friendly.” You can follow them on Instagram @verawonderlust and on facebook

Using ‘Where is public toilet’ app (only available on android) you are able to use your current location to search for public toilets near you. The app is free to download and easy to use. This would have been so helpful for us!

Bucket and a tent – Basic costs – under £30 for full kit

Campervan toilet bucket and chuck it.
Bucket and Chuck it method

One of the toilet options we looked at when in a smaller campervan was to have a bucket and tent option. We had seen a toilet tents for sale the VW festivals and did purchase a pop up tent for around £20. You can buy a bucket with a toilet seat attached for around £10-20 but you can just get a bucket from the £1 shop and a bit of insulating foam around the edge for added comfort.

Essentially you place a bucket in the tent and do your business. It is recommended that you line your bucket with bin bags!

Lots of chat happens in the camping and campervan forums about what to use to soak up the fluids and mask smells. Most opt for sawdust or cat litter and line the bin with a small amount then layer a little over after each use. Disposal of this waste must be done in accordance of the laws where you are. It is your responsibility to check this.

Removable Porta Potty – Easy to store and empty, from £50 and up. (Thetford/Dometic)

The next step up from a bucket is a small portable toilet cassette stored in your campervan. The two common brands are Thetford and Dometic. This is where waste is held in a secure holding tank underneath the toilet bowl. There is a twist disc to open and close the valve. This allows the waste to go down and the smells to stay sealed in an air tight container below. Some are fitted with pump flushes so that a 2nd tank, containing clean water and a pink chemical, clean the bowl and keep it fresh.


The tank size can vary greatly depending on what you want to spend but the more you pay out, the more comfortable the experience will be for you. The small portable ones are handy to stow away under a bench seat or in a cupboard for occasional use. This isn’t so bad if you are a solo traveller however if you are sharing with someone, it can test the personal boundaries fairly quickly. It may be that one person has to leave the van whilst the other uses the loo. Not so much fun in the rain and snow!

Fixed Porta Potty. Service waste from outside, approx. £350 and up. (Thetford/Dometic)

A fixed toilet has advantages but is usually reserved for larger vans, given the space they take up.

These will often be the same basic design as the above but on a larger scale. With a fixed toilet in your campervan you are able to add walls, giving you a cubical in the van for privacy. Often these have an outside door to access the waste container. Some of the waste tanks have wheels to make them easier to transport but when they are full, they can be quite heavy and the shifting contents make it unstable.

Chemicals – 3 main types on the market but what do they do?

We touched earlier on the chemicals and if you have been into caravan and motorhome shops you may have seen shelves displaying pink, blue and green liquids. The core functions of these chemicals are to break down the waste and reduce odours. To be truthful, it is hard to disguise the smell of the harsh chemicals altogether so pick what is more offensive for you!

Pink and Blue

Typically, the pink liquid is a nice fragrant one that us diluted to make the flush water. The blue ones are usually diluted for the waste tank. Some of the older solutions contain more harmful chemicals, such as formaldehyde.


The green toilet liquid is usually the more eco friendly of the toilet cleaners but do still check the ingredients. It is more environmentally conscious, can be emptied into a septic tank and is only in temps as sold as -20, depending on the brand.


Some of the older solutions contain more harmful chemicals, such as formaldehyde. This is a toxic element which needs to be handled and disposed of safely. Due to the harm these chemicals can do the environment they do need to be handled safely. There are come companies now working on less toxic alternatives, harnessing enzymes and natural substances instead, to make them better for the environment.

There are plenty of discussions on the alternatives you can read on line. Some people recommend using biological washing tablets however some reviews have said the smell was worse and it took a long time for the solids to break down.

Composting Loo – Self contained housing and ventilation.

Those looking for a more environmentally friendly toilet for their campervan, without the use of harsh chemicals, may think about the composting toilets. The science behind these is to separate the fluids and solids holding them in separate areas. The solid waste is dried out using ventilation and sawdust, the fluids are sent to another tank for easier disposal.

Emma Milford – turning a chemical toilet into an eco toilet

Porta Potti

After much deliberation about building my own composting toilet, or installing an all singing all dancing throne, I decided to simply go with the Thetford Porta Potti 145; a small portable toilet which can be purchased from must outdoor retailers and fits in my van under my table or in the back of my van – one day (when I build it!) it will be on a pull out tray in my storage area.

This lovely little toilet is super simple to use, fits pretty much anywhere and does what it says on the box! There is a 12ltr waste reciprocal which will hold around a week’s worth of waste, unless you’re a large canine, a bellow pump ‘flush’ and it can be emptied really easily. With the flick of a catch, the container detaches from the main body and there is a spout to aim the contents in to a private loo, drain, chemical disposal point etc.

Easy Pee-sey

Personally, I don’t use any chemicals in either the waste area or the ‘flush’ section (just some plain water in the ‘flush’ section), as I want the ability to empty it pretty much anywhere without killing the environment or my friendly neighbour’s waste pipes. I don’t find it smells without the chemicals but a good rinse with water and a wipe over with some eco cleaning spray after emptying keeps it fresh and clean, and if you can avoid mixing solids and fluid, it tends to smell less.

Top tip… DO NOT add toilet paper to the mix; cheap paper generally does disintegrate but be like the Europeans and just bag it with your normal waste and save any blockages. Overall, this is a great little loo, which isn’t cumbersome or heavy, is easy to install, empty and store wherever you have the space. Happy camping!

Instagram: @onegirlandavan

The joys of a composting toilet by Clare and Ryan.

