I left the Mosel (or La Moselle as they call it here) a couple of days ago, which also represents leaving my “holiday” time. A few reflections.
The experiment was to try “holiday” mode within my travels. And it was a great thing to try. I only actually stayed in 3 campsites in the end (4 nights). And the holiday ended before I left the Mosel. Once I got to Trier the atmosphere along the way changed a lot. The holiday bit coincided best with the cute touristy wine villages.
Of the 3 campsites I stayed in, I only liked 1 of them. Most campsites are really inappropriately set up for a bike touring camping person. I don’t need a big space. I don’t like a vast sea of flat grass. I don’t like ones that have loads of empty “ghost” caravans (I guess ones they leave all year round). I don’t need a big paved access road. I don’t need a bar/restaurant (although make use of them sometimes). I don’t need electricity. And I don’t like paying for any of this stuff when I don’t use it.
At this time of year too, they feel mostly quite deserted. The campervan people seem to stay at simpler campervan-only places (aires, wohnmobilstellplatzorsomething, …) which cater for their simpler needs better. I wish there was the equivalent for human-powered tent-dwelling travellers. There are in some places, but not many overall. And not along the Mosel. It’s really set up for either campervan/caravan people, or guest house, hotel people.
On my third night, I was intending to try another campsite, but I was so depressed by the site of it, I carried on, and came across a lovely wild spot to camp right by the river.
I realised that whether I stay in official or unofficial places I still have fears of being told off for doing something wrong. Neither option officially supports me to be the way I like to be, and the unofficial way is often much easier to be me in.
Some of those ways are small, but feel significant to me. Can I wee right next to (or even from) my tent? I don’t like walking a way over to a toilet, to have my wee have to be processed by a whole complex system of pipes and whatever, when it can just go directly into the ground and be more convenient for me. Can I gather twigs and cook in my little fire cooker? Only marginally more advanced way of cooking that has done well for humans for a long time, but often forbidden, or might be, often unclear. And asking campsite owners might not help, as they might imagine a big open fire and say no.
But campsites offer something even if they are horrible, a place that feels safe enough to leave my stuff and wander off for a while. So, seeing them this way I had a relaxed evening, pitching around half 5, having a nice wander a long the river, and a relaxed meal in a restaurant. I wouldn’t have done this if I was camping wild (although that’s not quite true, as I have done that before). But it’s not as easy anyhow.
Other parts of the holiday were actually not so different, I have already chosen to only do dumpster diving when I feel like it, and it seems easy enough, and not to feel obligated. And I already put a lot of thought towards actually enjoying the lovely surroundings. Slow long breakfasts, long peaceful lunch stops, peaceful evening relaxation. That’s all holiday stuff, but can also be all the time when travelling too. So long as there is no time hurry, it doesn’t cost more to do it that way.
Oh, cost! That is one BIG difference in holiday mode. Eating in a restaurant and staying in a campsite is vastly more expensive, and also not what I actually want on a daily basis. They lose any specialness they have. Whereas when in travelling mode, eating in a restaurant is an experience to savour, even if it’s not a fancy restaurant at all. Once a week is probably enough for that.
One of the campsites (the nice one), was 18EUR for one night. I almost couldn’t bear to part with that money for what I was getting in return. A spot right by the river, that was already there. OK, they mowed the grass, but those nice spots tend to get flattened down by visitors over time anyway. Those are my favourite kind of spots, unmanaged nature with non invasive human usage. Down a small little path, through a gap in the branches, into a little spot enjoyed by many before me. That’s the kind of thing I’d like supported more (I stayed in many such spots in Scotland where wild camping is legal, and many places where it’s not). Fishing spots sometimes work nicely for that.
The thing I want to take away from the experience though is to allow myself to stay in campsites if I pass and it looks nice, or I feel like stopping early and wandering away, and allow myself to enjoy eating in the restaurant. Not an all or nothing approach. I feel this way gives me the best of both and the most sense of freedom.
One thing I didn’t enjoy is the feeling I should stay in a campsite because I was trying the experiment. In the same way that I don’t like the feeling I must not stay in a campsite at other times. So I hope going forward I can get this fluidity to choose as feels right in the moment.
So maybe a “holiday” mindset is where you can do things that you normally wouldn’t do it life. But the “travelling” mindset is to do things in a way that it could go on for much longer. Days/weeks versus months/years. A lot of the “holiday” activities can’t be done all the time because of the financial cost of them. But I think some of the holiday activities can be done all the time, and involves more of a mental shift. To decide to stop and enjoy the view. Or to drink a little wine by the river with a smile (can just be a cheap supermarket wine).
I’ve been trying a rhythm recently of stopping to camp as the sun goes down, and enjoying the sunset in various nice places earlier, stopping somewhere for a beer, a phone call, or some meditation. Doing my eating earlier too, so all I need to do is put up the tent and get the sleep stuff ready. This worked particularly well last night as a passing cyclist saw I was probably going to be looking for a wild camping spot, and recommended me a lovely place. That kind of rhythm doesn’t work very well with official campsites, as the office might have closed.
I also enjoy the excitement of unexpectedly finding a lovely spot. Having low expectations, then finding something nice is an experience I much prefer. Whereas with an official campsite I have high expectations and am often disappointed. Part of that could be perhaps worked on in my mind, but part of it the cost. I do expect something nice for my money. If I end up wild camping in a not particularly nice place, oh well, it was free!
Let’s get on with the piccies. Maybe slightly random order. I’m too tired/lazy right now to put them in order.