I was fortunate growing up. From a very young age, every year we’d go on holiday in the caravan, sometimes multiple times a year. The first time I went overseas I was 11 years old, but this was a one off! Of course being a small child (and then a teenager) I equally loved the excitement of going away but then certainly done my fair share of moaning! Believe me, there was only so much scenery and walking that my small mind could deal with!!
We’d often get up in the middle of the night and set off while it was still dark…having to tip toe to the car so we didn’t wake the neighbours! I think that’s why I enjoy early morning airport runs, because that’s when you know that you’re going away! We’d stop half way at a service station or a transport cafe for breakfast!
As kids we’d be allowed to pack one small storage box with ‘things to do’, such as quiz books, pencils, games etc. My Mum would often buy me and my sister a treat for the car journey (usually they’d be around 6 hour journeys). Something like a bag of sweets and a game for the car. One of my favourites was a ‘kit pop’, it was like a kid friendly stationery version of a Swiss Army Knife with fold out pencils, pencils, a ruler and a space to store a lollipop!
Now British caravans are slightly errrr smaller than the USA ‘camper’ equivalent…like 4 times smaller. If you drive by a camper dealership in the USA, even the smallest camper is at least half a caravan bigger than a UK one! A lot of UK campgrounds won’t even cater for the larger RV style units! I only remember seeing ONE large RV on a campsite in Scotland!
You’re lucky if the inside of a British caravan is wider than an airplane aisle. With 4 people sharing the space, it tends to take a little coordination to actually complete simple tasks like turning the chairs and tables into a bed, making dinner or getting dressed!
If we stayed in a location for a week (rather than a night or 2) we’d use an awning to give us some extra space. Trying to put it up was always a bit of a wrestling match! One side attaches to the caravan and the other sides get pinned to the ground like a tent. Essentially it doubled the size of the caravan and could be used to store the dirty washing up, shoes, wet clothes, beach equipment etc! On one trip, it was so windy the awning got whipped out of our hands while we were trying to take it down and nearly took off like a kite!
During my lifetime, my family have had 2 caravans. They both had very tiny toilets (with no shower) and the first one didn’t even have hot water! You’d have to boil the kettle to wash up or make use of the campsites toilet block for showers and the dish washing area to do the washing up. Yes, that did mean carrying all the dirty plates and cups across the site!
Toilet blocks never bothered me, it’s certainly come in handy as I’ve started travelling more, shared toilets in hotels or hostels don’t bother me and in the long run it’s helped save me money! I do remember one particular UK campsite had a coin operated shower…however the coin box was on the OUTSIDE of the shower, which would mean taking a buddy along to put another coin in for you if the water ran out!
We’d often have fry ups for breakfast so our caravan always used to smell like bacon in the mornings and most evenings we’d cook dinner on the barbecue outside…I still think barbecued meat is the best!
The campsites we used to stay at were like every kids dream come true. I was OBSESSED with the swimming pools (nothing changes), as soon as we arrived I’d be begging to go to the pool. There were playgrounds, arcades, entertainment and kids clubs (bingo!!), some had their own private beaches and even their own caves! I liked the on site shop. It’d sell basics that you may need such as; food, camping supplies, beach toys, postcards, souvenirs etc. Me and my Sister liked walking to the shop in the morning to get the daily paper or pick up extra milk or bread. Mum would give us a little bit of money and off we’d trot!
At one campsite I had a scuba diving lesson in the swimming pool, and a couple were attached to theme parks! One theme park was more like a giant adventure playground, we had the whole place to ourselves and as 4 adults it was a chance to just act like big kids! They gave me experiences that I couldn’t have in my hometown!
I was lucky enough to travel around all of England, Scotland and Wales and saw lots of different places. Imagine my joy when in 2002 as a 13 year old when I was taken on the ‘Harry Potter steam train’ in Scotland and got to see the bridge that Harry and Ron flew the flying car over in the Chamber of Secrets film…16 years ago!!! Before the Warner Bros Studio tour and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter…I got to see the real thing!
For years I have always kept a journal of my travels and as much as I liked going on holidays, there’s a definite turning point where you can tell something clicked and I was bitten by the travel bug. In 2004 AND 2005, we went to Widemouth Bay in Bude, Cornwall. As I was getting older, I started to look at the kids club in a whole different light. I no longer saw it as entertainment for myself, I became obsessed with watching the reps and got it in my head that I wanted to follow in their footsteps. I even hung back one evening and even asked 2 of the reps how they got to where they were…at 15 years old I thought it was very brave of me!
I ended up taking Travel and Tourism at college, literally because of what the reps had told me. One of the modules in the course was that we had to invent our own travel business, designing logos, tag lines, spreadsheets for how we were going to take bookings, planning imaginary budgets etc…naturally I invented my own caravan park and received top marks for it.
So I didn’t end up as a UK entertainment rep…instead I went to America for 3 months and worked as a camp counsellor. That summer, plus the trips I took during my course (Kenya, Italy and a foreign exchange trip to Poland) started the spiral that has been travelling to almost 40 countries and it all started from a campsite in my own home country!
When did you get ‘bitten’?