“We are Clare and Ryan and we have been living full time in our custom built van conversion since September 2018. Since then we have travelled throughout the UK, spent the winter in the Iberian Peninsula, the summer in Scandinavia, visiting 12 countries so far and our plans for 2020 are to head east and explore the rest of Europe.

As we custom designed our van, spending many hours on YouTube exploring the right design and layout for us, we came across composting toilets for the first time. The more we investigated, the more we liked the idea of being free of nasty chemicals and smells, whilst being self contained with the ability to wild camp for longer periods without having to find suitable waste disposal points. Being on a budget in a relatively small van, with no dedicated shower room, space and costs were also important considerations.

Kildwick Koodle

After doing some shopping around we settled on the Kildwick Koodle with purple sparkling separator bowl (no longer available but Strumpet & Trollup do a similar model), costing about 400 GBP. It now lives on a sliding pull out, neatly tucked away but easily accessible, vented to the outside by a flexible pipe. We use a dilute vinegar solution in a spray bottle for our liquids flush and cover any solid deposits with a sprinkling of sawdust.

The fan assisted ventilation over time dries out the solids and we have not had any issues with unpleasant smells or flies. We supplement our compost loo usage with public toilets but find that we empty the liquids container daily and the solids box is emptied [responsibly] about once a month and takes about 5 minutes.

Please remain seated during the performance

The only real surprise for us (easily overcome) was that we needed to change our mindset on how we use the toilet. For me I found I needed to sit further forward than a traditional toilet and hubby has to sit down to pee to help ensure proper separation of solids and liquids – the key to successful composting toilets and the avoidance of smells.

After 18 months on the road, I have to say that getting a compost toilet has been one of the best decisions we made. It has been easy and convenient to use, saving us significant time and money, not having to find and pay for waste disposal points, it is far better for the environment, using no chemicals or water and is definitely less yucky than the alternatives. As we sit watching fellow travellers drag a smelly, sloppy box of waste across a car park, spending 10 minutes trying to juggle the toilet box, water, splash back and holding their noses, we have a quiet chuckle and wonder, why doesn’t everyone have a compost loo, we certainly wouldn’t be without ours!”

Toilet paper – Can I flush it?

Comment at the end, are you an under or an over?

The ‘Bog standard’ toilet roll we use at home isn’t really recommended as conventional loo roll takes a long time to break down and leaves clumps in the tank (and also around where you are emptying it). Unless you want to poke at bits of paper with a stick to get rid of them it is easier to buy the campervan toilet paper in the caravan shops or at least the cheapest thinnest paper from the pound shops.


Just like your toilet at home, all campervan toilets need regular cleaning. Different products will need to be used given the components of your toilet and the seals involved. Domestic cleaning products on the plastic toilets in a motorhome can cause problems that are hard to fix.

Tank Cleaner – After a little use and especially in the summer time, waste tanks can get quite dirty and smelly. If you think emptying them is bad enough, wait until you need you need to scrub the cap which is often an oversight to wash. If you do swill the cap out at the site, don’t drop it down the hole! There are several different types of tank cleaner from liquids to tablet cleaners. It is recommended to empty and rinse the tank and then add a cleaning solution. You ideally want it to slosh around in there for a good amount of time so if you can do it whilst driving between locations would be a great opportunity to give it a good blast.

You will need to follow the instructions on the packet for disposal but usually you can empty it down a toilet at home or at a waste disposal point.


If you have a built in flush tank, it is advisable to empty this if you are storing your camper over winter. Due to freezing temperatures, the waste tank could freeze causing the liquid to expand and contract, bursting your pipes.

Empty the container and give it a good clean. Remove the spout cam this will ensure that it does not get stuck after being still for a long time and also that no pressure builds in the tank.

The rubber seal should be maintained also to avoid it drying out. Spray this with a specific lubricant or run a little olive oil onto it. Thetford do sell a lubricant for this purpose.

If you have a toilet in your campervan, tell us what you have and how you feel about it to help other readers below.

Click here for more articles and here for locations

Should have called it Jam-uary

Call it Jam-uary!

Well somehow it’s almost the end of the month already and as much as we were hoping for a quiet yet productive start to the year, it has turned out to be a rather hectic one so we are renaming it jam-uary as we are trying to jam so much in!

It seems like ages ago now that we were in London celebrating New Year, a time of reflection and new beginnings. Louise had bought my parents and I surprise tickets to see Wicked at the theatre in London New Years Eve and we headed up to the capital city on the train early enough to have a spot of dinner at Bills restaurant first.


Bills Restaurant

Bills is located in Cardinal Place, near Victoria station and is on the corner of an undercover shopping area. Large glass windows stretch from bottom to top and the ground floor and first floor seating can be seen from outside. The interior design is one that is light and elegant. The staff were fantastic and once they had asked if there were any food allergies at the table, and there was, our orders could then only be taken by the manager. This would ensure that the responsibility was placed firmly onto one person. 

The menu was varied, with favourites such as their burgers (which were so tasty and filling) to pan fried seabass and steaks. They also cater for vegetarians, vegans and gluten frees in their menu and when we were speaking to the manager about the meals we wanted they could list the ingredients by memory to ensure there was nothing that would be an allergen to one of the table.

From the balcony
Bills Bar


Fully stuffed, we made our way to the theatre and saw the show. Although we were right up in the gods, it didn’t spoil anything with great views and the sound quality ensured we didn’t miss a thing. We treated ourselves as it was new year to a couple of glasses of prosecco from the bar and enjoyed learning about the back story of the witches in The Wizzard of Oz.

