Aline, you’ve been on the road with CLIFF for a year now — can time be put into words?
ALINE That’s a tough one. It has been a year of experiences, immensely enriching, beautiful and full of contrasts. Probably it was the mixture, this tremendous variety that made it so special.
Many different landscapes?
ALINE Yes, among other things. From the steel-blue fjords in Norway to the French mainland, the wild, windy Hebrides and the dusty desert of Morocco — so many extremes in such a short time. Above all the experience in a camper van is really intense. I love being part of nature with the world right on my doorstep and still feeling protected. It’s like a safe haven, where I sleep peacefully while the wind howls outside — or the wolves like they did in Sweden.
Before you left you were a little worried about moments of loneliness during the long tour — this time without your travel-buddy Lena. Was it like that?
ALINE No, not at all. As I said, it was a perfect mix. At times I had friends travelling with me or I visited friends and other athletes. Then again I really enjoyed the time alone. However, you always meet people, especially with CLIFF as he is quite an eye-catcher. People were curious and came up questioning me, taking a look. CLIFF was basically an open house.
»It has been a year full of experiences, immensely enriching, beautiful and full of contrasts.«
You had people coming and going?
ALINE Well, we weren’t a transit station so to say, but when you open the door people become part of your living room. When you cook with the open side door it is almost an outdoor kitchen — the surroundings become part of your life. At the same time, of course, you just need to close the door to be in your own world. You have your place of retreat. Although CLIFF once became a refuge in my absence …
ALINE In Iceland, a father was standing on the beach in the cold while his son was with us in the waves. The water was about 3° C cold and of course I had already switched on CLIFF’s heater to have it nice and warm coming out of the sea. When I returned to the van, the father was sitting in my passenger seat, all smiles. He said he had been freezing —and then asked for a cup of coffee. I was quite irritated at first, but he and his family turned out to be just great. They invited me to their place and cooked a delicious dinner for me — he was a chef, I have to say.
Were there many situations like this on your journey?
ALINE Yes, indeed, in every country from north to south. So many people warned me about Morocco, for example: »you all by yourself as a woman …«, but I experienced such hospitality. People were so happy when they were able to help me.
Did CLIFF ever cause any trouble?
ALINE No, he never let me down. He simply always did his job and was so strong and brave — sometimes I felt really bad when I steered him over rough roads. But he never complained.
Any other tips for such a roadtrip?
ALINE I can strongly recommend the app Park4Night. It’s a community app featuring parking opportunities with all relevant information: where you can park for how long, whether you can refill your water or just can stand safely and enjoy a great view. It’s a fantastic app.
What are you taking out of the year?
ALINE That you should just go for it. If you get a chance: take it! No matter what. I no longer let myself be intimidated by warnings and fears, which are usually just biased convictions. It is tremendously enriching to discover and experience what the world has to offer. I can only pass this on — and my father is already taking it up. He has always dreamed of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. Now he’s made the arrangements and he has already started preparation. I tell you, stop listening to doubters and sceptics — just get in and keep rolling.