Never make your home in a place. Make a home for yourself inside your own head. You’ll find what you need to furnish it – memory, friends you can trust, love of learning, and other such things. That way it will go with you wherever you journey. ~Tad Williams
With an average of driving some fifty kilometers per day we are among the slowest overlanders in the world. To us, travel is not about covering distances, or about driving from A to B as fast as possible. Life on the road is about being in a place, not only to see it but also to feel it, hear it, taste its food and sniff its smells; to connect with people and share their lives.
When we started our journey in 2003 we had no idea it would transform into a way of life. The idea was to travel for a year or two. How did it start? What happened?
Spring 2003: The Netherlands
When we informed friends and family we were going to drive from the Netherlands to Southeast Asia, quite a few considered us insane.
“Isn’t it dangerous?”
“You can’t travel in Iran and Pakistan! Those are hazardous countries!”
“Will you take a gun with you?”
“What if you’re robbed?”
East European countries like Serbia, Romania and Bulgaria were notorious for corruption. There was avian flu in Hong Kong and SARS, the virulently infectious disease in China, threatened to become pandemic. The world lived in fear, a destructive emotion largely stirred up after 9/11.
The Americans were searching for Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan and they were about to invade Iraq to eliminate Saddam Hussein. Especially a potential uprising of Kurds in Iraq, Iran and Turkey could easily cut off our route east. We had no idea if we would ever reach the Far East. But those fears of the outside world didn’t bother us; we were too excited about our journey.
We both stood on a crossroads in our lives (more about us on this page). We had met only months earlier and were both ready for a drastic shift in the course of our lives. One Sunday afternoon we lay stretched out in deck chairs in a remote corner of a lawn, still steaming from the sauna we had just left. We listened to the twittering of birds in the trees and in the distance sounded idle chatter of other sauna visitors. We let ourselves drift in the comforting temperatures of the Indian summer and contemplated our lives.
“If I were going to travel through the world for two years, would you come with me?”
’I glanced sideways and looked at Coen for a moment.
“Yes, I would.”
“What would you do with your house?”
“Sell it.” ”And your job?”
The decision to leave was as easy as that.
2003–2006: Southeast Asia Adventure
Within months we got rid of our home, found homes for our cats and dogs, bought a 1984 LandCruiser BJ45 and drove off with little more than the idea that we would drive as far east as the Asian continent would allow us.
A fantastic journey followed and our journey from the Netherlands to Vietnam took lasted 3,5 years.
We crossed expensive Europe in a matter of days but lingered in Greece. From Turkey we drove to Iran, Pakistan, northwest China (backpack), India, Bhutan, followed Roads & Rivers in Bangladesh (check out our photo book here), Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar (backpack), Cambodia, Laos, China & Tibet (backpack), and Vietnam.
By then our savings were running low but magazines started to ask us for stories and photos. The page How Do We Make a Living will tell you all about it. We created a shop with Landcruising Adventure’s T-shirts, caps, Paper Cruisers, calendars and more. And, of course, you as a reader can help fuel our adventure as well (find out here).
2007–2016: South America
- The borders and border crossings made South America easy to cross back and forth between countries, whereas from Europe to Vietnam (well, at least up to Thailand) we were sort of forced to continue east. We often wanted to stay longer in a country but bureaucracy (border crossings and visa) didn’t permit it. In South America on the other hand:
- Paperwork was easy and free of charge (for Europeans). We got visas and temporary import documents for the Land Cruiser at the border, and they could generally be extended.
- We learned Spanish and Portuguese on the road. In South America we could to talk to 80% of the people, whereas in Asia few people speak English (the educated, often upper class, or people working in the tourist business). One of our great joys in South America was to be able to talk not only with the educated, but also with the farmers, the poor, the housewives, and whomever else falls into the category that in Asia we could only speak a hand-and-feet language with. This made for a much richer experience when it came to connecting with people, and so we stayed around.
From Jan 2007 – June 2012 I kept an online diary in Dutch and wrote summaries in English (old website), and all stories from July 2012 – today you will on this website (in English only). On Notes on Slow Travel I share stories about the small and the beautiful we encounter on our journey (enjoy them here).
2017–Today: Northeast Asia
Our initial plan, when shipping to Argentina in 2007, had been to drive all the way north to Alaska. So why didn’t we? After 9 years of South America we had fallen back into a comfort zone, the one that in 2003 we had wanted to leave. Traveling in South America became, despite its challenges, too easy and in a way more of the same. Continuing to Central and North America no longer felt challenging enough, at least for the time being. We were ready for a serious change of scenery.
We took a look at the world map: Africa or Asia? Central Asia, the Stans in particular, had been on my wish list during our first trip to Asia but for a number of reasons we had not included that part of the world during that trip. A good indication on where to go next is to follow wherever your eyes continue to be drawn to. Korea and Japan it was.
In January 2017 we shipped the Land Cruiser from Suriname to South Korea (read about it here and here). After 7 months of exploring South Korea (find the stories here) we ferried to Japan, which is where we are now (read about it here).
Our future is today. Our troubles about the future are generally related to visas running out or where we can get the Land Cruiser fixed.
As I said in the beginning: our journey is not about covering distances or about ticking off countries. We don’t care if we ever get to see Australia or Africa. If we do, one day, great. If not, so be it. We are traveling today and here, wherever that is.
So, get yourself a drink and a snack, settle in your chair or on the couch, and follow our stories, of which you’ll find an overview here, at the speed with which we travel: slowly.
Enjoy the ride!
Traveling is not just seeing the new; it is also leaving behind. Not just opening doors; also closing them behind you, never to return. But the place you have left forever is always there for you to see whenever you shut your eyes. ~Jan Myrdal