After the show, we took a quick trip on the bus to see the festive Christmas lights before they get packed away again and then headed home before the city got too busy with people celebrating. I don’t particularly like crowds at the best of time but add in alcohol and trains and I get all kind of anxious so I wanted to get gone!

Jam-uary is relentless!

A few days in to Jam-uary we took the train back up to Yorkshire and have to say that the LNER service was fab. We had prebooked our seats in advance and got the fast train which gets us from Yorkshire to London in just over 2 hours with only 5 or 6 stops.  It was quicker than driving and half the travel time. Plus we didn’t have to find parking in London for Chewy.

Louise had given me a present for Christmas that had blown me away. I had been given a flying lesson in a helicopter! Crazy I know!!! I can’t parallel park let alone fly a helicopter but WOW! What an experience it will be! It was booked in for the 11th January, a Saturday and we had also arranged to meet up with Georgina and Corrina from 2Born2Travel on the Sunday. Our Jam-uary diaries were filling up.

decorating the campervan
Painting the van.

Between then, we were still working on the van refit. Every Sunday I would drive to my friends farm where he had the space and tools needed for the big jobs such as building the kitchen or putting up the tongue and groove ceiling. During the week Louise and I would be sewing the cushions for the seating areas or painting the insides ready to hit the road.

The weather was rotten on the Saturday morning and the helicopter flight had to be cancelled and re-booked. This is something that we will rearrange when the weather sorts itself out. Sunday morning was no better with the wind howling around the Yorkshire Moors.

2Born2Travel at Tan Hill

tan hill britain's highest pub
Tan Hill

2Born2Travel had suggested that we meet up at Tan Hill, Britain’s highest pub. We hadn’t been and it was only an hour and a half from us so we jumped at the chance to spend the night in the van again and meet up for the first time with this pair of nutters!

We packed our van with the essentials that had been taken out during the rebuild. Loo roll, gas bottle, heater and cooker, duvet, blankets, food. We never pack light but we did manage to pack less than normal – and yes it was painful! We drove up the A66 towards Barnard castle and then branched off to the left, across the moors to find the pub.

The Moors


As soon as you turn off of the main road, you find yourself quickly lost in a land of nothing. I mean nothing at all. Its just hills and streams and a road that seems to go to nowhere. The weather is harsh because it is bleak up there. Not a tree in sight, just low and stubborn gorse that seems to be surviving. The half structures of stone shepherd huts remain like scars on the land where the elements laughed at the attempt to build shelter there. You can quickly understand why so many people can get lost walking out here as there is nothing to use as a reference point.

Something shimmers in the distance. I say to Louise, “is that the pub?” although we are baffled as to why anyone would want to run a pub in the middle of nowhere – other than ‘Because they can’. The roads are recently tarmacked and we have seen 2 or 3 cars on the 5 miles from the A66 to the pub. As we arrive at the pub, we are gobsmacked. 1 because it is beautiful and 2 because even though they have a large car park and roadside parking too, there isn’t anywhere to park! It’s full!

Tan Hill

tractor and flag at the pub
Tan Hill Flag

Maybe its Sunday lunch, or maybe it is because the social media strategy run by the pub is fantastic. They are a really active pub with lots going on and it is always party time at Tan Hill! After about half an hour we managed to find a parking spot and check in with Georgina. They were ten minutes away and we excitedly looked for parking spaces for them for when they arrived. Luckily the car next to us pulled off so they managed to squeeze in by us.

Cake and Cheese

We invited them into our van for a brew and also to try a Yorkshire tradition of fruitcake and Wensleydale cheese. Yes together. Strangely it works! Once we were warm and filled with Cheese and cake, we thought about going for a walk together with the dogs, Marley and Max – however the van was rocking like a see saw and the wind was picking up so we sat back down!

The pub is on the top of the hill and is not at all sheltered from the wind. Once the car park had got a little quieter and some of the guests had left after lunch we did manage to move our vans around the side of the pub for some shelter from the wind. Inside the pub, the fire was lit and the low beamed ceiling of the bar were decorated with strings of light bulbs ensuring a warm glow throughout. To the left of the bar was the room they would be showing Vera in later and to the right was another side room where we sat at a large table. We would have looked out of the window at the view but 2 travel bloggers had parked their campervans around the side because of the wind…. Oh yes, that was us!!!

Roast Dinners!

roast dinner platter
Sharing Platter

The food at the pub is highly recommended. I will say that when Louise told me they did a sharing roast dinner platter I swore at her for suggesting anyone share their roast dinner, however on reflection it is incredible value and quality. For the price of £23.95 you can have a two course chicken sharing platter. A fresh whole chicken served with coleslaw, chips and pudding. For £29.95 you could have a two course roast of the day platter with steamed veg, roast potatoes, mashed potatoes, cauliflower cheese, Yorkshire pudding and a dessert. (There was a choice of 2 out of 3 meats on offer.)

After the meal, the pub was showing the episode of Vera live as it was broadcast. The pub was featured in the episode and the film crews had all been up there filming in and around the pub a little while ago. Vera fancy dress was encouraged and the Tan Hill had issued Vera facemasks for the group photos being taken to celebrate. Later that night, after we had all sat around talking about travelling, blogs, dogs and wild adventures, we all tried to get some sleep in our respective vans.

Stormy Sleeping

Omelette cooked in a Ridge Monkey.

