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The Travel Episodes

Trucking through Europe and Asia

On the Road of Life

Their first home toge­ther? A seven-and-a-half-ton truck. Jenni­fer and Peter Glas take a two-year road trip in a Unimog truck – from Munich to Vladi­vos­tock: a love letter.

Jennifer.

I’m sitting on the edge of the Paci­fic Ocean on Russia’s wild east coast, deep in Sibe­ria, not far from the idyl­lic port town of Vladi­vos­tock. I’m gazing out over the sea, obser­ving the enor­mous ships in the distance with a vague sense of longing. I’m absor­bed in my thoughts, listen­ing to the melan­choly folk songs drif­ting from a small tent not far from our truck.

Recently we were asked why we’re even doing this. The jour­ney. After a brief pause, I came up with a simple answer:

Because there was no reason not to.‘

 
 
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It’s early summer in 2012. Peter and I are sitting in a small pub in my Munich neigh­bour­hood – and trem­bling. Both of us are clut­ching a glass of wine and glancing nervously at the place­mats on the table. ‚What the hell are we doing?‘ we keep asking oursel­ves, shaking our heads. Are we crazy? My heart is poun­ding. It feels like something’s dancing in my stomach. I take a gulp of wine. A big one.

We’ve known each other for four and a half months. Gran­ted, we know each other pretty well for such a short time. But is it enough to set off on an adven­ture toge­ther? We’ve never even lived toge­ther.

What the hell am I doing here?

A hand-written bill of sale is lying on the table in front of us. It’s for a truck. An HGV that’s almost thirty years old. Seven and a half tons! It’s going to be our first home toge­ther. No problem, right? And in our new home we’re going to head east, as far as we can go. Or as long as we’re still enjoy­ing it.

But can I just up sticks like that? After four and a half months, can I spend a whole chunk of my life on the road with someone? Someone I barely know? What the hell …? Can I just quit my stable and secure job? Put my career on hold? End it, even? Give up on secu­rity? Leave my comfort zone? Can I swap my spacious apart­ment for seven narrow square metres of living space? Can I just drop ever­y­thing to set off into the world with Peter? I look at him. We’ve got to laugh. Soon we’re in agree­ment: yes, we can.

Hell, yeah!

When Peter and I first met, we were at a simi­lar point in our lives. We were hard-working people, living intense, soci­ally and envi­ron­ment­ally aware lives in Basel and Munich, respec­tively. We had wonder­ful friends. We loved to travel. We’d alre­ady sown our wild oats. Work­wise we were more or less success­ful – even if we ques­tio­ned what we were doing at regu­lar inter­vals. We were active. At the end of each month we were able to put a little money aside. We both cons­i­de­red oursel­ves happy.

Meeting in March 2012 enri­ched our lives in a comple­tely unex­pec­ted and unfo­re­seen way, making our happi­ness complete. From day one we’ve conver­ted this wave of happi­ness and the grati­tude we feel for it into posi­tive energy, ventu­ring into a new phase of our lives toge­ther. We’re well aware that there are plenty of reasons why this is a crazy idea. But we also know that for us, in this moment, there isn’t a single reason not to do it.

On this rainy evening, I’m thirty-five years old. Peter is forty. We’re at the mid-point of our lives. But we want to take this jour­ney while we’re still young and healthy. We want to see the world as it really is. We want to have our under­stan­ding of the world confir­med – or alte­red. We want to see the world now, while it’s still like this. And we’d love to get to know foreign cultures and peop­les.

 
 
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Above all, howe­ver, we want to get to know oursel­ves. We want to spend a lot of time toge­ther – more time than our current lives would allow. We want to know the meaning of free­dom, and how we’d handle it. And we want to know what it means to have less and to live more simply. We want to find out how we work as a team and how we grow toge­ther. We want to live and be and feel and move. We want to pare down our lives, chuck all the ballast over­board and take some time off. We want to look more closely at what’s going on. We don’t want to change – but we do want to deve­lop toge­ther and learn from each other.

Most of all, we want to give oursel­ves enough time and space for all of the above!

And maybe, ulti­mately, we want to end up by saying that things are fine the way they were before the jour­ney – and to be happy with that. We want to be pupils, learning from oursel­ves, from each other, from – and in – this world.

So we’re at the very begin­ning of a long road. It might guide us in a parti­cu­lar direc­tion, but that doesn’t mean it has a goal in mind.

 

* * *

Why We're Travelling by Car

On the Road. Ready. Go!

Self-determination. Free­dom. Inde­pen­dence.

Peter.

A back­wards glance. It’s unbe­ara­bly hot, the road abso­lutely dread­ful. Barely twelve hours ago I set off on the bus in Guate­mala City, carry­ing oily dumplings from my last stop in a greasy bag. My neigh­bour smells of garlic, and plenty else besi­des. Utterly exhausted, shaken, sweaty and hungry, I disem­bark at a mise­ra­ble bus station. Resto­wing all my posses­si­ons into my ruck­sack, I more or less get all my limbs strai­gh­te­ned out. Deep breath! And then I step out into the brutal reality of travel.

Mister! Come come! Taxi! You need taxi?’ ‘Mister! Mister! I know a very good guest­house!’

Pow! The next blow. Eight of ‚my friends‘ throng around me, shou­ting things about ‚the nicest‘, ‚the chea­pest‘, ‚the best loca­tion in town‘, ‚the you-will-never-want-to-leave-again‘ hotel or restau­rant … ‚Come! Very good price for you!‘ … how lovely. I’ve arri­ved!

