Road Trips

"All he needed was a wheel in his hand and four on the road." ~ Jack Kerouac

By In Life, Travel

I’ve recently returned from a road trip through Italy and thought it’d be a good idea to write about it a bit. I’m not going to do a detailed day-by-day journal as I’ve done in the past but will write several articles on what I’ve seen and what I deem fit for my blog in the next couple of weeks. In this first post, I’ll get into the way we do these road trips and the way we’ve been doing them for the past 10-12 years. I’ll write about what I love (and don’t love anymore) about this way of travelling, and I’ll introduce you to my two travel companions, who are great guys, and excellent photographers!

In this post, I’ll show you some random travel shots. My street, graffiti, conceptual and other photography will be part of some upcoming posts.

My Companions

First, let me introduce my companions to you:

Sven Fennema

Sven is a long-time friend. I met him at his first exhibition, during a time that I was still doing the one-day stints to Belgium and Germany, and we immediately hit it off. We did a one-day trip to France with our partners and decided it was such a good match, we wanted to travel more. Most of my road trips ever since, which were about urban exploring, were made with him. In the meantime we became best friends, I was the best man at his wedding, and if I ever get married again, he’ll be mine. I got to photograph the baptism of their first daughter, and we stood by each other through thick and thin.

As a photographer, Sven has published several books now, which all are great to have if you love beautiful artistic photographs of abandonment. During the time we’ve travelled together, he’s developed a taste for overgrown structures, which he shows in his beautiful series “Industrial Gardens”.

Andy Schwetz

Andy‘s a cool dude from the south of Germany, whom I got to know on one of my road trips with Sven. They’ve travelled together on numerous occasions, and we’ve decided to make it a three-man trip for two of our journeys so far. His main focus is also urban exploration, but he does more! He loves some landscape- and street photography, but also has a keen eye for small desolate scenes which he shows in his excellent series “Postkarten aus Niemandsland”. 

He’s a really cool street smart guy, with a dark and dirty sense of humour, just the way I like it. And he’s some sort of philosopher without knowing it. He can say deep and profound stuff that makes you think, between the dirty and dark jokes and unusual nonsense that leaves his mouth.

The way we travel

When I started urban exploring, I went on the road almost every weekend, with a variety of people. They were one-day stints into our neighbouring countries, Germany and Belgium. After a couple of years, a long weekend followed, with a car packed to the brim with photography gear, camping gear, food, snacks, and what more you can imagine. We went to France, got up early, went to sleep late, and travelled from location to location until the light wasn’t good enough anymore. 

We expanded these longer weekends to one-week trips because the destinations got further and further away. And actually, it remained like this for about 10 years.

Before the trip, research was done on locations, so we had a list of locations with coordinates at hand. Then, after work, we’d pack our car (ranging from very small to bigger, but we always got everything in!) and start the long drive through the night to Italy. Somewhere in the early morning we’d arrive at the first location, and get in and start photographing. You’d imagine we’d be tired, but the thought of being in Italy with a week of adventure ahead of us, and the adrenaline of entering the first location kept us going!

During the days, we’d do the same as we’d do on shorter trips. Travel from location to location, find a way to get in, take photographs, and go on to the next one. Somewhere at the end of the day, we’d check for a place to stay. At first, they were camping places, until we found that we’d easily get hotel rooms or bed & breakfast for roughly the same price. So at the end of the day, we’d check booking.com (and a variety of other apps) to see what cheap place to stay was near, we’d book it and drive up there. 

The next day, same story, different locations, different cities. And this went on. And went well! In all the time, we only had one night where we had to sleep in our car. Of course, the hotels differed in quality (and we had some of the worst, but also some great ones!), but hey, as long as there was a bed and a shower, and a pizza place nearby, who was counting, right?

What I love about it

Freedom! Total freedom. On these road trips, we’re able to decide where we go, how fast we travel, and whether we change our plans and drive to a completely different set of locations. Everything is possible. And it’s saved us on occasion too! For instance; While driving to the south along the east coast, we noticed the weather was going to be really bad down there for some days, so we decided to head west, and make our way up north again, where the weather was way better. Also, the spontaneous quick way of booking has gotten us into some really cool locations with decent, nice hosts, and meeting people we’d never have met if we hadn’t been there.

The downside

During the last couple of years, my focus on photography shifted. I went from urban exploring in lost places to exploring cities. You can still call it urban (I’ll write about this in an upcoming blog post), but it’s different. On my more recent road trips, I started marveling at the beauty of life and the diversity of people in these cities, instead of the marvels of decaying buildings. But with such a travel schedule, there’s almost no time to get to know these cities, and these people, get lost, find yourself again, and really immerse in other cultures. It’s been a choice for years, but now, I want other stuff. 

So what now? I’ll immerse myself in these cities more. And I’ll try to find a hybrid of both. The freedom of these road trips, just driving wherever you want to go, with the more slow-paced being in a place for a couple of days, meeting the locals, and really getting to know a place. Sometimes with my friends and travel companions, and sometimes, just by myself.

~ B.B.