Off We Go!!

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June 26:

I enter the office dressed in business attire and my colleague Torsten greets me with “T minus 2″ instead of “good morning.” He’s been doing this for about two weeks now, counting down the days until the beginning of our world trip. I was quite confident and happy as long as the count was in the double digits, but since about “T minus 5″ I struggled a bit with emitting coolness and confidence.

Of course I’m happy that our travel-dream is finally about to turn into reality, but the immediacy and the logistics of it all are a bit overwhelming. I wrote yesterday about the Go-Live of 1001 Unforgettable Trips, and believe me, that was a lot of work! Working a full-time job, coming up with a strategy and founding a new company on the side, launching a beautiful website, cleaning up, emptying and subletting our apartment while at the same time preparing for a world trip is immensely stressful and exhausting, and as a result I don’t feel fully prepared for the trip.

We are leaving in two days, and we haven’t even packed yet! Sure, for a few weeks we’ve been throwing things into some boxes labeled “Hamburg”, “Storage”, “Mont Blanc” and “World Trip”, but the contents are neither complete nor optimized for weight or function.

On the positive side Katja and I have never prepared much in advance for any trip, so I hope for a small wonder and think that somehow we’ll still make it.

June 27:

“T minus 1 !!!” Torsten announces enthusiastically, and I force a faint smile.

We went to bed at 2 am last night, but our apartment is now cleaned up and ready for the guys who’ll live there for the next six months. We haven’t finished packing yet, but at least each of us has made two piles of things: a smaller one consisting of hiking boots, crampons, rope, ice picks, ice bolts and warm clothes for our tour to the Alps and a bigger pile with summer clothes and other necessities for the remainder of the trip. The piles are much larger than the backpacks that they will have to fit in, but that packing problem is basically solved. What I’m more worried about right now is the fact that I cannot find my international driver’s license even though I placed it into the “World Trip” box about 10 days ago…

At 2pm I’ve handed over all work-related topics to various colleagues who will take over my tasks, cleaned up my desk, removed all personal things from the work computer and returned it to the secretary. I hug the colleagues in the office, shake a few hands, accept some last good wishes, jump on my bike and ride home. It’s over, it’s done — no more work (and no more salary) for 2014!

At home we do more packing, decide who is going to take what, which things we need two of and which we shouldn’t bother with at all. It’s nerve-wracking trying to foresee all our needs for the next six months, but we simply do our best.

It’s most difficult with the electronics. Try as we might, we cannot reduce it any further than two cameras with various lenses and accessories, a MacBook Air, two backup drives, an iPad mini, an audio recorder, an iPhone and an older mobile phone as backup. We want to gather a lot of material for Photographically Curious and for 1001 Unforgettable Trips, so all of the above seems necessary.

June 28:

We go to bed at 2:00 and the alarm goes off at 7:30. This is it — departure day!!!

There are still many small things to do, and our bus is leaving in four hours. We keep packing, weighing things and moving them from one backpack to the other, then to one of the boxes which will stay in Hamburg. I keep looking for the damn driver’s license, but it’s nowhere to be found. I freak out a bit, but it only makes things worse, so I try being philosophical instead: “This is a great opportunity to discover Tanzania by bus…” Hmmm, nice try buddy, but that doesn’t sound convincing either…

A few friends come to say good-bye and then it’s time to leave. Both Katja and I have a large backpack on the back, a small one in front and a camera bag over the shoulder, so neither of us has a free hand to take a picture of our happy but probably slightly stressed faces.

30 min. later the bus leaves Hamburg and there is no going back any more. So magically we relax completely: if we forgot something or didn’t think of something, then so be it. We’ll deal with those things later. For now all that matters is that we are healthy, have our passports, some cash, several credit cards with low daily limits and multiple copies of everything.

Eight hours later the bus reaches Frankfurt and Pierre is waiting for us. We jump in his car and even though it doesn’t feel like a world trip yet, at least it feels like vacation. Pierre is the third person of the 1001 Unforgettable Trips gang, and we are now on our way to the the Kauner valley in Austrian Alps where we will attend a 5-day mountain and ice climbing course as preparation for our climb of Mont Blanc.

After two hours of driving we’d like to start looking for a camping site, but it’s also raining quite heavily, so we continue driving. At 01:40 we are in Pfronten (about 3 km from the Austrian border) where a friend of Pierre’s lives, so we called him and asked if we can crash on the floor of his apartment. He says no problem and 20 min later the three of us have spread out our sleeping mats and sleeping bags and are soundly asleep.