We’re not the only ones living this way.
This is a sentence I hear myself say more than I ever imagined I would. I say it to concerned relatives. I say it to family friends with incredulous looks on their faces. I say it to long-long friends, reacquainted through Facebook. I even say it to strangers.
We’re not the only ones who live in a camper van and travel around the world.
The white Toyota with its homemade wooden structure on the pick-up pulling into the campsite in Nairobi is confirmation of this fact. Inside are Josu and Ana, Bruno’s long-time camper-van living worldwide traveling friends.
Bruno first met this Basque traveling duo in Nepal. They’d left their jobs and lives behind only a year before to join the community of lifestyle travelers. For the next several months, they would periodically meet up in random corners of South Asia before Bruno continued solo toward Mongolia and Russia. The three stayed in touch and were able to meet up on the American continent a few years later – in the US, Mexico, Guatemala, and Colombia.
It was rare for Bruno to find a couple who traveled as slowly as he. It wasn’t the only bit of travel style the three shared, in fact. They all liked to park their cars in the campsite and explore by foot instead. They all had a minimalistic preference for their vehicle and gadgets (Josu and Ana don’t even have a fridge!). And they all loved animals, hiking, and nature.
It was little wonder to me, as I began to get to know Josu and Ana in Nairobi, why Bruno had kept in touch with them all these years. They were kindred spirits.
Josu and Ana hadn’t always traveled overland around the world, of course. Two decades ago, Josu – a mathematics teacher – was offered a position in Harare, Zimbabwe. Rather than fly there, the two opted for a slow overland journey from Spain to Zimbabwe. After the contract, it seemed perfectly natural that they would return home overland as well, and so they drove up the other side of Africa.
Back in their mountainous region of northern Spain, it was back to the hum-drum of regular sedentary life. But the two had travel in their bones, and were looking for the right opportunity to head back out onto the open road. It took almost a decade, but by flipping a few homes in the burgeoning Spanish economy, they were able to place their new cash-flow into investments, which have supported them since 2005. And so, they journeyed through Europe and into Asia. They journeyed throughout the Americas. They journeyed to Australia. And, for the past two years, they’ve journeyed through Africa.
In fact, they’ve been tailing us since 2012. When we were in Southern Africa, they were in the west. When we were in Eastern Africa, they were in the South.
“Will we ever be in the same place at the same time?” I would ask Bruno. “I want to finally meet these friends you talk so often about!”
“We’ll meet again,” he’d declare with faith. “The world is a small place.”
As it so happened, the day we touched back down in Africa, an email was waiting in Bruno’s inbox. We’re in Moshi [Tanzania], it said. We’ll be in Nairobi in four days. Will you be there? It looked as though Josu and Ana had made some headway in their journey toward East Africa while we were drifting through Canada and France. The reunion we’d been waiting for – for Bruno, since Columbia, five years ago – was about to happen!
And what a lovely reunion it was. The four of us feasted on Nepali food, perfect pie-like Spanish omelettes, wine, and Swiss chocolate (courtesy of Micheline, Bruno’s sister-in-law), and shared funny and amazing travel stories. We discussed getting stuck in the mud, terrible roads, travel routes, visas, and vehicle mechanics. It felt good being with these old-school roadies, people that live on the same planet as me.
We’re not the only people living this way, I smiled inwardly.
But it was Josu and Ana’s passionate spirit that I loved most. They live their choice to travel fully each day – up early, walking around, discovering a new place, meeting people, going to the market, planning the next part of their journey. Every moment of their day is done with positivity and intention – even when they are, say, struggling to get their Ethiopian visas. They know why they are here, what they have left behind, and that the choice to live on the road was completely the right one for them.
When you’re living the life you’re meant to be leading, it shows.
It was easy to say farewell to Josu and Ana. From here, they plan to head north, just like us. We will surely meet again, in Ethiopia or Sudan, or maybe in the Middle East or Europe. And, in any case, if we don’t meet on this part of the journey, there’s always later. The world, after all, is a small place.