This is one of many reasons why I prefer­red to make long jour­neys in my own vehi­cle – and still do!

Back­packing is wonder­ful. I loved it. Jen did too. But non-stop? Round the clock? For one or two years, or some inde­ter­mi­nate amount of time? Maybe I’ve just got older – and fussier.

To be honest, I love having my own space.

No matter how small. A space I can mould as I see fit, keeping my stuff more or less in the same place. Where, just as at home, any chaos is comple­tely my own fault. Now our home is our vehi­cle! But the most important thing is that we can park our own private space anywhere. And then, where­ver we are, we’ve arri­ved.

Since we’re both very connec­ted to nature, we’re always drawn to rivers, seas, forests, deserts, moun­ta­ins … to the notion of ‚some­where out there‘. And in our Unimog truck, we don’t have to worry too much about the state of the roads. We (nearly) always find a gorge­ous spot to enjoy the sunset from. Then night falls, brin­ging with it darkness and all sorts of exci­ting noises: rushing waves on a lonely beach, a concert of birds or insects in a forest, a herd of grazing yaks, moving past under cover of darkness, the perfect silence of the desert. And the rust­ling – we’re still not quite sure what that is.
 
 

Stan­ding in the middle of nature, drin­king in the glorious land­s­cape around us, absor­bing the scent of earth, woods, water and stone, or some­ti­mes nothing at all, feeling comple­tely alone – those are the kind of special moments that I expe­ri­ence often and inten­sely when I’m travel­ling under my own steam.

But above all, I trea­sure the sense of self-determination, free­dom and inde­pen­dence – of being able to move on whene­ver I want, and only if I want.

I get to dive into life in a foreign coun­try – the street is where life really is. On the street, people are on the way to work, to the market, to their swee­the­art back home, or to eat, if they’re not alre­ady eating on the street. Bikes are repai­red, cars too. Animals cross the road, we ask the way, find it … or not. We get approa­ched by people. At the petrol station they try to rip us off, we laugh, stare in asto­nish­ment … and if we want, we stop some­where and we’ve arri­ved. Until we set off again.

 
Obviously, travel­ling in your own truck isn’t always pure romance and adven­ture. Tech­ni­cal trou­ble or ordi­nary, ever­y­day main­ten­ance often puts a spoke in our wheels. But – and this I learnt on the road – there’s always a solu­tion! And what’s more worthwhile than finding a solu­tion to a genuine problem?

So we travel, disco­vering kilo­metre by kilo­metre what ‚the path is the jour­ney‘ really means.
 

* * *

The Condition of the Roads

Everyday Life on a Journey

How we got into a routine on our travels, and why this is fabu­lous.

Jennifer.

I’m sitting ‚at home on the sofa‘ – in a small garage in Vien­tiane. In the Laotian capi­tal, we’ve got one primary goal in mind: we’ve got to find out what the weird noise coming from the engine is. Peter, along with an extre­mely nice man, is lying under­ne­ath the gear­box, banging out a hearty tune with a span­ner. Mean­while I’m thin­king about ever­y­day life on the road while I wash the salad for dinner.

A noma­dic life on the road affords us an incredi­ble amount of free­dom. One night we’re bene­ath milli­ons of stars in the lonely Dasht-e-Kaver desert in Iran, and the next we’re in a rundown carpark not far from the vibrant bazaar in Shiraz. We don’t have to worry about accom­mo­da­tion, trans­port, the usual routes, hunting down food or the infra­st­ruc­ture of tourism. 

We could park almost anywhere in the world – and be at home.

 
 

With this free­dom come a few things that we have to think about more or less around the clock: where are we going to get water for the water tank? Can we drink the water from that well? Where can we top up the petrol? What kind of adap­ter do we need? Where does that road go? How good is it? Is it even a road? And is it safe at night? Will this bridge take our weight? Are the power lines high enough?

Will we get enough sun on the solar panels if we stay here a bit longer? And are we actually stay­ing? How long are we allo­wed keep our vehi­cle here? Do we need a Carnet de Passage? Where do we get insurance? What if the coun­try we’re in right now closes its borders? How the hell do we get out of here? Does this spare part even exist in India? How much does it cost to get it posted from Germany? What if we can’t get any parts in Iran because of the sanc­tions?

Is the diesel quality here high enough? Will the truck even start at 5,000 metres above sea level? How do you get to sleep at 45 degrees in the cabin? Where are we going to find yeast to bake with? A twelve-volt circuit brea­ker? A termi­nal strip? Or a sili­cone pump? And how the hell do you coax ants out of a storage hatch? We don’t speak Mala­ya­lam!

We face all these ques­ti­ons and chal­len­ges on a daily basis. At first glance, it sounds like a ton of work. And it is. But, on the other hand, I’ve lear­ned over the last few months that this routine has given us a good deal of stabi­lity, enri­ching our ever­y­day lives.

Routine, there­fore, I only find burden­some when it’s charac­te­ri­sed by things that don’t bring me joy. A routine that consists of enter­tai­ning and exci­ting things is wonder­ful. Routine does me good.

Our home gives me the foun­da­tion necessary to feel safe and steady.

It’s mostly these little tasks that help me under­stand life on the road and, above all, myself. Despe­r­a­tely sear­ching for termi­nal strips in a small, insi­gni­fi­cant Indian city of five million people gives me a better sense of India than visi­ting the Taj Mahal (which is doubt­less worth a visit). Discus­sing our rear axle spring with a Burmese welder is, in hind­sight, somehow more exci­ting than the Golden Rock.
 
