A couple who swapped £4,000 hotel holidays and a comfortable £100,000 flat for life on the open road in a £28,000 motorhome called Betty are celebrating 15 years with no fixed abode – and they and say every day feels “glorious.”
Former retail manager Claire Walker and her plasterer partner John Allett, both 47, were so sick of the rat race that they decided to take drastic action.
In 2005 they sold their two bedroom flat and moved into a 3.5 tonne Hymer B584 Classic motorhome, despite having never even been camping.
The plucky pair, who are currently parked up in Wantage, Oxfordshire, have no regrets.
Claire said: “Motorhome life means never knowing what the day is going to bring. Every day is different and what you make it.
“I remember driving into the early hours on our very first day living in the van in the summer of 2005 and seeing the sunrise.
“It felt glorious to be freely going where we pleased, with no time restraints, mortgage or bills and commitments – and that feeling has stayed with us ever since.”
Before changing her life, Claire was a successful retail manager who had worked her way up the ranks.
She owned a two-bedroom flat in Cockermouth, Cumbria, which she shared with her boyfriend John.
But five years into their relationship, the couple started yearning for change.
Claire said: “On paper we’d done everything we were meant to have done by that age.
“I was addicted to Hilton hotels and, if possible, I’d stay at one of their five-star resorts each year. We were of the mindset that if your holiday accommodation wasn’t nicer than your current home, what was the point of going?
“The most expensive trip we ever took was to Malta in 2003. We spent £4,000 for a 10-day trip to the Hilton opening there.
“But it felt like we were slaves to the daily grind in order to afford everything.
“It got to the point where I turned to John and said, ‘Surely there’s more to life than this?’”
Inspired by seeing motorhomes when the couple travelled to the Lake District, John’s solution was to bring home a specialist magazine and a bright idea for changing their future.
He surprised Claire with a trip to the York Motorhome and Carvan Show, and they decided to give it a go.
Putting their flat on the market, they sold it at the start of 2005 for around £100,000 and spent six months searching for the perfect new home on wheels.
That summer they purchased Betty – a white four-year-old 3.5 tonne Hymer B584 Classic for £28,000 from a dealership in Sheffield, South Yorkshire.
Claire said: “No one could quite believe we’d done it. When I handed in my notice, my old boss said she’d keep the job open for a year.”
She continued: “I don’t think my family thought we’d last one month, let alone 12.”
Kickstarting their journey by exploring the coastlines of Dorset and Cornwall for two months, as they had never travelled through south west England, they quickly fell in love with the freedom their new life brought.
Claire had no desire to stay in England when the nights started drawing in, so they caught the ferry from Portsmouth, Hampshire, to Bilbao, Spain.
They spent the next six months at a campsite outside Alicante.
These days, they spend six months in the UK and six months in Spain, living in faithful Betty.
John takes occasional jobs as a plasterer, while Claire – who is designated driver – scours jumble sales, charity shops and markets for all sorts of treasures to resell on eBay.
John has also been inspired to write a book charting their life on the road, which they hope may earn them some extra money.
“It’s called Only Fools and Motorhomes and it’s about the past 15 years of our life really,” Claire said.
“It’s full of photos of our travels and tips and hints for other people who are interested in motor homing.”
And the couple have no intention of returning to bricks and mortar life any time soon, with John calling their way of life “liberating”.
Claire said: “We have it hammered into us that we should live our lives a certain way, working nine to five and paying the mortgage.”
“But life’s what you make it. I love living in Betty and wouldn’t choose to do anything differently.”
To find out more about Claire and John’s travels follow them at www.instagram.com/vanduellere