In a couple of days we’ll be on the road for almost a month.
Time really does fly by.
I was pretty sure we would be able to fill our bus every week with happy guests the moment we started driving and unfortunately it hasn’t been like that, but on the other hand it has given us the time to get to know jumbo George (our bus) a lot better. For example that he is quite intelligent and shuts himself down when you drive uphill for too long when it is plus 30 degrees outside. Not only are we learning more about Jumbo’s powers, we are also learning about how life on the road is when you are driving a yellow 12 meter long American skoolie in Europe. It is definitely an eye-catcher and not a day goes by that we come across people who want to take a look inside. People are always impressed with our conversion and in general with the whole idea behind our project.
I think France especially is very favourable, because of their ‘camion culture’ where people transform a truck into a house on wheels. It is a very well known concept and although we haven’t come across one just yet I am sure we will somewhere in the near future. At the moment almost all of our neighbours on the many parking lots we have stayed at are the classic white camper vans, mostly occupied by retired people We have also learned a couple of basics about the camper culture in France; for example you can stay on a designated parking lot for a maximum of seven days and there is a great parking spot app called parkfornight that shows all the nearby ‘free’ spots in the whole of Europe.
Living on the road in our big bus isn’t that different from what we used to do before this project: traveling around the world with our backpacks and a tent. We still have to look for a space to spend the night, talk to people to discover the best spots in the neighbourhood, find a store to do groceries and so on. The only difference is, is that now people tend to help even more than before, because Jumbo is so special and attracts a lot of visitors anyway, so we don’t really need to look for someone to ask for help. One of them was Marguax, who has become a real friend and who works for a big traveling festival in Albertville that takes place at the end of September. It sounds very nice, there are 30.000 people who gather to watch films about all kind of different ways to travel and she asked us to be a part of the festival, we haven’t figured out how just yet, but I am sure we can come up with something. She was so kind as to give us the keys of her apartment, so we could her Internet connection when she was off to work. We also met an older guy that owns a bus company in Arreches, who came by every day at the parking lot in Conflans to check out the rarity that is our bus in Europe. His passion for special cars drew him to our bus and because of Jumbo he has helped us in a lot of ways. Now we are in his hometown in the mountains near Beaufort enjoying another beautiful parking spot (one that we found thanks to him); we even have our own tennis court right in front of us!
What I have come to realize is, that we are definitely where we should be at this moment; we are basically doing a prospection for the upcoming winter, which is very important to make things go as smooth as possible when the snow hits the road in December. This month we have discovered many cool little resorts and beautiful places nearby Albertville, a city I used to drive through on my way to the big resorts in la Tarentaise without giving the mountains around it too much thought. These little mountain villages feel so much better suited for our project; they seem to be a lot cosier and friendlier than the big ones. I am already thinking about the possibilities for next winter here and I am very excited to return when there will be some fresh snow on the peaks. Not only are we discovering these mountain villages, we are also expanding our network of people: so far we have met a local cameramen, a policemen who has connections in many other small mountain towns, an art painter, a guy who runs a bus company, a guy who has his own 4×4 and a couple of downhill mountain bikes, a girl who is in charge of a travel festival, a guy who owns 40 family parks, etc… It is definitely very important to be here at this moment during the shoulder season when there aren’t a lot of tourists just yet, but all the locals are preparing for the upcoming summer season.
The same goes for us, we are also looking at the options for this summer and have decided that we’ll be heading towards the region of Gap and Briancon for the month of June, the Pyrenees for the months of Juli and August and go to the Basque country in Spain to catch some waves in September and October.
Hope to see you on the bus at some point!