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Square pegs, round holes

Andrew Ditton on Caravanning in the Summer

On this gloriously sunny day (yes, they have existed this summer!) I seized the opportunity to do a bit of clothes washing. Preparing my things in the laundry room, the lady at the sink next to me vocalised her surprise that a man was doing such a chore. My friend Lindy often hears similar well intentioned but ill thought-out comments when she empties her chemical loo.

There is no escaping the fact that couples and families make up the overwhelming majority of caravanners that you’ll meet on site. But when you think about it, caravanning is also the perfect holiday for those who find themselves without a partner. Caravanning epitomises freedom and independence, yet the campsite environment offers the reassuring support of having people around in case of need.

It never ceases to amaze me when talking to other caravanners to hear one half of a couple say ‘Oh, I do drive, but I always leave the towing to the other half. I’m not confident enough to do that.’

We all know that the best way to fight fear is to poke it in the eye and get on with having a go at what intimidates us. Nine times out of ten, when we have achieved what we set out to do, we wonder what on earth we were worried about, don’t we?

Surely it is better to take the wheel with the caravan in tow under relaxed circumstances in ideal conditions, than it is to have to do it in anger because your partner is in some way suddenly incapacitated while you are away?

There’s another upside to sharing every aspect of caravanning in equal measure. None of us like to think about bereavement and relationship break-up, but there is no escaping the fact that these things happen.

It breaks my heart to hear about people giving up the joy and freedom of caravanning when they find themselves going solo. But inspirational stories do exist.

My friend M recently lost his partner of thirty years. The big, twin-axle caravan and the large 4×4 were sold. After a period of mourning, M has gone out and bought himself a little Citroen towcar and an Elddis Xplore 302. Having experienced the misery of staying in impersonal and dreary hotel rooms, M decided to take the bull by the horns and is once again in the delightful position of being able to take his standards with him wherever he goes.

Lindy, the friend that I mentioned earlier, is emptying her own loo because she’s also now caravanning on her own after marriage failure. Sisters, I’m delighted to say, are also doing it for themselves.

More and more caravanners are going solo and enjoying the liberation and joy that our pastime brings. It’s all about enjoying what we have, not lamenting what we don’t have.

Nobody sets out to be patronising when they make polite conversation on site, and it would be a travesty if people didn’t chat through fear of offending someone. A sense of humour on both sides, and an awareness of the feelings and the different situations of others, are both essential to maintain the warm and convivial atmosphere that we all enjoy when caravanning.