It was all quite a wild adventure as the vans were rocking wildly in the gales that seemed to swirl around the pub and vans. The flag pole was taking a battering as was the flag flapping with such force it was whipping and cracking like a wild fire. Around 3am we gave up and made a cup of tea. We could see our breath it was so cold and the gas fire tried to set itself on fire before so we decided to not try that one again and just add layers! We were social media-ing from one van, George was social media-ing from her van and none of us had much sleep!

The following morning we all had breakfast as Louise cooked omelette in the Ridge Monkey and we woke up slowly. Georgina and Corrina are exactly like they are in their videos, funny, kind and down to earth. It was so nice to finally meet them and I am sure we will be planning another wild adventure soon with them.

They had to be getting on the road up to Scotland, and the wind was increasing still! Storm Brendon was on its way but hadn’t actually hit yet. Snow was threatened up on Tan Hill later that afternoon so we all decided to head off our separate ways and after some pratting about trying to film each other in our vans we said goodbye and headed home.

Along with going to London, almost flying a helicopter, building the van kitchen, painting the inside of the van, sewing the cushions, battling a storm, meeting Georgina and Corrina Jam-uary has been keeping us busy.

Galgos del Sol


As you may have heard already from our mass emails and social media posts, we are also trying to raise money to help the Galgos in Spain. This is really exciting and something we are desperate to do so looking at all avenues to make it happen. From spending hours emailing companies and radio stations to local vets/groomers/walkers and anyone who will stand still for 2 minutes, we have been trying to engage people with our GoFundMe appeal.

It is very short notice for us to be able to raise the funds needed and although we are giving approx. £14,000 in time, we need the money to feed ourselves and actually get to Spain. If you think we are going there for winter sun, think again! Today the Mayor of Alicante, an hour north of the rescue centre, has issued safety for code red weather warnings. 2 people are already dead due to storm Gloria with ALL outside activity cancelled until the storm passes. Snow has fallen in Andalucía over night. The dogs are scared by the winds and cowering in their kennels looking at the reports coming from the facebook page.

Today we are sorting out a raffle that my hairdresser has offered to run for us, just another way to try and raise the much needed funds to feed ourselves as we will not have an income whilst donating time. My hairdresser has kindly donated a free haircut and we also have around £40 in vouchers to give too. It’s a mad dash trying to get posters designed.

Finishing touches on the van.

We have been working hard getting the van ready and the date of the Spanish volunteering means we only have a few weeks to get the van finished. It isn’t a dry Jam-uary here, we have tried to seal the roof light 3 times now and its still leaking. We did joke about hanging an umbrella upside down to collect the water! The log burner is at a farm, William has sanded it down ready for us to spray and install in the van however the thought of cutting a hole in the roof is scary as is knowing there is another place water could get inside from.

If we are going to be in Spain a while, we need to get the van booked in for an early MOT and service. The electrics still need finishing and we need to finish the kitchen and get the new hob/sink fitted. A curtain is currently proving a toilet door so we would like to get that fitted too at some point. No pressure!

Chewy could do with a wash too. Some helpful sod decided to write looser all over the van, using their finger in the dirt on the side. Yes looser, not loser. Makes you laugh… without wanting to provoke anything more than a finger in dirt, if you want to graffiti the van, spell the insults right!!!

Looking ahead

So hopefully, in a month’s time we will be driving to Portsmouth to board the ferry. A 24 hour crossing on what we have been told can be quite rough. Hopefully the weather will be kind to us as we felt sea sick in the van at Tan Hill with the van rocking in the wind! Once we arrive in Spain, we will have an 8 hour drive to complete from Santander to Murcia before we arrive at the centre. Once there we will only have a day or two with the current onsite couple we are replacing to learnt the rope and get our bearings before they head back to England for a short visit before returning to the rescue centre.

In the mean time, we will be trying to raise the funds and ensure we can get to Spain and back. If you are able to donate, please do so here.

VanLifeDiary need your help for volunteer opportunity at Galgos Del Sol.

We have really enjoyed the freedom and the opportunities that being on the road has given us over the last year. Having been able to learn many skills whilst travelling and a chance to practice more of a minimalist and alternative lifestyle has taught us many valuable skills. It hasn’t changed our perception of things, so to speak, however it has enhanced our core values and given us a cleaner perspective of life and the way we fit within our community. We will get to the volunteer opportunity with Galgos shortly.

We very quickly relished the change in energy from having less ‘STUFF!’. Objects that were no longer fit for purpose but reminded us of someone/something meant they had been kept. Even when they didn’t work any longer. We also became a lot more aware of waste and how much of each resource we used.

Change of Perspective

We found that through our time we really changed our perspective on what we find important to us too. One of our core values, even before we set off on this adventure was animal welfare. Louise and I both come from a background of animal care with experience caring for cats, dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, fish, sheep, horses, chicks, snakes and bearded dragons. Between owning them, fostering them for charities and pet sitting, animals are at the heart of both of us.

Whilst travelling, we were able to spend time with lots of animals along the way as you may have noticed!

Our favourite memories with Animals

VanLifeDiary have an amazing opportunity to help a charity but we need your help to do it.

We volunteered on the road with either car park clear ups or lending strong arms and backs to help clear land in Wales, amongst other things. As dog lovers, we were also following other groups and charities. This is where we came across Galgos Del Sol.  Tina, the head of the charity, moved from the UK to Spain with her family. She set up this amazing charity in 2007 devoted to helping the population of stray Galgos after coming face to face with a stray.

