After a few interesting weeks on the desolate Black Sea coast of Bulgaria, we are looking forward to exploring Turkey next. We need a pause from driving and spend quite some time parked up in the vibrant, multicultural city of Istanbul. It is also finally time for the interview with the Swedish immigration at the embassy in Athens. This is the whole purpose of this journey, and we are excited that the big day has finally come! So, a little nervous we set off towards Greece. After five months on the road we are longing for home, so we begin the long journey back home to Sweden as soon as the interview is done.
Crossing the border into Turkey was interesting. Immediately the roads improved and we started seeing people again. Where Bulgaria had felt quite abandoned and desolate, Turkey is giving off a completely different vibe. Everywhere we see people, in seemingly random locations, having picnic lunches around small fires brewing the traditional chai tea.
We feel very welcome here. More than once we are invited to share a glass of chai while struggling to communicate with our new friends. Mostly resorting to smiles and gestures, or google translate, as English is not spoken by many.
Black Sea Coast – Turkey
We go for a drive along the Black Sea coast curious to compare it to Bulgaria. It feels the same, although there are more people on this side of the border. We keep being hassled by the police with knocks on the van almost every night for passport controls. We figure out that they mistake the “S” for Sweden on our license plates for Syria, and they are screening for illegal refugees. Some of the confrontations are a bit forceful and uncomfortable, but once they see our passports they usually mellow and wish us safe travels. We have had enough and chose to leave and spend a few days exploring the Aegean coastline before returning to Istanbul.
Breakdowns and repairs
We have struggled with accelerator pedal issues since Serbia and now the whole mechanism finally snapped, leaving us no choice but to deal with it once and for all. So we limp back to Istanbul. We find really helpful people at the official VW dealership who help us weld it back together again – free of charge! They loved seeing this 25-year-old VW lady limp into the shop and leave an hour later. Fit for more adventures.
We feel a need to stop driving and opt for the convenience of city life in Istanbul. We park up right on the waterfront on the Asian side of the city for weeks. For free! We need a bit of downtime and also have some logistics to work out. I am working on a project long distance and need a good internet connection, and Scott is rehabbing an old mountaineering injury with a great chiropractor in town.
Time slows down as we fall into a nice routine. Between cemetery showers, chai tea and Turkish coffee, long seaside walks and runs, mussel divers, colorful buskers and a whole community of stray cats, we feel at home here. It feels nice and calm, despite being immersed in a massive city of 15 million+ people. The area where we park up boasts an enormous public park that goes on for kilometers along the waterfront. People stroll, run, bike or rollerblade down the boardwalk and it is a beautiful place to meet spring. The first of three we will enjoy this year! It is really nice to move a lot more too. We don’t like sitting still as much as we have been doing lately while driving so much.
Then one day it is suddenly time to leave. Scotts interview with Swedish immigration is scheduled for the embassy in Athens, so we start driving west for Athens stopping for a brief day hike in the Mount Olympus mountains. We spend a day exploring the city on foot, taking in the views from Acropolis and sampling the local food, but our focus is on the interview. We park up and sleep right in the middle of the city, just five minutes walk from the embassy, for free as usual. We have actually not paid for a single night of parking on this whole journey!
Finally, the big day is here… interview day. Scott spends two hours having my biometrics taken and being thoroughly questioned by the immigration officer. A bit nerve-wracking, but it feels like he did ok. Now our part of the process is done and all we can do is to wait.
The long drive home
While Greece is really beautiful, we want to go home. So we begin the long drive back to Sweden. We are slightly shocked by the number of road tolls we had to pay for leaving Greece. Getting around the pay roads like we normally do simply is not an option here. The backcountry roads are barely passable or simply does not exist.
We stop for an oil service in Albania then follow the beautiful coastline of Montenegro and Croatia heading north. Since Scott can only stay in the Schengen area for a limited time, we decide to save that time for the nice Swedish summer and head for the UK. We park up in Brighton for a month where we meet a lovely small community of vanlifers, a first for us on this journey. The community feeling is a really nice change.
Epilogue — the end of Nomads for love
Freedom is is a deeply rooted core value that we both share, and one reason we chose to live the way we do.
We have struggled a little bit with that on this journey. We learned that we don’t like being responsible for so much stuff. Having our whole home with us on the road, just means we have more to lose.
While we really love Dory and enjoy traveling and exploring, this adventure has come with a lot of restrictions. We feel trapped by the immigration system and not in charge of our own lives, in limbo while we wait for the excruciatingly long bureaucratic process to run its course.
After a year of playing the game, our hearts sink when we find out that we have another year to go before we can expect a decision. A decision that might not even be yes.
We feel powerless. We have one life and it is happening right now and we don’t want to wait to live it. So we have decided to move on. To live life on our own terms and let the chips with immigration fall where they may.
We drive back to Sweden, put Dory up for sale, and with mixed feelings watch her drive off down the road one last time.
The future… walking the world
With summer fast approaching there is no time to miss Dory and definitely no time lose as we plan for the next chapter in our life— a human powered expedition from Nordkapp in Norway to New Zealand. It is an epic 5+ year long mission (the route). We feel truly alive again! We are nomadic explorers after all. This is what we do!
Stay tuned for the next chapter of the Reboot Life saga – coming soon!