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And Then I Met Myself

By December 16 2015All stories

Here’s another inspiring story of a young man who was dreaming of a different life and decided to buy an orange van and left on an European road trip. Paul’s journey is taking him to visit awesome countries and meet incredible people!

Tell us about yourself? what do you do for a living? 

I’m Paul, 28 years old and I grew up in Berlin. I used to work as a marketing expert for a startup company in Berlin, but a 9-5 job was not what I wanted to do. Last year I started thinking about leaving my comfortable lifestyle and finally decided to live as a nomad. I bought my van “Emma“ 18 months ago from an old farmer in Bavaria. He used to transport his cows with this old orange Mercedes and I immediately fell for the charms of this old lady. With a broken engine I brought her home with me to Berlin. Besides my job in marketing, I also worked as a light operator in some of Berlin’s most famous night clubs, which allowed me to save some money and to start rebuilding the van exactly the way I wanted it to be. I roughly spent six months working on the bus before I took her on her first adventure. Luckily, my good friend helped me out me because I had no clue how to restore a truck myself! Since I quit my job in 2015 I can now work from anywhere doing some freelance marketing and of course updating my travel blog. The focus of my blog is to share the learnings of my nomadic lifestyle.

Do you own/rent a place or do you live in your van full-time? Why did you choose the van you have?

With the salary of my old job I used to rent a huge apartment in Berlin but this lifestyle was not making me happy. Moving into Emma taught me there were just a few material things in life that really matters, but not much. It took me two years to find the right van and “partner in crime” for my adventures. My choice was finally an old Mercedes 407d. The “4” stands for the length in meter and the “7” stands for the horsepower. 72 horsepower isn’t really a lot, especially when driving through mountains! However, when you reach the destination it doesn’t matter at all if you didn’t win a speed record. Emma also does not have any road assistance system or GPS or  any of the latest technology! This is just fine by me, because it also means less breakdowns thus more freedom as a traveler. Furthermore, it can always be complicated to find spare parts or a trustful garage in some countries, so it’s better to drive without a lot of technology. I am not living in the van full time the year around because winter can be tough in Europe. So I take a break from the van for the cold season and go for a few months in Bali, which is hard to travel with a van anyway.

Have you encountered any countries that were not so van life friendly?

The simple truth is, no! I never had any problems with the van in any country. I have traveled through more than 20 countries with Emma and every single one of them was van life friendly. This might be because my van is orange, I don’t know!? Even last summer when I spent a month in some of the dangerous regions in Ukraine I only met lovely people. I have to admit I was worried because of the crisis happening at that time, but in the end it was one oft the greatest travel experience I ever had. It particularly showed me one thing: follow your dreams and ideas and don’t let fear or doubts stop you! I spent a lot of time with Ukrainian orphans in the Carpathians, the biggest mountains in Ukraine and even a few days with Ukrainian freedom fighters, visited soldiers in hospitals and spoke to many of them on the road. I made new friends and was fascinated by their beliefs and pride these people have for their country.

The most oriental country of my journey was the unknown country of “Nagorno-Karabakh”. It is a forgotten conflict zone between Azerbaijan and Armenia, where people are still fighting for independence. This country has been on my bucket list for a long time. Even in Karabakh, I never had a problem to stay in the van,  actually the police was so friendly I never had to pay any “baksheesh”. However, just in case, I always had a small amount of cash in my pocket and a few German beers in the back of the van for the policemen. Overall, everybody was generally very welcoming and it is a beautiful country especially in the mountains. I will also never forget how my friend Steven made me my first and only tattoo in the mountains. We connected the batteries of our car with the tattoo machine and had a tattoo session under the blue sky with a great view. He made me the tattoo “Then I Met You“ to remember me always: every person in the world can change your plans, look for them!

Are you traveling alone? 

I am not a solo traveler, because I love to share experiences with new people. This, I think is the most important thing if you want to enjoy the real lifestyle of the country. Therefore, I prefer traveling with friends, while making sure to get to know as much as I can in a country and from its culture or its people.

What countries have you done recently and which one was your favorite? 

On my latest #OrangeVanTrip I traveled through 15 countries. Which one was my favourite? The truth is: every country has something special and unique to offer and so do its people. This year I have two favourites: Georgia and Turkey. I made some incredible friends in Georgia and the landscape is breathtaking. A Georgian couple showed me their country for two weeks. I got to experience a Georgia full of traditions, food, drinks and a fascinating history. I will definitely go back again and I can only warmly recommend it to anyone. Especially the mountains next to Russia, around Kazbegi. On my way there I really wasn’t expecting it to be so beautiful.

My other highlight was Cappadocia in Turkey. We slept in the moonlight landscape for many nights. Nobody was there besides us. We woke up early one morning, surrounded by hot air balloons. The view of the landscape with the balloons seemed like a scene from another world. At the moment I am backpacking on Bali, Indonesia. During winter season Emma is in hibernation on the farm of my parents waiting for the summertime and the next #OrangeVanTrip adventure which I am planning at the moment!


Follow Paul here:
Passport Diary travel blog
Facebook page : Passport Diary
Instagram account : @passportdiary