It was our first date in 2015. Both a bit excited as we cycled to the pub. The weather was gloomy, and a bit wet, like cycling through a big cloud. It was quiet in the pub, good for us – at least we can hear each other.

Little did I, Milene, knew it soon became clear that Yuri came here more often. Yuri had just come back from his round the world trip of four months and I just came back from living abroad for 3 years. So, of course we had lots to talk about: countries, cultures, food, people, languages, adventures. We talked about all that we had experienced on our travels, laughed about the miscommunications and very Dutch habits, and about our dreams.

As I’ve been travelling alone for a while and stand my ground when it comes to achieving my goals and chasing my dreams I was quite clear to Yuri. First date, who cares!? So, I told Yuri my dream: “I would love to buy a Volkswagen van and drive to China with it. I want to follow the footsteps of Marco Polo, Alexander the Great and thousands of merchants, but in my own way. Not on a horse, boat or camel but in a van. I will chase my dream so you are either in, or you are out.”

It’s 2021 now, in 2 weeks we will be driving to China, together. So, (lucky for me) Yuri was in!

The Volkswagen Van

But, back to 2015. In May we had our first date and in November I bought a Volkswagen T2 van. Before going on a 10.000km trip we first needed to find out if this really was for us. Somethings are better when dreaming and become a nightmare when you are actually living the dream. So, we took some getting-used-to-the-van trips to Scotland, England & Wales. Oh and of course The Netherlands. Turns out we are made for this life. We don’t need lots of space, we don’t need luxury, we don’t need much. We are very happy parking the van in nature, washing in ice-cold rivers, cooking outside and not being able to stand while getting dressed when it’s raining outside. We are perfectly capable of living as nomads.

In the summer of 2020, right after the first wave of the epidemic, we decided it was time to plan our big trip. First things first, the van didn’t look so great. So we had to refurbish her, I write more about this in ‘The Volkswagen Van‘ post. And while most of the dents, rust and paintings were outsourced to people who are actually good at it (not me!) we were mapping the route, did lot of reading, finding out about the customs in countries, where we needed a visa, if we could actually cross borders while driving a car. We checked about corona measurements, places we really wanted to visit, people we wanted to meet.

And I can tell you, it takes a lot of time researching a trip like this. Not only do you need to know your car, you also need to know bits about the countries you will be driving through. Like the need to have a guide in some countries, local car insurance or like in China the need for a Chinese driver license.

For choosing the route we used Google Maps (love it!) and made our route from country to country, city to city and highlight to highlight. It’s not written in stone, it’s written on Google Maps, so this route can change at any time. But, check out our Silk Road Route here. You can see there are different routes we are thinking about, many highlights, many options. That’s the wonderful thing of travelling by van, you are free to drive wherever you want.

Traveling during a pandemic

When we tell people about our trip, we only get very positive reactions. A few ask us about Covid-19. For a year Covid-19 is changing the world, hanging as a thunder cloud above our heads and while the world is turning corona tries it best to slow it down. But, even though the virus has had a huge impact on the world, for many people it did stop the world turning and lots of people lost their lives or their loved ones because of it. It doesn’t mean we have to let corona rule our lives. A virus shouldn’t make decisions, it shouldn’t stop us from dreaming and chasing those dreams, a pandemic shouldn’t tell us what we can or cannot do.

That said, we have to deal with the regulations made by our governments, we have to be careful, keep our distances and wear face masks. And I know that our governments say travelling is a luxury and you should only travel when it’s absolutely necessary. But, there are so many countries that depend on tourism. So many places for which tourism is the main economy. Poverty increases, inequality increases, depression increases. While driving through so many countries we will be taking precautions and we will be careful not to spread the disease. Hell, I think we will be tested more than any person on earth, so I guess if we get sick we will know quite soon and are able to go in quarantine on a mountain where we can infect no-one.

We will be driving dusty roads, bending mountain trails and through Covid-19 obstacles. It will be a different journey than we ever imagined; less crowded on normally very crowded cities, a visa in every country we pass in the form of a PCR-test and having to deal with curfews, closed borders, quarantine and more. Nonetheless it will be a journey of a lifetime, and a very special one.

Impossible is not a word in our dictionary, adventure is. When someone says we can’t, we will. Obstacles are just challenges in disguise.