15 years ago I began my biggest outdoor adventure yet, which helped me escape an ordinary life.
The goal was to travel around the world, take a ship to South America and then see where the journey took me. Of course, things took a different turn.
Unfortunately, the travel platform on which I had documented my journey shut down, and I thought all of my notes had been lost.
To my big surprise, I found my old blog posts printed and stashed away in a storage room when visiting my parents – my mother had printed them and thus, once more, saved the day!
15 years later, I am republishing those blog posts on the same dates and at the same times as the original posts were published, translated from German (which was the original language I published them in) to English, together with some comments and annotations, from the perspective of a professional hiking guide.
Without further ado, let’s begin!
I hear a train
January 6th, 2008 – 5.55 pm
Actually, the trip should’ve started before New Year’s Eve. And despite driving from Tübingen to Munich before New Year’s Eve once more, that’s exactly the reason why I include Munich as a part of my world trip. What? You didn’t know that Munich is directly on the way from Tübingen to South America? Ts, ts…: P So: On New Year’s Eve I just barely managed to be on time with the Intercity (N.B. Intercity is a long-distance passenger train in Germany) to meet my girlfriend 😛
On Saturday I stood there ready with thumbs up at the highway exit towards Stuttgart because I originally wanted to hitchhike via Freiburg, Lyon, etc. to Barcelona.
20 minutes later I met Floris, who took me in the direction of Kempten.
Nice guy, his fancy ride and interesting conversations let the time fly and before I knew it I find myself 50 km before Kempten in the middle of nowhere.
But I think to myself that back in Munich it went super fast to find somebody to give me a ride. After standing for 20 minutes at the dark roundabout without much progress, I decide to first go to Aldi (N.B. A popular chain of discount markets in Germany) in a town of which the name escaped me back then as it does while I write, therefore it shall probably never be mentioned.
Freshly nourished, I go to the Shell gas station, where the nice Turkish waitress sells me the coffee with a discount because she noticed a gift from my girlfriend (N.B. At the time I was dating a girl from Turkey), a Turkish lucky charm. So far so good, this seems to become my lucky day.
Outside it had gotten so cold that I had to put on another jacket, now it was dark, it was closing time, and cars passing by are scarce. Apart from a few idiots who either honk, flash their lights, or stop only to then hit the gas pedal quickly, few people will stop by in the near future.
At that stage I make a few important phone calls, and suddenly lo and behold, my girlfriend brings me luck once more. Within half an hour, eight cars stopped, and one finally drove in the direction I needed to get to. However, it turned out that the next “drop-off point”, where a nice Russian and a Turk had brought me, was so isolated, that I directly asked a young guy at Mcdonald’s whether he could give me a lift to the next train station. No sooner said than done. After several delays, wrong train tickets, a stressed controller, and a lot of waiting time I finally arrive in Kempten…”
Some notes (2023):
Looking at this writing today, I have to smile at how it was written (the original is in German, so of course the little nuances will inevitably be lost in translation) – I wasn’t a great writer back then, and while I like to think I’ve improved, I’m still not a great writer today, but that’s okay – but between the lines, there certainly was a sense of humor and despite the uncertainty ahead, there was a great sense of hope, adventure and – dare I say – confidence that this was the right choice.
I can’t seem to find one line where I doubt this endeavor (although there is the possibility that such a line will still emerge, as I try to refrain from reading through my records too much – just enough so that I can translate them on time for the correct publishing dates).
The beginning of this journey strikes me as rather chaotic. I knew where I wanted to get to (Barcelona, South America), but evidently, I had not planned a single thing – no hotel, no B&B, no trains, nothing. Which is very much unlike me. Which is probably very much why I NEEDED to go on that adventure in EXACTLY that way. Just going with the flow and reacting to each situation as it arose.
Today, I love adventures as much as back then, but generally, all the logistics – arrival, accommodation, plan B, plan C, plan D, and EMERGENCY PLAN E are all in the back of my mind and I run through all possible scenarios. Granted, that takes away some of the carefreeness of going and simply enjoying the outdoors, but I can guarantee you that I still love every bit of it and still manage to “disconnect” from our busy lifestyles, at least for the duration of the hiking experience – but then again it’s also okay and normal for a guide, being responsible for other people, not to get too distracted by the beauty of nature, to enable everyone else to completely immerse in the experience.
One other thing I should add: although my young self appears to boldly venture out into the unknown, I must mention – for context – that I did spend some time finding the right sort of boots for backpacking, invested some time (and money) finding a good backpack (which I still have – and sometimes use – today!), and many other gadgets.
In fact, too many.
That’s the typical rookie mistake most hikers and backpackers make in the beginning.
Bring TOO MUCH STUFF.
But that’s a lesson I had to learn the hard way a bit further down the road.
Look out for the next blog post, where I’ll continue sharing my outdoor adventure from exactly 15 years ago.