Roadtrippin‘ Europe over the years

Will we make it? Inside Karijini National Park, June 2007.
Will we make it? Inside Karijini National Park, June 2007.

It’s early (southern hemisphere) winter in 2007 and I’m lying around on some roadside parking spot in Western Australia’s Karijini National Park. I’m dreaming myself away devouring Jack Kerouac’s all-time classic travel/adventure novel On the Road, just about to realize that I’m basically living that dream at this very moment. Being on the pale blue dot a mere 20 years, but still – right now I am inhaling the hot air of infinite liberty and savage independence. Free as the burning Australian air surrounding my face and hair and every single burning bit of me.

I’m being surrounded by some wonderful human beings, too, and they’re sharing my enthusiasm about life and everything there is about it. All the small things from the gas cooker that helps us creating a basic, but superyummie traveler’s meal to the Australian Backpacker Atlas without which we wouldn’t be able to plan our trip in any decent manner. How long to the next gas station or roadhouse? Are there any sights on the way and what is that sweet town with the general store featuring an abundance of National Geographic copies called again that we spent some time in earlier?Flower inside Western Australia‘s Karijini NP (winter 2007).

Flower inside Western Australia‘s Karijini NP (winter 2007).

Then there is the almost incredible sunset light that fills up the entire sky in shades of pink, purple, red and orange. And that supremely enchanting letter of a girl that I got to know and fell in love with months prior to this very moment. I couldn’t possibly be happier. My fellow traveler Pierre (called “the Scaler”) coming from a place called Plaisir (next to Versailles just west of Paris) is about to prepare dinner tonight and my mate Donnie and I are willing to assist. I put the book aside and write some lines into my journals before getting up and heading over to where Pierre just started cutting tomatoes and onions.

The following quotation ends up in my diary that evening:

The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.

Last day roadtrippin‘ after one year in Down Under / Sayin‘ farewell to the old 1984 Ford Falcon Station Wagon. We called him “FUCKUP” (refering to a German movie titled “23”).
Last day roadtrippin‘ after one year in Down Under / Sayin‘ farewell to the old 1984 Ford Falcon Station Wagon. We called him “FUCKUP” (refering to a German movie titled “23”).

Some seven years later I find myself inside a hammock hanging between two conifer trees overlooking a gorgeous little lake in Southern Sweden. The sun is setting again and I’m reading a copy of an Agatha Christie crime novel. Whenever I have too much of popular science literature (e.g. Dawkins, Dennett, Krauss, Singer or Chamski) I opt for Christie and she never fails to deliver.

I still think of backpacking in Down Under a lot, but I haven’t returned to the southern hemisphere ever since. Despite longer trips to South-East Asia and Central America (never longer than 2 to 3 months) I focused mostly on traveling across my beloved home continent, Europe. Being on the road steering one’s own car was always part of that (as is hitchhiking, though!) and Australia clearly prepared the basis for that.

Roadtrippin’ Sverige in August 2014: Relaxing in hammocks at the prettiest lake, far away from any civilzation.
Roadtrippin’ Sverige in August 2014: Relaxing in hammocks at the prettiest lake, far away from any civilzation.

I’m in Sweden now in a group of eight, sharing two station wagons with a Munich number plate – rental cars from a company based in Bavaria. Even though this is the first trip of its kind (many people in one group traveling for at least two weeks), there never really was a time without roadtrippin’: The girl I was in love with some seven years earlier and I did a good amount of hitchhiking in South-Eastern Europe (the Western Balkans) in 2008 and we were traveling across Sardegna in early 2010. My mate Donnie and I rented cars and traveled through England and Wales in 2010 and across the Scottish Highlands in 2013. But being in Sweden now was different. Having a large group of people together is clearly something special.

Prior to the trip we had no idea what to expect, of course, but we also failed to properly estimate the intersocial and interpersonal vibes. Luckily it all turned out rather harmonic and still utterly adventurous – to save cash we packed so much wine and liquor from Berlin that even two weeks were not enough to use it all up.

We would sleep in tents (or hammocks every single night), stay longer when we fancy a place especially much and simply move on otherwise – there is so much to see, but we mostly skip the bigger cities and focus on small towns and castles, lakes, forests and Stone Age places of worship. We would cook together each night, getting food and fruits on local markets and in supermarkets, sometimes struggle to find a good spot to spend the night at, but every bad decision proves to become a good story.

No matter the weather: Preparing dinner for everyone!
No matter the weather: Preparing dinner for everyone!