Galgos Del Sol

galgos in long grass
A Spanish Galgo

The charity now has an amazing team looking after around 190 (at any time) stray and unwanted Galgos, Podencos and their crosses in the south of Spain. A Galgo is a Spanish Greyhound, a sighthound, with the easily identifiable needle noses and slender body types. In ancient times these dogs were seen to be prized possessions however now, they are disposable hunting dogs, turfed out on the street when no longer required or able to hunt. There is a short hunting season every year and at the end of that they are abandoned or cruelly killed in their tens of thousands.

Some of the dogs they have there were saved from savage killing stations, others found in horrendous situations. Often they are found emaciated, covered in ticks, mange or suffering injuries from road traffic accidents. Their injuries are often life threatening. Due to the demand in medical fees needed, they can’t always pay for the staff required to run the shelter and turn to volunteers.

Volunteer at Galgos del Sol

Those who volunteer are a lifeline to charities such as Galgos and they are devoted to the care of the dogs in any situation. Many petrified, untrusting, fearful and in lots of pain. It can take weeks or months to capture some of the Galgos due to their fears and they often needs lots of care when they get the safety of the shelter.

Tina and her team then care for, and rehome, these stunning dogs to loving homes in Spain, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, the UK and USA following a strict adoption process.

How are we helping?

galgos looking to the right of the screen
Galgos looking cute!

Having followed the charity for some time we wanted to give something back. We had been in contact with the charity informally and then we were approached by the Galgos Del Sol volunteer co-ordinator to see if we would be able to help them out at the shelter in person. Louise and I have been given a real opportunity to help but we need your help to do it.

They have asked us out there end of February 2020 for 2-3 months initially to assist with the duties. Caring directly hands on with the dogs, this would be a volunteer position with Galgos Del Sol. For both of us it would mean the world and enable us to share the skills we have. We will also learn some new ones with an incredible team. Louise and I feel really strongly in our hearts that we need to go and help them and turning this opportunity down isn’t something we can do. We know from UK rescue that it will emotionally and physically hard, overwhelmingly sad and at times incredibly heart-breaking.

This opportunity to help an amazing charity is one we have dreamed of being able to do. To be able to give back to the dogs of our past that have helped us through hard times in our own lives and honour their memories as well as ensure the continuation of Tina’s mission at Galgos del Sol.

What are we asking?

Well you all know that Go Fund Me accounts are asking for financial support and this is where you will help us fulfil our dream. We have set up an account to help us cover our basic costs only. In order to get there and survive for the 3 months we need to factor in costs.

Before we get to that I would like to explain that we will be donating approx. 120 hours a week to volunteer on site at the Galgos centre in the south of Spain. This is currently for up to 3 months, helping with the daily tasks at the centre. These can be feeding, cleaning, training (behaviour and crate training for their trips to new homes) and feeding the volunteers as well as site based night duties (and anything that crops up along the way that we can assist with).

Our outgoings shouldn’t be much when there but before we go we need to ensure we have the funds and also cover our living costs.


£980                       Return ferry. A 24 hour crossing between Portsmouth and Santander that can be quite rough – this seems to be a lot cheaper than driving through France and taking the toll roads into account. We have also managed to get discounts where we could to get those costs as low as possible.

£500 ish               Fuel from  Yorkshire via Santander to the sanctuary (and back again) in the south east of Spain with today’s fuel price and staying under 50MPH!

£289                       Breakdown cover for Europe

We also need to

Update our Van Insurance to cover 90 days in Europe.              
Travel Insurance for annual cover as could be longer.
Cover living costs to include food, cooking gas, laundry and fuel.

We are hoping to raise at least £3,500 to cover our expenses and also be able to donate a chunk to the charity. Any money left over will be donated and accounted for. This does not take into account any other activities whist there or general exploring. If time allows, we will fund that ourselves, somehow, however it seems that most of our time will be spent in the centre.

Any left-over donations will be transferred to the shelter and we will constantly try to keep under cost for as much as we can. This centre is a strictly Vegan site for humans and therefore food will be both yummy and healthy, as well as a new exciting challenge!

We are desperate to be able to make a difference and have the opportunity to give back to a great cause. I know many of you are animal lovers too and will sympathise with our plight to make this work. In return for your financial support we are donating over 120 hours a week of our time voluntarily (would equate to over £14,000 at minimum wage for both of us over 3 months). We will keep the blog updated weekly on what we are up to and post on Facebook throughout out trip to publicise the charity in any way we can.

Please can you share our go fund me appeal with all of your friends and contacts as we are desperate to help and are donating 7 days a week on site for the duration of our stay, to help with them anything they need!  


Donate Here GoFundMe

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National Get Outside day

National get outside day – 29.9.19

wellies and waterproofs on the beach
Wellies and Waterproofs!

Tomorrow is national Get Outside day. The first one the UK has had and it is being organised by the Ordinance Survey. Their aim is to encourage over 1 million people to get outside and be active. We may be preaching to a largely already converted clan of campers and adventure enthusiasts here but there are still many of us who like to only participate in fair weather adventures.

The Ordinance Surveys get outside campaign is led by a picture of a child, in a yellow waterproof, asking “Will you go out with me?”. Not a tag line that I would have chosen perhaps… but its sentiment of asking someone to come and join you in your outdoor time is something that even us seasoned adventurers can get behind.

It doesn’t matter whether you are going camping for the weekend, taking a hike up Mount Snowdon or a gentle stroll at a local park. There may be someone you know that really wants to start being more outdoorsy – if that’s a word – but don’t know where to begin. By inviting someone to join you, you could be the catalyst in helping someone to get more active, to help boost their confidence and to start their outdoors journey.

Activities for everyone!

