Dubai: A young couple has travelled over 13,000-km from their native Germany to the UAE in a 30-year-old converted campervan for a six-month journey that will see them cover a total of 11 countries.
Gulf News spotted Martin Scholz and Sarah Voltz in their van on Al Sufouh Beach as they arrived in Dubai on Wednesday.
The cheerful couple was happy to share their story, as they hope to inspire others to set off on long distance journeys to explore the world and learn more about different cultures.
The pair said the idea to embark on an adventurous trip like this arose two years ago, but they could only begin to realise that dream in October of last year when Martin was finally granted a six-month sabbatical from work.
As the first step, Martin - a mechanical engineer - said, he bought the 30-year-old Volkswagen T3 Syncro 4WD last February.
Since then, he worked on modifying the van every weekend to convert it into a camper.
“A lot of technical issues also had to be fixed because I wasn’t able to drive it when I bought it.”
Asked why he chose the outdated van, he said: “Since it is a 4WD, it is good for driving in any terrain. It is a simple van with not too many parts and electronic attachments. It is easy to fix if something is broken. Outside it is small. It is not bigger than a normal [4WD] car. Inside it is very spacious,” he added.
The couple has set up a sofa-cum-bed, a small kitchen with a fridge, a sink and a stove that runs on benzene.
His smile widened as he said it was his grandmother who helped him with the upholstery and curtains for their moving bedroom.
“We have everything we need in our kitchen. We buy spices from bazaars in the countries we visit,” said Sarah.
Setting off from Germany, the couple has travelled through the Czech Republic, Poland, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Iran. They then took a ferry from Bandar Abbas to Sharjah.
“So far, we have not had any problem. We have been lucky,” said Martin.
“And I am not afraid because he knows how to fix it as he is car mechanic,” chuckled Sarah.
“But it is hard to get spare parts,” Martin was quick to add.
Their plan is to visit Oman and return via the UAE to Iran and Turkey.
They were impressed with the warm welcome they received in Sharjah.
“People everywhere look at us as our van is so old and you have so many new models of big cars here. So people are curious and they always want to help us,” said Sarah.
“As we were driving to Dubai, we heard about the dirty cars being fined here and we went to a car wash,” said Martin.
The couple said the company’s boss came out and asked their details and offered them free service. “He also invited us for tea. We were very happy about this warm welcome here. We have heard that local people here are very hospitable. We are looking forward to meeting them in the desert where they go camping,” said Martin.
Particularly fascinated about spending days in the desert disconnected with the rest of the world, Martin said he is also looking forward to seeing a camel race.
While in Iran, they spent a couple of days in the desert enjoying campfires and hiking in the dunes. “We even baked our own bread.”
The specialty of their trip is the freedom to go anywhere they want and stay anywhere as per their wish, unlike a booked holiday.
“We do not feel alone. We can make friends everywhere. The contact with the local people and the other travelers is the best part,” said Sarah.
Strangers have gone beyond language barriers to strike conversations and help them and also gifted them with souvenirs.
And the biggest lesson that they have learnt from the first half of their journey is that people and their issues and their feelings are the same everywhere.
“When I am back in Germany and see foreign people, I will ask them can I help you or do you need help and invite them for tea or coffee like it has happened to me so many times during this journey.”