BD athlete Sam Elias reports on climbing and traveling in Europe—PART 1
Black Diamond athlete Sam Elias is currently climbing in Europe and has started sending us updates on his travels. Below is his first report in which he describes the challenges of buying a van in Germany. Sounds like he’s questing off on quite an adventure! This is just Part One, so hopefully we will hear again from Sam next week to see how things are going.
Travelling as a dirtbag climber on a tight budget can be stressful, overwhelming, and ultimately expensive anyway. Trying to save at every corner, pinching here, pinching there, always looking for a better deal, and ultimately succumbing to the immediacy of the necessities of life and left mostly unsatisfied with the deals attained.
Being in foreign places where I can’t communicate with people, and don’t know how to navigate to food, shelter, bathroom, etc—it leaves me on a constant edge. I call it “Battle Mode.” Unfortunately for me, the edginess is one of the aspects that I love and crave about the travelling experience. It makes things seem so much more amazing and captivating —sights, sounds, smells. It may not be that these things are actually so much more interesting and brilliant, but as experienced through the heightened, hyperaware “Battle Mode” senses, the world seems anew with wonder.
On the last European trip—March and April climbing all over Cataluña, Spain—it became apparent that for as much time as I am in Europe it actually makes more sense logistically, financially, and environmentally to own a van there that I can live in. With the experience of looking for, buying, building out, and living in a van already under my belt from the past year in the US, it was an easy decision to make for Europe. So, I started researching and contacting friends that live in the EU.
After a few weeks, I learned that Germany has the some of the cheapest and highest quality used vehicles. I was VERY fortunate to have friends in Germany that were willing to help with the process of buying, insuring, and registering the van. I had found a solid number of vans for sale on German auto-trading websites in the style and price range for which I was looking, so I was convinced that I would in fact find something. After much internal and external dialogue, I bought a plane ticket for Germany to buy a van.
It felt like a big step, a big commitment—a step forward in accepting my life and working toward my goals. It is not merely a van or a plane ticket, but what is cloaked behind these obvious tangible materials: my life, my hopes and dreams. Making decisions like this are difficult for me; I create a lot of fear and expectations. I conjure up worst-case scenarios in my mind with dramatic frequency. But, as I was reminded by reading a telling account by a friend and mentor, talented writer and climber, Jeff Jackson, ( ), the most important thing is to simply “try”… try the van idea, try the life in Europe, try the projects. Try—it’s a small and unimposing word. But as above, the tangible nature of the word is not where the importance lies; it’s what is represented by it: effort, progression, evolution, dedication. And thus, here I sit in Munich “trying” to find a van.