Off to new shores
Electric trip around the world
“Sustainable Adventurer.” That’s what it says on Wiebe Wakker’s business card, and justifiably so: On March 15, 2016, the then 29-year-old Dutchman embarks on his journey around the world – always in search of a socket because the globetrotter travels the 95,000-kilometer (59,000-mile) route taking him through 33 countries and ending in Australia after roughly three years in an electric car he’s converted himself. Wakker’s audacious idea: the energy that Blue Bandit, his bright-blue VW Golf Variant station wagon, needs every 200 kilometers to keep going should exclusively be supplied by supporters along the way. “Plug me in” is how the e-globetrotter dubs his project and related website on which people from around the world can offer their help in the form of electricity, food or accommodation even before the journey has started. His plan pans out: whether in Norway, Poland, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, India or Malaysia, Wakker finds people in all parts of the world who are willing to help and invite him to charge his Blue Bandit or to spend the night and share a meal with them. Heart-warming as well as crazy encounters plus organizational and technical challenges of all kinds become the congenial adventurer’s constant companions.
His journey included everything “from a dinner with sheikhs in Dubai to an exploding charger in India,” says Wiebe Wakker. Not even once during his entire trip he’s forced to plug his car into a public charging station. Reaching his final destination, Sydney, turns out to be a particularly touching experience. On his last stage, on April 7, 2019, a convoy of other electric cars escorts him – made up of people who in some cases have been following his adventurous trip around the world from day one and who support his idea of sustainable mobility. One of the things the Dutchman has demonstrated with his adventure is that even a road trip around the globe does not necessarily have to harm the environment!
|Travel time||1,119 days, from March 15, 2016 to April 7, 2019|
|Distance covered||95,000 km (59,000 mi)|
|Offers of support, worldwide||1,685|
|Media coverage||More than 2,000 online articles, 150 radio interviews, 50 TV appearances and hundreds of newspaper articles|
Cycling all the way to Asia
8,088 kilometers, 13 countries, 392 hours in the saddle and 15 punctures … Johannes Geier (right) went on a bicycle adventure with his brother from September 2019 to March 2020. They traveled through Europe and Asia on their tandem.
Johannes Geier works in Special Machinery in the Electronics Quality Engineering department where he is responsible for e-axle, e-motor, and hybrid transmission test rigs. In 2019, due to changes in Schaeffler's requirements for machinery and equipment, he decided to take a sabbatical, got on his bike and rode across Europe to Iran together with his brother Maximilian. “And then everything fell into place very quickly,” Johannes Geier recalls. “Just six weeks passed from the initial idea of cycling all the way to Asia to actually getting started.” His brother Maximilian spontaneously took a semester off from university and joined him.
Travelling by car or plane was not an option for Johannes; he wanted a trip that was climate-friendly and one that would start slowly and develop into an adventure. Together the two of them planned the itinerary, obtained visas, bought a tandem, tent, water purification system, and other useful equipment, and set off in September 2019. In a rhythm of six days in the saddle, five nights sleeping in the tent and then two nights in a hotel, they crossed Europe within four weeks.
“The further we got from the EU border, the greater the hospitality we were offered,” recalls the electronic engineer. “We were stopped again and again and approached to take photos. Then came the obligatory invitation to dinner, followed by an offer to stay overnight. The next day our hosts would show us around or offer to help with bureaucratic obstacles. Of course, that’s how you get to know the country and its people very well.” Johannes and Maximilian actually wanted to cycle all the way to Thailand, but corona and the resulting border closures put pay to that idea. After 8,088 kilometers and a total of 392 hours cycling through 13 countries at an average speed of 21 km/h, more than 15 punctures, 700 liters of self-pumped water, and 124 times pitching and taking down tents, they broke off and took the third-to-last plane out of Iran to Amsterdam in March 2020.
“What I learned during this tour is to stay calm when things don’t go according to plan and to trust your own abilities. When a rim developed a fracture in Turkey and no dealer or mechanic could help us, we went back to the EU without further ado, bought spare parts and a bike repair book, and fixed the problem ourselves. These qualities also help me at work where we deal with complex systems and have to find solutions ourselves when something doesn’t work right away. But together as a team, we always get it done.”
