What it is like to live in a motorhome
A detailed description...
Hello friends ! I’ve been neglecting you… my excuse is there hasn’t been enough sun to charge the Gus batteries to spend lots of hours on my computer so I only do the bare minimum that I can get away with. Also days are much shorter and I’m not nocturnal so I sleep a lot more and have fewer hours to do things in ! These may sound like lame excuses to you, and I suppose excuses always do, but that’s how I’ve chosen to live my life – leaving behind a minimal energy footprint and adapting to my environment. Yes, I could sit in a coffee shop day and night and use their electricity and wifi and take up table space, drink too much coffee or not consume enough to pay for their rent – but I feel like that is exactly the kind of stress that I am trying to get away from. Already I have to comply with a lot more admin paperwork here in France than back in South Africa, and it’s a lot more complicated too !
Before meeting Gus, I had never stepped foot inside a motorhome - I’d researched the subject thoroughly, but never been inside one ! I have done a lot of camping and travelling in my younger years, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of these kinds of vehicles in Africa, where I’ve spent most of my life - or at least there weren’t many in the years when I was travelling…
So, let’s get right down to it: what it is like to live in a motorhome, or an RV (recreational vehicle) for those on the other side of the big water. First, I present to you, Gus the Bus.
Gus the Bus is a 2006 Hymer B544 “Integral”-type motorhome carried by a Fiat Ducato 2.5l diesel vehicle. It is 6.40m long, 2.80m high and 2.20m wide. That’s the technical bit done.
There are several types of motorhomes. I’ll give you the French names because they’re easy to understand. In English they are classed completely differently so we’ll stick to this.
1. Vans: these are commercial type vans that have had their insides fitted out to live in;
2. The integral type - the carrier vehicle is reduced to the chassis and engine, the living quarters completely replace the cab so that the whole unit forms a single space;
3. The streamlined type has a complete driver's cab, as supplied by the vehicle manufacturer, and the living element is stuck behind it, and slightly above, so that it fits over the cab roof;
4. The Capucine type is similar to the previous one except that the part over the cab is much higher and provides an entire sleeping compartment;
5. The removable type is a self-contained living cell that can be fitted onto a regular pickup truck, or bakkie as we say in South Africa.
All these illustrations come from this great article I found explaining each type in more detail:https://www.tourdumondiste.com/tour-du-monde-en-camping-car
Let's take a tour of Gus, starting at the front. Above the seats is my bed, folded up against the ceiling when I am driving, (securely fastened by a seatbelt I assure you) or if I want to see out the front end, and when I’m ready for 40 winks or want to create a padded space to do some voice recording, I fold the seats over and bring the bed down. I can climb up into it with a handy little ladder. I can also draw curtains in front of it when someone comes to stay on the spare bed, creating two rooms, and also increasing the noise attenuation (decreasing the echo in the space).
On cold winter afternoons when the sun is out I enjoy sitting in the passenger seat with my feet up on the dash soaking in the warmth with a good book and a cup of tea, checking out what everyone else around me is up to as well 😉
The long sofa, my “living room”, is where I lounge around to read, stare out the window at the view, or indulge in some evening Netflix. It has a chest under it where I store the clothes I don’t need (and all the presents for the family Christmas while I am collecting them during my travels). It’s quite hard to open up so I don’t put anything in there that I need to access often. The sofa also stretches sideways into the passage to form a comfortably large second bed.
The two bunk seats and the table are my “dining room” and also my “office”. There are four seatbelts there where the family can travel, and where we can all sit and have a meal – the table comes with an extension panel so as to add two people on the side too ! The table can also come down and transform that space into another large bed, slightly shorter than the sofa. Under the foremost bunk seat is the fresh water tank. Under the other is more storage space, easily accessible.
Behind the bunk seats is the kitchen area with a round sink that has a board on it for extra counter space, and a three burner gas stove with an extractor hob over it. Under all that are storage shelves and drawers for everything you need in a kitchen.
Above the sofa, the bunk seats and the kitchen are rows of overhead bulkhead lockers. More than enough for all the season’s clothes, all my office material, electronics and even a small library. And there’s even a television ! With a decoder linked to a satellite dish on the roof that goes round and round to find its signal. But I don’t use it because I don’t like programmed TV, I’ve become quite accustomed to choosing what I want to watch and not be dictated to thank you very much !
Behind the long sofa, opposite the kitchen counters, is the tall fridge and freezer with a little gas oven above it. They both have ventilation grilles to the outside so a lot of cold air tends to come in from that side ! It’s just as well, one regularly needs fresh air. The fridge works on gas when I’m in the middle of nowhere, on 12V when I’m driving, and also on 230V when we are hooked-up.
In the back corner next to the fridge is the bathroom. Yes, a full bathroom, with large mirrors, a towel rail, cabinets, a flushing toilet, a basin with hot water and a shower cubicle that has proper glass doors. Even a 230V shaver plug. And heating.
Next to the bathroom on the back wall is a hanging cupboard for all my various weather coats (raincoat, city coat, country coat, very cold weather coat) as well all my electric bike paraphernalia. Underneath this is the big heater/ water boiler machine that sends lovely warm air all the way to the front of the living space with a network of hidden pipes.
Lastly, in the last corner there is a little narrow counter space with nooks for keys torches and umbrella, and my Tintin recycling bag, and two more storage cubicles underneath in which I keep the season’s shoes and cleaning liquids, as well as all my crafty bits and those you-never-know-when-you-might-need tool things. And believe it or not, there’s still space for… a door ! Which comes with electric drop down princess steps and a mosquito screen.
Under all this, sliding into the double floor space are more chests accessible from outside for things like hosepipe, electric cord, bucket, level blocks and whatnot. And one for my garden chairs and table. There is also a garage for the two gas bottles next to the passenger seat.
Behind it all sits my maimed bike-rack with half of Dot the foldable electric bike – the seat and battery live inside. Also, rolled up, the large outdoor rug the ex-owner left there for me which I have still not ever used.
On the roof we have a solar panel (which works a lot better now that my cousin climbed on his ladder and gave it a good wash down), and three roof lights. One long one above the living area and two small ones above the kitchen and the bathroom. Plus the very bored satellite dish.
I chose this particular model for its internal layout. I knew I was likely to spend lots of time inside it during the winter months, so I wanted to have as much space and comfort as possible, to work and live. Also because this layout has working-living space at one end and kitchen bathroom end at the other, rather than some bits in the middle like with other layouts. This is better suited for my mobile recording studio plan ! And because I wanted enough sleeping and seatbelt space as possible so I could take family on road trips with me.
Well, I’ve told you all about the inside of Gus the Bus but I haven’t really said anything about what it’s like actually living inside it ! I’m going to make that Part Two and it will come out next week.
It’s a good thing today is a rainy day here in Normandy where I am at the moment, and my batteries are still full from yesterday’s blinding sunshine – I’m going nowhere right now so I’ll continue writing !
If this is your first time reading me, go ahead and subscribe below so that the next part lands straight into your mail box ! Wondering what I was talking about earlier, when I mentioned recording my voice ? Find out more about what I do on my website www.gaellegosselin.com You are also welcome to follow me on Instagram @gaelle.and.gus.the.bus where I post almost every day about the places through which I travel with Gus the Bus 😊
I love finding out what you thought of my musings, and I’m always happy to answer questions, so please write something in the comments section below (better than replying directly to the emails too, so everyone can join in on the conversation)
Until next week !