Before we begin, let me tell you, this is no ordinary story. It is about a man who decided to find the better part of himself, for which he decided to leave his stable life and a successful business in Germany and travel across the globe in, wait a minute, not a Unimog or a Dakar spec vehicle, but a humble 1965 Volkswagen Type 2 Kombi Van which he calls ‘Bluee’ because of its colour.
The idea to drive from Germany, across Europe, the Middle-East and all the way till Indonesia took wings in the year 2010, when Jens Jacob left home and everything he knew in Germany in his search for salvation and true freedom, as he had saved up some money but did not have the opportunity to enjoy it. So when the going got too much, he woke up one morning, packed a few things, took his labrador Nea along and got on the road. On the move for almost the last five years now, Jens, Bluee and Nea travelled through Germany, across Netherlands, Belgium, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Turkey and less traveled destinations like Iran. Although mid-way through the journey, 10 year old Nea died of cancer and Jens buried her on the beach, where she liked it the most.
Jens isn’t just driving pointlessly across these countries. Wherever he stops, he tries to find some work, which could be something as noble as teaching at a school or as rudimental as working on a farm. Something that helps him indulge in his passion of travelling. After being denied a visa by Pakistan to drive into India, Jens shipped the Kombi Van from Oman and is currently in Mumbai with his wife Cynthia, whom he met during his stay in Dubai. From Mumbai, Jens, Cynthia and Bluee will drive to Goa from where they plan to travel alongside the Indian coastline, then go up North, reach Tibet and finally their destination Indonesia through Vietnam.
We caught up with the German while he was in Mumbai and came back realizing that he doesn’t subscribe to any nationality anymore but lives as a true global citizen. In fact, he hasn’t even visited Germany since 2010. We entered the coffee shop of a hotel he was staying at, which was a rather unusual place for Jens to be, as he cooks, cleans and sleeps in the van itself while looking for employment in whichever country he is in. When we were introduced to the man himself, what striked us first as we shook hands, was that as opposed to the general consensus, Jens was a rather jovial German with a calm, saint like personality.
As the conversation started trough the usual Why’s and When’s, it began sinking in that in a world that is so adamant on killing itself every day, we were talking to a man who is hell bent on making each day count. Through his accounts, we realized that traversing through different geographies, meeting people from various cultures and tasting numerous cuisines, Jens has found a way to live each day and in the process, he must’ve touched many lives, inspired some and might’ve also acted as a catalyst to many dreams.
Surprisingly, or rather not so, when we asked if he has had any close shaves of any kind travelling across unknown locations, Jens admitted that never throughout his journey did any place make him feel hostile or unwelcome. In fact, it was in Iran where he met some of the warmest people, strangers who’d invite him over for a meal. Talking about one of his experiences, after crossing into Turkey through Greece, a man waved at Jens from the other side of the road, only to take a U-turn ahead and follow his van, making Jens nervous. He did not speak English, but exchanged his business card, which was for a VW and Audi workshop in the city. The man wanted Jens to visit him, so he could help him fix his car if there was anything that required attention and also since his friend owned an old Beetle, he wanted both the VW enthusiasts to catch up.
Rather surprisingly, it was in France where a few men planned to rob Jens and since he understands a little French, he managed to decipher their plan and escaped. Driving towards the port in Oman, where he had to reach in time for the van to be shipped to India, Jens and Cynthia encountered a huge sandstorm, when the visibility dropped to zero and they had to take shelter in a gas station. That is also when the starter motor gave up and although with some difficulty, Jens managed to fix the van and make it to his destination in time. Living with the VW for so many years, Bluee has now become an extension of his life, rather than a lifeless machine and Jens is now capable of fixing most faults himself, unless it is a repair job that requires more than a man.
Amongst the husband and wife travelers, Jens admits it is Cynthia who is the better cook, while on the other hand, the lady finds him to be a better driver. Within the 1965 VW Kombi Van, they carry a small kitchen, a water tank, spares, tools, some books and the van is also equipped with an original tent that is as old as the van itself.
From renovating a school in Turkey, spreading awareness about HIV, to working at the Hilton in Oman, Jens revels in the happiness that he brings out on unknown faces through little gestures that don’t require money or other such worldly elements but intent, which is strong and unadulterated. Today, he thrives on the experiences that will remain in his heart and his mind for the time that he lives, as he knows that it isn’t something that can be taken away. In a world which is mad about a self obsessed phone whose name begins with an ‘i’, Jens is a refreshing change. He doesn’t carry a cell phone or a gamut of gadgets to keep him occupied. He could find a tree anywhere in this world, park his van, cook a meal and enjoy the shade. As some us try to find solace in a book, Jens is writing his own, one which will talk about his discovery of the saint and the explorer within, about leaving a mark, about the beauty of living a rudimentary, yet a purposeful life.
We at Motoroids wish him all the best for the journey ahead and if you happen to meet him anywhere down the road while he’s here, do wave, say hello, meet a man who will inspire you, like he inspired us.