In every town, train station, hostel, and watering hole along the way, we seem to stumble across fellow travelers with colorful tales, interesting backstories, and helpful tips to share.
“The Gene” is intended to become a regular feature spotlighting those nomadic souls whose stories inspire us to keep exploring, seeking deeper connection, and celebrating our gypsy gene.
During a Workaway project in Budva, Montenegro, we had the opportunity to spend a few days with two Spanish women, Ana and Eva (aka 2 Femmes en 2CV,) at the beginning of an epic journey.
You’ll love their story.
The Journey’s Framework
GG: For those new to 2Femmes, will you tell about how this adventure was inspired and launched?
We left everything behind. Everything.
We were overwhelmed by the lack of time in this alienated society and felt completely stuck at work, even though we were both established in careers, with more than seven years in marketing.
We were at the same point of our lives when we entered the thirties this last summer. Instead of complaining about what we do not like in our lives and non-accomplished dreams, we decided to build something together. Something that we really felt like doing, beyond comfort, standard conventions, or fears.
Ana had been considering taking a trip with her 32-year-old Citroën 2CV. One day Eva called Ana and said, “I want to join you…Let’s do it”. And Ana, with a trembling voice, replied: “OMG, we are going!”
GG: What was the original idea, route-wise? How has that changed or deviated?
The original idea was to drive along the Mediterranean coast from Mallorca to Istanbul. During the trip, concerned for the Syrian refugees crisis in Europe and the terrible conditions they are going through to seek a better life, we decided to do the same route as the refugees but in the opposite direction. From Western European countries to Turkey.
We volunteered in the refugee camp of Presevo (in the Serbian border with Macedonia.) It was the most shocking and overwhelming experience of our lives.
Going forward, Ana’s idea was to continue and travel around the world with no date for coming back. During the trip Eva decided to keep going too.
GG: Where are you now? How far are you along in the journey?
We reached Istanbul this December (the last stop in the first stage of the trip,) after driving more than 12,000 km from Spain, sometimes on narrow, unpaved, and dangerous roads. We have driven through 15 countries in four and a half months.
GG: Two beautiful Spanish girls in a cool car. You get a lot of attention wherever you go. Can you talk about what that’s like as far as breaking the ice and making connections in unknown places?
The car is captivating itself. Sky-blue, curving shapes, it is more than a vintage car. It is a classic car that generates smiles everywhere he goes. Most of the people thought it was going to be really difficult to drive long distances with that kind of car. But actually, the car made it easier. And when the people attracted by the car found out that it was driven by two young and happy women, the reaction was even bigger.
In France and Italy, people honked their horns at us, waving, and smiling. In Bosnia a family invited us to their beautiful home. In Montenegro a kind man welcomed us to use his vacation rental apartment for free. In Greece a mechanic helped us to change the oil filter, also for free…those are just a few examples of the nice experiences we had.
Our beloved car, baptised as “Thunderbird,” (honouring the car driven by Thelma & Louise) is, indeed, the star of the journey. He is a Citroën 2CV 6 Spécial from 1983. He was born in Mallorca.
GG: We know from our time with you that the car has quirks and a fair share of repairs have been needed along the way (Matt still laughs about trying to change the wiper blade motor with you.)
Still, I know you prefer this method of travel over relying on trains, buses, etc. How is traveling by car shaping and impacting your trip?
The car gives you absolute freedom. To move anytime. Anywhere. He brings us to the most unknown places that would be hardly reachable with a different method of travel (or it would take much more time and preparation).
It is convertible, so we drive along the most beautiful landscapes in secondary roads with sun in our faces. We also do “free-camping,” so he can take us to solitary places. We can carry much more things than the rest of the travellers.
And the most important: we do not organize anything. We improvise all the time. And the car allows us to not depend on timetables or schedules.
Thanks to him we have discovered stunning places that most people could not even imagine.
Partners in Travel
GG: How much time had the two of you spent together before setting out? How much time have you spent together now?
So far we have been together almost five months, 24-7. We had never spent so much time in a row with the same person before. And it is really nice to live that kind of relation we have reached, not being a couple, not being family, but being more like sisters than some blood relatives.
Still being individuals but knowing we have unconditional support of our partner. We have also developed a scary telepathy.
GG: What do you do when you need time apart?
So far, it has been unexpectedly very easy to live and survive 24/7 together, maybe because both of us are living our inner trip, and it’s very nice to share this with somebody who is in the same level as you are, but living her own emotions.
Travel with somebody makes (at least in our case) the trip easier and funnier, because you share experiences and feelings, but for us is also very important to keep our personal space, so we try to have a good communication between us about how we feel at every point and if we need to go for a walk on our own or just to be alone some hours, we completely respect that.
GG: Long-term travelers all know that most days are far from glamorous. Some days you are just down and there’s no reason for it. There’s no escaping being homesick, missing friends, and comforts of home. The good news is those feelings usually pass as quickly as they came. What do you do on those days? How do you cope?