There are hilarious and highly entertaining games to be played, there are moments of (amusing) chaos and absolute bliss, there is music to chant to and there are silent times at night where one would wake up and wonder if we have company of some kind or if the noises are simply products of one’s vivid imagination.

Sweden proved to be the perfect place for this sort of roadtrip and the concept works to this day. We were a steady group of 8 individuals in August 2014 to start with and continued a tradition of traveling ever since. Some people would opt out at times, possibly return again at a later point, others would take their places, come and go. I cannot speak for my fellow travelers, of course, but for me personally at least these kind of trips are a consequential continuation of the life-shaping experiences I made while backpacking in Australia.

Lakeside serenity in Sweden (August 2014).
Lakeside serenity in Sweden (August 2014).

Ever since I strived to bring these moments of adventure and challenge, interpersonal connection and independence, harmony and warmth from down under to up above, from Australia to Europe.

In August 2015 we were a group of 13 featuring 4 cars and going south again instead: From Berlin we would be crossing through Czechia and Austria to Slovenia until Croatia’s Istrian peninsula and islands like Cres and Krk. Among the highlights were the Slovenian capital Ljubljana and Lake Bohinj inside the Triglav National Park plus the surrounding bays of Croatian Pola/Pula on Istria.

In 2016 we were a mere 7 people to start with, renting cars in Polish Poznan in order to go all the way to the Baltic countries (German car rental companies apparently never realized the Iron Curtain has fallen and the European Union has been enlarged already in 2004). During the trip we made the acquaintance of three fellow travelers who joined us for some time, one of whom actually became a close friend. Among my personal highlights were the forests, lakes and bays in Estonia plus its charming city Tartu, a cultural gem.

Contrary to the trip through Sweden the year before we had quite some bad luck with the weather this time – it would (too) often rain in the morning, so I needed to escape into one of the cars. Still, I would either sleep in the hammock or in the car, not a single time in a tent.

In September 2017, yearning for summer warmth, we were flying to Porto, Portugal’s second city, renting 2 cars for 16 days and having friends joining us for a limited amount in between or simply the second half of the trip, altogether a rather more lose bound of people that was more diverse than ever, sometimes making things a bit too complicated. However, bad choices (or decisions) make good stories and that alone was probably worth the trip.

Every one of the participating travelers probably learned a whole lot about themselves in those 2 weeks, possibly more than in the entire rest of the year. Who knows? Apart from cheerful city (night) life the most enjoyable bit of the trip was probably awakening right at the sea, covered in sunshine and surrounded by waves as unpredictable as the connections between certain individuals. And then there was the weekly pizza party place…

Those two roadtrip weeks in September 2018 were probably the most harmonic and fascinating ever since we began that little tradition and this goes all the way back to the people that were shaping the connections: So much passion and excitement, readiness to invest in adventure and to delight fellow adventurers. We were flying again – this time to the south-eastern edge of the continent: to Greece.

From Thessaloniki we first spent some days on the peninsula to the east before making our way south towards Delphi, passing Mountain Olympus. We were 7 people to start with, one was heading home after the first 9 days when 2 others joined in. This group of 8 continued happily crossing the Peloponnese peninsula passing the old capital of Nafplio and later Sparta and Olympia before getting into astonishing Meteora with its rock pinnacles and returning to Thessaloniki. This trip certainly fulfilled expectations and satisfied desires in many captivating ways.

Now, it remains to be seen where and how life will pull us into further destinations. Who will be part of it – what are everybody’s desires and expectations? One thing is certain: There remain many more fascinating places to be discovered on this continent, many more roads to be crossed, nights to be spent in hammocks and inside tents, veggie meals to be cooked and devoured, friendships to be built deepened and funky acquaintances to be made.

We do know what is possible after all those years, hence we can be certain: We’re right in the middle of it!

“Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.”

Apart from these larger (and much more organized) trips we did a lot smaller ones over the years, e.g. to Ireland (2015), Southern England (2016), Tuscany/la Toscana (2017) and the Canary Islands (2018). In 2013 I started filming these trips as well and I added some of the video links below.

There is something magical, too, about these rather short trips, even though they only last a couple of days (unfortunately! But if they were longer, I wouldn’t count them as ‘short trips’, I reckon). However, there is much to see and experience in only a couple days as well! Roadtrips like this, featuring a mere 2 to 4 people have something much more personal to it and they are usually anything from amusingly hectic to unexpectedly poetic, from being wickedly frenzy to utter joy.

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