Felix and Indigo (Gaias Trek)

Today's Explorers

Felix and Indigo (Gaias Trek)

July 20, 2022
min read
Charles Forman

Where are you from?

Indigo is German and Felix is Dutch - we both used to live in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

When did you start your interest in exploration?

I guess we both started the interest at a young age - for Indigo it started with checking out the woods behind her garden and venturing into “new” territory and Felix was dragged around Europe by his parents in a tent or mobile home. Probably, it’s more remarkable that we didn’t lose it growing up. We are still curious to see things new to us and explore our surroundings! 

What is a brief understanding of your background story up until you started seeking adventure?

Before setting out on our overland journey we used to live together in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Felix was self-employed and Indigo worked for an environmental conservation non-profit. Both of us are big DIY fans and settled on travelling the world together before even living together. We invested most of our free time into rebuilding our Defender 110 into a miniature home on wheels and working side hustles to help pay for the trip. 

What special skills do you have to help with your explorations?

It is safe to say that we are both pretty handy and don’t shy away from hard work, this already helped us in the rebuild but also comes in handy on the road. Felix is a decent mechanic, with a knack for figuring out the ins and outs of anything technical, from our Coleman stove to our car engine. Indigo is a good navigator (thanks to bad “normal” orientation, maps always have been her go-to) and has a passion for plants, which usually sets her off foraging things. 

Most importantly we have a healthy portion of curiosity and usually believe we can do things until proven otherwise, allowing us to usually pick things up easily. Next to this, we are social and always try to be kind - probably the most important “skill” to have on the road.

Where have you explored so far?

We have both travelled a lot independently, both in Asia and Europe and some parts of the Americas. Currently, we are on the Old Silkroad heading East - hoping to get to the Bering Sea. 

What is a brief understanding of your adventures so far?

Usually, we set out with a rough plan and then change and amend it as we go - I don’t think we ever actually stuck to a plan. In a way that is probably what makes our travel an adventure. 

We rely heavily on the advice and recommendations of people we meet on the road, seeking out places they recommend and skipping through most big attractions. Travelling with our dog Gaia means that we don’t spend too much time in cities and try to keep our pace slow. As we both tend to push each other, it is great to have another reason to slow down and it’s so far done us very well. Travelling long term can be tiring with all the new impressions daily, so keeping our pace slow is a good way to ensure we don’t tire out.

Next to this, we try to get to know locals whenever possible and frequently meet other travellers to join up with for a night or two. Indigo is a curious foodie, so we usually hit some local restaurants or street stalls to try new dishes and cook with whatever greens she could not identify on the market. Next to that, we try to make the most of living outdoors, hiking, swimming and finally trying all those outdoor activities that were not available in Amsterdam.

What are the top three destinations you hope to explore next, and why?

Iran - we both would love to see this country. We have both heard so much and we want to meet the people and taste the food. Indigo would love to see the Safran fields and Felix wants to snowboard in the mountains and take a swim after.

Kyrgyzstan  - Indigo has been fascinated with Kyrgyzstan for a long time and wants to explore the mountains and walk in the world’s largest walnut forest.

Japan - Felix wants to see Japan, to experience the culture and the potentially different lifestyle

Where would you recommend others visit?

If we would have to nail it down to one place, it would be Georgia: Great people, amazing landscapes and the most delicious food. But generally, we would always say to go to places you’re intrigued by and make some detours on the way. Also, check out things that might have not been on your bucket list.

How do you primarily travel on your adventures today?

We travel in a Landrover Defender110, 300tdi from 1998. It would probably be easier to list what we did not modify, as we bought the car as a project and getting it ready for the trip took us almost three years. But the top three modifications would be: 

  1. We designed and built a pop-top. The total process of this build took us almost a year, but we are very happy with the outcome! We will publish our building plans shortly, to hopefully make things a little easier for others. 
  2. The camper rebuild. We can sleep 4 people in the Defender and have a great slide-out kitchen. It took us three different versions of the interior build to be happy - so we had a good learning curve there.  
  3. Seat Heating. We kept our original seats and Indigo made new covers for them, with the saved money we splurged on seat heating pads that could be added in the upholstery process. So great for a car whose heating doesn’t get very warm in winter! 

What are five pieces of equipment that you always travel with?

