Over the next few weeks there’s a lot to get to grasp, some of which are ‘stuff’, but others are big budget items. Hopefully we’ll be able to get back to this list, having worked our way through the items. So, what’s on the mind?
- Insurance: Both personal and for the van, and this is proving to be a bit difficult. As others have noted, Nomads seems to offer good packages, including repatriation to New Zealand. For around €950 for both of us for a year they offer repatriation to NZ in case of significant disasters (hmmm!), limited cover for dental emergency (which is better than my current medical plan) and a host of other options. It may be €950 down the drain as I hope to never use it (for all the right reasons). The van insurance seems to be coming along. At around €1300 for the year, including theft and driver idiocy, this is a ‘must-have’. Interesting that, while Morocco is covered, the ex-Soviet Union is not.
- Banks: An ongoing issue. We are currently looking at opening a European account as we have to close our Swiss account. The problem here is that many (most? all?) banks require a residential address which is a little more concrete than ‘Parking Lot at end of Beach, Songnesfiord’. Further to this is finding a card that doesn’t charge an absolute fortune in fees for every transaction … Nomadic Matt has excellent advice. Paying accounts on the road (Niki’s job, thank heavens) could be interesting.
- Staying connected: With new data roaming rules in place, Europe is now much cheaper and simpler for connections. My sense, though, is that vendors are used to hugely bloated profits and are being slow in responding to the new data landscape. Buying data only cards, for example, should be cheap and easy, but it’s not. We are going to try out a mobile WiFi 4G system with mifi in the van, giving us the opportunity to use multiple devices at a time. Given the costs of data, though, I can see a lot of coffee stops to download caffeine while uploading data. I’m sure there’ll be lots of updates on this topic.
- Gas: The ‘Van comes with a single 11kg gas bottle, suitable for heating the interior, cooking, hot water and running the fridge. In winter (and it’s always winter for Niki) I expect that would last close to 2 weeks. The problem with gas is that different European regions have their own filler nozzles. Seriously … no world peace until we sort out plugs and gas fittings. That seems impossible, so there goes world peace! We are going to fit a Gaslow system which seems horribly expensive, but the only way in which we can camp for extended periods away from campsites.
- Electricity: We have a single 90Ah leisure battery, and no real way to top it up, apart from driving or getting hooked up at campsites. Not really keen on either option. So we’ll be fitting a 100W solar panel plus another leisure battery, and I’m hoping this will set us free to camp where we wish. I’m sure this will be a topic to which we’ll return.
- WiFi: To say that there is confusion in this area is like … well, choose your own superlative simile! We plan to have a MiFi with a few data plans that I’m sure we’ll just gobble up, but which will at least set us free from having to be at WiFi accessible points regularly, although this is still part of the plan. Can’t get over little German towns providing free (and excellent) WiFi coverage for all, while the ongoing Data Ripoff proceeds unabated. I’ll give an update on how the gear is holding up and associated costs.
- Navigation: This may well be as simple as: ‘You’re lost, take the next roundabout (cue that horrible Navi voice) … oh, never mind, you’ve got a year to get back on track’. However, as this is Niki’s thing I’m sure it’s going to be a little more organised. We’ve got a growing number of maps, books, apps and any other vowel-connected navigation device piling up. Can’t wait to see what happens at that unmarked, new traffic circle in the middle of nowhere …