Meet the Backroad Vagrants

It’s a favourite fantasy of mine. And I am sure it’s common amongst people permanently afflicted with a strong case of wanderlust. You know wake up one fine morning, swiftly type out a resignation letter, mail it to HR, and then head out on an epic road trip around the world. Preferably, forever. Then I have my morning fix, the head has a gentle conversation with the heart, and before you know it, the resignation letter magically transforms into a leave application for 6 working days (plus two weekends for a grand total of 10 days). 10 days leave of absence is usually granted without much eyebrows being raised. Sad, I know, in comparison to a round-the-world road trip. But perfectly welcome as I am a life member of the 'count-your-blessings' club. Also, I don’t have a trust fund in my name.

On one of these little breaks when I managed to unshackle myself from my workstation, I landed up in the remote mountainous region of Svaneti in Georgia. Or more precisely, in Ushguli, one of the highest inhabited villages in Europe. And that’s where I met the Backroad Vagrants - a pair of overland explorers who’re actually living my fantasy.

Anna (Navigator and Physician) and Heiner (Mechanic and Programmer)
are driving from Germany all the way down to Australia in a specially modified and kitted Toyota Landcruiser (Willie) – their mobile home for the next year or so. Unlike many who debate and discuss endlessly the ways one can roam around the world, this duo actually put a plan in place, and without much ado, set out on their trip. On the road since April 2016, they have already driven through Albania, Croatia, Montenegro, Turkey and Azerbaijan. By the time this post goes online, they will be in Armenia.

Sounds like a lot of travelling since April. But except for some hectic cross-country driving through
Turkey (800km approx. in a day – well, it was coup season), they are actually travelling nice and slow by taking the back roads instead of highways. Where as we all know life is more authentic. And that's how the Backroad Vagrants are exploring one country at a time. By sticking to a routine that's not set in stone. Camp at picturesque locations. Buy local produce. Chat with locals. Share meals with strangers. And stop to smell the wildflowers whenever they feel like.

Here are some photos of their fantastic mobile home and their life around it.

Meet Willie - the modified Toyota Landcruiser HZJ. The Backroad Vagrants searched for six long months for a vehicle that was financially viable and ticked all the right technical boxes. E.g. The roof opens up and becomes Anna and Heiner's bedroom at night. This pop-up roof was a technical requirement. 

This is their smartly designed kitchen. Everything has its own place. The two-burner stove 'suitcase' is really neat. Once cooking is done with, it can be neatly stowed away. Did anybody say German engineering?

The dressing table cum toiletry section. Anna and Heiner believes that being on the road is no excuse to look messy. Well, they didn't really tell me this. But one look at them and the words 'neat and elegant' comes to mind. We were lucky to spend some time with them because every now and then they stop at a B&B to do their laundry. And one of those B&Bs happened to be the one where we were staying.

The rear seats have been taken out in order to create storage space. For everything that's required for a transcontinental journey - from essential spare parts to medical kits. This area also acts as their 'office' from where they update their journeys on their blog, apply for visas and other sundry paperwork. Just like home. But a world away from home.

Does your car have a place to do the dishes? Well, this one does.Everything's designed in a way that would make the designers at IKEA turn many shades of green.

They even have their own filtration system. An essential piece of kit. After all, when one is flitting constantly from one region to another, one needs a trusty source of water. Anna is a doctor. But prevention is better than cure and all that.

And where do they sleep? As I mentioned before the roof opens up to create this cozy space. All they need to do is climb up and gaze at the stars through the glass panel.

As per Heiner, one of the most important pieces of equipment in the car.Perfect to crack open a few cold ones when they set up camp in a valley, on a beach, beside a gurgling stream, on a mountain. Well, you get the picture. It's a tough life.

Anna and Heiner, it was lovely meeting you two (and Willie, of course).Wish you all the best for your travels. Hopefully we will cross paths again, sooner than later. Maybe the 1974 Land Rover that stops next to Willie at the only gas station for hundreds of miles in the Gobi desert might have a couple of familiar faces. One never knows. Sometimes fantasies do come true. Especially when one is focused enough to make them happen.