 

Though now and again, of course, Peter and I do come to the end of our (by now pretty long) tether.

Looking back, these seemin­gly unim­portant expe­ri­en­ces were perhaps the most valu­able of our whole jour­ney.

Like sear­ching for a decent termi­nal strip in Delhi or finding drin­king water in the deserts of Oman, in many parts of the world safety after dark or easy access to food aren’t a given, as they would be in Germany. I’m aware of that every day, and I hope to entrench this expe­ri­ence deep within myself for the rest of my life, calling on it whene­ver I want. I’ve lear­ned pati­ence, to just let things happen – and that routine can be some­thing marvell­ous. And when ever­y­thing gets too much, I just close the heavy door of our Unimog’s cabin, crawl under my duvet, make myself some tea and head out again the next morning.

 

* * *

The People

Chance Encounters on the Road

‘It’s not about places!
It’s about people.’
Kevin DeVries, moun­tain guide, priest, travel­ler, friend

Peter.

It’s chance encoun­ters – signi­fi­cant and insi­gni­fi­cant, people and situa­ti­ons – that have stayed with me, leaving a deep impres­sion.

We’re often asked which coun­try is our favou­rite so far. And I still don’t have a good answer to that. Often I say that every coun­try we’ve travel­led through has been a special expe­ri­ence. There was always some­thing to marvel at, we were always surpri­sed, disap­poin­ted – by people. Every coun­try is diffe­rent, and the rules were never obvious. Every time we lear­ned some­thing about the coun­try and its people, star­ting to find our feet, the place made that much more sense. We got it. A bit, anyway. For brief moments.

In many coun­tries, people made it very easy for us to get along and to under­stand. They approa­ched us, these ‘foreig­ners’ in their strange truck, with great open­ness. The love­liest encoun­ters were when we were open too, when we were most asto­nis­hed and lear­ned the most. That’s why every coun­try we’ve visi­ted had some­thing special about it. It’s because of the people we met!

And it doesn’t matter how long we chat­ted to a stran­ger, or how in depth our conver­sa­tion was:

It was their warmth that makes it so diffi­cult to describe.

When, after a long day’s travel, you see and hear the extra-loud laugh­ter of a crowd of school­child­ren, when you’re exhausted and a few soldi­ers help to change your tyres at 5,000 metres above sea level, when you’re suddenly flas­hed the world’s most heart­felt smile by a woman at the market, when – just as you least expect it – you’re remin­ded of the good­ness of huma­nity, it’s not just a wonder­ful expe­ri­ence. It gives you courage and hope. And it gets you more than a little hooked – to travel, to the unfa­mi­liar and to the many extra­or­di­nary indi­vi­du­als in our world.

Some­ti­mes it makes me a little sad that it’s not possi­ble to stay in touch with all the people we met. Social networ­king and email are a big help, of course, but geogra­phi­cal distance is and remains a hindrance. So these acquain­tan­ces are always only short-lived, never as deep as our friendships back home. And that’s fine.

What makes me ever sadder is that in many places so many people approa­ched us that we had to rebuff them, whether because we were dead tired or because we wanted to complete a parti­cu­lar leg of our jour­ney before night­fall. In retro­s­pect I’m asha­med that there were people we met on our travels who must have cons­i­de­red us rather stand-offish visi­tors to their land.

We try to meet their hospi­ta­lity, curio­sity and sheer exci­te­ment over our vehi­cle with complete open­ness. And with photos of our home coun­try, a small tour of the truck, and a conver­sa­tion – mainly conduc­ted with our hands and feet – under the awning over chai and baked goods. We’re also some­ti­mes able to welcome guests to our small, temporary, ever-changing home in a foreign land.

 
 
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The hospi­ta­lity shown to us ever­y­where is simply breath-taking. We bumped into Mehmet, for instance, a hilarious man who quickly took us to his daughter’s birth­day party. While they broke their Rama­dan fast with deli­cious Turkish deli­cacies, we told stories, cele­bra­ted, sang and danced.

Then there was Shani, a singer who brewed strong black coffee over a flame – among the rocks of the Turkish Black Sea coast. Later we sang and danced along with the women to his grace­ful saz music.

 
 
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There were the wonder­ful Fathma and her husband Berus, who invi­ted us into their home on our first evening in Iran. Over tea and Persian rice and lamb, the tele­vi­sion play­ing a dubbed Austrian detec­tive series in the back­ground, they told us much about their coun­try, then went apple-picking with us and showed us around the city.
 
 
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There was the unknown trucker who chucked us several mangoes though the open window as we drove. Or the trucker in Bandar-e-Abbas, who just ‘invi­ted’ us to 120 litres of diesel. 

We came across Djavad in Tabriz, an idio­syn­cra­tic fellow who lent us his garden, gril­led food with us and soon invi­ted his whole family to meet us. Djavad, who accom­pa­nied us on the phone throug­hout our stay in Iran and finally travel­led across the whole coun­try to bid us fare­well. Djavad, who is still our friend.
 