The Get Outside campaign aims to get people moving in many ways and events are being held across the country to encourage this. From organised walks, runs, water sports and bike rides, you can find an event near you or you can do something on your own. If you log on to their website you will be able to see all the information they have put up for you, from beginners guides, information on mini adventures to have in London, Dog friendly parks and 50 outdoor activities you could try.

“A good walk always ends at a pub” – My mother!

We have had so many great outdoor adventures, our most entertaining one was when we got lapped by two pugs when climbing the Sugar Loaf in the Brecon Beacons. Those little dogs managed to get up and half way back down when we were still huffing and puffing our way up! It really doesn’t matter what your fitness level is – its about taking those first steps. We have kayaked in Lake Bala, cycled in Pembrey, walked through fields of lavendar, and visited lots of castles across the UK with our Cadw passes.

Health Benefits

Being outside has so many health benefits. Did you know that sitting outdoors for 20 minutes in the sunshine can give you an energy boost equivalent to a cup of coffee? Being outside allows you to breath cleaner air, absorb vitamin D, lowers blood pressure, boosts mental health and releases endorphins making you feel energised, motivated and creating a healthier immune system.

In a shocking video on the GetOutdoors website, we meet Kayleigh, a young child. The video tells us that her generation could for the first time, have a lower life expectancy than the one before her. Citing blood pressure and diabetes as major concerns to her generation, the video also shows adults that wish they had more time, didn’t feel lonely or could quiet their mind.

If not for ourselves then for our next generations, we need to set the examples of leading a healthier and more active lifestyle.

Ways you can become more active

Outdoor photography.

If the thought of scheduled exercise brings you out in hives, why not find a local arboretum and take some time to just spot those colours changing as we come into Autumn. Take your camera and just play around with taking some pictures you will walk further that you think!

Volunteer as a dog walker or to walk for charity

Emma and Bertie, Border terrier

If walking on your own feels a little uncomfortable, why not walk a friends dog OR dog walk for charity? Volunteer at a local rescue centre and assist with exercising the dogs. They love the company and stroking pets also has added scientifically proved benefits for your health.

Join a charity walk such as Cancer Research or Alzheimer’s – Sometimes having a reason or a target to hit can be a real motivator, especially where money and keep up appearances is concerned. once you have booked your place and told everyone you are doing this event it is harder to let yourself back out of it!

Make small Changes to your daily routine

You don’t have to spend a fortune on running shoes and lycra. In your lunch break, go for a short walk. It is great to get out of a stuffy office and just take 20 minutes to change the air and your location. A short walk around the block at lunch or look at getting off of the bus a stop earlier to increase your daily exercise just a little will have benefits.

Investigate your garden

From building a fort, making a fairy house, planting and tending to vegetables or stargazing, your garden can allow you lots of outdoor time. It doesn’t have to be a large garden, or one with grass, a balcony will do. Stand outside barefoot – if safe to do so – and connect with the earth. Take your first drink outside and smell the morning air. Plan your day in a calm environment and take a moment to look at the beauty around you. You may not like spiders but you can still marvel at a dew covered web! Perhaps take your evening hot chocolate outside and try to learn the constellations of the stars.

Book yourself on an outdoor course

You don’t need to paint your face and book on to a bear grills survival course if you don’t want to. There are plenty of other outdoor courses you can go on. We booked ourselves onto a foraging course when we first started exploring and learnt so much from Kerry. You can read about all the amazing things we learnt here!

There are so many ways that you can start to spend more time outdoors. Ultimately it has to start with you. Whether you know someone who wants to start, or you know someone who is active and want to learn about what they do, ask them and invite them along.


As we mentioned above, we have had some amazing adventures outdoor this year and we are not the only ones. Some of our readers also sent in their pictures to show how much fun it can be and what they have been up to!

Our friends at 2born2travel have had some amazing adventures, from sleeping on an inflatable bed outside – with no tent, to this stunning picture, they are ones who walk where others dare to fly! If you haven’t checked them out yet, watch this video about when they slept on this and woke up in the middle of the lake!!!

2born2travel sleep on an inflatable bed on a lake!
2Born2Travel with their inflatable bed on a lake – Why not?

Natasha and Jon from Life Beyond Bricks, are currently travelling the in their camper and have witnessed a variety of weather! Check out these amazing pics from Snowdon and the Preseli Mountains!

Catherine on facebook got in touch to share this picture of her husband in Whitesands on the Pembrokshire coastal path.

Catherine's picture of Whitesands
Catherine from Facebook sent us this from Whitesands.

Mandy went to Stonehenge for the Autumn Equinox AND also was the captain of a narrow boat for the first time!

Fi had lots of fun this summer walking around waterfalls in Wales and flying Kites with her family

Thank you to everyone who sent us pictures of themselves today!




Send us your snaps on facebook or twitter @vanlifediary.

What do you win? Well, nothing of any value! We will announce on Sunday who the winner is from all the pictures we receive. This will be posted on our facebook account at 6pm! That’s it… no money.

Keep it clean but we need to see that you are outside on national #getoutside day – get your friends to join in to!

My Grandparents European Tour – Part One

Before we talk about my grandparents European Tour, I want to introduce them to you. My grandparents were amazing people. They met as air cadets around 16 years old and fell madly in love with each other. They were inseparable. So much so that they had to be on the same bicycle and were well known for riding their tandem miles to the beach – I say riding, my Nan sat on the back with her feet up and my Pop’s did all the hard work!  They soon married, settled down and started a family. The Push Bike Song, by Mungo Jerry, was played at Nan’s funeral in homage to their tandem adventures.

