Park Up & Pick Up…

Motorhoming Across Europe Through Lockdown
         (with Theodore The Cat!)

We left sunny Jersey in September 2019 to travel Europe in our motorhome, with our cat. We were excited to have so many beautiful places to see but unfortunately along with that came SO much litter. After the crisp, clean mountains and forests of Germany, Austria and Slovenia we found this to be especially true along the coast of Croatia, through Bosnia Herzegovina, Montenegro & Albania south towards Greece. We absolutely fell in love with Croatia; it’s natural beauty, crystal clear seas, long, winding coastal roads and incredible National Parks were breathtaking but the litter, especially at the sides of the roads, made us sad, angry & very frustrated.

It only got worse as we headed south, each country we drove through had more litter everywhere peaking in Greece. As we entered northern Greece there was just rubbish, mostly plastic rubbish, everywhere we turned. Had we made a mistake? Should we have gone somewhere else? We loved our 5 weeks in Greece, we met some fantastic people, ate delicious food, swam in the sea in December and climbed the most magnificent mountains but were continually shocked by how much rubbish was dumped just about everywhere. Not just in the cities either. We’d turn a corner up a winding mountain road to see a whole truck of builder’s rubble had been tipped down the mountainside, or a layby on a narrow road where people have literally emptied the entire contents of their vehicles. Bags of rubbish, empty cans, bottles and wrappers caught in the hedges, even an old toilet at the side of the road!

We have visited 16 countries since September. Along the way we try to pick up the rubbish we see and clean up the areas where we stay; from small areas to whole beaches. Picking up litter is just something I’ve always done, including other people’s litter- often picking it up and putting it back in their hand with a “I think you dropped this”. My friends will confirm that I’ve made them help to pick up other people’s litter left on the beach or in the woods, wherever we see it. All the children I’ve looked after know that “rubbish goes in the bin”. If a 2 year old can do it, us adults have NO EXCUSE!!

We are always ready for a clean up! We keep bin bags, gloves and a handy litter picker in one of our outside storage lockers so it is easily accessible when we pull up somewhere. BONUS: children LOVE using the litter picker!! Take it out for a walk with your children, there will definitely be something you can pick up and bin.
Whilst we were in Jersey we were already living an eco-concious life; trying to reduce our consumption and waste, reusing what we’ve already got, buying second hand or locally, trying to walk or cycle when we can (not easy when you work as a nanny for two familes!). Moving into the motorhome just highlighted how little we actually need to live a happy life. We still try to keep our waste to a minimum, the kitchen is the centre of the van and the hub of our waste management. Thankfully my mother taught me how to cook and sew, how to use up leftovers and rejig recipes for what you have (better for the budget too!). I use wax wraps, jars & tubs to store food & leftovers. We take reusable cutlery and water bottles out with us when we go sightseeing, cycling or hiking. Our best purchases have been e-bikes, which we can recharge using the van’s solar panel. Although we live and travel in the van and have done nearly 10,000 miles since September, our CO2 footprint is still much smaller than living in a 2 bedroom flat, driving a car everyday and a motorbike on the weekends, being on mains gas & electricity with indoor plumbing and travelling on and off the Island. Yes, we do miss a flushing toilet and power shower at times but it really makes you apprecitae what you’ve got and exactly what you’re using when you have to fill the water and empty the toilet yourself.

Living in the motorhome with Theodore, our cat, provides added complications. Thankfully he prefers tinned food to pouches and recycled wood litter, but they’re not always easy to get. Between the three of us hair (or fur) is one of our biggest waste products! He’s settled in well to van life and is much more popular on social media than anything else we do!

With #plasticfreejuly in mind we launched our new project ParkupPickup to encourage vanlifers, campervan dwellers, motorhomers, RVers, campers, dog walkers, hikers and anyone else who stays in nature to help clean up our planet. We have had the luxury of parking up at some of the most beautiful places in Europe but they’re not always left clean. With the rise in the number of people living the #vanlife, taking motorhoming holidays rather than flying or staycations in their home countries, especially after Covid-19, we CAN change that. It’s easy: park up, take a look around, pick up any rubbish & help make the world a better place!

To help us get the message out use your social media. Post a before and after picture using the hashtag #parkuppickup. Together we can make a difference!

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