1. Tell us about yourself and where we can find more about your travelling.
2. How many countries have you visited and where would like to settle down at some point (I know you fall in love in so many places, but choose one and tell us why)?
I have been to 86 countries. I didn’t explore them all by bike, but I’ll bet this wasn’t your question 😉 My favorite country is Australia, but if I had to settle down again, I would probably still prefer to live back home in Germany. Somehow, the living conditions there are better than anywhere else I have been.
3. What do you miss most, aside from your family, from home?
Actually, not a lot. My friends, a comfortable mattress, a kitchen where I can cook a nice meal and my mom’s Spaghetti Bolognese.
4. What is the most common misconception that people have about you during your traveling?
For most of the people it is impossible to understand why I am cycling solo – why, at my age, I am not married, have no kids and don’t live in a big house. Also, most people don’t really have an idea of what it really means to cycle across so many countries. I’ll bet that people think quite often that I am weird, even though a lot of them, at the same time, are very impressed about what I am doing.
5. Is there any place which you wouldn’t visit again and why?
Yes, South Korea. I found it really boring and I couldn’t connect to the culture and the people. I felt unwelcome and I couldn’t find happiness.
6. Where did you meet the friendliest people and how did you feel about being around them?
Iran, Japan and Taiwan
There is nothing better than to have the feeling that you are welcome. People made me happy in those three countries. They treated me with respect and helped where ever they could. Iranians are the kings in hospitality. Taiwanese are very easy-going, happy and very open-minded. Japanese are very polite and helpful and very friendly in their special way. For me, cycling solo, it is very important how the people react. It is so much easier to travel in hospitable, open-minded cultures than in countries where you feel like an unwanted stranger.
7. Funniest or most embarrassing travel moment?
Once in Korea, I thought I was entering a restaurant, so I ordered some food. When I asked for the bill, the lady didn’t want to take any money – and finally, when I left, I realized it was a private house.
8. What has been the most under-rated country/place you have been to and why? Most overrated country/place?
Most overrated: Thailand – For me it isn’t the land of the smiles – it’s more the land of the backpackers and dollar hunters, and I am not a beach person, so somehow I can’t really understand all the hype about this country.
Most underrated: Taiwan – a beautiful island with the most amazing people I have ever met.
9. Tell us about a favourite dish from the world and one from your country that everybody should try.
Wow, I love food. It’s hard to pick only one dish. I love Chinese, Indian and Thai food. But I was invited for Sushi at one night on a campground in Japan – a Japanese guy prepared the most delicious Sushi I have ever eaten!
From Germany: Usually I am not a big fan of German food – but being away from home for so long, I can hardly choose which dish I should mention first. I go for Grießschnitten (some kind of semolina pancakes) with Apfelmus (apple sauce), sugar and cinnamon as a topping. This is a Southern German dish. It reminds me a lot of home – and is one of my mom’s special dishes.
10. What is your favourite author and what did you like about his style?
Astrid Lindgren – I love Pippi ! Every kid should read it – and adults as well 😉
11. What is your favourite music?
Oldies, Bob Marley, Marius Müller-Westernhagen, John Denver, Falco, Neue Deutsche Welle
12. What song from your country everybody should know?
13. Best foreign curse you know?
Cello Pakistan ! If you want to tell an Indian he should bugger off, then this curse is the best way to get rid of someone – because it simply means: piss off to Pakistan – and no Indian wants to go there.
14. You have a chance to ask one question to anyone in history and get an honest reply – what is your question and to whom?
I would probably ask a Homo heidelbergensis if I could join his life for a few months.
15. One thing you don’t like about other travelers or traveling?
I don’t like the attitude of ignoring other travelers. I am always happy to talk to others, and I always wonder, why some Westerners stop talking to other Westerners once they are on the road.
16. What has been your most valuable lesson learned from travel?
Everything is possible as long as you believe in yourself.
Thank you, Heike, this is a great courage!