Two years wrapped up in one (very long) post

When things lose their momentum it can be hard to make them move again. While the blog was asleep for almost two years I was still traveling almost the whole time. I feel filled up with impressions and memories that want to be integrated. Where to start?

Coming back to Europe in 2015

After coming back from India I thought I needed to enjoy the comforting and soothing pleasures of Europe. After a short visit to my Mam in Germany I went to meet friends in Barcelona and immersed myself for some days in the vibrant beauty of Spain – only to realize that I already started to miss India and the Himalayas. The best substitute seemed to be the Pyrenees, where I decided to go next.

From Barcelona I took a bus to the north, left at the last station and started to walk northwest. 

I was on the way to Fontpedrouse, some hot springs near “Saint-Thomas de bains” where a handful of people are living since a while. After being for a month in Kirghanga, a place in the mountains of northern India, where hot springs and glaciers meet, this place looked like the perfect environment for a slow transition back to Europe.

The first week I was hiking and camping by my own, rarely seeing other people and trying to avoid roads and civilisation.

When I found the hot springs I immediately decided to stay for a while. It is a magic place full of possibilities and beauty. Joana from Barcelona, Dennis and Anna and some more friends from Germany came to see me. I can not tell you how happy I was to be in the middle of nowhere in France and to be suddenly surrounded by my family! After a while our camp looked more like a house then like a shelter, we connected to the community of people living there and we found ways to get free food. The place was a good site to go hiking and exploring and to have a home base where we could come back each night was pretty comforting.

The weather changed. Constant, heavy rain made us leave after a month. We went to the mediterranean coast and started hiking and camping around the Cap de Creuz. Sparkling blue and white plankton and starry nights added up to the beauty of the coast in this area of Spain. It is pretty touristy at most of the places there but we always found a nice spot for our camp. Once we camped on a private half-island, once in a garden, most of the time at the beach.

The first sailing trips

One broken motorbike and a few days of hitchhiking through France, Belgium and the Netherlands later, I made my first step on the sailing boat „Wonderwall“ that was meant to bring Lars, Nico and me to Latin America. Only about the hitchhiking part I could write half a book. For now lets just stick to: It was hilarious.

In the next few months we started to learn how to possibly survive a crossing of the Atlantic Ocean and how to have some fun doing it. Even though the plan as a whole failed, we had an amazing experience together and learned a lot. After practicing sailing for a while in the Netherlands I vividly remember the first time we went out to the open sea. Crossing the english channel in stormy weather I found myself wondering if it is really me who is standing on the front deck in the middle of the night, untangling a rope that got stuck. Huge waves where crushing on us, the sound of thunder and water made it impossible to understand each other without screaming and constant lighting around us in the otherwise pitch black nothingness painted a scenery that can easily compete with Hollywood. But this was real and I thought that this would be only a first taste of what we might have to expect. In the end it never got more wild. A mark was set in this night.

The job

With the boat being in the Netherlands and the crew being in Germany to prepare themselves I decided to stay in Germany for a while as well and earn some money again. The sailing trip was planned to start in little more than six months in which I went back to my old job. Again I found myself working as an IT freelancer, at first in the office of a company that I knew from before. I was welcomed again in a really nice way. Not only that I was instantly accepted again, after working with them for three months they also offered my a second project in a young start up in Munich. It was one of the most interesting working experiences so far. Being responsible for a team of 200 people with an average age of less then 30, motivated and inspired to create, dynamic and open in their way of thinking and doing, I can’t say that I did not enjoy this time. I was living in the Bavarian country side on a small farm, together with three friends. Tomatoes where growing in the front of the house, apple trees in the back, we had a wood oven inside, a fireplace outside, a small pond next to it. Some good old friends where living close by and even though the place I was living was new for me, I felt at home.

I feel that I could have connected more, in my work environment as well as with the friends at home. But I knew, everybody knew, I would be gone again soon. I was preoccupied inside with the last and the next trip and the more life was getting comfortable and enjoyable, the more I was resisting inside. This time could have been better – and longer – but I did not let it be. I wanted to move again. It leaves me with the chance to do in in a better way when I am coming home the next time, whenever and wherever that might be…

Saying goodby, selling the car that I just bought six months ago, packing up the little left after ten times of moving, doing the paperwork for quitting my company for the third time. Routine. Checklists. Packing lists. Selling useless stuff in eBay. Getting more stuff that will be useless soon. Routine. And then the day you have your backpack on your back again and you walk out the door. It always feels unexpected early. You never feel ready before you leave. But as soon as you hit the road you realize that this, and only this, is the right time to go.