Push Bike Song – Mungo Jerry

As well as raising my mother and my Uncle, they also cared for foster children when they were younger. This impacted their freedom to travel until the children had grown up and they got their free time back. As a young couple I don’t believe they had ever left the country. My grandfather was evacuated to Leeds Castle during the war so it was a long time before tourism was at the top of the family list of things to do for many years as the country recovered. If you go to Leeds Castle and you look behind the Organ, you will find his initials carved there DWB Circa 1942.

Travel Bug – Is it contagious?

As soon as the children had left home, my grandparents caught a really bad case of the travel bug and there was no cure for it. They took to travelling to some really amazing locations such as Russia, California and on an African Jeep Safari. Sadly, as they became older their travelling got less.

When my grandparents passed away just 12 weeks apart, the job of clearing the house became enlightening as well as heart breaking. I thought I knew everything there was to know about them but discovering notebooks and trinkets in the house I have so many more questions I want answers to. Perhaps the urge to travel is genetic and that is where I get my inspiration from, as well as Pop’s stacks of national Geographic magazines I thumbed through for hours when we visited.

The Notebook.

Nan's diary grandparents european tour

One of the discoveries made amongst my Nan’s belongings, in her 1980’s decorated mint green coloured bedroom, held a beautiful surprise. A tiny notebook, the size of a mobile phone. On the outside it held no clues as to its contents. It was light blue and held together with a tight ring bound spine. It was a little bit grubby – you could see it had been handled frequently and it smelled like a cross between my Nan’s handbag (tissues and Trebor mints she would carry for her beloved husband) and old book. The smell that will soon be lost to technology no doubt.

Did I want to know what was inside? Of course I did! But I was scared too – what if it was something I didn’t want to know? I took myself off to a quiet corner of the house whilst other family members were tidying her belongings. The house was quiet but I felt as though my nan wanted me to read it.

What did it say?

Monday 10th

Day 1 – Rained all day”

It was a diary. A European tour that my grandparents had been on with friends. I read the whole thing from start to finish and was amazed at the details my Nan had thought to capture. From the hotels, the weather and purchases made to some funny moments along the way which were a bit of a shock to read! The 17 day tour saw them travel through many countries, over thousands of kilometres and from cities to mountain passes.

We would like to share their journey with you as we discover more about their schedule. A spot of research will help us tell you a little about the places they visited however we have not yet been ourselves! We are still trying to fill in some of the blanks so if you know anyone who could help us, please do get in touch.

My Grandparents European Tour – the story.

grandparents european tour coach

The tour was 17 days from start to finish and due to that, I will be bringing you this series in several parts.

Looking at some of the markers in the notes this must have been mid to late 1980’s? We are now researching their itinerary and looking at retracing their steps. We are now planning a European tour, incorporating the same locations my grandparents visited, in homage to the wonderful adventure they had. I would love to have a good look through their photo albums and see if we could recreate some of the pictures they took, however, they got rid of many photos when they were getting older as they didn’t want too much clutter in the house when they passed away for others to have to sort through… perhaps there are a few tucked away in the boxes we have yet to sort through.

London to Amsterdam

 “Day 1 – Arrived at Victoria 8:30. Train departed 10:30 Boat dep 1:30 to Ostend 13 ½ hours. Then caught coach – Arrived Amsterdam 8:30. Hotel terminus right near red light dist. Also near church where bells rang and tune played every 30 mins. Met Joanie, Lisa, Meg and Donna and we all went for a walk to red light district. Lisa took photo which could have turned very nasty. Went to bed 12:00 no sleep at all.”

After a little research we believe that this hotel is still operating today.  The Hotel Terminus is listed as a first class hotel located in the heart of Amsterdam, near many area attractions. The hotel is comprised of ten fine, monumental houses dating back to the 18th century.  We were also then able to try and locate a nearby church and I think we found the church my Nan was talking about. Not just any church, no, my Nan got the hump with what appears to be the oldest building in Amsterdam.

Oude Kerk.

Dedicated to the patron saint of the people of Amsterdam, St Nicholas, this church has been in situe since 1306. The original building was a small wooden chapel but has now grown into a Gothic hall church of today. It has stood through the iconoclastic fury of 1566, where an angry crowd barged in and destroyed statues, alter pieces and stained glass windows.  It is the final resting place of more than 20,000 Amsterdam citizens including famous names. The more prolific of these is artist Rembrandt van Rijn’s wife Saskia van Uylenburgh, who was buried here on 15 June 1638.

As for my grandparents visiting the red light district – I am shocked. They didn’t even like people kissing on the TV!!! To think that my grandparents went there and almost got kicked out – or worse – on day 1 of their European tour sounds like it’s a good job they are going to be moving constantly!

Volandam and Edam.

Volendam grandparents european tour

                “Tues 11th

Day 2 – got on coach 9.00 went to Diamond House. All very nice but too expensive. Then went back to Central station and bought a ticket for 7 guilders 50. Went to Edam and had a picnic then, to Volandam. Pretty little fishing village. Then to cultural centre of Amsterdam and saw cheese being made, pewter being made and copper being hammered, very interesting. We walked to Anne Franks House but too late to go in. Had dinner in hotel then another trip to red light district where Donna went in sex shop. Bed at 10:30 Dry and Sunny all day. Bad storms all night. Hotel Terminus.