Water purifying system (Riva Filter in the Defender & Grayl bottles on the go), Coffee Mugs and Maker, E-Readers, Garmin In-Reach Mini, Our double sleeping bag (handed down by Felix’s parents who used it in the 90s)

What inspires you to explore more?

Anything - it could be a documentary, a photo, a book, articles, someone talking about a place, etc. There are loads of excuses to explore more! Certainly seeing other people do it is encouraging, but so is hearing about a new hidden canyon, a special berry to be found or a place with a good vibe.

How do you engage with others?

We engage with others by meeting people on the road, at places where we camp, on hikes, etc. It probably helps that we are both kind and outgoing and Gaia is usually a great ice breaker. Next to this we also meet people via Instagram or other online media, it’s always fun to see someone in “real life” after knowing them for a while. 

We also downloaded Couchsurfing at the start of our trip and used WWOOFING - but somehow we always end up semi-busy with the people we encounter randomly. 

Why is it important to embrace global cultures?

Diverse cultures can enrich our lives, add colours to experiences and if we put enough effort into it, help us to see things from different perspectives. There is such a wealth of experiences and knowledge to be discovered in other cultures than your own that it would be a shame to never discover at least some of them. Diversity generally speaking is enriching, this goes for genetics as for cultures. 

What are your goals when you explore?

We want to explore different cultures, meet new people, have open conversations and spend a lot of time in nature. We would like to see some of the things we heard of for ourselves, make up our own take on places and push ourselves out of our comfort zones. 

What are some challenges you have experienced?

Bad coffee, bad weather and impassable roads are all part of the deal - they can for sure be challenging. Usually, to us, however, it is more of a mindset challenge. You get pulled into life much more than in a “normal” setting. You might want to take a day off, but end up being the only first aid to an accident, you might have cuddled up in bed ready to sleep, but the wind picks up and you have to crawl out and close your pop-top, etc. These moments make you crave the comfort of a couch and uber eats. 

What has been your most meaningful moment so far?

Felix: Meeting a friend again after 13 years of seeing him for the last time in Bosnia and Herzegovina and spending a lovely time with him and his girlfriend.

How has exploration changed you?

Indigo: I would not say that it changed me, I guess in a way it defined me. I have been travelling and frequently moving around regularly since leaving high school and would have not wanted it any other way. I find it thrilling to meet new people from different cultures and learn a thing or two from them. I definitely learned more about what being German meant to me living abroad than being in Germany. 

What is the number one lesson that you have learnt through your exploration?

Hakuna Matata, things usually end up being fine and so you might as well enjoy the ride! Also for us, this is easier said than done. But with the multitude of kind people whom we met in situations of need, calm places we found when we wanted a chill and fun parties we stumbled into when we were feeling social - it starts to sink in. 

How do you explore locally?

Walk a different route than the usual one with Gaia, go out to find a plant you know should be in season and visit that bar you’ve always cycled passed. Exploration can start on your doorstep if you’re willing to do so. Admittedly, it might take a little more work at home, it becomes in a way more of a conscious effort but it’s fun nevertheless! 

Another great option to explore is to take in travellers when they need shelter (Indigo’s parents do that) - it will make their stories and culture come quite literally right to your home.

What does the explmore mantra mean to you?

It relates to our way of thinking, which is based on Humboldt's idea, that: “The most dangerous worldview is the worldview of those who have not viewed the world.”

Go out, see things, meet people and put your open mindset to the test - don’t be scared to question the norms and values you grew up with.

What advice would you give to others who are seeking life changing adventure?

It does not always have to be life-changing. People get so caught up in seeking big breakthroughs or radical change, that they usually get scared by the humongous challenge at hand. Take things step by step. If you want to go and travel the world in a camper, camp in the town next to your home town. Do you want to walk across multiple countries? Find some weekend trails close to you and make a start. 

When we settled on the idea of Overlanding the world in a Defender, Indigo’s camping experience was close to zero. Naturally, the idea of living in a car was fun and exciting, but also very far out of her comfort zone. We tested our set-up and life in the car for over two years (thanks Covid) before leaving. Always changing things after a test and getting more comfortable as we went. By the time we were ready to leave home, we were comfortable with the car and camping - this made the transition much easier for us.

It is not to say that you have to prepare for years, but more to say if you have a big dream, start with its small components today. It will make this big crazy idea seem less daunting - so when it’s time to go for it, you will be ready.

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