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Couple Decides To Hit The Open Road In An RV And After 15 Years Have No Plans To Stop

Couple Decides To Hit The Open Road In An RV And After 15 Years Have No Plans To Stop
Claire and John's first winter in Spain (PA Real Life/Collect)

A couple who swapped hotels and an apartment for life on the open road in a $36,000 motor home called Betty are celebrating 15 years with no fixed address and say every day feels “glorious."

Back in 2005, former retail manager Claire Walker and her partner John Allett took drastic action, selling their two bedroom flat and moving into a 3.5 tonne Hymer B584 Classic motorhome, despite having never even been camping.

But the couple has no regrets.

“Motorhome life means never knowing what the day is going to bring. Every day is different and what you make it," Walker said.

John and Claire in a five star hotel in Malta (PA Real Life/Collect)

“I remember driving into the early hours on our very first day living in the van in the summer of 2005 and seeing the sunrise," she said.

“It felt glorious to be freely going where we pleased, with no time restraints, mortgage or bills and commitments – and that feeling has stayed with us ever since."

John and Claire (PA Real Life/Collect)

Walker had worked up the ranks to the position of retail manager and owned a two-bedroom flat in Cumbria, UK. Which she shared with her boyfriend John.

But, instead of feeling fulfilled, five years into their relationship, the couple started yearning for change.

“On paper we'd done everything we were meant to have done by that age," Walker said.

Claire enjoying a 5 star hotel before buying a motorhome (PA Real Life/Collect)

“I was addicted to Hilton hotels and, if possible, I'd stay at one of their five star resorts each year. We were of the mindset that if your holiday accommodation wasn't nicer than your current home, what was the point of going?" she continued.

“The most expensive trip we ever took was to Malta in 2003. We spent $5,000 for a 10-day trip to the Hilton opening there."

“But it felt like we were slaves to the daily grind in order to afford everything. We'd get up, go to work, pay the mortgage and have a night on the town once a week."

'Betty' the motorhome (PA Real Life/Collect)

“It got to the point where I turned to John and said, 'Surely there's more to life than this?'" she continued.

John's solution was to bring home a specialist magazine and a bright idea for changing their future.

“John rocked up with The Motorhomers' Magazine one evening and that's where it all began," she said.

Inside the motorhome (PA Real Life/Collect)

“We'd never discussed the idea of getting a motorhome before, but apparently he'd felt inspired after seeing a few on our way to the Lake District in 2003," she continued.

“I wasn't too sure at first, but I'd flick through the magazines he started bringing home after he was done with them."

Then, in the summer of 2004, John surprised Claire with a trip to the York Motorhome and Carvan Show.

“We watched hundreds of motorhomes being rolled out. It really blew our minds seeing them all," she said.

“That was the first time we were introduced to the idea of living in one full time and it really stuck with us."

John (PA Real Life/Collect)

“We knew from that point on we wanted to give it a go," she said.

They sold their apartment at the start of 2005, and spent six months searching for the perfect new home on wheels.

“It had to be no more than five years old. I wanted a double bed that dropped down from over the cab. I wanted two captain chairs – which span round the whole way – to give the feel of a proper living room," she said.

Claire and John (PA Real Life/Collect)

“It goes without saying a toilet and shower were a must, too," she continued.

Looking up and down the country for their dream van, that summer they purchased Betty – a white four-year-old 3.5 tonne Hymer B584 Classic for $36,600 from a dealership in South Yorkshire.

“No one could quite believe we'd done it. When I handed in my notice, my old boss said she'd keep the job open for a year," she said.

Claire in La Roche-de-Glun, France (PA Real Life/Collect)

“I don't think my family thought we'd last one month, let alone 12," she said.

Kickstarting their journey by exploring the coastlines of Dorset and Cornwall for two months, they quickly fell in love with the freedom their new life brought.

“First of all, we spent a few nights in the van to try her out and then we were ready to go," she said.

Claire in Calblanque, Spain (PA Real Life/Collect)

“We were kipping on the road outside John's mum Teresa's house in Whitehaven, Cumbria," she added.

