Writer Karin-Marijke Vis and photographer Coen Wubbels have been driving a vintage Land Cruiser all over Asia and South America since 2003. They take their time over-landing – for them it’s all about diving deep into the heart of a place and connecting with people.
1.)Where was the first place that you traveled that made you think WOW—travel is amazing (think history book come to life or …..)
(Karin-Marijke) When I was an exchange student in the United States, I lived in a hamlet on Lake Erie. That was a big journey, coming from the Netherlands, of course, but the real WOW factor hit me when I saw a slideshow of a high school friend of mine. She yearly hiked in America’s greatest wildernesses. When I saw photos of those fantastic red, bare rock formations of the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, etc, I was sold. The images, but also the stories about hiking and camping in those places, fascinated me.
It took years before I got to see those national parks in the US, and many more before I did my first multi-day hike (in Pakistan), but the inspiration was definitely there, in that slideshow.
2.)If you had unlimited resources, where would you go and what would you do?
Do what we do now. Living in a car, slowly traveling the world, taking day by day as it comes and enjoying the beauty (in scenery as well as in people) around me. We would also continue our writing and photographing for magazines, to continue sharing our stories and inspire people to have confidence in their neighbors (whether a person, country, culture, or continent) and to be open to their way of life (instead of fearing them). To western standards we live a low-budget way of life, but it suits us perfectly.
3.)What were you afraid to do and how did you find the courage to overcome it?
(Karin-Marijke) Driving to Istanbul. We had just started our overland journey, and Turkey was our first country outside Europe. The idea to drive to a metropolis that had about the same number of people as our country (around 15 million) was daunting. I swallowed my fears because I had determined I wanted to drive to Asia. As it turned out, the moment we set foot in downtown Turkey, those fears and anxieties evaporated; I loved the city!
I will share more about this in my upcoming book. Stay tuned!
4.)What apps do you use regularly that make your life easier?
Google Translate makes a decent offline Japanese and Korean translation and also offers instant camera translation of signs. In a way this makes life in the Asian countries much easier, but on the other hand doesn’t push you further to learn the language.
MapsMe has been our navigation aid.
RoadTrip will keep track of our milage and service intervals of the Land Cruiser.
5.)What place do you wish more people have seen?
Pakistan. We (in the Western world) have such a negative image of that country, which is totally understandable considering the images fed to us by the media. Those images are real. Pakistan is a troubled country and has many serious issues to deal with. However, there is another side to the coin. It has the friendliest, welcoming people and the northern mountains (Himalayas, Karakorum, and Hindu Kush) are among the most bewitching places on earth.
To travel in a country such as Pakistan is a good reminder that there are two sides to each story.
6.)Best advice you have been given and by whom?
(Coen) My art teacher just before entering the Uffizi Gallery (Florence, Italy) told us to pick only one painting per room and concentrate on that. It is impossible to see it all. That is how we travel as well, with the knowledge that you can’t see it all. So it’s best to pick a region or a few regions and delve deep there.
7.)When were you surprised by the kindness of strangers on a trip?
It is a continuous proces. In so many of the 30+ countries we have traveled over the past 14+ years, people have been so kind that we thought, “It can’t get any better.” But it could.
Having said that, I think the feeling of surprise has been the strongest in countries that generally have such a bad image, at least in the Western world: Iran, Pakistan, Brazil, Colombia, and Venezuela have been the most hospitable countries on our trip.
8.)What inspired you to travel for extended periods of time or live in a new country?
(Karin-Marijke) When Coen and I met, we both stood at a crossroads in our life, figuring out what to do with the next phase of our lives. After 8 months of our meeting, Coen figured it out by remembering a childhood dream: traveling the world. He asked me to join him and it sounded like a perfect plan.
9.)I travel because….
(Coen) I am curious, and I want to see things with my own eyes, and not be dependent on the media to bring me their colored views.
Lastly, can you please recommend a resource for up-and-coming travel writers; this could be a course you know, a book, conference etc.
Karin-Marijke Vis and Coen Wubbles work as a writer-photographer team and their work has been published in 4WD/car monthlies, travel and food magazines. They have been overlanding in a vintage Land Cruiser in Asia and South America since 2003 and are currently traveling around Japan.