If you’re a reader here, you’ll know that towards the end of last year we went on an epic 2 month trip around Europe with our dog in our converted van, Boris. It was an incredible adventure, undoubtedly one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life. If you’re thinking of doing it, I can’t recommend it more!
I’ve written a couple of blog posts on here when I’ve had the time, and I’ve spoken briefly about the ups and downs. Some of you will know that we anticipated going for 3 months but we ended up coming home after 2 months, so here’s the reality… Here’s why we came home early from our road-trip around Europe.
Working abroad is harder than it looks
There was a divide of opinions when I told people that we were going travelling and working from our laptops abroad. Most people said it was a great idea because we can work from anywhere in the world. Some people expressed their concern and said it wouldn’t be easy, and we’d never work. I’ve got a strong work ethic, I have 0% problems motivating myself and love working on my business. I figured it would be easy to balance travelling and working because I have a genuine passion for what I do.
Turns out working from a laptop in another country is difficult. Mostly because you wake up every morning somewhere new and you’re desperate to go exploring. The days fly by when you’re travelling and before you know it the week is over. Prospective clients often wanted to meet up and I wouldn’t know when we’d be back in the country, it made phone calls slightly tricky, too. We got by for the most part but then it got to the point that I needed and wanted to just focus on my business and our clients.
We ended up barely working and coming home sooner instead of working and travelling longer – this worked for us. BUT it is possible to work abroad, and I’m writing a post with some tips on how you can do it.
There’s a small window where the weather is tolerable
When we first went out to Europe it was the beginning of September. I was a little gutted that we were going so late in the year for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I was upset that our trip would be restricted to 3 months because I had another holiday booked to Jordan #firstworldproblem. Secondly, because I thought we’d missed all the sunshine and we’d be travelling when it’s cold. Don’t get me wrong, I love cold countries, in a matter of fact I prefer them but I figured we’d need some warmth when travelling in a van.
Boy, was I wrong! The weather in Europe was BEAUTIFUL and we just missed the school holiday crowds. Despite the van being insulated with blackout curtains, we’d wake up in the morning baking hot. Most mornings we’d rip open the curtains and pour ourselves our the side window. Any hotter and it would have been too uncomfortable for us and our dog, Alfie. Towards the end of our trip, the nights were dropping below freezing and feeling comfortable was getting increasingly difficult.
Missing home comforts
Our van was small and cute. It had a double bed, a tiny kitchen for whipping up meals and a bit of storage. We had an emergency toilet tucked away in case we needed it, but we weren’t kitted out with a shower or a waste tank, so we had to use public facilities almost exclusively. This made travelling a little tricky but we had an app on our phone that told us where the closest toilet was and we used swimming pools and gyms when we wanted to have a shower. We got used to it pretty quickly but it’s exhausting having to plan when to use the toilet and have a shower, as opposed to just rolling out of bed and having everything you need.
We also didn’t realise how uncomfortable our bed in the van was until we decided to have a cheat night and booked a hotel in the last week of our travels. We decided to opt for a bit of luxury when we returned Chamonix, the place that S proposed in 2016. I had a bath and we slept in a king-size bed – we remembered what we’d been missing and promptly began driving back to England. It’s these little things that you end up sacrificing which is fine in the short-term but then after a while, all you want is a hot shower and a comfy bed.
Drawing a line on spending money
We went away with a rough budget on how much we thought we’d spend whilst travelling. After Boris broke down on the first couple of days and we were left with a €2,000~ bill, our budget went out the window. We tried to keep costs down but it’s hard to do when you’re travelling. We ended up justifying spending money by saying “Well, we’ll probably never come back here, so let’s just do it!”. We ended up cooking less and less and enjoyed eating out at restaurants and in coffee shops.
It was great and I’m glad we did it because travelling should be enjoyable. What good is it going to all these beautiful countries if you can’t eat their cuisine, visit museums and go up cable cars? We had so much fun, but every time we topped up our travel card with another thousand pounds, we were reminded of how quickly we were spending money. We didn’t total it up but our wallets were feeling a lot lighter and we started to question where do we draw the line and low do we let our bank accounts go before we turn around and return home.
Our return date was never set in stone
Yes, we absolutely wanted to go for the full 3 months, but it was never set in stone. We crossed the channel on a ferry to France without a plan of where we’ll go, we just wanted to go with the flow. I had a work event in Milan at the end of November, so we figured if we finished our trip there we could work that into our itinerary before returning home before Christmas. Whilst the idea was great, we always left with the idea that “if we don’t like it, we can always come home before Milan”.
It wasn’t a case of not enjoying it but it goes back to point #1. Weeks before I was scheduled to present in front of hundreds of people at a conference in Milan, I still hadn’t prepped and I wasn’t in the headspace to do it. I needed to be at home to pull myself together professionally before the talk. I take my job seriously, and I wasn’t about to mess up my reputation for a couple more weeks of travelling. This coupled with everything else, we decided to go home and get a couple of cheap flights to Milan after arriving home.