The Atlantic Pyrenees

With a bus I went from Germany to the southwest of France. My plan was to be on my own for a few weeks and then meet the crew with the boat. Soon I would be sharing a small space with two other people over a long period, so it made sense to me to be alone in the open wilderness before. I started hiking from Bayonne. First I was following the Atlantic coast down south, always the sea on my right and the mountains on my left. Just after the Spanish border, the mountains started to carry me up and away from the sea for a while. Some of the way that I was walking was the „Camino de Santiago“, some where small hiking paths in the middle of nowhere, sometimes I was crossing a village or even a city.

I was in contact with the crew and knew where they are. They where moving down from the Netherlands to France. At one point we where almost moving parallel, they on the water, me on land. We where in contact the last time just before they started crossing the Biscay. Looking at the distance and the weather, we expected to meet in four days and there was no chance for me to reach the port of destination in this time. Three days later I took a cute little mountain train to reach Lars, Nico and the cat Dura on the boat.

The big sailing trip that wasn’t that big

I was so happy to meet them, not only as friends but as a crew again! Whatever would await us, we would make the best out of it. Or so…

Lars and Nico where already for more than a month on the boat, so there was already some routine onboard. Even the cat got along with her new situation already. It seemed like they had gained some experience since we where sailing the last time and I was keen to catch up. Both of them have more experience on the water than I do, that made a good situation for me to learn. After a few weeks, the basics where routine for me as well. I was not seasick anymore and I learned how to move on the boat. To move on a small shaking sailing boat feels like doing sport. With the constant need to balance yourself, your senses are challenged in a new way. After a few days you are more dancing then walking, you flow around on the boat. You learn where there are places to hold on while you move and you learn how to sleep without falling out of your bed. You are getting connected with the boat by touching it, by feeling it, by listening to it, by smelling it. In the same way you are getting connected to the water. And the wind. And the whole. Your eyes and your rational thinking are still very much needed but you have the feeling to experience a more complete picture by using and trusting your senses and your intuition.

The lonely night shifts where one of the most fascinating parts for me. After having dinner – which to prepare can be a challenging project in a moving and shaking boat – and after having talked about the route, the navigation and about possible challenges, one or two of us usually went to sleep. We would divide the remaining nighttime and choose who is doing the first shift.

Left alone on deck, immersed in endless water, stars and silence, not much more to care for then the occasional fisher boat, you mind starts to drift and to be silent after all. After a few hours you prepare a coffee (or a beer) and you wake up the next one. Many times it takes a while until we start to talk. If we talk, we are almost whispering. Not only to not wake up the remaining crew member but also because this silence can be felt. And it felt good. I began to grasp what sailing is about.

Other nights where not spend sailing but either by anchoring in a bay or in an harbor. This is the second part of a sailors life: The community of amazing people in the marinas, harbors, bays or islands. They are obviously coming from all over the world and you are going to find a wild mix of characters in all colors and variety. But some of their qualities are shared among most of them: It is people who follow their heart, dreamers who made their dream come true, true spirits, free spirits, wild spirits, crazy spirits. You wont find many „normal“ people among the sailors and that’s a good thing I suppose. It is inspiring to hear the stories from people which are on the water since years, no matter if you want to share this lifestyle or not. You feel pushed forward towards your own dreams by the momentum of the ever moving ones. You feel approved: Everything is possible.

I could tell a hundred stories from this time in detail, but it would not explain the feeling that you develop after being on the ocean for such a long time. While I was happy every single time when we went back to the land, I also almost instantly missed being on the boat.

A few months of sailing later and many experiences richer we realized that for various reasons the crossing will not happen in this constellation. All in all we did spend almost three months together on the boat. I wanted to believe that somehow we would solve what was given to us as our quest and challenge. But the circumstances triggering the problems were, at least partly, out of our reach.

The good part of the ending was that we did split up, before a drama unfolded on the boat. The sad part is how the crew separated. While Nico and me are still in good contact, the Captain canceled every contact to us, not even paying us back the money we lend him for the trip. The Wonderwall made it so far from the Netherlands to France, Portugal, Spain and is at the moment in Gibraltar..

When I am writing these lines, I feel almost as if I just said goodby to them yesterday, as if the boat is just around the corner. But it is almost 10.000 kilometers in distance, nine months in time and a broken friendship, which are separating me, the crew and the boat. I wish all the best to Lars, Nico, to the Wonderwall and to Dura. May the next adventure await you soon.

The Canary Islands

Still with the idea in mind to find a sailing boat to Latin America I went to the canary islands.

