Home is where our tent is
"It's not about looking for the best place, it's about making the best of the place we find.”
‘Our home is where our tent is’, we sometimes say as a joke. Yet we feel the urge to have our own place. A place from which we can start new adventures; a place where our outdoor gear is stored; a place that doesn't change every day.
We, WeLeaf (Zoë Agasi and Olivier Van Herck), have been living without a home, without a permanent residence, for five years. Since we left Amsterdam in 2016, we’ve travelled more than 45,000 kilometres around the world on human power; from sailing the Atlantic, cycling South America, crossing Canada on skis and so much more.
In 2020, Sea to Summit published our stories about our winter expedition in the remote Lower North Shore of Canada How to Camp in Extreme Cold and Stopped In Our Tracks. Unfortunately, the expedition was interrupted after two months due to Covid, and we had to pause our travels for two months. After this break, we continued on roller skis to Scandinavia where we spent the winter, and we loved it there.
We've always told our parents that we might settle down somewhere when we find our dream place. That place exists, we think, in Scandinavia.
Accessible to friends and family with a culture that’s similar to ours; economically and politically stable; a real winter with wilderness, mountains and snow. Thus arises our new dream—living in Scandinavia. And so, in January 2022, we left The Netherlands by bike in search of our basecamp for adventure and we christened our journey ‘Project Basecamp-X’.
The perfect preparation
Our plan is simple: find a place in Scandinavia and build our life. On the internet, we read that emigrating without perfect preparation is a guarantee of failure. We gleaned that most people who emigrate already have a job, a house, a study opportunity or a place to go. We know nothing yet, except that we will find our dream place by bicycle.
This is the way we’ve done things over the past five years, and during that time we’ve made dreams come true. Many people applaud our adventure, but there are also those who don't believe in our plan. Olivier's parents think the idea of leaving on the spur of the moment is a bad idea. They don't think we will find our perfect place and they’re sceptical. They were like that five years ago when we started our trip around the world. Only when they saw that things were going well did they become big supporters. We are surprised that they have the same fears even now, even though we have shown them before that things always work out.
One month of rain
We deliberately chose to undertake our adventure by bicycle, in our bid to find our dream spot—even though it is the heart of winter. We are prepared for cold days—warm clothes and thick winter sleeping bags feature heavily in our laden panniers.
In the first weeks, we cycle through the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark. It rains, rains, and rains. We've travelled through many climates and seasons, but we've never had weather this bad. It pours for almost a month and our biggest challenge is staying dry. That goes for our clothes, and especially our sleeping bags. Every morning we wake up in a tent that is wet on the outside from the rain and on the inside from condensation. Dew droplets sit on top of our bags and our cycling clothes hang clammy on an improvised washing line.
Normally we can dry stuff in the sun during the day, but the sun is not forthcoming. Fortunately, we can occasionally sleep inside a home with hospitable people, where everything can dry out. It is both physically and mentally tough. Most people we talk to also ask why we’re torturing ourselves by cycling to Scandinavia during winter.
Slow travel brings all the answers
For us, it's a logical choice. We spent five years travelling under human power—by bike, canoe, on foot, sailing, skiing and skating. Cycling gives us time to see, feel, smell, and experience the country. Slow travel teaches us the answers we seek, and it brings us closer to the locals. The kitchen table is our favourite place, and we also need it in our search for a place to live. Each time we answer the questions: What are you looking for? What kind of work do you want? Or, What does your dream house look like? Our answers become more and more concrete and closer to our gut feeling. The bicycle gives us the time and opportunity to slowly find the right answers. Besides, there is always someone who then says: Oh, but I know a good place for you.
We know that the slow journey we’re experiencing on our bikes is the key to making our dream come true. It worked during the past five years and we’re relying on it working this time as well.
The road to a dream is never straight
All this confidence doesn’t mean we’re on the road without doubts. After a month we arrive in Norway and the search really begins.
On the map, we’ve drawn a large circle of all the places within a two-hour drive from the airport in Oslo. This is our search area, but on the way, we’ve already encountered so many beautiful spots.
On social media we get all kinds of tips from Norwegians, often outside the area we’ve pinpointed. We oscillate back and forth between changing ideas and the fear of missing out. Above all, we try to hold on to the lessons our world trip taught us:
- There is no such thing as a wrong choice. If a choice doesn't feel right, we always have two options. Accept things or reverse our decision and try something else. From every wrong choice we learn to listen to our feelings and make the right choice the next time.
- It always works out. The road to a dream is never straight; it takes all kinds of detours. We should not expect a direct route because that isn’t how it works. The most important thing is to have faith that, in the end, all will be well so long as we keep moving forward.
- We don't need to know everything before we can start something. This gives us encouragement that it’s okay to move before we believe we’re ready.
It's impossible to know all the answers before we make up our minds. The important thing is to make a choice because it gives us peace of mind, purpose and clarity.
Before the start of Basecamp-X, we organised a brainstorming session. At the top of our piece of paper we wrote our own quote: "It's not about looking for the best place, it's about making the best of the place we find.”
We are still searching, but we are not afraid that we will find our dream home soon.