Ben Clatworthy, The Times travel writer, gets his hands on a luxury motorhome that the offers ultimate remote working option for the Covid-19 era
As views from the office go, this one isn’t too shabby. I have swapped my stiflingly hot bedroom/workroom for the Buckinghamshire countryside and all I can see through the windows are neat fields.
This is no conventional working-from-home set-up, though. Yes, I’ve got wifi, bedroom, mains power and a little kitchenette — but I’ve also got wheels. I’ve bagged myself use of a £92,000 motorhome that, after a hard day’s work, you can fire up and head, well, anywhere.
Forget fuddy-duddy campers of old — breakdown-prone, rattly and with naff floral interiors — this is an ultra-chic van with USB charging ports, LED strip lights and a Nespresso machine within reach of my laptop.
And after months of lockdown, a dose of this is exactly what I need. “You’re not alone,” says Lucy Caillé, the managing director of GlamperRV, a motorhome rental and sales outfit. “Ever since the prime minister made his announcement in May about easing lockdown from July the phone has been ringing off the hook.”
Many Britons, it seems, are as keen as me to get away and explore. At GlamperRV bookings have never been busier and web traffic has more than trebled. “We had lots of cancellations because people hire the RVs for events, which have all been postponed this year, but any free dates are very quickly absorbed by new bookings.”
The company’s diary is now full until the end of the summer. A big trend has been people who are merging trips away with work, a lifestyle choice that Caillé believes will survive beyond the pandemic. The company has responded by designing a new “business line” of RVs with sleek grey interiors that could also be used for meetings.
The van I’m in, a Dethleffs design, measures 7.4m by 2.3m and has a large rear bedroom, shower room, on-board toilet and a small, but functional kitchenette with a gas hob and an impressively large fridge to chill those post-work beers.
There’s also a second pull-down bed above the cab area (office party, anyone?), although if you’re using it as a work base you would really want only two people on board at once. The “garage” in the back is easily big enough to store a couple of bikes for lunchtime rides and the all-important barbecue.
The driver and passenger chairs swivel and there’s an extendable table. The wifi is fast, the air conditioning helps with the summer heat and the leather seats are far superior to anything I have at home. But the best bit is the prospect of being able to turn the key and drive off.
“We’ve got people renting them to take over to Europe,” Caillé says. “The big draw with our vans is that they bridge the gap between traditional campers, or ‘white boxes’ as I call them, and the big American-style RVs that require an HGV licence to drive.”
During the lockdown the company rented two units for long-term use; one for two months, the other for three. “The customers just wanted to have them on their drives as an extra room for the house; somewhere to work and get away from it all,” Caillé says.
The van comes with built-in fast wifi
It’s an interesting concept. Britons, after all, are willing to fork out on shepherd’s huts, while garden designers have also reported a spike in interest for shed offices — “shoffices” — as people look to expand their space.
Luxury vans are still more expensive; you can pick up an off-the-peg shoffice for about £22,000, although it’s true you can also use it for your summer holiday.
I decide I could get used to this lifestyle. On a conference call with a colleague I float the idea of roaming around. “Oh no,” she says. “You’re not going to become one of those awful ‘digital nomads’ are you?”
I’ll have to ask the boss. And the bank.