The first place I wanted to visit was La Gomera. It is the second smallest island of the canaries and it offers, besides amazing volcanic beaches, a pretty amazing national park in the cloud forest. Cloud forest? Have a look at a short (and shaky) video I made to get an idea of how it looks like there:

The first day I made my way to Valle Gran Rey and met the remnants from the Hippies who were residents here for many years. It is people juggling, drumming and entertaining the tourist with fire shows and acrobatics or hand crafting workshops. It is not many who are left and some of them made a pretty neurotic and lost impression on me. Anyway, they pointed me to a beach close by, the „Playa del Ingles“ which was spot on. At least in the low season (which is to say in the european summer) you can sleep there without getting bugged by the authorities.

I left the town in the late evening and the last thing they told me was „Don’t get scared from the birds.“ Why the heck would I be scared from birds? Well, maybe because they have a wingspan of one and a half meter and they make sounds you have never heard before in your life.It was around ten o clock when I put my mattress at the beach, watching the full moon and listening to the sound of the waves crushing at the beach. The moon lit up the beach, the water and the mountain in the back.

Even though the scenery was pretty amazing I was about to fall asleep after only a few minutes. Almost arriving in dream land suddenly a giant, flying, dinosaur-like thing approached my out of nothing, screaming at me so loud and aggressive that it made my blood freeze. It was flying so close over me that I could feel the wind blowing on my skin and on my hairs. It definitely did not want to say hello, it wanted me to leave.

I am used to life outdoors and being approached by bears, wild pigs, goats or whatever is part of this life. But this was the first time I was really scared. Wide awake I was sitting at the beach, realizing that there where more and more of those birds coming from the mountain. They where breeding in the rocks just behind the beach and hunting at night. After two hours the show was over and one after another went back to sleep, so did I. The next day I went to discover where they come from. In daylight they looked not close as scary than at night and when they are sitting with their wings closed they are just a bit bigger then a sea-gull. They are called yellow-billed loon, here is a recording of them:

After a week at the beach I rented a car together with two other fellow travelers. We went around the island for a few days. After discovering a tiny, half-legal camping site in the national park I decided to leave them. It was at one of the tourist information centers where they told us about it. This was the conversation:

„Hey, do you know if there is a camping site somewhere in the mountains?“

„Oh, sure, yes. It is really beautiful there. But it is illegal.“

„Ahh…right…so we are not allowed to go there?

„Well, you should definitely go there! But it is not legal.“

„Ok, so how to find it?“

(The girl is handing us an official tourist map from the island and pointing at a small sign that looks like a tend)

„There it is. Really beautiful. But illegal.“

We left the place a bit confused, went to the mountains, found the camping spot and the small family run restaurant next to it. For two or three Euros per night you get offered a flat ground for your tend, running water, a fire-place to make your own food and even the possibility to charge your phone. The family living there has a small farm with goats, rabbits, ducks and more. Almost everything in the restaurant comes from the farm. The food is not only relatively cheap but also stunningly good! I can’t count how many times I was having the goat meat, probably I was eating a whole goat by myself over the time I stayed there… And yes, I am still considering to be vegetarian again. I started some hikes from the camp site, using it as my home base and always coming back in the evening.

When I already decided to leave, the girl traveling with us before visited me surprisingly at the camp site. Shame on me but I can’t remember neither her name nor the one of the guy traveling together with us before. The next morning we where hiking down the mountain together. We found a beach at the other side of the island where we could stay. When we arrived at the beach it was already dark and we could not see much. The next morning I could not believe my eyes. Right in front of us was the 3000 meter high volcano „Teide“ reaching up in the sky from the neighbor island Tenerife. The sun was rising exactly at the tip of the volcano, painting a picture of such immense beauty that I almost forgot to take out the camera.

The next days we accidentally won a sombrero contest, found many more nice spots on the island, rented a car again and made friends with the local people. We got invited by expats to visit their home, started to hunt for the best restaurant of the island and finally went back to where I started to discover the island a few weeks earlier, Valley Gran Rey.

All in all I spend almost three months living at the beach or in the national park, rarely spending a night indoors. And I did not made any effort to find a boat. Already back then I felt that my earlier travel experiences needed to be reflected and integrated. It was getting hard to remember names and places. I was „full“ and definitely not ready for a new continent yet. My Mam was visiting me for a good week and we visited first La Palma and later La Gomera together. Besides a horrifying food poisoning that my Mam got after eating fish – right on the first day – we had a really nice and peaceful time together. Shortly after, I went to Tenerife and got offered a job and a place to stay on the biggest island of the Canaries. Instead of taking the offer I was sitting in an airplane to Spain the next day. After talking to Nico I spontaneously decided to take part at the Heraclitus project. I called Christine at noon and got her OK. Five minutes later the flight to Barcelona was booked.

