May 18th, 2018 was the last day of a 3.5 year of expat work for Henning in Beijing. Due to return to headquarters in Germany we have decided it was time to embark on a different sort of journey. It was a Friday. We spent the evening eating steak, drinking Danish schnapps and talking about the next chapter of our lives while savouring the end of this one. Farewell to many things but above all the kuaidi knights who delivered to your front door anything between food, grocery shopping and Q-tips with lightening speed.
The idea of this trip, namely driving from Germany to the east, was conceived, like most things with us, spontaneously. It was last Christmas when we were traveling in Taiwan. Our brief conversation went as thus:
Henning: “Where shall we travel to next summer?”
Runan: “Hmm…South America, Iceland, Middle East.”
H: “I want to travel in China for three months. I didn’t explore enough while working here.”
R: “No way man!”
H: “Yes way!”
Then one of us said: “Why not travel for longer since neither of us will have a job by then anyway.”
We have been together for five years and many eureka moments take place after intellectual dialogues such as the above. The seed has been planted and there is no going back. For anyone who has planted anything in their lives, will know that inescapable urge to nurture anything you’ve tried to grow.
The next few weeks and months consisted of going on the internet and searching for our four-wheeled companion. Three months later we found him in Germany. It is Shakespearean poetry. It is Beethoven’s Für Elise. It is like stepping into an air-conditioned room in a hot summer’s day. minus the guilt of global warming of course. In short, it is a masterpiece and love at first sight. We tried not to show our excitement though in hope of getting the lowest price possible. We thought we were still in China. A few days later he/she* was ours and he/she is called Toyotoro.
By June 18th we had moved back to Stuttgart; unpacked our sea container from China; got our number plate; and carnet de passage for Toyotoro; and finally procured our first visa of the trip – Belarus. It was a hectic month but in pursuit of freedom nothing can stand in our way! Another month of chaos followed with trip planning and documents preparation. Since I needed to go back to England to pick up clothes and other bits and bobs for the trip and get my Russian visa we used this chance to test drive Toyotoro, which was totally necessary because the heating gave out on us. Various adjustments and customisation of the car to our liking followed, such as a better hi-fi system etc. We even manage to test out the winch by accidentally driving into a deep borrow ditch on the way to a friend’s wedding in the German countryside. It was the first time in our lives where we had to borrow a tree from a complete stranger while they are taking photos of you using it. Somehow I have a feeling this is only the start of many episodes of firsts in the weeks and months to come.
The weeks we spent on the road between UK and Germany was filled with threats to kick each other to the moon and feelings of what-have-we-done. You can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube, so goes the idiom and we agree, so we finally set off towards the east.
Since our bank accounts cannot take the EU fuel prices, considering Toyotoro has two 90L tanks with a consumption rate of 15-20L per 100km and that is if we are driving economically, which we were not.
First stop – Polska.