Swift Europe

Chris and Gillian - Travels with Honu

intro  image
     Welcome to our travel blog.  Our travels in Europe with our camper Honu.

The site is mostly for friends and family, but we are always happy to have more friends.

Some of the information on the blog might be helpful for those planning similar adventures.

Many people have helped us out over the years. Thank you.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if we can provide any advice or help you. Contact us click here

Past travels in recent years in  Europe and with Honu (photos)

Navigation and apps

Informative links
 Chris and Gilllian have their "base camp" in Vancouver, Canada.  'Honu', our other home, moves around Europe when we are on tour.

We have traveled extensively to many different parts of the world, having also lived and worked extensively in Australia, Canada, UK and the USA.

Gilllian is retired, having taught accounting at University for over 20 years.

Chris is semi retired - his business provides higher education management consultancy.

Chris and Gill hold Canadian and Australian citizenship; and Chris also has EU citizenship.

We are keen outdoors people - skiing (alpine and back country), hiking, sailing, motorcycling, mountaineering in many parts of the world and, not least, a lifetime of cycling. We have traveled to about 42 countries over the years.

For more than a decade, we routinely traveled to Europe every year for cycling, outdoor adventure and some touristing.  We travel to other places including Australia most years and down south occasionally to take a break from winter in Canada.  Mix of photos in Europe over the past decade (pre camper).  At home we hike, ski and do some water sports.

We have spent a lot of time hiking and scrambling in the mountains in Europe and have cycled many of the Eurovelo routes and bike routes. We have logged over 40,000 kms cycling in Europe and spent a lot of days on the trail and in the mountains - the French and Swiss Alps, Dolomites , Pyrenees and the Tyrol.

Past travels in recent years in  Europe and with Honu


Like many 'van life" people we named our vehicle.  "Honu", or H.O.N.U. (Home Of Nomads Underemployed) is the name we gave our motorhome (RV,  campingcar, camper,  wohmobile, autocaravana  etc, depending on your country).  

Honu is a 2017 Knaus Van TI 650 (click the 360 degree view link)  ... video

Honu is also the Hawaiian word for the green sea turtles.

We are very fond of Hawaii, a place we have often visited. We have spent time swimming with the turtles. Honu carry their homes on their backs and we travel with our home.

"The Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle, known as “Honu,” symbolizes good luck, endurance and long life. Turtles can show up as a person's guardian spirit, known as “Aumakua.” When lost, turtles are excellent navigators and often find their way home."

So, all of that seemed appropriate when we were choosing a name for our camper.

Honu is registered in France under our company 'Swift Europe'. .

“The most dangerous risk of all – the risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later.”


 Why a camper van for Europe?

Whereas cycle touring and hiking is great, camping most of the time can get draining. Some years we were tent camping for multiple months.

When we occasionally rented or leased cars, issues like rain still presented travel problems.

Some of our best life memories are in Europe; so very early in our European travels we knew we needed to sort out some of the issues and set ourselves up for a long term engagement traveling in Europe.

Having a camper would predictably resolve a number of issues:

Campsite noise - generally OK but occasionally a real issue.  

Rain ... well, as every cyclist and traveler knows rain is a game changer - especially day after day. Now we say "rain, what rain?".

Logistics - by having  a camper Chris could set up a work station and work at times while on the road.

Freedom - Tent camping reduced our options and forced us to stay in designated areas  - not least was the cost of even a basic site.

Travel to Europe - Our flights to Europe were becoming complicated with bikes, camping gear etc.  Now everything is with Honu and we can travel light.

We guessed that a camper would open up a whole new way of traveling and freedom. And yes it has!

We spent a lot of time visiting showrooms in Europe and surfing the internet for information on campers.  We also reached out for advice to others traveling with campers (some of whom have travel blogs/ websites).

 Lots of choices and lots of options....
We narrowed down our choices and decided on the layout we wanted.  

While cycle touring in 2016, we decided on the model we wanted.

We ordered Honu from Euro Camping Cars  in October 2016.

In the course of our discussions we also needed to work out what option packages to order and what dealer accessories- ie solar panels, LPG gas and much more.

Sticker shock was the other issue we needed to get our heads around. Ouch.

Moving of funds presented a bit of an issue. Having that amount of money floating around in Cyber space was somewhat of a concern. But after a number of transfers Phill informed us all was well and our account paid.

Honu arrived on site early May 2017, only a few weeks prior to our flights over.

We flew into Paris, rented a car and appeared at Euro Camping Car's doorstep 3 hours later ... and there was Honu, waiting for us ...

Adopting HONU imageAdopting HONU image

feel free to contact us.

  • 1424 Walnut Street, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

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Honu started life with the standard layout - we added some manufacture packages (ie larger wheels, sunroof etc) and dealer options - for example, two roof mounted solar panels and related electronics, Thule Omnistor awning, security locks and more.

