We’ve met so many people who’ve found not just a new way to have holidays, but a whole new life with the help of a campervan. But, making the leap isn’t easy. Here, we chat to Rebecca, whose love of camping took her on a journey from tents to a hired camper to creating Campfire Mag, the free online camping and campervanning magazine.
How and when did you decide tent-camping was over?
We camped in tents in the UK and Europe for years and years – gradually working up from tiny ridge tents to a smart quick-to-pitch mansion. It was ants that got to us eventually. We moved pitch at a site in Corsica five times to avoid them, and then looked in envy at the campervans and motorhomes that were ant-free.
We couldn’t afford a campervan, so we came up with a way of camping in our Citroen Berlingo with the backseats removed and with some (dare I say) clever workarounds. You can read about car camping over at campfiremag.co.uk, by the way.
What was it about campervans that got you excited?
Well, picture the scene. We’re comfortable but a bit make-do in our car-camper at a nice campsite in France when a swanky new VW pulls up opposite. It’s just close enough for us to see the double bed looking cosy and the front chairs swivelled round and the wind-out awning for shade. When you’ve had the cheek to ask four or five strangers if you can look round their vans, you know it's time to get serious. We loved the fact that everything could just be left in the van ready for the next adventure – no packing to do apart from clothes and food.
And so you decided to hire a campervan?
We did – a VW California nervously hired direct from the owner (there was no Goboony at the time). We drove around Wales for a week, wild camping and using campsites. We slept downstairs and upstairs, cooked inside and outside and gave the whole experience a full test. There were some things that took time to get used to – organising in a smaller space, for example, learning what to cook, and getting speedier at swivelling the seats, raising the roof and the general setting up/taking down. But what freedom!
How did you get to the point of buying your own?
Well, we could never have afforded to buy the van we hired – it was a top-of-the-range California and the thought of owning something so expensive was quite scary. We wanted a campervan that would be our only vehicle and it had to become part of the way we lived, rather than just something for a holiday now and then.
We went to the NEC for the motorhome show to check out different models and gradually the idea of a California Beach crept in. It’s a four-berth campervan with all the facilities (leisure battery, lights, sockets, swivel seats, rising roof etc), but it doesn’t have a kitchen. That makes it more economical to buy and run and would give us a really versatile vehicle. We reasoned that we’d cook outside in nice weather and go to the pub in a storm!
How did that lead to setting up the magazine?
One of the things about the space inside our Beach is that it can be an office just as easily as a holiday home. During the train ride to the NEC, I’d realised there was virtually nothing online that gave interesting, practical, and personal, information on camping and campervans.
So, Campfire Magazine was born. We started small, learnt how to create webpages, wrote article after article on everything from choosing kettles, sleeping bags, tents and campervans to cooking with woodturning stoves and finding the best sites and stopovers.
What’s next for you?
Lots of camping trips planned – Scandinavia, South West France, Scotland’s North Coast 500, Wales and more. Our van is three years old now and we love it.
Campfire Magazine is three years old too. It certainly hasn’t made us rich in money terms, but it’s definitely made us richer in experience. It’s a joy when we get emails or comments from readers who’ve cooked (and loved) one of our recipes or have been out for the first time with a tent or piece of camping gear we suggested.
We were so excited when we welcomed our 1,000th reader. Guess what…by July 2018, we had 82,132 readers. Now that IS exciting.
We’ll stick to our original idea and principles – it’ll stay free for readers; we only feature camping equipment that we’ve personally tried and can REALLY recommend: we only suggest campsites we (or readers) have actually visited; our recipes are simple but delicious, and our tips and techniques are genuinely useful. In fact, it’s exactly the magazine we wanted to read on that train journey a lifetime ago.
Thanks for sharing your experience, Rebecca! We hope to give everyone the opportunity to experience motorhome travel as you did, and to share the freedom of it. Your campervan adventure can begin today through a quick search on Goboony, finding private motorhome hire near you.