 
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Then there were the Indian rangers Steve and Deepti, who let us join their camp fire and told us all about the wild animals in their home­land. Or Michael and Vasan in Kash­mir, who invi­ted us into their tent at the pilgrims’ camp­site of Baltal, spoi­ling us with north Indian chapat­tis and dhal. Or our Unimog-mad friend Kunal, who gave us an insight into the comple­xity of India and who lost his affec­tion for the Unimog when he got ours stuck in the sand. We all came out the other side, howe­ver, and have met up in various parts of India four more times since then.
 
 
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There were the aging Vladi­mir and his comrade Dimi­tri, two dyed-in-the-wool commu­nists who invi­ted us into their Buryat living room for freshly caught fish and pelmeni (Russian dumplings). We brought salad and cakes, and cele­bra­ted life to the accom­p­ani­ment of melan­choly folks songs, which the two hunter-gatherers perfor­med on the guitar and accor­dion. Moved, we left the house on the edge of Lake Baikal with tears in our eyes.
 
 
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There was the unusual Lamaji Tashi Namgyal, who, out of the good­ness of his heart, let us share in life at his Tibe­tan school for several weeks, allo­wing us to teach the child­ren and learn oursel­ves. He will remain in our memory fore­ver, thanks to his selfless beha­viour and his posi­tive effect on Spiti. 

There were count­less people from all nati­ons who invi­ted us to tea or çay, offe­ring us fruit, vege­ta­bles and pastries. Or a kilo of dates, ‘just because you’re guests in our coun­try!’

We’re grate­ful for the smal­lest screw, every wooden peg, tool and encou­ra­ging smile – which, in one situa­tion, was worth more than gold. We were approa­ched with an open mind by all sorts of people who gave us direc­tions or even drove ahead of us on a motor­bike so that we wouldn’t get lost.

We’re grate­ful for every garden we were allo­wed to use, for the water we downed … for the drin­king water we were able to restock, for the fire­wood that was given us. ‘Do you need help?’ we heard more often than we ever could have expec­ted. And they weren’t empty words, as we disco­ve­red. Basi­cally we’re just infi­ni­tely grate­ful for all of those people – for their stories, conver­sa­ti­ons, parties and cele­bra­ti­ons. It would be impos­si­ble to fit them all into this account. 

But every single story has remai­ned in our memory and in our hearts as one of life on the road’s grea­test gifts.

 

* * *

A Road Movie

The Beauty of the Street

It’s just like cinema – and cinema at its best! Pretty often, at least. And it’s a privi­lege to expe­ri­ence.

8.30 a.m. Ever­y­thing that might fall over is tidied away, the door is shut, the steps stowed away, the motor running – off comes the hand-break and the scene begins. The loca­tion: some­where in the Hima­la­yas.

The came­ras roll. We drive two kilo­metres cross coun­try, back to the so-called main road. We’re being pitched and tossed around – when we arri­ved yester­day after­noon there was no proper path. We glance back once more at the peace­ful field where we spent the night, at the wild horses and the lone shepherd who asked us for some diesel for his lamp.

But then we’re back on the road – or what’s left of it. The tension mounts. We’ve plan­ned to do eighty kilo­metres today. Let’s see whether we make it. We’re not in a hurry; the road won’t allow that. Our film unfolds in slow motion. Potho­les and piles of rubble force us into an elegant slalom. Some­ti­mes. Mostly we admire the scenery around us. It’s as if Jen and I are sitting in a theatre box. We’re not inte­rested in the director’s chair – we just let oursel­ves be guided.

Anything on wheels is on the road. Goods and wares, fruit and vege­ta­bles of all sizes are lashed peri­lously onto loading beds, car roofs, motor­bike seats or the backs of donkeys. Yup – there are animals too. Cows, wild horses, dogs, cats, sheep, goats, yaks and many more. They’re all moving, more or less amica­bly, down the road.

And we’re in the middle of this flowing choreo­gra­phy.

 
 
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Some people stare in disbe­lief when they see us. Others wave, honk or drive dange­rously close to us. We’ve got to pick up some­thing to eat. We stop at a small shop on the way to Lossar. They don’t seem to get a lot of tourists here. With a smile and much poin­ting, we manage to buy vege­ta­bles for the next few days off the road.

Toma­toes, caulif­lower, pota­toes and two other plants we don’t know the name of but which taste nice. In a small tent shel­te­ring us from the wind, we treat oursel­ves to a hot chai and some­thing fried and deli­cious before we decide to leave. Suddenly, howe­ver, we’re approa­ched by Soma. He saw us a few days ago furt­her down the moun­tain, and invi­tes us to have some tea. We chat about the impres­sive scenery, how the people here in the valley are parti­cu­larly easy-going, how he also likes coming to Spiti to rech­arge his batte­ries, and how reaching the valley imme­dia­tely fills you with a sense of awe and rever­ence.

We probably won’t manage those eighty kilo­metres today. Do we have to? We’d rather not. We’re enjoy­ing the moment. We don’t want the film to end just yet. Instead, the main roles have gone to the here and now, and Jen and I feel like minis­cule extras on nature’s grand silver screen. We’re passing through scenery that’s too unique, too power­ful, too wonder­ful to describe in words. 

A few hours later we’ve found a place to sleep amid these extra­or­di­nary surroun­dings. We enjoy the last rays of the sun, which will keep the screen­play waiting for us, alre­ady looking forward to morning. Nobody’s going to come and clear the stage away over­night, are they?

Oh wait, you get terri­ble films at the cinema too!

 

* * *

Along the Road

Travelling in Real-Time

Watching your envi­ron­ment change, step by tiny step.

Jennifer.

