About one year ago, on December 24th, 2015 (Christmas) we were out riding. I ride dirtbikes as my kind of “Living Extreme”. For that I moved to Romania about three years ago.
In October 2016 it became obvious quite quickly that the season was pretty much over – winter was approaching quickly and farmers dug in deep because they expected a “tough one”. At the same time I had received some bad news regarding my health and was also looking at the coming months/winter without any positive perspective. I tried a few weeks of going to the gym, swimming, sauna, shopping…, some trail cleaning work and hikes with Camots – but I still felt like heading into a dead-end (mentally and physically) at increasing speed and with my health deteriorating. Eventually a feeling of “I have to get out of here” started to develop and I began thinking of my usual escape trip to Vienna, which is ca. 800km away from Sibiu/Romania.
I had just finished a few more steps of making the Sprinter (van) winter-camping proof and wanted to test it anyway. A few items of clothing, dog-food and some travel essentials were quickly assembled and I was ready to take off for a 7-10 days trip to Austria. Just before leaving, my intuition had me take another look at the luggage and I thought that it might be better to take a few extra things – and also leave the house “winter-proof” – just in case I might not be back that quickly. Smart move!! as I should realise about one week later… Off we went (me and Camots) taking the drive from Sibiu/Romania to Vienna quite relaxed, with a few walks in between but with the growing concern that I would not really find an answer to my “problems” over there, which kept the mood kind of down. Vienna was great – a few days of moderate weather, good food, nice people, some sightseeing and long walks (ALWAYS too long for Camots – who is usually DONE walking after 10 minutes…). I tried to see a few specialists (doctors) but they all seemed to be two months lead-time for any appointment so I said to myself “f… that”. Eventually I was getting bored in Vienna and started to think about going on the road again – which was supported by the fact that the little pensione where I stay in Vienna had no room for us anymore. We headed out of Vienna without any real plan whereto, just started to drive west – my thoughts revving like crazy trying to come up with some sort of plan or destination. But all the obvious targets (Southern Germany, Switzerland, West of Austria) were reporting terrible weather and did not look inviting at all… Eventually I lost my momentum and gave up trying to develop a plan – so I checked in with a riding buddy two hours away from Vienna – to see if he wanted to hang out and I could maybe stay there for a few days with Camots. This was a great call – we had a good time – despite the winter chasing us and not much to do outside.
The planned “few days” quickly became two weeks…, but then something seemed to be dragging me out on the road again. The only problem was that I still had nothing anywhere near of a plan and was comparing the option of heading back to Romania with the alternative to just keep driving west… The west clearly won the argument (as usual… 😉
Camots was quick to mount the van and off we went… About four hours later (delay at the German border due to Germany`s fugitive coup) we arrived in the Innsbruck area where one autoroute goes south towards Italy and one west towards Switzerland. Honestly, the decision to go south was made in the last one hundred meters before the offramp: until then I had no clue where I was heading!! The Brenner Autobahn lead us south and with the arriving night I started to wrap my thoughts around where to spend the night. We found a beautiful place directly at the Lago Garda in Italy – and this is where the road-trip actually really started: We spent the first night in the van directly by the lake and woke up to a fantastic view on the lake and some coffee at Mc Doof.
I used the McDoof to get some work done over a few coffees – even though it was quite painful to get the connection (cumbersome registration (I did not have an Italian prepaid SIM card). And yes it is quite nice to stay afloat with work while travelling – it takes the pressure out to “be back” at some point. Also it is awesome to be able to work from anywhere – as long as you bring your MacBook / Smartphone and have an online connection. Like this you can just stay anywhere you like set up shop work a few hours a day and then go play… 😉
It was at about that time when I had just left the beautiful Lago Garda in rough direction Milano when one of my colleagues called me to check where I am heading and to offer some options/contacts to help me settle on the road. He had asked me “Where are you heading?” and I answered “I don`t know South…” His next question was “When are you going to be back?” and I replied “I don`t know… maybe never.” This did not make me feel great at the time it was not an adventurous or joyful “never” – it was rather born of a feeling of desperation. However in retrospective this was a great moment and another step to arrive on the road: We were here to stay! The road welcomed us with good vibes: we had awesome weather, no traffic jams and no situations. Being on the road started to alleviate some of the craziness of daily life.
By the time we reached the Italian coast of the Mediterranean Sea with spring temperatures and the sun on full throttle, the whole trip started to make sense for the first time. The mild climate and the recent brush with winter in Austria fuelled the feeling that we were heading into the right direction. Over there at the Mediterranean Sea I was already keeping an eye out for a place to settle for a few days but wherever we tried (a quick walk with Camots ) something did not feel right and we hopped into the Sprinter-Kampfwagen again to continue now towards the border of France. At nightfall we were still driving, passing Nice and Cannes without any intention to stop. When Marseile showed up on the map I hit the gas to pass it as quickly as possible with some chill creeping up my neck… (bad memories). Then just outside the beautiful small town of Arles we found a quiet place to park the van and spend the night. A nearby MCDoof greeted us with some hot coffee WiFi and a place to work in the morning – and I was surprised how different the breakfast menu was compared to Italy and Austria…!
Stay tuned for the next update: France!