“She'd kindly done all our laundry and we kept getting a cooked breakfast brought out to us – so it was hard to leave."

“But, when we set off, I remember rolling into the Somerset coastal resort of Weston-Super-Mare and parking the van on the beach, getting the chairs out and sitting there all day."

'Betty' the motorhome (PA Real Life/Collect)

“There was no one else there. It was so serene and peaceful – we sat for ages looking at the sea and the sky," Walker said.

“It felt a world away from our old lives in Cumbria and it was great."

But Walker had no desire to stay in England when the nights started drawing in.

“We didn't have a clue what we were doing after we got the van, but in a way that's why it was so much fun," she said.

“We had money from the flat sale, so we didn't have to worry about working for quite some time. We didn't have a set routine we had to follow and we could do what we wanted."

'Betty' the motorhome (PA Real Life/Collect)

"But, come October, I knew I didn't fancy braving a British winter in the van," she said.

So, they caught the ferry from Hampshire to Bilbao, Spain, before driving 500 miles to a campsite outside Alicante, where they spent the next six months.

“We stayed in a little village by the beach and it was our first taste of proper motorhome life," said Claire.

“It was perfect. There was no internet or smartphones back then. We really went back to basics. Suddenly we had all the time in the world to go on long walks and swim in the sea."

“It felt like the perfect opportunity to reconnect with each other, too."

John enjoying a Spanish Christmas (PA Real Life/Collect)

It has been 15 years since they drove to Somerset and had their first taste of life by the sea. Now they spend six months in the UK and six months in Spain, living in faithful Betty.

John takes occasional jobs as a plasterer, while Claire scours jumble sales, charity shops and markets for all sorts of treasures to resell on eBay.

John and his mum, Teresa (PA Real Life/Collect)

“In the more remote parts of the country you can get some real bargains. I bought a designer bag for $36 and sold it for $490, although it's not like you make a sale like that every week," she said.

“But we make enough to keep us afloat."

And she is now confident enough to drive for the entire 1,300 mile journey from England to their favourite spots in Spain – stopping off at a handful of campsites along the way to their final destination La Marina, Alicante, to break up the 20-hour journey.

Claire in Calblanque, Spain (PA Real Life/Collect)

“I was forced into being the designated driver," Walker laughed. “The insurance wouldn't cover John, as he had too many speeding points on his license."

“It was a shock at first, but I've really learnt to love it. We've found some beautiful hidden gems along the way. A stand out memory for me is the city of Cartagena, in Spain, which has the most incredible Roman remains."

“We'd never heard of it before, but it was on the way and we decided to stop over. That's something we'd never have done before," she said.

“Another real gem we always go back to is the Spanish town of La Manga, that sits on one of the largest salt water lagoons in Europe."

“On first sight it looks like a strip of high rise hotels and apartments which is packed with northern European sun worshippers in summer."

John and Claire (PA Real Life/Collect)

“But in winter the place is almost deserted and you can cycle along designated lanes, discovering little pine tree coves, empty beaches, and Spanish bars that are local hangouts," she said.

John has also been inspired to write a book charting their life on the road, which they hope may earn them some extra money.

“It's called Only Fools and Motorhomes and it's about the past 15 years of our life really," she said.

John (PA Real Life/Collect)

“It's full of photos of our travels and tips and hints for other people who are interested in motor homing," she said.

A decade and a half after setting out on the open road, the couple have no intention of returning to bricks and mortar life any time soon.

“We have it hammered into us that we should live our lives a certain way, working nine to five and paying the mortgage," she said.

John (PA Real Life/Collect)

“But life's what you make it. I love living in Betty and wouldn't choose to do anything differently," she continued.

Her sentiments are enthusiastically echoed by John.

“The ability to move about and get work wherever I want is so liberating," John said.

Claire and John (PA Real Life/Collect)

“I have six months off every year and I can't imagine living any other way," he said.

“It really is the best work life balance anyone could ask for"

To find out more about Claire and John's travels follow them at