Anne and Sören left everything behind to spend a year travelling across Europe in a camper van. They discovered unspoilt countryside, breath-taking camping spots and a camping community with camaraderie at its heart.
No, they never encountered anything a bit risky or dangerous along the way. Only once did they have a stroke of bad luck while Anne and Sören were waiting in the port of Tallinn for their ferry to Helsinki. The Estonian city is only a stone’s thrown over the Baltic Sea to the Finnish capital, around 80 kilometres straight across the water. The couple were right at the front of the queue in their camper van when the traffic lights suddenly turned green. However, there were no ferry staff to be seen anywhere. They set off anyway, manoeuvring the motorhome into the ship’s hold, while 40 vehicles followed behind in a long queue. It then turned out that the ferry they had just boarded was not destined to set sail for Helsinki at all, but Sweden instead. One after one, the 40 vehicles had to turn around and make their way back onto land. “It was a pretty funny moment, there was such a commotion,” Anne recalls.
The two travellers have collected thousands of stories, special memories, and amazing, sometimes even funny, experiences from their journey right across Europe. They were on the road for a whole year, meaning that they quit their hotel industry jobs, cleared out of their apartment in Berlin, sold all of their belongings and waved goodbye to everything. They kept a digital travel diary along the way, writing about the places they fell in love with, documenting and rating where they stayed in the camper van, and uploading photos that Sören had taken of the landscapes, countryside, villages, towns and cities. They baptised their blog “Folks of Europe”. “We want to show just how beautiful our continent is,” said Sören. They also set up an Instagram
account where they amassed 11,000 followers during their journey.
The two adventurers set forth in May 2018, heading East first to the Masuria region of Poland, towards the Baltic states. “The Baltic coast is gorgeous, there are beaches there that look like they could be in California,” the pair say, reminiscing. Next, they explored Scandinavia, starting in Norway and moving on to Sweden and then Denmark. The following part of their journey took them through Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium before continuing to the British Isles, including England and Scotland. They travelled along the Atlantic coast of France, where they were particularly taken with Normandy and Brittany, and headed southwards. They stayed in Portugal and Spain for the winter before heading back across France to Germany. That was Europe in 365 days, 30,000 kilometres and 18 countries. “We actually prefer to call this a chapter of our lives rather than just a road trip,” says 30-year-old Anne. They were never worried that the journey would become overwhelming. “The ‘wanderlust gene’ has always been written in our DNA,” explains 35-year-old Sören. The pair already had experience living abroad before their European adventure, spending a year in
Tucson, Arizona. They also embarked on long road trips while living there and came to love being out on the road in open country.
“We found the simplicity of life out in the open country totally charming,” says Anne. She enthusiastically describes the times they slept in the camper van in the middle of nowhere. She talks about the darkness, the remarkable tranquillity that is completely alien to city life, campfires, fishing in a fjord, and sunsets. They often spent nights in the heart of the countryside. “You still feel a bit unsafe when you’re out in open country on your own for the first time,” says Anne. “But soon we found that we couldn’t imagine living any other way. We actually only drove to campsites to charge batteries or fill up on water”.
Anne and Sören listed the camping spots they had discovered on their blog so that others have the opportunity to stay at the same beautiful places, giving the exact coordinates so that they are much easier to locate.
“We looked around for ages before we found our perfect camper van,” explained Sören. In the end, they decided on the Carado T132. “The T132 is the perfect motorhome for young people. The fixtures and fittings are top quality, and we had loads of storage room thanks to the rear garage”. That’s where they stored their fishing gear, barbecue, axe, spade and much more. Anne and Sören also mounted their bicycles on the rear of the van, primarily using them in cities for sightseeing. Their motorhome measures just short of six metres in length, which is a big plus, even for their wallets: most of the time they only needed to pay the cheaper fares on ferries compared to travellers with larger motorhomes. “We’ve really come to cherish the camper van,” says Sören.
The couple say they had been welcomed with open arms wherever they went as camper van travellers, adding that the camaraderie amongst the camping community was something quite special. “We got to know so many great people on our travels,” they say, summing up their experience. Campers exchange hints and tips with one another and help each other out. “The sense of community is really strong”. Anne says she is sure that camping holidays are becoming increasingly fashionable. Sören agrees: “There’s actually a kind of generation change happening at the moment. More and more young people are discovering camping as they realise that camping means freedom”.
Have your lives changed as a result of your one-year adventure? Are you different people now? “That would be an exaggeration,” replies Sören, laughing. “But our road trip has made us more enlightened, we now look at the world differently. When it comes to protecting the environment, for example, we saw beaches in Spain and Portugal that had amassed a great deal of plastic waste. The campers there set about tackling the problem, arriving with large bags to gather up the rubbish. It really left an impression on us.” Anne adds: “We also learned how to keep a cool head, how not to let stress get to us and become calmer people. We want to keep that up now that we’re returning to working life”. And that’s not all, the couple have become real advocates for Europe. They want to get more involved for the good of their continent. “A positive, open-minded Europe is extremely important,” says Sören. “We have to fight for it so that generations that come after us can continue to freely travel through Europe without borders.”
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