The Heraclitus project

It was Nico who connected me with the people from the Heraclitus project. I can’t count anymore the number of people and situations that he connected me to. There where jobs, people, places, passions that he made me see. Pretty impressive how the right kind of people can influence your life. What I knew about the project was not much. A few months before he introduced me to Christine and Klaus, two of the people leading the Heraclitus project. They are about to rebuild a massive, 30-year-old sailing boat, made out of ferro-cement. It sunk twice and got recovered twice. It moved around the world multiple times, all in all more than 250.000 Nautik miles. It has been used as a home base for theater people and hippies fulfilling their dreams and was being used as a research vessel with an bio laboratory on board. It is part of a bigger dream: Under the name of “Institute of Ecotechnics” ( you will find people doing amazing work, from the wastewater project “Eden” in Iraq and the art gallery “October Gallery” in London to scholarship funds. Ever heard of the project “Biosphere 2”? They are involved. The movie “Baraka” and “Samsara”? Friends of those people. Google them and find out more, I am proud and happy to have met them and I am sure that I will work with them again in the future. It is a community of travelers of all kind, scientists and artists, thinkers and doers, psychonauts and unconventional thinkers.

I was there only for two weeks, helping with basic construction and being allowed to partake in a pretty special community life. As most of the people are sailors, the mentality, spirit and even part of the daily routine from the boat still exists while the boat is on dry dock. The people are living in a small farm-house in the countryside nearby Roses. Everyday somebody else gets up in the morning, prepares food for the dozen of people helping with the rebuild. There are three cars bringing the crew each day to the marina where a huge cocoon has been created as a shelter for the boat. In the evening we where cooking together, talking about life and what was before and about death and what will be after. We where playing theater and we where partying, we where exchanging travel stories and sailing tales. No one leaves this place without being inspired.

It is overwhelming to realize the dimensions of the project when you see the ship for the first time. For a constant week a thought was hunting me when working on the boat: This is impossible. They can never do it. After being their for two weeks I changed my mind. Not only that it can be done by them, now it was us. We can do it. Best wishes and greetings to the crew in Roses. I hope to join you again soon, next time hopefully for longer! Have a look at if you are interested in the project, at the moment they are looking for sponsors and for volunteers.

The Rainbow Gathering in Portugal

Rain and snow in the north of Spain made me change my plan to go to the Pyrenees again. After looking up the weather I spontaneously decided to take a train in the other direction to find myself a while later back in Barcelona. I arrived at a hostel and after connection to the WiFi the first thing I saw popping up on my smart phone was an invitation to a Rainbow Gathering in Portugal. I asked on Facebook if anybody is close to Barcelona, interested in the idea of going to Portugal and interested in hitchhiking there together. It turned out that Amy from England, that I met at the Rainbow Gathering in India, was living in Barcelona. We met and partied for three days and just by the way we organized everything that is necessary when you suddenly leave your daily routine for a whole month. She even managed it to find someone who could do her job while she is not there and we where ready to go.

It took us three or four days to cross Spain and to reach the Gathering in Portugal. Again, I could fill half a book with only what has happened to us while hitchhiking. At one point I need to look at all these intense periods of the journey and look at them in more detail, but for now I just want to show the whole and sketch a not so detailed picture. Thousand memories and feelings are coming up when I am writing. It feels relieving to see the words appear and to accept: All of that was real. Wow.

The Rainbow Gathering itself is already in its first out of four weeks when we arrive. A huge and beautiful piece of land, owned by a humble and loving old Portuguese man, next to a lake that is surrounded by yellow beaches. Horses and goats are walking around free and the occasional appearing wild pigs make the perfect adventure place for a Rainbow Gathering. The owner of the lands invites me to stay longer. He wants me to train his horses, I want to travel. Also I do not really have a clue about how to train horses, even though I really connected with his animals and even though we had horses when I was a child. But once again I found a missing peace in the puzzle, a thing that I was overlooking and missing: My connection with animals, which was in some times of my life almost deeper than how I was connection to my fellow humans.

On the last day of the Rainbow Julius asked me what I will do next. In a group of people I answer that I am waiting for this nice German girl, who has a caravan and who wants to travel south with no specific goal and who wants to take me with her. Who she is? I do not know her yet, I tell him.

The next evening a German girl comes and sits next to me at the fire. The group of people from the night before including Julius is around. She introduces herself to me and tells me that she has a Caravan. I ask her where she goes. South, she says, with no specific goal. She takes me with her. Now I knew who she is.

