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Viviane und Bastian, Bild: Bastian Maria

Hitchhiking to Japan

Bastian Maria is a travel-loving photographer from Friedrichshafen on Lake Constance. In March 2020, Bastian and his wife Viviane planned to hitchhike around the world from Germany to Japan. Reisemagazin Online met Maria and Viviane with Bastian:

Reisemagazin Online: First of all, how did you come up with the idea of hitchhiking to Japan ?

Viviane: Bastian and I are both very enthusiastic about sports. Above all, the Olympic Games have fascinated us since our childhood. In 2012 in London and in 2016 we were able to experience the Games in Rio de Janeiro up close. After these two events, it was clear to us that we wanted to travel to Tokyo in 2020.

And why hitchhiking?

Viviane: We thought long and hard about how we could make our trip sustainable and as close as possible to the local population. So that we can immerse ourselves in cultures that are unknown and exciting to us. In addition, we wanted to be as sustainable as possible. If a car is driving in one direction and there is space, why shouldn’t we just go with it?!

2020 was the outbreak of the Corona pandemic. Did the pandemic affect the start of your trip?

Bastian: Yes, definitely. We had quit our apartment and job and had already deregistered from Germany . When we wanted to leave, all borders were suddenly closed. Actually, we wanted to start in March 2020, but had to wait until June. Then the first national borders slowly opened again.

And how did Covid affect you during the trip?

Image: Bastian Maria

Bastian: During the trip, it was especially challenging when it came to entering a new country. It was often not entirely clear which tests and which entry requirements were valid. Entering the country by land was usually not possible. Nonetheless, Covid has taken us to countries we wouldn’t have traveled to without the pandemic. For example, when we had to leave Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan was one of the few countries that allowed tourists into the country. Unforgettable moments and unplanned experiences have been created there. All in all, everything went mostly smoothly. Except that we never made it to Japan.

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Why didn’t you make it to Japan?

Viviane: Japan did not reopen its borders before the Tokyo Olympics. Only the athletes, coaches and officials were allowed to enter the country under strict conditions. Even relatives, such as the parents of athletes, were not allowed to enter Japan.

How was the moment for you when you realized that you wouldn’t make it to Tokyo?

Viviane: First of all, we were a bit sad and it took the wind out of our sails a bit. We asked ourselves the question, what are we actually on the road for? However, we quickly agreed that Tokyo was actually “only” the reason for the trip. The actual destination has not changed during the trip.

How would you describe your goal then?

Bastian: From the very beginning, it was important for us to come into contact with foreign cultures. And as close as possible. We wanted to get in touch with people through couchsurfing and hitchhike from A to B. Get to know the country and its people in a personal way. Off the beaten track. Maybe support non-profit organizations in between.

You have certainly experienced a lot as a result. Is there that one moment that you would describe as the most impressive event of the almost two years of world travel?

Image: Bastian Maria

Viviane: It’s not possible to define the one highlight. However, there are a few events that you probably only experience once in your life. This includes hunting with an eagle hunter in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan. In Pakistan we were allowed to attend a traditional Punjab wedding for five days. In Turkey , we were allowed to hitchhike on a sailboat on the Aegean coast for a few days.

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Reisemagazin Online: “If the trip was not finished by the Olympic Games, what motivated you to end the trip? Or is the journey not over?”

Viviane: I got pregnant on the trip in Sri Lanka . This was no reason for us to go home directly. However, Bastian and I agreed that the child should be born in the familiar home in Germany if possible. And so it was that we stayed in Sri Lanka for three months in Zanzibar before we were in Germany at Christmas in the 7th month of pregnancy. The birth in March 2022 was without complications. Since then, we have been a happy trio.

That’s great news. What are you currently doing and how are you planning your near future?

Bastian: Viviane and I are both self-employed. We are using the current time intensively to further expand our independence. From our trip, we are planning a travel lecture entitled: Thumbs Up – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Japan. Here we would like to share our experiences with pictures, videos and stories.

In the near future, we would like to go to South Korea and still like to travel to Japan. Of course, we missed the Olympic Games, but to experience the country and the people would still be a great wish of ours. From now on, of course, the three of them.

I wish you all the best for your project. Thank you very much for the interview.

Viviane: We say thank you.