Me and my van called Alois.

The Beginning of a New Adventure | Germany to Iran

As I’m heading into my fourth year as a full-time traveler, the winds of change are blowing strongly. The first three years, I conquered the world with just a backpack (or two), my legs, hitched cars, public transport, big smiles and small money. This new adventure, however, is fueled by a four-wheeled charmer called Alois.

The idea to travel by van has always been on my mind – for later, I’d say. But all of a sudden, it became reality, sooner than I could have ever imagined. So, I am one of those hip “vanlifers” now? I hope to say no. I don’t like the word and the way I travel does not define me. First and foremost, I’m simply a traveler and this is just the beginning of a new adventure.

Who is Alois?

Here he is – Alois is a charming, bright-red Mercedes sprinter. Born in 1998, he first served dutifully with the Dutch fire brigade. And now he is ready for some real adventures! He is even taller than me which sometimes makes driving a little scary, but he is the friendliest, most comfortable fella you can imagine.

When we first got him, he still very much looked like an office inside (he served as a commando unit, in fact). So after ripping out a million wires and antennas and old cupboards and tables, he slowly got a completely new interior, with the brilliant help of my dad.

Now Alois is not only slowly becoming my best travel buddy (I make sure to speak to him regularly and tell him he‘s a good boy after every strenuous drive), but also my little home on wheels.

And I must say, after years of constantly changing environments, having a home, a little piece of familiarity, with me wherever I go feels wonderful.

The views in front of my windows may change, but I rest my head on the same comfortable bed every night. I can take some more books than I used to. I can be in my own space when I need to.

And it allows me to travel to places I usually couldn‘t get to so easily. More and more, I feel the need to be closer to nature and Alois makes it easy. I will always prefer to sleep at the foot of a mountain over going to a big, crowded city.

Now I wake up to the sounds of birds chirping and the sun slowly rising. It‘s almost like sleeping in a tent, but a lot more comfortable. A huge luxury after some tiring years on the road.

Where Will We Be Going? From Germany to Iran sounds good

I’m saying ‘we’ because I’m referring to Alois and me, but apart from that, I’ll mostly be traveling solo, as I have for the past years.

My first idea was to go to Greece – I‘ve never been there and it sounds really nice. But then I noticed, right next to it is Turkey, and then… Georgia, Armenia, Iran!

Yes, why not go to all of them?

So this is where I‘m heading now: Through the Balkans all the way to Iran. Right now, foreign cars are (apparently) still not allowed to enter Iran due to the pandemic, but I‘m hoping this will change until I get there.

And possibly, this adventure will have another little extension. Because once in Iran, Oman is really close…

And you know how it goes, then I might as well go all the way to Israel and later ship the van across the Mediterranean Sea.

For this part of the trip – if I do decide to go for it – I‘ll likely be joining my parents who happen to be amazing travelers themselves and heading in the same direction.

Because honestly, I‘m not too comfortable driving alone through a country where women were not allowed to drive at all until a few years back. But I‘ll worry about this when I get there – it‘s still a long way to go.

That‘s as far as I have planned but, of course, I already have some ideas for afterward. This life is a never-ending journey, after all.

Pre-Trip Feelings – A Lot to Take In

It almost feels ridiculous to admit but, even after all those years of traveling, I still get nervous before starting a new adventure.

Especially when there‘s been a break from traveling – like now, for the van conversion – it gets more challenging. Once you‘re on the go, you deal with the challenges as they come, but the anticipation and the planning worries are slow killers.

This time, setting out on my own has been especially difficult. Since in the months before leaving I experienced some panic attacks as well as a painful breakup, I can‘t say I had the same self-confidence and trust in my ability to be okay as before.

The whole idea of this adventure sounded absurdly big, so much bigger than me, and often purely overwhelming. So, preparing for this trip has been scary but the thought of staying home was even scarier.

In April 2022, finally, the last missing pieces (my cushions) arrived. And I knew I could not hesitate, there was only one way to go: Forward.

So I packed my stuff and started driving, with tears in my eyes and a heart full of emotions, away from home and into another adventure.

What We Experienced So Far

It has only been two weeks on the road and my mind is already filled with pictures of breathtaking landscapes, kind people and extraordinary moments.

My first stop led me to friends in Austria, who welcomed me as if we had known each other much longer than we do and who inspired me with stories of their wilderness adventures and their beautiful vision of a simple life close to nature.

Ahh, nature. It has been the biggest part of this journey so far. I felt the rain on my skin while swimming in a thermal bath, I danced with the snow as the sun broke through the clouds, and I smiled at the mountains which will never fail to take my breath away with their beauty.

I watch the sun rise and the sun set, a million-star hotel unfolding in front of my windows. I hear the birds greet the day when I wake up in the cold mountains mornings. Soon after, the smell of coffee fills my van and the warmth returns.

My part-time job allows me to work from wherever I am and I am grateful for being able to live this life. Working days are now filled with the luxury of being able to go for after-work-walks in everchanging surroundings – it is easier to motivate myself to get outdoors when there are new things to explore and I can feel how good it is for my soul to spend more hours outside.

The evenings are often lonely but I am learning to fill my time. A lack of (lasting) community is often the price you pay for this kind of freedom and I have chosen this sacrifice consciously, over and over again.

From the Mountains to the Sea

In South Tyrol, I played tourist and visited some of the places I had always wanted to see but are overcrowded in summer. Mountaineering legend Reinhold Messner called the Dolomites the most beautiful mountains in the world and it’s easy to see why. They are indeed pieces of art, and I already know I will have to return. Now it is still a bit too early in the year to explore their breathtaking altitudes.

Still, I am keeping up with my 52 Hikes Project – I am determined to go on at least one hike each week this year, to make hiking not just a thing I do with extreme intensity during a long-distance hike but a more regular part of my life that doesn‘t have to go to extremes.

Slovenia greeted me with its incredible blue and green beauty. Unlike the higher altitudes I previously drove through, spring is in full bloom here.

This is where lush green forest meets mesmerizing waterfalls and water so crystal-clear and turquoise it seems hard to believe it‘s real.

Few days later, we have reached the sea. Hello, Croatia.

The Ups and Downs of Being on the Road

A large part of my day is consumed by deciding where to sleep, finding a spot that feels safe and (ideally) offers a beautiful view.

Of course, there have been scary and exhausting moments, like when a guy just silently showed up and stood behind me in the dark, or when I almost couldn‘t get out of a narrow alley of low-hanging trees anymore, ended up on a sweat-inducing single-lane mountain pass or had to work from the side of the road because there was no great parking anywhere.

While traveling, you often experience so much it‘s hard to process. Decision fatigue is a real thing and keeping up with the pace of life on the road is often tiring.

But it also blesses you with so many random and beautiful moments that I would not have it any other way.

I‘m slowly building confidence in this new way of traveling. As always, I‘m grateful for the struggle because I know it means I‘m growing.

Not letting your fears dictate your life is key. Yes, I’m scared all the time but I’m learning to live with this vulnerability, knowing I can tolerate the strange sensations in my body and be okay.

Whenever you can, choose courage over fear. Choose courage over comfort. Choose heart over mind. It will lead you to all the right places.

So this is it, the beginning of a new adventure and I can‘t wait to see what it brings.

So long, I’m off adventuring… from Germany to Iran

P.S.: If you live in Montenegro, Albania, Greece, Turkey, Georgia, Armenia, Iran (or have great friends there whom I should meet), send me a message! I would love to connect with you along the way.

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