That feeling you get as you plan a trip is, perhaps, the grown-up version of what kids feel on Christmas Eve.
Spreading maps across the kitchen table, searching for the best campsites and caravan parks, and getting advice and opinions from other travellers online is tremendously exciting, second only to the trip itself.
And then there’s all the other pre-trip stuff: the vehicle servicing and checking your equipment. Packing your tools, adjusting your tyre pressures, perhaps even redirecting your mail. It’s a kind of ritual and if you have young kids, as I do, many of these things are likely done late in the evening, once their little eyelids have finally closed for the night.
When departure day arrives, all of your planning culminates when the van’s coupling settles on to the towball. Inevitably, you’ll only get halfway down the street before becoming convinced that you left the front door unlocked or forgot to turn off something or other.
But after doubling back and confirming beyond doubt that you’re good to go (‘I knew that door was locked after all’), it’s just you, your equipment, and the open road. You’ve done everything humanly possible to ensure a safe and successful trip, and there’s nothing left to do but enjoy yourself.
Real wisdom, though, comes from experience, from having made the mistakes and having learned from them.
I once met a lovely couple on their maiden voyage. It was their first night in a caravan park and they were dismayed to discover that their standard 10A extension lead didn’t fit – why the extra large earth pin, they wondered?
I’m still learning, too. In fact, discovering new and better ways of doing things is one of the joys of this lifestyle. Recently, my wife and I discovered the benefits of vacuum-packing our meat before a trip. I know, we’re a little late to the party but it’s made a significant difference to our travels, allowing us to divide our steaks and sausages into suitable portions and fit more in our freezer.
As our next family trip approaches, the maps are finding their way again on to the kitchen table and the dinnertime conversations are turning more and more to our destination. And if we plan properly, everyone will have a fantastic time.
This I know from experience.