Johannes Geier joined Schaeffler in 2017 as Trainee Operations and then moved on to the Special Machinery department. He has already been to almost every continent – Africa is the only one missing. The 32-year-old documented this journey in his blog Biking Brothers. It goes without saying that he rides his bike to work.
Happy in a tiny home
Kerstin Bürk, who uses the moniker “Körmi Körmet” for herself and her DIY label, invests some 1,000 euros and around 300 hours of work in converting her agile Italian Piaggo Porter minivan. With the modifications to which she applies her skills as a crafter, Körmi transforms the former transporter of the Rottweil municipal utility company into a moving space wonder. Patscho, as she calls her tiny home on wheels, works like a multifunctional pocket knife. Though measuring merely 2.2 square meters (24 square feet), the cargo space of the minivan provides the accomplished architect with everything she needs on her Atlantic coastal trip: stowage space, a place to sleep, privacy and protection. By pulling, pushing and folding, various multifunctional modules can be used as shelves, a table or a place to sit, while the tailgate provides protection during al fresco cooking and dining.
In 2017, Körmi embarks on her trip with Patscho, planning to travel for two or three months – always along the coastal waters. The small orange-colored eye-catcher with its small 60-hp engine achieves a top speed of 134 km/h (83 mph). Once on the road, Körmi realizes that “the quest for bliss has become the very essence of my journey.” So, the two months turn into two years. Returning to the bare essentials made her come home richer than she was when she started her trip, she says. “Rich in terms of creative energy, inner strength, peace and contentment!”
Patscho is treated to a few upgrades, too, as Körmi crafts a few additional shelves and a rooftop terrace during her journey. Back at home, she summarizes, sorts and writes about her experiences and asks a friend to illustrate them. The result is her book “Happiness is Homemade“ encouraging readers to become aware of their own creative agility and energy and taking their happiness into their own hands – literally speaking.
|Travel time||2 years|
|Countries traversed||6 (along the Atlantic coast: from Ireland to Morocco)|
|Distance covered||35,000 km (21,750 mi)|
|Piaggo Porter minivan||(model year 2009), called Patscho|
Hitchhiking without a tractor unit
You need a good sense of humor! Plus, plenty of patience and confidence. At least you do if you travel like the theater-maker Tjerk Ridder and the journalist Peter Bijl. The two Dutch adventurers take a three-month journey across Europe – in a travel trailer but without a car to pull it! “Tow-Bar Wanted” is what they call their project that in 2010 takes them from Utrecht to Istanbul.
Here’s the story: Ridder wants to show that individuality isn’t everything. The opposite is true because you need others to go ahead in your life, according to the caravan hitchhiker, who’s seeking to manifest this metaphor. So, what better way would there be to do that than travel with a caravan that you can only get around in with the trailer hitches belonging to others?
|Travel time||3 months (2010)|
|Countries traversed||8 (from Utrecht to Istanbul)|
|Distance||3,700 km 2,300 mi)|
Leaving the comfort zone
On foot and without money from Munich to Tibet – Stephan Meurisch puts this totally crazy idea into action. He quits his job, clears his apartment, packs his backpack and embarks on his march – always eastbound. When Meurisch, an electrical engineering technician by trade, arrives in Tibet on October 31, 2015, he’s traversed 13 countries in four years, has walked 13,000 kilometers (8,080 miles)! And has acquired an awesome amount of knowledge – about body language, trust, hospitality and, not least, about himself. As a self-employed “long-distance hiker, adventurer and coach,” his mission today is to encourage people to be agile – and to occasionally leave their comfort zone in the process.
