What do you get when you bring together two people with a yearning for adventure, a sturdy campervan and a whole lot of maps? German couple Steffi and Jojo shared their adventure with us while on the Singapore stop on their road trip of a lifetime.
For the past eight months, Steffi and Jojo have been on the road in a green Volkswagen campervan (a Volkswagen T4 Transporter) travelling 35, 000km from Germany to Malaysia, exploring a whopping 15 different countries (Europe, Turkey, Iran, India, and Southeast Asia) and a myriad of cultures.
After planning this trip for half a year, the adventurous pair left their jobs behind and began making the necessary visa applications, checking for weather updates, and obtaining a license for their vehicle. Taking a reliable Volkswagen campervan was the obvious ride of choice as Steffi recalls how her family always had a VW campervan when she was younger, and loved the family trips they took in it. “It has 2 beds, and if we ever have kids, they could sleep on the roof too!” Steffi said.
Since the borders of Myanmar have been opened, Southeast Asia has been wholly accessible by road, and this gave Steffi and Jojo the perfect opportunity to explore this wondrous region on four wheels.
What are some favourite countries you visited?
J (Jojo): Definitely Iran was for the both of us, the one place that we didn’t expect to love. We’d recommend it, and we’d DEFINITELY go back.
S (Steffi): It’s crazy that it’s perceived as so dangerous. But travelling around is so easy. That was really interesting. Also, India is so different because it’s so crazy. Thailand is great for holidays.
Any favourite routes you enjoyed driving through?
J: Northern Laos along the mountain roads.
S: Yeah… and you could see tribal women there. Topless women! Dressed very… traditionally. [laughs]
J: Also, definitely the highway in India that leads to the south from Mumbai, along the coast.
Which country has had the craziest traffic?
S: India, by far. You have dogs, cows, people, motorbikes, and during the night no one puts on the light! We were quite scared we might hit somebody.
J: It gradually gets more and more crazy. I think the official death toll per year is 150, 000. Thailand is also dangerous because the roads are good, but people drive very, very fast. We saw many accidents.
S: Yeah, we saw 3 accidents on the first day. There were also scooters or motor accidents.
Did you have any car problems along the way?
S: We had the van looked at in Bangkok because it was making some noise, but it was just minor. We had no breakdowns at all. [The van] is 25 years old or so, and people we met along the way would say, “Are you crazy, driving in an old car like that? No breakdowns? Must be Volkswagen!”
J: We did check it first in Germany. It’s impressive because we drove 35, 000km to come here, and it might be another 25-30, 000 km back. But the brakes are still fresh.
How is the campervan culture in Asia like, as compared to Europe?
S: In Thailand we saw many camping vans. People drove there from China, and apparently it’s something new there. It is like having a little house with you. We also took bicycles on the trip so we could go grocery shopping on the bikes. And you won’t be as dependable on public transport. It’s really flexible.
J: Hotels are getting more and more expensive, so it’s a lot more convenient.
Do you use maps or GPS?
J: When you go to Bangkok, it’s impossible to use the GPS. So maps are a lot easier. I mean we do use it, but they say stay on the right and there’s so many “right’s”… it’s so vague. We also used guidebooks, and we looked out for touristy landmarks. And then from there we pinpoint our way to other destinations.
How did you keep in touch with everyone back home?
J: Through the Internet, and everyone got one postcard [laughs]
S: But you don’t always have Internet, and in Iran for example, Facebook is blocked. It’s really nice once in a while to be offline. It’s good to see other things instead of being in front of the computer all the time.
How does it feel now that the trip with your campervan is over?
J: We were really sad when we left the car. We will miss it, and the freedom it brings.
S: And we both like driving. I’ll really miss it. My dad will be driving the van back using the same route as us. My mum might join him at some point!
J: But also it’s good motivation to be focused on what we’re doing now so we can do it again later!
S: Yeah and now we’re backpacking through Indonesia!
I’m sure it’s worth it, this whole new experience.
S: I’m sure we’ll never regret it. If you know that’s what you want to do, then do it. It’s fine. But then if you have lots of doubts, then you won’t do it in the end anyway. As long as you know it’s the right thing, then it doesn’t matter what happens afterwards.
All images courtesy of Stefanie Dreier.