I’m sitting on a beach in eastern Malay­sia. The muez­zin is singing in the distance. I try and remem­ber the first muez­zin we noti­ced on this trip. It must have been back in Bosnia, more than two years ago. It’s strange to think of the begin­ning of our jour­ney as ‘back then’. Can it really be? I reflect on the nature of time.
 
 
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For me the exci­ting thing about travel­ling over­land is moving in real-time – obser­ving the extre­mely slow chan­ges occur­ring in our envi­ron­ment: churches, songs, reli­gious sites, clot­hing, vege­ta­tion, land­s­cape, archi­tec­ture, infra­st­ruc­ture, languages, dialects, gree­tings, facial features, modes of trans­por­ta­tion, writing, tradi­ti­ons, dishes … their nature alters incredi­bly slowly, yet conti­nuously. They inter­lock, disap­pear and reap­pear in other places. Dolma’s clot­hing in Ladakh reminds me of the noma­dic women’s clot­hing in the Gobi Desert. In Naga­land in north-eastern India, the facial features of the people are so diffe­rent that I could imagine myself anywhere other than India.
 
 
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Discus­sing these obser­va­tions takes up a massive amount of space in my conver­sa­ti­ons with Peter.

‘Do you smell that?’ ‘Do you hear that?’
‘Can you taste that?’ ‘Do you see that?’ 

We keep unco­vering things new, surpri­sing, redis­co­ve­red or fami­liar. We rejoice in small details or things that once again make a nonsense of our recently acqui­red insights.

Travel­ling by truck takes so long that in two years we only just made it from Munich to Malay­sia. You could do it in three months, actually, but we prefer the free­dom of slow­ness, the free­dom to spend two months in the Pokhara Valley in Nepal or the same length of time on the beach in Goa, the free­dom to take a break whene­ver we need one. For me perso­nally, the last two and a half years feel incom­pa­ra­bly longer. I feel like I’ve been on the road for many years. But isn’t that suppo­sed to be the case?

Maybe I need to adjust the term ‘travel­ling in real-time’. Maybe taking a long jour­ney in your own vehi­cle leads to an immense expan­sion of time? I don’t know.

Maybe I’ll have anot­her think about it tomor­row. Or the day after tomor­row.

 

* * *

We Travel This Road Together

On Love

Jennifer.

Sing­a­pore. 15 May 2015. This is our second anni­ver­s­ary. Peter has invi­ted me to a grand hotel. In the evening we’re going out to dinner at a fancy restau­rant, for a change. A French one. For two full days we enjoy an air-conditioned room, a shower with decent water pres­sure, a bath­tub, a plen­ti­ful break­fast, a large bed, fresh bathro­bes and the hotel’s own brand of toile­tries, a hair­dryer and an enor­mous swim­ming pool with clean, chlo­ri­na­ted water.

Happy, grate­ful and extre­mely aware of my surroun­dings, I do a few laps in the large pool on the roof. I’m not really distur­bed by the after­noon rain. I’m happy with the unac­custo­med luxury my husband has given me – and with the gift that means the world to me: my wonder­ful husband. And I start thin­king – about love and life.

 
 
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We leapt into cold water toge­ther and lear­ned to swim. Mostly we splash around merrily, but we’ve weathe­red a few storms and the forces of nature that affect us, too. Toge­ther. You have to be able to rely on each other when you’re driving a seven-and-a-half-ton truck across the world. Even if we’re not in the mood at that moment. Sulking isn’t a good idea when you’re driving along the edge of a 700-metre-deep drop. 

On the stre­ets of India, where they drive on the left-hand side, two eyes aren’t enough.

And if you get the truck stuck in mud or tea spills all over the trans­for­mer, fits of anger or accu­sa­ti­ons of blame aren’t exactly produc­tive. You have to cope. Toge­ther. Hand in hand. Round the clock. Admit­tedly, seven square metres can feel pretty small some­ti­mes – espe­ci­ally when it’s raining. But they’re home to us. Being around each other 24/7 is certainly a serious chal­lenge – but mind­ful­ness is our watch­word.

Peter’s sister Elisa­beth gave us a candle before we left Munich. We were suppo­sed to light it toge­ther when we came to the end of our tether with each other. It’s still in the cupboard. Unused. And that’s a good thing.

So. Before we properly got going on our jour­ney, we deci­ded spon­ta­neously to get married. In Italy. As a symbol of our love and our desire to walk life’s path toge­ther.

 
 
IMG_3140
 
 
‘Thank you, Peter, for the courage you showed in thro­wing over your whole life to travel the world with me. Thank you for looking after all the tech­ni­cal stuff, for which I have no knack whatsoever. Thank you for taking the wheel when my thigh was tired from working the clutch. Thank you for ventu­ring into seven square metres with a dyed-in-the-wool chaos-magnet like me, despite being an extre­mely tidy person.

Thank you for putting up with my temper – which is non-existent, of course. Thank you for patching up my wounds after what feels like hund­reds of acci­dents where I inju­red some body part or other. Thank you for distrac­ting people in front of the truck so that I could pee behind the bushes. Thank you for wrap­ping the duvet around my feet when I got cold at night. Thank you for respec­ting me as your wife, while also letting me be a scared little girl some­ti­mes. Thank you for thin­king twice when I’m about to make a rash deci­sion. Thank you for your perse­ver­ance in finding the most beau­ti­ful places to park in the world. Every day, without fail. Thank you for coun­ting the stars with me, over and over again.