|Travel time||March 11, 2012 to October 31, 2015|
|Countries traversed||13 (from Munich to Tibet)|
|Distance||13,000 km (8,080 mi) – on foot|
With a hen and hindrances
What a trip: Guirec Soudée fulfills his most fervent wish in December 2013 when the then 21-year-old Frenchman sets sail on his own steel sailboat he calls Yvinec – like the peninsula in Brittany from which he hails. At some point in time, he takes a hen called Monique on board that will keep him company during his adventurous circumnavigation of the globe. When the young man leaves France, he’s already invested a lot of time and effort in his project because the boat he’s finally able to buy after years of working in various and sundry jobs is in a miserable state of repair. Yvinec’s hull is so rusty that it’s as thin as cigarette paper in some places, Guirec describes his boat in the book about his maverick sailing adventure. No one believes that this boat will ever be seaworthy, let alone be able to cross the oceans. No one except Soudée, who’s convinced that you can’t achieve anything in life unless you’re a positive thinker.
His adventure will prove him right: With his 11.70-meter (38-foot) steel boat, Guirec Soudée sails around the world in eleven stages, always accompanied by the “red beauty,” as the adventurer calls his feathered friend. From Brittany through the Bay of Biscay to Tenerife, from there across the Atlantic to the Caribbean. Afterwards he heads for Greenland, fascinated by the Northern Lights, and spends the winter there before traversing the dangerous North West Passage, first circumnavigating North and then South America and sailing back home via South Africa and the Lesser Antilles.
In these five years, he’s crossed the Atlantic three times, got stuck in the ice for 130 days, mastered lulls, storms, icebergs and waves as high as a house, done casual jobs time and again to secure his continuing journey, and seen the most fabulous landscapes. And Monique? What special feats did Guirec’s unusual female companion perform on the trip? The sea-worthy animal laid more than 1,000 eggs for the sailor. Delicious!
|Travel time||December 2013 to December 2018|
|Route||around the world in 11 stages|
|Distance||45,000 nautical miles|
|Steel boat||Yvinec; length: 11.70 m (38 ft); width: 3.70 m (12 ft); weight: 9,000 kg (9.9 short tons); built in 1985|
Commitment instead of pity
The man’s a fighter. In 2009, Sven Marx is 42 and a diving instructor when he’s diagnosed with a brain tumor. While after the life-saving surgery the Berliner is shocked to find out that he’ll require long-term care, this doesn’t keep him from cycling around the world eight years later. In 17 months, Marx traverses 30 countries covering a distance of 32,000 kilometers (20,000 miles) on a bicycle tailored specifically to suit his needs. “Giving up was never an option. Mooning about the life you used to have doesn’t do you any good,” says the passionate cyclist – even though this type of transportation has its pitfalls. The most treacherous one strikes when the spiky seeds of an indigenous plant in Mexico puncture his tires eight times – on a single day! He’s since published a book about his journey that shows what Sven Marx is at heart: an adventurer with a disability who spreads optimism and is untiringly committed to supporting inclusion projects worldwide. Hats off to him for such spirit!
|Travel time||17 months|
|Countries traversed||30 (start and finish Berlin, in between Russia, Japan, Australia, the United States and France, among others)|
|Distance||32,000 km (20,000 mi)|
|Bicycle||Patria Junior, matte black with toothed belt drive|
Shopping for experiences
Christian Zimmermann has already traversed Australia in an off-road vehicle and on a bicycle. And now? The logical “downgrade” is walking. That, however, poses the problem of how to haul 30 liters of water plus luggage exceeding the capacity of a backpack. The Swiss finds the solution in packing a shopping cart (“Ms. Molly, the trolley”) and embarks on his 3,000-kilometer (1,864-mile) march. The idea was so bizarre that Zimmermann would revive it in 2020. Right in the middle of corona year one, he pushed Ms. Molley – weighing 90 kilos when packed to the brim – from his native Switzerland all the way to Moscow. The robust basket lady mastered all hardships without a single defect except for her aversion to muddy trails, rough terrain or stairs. None of these, though, were able to stop this unusual pairing.
|Travel time||111 days|
|Distance||3,392 km, with 30,000 meters of elevation gain|
|Shopping cart||Ms. Molly, equipped with puncture-free wheels, rainproof wrap and an umbrella as sun and rain protection for the “driver”|