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The Great Escape: from corporate constrains to working with wi-fi anywhere…
‘Turn right at Calais’ was the only plan they had, but 10 years after setting off on a motorhome trip of a lifetime, Julie and Jason Buckley have changed the course of their journey altogether. They spoke to us about ditching their day jobs, life in lockdown and staying connected in some of the world’s most awe-inspiring locations.
Let’s go back 10 years. What were you both doing?
At the start of 2011 we were both working in ‘corporatesville’ – Jay in IT and Julie in marketing. We had owned a camper for several years that we used for holidays and weekends away, but we knew there must be more to life.
Later that same year, we took a chance by grabbing the career break we both needed, swapped our camper for a slightly larger motorhome and planned a 12- month trip to Europe. We say ‘planned’, but our intentions were not that defined – our only plan was to turn right at Calais! We moved location daily, and because we had discovered so many affordable places to stay, we were able to stretch our year away into a two-year adventure.
What was life like when you returned to the UK?
When we drove off the ferry coming back into the UK, we both had tears in our eyes, we didn’t want to go back to how we were – commuting and working long hours – we’d realised there was more to life! We sat down with a large sheet of paper and drew out where we were financially, and where we wanted to be – then set about working out how we would get there.
We sold our motorhome and went back to corporate life for a few years, but with a difference, we had a goal. That goal was to become financially free. We worked all hours; normal day jobs, side gigs and renovating a property. It took its toll on us, but eventually we reached our target of financial independence which meant no more work, so we could travel whenever we wanted. We gave up a lot to achieve our freedom, far more than most people would find palatable, but to us it didn’t feel like we were making a sacrifice any more than it feels a sacrifice to give up a high calorie diet to stay healthy.
What motorhome do you have now?
In 2015, we bought our Hymer B544 and named him Zagan, after the town in Poland close to Stalag Luft III, the real-life scene of prisoner of war camp featured in The Great Escape. It’s the same model as our previous motorhome, but just slightly newer. We really love the layout with the dropdown bed over the cab seats, it’s ideal for the longer and slower trips we now enjoy as everything feels so spacious and is perfect for socialising.
Do you still work?
Yes, we do. We started a blog when we first set off on our travels, the main idea was just to keep in touch with friends and family and keep it as a diary to look back on. This has since grown and we now also write books. These both generate a small income for us and give us a focus.
How have you been able to stay connected for work?
Back in 2011, we had a SIM card and a dongle plugged into our laptop which cost £20.50 a month and provided 25MB a day. The signal was not great at all, we didn’t have enough data to upload photographs to our blog, and we spent lots of time gazing at an egg timer.
Sometimes we had to literally stand on top of hills and buildings for a signal!
Now, we have fast unlimited wi-fi in the motorhome which we use across several devices for less than was paid for 25MB a day. We also have a roof mounted antenna that provides a connection just like you would get at home. It’s always on and we don’t have to think about it.
What’s the most unusual place you’ve managed to get a connection?
There’s been some really surprising locations! So far, it’s worked from the top of Nordkapp in Arctic Norway, the Sahara Desert in Morocco and a mile high on the side of Mount Etna on Sicily. One time, we were parked below the Stone Glacier in Switzerland, at the end of a private road and 2,000m above sea level surrounded by glacier-covered mountains and were still able to stream UK TV through our Amazon Fire TV Stick. (To see just how ‘remote’ you can get with your wi-fi watch Julie and Jason’s YouTube clip setting up the Fire stick in their motorhome).
These days 4G is pretty much everywhere. The only places we’ve not been able to get connected were in a very remote village in the French Alps (there are signs up all around the town saying you need to walk to Italy to get a phone signal!) and the desert in the far south of Tunisia.
Have you needed any wi-fi advice along the way?
We were originally supplied with a mifi and roof antenna from Motorhome WiFi, and the Amazon fire stick they provided for us to test for them a couple of years ago. These have all worked well where we are at the moment in Southern Spain, as our satellite system does not pick up UK TV this far south. We’ve been able to easily stream UK TV using an unlimited UK SIM in the system.
The team at Motorhome WiFi always give us the best support and advice – not only do they stay up-to-date and also develop the latest technology, but they always know the latest offers from telecom providers and which are suitable for us abroad. For us, the best thing about Motorhome WiFi is their amazing aftercare, they’re knowledgeable and honest, and always answer our questions.
Where are you now?
We’re currently back in Nerja, Spain where we were in February last year just before the pandemic lockdowns began. We drove back from Southern Spain in four days in mid-March 2020 and then spent most of the year either at our home in Nottingham or, when it was allowed, exploring parts of the UK in our motorhome.
Last summer we made the decision to return to Spain to spend the winter staying put on one campsite, a totally new experience for us. We’ve been here since October, when foreign travel was still allowed, but have to return to the UK by the end of March due to the Schengen rules which now apply because we are no longer part of the EU. 2021 will see us doing more touring in the UK hopefully, and maybe even a trip over to Ireland.
Visit here to catch up with Julie and Jason’s travels.