We like the Honu for a number or reasons:

  • Good German quality.
  • Well designed with no wasted space whatsoever = actually it is amazing use of space,
  • A large "garage: with large left and right side entrances: More than enough to store our two bikes, chairs, table, ground mat, bike gear, tools and more.
  • Solar panels and 3 batteries allows us to keep of the grid indefinitely.
  • Excellent fridge, with freezer; heating system, hot water system and great shower pressure.
  • 3 burner hob - works well.
  • More storage space than we can use.
  • Outstanding insulation = no need for living area air conditioning.
  • Ventilation with 4 sunroofs + shower ceiling vent.
  • Attention to detail.
  • 2 full length fix beds with lots of space
  • A convenient hanging closet.
  • under bed space and lots of shelving
No more - no less that we need!

Data and engine: Fiat Ducato: 7 meters.  2.3 turbo diesel; 6 speed manual gear shift; Euro 6 emission standards.  Enough power but not outstanding - Honu will cruise comfortably at 110 km; but Chris generally drives about 95 km. We average 8.2 liters to 100 km. Considering Honu weights in at about 3000 kg (max 3500 kg) that is pretty good. The dash layout and controls are very good - basic but effective.  Usual stuff like cruise control.  The Germany Company Knaus  built the camper on the fiat base.

We think the Honu is a good looking camper and right in the European sweet spot for size. To date Chris and Gill agree, if given the option to buy again we would stay with Honu, as is.

Bikes - we have owned our current bikes for the past ten + years and 40,000 kms. in Europe. We have two sets of the same bikes;  one set in Europe and one in Vancouver - people refer to them as" circus bikes" - but they are great and fast.  Xootr swift folding bikes.  

We have a set of E-bikes in Canada which we also like very much: https://www.gazellebikes.com/en-us/gazelle-medeo-t10-hmb

We have a Honda NC750x motorbike for cruising and camping trips: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qcmGDY2vFeA

We have a set of electric bikes in Europe so as to have a greater range of travel and access areas which the motorhome is not happy going to; including trail heads. They just barely fit in the "garage storage". Gill's bike  ;  Chris's bike

Our Travels

Our Travels
                           Armchair travels and links

Motor home travels:

Traveler links on Barry and Margaret's great site "MagBaz Travels".
More Iinks to other traveler blogs

Travel adventure sites we follow:

Christine's inspirational site of travel adventure. 

YouTube subscriptions we follow - mostly travel (in no particular order):

itchy boots          

Spain revealed

Nomad trails

Adventures of Tarka

C90 adventures

Spain  speaks

Wheels to wonder

XT adventures

 Bike touring pro

Others we think are interesting (well done / interesting enough to make the cut):

LeAw Leave Everything and Wander 

Political - Adam Curtis Documentaries

Ed Pratt 

 sailing magic carpet 

Paolo from Tokyo 

Exploring alternatives

Generally informative or useful sites for campers:

Practical motor home

Motor home forum

European Caravan Club

Places we like

Our home - Vancouver Canada      Whistler skiing

Hawaii (the big island)       Arizona

Bregenzerwald     Austrian Tyrol;    The Italian Dolomites   French Alps.

 Cycling in Germany.

And of course we really like Spain .... Doesn't everyone?
Navigation and Apps imageNavigation and Apps image
  1. Navigation and apps -

We use our Samsung android phones (j7) and a 7 inch samsung tablet for all our navigation - magnet mount on the windsheid. We have a plethora of other electronic devices, a 10 in tab, laptops etc. All our maps are off line (downloaded onto our devices) We have Spainish Vodafone sim cards (very cheap) for internet data and phones and now Europe wide with the new roaming regulations from June 2017.

Offline maps (driving, hiking, cycling, and being tourists)   Osmand

offline maps - driving  mostly -    Here we go

LPG gas locator app - aligns with offline maps    MyLPG


Accuweather -  accurate. seems to work best using app.

Windy   - great for long term predictions.


Campground app (locations of campsites in every European country)  Archies camping

 Motor home parking  areas app 1 (mostly use -  as do most people)    park4night

Motorhome areas app 2     All moterhome parkings

Motor home parking areas app 3   Camper stop

Motor home parking areas app 4    RV camping finder

Motor home parking areas app 5 Campervan pro

Motorhome  dealers (service) app  Camper pro

bike route maps app downloads -  Biroto routes and tours for multi-day bicycle touring

(note if you use Osmand you need to 'drop' the info and GXP routes into the 'track' folder file)


faster fix for your tab or phone:  GPS fix
Skype - used for phone calls and skype calls.
VPN (for BBC, ITV etc)  -   Android   touchVPN   PC   Windscribe
BBC Iplayer
Kindle app (books and newspapers) -    Kindle
podcast app -     Podkicker (pro)   BBC daily news feeds, the economist etc
 overdrive (download books from your library)
Music - music player
Spotify - free music.
VPN - for android (free)- SuperVPN
Expedia as required.

I WISH I HAD NEVER GONE TRAVELING. SAID NO ONE EVER. The journey may appear long and intimidating, but when you take one step at a time, it’s manageable.