The next two months I jump from Caravan to Caravan, traveling down the Portuguese coast surrounded by many other people from the Gathering. It is now a moving gathering, a moving circus. Sometimes it is only a handful of us, sometimes we are more than 30 people. We squad hidden beaches, we find some funny and some strange communities and we are all falling in love with the country. No matter where we go, we are always welcome. The locals are happy to see this different kind of travelers, we play music in the streets and I connect more and more with the south European culture. And finally I am learning Spanish!

The self-fulfilling prophecy from before turns out to be a quite confusing scenario that does not need my presence anymore. On the way south I listen to my gut feeling one time a bit too late and when I want to leave the first group of people I find out that there is not much that I need to carry with me anymore. Somebody broke the door of the van while we where at the beach – my already packed backpack including all my stuff is gone. Barefoot and topless but armed with a bamboo stick I enter the police station and explain my situation. The officers offer my military boots and socks. The boots are too small. I leave the police station with socks in flip-flops. The police looks at our painted hippie Caravan. They are in the midst of their twenties and they do not try to hide their respect for what we do and how we travel. One day they also want to travel like this… For me, the only real struggle is that my passport got stolen as well, rendering me impossible to leave Europe.

The Spanish community

Meanwhile it was winter. The days where getting shorter and in the nighttime is was getting too cold to sleep outside. On our quest to find the warmest place in Europe we where moving on the south-eastern coast line of Spain. It was four of us at this time, Theo from France, Josephine from Germany, Azul from Spain and me. A short love story and some tears later it was only three of us. Josephine, Theo and me decided to have a look at the community we had heard so much about the last weeks.

Turning away from the shore and moving into the mountains the temperature dropped even more and the necessity for shelter started to get obvious. Theo (and his super cute baby dog Tapia) owned a Caravan and we where sharing this small living space since a while. I felt reminded of the feeling of living on a boat and I even started to compare the „Van-people“ with the „Boat-people“. Nico told me once that a boat is shrinking every day one meter when you travel together. This is the perfect explanation. The Caravan was getting too small for us and Josephine and I moved out to live again in a tend. A warm sleeping bag and a spare blanket from Theo kept us going (better to say sleeping) for a while. But a real solution needed to be found.

On Christmas eve a small miracle happened. After a short conversation with one of the people living in the community we suddenly had our own small hut, solar powered, wood-oven heated, on top of the mountain, inside the national park. Not only that we did not needed to pay for anything. The house was not rented to us, it was given to us. I learned where to find enough mushrooms to feed whole groups of people, Josephine and me got professional in our outdoor cooking skills (we where eating better than in any of the restaurants downtown) and we got more and more connected to the community.

It is hard to imagine what is happening and possible at this place, go there and have a look for yourself. I do not know too many places where people give away houses for free… As the place is still not completely legal I don’t want to attract attention from the authorities but if you know me personally just ask for the name and site 🙂

On the one hand side we could have stayed forever but as there are more miracles to explore, more people to connect to and endless stars to catch we decided to move on.

Santa Fé

Taiwan, India, France and now Spain. Seems like I have a certain tendency to find hot springs. As personal standards rise even while traveling, an ordinary hot spring is not enough anymore. So lets see what Santa Fé has to offer. Hot water fountain? Check. Waterfall with hot water? Check. Community of people who stay there for longer and offer entertainment, from music to booze? Check. Still quite enough and unspoiled? Check. People that I know are there, who will jump around excited for half an hour as soon as they see me? Check and greetings to France!

(click picture for full size)

After dwelling at this beautiful place for an indefinable time I decided to book a flight back to Germany and finally deal with my passport issue. Latin America was calling for long enough and I felt ready for a major change of culture and language. It happened to be that Harry, a good friend of mine from Germany, was planning to visit Tenerife in this time. And it also happened to be, that the flight back from Granada to Frankfurt was not much cheaper than if I would first fly to Tenerife for a week and then fly to Frankfurt from there. Unexpectedly, I ended up spending another week at the Canaries, this time with a roof over my had, at the place from Ester. It felt like a week of Holiday. We rented a car to go around the island, went fishing, went partying and we simply had an easy time. The week was over in an instant and I took my flight back to Germany. Thanks for having us Ester, it was great to meet you. And the seafood you made was probably the best one I had in my life!

I left Tenerife in the morning and arrived back at my Moms place the same evening. After nine months of traveling in Europe with the intention to go to Latin America, coming back to Germany did not feel like the end of the trip – it only felt like interrupting the trip for a moment. Just collect the passport, get a last-minute vaccination and book a flight to – wherever. It really happened like this and just a month later I would be sitting in a plane to – Panama.


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