They spotted his Toyota first, shoved into the corner of a tiny guest house parking lot in Uzbekistan. On the balcony above, he was pouring over a stack of maps, plotting his route east.
“We’re going to Mongolia, too,” they said as they glanced over his shoulder at the maps.
And thus began the overland adventure of Bruno, Phil, and Angie. Over the coming months, they bounced along the muddy roads of Mongolia, explored the far reaches of South Korea, ferried their vehicles across the Pacific, and emerged as one in America.
Since I’ve known Bruno, I’ve known about Phil and Angie. I’ve seen the photos of their adventures, heard about their Iveco camping car, and listened to the travel tales involving them. I’ve almost felt I knew them myself. It seemed strange, then, to be actually meeting them for the first time on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey. That’s probably why there were immediate big hugs, tears, and laughs. Or maybe it was just because Bruno hadn’t seen his friends in five years, since Guatemala.
The setting for this reunion couldn’t have been better. The four of us set up camp in a pine forest tucked in a bay along the Turquoise Coast of the Mediterranean. Behind the forest were rocky hills and snow-capped mountains. Horses trotted in the nearby creek. Spring wildflowers bloomed all around us.
This was the territory of the Lycians, an Anatolian people as old as the Ancient Greeks. Mystery shrouds their society, since they left little material legacy and their unique Indi-European language hasn’t yet been fully decoded. We do know that they were fiercely independent, never succumbing to Greek rule – indeed, they were admired by the Greeks and considered to be one of the rare “non-barbaric” groups. When the Lycians accepted later Roman protection, they retained a great degree of autonomy in language, art, and politics. They even had their own Lycian League, whose republican principles have since been studied and admired by many modern nations.
In a region of Turkey dominated by Greek and Roman history, the Teke peninsula, between Dalyan and Antalya, is unique.
Like Bruno’s other overlander friends, Josu and Ana, Phil and Angie have been adventuring around the world in their camping car for a long, long time. Ten years ago, they drove overland from the UK through Asia before boarding the ferry with Bruno to America. They spent the next several years spanning America almost from tip to tip before eventually selling their camper van and heading back to Europe to loop their own around-the-world trip (more details and photos on their website).
Through the course of their travels, they would occasionally house-sit. In America, Spain, Guatemala, and Ecuador, Phil and Angie took advantage of the online house-sitting network to take care of people’s homes in interesting off-beat places. For them, it was a way to deepen their connection to a place and feed their domestic side while also saving money so they could continue living their dream.
You see, even though their around-the-world trip was complete, their travels were far from over. The freedom and adventure of a nomadic, overland life had captured them, and they had no desire to return to their stable yet mundane life in rural Wales. So, they bought another Iveco, transformed it themselves into a camper van, tested it in Morocco last winter, and then drove through Europe to Turkey. In a few months, they will ship their new home from the UK to Namibia and begin what will surely be a several-year-long African adventure.
Phil and Angie had been in Turkey for a few months doing something similar to house-sitting. Help-X is a network where people offer their skills – electrical, building, gardening, animal care, English, etc. – to others around the world in exchange for room and board. Phil and Angie had spent a few months in the hills near Fethiye helping a couple in the care of their animals and garden. When we met up with them in the forested bay near Tekirova, they were just finishing their Help-X stint and were again enjoying wild camps and ruins along the Mediterranean coast.
Those first few days with Phil and Angie felt like I was meeting old friends. As we toasted to our reunion and chowed down on vegetarian world food, we yacked about memories, upcoming travel plans, things we love about the world, and our incredible luck to be living the lives we live. It was so easy to connect with a couple that was living the same reality as Bruno and I and that shared a similar passion for life and upbeat outlook on the world.
The four of us very quickly got into a routine of sharing picnic-style lunches, taking turns at cooking dinner, and doing group yoga in the campsite’s dome tents. We drank innumerable cups of tea together. We studied maps and travel guides. We compared our camping cars. And of course, we didn’t stop yacking (that’s what happens when you get two couples together who spend the vast majority of their time alone in the bush). Bruno and Phil talked cars and tires and awnings, and Angie and I bonded over food and yoga.
We even managed to do a bit of tourism together. It would have been quite easy, really, to forget we were in Turkey and to remain in our social bubble forever, but Phil’s endless enthusiasm had us visiting a museum in Antalya and hiking to some Lycian Ruins in nearby Phaselis. Angie’s artistic eye helped me notice details in Hittite pottery and Greek statues that I would have otherwise overlooked at the Antalya Museum, and Phil reminded me to imagine life 2,500 years ago as we wandered around the ancient theater, baths, and agora of Phaselis. I might not have been as focused on the sites before me as I normally would have been – I was too busy talking up a storm, really – but it was nice to share these places with friends.
Our campsite was on the path of the Lycian Way, a famous 500km walk along the coast, through the hills, and past the ancient ruins of the Lycian people. Every day, I’d watch a handful of hikers in heavy boots and heavier backpacks march past our campsite in one direction or another. They were walking some – or all – of the Lycian Way. We’d sampled a few kilometers ourselves of the Lycian Way on our visit to the ruins of Phaselis. It had been a scenic scramble up the rocky hills with some very rewarding ruins on the other side. I wanted to walk more. I said as much to our group.
“What’s your plan?” Between friends who have the freedom and time to travel as we wish, this is a common question at the dinner table. When we posed this to Phil and Angie, we learned that they, too, were headed west. This was a surprise for us, since we’d expected the four of us to merely pass one another for a suspended moment in time before continuing in opposite directions.
“We could travel a bit of the way together,” suggested Phil that evening. “We could follow the Lycian Way.”
And so, just like that first night that Bruno met Phil and Angie a decade ago in Uzbekistan, we glued our fates and travel paths together for a chunk of the road. We would follow the ancient path of the Lycian people. Together.