There's No Place Like Home

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Words and photos by Franzi Wernsing of @talesontyres

We pull the door shut behind us. “Thank you for everything”  we mumble towards our landlord, while we hand her the keys to the apartment. The words are empty, just said to be said out of good manner. Then we rush out of the building's door, waving one last time at her before we're out on the street. We're not looking back, don't let our hands slide one last time over the well-used door knob, silently saying 'goodbye' to the place. No, it's the opposite: we feel like a huge chunk is lifted of our chests and the first thing we do when we turn around the street's corner is to fill our lungs with as much air as possible and exhale it real slow.

That place, which was meant to be a 'home' had felt more like a trap during the last six month. Pointless possession where piling up in it's corners, on shelfs and in cupboards. The fridge in our kitchen, hopelessly overfilled, with shriveled up veggies hiding behind expired milk cartons and half-empty yogurt containers. Dust and dirt, repetitively settling over books and picture frames, demanding to be wiped off every time we looked at them.

Before we rented this small apartment on the outskirts of Bielefeld, we had traveled the world for five years, mainly by bicycle. We had slept under the stars, in our tent or on other people’s living room floors. Never owned more than we could comfortably haul around on our two bicycles. Our lifestyle; basic, independent and with the right amount of uncertainty.

But along the road, we had grown tired of it. We had craved a refugee from the world, a little more comfort, we wanted a ‘home’ of some sort.

So we listened to our hearts and returned to Germany, where we rented a small apartment. Three rooms, a decent sized kitchen and a tiny bathroom. More than we needed but a good deal. We did anticipated difficulties from transforming from our transient, nomadic life to a settled one, but the reality that hit us, was beyond our expectations. We’ll spare you the details here, but with the days passing we grew more and more estranged from ourselves and the life we tried to life. Family and friends kept reassuring us to be patient and to give ourselves even more time to fully settle in but their kind words and supportive gestures didn't help. Something in us was rebelling in a way we couldn't ignore.

With us constantly fighting against the tedious routine of our daily lives, we found ourselves already planning to strap everything back onto our bikes and just leave when another idea came across our mind. Obviously, we didn't enjoy being totally domestic but considering our past travels, we knew that we also needed something more than just a flat, soft spot to pitch our tent. Why didn't we built a mobile home base? A 'home' which would us allow to travel, explore and change perspective, which was supporting our longing for spending more time outdoors than indoors and that gave us that little bit of stability we craved. Two weeks later, a white van was parked in front of our kitchen window, a bit rusty but ready for change. We had bought it first-hand of a chemie fabricant not far from where we lived and there was still a slight chlorophyllic smell in the air but nonetheless we saw the potential it came with. In the following weeks, both of us spent countless hours after work and on weekends to plan and built our new 'home'. We hardly had any time to doubt our fresh plan or to even think about the time when we finally would move in.

I take another deep breath, “No WiFi for us anymore!”- I smile at Jona, who happily noods. Once again, we are back on the road, full of uncertainty and full of life. We quit our jobs, canceled our renting agreement and moved into a van, what could go wrong from now?

This summer we plan to explore Europe, attending off-road bicycle races in Italy and in Switzerland and most importantly explore some new bikepacking trails in Europe. However, this time it'll be slightly different to our bike-only approach before. There is no doubt, that it might take some time to get used to this new way of exploring but we see also the endless possibilities of having a 'home base' anywhere we choose to stay for a while.

As we walk down the street to where we have parked, we're not saying much, each of us taking in the moment for themselves. We haven't spent a single night in our van yet, but somehow it feels like that this one is going to be one of the best night's sleep since a long time because there is simply no place like home.

franzi jona tales on tyres talesontyres van build vanlife wernsing

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