The Inside Track: A Camper Van Adventure
‘Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me’
People seemed to be falling in love with the road trip long before the pandemic, this year the ‘staycation’ and a need to travel in a bubble saw more and more people engaging in renting or buying RV’s or camper vans. According to the RV Industry Association, it’s predicted 46 million Americans will take an RV trip in the next year with sales of airstreams going through the room.
Charlie decided on a break in a campervan this year in Portugal where he now lives with his family. Together they followed the entire 1500 km Spain to Portugal border from Caminha at the northernmost point of the Portuguese coast to Vila Real de Santo Antonio in the Algarve.
Here’s a quick interview with Charlie about his experience.
What made you take the trip?
‘Like a lot of people, especially families with kids, we had to stay in the country this year, earlier this year we were in the Sahara Desert, so we’re an adventurous family by nature – this summer we wanted to recapture that feeling of adventure after lock-down by exploring a less conventional tourist route locally – see a bit more of the real Portugal together. It was a part family adventure, part product research mission, we want to encourage visitors to leave the conventional tourist routes.
The camper van was motivated by the urge to be more self-sufficient, not be limited by the normal time constraints that hotel travel imposes, and to involve the children with route planning, map reading and bring the travel experience to life for them in a different way so they could appreciate and engage with it.
What did you discover?
Geographically, the region we traversed is characterised by multiple ranges of mountains and hilltop fort towns and villages, many are largely off the tourist trail and we found little hidden gems on every turn.
We loved the Geres National Park (the only official National Park in Portugal), Monsanto a fortified village where houses are built into the rocks, Lake Camona – the best wild camping and swimming spot on the shores of a stunning lake, Elvas – my personal fave, the town is a treasure trove of varied and enthralling architecture.
The vehicle and stay
We found a very serviceable Fiat Ducato 5 berth which has two double bunks and one pop up bed in the driver’s cabin, it was a manageable size for maneuverability and to access the more wild places. Large RV’s would of course be more comfortable but you have fewer wilderness possibilities.
From a family perspective, we loved being together and exploring under our own steam, although by the end of the trip I did notice everyone was keen to get back to their own rooms – for customers, I might suggest a mix of a curated and mapped road-trip in a camper or RV and rest-bite stays for a pamper and some of your own time on the way.
Would you do it again?
Absolutely! We loved it and I think our guests would too, we can weave in lots of mini-adventures, activities and overnight stays. There are many opportunities for chance local encounters and to explore the wilderness when you have a home on wheels. Portugal only has a population of 10 million people too so it’s a bit like travelling in New Zealand, you have the roads to yourself and jaw-dropping scenery at every turn.
What is epic offering for travellers who want a road-trip?
There is no set package as we don’t work like that, trips are tailored around each customer’s needs, we think about the kind of things they like to do, the group make-up, time they have and appetite for adventure.
For most of our customers, I’d recommend a mix of outdoor adventure and occasional indoor luxury (a restful break from the driving and bunks) – in terms of trip ideas, there are so many routes in Portugal you could take that bring you closer to the landscape and people, we design trips that take in a mix of wilderness and towns and of course there is the coast, wineries, lakes, parks… so much to discover.
We can do the same in Morocco but most of our Moroccan clients like to be driven versus drive themselves.