There are moments in life when it comes the time to do exactly what you feel. Mandy Brander (27 years) and Pieter Grimminck (33) are a young couple from Amsterdam, who decided to give up their jobs for going in a magnificent journey. They traveled, each one on a motorbike, trough 16 countries over three months. I found their story on the internet, summed up in a few lines and a few other photos. But I wanted to know more, right from them, about how it is to discover the world on two wheels adventure. And they passed through Romania also!
How did your journey started? Who said: ”let’s do it”?
Mandy: It started in the summer of 2013. We both had a motorbike and we went for a camping trip to Germany. Pieter had his license for 3 years then and I had it for almost 10 months. During that week of driving and camping we experienced how nice it was to travel by bike. At one evening during dinner that holiday I suggested (kind of a joke) let’s drive to Mongolia! And Pieter said ”oke!”. Since we have met each other we were dreaming of going abroad, but we never made work of it. After that holiday this suggestion wasn’t a serious plan, but it stayed somewhere in our heads. The seed had been planted. Autumn became winter and that motor trip became something we really wanted. But how? We had never done something like this before and were do we get the money for it? Next to our fulltime jobs we tried as much as possible to explore the possibilities and at Christmas 2013 we said ”let’s just do it!”. Than a lot of arranging started, since we wanted to leave on 9 march 2014.
You both quit your jobs and left your home in the Netherlands. You were working for a company, at an office?
Mandy: Pieter had a fulltime job at a health company as a Project Manager. I’m a professional photographer and have my own business. For Pieter it wasn’t his ideal job. He had nice colleagues, career opportunities and a stable contract, but quitting wasn’t that hard for him. I have build up a clientele and a business as a fulltime photographer and it was kind of scary to leave that behind. As it is not that easy to earn money by photography.
So, you crossed 16 countries in three months. I think that’s really impressive! Tell me what impressed you?
Mandy: We could have taken the Russia route to Mongolia, but countries like Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan attracted us more. You never hear about these countries and we wanted to get to know them. Every country we crossed has its own uniqueness though. From Romania the adventure started for us. The interesting architecture of Romania, the lovely food of Turkey, the really poor but o so kind people of Armenia. Turkmenistan was special, because it is so closed off and hard to get in. What probably made the most impression was Tajikistan. The high altitude, amazing nature, driving at the border of Afghanistan, sleeping at people’s home and no single tourist. Mongolia was really special as well. Camping in the middle of nowhere, difficult off-road paths and long days of driving in the dessert with only camels to look at.
You weren’t scared about the possible threats like strange people, wild animals etc.?
Mandy: Actually we didn’t have time to think about that. Because we had so little preparation time we probably weren’t really well prepared at some points. We didn’t have any guidebooks or information and we didn’t knew much about the countries. Before leaving we were busy from morning untill midnight working and preparing, we just simply didn’t think about what could happen. When you are on the road then you just go by day to day and everything will work out and always it seems less scary then beforehand.
Have you find the life full of adventures and new opportunities?
Mandy: We never regretted our choice, but it isn’t always easy. We have no savings, no home and no stable jobs. We kind of like that though. Except for the money of course. But when the people around you live a more stable life and most people want to have security and certainties, and that is how you have grown up, it is sometimes difficult to not fall back in the old pattern. Now we stay in Nepal for a while, making some money and staying in a temporary apartment. But we have to say; it already feels to oppressive sometimes. So we are still finding the balance in our wishes, work and money. But that is a journey as well and we learn a lot from it. And actually that journey is fun as well, because we still feel that freedom to change if we want to. That is also adventure, not knowing what is ahead.
What about the money, how are you dealing that? How much it costs a journey like that?
Mandy: For our trip, which costs around 25.000 euro’s we sold everything we had. Al our furniture, our car, our motorbikes, computer, and lot of clothing and books on a market. We got back bail from our house and some support of family. We used all our savings, Mandy’s business savings, some credit and we did crowd funding. We presold items, like books, a magazine, postcards, photoshoots ,our weekly newsletter, shirts and hoodies for money. People could also buy our newsletter (with stories and pictures) for 15 euro. All together the crowd-funding project raised a couple thousand euros. Most of the money went to the (second hand) motorbikes, visa, sleeping, food and fuel during the trip. At the end of the trip we struggled, but with camping, cooking simple pasta and being really careful with spending we worked it out.
Pieter: Mandy is also a wedding photographer and she has been back to the Netherlands in June and in September to work as much as possible. And I worked since June in Nepal. But it is not a luxury lifestyle we live, always being careful with spending. But we love travelling so much, that is our main priority. And we don’t care for a house or lot of stuff, so this works for us.
What things did you enjoyed most?
Mandy: I loved the feeling of freedom. Also seeing that in every place, there are kind people who want to help you. I also enjoyed the nature very much. Coming from a country with no mountains at all, al these countries were so beautiful.
Pieter: I liked driving the motorbike to a completely new place every day. The adventure of driving and finding your way in unknown places and with unknown people. The unpredictable way of travelling was the most exiting I think. And driving a motorbike every day.
Will you return to Netherlands soon?
Mandy: We want to go to the Netherlands April 2015. Pieter haven’t seen his family and friends for more than a year by then. He will be looking for a project to do in the Netherlands for some months. In April the wedding season starts so I will be doing a lot of weddings in Europe. But in July we want to leave again if we have saved some money. We just go to stay temporarily in the Netherlands.
And what did you both learned from all that?
Mandy: I have learned that I can do much more that I thought I could. Being a small girl (and also hearing that a lot from others) and not always that brave, I learned during our trip that is not about size or strength. It’s about feeling confident to do something and have a bit of faith that a lot of things will work out fine. Some people find us really unprepared. Yes, we didn’t have fancy and expensive stuff, but we had enough. Just our bikes, some tools and each other. You can’t prepare for a journey like this, you will miss out a lot of nice experiences if you over prepare. Also I find that I don’t need a lot of stuff or luxury, this works perfect for me. I have also learned that we have to be greatfull being from a country like the Netherlands, were you have much more chances than in a lot of countries we drive through.
Pieter: That we can do a heavy trip like this together. We make a good team. That dreams can seem too big to achieve, but once you just go for it isn’t that big (open your mind). Like driving to Mongolia seems something quite impossible, but if you do it is nothing more than driving 250 kilometers a day and you will be there after three months.
What’s your next dream?
Mandy: This week we leave to India, to travel through India (by bike) for a month. That has been a big dream for us, so we’re really looking forward to that. Our dream after that is to travel more by bike. We don’t have an exact plan or wish, but South East Asia, Iran, USA or Australia appeals to us a lot. So do Africa and South-America, so enough to see. 😉
Pieter: We want to explore a new kind of lifestyle, where we want to travel, work and hopefully help people along the way or inspire people. It is open to us. We don’t have a big plan; we just want to do what makes us happy. For now that is not knowing what is going to happen and be open for new opportunities.
Thank you both!
Photo credit foto: We Want Adventure.