Thank you for being there.’

Peter.

Some­body once asked us why we set off in a Unimog. My suppo­sedly sensi­ble answer was, ‘because we wanted a vehi­cle that can handle our need for total free­dom!’ That’s true, but it’s point­less if your travel­ling part­ner has no need of free­dom. With free­dom come a vast number of deci­si­ons, and they can some­ti­mes make life a bit more compli­ca­ted. You have to like that, to love it, actually, when you’re travel­ling for long peri­ods of time. And that’s exactly why I love my wife more than anything! Not only because she loves free­dom, but also because she reminds us every day that we can live it!
 
 
IMG_5104
 
 

‘Thank you, Jen, for loving and safe­guar­ding our free­dom. Thank you for always coming up with an idea when it seems like there’s no way forward. And thank you for always having one of your many enchan­ting smiles at the ready, even in the worst situa­ti­ons. Thank you for always having the time and energy not only to put away our food in our tiny kitchen area, but also to prepare a luxu­rious dinner out of the simp­lest local ingre­dients. And thank you for putting up with me when I screw up repai­ring the car, even if it means we end up spen­ding hours combing through gara­ges or buil­ding supply stores or various other shops.

Thank you for taking my book out of my hand before I fall asleep and it hits my nose. And thank you for giving me the time I need in the morning to go from sleepy to ready for a new, exci­ting day. I know that’s not the same every day, but that’s why I admire you so much: you always manage to be prepa­red for me. Thank you for letting me tidy your things, because you know I enjoy it.

But most of all I want to thank you for spen­ding the last two-and-a-bit years being exactly where I was! 

 

* * *

Life’s Path Goes On

Jennifer and Peter.

Is this the end? No, we’re not Thelma and Louise. There’ll be no drama­tic show­down. The end of our jour­ney announ­ced itself gently and very peace­fully. It happened on a beach in Thai­land. After a stress­ful couple of weeks and some strength-sapping visits to the garage we trea­ted oursel­ves to a few days on a lonely, dreamy beach. We were exhausted, and we needed a break.
 
 
IMG_1861
 
 
After resting for a while, we were inten­ding to set off again. With sand between our toes, gazing over the turquoise sea, we broo­ded over maps and ship­ping deals. But as we got into the details of how to conti­nue our long jour­ney via Canada to South America – at our pace an under­ta­king of at least anot­her two to three years – we felt some­thing comple­tely new and very exci­ting: that our longing to see family and friends – to see our home – outweig­hed for the first time our longing to travel. We looked at each other, smiled – and suddenly there arose between us a warm and magi­cal feeling.

Peter looked at the sea and said, ‘I think we’ve arri­ved!’

The next few days saw a lot of our plan­ning and thin­king thrown over­board. Not for the first time in our jour­ney, we re-planned our route! It soon became clear that we didn’t want to go back over­night. No. We wanted to drive back slowly, to finish our lap. To have time and space enough to reflect, say good­bye and prepare oursel­ves to conti­nue down life’s path. A new stretch will begin at some point in the next few months, when after two and a half years we have travel­led the long way from Russia, through Mongo­lia and Kazakhstan, to Germany. 

We’re over­joyed. About what has been. About what has happened. About the here and now. And the anti­ci­pa­tion? That’s even bigger.

We’re looking forward to all the roads and stre­ets and detours and gravel high­ways that life’s path still has in store for us. 

 

* * *

Read more

Westworld

MOAB, UTAH: WHERE ADVENTURE BEGINS

Westworld

Ever­y­thing in the small town of Moab evol­ves around outdoor activi­ties. During the high season hund­reds of thousands of visi­tors are pulled in by the spec­ta­cu­lar nature. Dirk Rohr­bach set out to explore.

Start Episode

The Long Road to Water

A Well for Uganda

The Long Road to Water

A project that promi­ses to help people and push me to my limits. A reality between moments of lethargy and the pres­sure to perform. Steven Hille travels to Africa to build a well.

Start Episode

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  • philippe on 28. Dezember 2015

    Your story read like a book,i’m flemish end 65y,a little bid to old to travel like you do but I injoing to folow you on your travel.If you comme to Belgium let my know,I want to meet both.

    Reply
    • Jennifer und Peter on 30. Dezember 2015

      Hi Phil­ippe …
      thanks a lot. We would love to meet you in Belgium, so we’ll keep you posted!
      Best from Germany and a Happy New Year,
      Jen & Peter

  • Reni - Swiss Nomads on 2. Januar 2016

    Hi Jenni­fer and Peter

    What a great read and very inspi­ring story. I just stumb­led upon your post on twit­ter and couldn’t stop reading. Thanks for sharing.

    My husband and I love road trips and we’re plan­ning our next big adven­ture. Can’t wait to get back on the road ☺

    Safe and happy travels,
    Reni

    Reply
    • Jen & Peter on 7. Januar 2016

      Hi Reni,
      good to hear from you. Thanks a lot.
      We wish you all the very best for your upco­m­ing trips, take good care and enjoy!
      Keep on *road trip­ping.‘
      Best, Jen & Peter

  • Susan on 3. Januar 2016

    Hi Jen and Peter! Nice story. My husband and I just down­si­zed and bought a truck camper. We can’t yet leave our lives like you did but enjoy the mini trips in between. Thanks for the inspi­ra­tio­nal story!