One of the most surprising things we’ve experienced in this trip is how easy it’s been. In every sense. Actually we expected to miss family and friends, even comforts, and of course we did, but less than expected. If we feel down, we comfort each other. We have reached a state in which words are not always needed. We understand each other and know how to help or comfort each other just by a look.
We didn’t think about this important point, on how to cope with being emotional during the trip. It just turned out to be surprisingly easy.
And we also share the passion for wine, and, to be honest, it helps sometimes…;)
GG: “Is it really safe to travel like you do?” That’s a question we all hear from concerned family and friends. It seems there’s so much fear of unknown places and people. Can you talk about how you handle the vulnerability of traveling?
Well, from the very beginning we knew that the worst fear of the human being is related to the unknown.
Along our trip what we do is to face our fears.
Try to figure out if they are rational or irrational and then remove them from our minds. One of the problems of society is that people are paralysed due to the fear. It is impossible to live without fears, but you must analyze where they come from to move on, and that’s how we had the courage to leave everything behind.
Of course it is also very important to be well-informed of the culture and traditions of the places we visit and the conflicts that are happening in most of them. We are journalists and we are constantly informed about situations that could put us in danger.
But we also believe in the kindness of people. And so far we have not been proven to be wrong.
The Life Nomadic
GG: I have been so impressed with many aspects of your journey, most strikingly, your budget. Do you mind sharing your budget and any tips and strategies for staying within the lines?
Originally the budget idea was to keep our expenses to no more than 5 euros per day. It has been really hard to maintain that (for logistical and unexpected situations), but we actually do not spend much more than that. We believe in the sharing economy, like platforms such as Work Away, Helpx or Wwoofing.
When we are on the road we camp most of the time (cost $0.) We cook with a camp stove. The car consumes 4,4 litres of gasoline per 100km, so it is not much consumption.
Ana works also as a freelancer for an online marketing company she launched with two more partners in Mallorca, enough to pay gasoline, food, visas and other diplomatic requirements and shelter (if needed).
GG: We get this question often and there’s not short answer, but…what are the biggest lessons you are learning about people, or about yourself, through this journey?
To take our time. There is no need to be in a hurry (like we were before, for instance, in a hurry to find a job, in a hurry to settle down, in a hurry to have a family, to buy a house, etc.)
To be aware of the present moment. To put energy in things that are worth it, in the important ones and those we really want to do.
There are no blacks and whites, life is not binary – everything can be perceived with hundreds of millions of shapes and forms, and none of them is the Truth itself.
The only thing permanent is change.
To take any time we need to feel whatever we need to feel and to think carefully.
To accept our feelings as they are and express them – there is nothing wrong in feeling angry, or upset, or sad, the only mistake is to hide those feelings.
To laugh, cry, sing, feel, enjoy, and suffer.
There are actually real problems much more huge than the “problems” we had before.
To express publicly our opinion even if it is against the majority. We felt such empathy listening to the devastating stories of the Syrian refugees. And now we want to fight for their rights as human beings.
To be patient, to wait, because waiting itself is living.
Maybe the biggest lessons are in finding our true selves. To find out who we really are. Who we really want to be, with no conventionalisms or stereotypes.
GG: You have had many crazy – and funny – experiences along the way. Can you tell us about one of your favorites?
Indeed we had lots of crazy and funny experiences…it is hard to choose just one, but we remember with joy the day Eva was standing up in the back seat of the convertible while driving along the streets of Marseille and screaming to the French police, “Take off your pants!” — after having more than a few glasses of wine.
Or the day Ana got undressed in front of the David by Michelangelo in Florence to denounce the predominance of the patriarchal art in the history. Oddly enough nobody said anything about any of these actions and we drove or walked freely after that…
GG: Have you found a spot along the way where you’ve thought, “Yep, I’ll be back here for longer?”
Everywhere we were was the place we wanted to settle down sometime in the future. We said “I’d live here,” so many times that it is hard to summarize that in a list.
Maybe some cute and tiny town in Umbria, Italy, or some European unknown capital like Sarajevo or Pristina, which have an amazing recent history still touchable in their streets, crossing of cultures and religions, with a growing intellectual life and where people are so nice that you feel everybody could be your friend.
GG: What’s next?
Now we are driving across Turkey towards Iran. We will cross Iran, then to United Arab Emirates and then we’ll ship the car to India (to avoid Pakistan, which is in a very bad situation at the moment), towards Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Timor… and Australia.
After that: America.
GG Quick Picks:
In less than 10 words describe your way of travel:
Women driving the world in a classic car.
Learning how to make wine in Italy.
Being about to fly away in the car on a windy, stormy day while driving along a narrow, cliff-hugging road in Croatia.
Day you wish you could live over & over:
Any day driving our beloved Citroën 2CV along an unknown road surrounded by nature with music and the sun warming our shoulders.
Most surprising destination:
Bosnia & Hercegovina, particularly Sarajevo.
Most memorable food or drink:
The best home-made pasta ever in Italy with Tuscan wine.
Any of the unknown and wild beaches of Montenegro.
A jazz club in Sarajevo.
Destination you still dream of exploring:
Antarctica and Mars.
To follow Ana and Eva’s journey, like 2 Femmes en 2CV on Facebook.