The First Week:
It’s only been a week?! A brief over view of the first leg of what is the most over-planned, under-estimated journey of our lives. Shall we?
Sunday, July 17th: LAUNCH DAY!! While some teams were outright giddy with excitement Team #WeLive was a juxtaposition of anticipation, actual drooping spirits, and a dash of total ignorance. We charged across the English Channel, a corner of France, Belgium, and into Germany where we crashed at Team PvE’s house wherein every horizontal space was paved with Mongol Rally members. Also, Tabitha has completely lost her voice.
Monday, July 18th: Headed to the Iranian Embassy in Frankfurt to collect our Visas and were turned away for lack of a German Bank money order. Insert a bit of shock when the gentleman told us that our Visas would be ready for pick up next week. After some very respectful explaining that we don’t have time for that the nice gentleman told us to come back in the morning. So we uneasily left our passports and our hopes and dreams at the embassy. We did go down to Heidelberg to enjoy a gorgeous day that included a castle, delicious kebabs, and Tabitha being the first to completely forget about the chairs strapped to the roof and scraping them off in a parking structure. Also, a Mongol Rally gathering at a campground where there was a lot of chaos and we broke a tree trying to put up our glorious Tensile tent. You can’t make this stuff up. More on that in another post.
Tuesday, July 19th: BACK TO THE IRANIAN EMBASSY! Where Brianna and Paula were in and out in 10 minutes with our Iranian Visas!! Woo-hoo!! We’re doing it. We had a quick but lovely meeting with the founder of the solo female traveler’s app, Tourlina, and then we were off like a mall walker to Munich. Then we had an extremely long drive that we were in no way prepared for. This is where we realized that our time/distance approximations were absolutely lunacy. Our cars are glorified lawn mowers! What were we thinking?! They go 60 mph at best. We can turn a 3 hour drive into 5 with these tiny brave steeds. Also, we got split up and the second car didn’t make it to the camp site for 2 hours after the first car. This is where we learn to keep tents and beds in both cars. But the showers were glorious.
Wednesday, July 20th: Another grueling day to make it all the way down to Pula, Croatia. We had a pit stop near Trieste for a swim in the Adriatic that was DELIGHTFUL. We finally make it to Pula where we all completely fell in love with Croatia and seriously considered quitting the rally to lay on the lovely beaches for a few weeks instead. We were hosted by Paula’s friend Rob, founder of Convergent Media Group, who also arranged for us to meet his office of amazing women the next day. There is some tension in the group that I shall not disclose.
Thursday, July 21st: A delightful breakfast with the women of Convergent Media Group! They inspired us with their lovely sisterhood within the company. We left feeling very excited to go meet more women along our route! And then began the long drive to the Bosnian border. We knew it would be a long day to make it to the hotel that had been booked, but we DIDN’T know we would be rejected from the border completely at 11pm (aka 23:00). THIS IS NOT A FUN THING. We’re tired. The insurance we have “works everywhere in the EU” except that they didn’t give us the paper work that they require at this particular border. This results in an emergency stop at a charming inn somewhere in Croatia along the banks of a beautiful river with a keeper named Tomo who fed the very hungry Alice delicious food. We all joined in for some sustenance and of course wine because we’re classy. This particular night also houses a reality show status fight among the team. We’re EXHAUSTED. We cannot keep up this pace of going to bed at 1am (aka 01:00) and getting up at 6am (aka 06:00). We realize we’ve made a commitment to be in Sofia, Bulgaria in a few days that will require us to have several more sleepless nights because of the sheer distance and our wimpy cars. Balls. Nothing is resolved, Brianna is angry, Paula is beyond frazzled, Megan is sick, Alice is exasperated, and Tabitha is crying again (fifth time since launch) because she misses her husband. We agree to leave at 9am and go to bed. This is not a pretty day in our history. (Instax pics! So much fun!)
Friday, July 22nd: So, that insurance that we got in trouble for not having? They didn’t even ask us for it at the border crossing from Croatia through a mili-second of Bosnia, and back into Croatia. Truly, borders are all about the mood of the people running them. And then: Just. More. Driving. The countries are flying by and we’re not seeing anything. Croatia melts into Montenegro, Montenegro spills into Albania. We stop a couple times to dip our sweaty bodies in the Adriatic. Which is good because we’re proving that girls can smell pretty bad, too. Also good because at one point Alice and Brianna re-enact Bay Watch which is just all around perfection. Then Brianna finds a campground in LITERALLY the most unexpected place and it’s magical. A full restaurant, a miniature forest for our tents, and lovely travelers to talk with. It was very nice. But it’s another short night.
Saturday, July 23rd: Up and out by 7:30 in the morning? This is getting silly. But we’re getting faster at packing the car. However, we have to make it to Terana for an interview with Hana who is part of a women’s street performance group focused on women’s issues. This is an incredible story that I will post a snippet of very soon. Then, you guessed it, MORE EFFING DRIVING. We’re all coming to terms with the fact that this trip is not about experiencing the countries we visit. We bump our way into Macedonia and find a hotel that has a very serious communist hangover. We negotiate the price of this questionable hotel with the help of a middle school aged boy (who we think might run the town) and has since become our groupie. Alarm clocks were set for early hours once again and we settled in for a weird night.
Sunday, July 24th: Did you know there's a time change as soon as you enter Bulgaria from Macedonia? We do now. Unfortunately skipping this hour ahead made us late in an unrecoverable way for meeting with people in Sofia as originally planned. Sigh. This is our theme. We need more time. We ALWAYS NEED MORE TIME. But, we're on the Mongol Rally so we sweat our lady bits off getting to the Turkish border where we have no idea what to expect. We've heard everything from 8 hours and many car searches to 15 minutes and a few questions. Our actual experience ended up being just shy of an hour and totally painless! The night is spent with our host and his very loud kitten after Turkish food, a mosque, and yet another late night. Alice has a rough day and everyone should send her good vibes because her phone broke and it must be replaced. Because what else would we expect?
Summary: What are we doing?! The Adventurists have a brilliant business model here, you know that, right? We pay them to do absolutely nothing for us and then we hurtle ourselves across 2 continents in silly cars. What the heck is this?! There may be some regret and more than a little disgust that we have committed to continue like this for another 6 weeks.
There’s no way this will end up being “the best trip I’ve even taken!” But it will be the ballsiest, most ludicrous things we’ve ever done. And hopefully the bragging rights make up for all the immediate discomforts.
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