    Reply
    • Jen & Peter on 7. Januar 2016

      Hi Susan!
      Thanks a lot!
      Every trip is a good trip!
      Enjoy … and safe travels.
      Jen & Peter

  • ute on 11. Januar 2016

    WAS SEID IHR FÜR SPANNENDE; tolle Leute, um es milde auszu­drü­cken. Ich wünsche Euch noch viele Aben­teuer auf dieser Welt. Das Nach­hau­se­kom­men und Weiter­le­ben hier in D.(?) hätte mich auch sehr inter­es­siert…

    Mir gefal­len eure Begeg­nun­gen, Eindrü­cke, Lebensphilosophien…und v.a. euer Fahr­zeug (die Einrich­tung)… da würd ich auch gern drin­nen schla­fen!

    Habt ihr schon ein Buch geschrie­ben? Ich bin abso­lut nicht into Lesen, aberEuch les ich gerne!!!

    Reply
    • Jen & Peter on 23. Januar 2016

      Liebe Ute,
      herz­li­chen Dank für dein schö­nes Feed­back. Und danke für die guten Wünsche.
      Ein Buch gibt es derzeit (noch) nicht .… aller­dings kannst du zwei unse­rer Geschich­ten im groß­ar­ti­gen Buch der Travel Episo­des finden.
      (Danke noch­mal an Johan­nes Klaus an dieser Stelle – für dieses wunder­schöne Projekt!)

      Es wird auf jeden Fall bald noch einzwei Geschich­ten zu unse­rer Rück­kehr in Deutsch­land und den damit verbun­de­nen Gefüh­len und Eindrü­cken geben. Auch das ist alles sehr span­nend gerade.
      Bis dahin grüßen wir dich,
      Jen und Peter

  • Brigitta on 18. April 2016

    Hallo,
    was für ein schö­ner Bericht.ich bewun­dere Euch für diese Reise.
    Mit diesem Unimog zu fahren , schal­ten und schau­keln ist ja schon
    eine irre Arbeit und dieses klet­tern. Alle Achtung.Aber es ist natür­lich auch schön auf klei­nem Raum, wenn mal im Dunkeln genau weiß wo alles liegt und alles eintei­len muss und crea­ti­vie­tät gefragt ist.und Mut gehört dazu. Euch alles Gute.
    Brigitta (wohn­mo­bil­mit­fah­rer­ein light, aller­dings auch ein Autark­mo­bil aber mit Luxus )

    Reply
    • Jen und Peter on 9. Oktober 2017

      Liebe Brigitta,
      verzeih unsere späte Antwort auf deine lieben Zeilen. Wir waren seit eini­ger Zeit nicht auf dieser Seite und sehen deine Nach­richt erst jetzt.
      Ja, das Unimog­fah­ren allein ist schon ein Aben­teuer … aber genau dieses Schau­keln und vor allem das lang­same Fahren und somit auch Reisen ist etwas ganz Beson­de­res.
      Ja und in der Tat konnte man in der Wohn­ka­bine viele Dinge machen, ohne sich zu bewe­gen: Hände waschen, Gemüse schnei­den, Socken aufräu­men und Wäsche aufhän­gen ;-)
      Herz­li­che Grüße aus München.

  • Suryaveer Singh on 24. April 2016

    Great story, great multi­me­dia! I met you briefly after you had crossed over Kunzum Pass into Spiti, I was headed up the pass in a silver Tata SUV. Am now plan­ning a trip towards southe­ast Ladakh, and came across your site again. All the best for your future jour­neys! If you happen to pass through Abu Dhabi, get in touch. Prost!!!

    Reply
    • Jen und Peter on 9. Oktober 2017

      Dearest Surya­veer,
      sorry for our late reply. Haven’t visi­ted this website for a while and just found your message. Of course we can remem­ber meeting you up there. Spiti was defi­ni­tely a high­light of our whole trip. Maybe the most special place we have seen so far.
      All the best from Munich.
      Jen & Peter

  • Arthur Pelchen on 7. Juli 2016

    Liebe Jenni­fer, lieber Peter,

    danke für die schö­nen Bilder und den berüh­ren­den Text, der mir Herz und Seele gewärmt hat, und mich davon über­zeugt hat, unser Wohn­mo­bil weiter­zu­bauen und mindes­tens wieder auf mehr­mo­na­tige Touren zu gehen, um wieder in die von Euch sehr tref­fend beschrie­bene Stim­mung zu kommen …

    Arthur

    Reply
    • Jen und Peter on 9. Oktober 2017

      Liebe Arthur.
      Danke für deine lieben Zeilen und … entschul­dige bitte unsere späte Antwort.
      Wir waren seit einer Weile nicht auf dieser Seite.
      Viel Freude beim weite­ren Umbau, viele schöne Reisen und immer eine gute „Stim­mung“ …
      Herz­li­che Grüße & safe travels!

