Sometimes there is nothing holding me back from adventures, but my own thoughts. Luckily, I have friends to help me out in these situations.
Marius is pouring hot water over his holy drip coffee maker.
Marius: “Let’s do something cool this weekend.” Stephanie: “Okay. But how? Berlin is flat.” Marius: “Bohemia! It’s wild, it’s romantic and it’s a different country!” Stephanie: “Sounds great!” Marius: “We have a plan. I’ll bring the coffee. And the food.” Stephanie: “I’ll bring everything else. As always.”
Marius performs a ridiculous break dance move on the floor.
We drive. We park the van, pack our bikes, almost spit out the super strong, super black coffee I make and ride into the forest. We race trams that take people uphill to go hiking.
Stephanie: “Was that a waterfall?” Marius: “Yes, that was THE waterfall.” Stephanie: “It’s tiny.” Marius: “Says you.”
This is how we plan most of our trips: We all want to something amazing. Nobody has an idea or time to research. We don’t plan anything. We get to a country half around the globe with hardly any local knowledge at all. And somehow we manage to make it a memorable adventure.
This time it was different. Lutz proposed to not drive as far this time, to skip the ever amazing Dolomites and take the risk of trying something new – with local knowledge. A vacation in a tiny country that a lot of people have never even heard of? Let’s go.
Jesper flew to Berlin, we drove down to Frankfurt, threw Jenni into the van, met Lutz near Lake Constance, went budget food shopping (no meals at huts, no eating out, that’s our deal) and a little later we were sitting at Markus’ table with his family, enjoying pasta and home made pesto. Markus Büchel is a local rider and known for organizing ELSBET, a wicked mountain unicycling convention with shuttles up to the mountain and incredibly good downhill trails that attracts riders from all over the world to come to Liechtenstein. Markus gave us a stack of maps, marked some trails and none of us listend to his directions for good camping spots well enough.
We found it anyhow. And it was one very okay spot.
Whenever I told people I have a pen pal, they started laughing. What do you mean, real letters? To a person you don’t acutally know? Yes, real letters. Or rather, electronic messages, written in classic letter style. Did we plan this? No. We didn’t even know each other.
The day after we met, André took a plane to South America, to go on a year-long bicycle trip. That was also the day we started writing. Have a good trip. Happy birthday. What is it like to live in a tent? And somehow, it never stopped.
With no common experiences to look back on, there’s a whole world to be created with words. So we put what we saw into words, wrote about the colors, flavors and the smell of the air around us. The sounds outside our windows and tents. Moments that made us feel whole, encounters that made us think. Meanwhile, months passed and our lives and adventures continued.
When you consider going on a trip with a person you barely know, some people might call you crazy. But they do that all the time, so you are safe to ignore it. Once you booked a flight (“Sure, you can just transfer the money for an overseas flight later.”) and shared detailed packing lists (including the weight of your underwear) you might get an idea of what you have gotten yourself into: Three weeks of backpacking, sleeping in a lightweight (read: tiny) tent, navigating through the wild, all with a good dose of body odor after days of hiking without a shower.
So you stuff an extra merino shirt in the pack and think: “This could work. Or go terribly wrong.” How many of your friends would you like to spend three weeks with, side by side, every hour of the day? Exactly.
One good advice is not to listen to your travel mate’s friend’s, when they tell you all the stories about him. But it’s okay to borrow a flask and fill it with whiskey, just in case “He barely talks” turns out to be true. When the day comes, you board a big plane. Then a smaller propeller machine. When you exit the tiny backcountry airport and set your backpack on foreign ground to wait for the bus, the air is filled with the spicy smell of unfamiliar herbs, underlining how far you are away from home.
Once you made it to town, the ranger tells you, that there’s too much snow to do the traverse. You play your game, asking concerned, detailed questions and notice your travel mate does, too. The second you step out of the building, you look at each other and know without saying: The heck with it. We’ll give it a try.
The sound of snowflakes falling on your tent. The moment you realize you slept on a dead fish. Becoming friends with the waves. Realizing you’re on top of a mountain in the middle of a thunderstorm. Making any place your home for a night. Cooking popcorn in the middle of the wilderness. So many more.
2015, you’ve been a great companion. Thank you, take care.
Editing: Mastermind and Anwalt Christoph Busgroove