Brightly painted homes in the town of Tobermory on the Isle of Mull, Scotland. A museum here has relics from a Spanish Armada ship that went aground just outside the harbor.
Photos by Ron and Adelle Milavsky
Is it cheaper to tour Europe than to sit at home watching TV? Not quite. However, Adelle and Ron Milavsky have three times proven that you can do it for very little more, and from mid-May to early August 2006 they are back in Europe doing it again! In 2002, these two retired adventurers spent 83 days and 4,200 miles seeing France and the Benelux countries in depth for less than $4,000 more than it would have cost them to stay home in the United States. They returned to Europe in 2003, spending 77 days and 3,600 miles rambling all over the British Isles. Their secret? They took their own Recreational Vehicle (RV) to Europe.
“If you want to tour Europe comfortably for six weeks or more, there’s no cheaper way than taking your own RV,” say Adelle and Ron, who have the receipts to prove it. “And you can’t beat the comfort and convenience of traveling in your own home on wheels.”
Our chariot on its “pitch” overlooking the sea in Tintagel, Cornwall. Tintagel is where legend claims King Arthur and Queen Guinevere lived.
The idea of combining the ease and freedom of RV travel with a European tour came to the couple after completing their first RV trip in 2001. They took their 1987 22-foot Dolphin RV on an 11,000-mile trek across the U.S. “We had so much fun, we wanted to do it again,” says Ron. “The question was, where?” It wasn’t long before the food-loving couple with a passion for history and culture began thinking seriously about taking that next long RV trip in Europe. “We’d been there before,” says Adelle, “but always on vacation trips of two or three weeks, staying in hotels and eating our meals in restaurants.” The idea of an RV trip around some European countries became more attractive the more they thought about it and talked about it.
But there were a lot of unanswered questions. Should they rent a rig there, or buy a rig in Europe and sell it back to the dealer at the end of the trip, or should they take their own RV? Could they afford it? Was it even feasible to take an RV to Europe? After weeks of research and scores of often fruitless phone calls, the two finally gathered the information they needed and compared the costs. They were surprised and delighted to discover that shipping their own rig was the least expensive option. So off they went.
A wall of wooden shoes on a private house beside the Bos Campground in Amsterdam.
Part of the wall in Northumbria, England built by the Roman Emperor Hadrian to mark the northern limits of Roman territory in Britannia.
The world’s first bridge made of iron in 1779 in Ironbridge, England.
Rigid touring schedules went out the window as the Milavskys followed their hearts to romantic castles or their noses and taste buds to rural markets. Some of their fondest memories must be attributed to serendipity as they indulged their curiosity or picked up tips from fellow travelers. Spontaneous detours are not unusual when you carry your house with you. “On the way to Paris, we stumbled on the site near Peronne where the armistice was signed after World War I and decided to explore it for a few days. We never could have done that if we’d had hotel reservations,” Adelle explains.
One of the best parts of the trip was finding local food specialties in open-air market stalls and cooking their own meals from the best of local ingredients. “Europeans, especially the French, take their food very seriously,” Ron notes. ” The only problem was that we couldn’t eat or drink nearly enough of the wonderful things we saw for sale.”
Holland’s delicious cheeses are plentiful in this Albert Cuyp straat market stall.
The Milavskys were meticulous about tracking costs for their adventure. When all totted up, the cost of their eleven-week odyssey worked out at almost exactly $100 a day for the two of them. “That included the cost of shipping the RV, our airfare, and all our European expenses,” Adelle says. The RV has a four-cylinder gasoline engine, saving on expensive fuel. On the down side, this presents a challenge in mountainous terrain which they avoid as much as possible on their chosen routes. “We figured what it would have cost to stay home,” Ron adds. “After we omitted expenses like mortgages, which you pay whether you’re away or not, we determined that going to Europe cost only about $40 or $50 more a day than we would have spent staying home, kicking around the house and going to the occasional movie.”
All the comforts of home in a Tintagel campground in Cornwall, England: Men on the left, women on the right, laundry straight ahead, public phone on the wall.
Although they originally planned to ship their RV home after their first trip, Ron and Adelle had such a great experience they decided to leave their rig in Europe for their next trip, and their next. “Storage is remarkably simple,” Adelle says, “And cheaper than you’d imagine.” Every reunion with their “old but not yet infirmed” RV in Europe is a sweet one!
In their so-called retirement years, Ron and Adelle Milavsky are an inspiring couple who have chosen not to let the grass grow tall around their feet. Even in their working days these lively, curious folks were no slouches. Ron finished his career as vice-president of the National Broadcasting Corp. (NBC) in 1989 then went on to serve as a Professor of Communication at the University of Connecticut for seven years. Adelle pursued careers in export management and jewellery design before taking to the road in 2001. And, of course, writing a large format, 310-page guidebook is no small feat in itself, sidelining the couple’s travels in 2004.
In early July 2005, Ron and Adelle celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary with family and friends, then set out on an RV exploration of Germany, the Czech Republic, Italy and more of France. The 2006 route included the UK, Netherlands, Belgium and France. Their latest Internet project is Europe by Mouse, www.europebymouse.com, an innovative “mouseback” travel guide for anyone interested in European travel, even the armchair variety.
The Milavskys share a heap of hard-won knowledge in their book, Take Your RV to Europe: The Low-Cost Route to Long-Term Touring (Branford, CT: The Intrepid Traveler, $9.98 direct from publisher price, ©2005), which includes detailed price breakdowns, contacts, and worksheets to help others who wish to follow in their RV tracks. The book is available from online and local bookstores or directly from the publisher at www.IntrepidTraveler.com.