  • Matthieu on 17. Februar 2017

    Hi Jenni­fer and Peter !
    After having sear­ched on the inter­net for a long time to find a history of people that have droven from europe to asia with a home conver­ted vehi­cule I have found you’re website and I am so glad about it ! You guys are making me burn of desire to hit the road !
    Me and my girl­fri­end are plan­ning to buy a old camper­van and convert it into an on wheel house as confor­ta­ble as we can get with our budget.
    Concer­ning the itinerary, we basi­cally wanted to do the same you did exept all the ship­ping parts to Malay­sia, but we were wonde­ring if it was even possi­ble in term of secu­rity and roads etc.…
    So we do have a lots of ques­ti­ons to ask if you are willing to help us a bit with your wisdom it would be wonder­ful :)
    Gree­tings,
    Matth

    Reply
    • Jen und Peter on 9. Oktober 2017

      Dearest Matth,
      Oh! … so sorry for our late reply. We haven’t visi­ted this website for a while and just found your nice message. I hope it’s not too late. Are you on the road alre­ady?
      If not, or if you have furt­her ques­ti­ons while travel­ling … please feel free to get in touch. We would love to help you and share our expe­ri­ence …
      You will find our email adress on our website“

      Good luck and safe travels.
      Jen + Peter

  • Hoeck, Paul on 10. März 2017

    Bisher habe ich den Bericht nur über­flo­gen. Sorry!
    Fragen:
    Von was lebt Ihr? (Spon­se­ring, Rück­la­gen, Verkauf des Geschrie­be­nen?)
    Fährt man den LKW (7,5 t) (UNIMOG?) mit Pkw-Führerschein?
    Ist es aufwen­dig „Reise­be­richte“ in dieser Form zu veröf­fent­li­chen?
    Welche Platt­form benutzt ihr? Habe nur rudi­men­täre Kennt­nisse des Inter­nets. Habe auch den Plan Reise­be­richte (aber völlig andere Art) zu veröf­fent­li­chen, aber keinen Einstieg. Habt Ihr weitere Reisen unter­nom­men und Berichte geschrie­ben?
    Ihr habt den Bericht nach meinem ersten Eindruck groß­ar­tig präsen­tiert. Jetzt werde ich den ganzen Bericht wirk­lich „lesen“.
    Danke! Paul

    Reply
    • Jen und Peter on 9. Oktober 2017

      Hi Paul,
      verzeih unsere späte Antwort. Wir haben diese Website seit länge­rem nicht besucht und holen die Antwor­ten gerade nach.

      Zu deine Fragen:
      — Wir haben größ­ten­teils von Erspar­tem gelebt auf der Reise, haben aber deut­lich weni­ger Geld benö­tigt, als von vielen ange­nom­men wird.
      — Als wir den Führer­schein gemacht haben (wir sind Jahr­gang 72 bzw. 77) war der 7,5-Tonner noch mit dabei, ein Jahr nach meiner Führer­schein­prü­fung wurde das gesetz­lich geän­dert.
      — Nun, aufwen­dig? Man muss schon Freude am Schrei­ben haben. Wir haben die Berichte in erster Linie für uns und unsere Familien/Freunde geschrie­ben. Wir konn­ten uns zu Beginn noch nicht vorstel­len, dass auch „Fremde“ das lesen wollen. Das Inter­esse von außen wurde immer größer und so dann viel­leicht auch unsere Moti­va­tion zu schrei­ben.
      — Das Blog­gen mit z.B. „Word­press“ ist wirk­lich kinder­leicht. Man braucht Texte und Bilder, den Rest erle­digt das Inter­face fast von allein.

      Danke für deine schöne Rück­mel­dung zu unse­ren Texten.
      Viel Erfolg und alles Gute,
      Jen mit Peter

  • Heiko on 4. Juni 2017

    Hey Jen, hast du noch eine Schwes­ter?
    Hab eure Seite durch Zufall gefun­den.
    Echt klasse geschrie­ben, ich würde auch gerne… 

    Baue mir einen 1700er auf und hoffe, das ich bald loszie­hen kann, zumin­dest mal ans Nord­kapp…

    Wünsche euch weiter­hin viel Spaß und eine inten­sive erfüllte Zeit. 

    Viele Grüße aus dem Sieger­land

    Reply
    • Jen und Peter on 9. Oktober 2017

      Hey Heiko,
      ja, ich habe eine Schwes­ter. :-) Woher kennt ihr euch denn?
      Kommst du aus Wehr oder Umge­bung?
      Danke für das schöne Feed­back zu unse­ren Texten.

      Wow, was für ein schö­ner Plan … Nord­kapp!
      Gute Reise … und immer genug Sprit im Tank!
      Beste Grüße an Heiko (ja wie denn noch?)
      Jenni­fer mit Peter

  • Peter Betz on 1. Februar 2019

    Hi Jenni­fer und Peter.
    Mit großer Span­nung habe ich Euren Reise­be­richt gele­sen. Einfach genial und besten Dank, dass Ihr Eure Erfah­run­gen teilt. Auch ich besitze einen U1300L Bj. 1984 mit Wohn­ka­bine und mit mit diesem Fahr­zeug immer wieder gerne unter­wegs. Eine Frage: Wie war Eure Einreise nach Thai­land. Ich habe gehört, dass Wohn­mo­bile dort nicht einrei­sen dürfen. Wie waren Eure Erfah­run­gen damit.
    Mit den besten Grüßen und alles Gute.
    Peter (Filder­stadt)

    Reply
  • Road Pioneer on 21. Februar 2020

    Bilder, Texte, Videos, alles sind groß­ar­tig und Sehr inspi­riert!

    Reply
  • RailRecipe on 15. Juni 2020

    Trave­ling is like a teacher for ever­yone where you learn some­thing new ever­y­day, meet new people, exch­an­ging our thoughts, under­stand our cultures, face new chal­len­ges and try hard to over­come from diffi­cult situa­ti­ons makes you a wonder­ful human being.
    Some times its better to go for a trip rather than went for a learning class.

    Reply

Overview

Antarctica