GUYS! AGAIN? Donna, I don’t know you but were you leading my lovely innocent grandparents astray? The Diamond House appears to be a very large looking Jewellery shop. In the 17th Century, Amsterdam had the largest diamond manufacturing centre in the world. As such, even today there is a large amount of Diamond retailers and places to visit. We are unsure if Diamond House is still open, if anyone knows please do get in touch!


A charming harbour village, with the main harbour strip full of lively shops on one side and working fishing trawlers on the other. Apparently fresh seafood vendors line the path tempting you with their latest catch. To find out more about the area there is a museum featuring an assortment of traditional clothing, paintings and dioramas. There is also cheese factory, a popular attraction with visitors to the area! We will be sure to take a bag for life that day!


Situated on the edge of Ijsselmeer Lake and less than half an hour from Amsterdam you will find, not only a popular Cheese, but a one of the most important trading cities in Holland. It was also important in the timber trade and until 1922 a market was hosted. Through July and August, this market is recreated every Wednesday.

To Frankfurt

frankfurt grandparents european tour
Frankfurt City Skyline

“Wed 12th Day 3 – nice all day

Up at 6.00, left hotel 7:30 on way to Germany. Lunch in Cologne, then trip up the river. Had German Sausage and chips for lunch. Trip up the River Rhine. Took boat from Koblensk to Loreley Rock then caught coach to overnight. Hotel Zum Kurfuersten in Frankfurt. Arrived 6:50 had dinner 7:15 nice food. Hotel in woods – hope to see some deer.

Sadly, I do not have any information about where they ate in Cologne, or where they visited whilst there, perhaps this was just a short lunch break. According to google maps its around 4 and a half hours by car but would presumably be longer by coach. As far as recreating the European tour my grandparents undertook, some destinations may be a guess.


The 4th largest city in Germany. As a liberal city, the inhabitants are incredibly proud and vibrant. The main language is German but there are English speaking guides and information available for tourists. Colognes Dom Cathedral is one of the highlights of a visit here. Travel up 509 stairs to the top of the south tower to see the views. Among the Dom are 12 other Romanesque churches to see. Place a lock on Hohenzollern Bridge, the locking bridge, famous for its romantic ‘love padlocks’.

Lots of River Cruise tours can be taken and we have looked at tours to Loreley Rock. Legend has it that a siren named Loreley used to sit on this rock and bewitch sailors. This would cause them to ground their ships or lose control, sinking the cargo. Loreley, meaning murmuring rock, is a 433ft outcrop of Granite rock on the edge of the narrowest part of the river. Surrounded by reefs and rapids, a safe path is now marked with buoys. 

The hotel currently remains a mystery, I have found a hotel with that name but it isn’t in a forest. Could it be that with the surge in tourism, the forest has been a casualty of the travel industry? Has it been paved over in order to create a large holiday resort? Time will tell. I have tried to contact the hotel directly to ask more questions.


“Day 4 Thurs 13th

Up at 6:00 again. Went for a walk by hotel lake to see rabbits. Ate breakfast at 7:15. Went on coach to see Heidelberg (most shops closed but bought some sweets) which is on Neckar river. Then motorway to Ulm on Danube to Germany, stopping for lunch on motorway. Long wait at German customs. The took the Tachometer from coach as they thought someone had tampered with it. So it made us very late. Stopped at Alpine Village Lermoos for cake and chocolate (scrummy) but expensive. Then through Tyrol to Innsbruck. Stopped in Olympic Village, Hotel Ibis – Front seat that day, beautiful weather. Then went to a Tyrol evening in Innsbruck. Quite Jolly! Bed at 12:00

Today, they travelled over 530km from Frankfurt, Germany to Innsbruck Austria. Stopping first in Heidelberg, 78km south of Frankfurt, we are not given any clues as to how long they spent here. We can imagine it was not that long given the miles they covered but there must be a good reason they stopped here. Looking at current tourism stats for this city, we are told that over three million day trippers a year pass through to see the Old Bridge and the mighty castle. With ‘unparalleled choice of culture and entertainment, hearty yet heavenly cuisine and a picturesque setting nestled between the Neckar river and the foothills of the Odenwald Forest.


The birthplace of Albert Einstein. It is home to the tallest church in the world (Ulm Minster) and early renaissance town hall coated with trompe-l’œil frescoes. The city is located on the banks of the river Danube and therefore a really good location for trade over the years. From shipbuilding to fishing, this location is really important within the town. The defensive walls are still present and a great location for a stroll.


Zuspitze, Lermoos, Vanlifediary
Zugspitze, Lermoos

What everyone pictures when they think if an Austrian ski resort! Attractive traditional accommodation in a compact village clustered around the base of the ski slopes, with spectacular views of the surrounding mountains. In summer, para-gliders flock here to see the area from a different angle. Tandem flights are available for those who wish to have an adrenaline rush or you can take advantage of a wide range of walking and cycle routes.

After stopping here they travelled to Innsbruck. The Winter Olympic village, built to accommodate world class athletes and officials during the Winter Olympics of 1964 and 1976 are now home to 7000 people. Built on the eastern edge of the city, the high rise apartments, gym, indoor pool and multi-purpose hall and leisure centre. I have found an Ibis hotel nearby that could have been the one they stayed at however we are not sure. Again – if anyone has any leads we would be over the moon to connect with you.

Next Time… on my grandparents European tour…

In the next edition, we learn that my Grandparents travel over the Dolomites and continue their European tour to Venice, Rome, Capri and Sorrneto!

We are desperate for any information that could help us track down the hotels mentioned or help us discover more about the tour. We don’t know exactly what year or even what month this trip took place, that’s making it hard for us to find out the original tour operator.

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