How One Woman Discovered her Independence On the Road
Since 2009, Tina Reymann has been traveling the globe—from Europe to the Pacific to Southeast Asia. As a freelance web developer, she has been able to immerse herself in new environments while supporting her travels. But it hasn’t always been easy. Tina first set out for the trip of a lifetime with her longtime boyfriend, but they split up in Australia. It’s been inspiring to learn about Tina’s passion for discovering the world – and herself – through travel.
Pink Pangea: Tell us about the beginnings of your long-term travels to Australia. How did you choose your destination? What sort of preparations did you make before you set out on your journey? How long did you expect to be abroad?
Tina Reymann: I grew up in eastern Germany with the collective opinion that if you wanted to make money, you had to move to the west, so I never thought I’d stay in my hometown. At the end of high school I met my boyfriend whom I’d stay with for the following ten years and who had always wanted to leave Germany as well. So we were starting to think about Austria, then Dubai, and finally decided it had to be an English-speaking country outside of Europe, and with a strong economy.
American culture didn’t seem appealing to us, and both Canada and New Zealand would be too cold for our liking, so that left Australia. The more we read and watched about Australia, the more we started to like the idea and we fell in love with the country before we were even there.
We still had to wait more than a year for me to finish uni, and during that time we spent a lot of time dreaming about how our lives would be abroad. We looked up units for rent, read travel stories and interviews from expats (who were all saying how amazingly easy life is in Australia – and they were right!), and a book for wannabe expats, which later turned out to be pretty inaccurate. In our minds, we were already living there and we were fully expecting to stay there.
Pink Pangea: What sort of reactions from friends and family members did you receive before you set off on your travels?
Tina Reymann: We started to talk about our plans a year before we went, so nobody believed us. They were all like, “Yeah, sure you’re going.” So when the time came near, and we started to get our working holiday visa, sold the car, gave away our two cats and finally everything we had, except for two suitcases each, people were a bit shocked that we were actually going to do it.
Later I learned that even then our friends would tell each other that we’d come back – that we couldn’t possibly want to leave forever. Apparently nobody could imagine that we were going to find the life we had dreamed of and thought we would finally have to realise that Australia wasn’t that much better than Germany.
How wrong they were. But it took another year or so until they realised that we were gone for good.
Pink Pangea: Before heading to Australia, what were some of your concerns about your future travels? What were some of the things you were excited about?
Tina Reymann: We were excited about everything! We were going to build ourselves a bright future in what seemed to be a perfect country.
But we also had our concerns. All we had heard about Australia just seemed too good to be true (it’s not!) which is exactly what our friends believed. We were afraid that we could have gotten our hopes up too high, and that we would ultimately be disappointed about the reality. But in those moments we told ourselves: Even if everything was roughly the same as in Germany, at least the weather would be better!
Pink Pangea: What was a typical day like during your travels in Australia?
Tina Reyman: We were basically living in our trusty Jeep. In the mornings we’d pack all of our stuff from the front seats to the back, and in the evenings the other way around; that was the ritual.
Just being on the road and free to stay or go wherever we wanted felt crazy good.
In between we spent a lot of time on the road and marvelled at how little the landscape was changing as the hours went past. We stopped wherever we liked or wherever there was a “Woolies” (Woolworths) when we were hungry. We lived off Wheatbix, cookies, white bread or pancakes with plastic cheese and canned food, but we didn’t mind. Just being on the road and free to stay or go wherever we wanted felt crazy good: a mix between lost and footloose and a tiny bit homesick. In between the road trips we did some farm work, picking raspberries and oranges and worked like family members at a cotton farm and a sheep station.
Pink Pangea: What were some of your greatest highlights? What were some of the biggest challenges you faced?
Tina Reymann: Our absolute highlight was working for a month at Emby sheep station close to the outback. The closest asphalt road was 50km away which seems very strange if you’re used to crowded Europe. We felt like part of the family.
Mostly our job was to drive massive tractors to spray and sow the fields. Back in Germany I couldn’t even drive a car, and suddenly I was steering this massive thing with two trailers around trees without any accidents (apart from a fence that is). But everyone in the group mowed down one fence during the season, so that doesn’t count.
The biggest challenge by far was being together 24/7 in the car. I think we did pretty well considering that some couples hardly survive a two-week holiday together, and we learned a lot about giving each other more freedom. But we did have some serious fights, and some were pretty public because we just didn’t have any private space. It can be really tough if you need some time alone after dark in a place you don’t know and can’t contact any friends at home without power or connection.
Pink Pangea: What were the positives and negatives of traveling with someone else? How were your travel styles different or similar?
Tina Reymann: To me it felt very reassuring to always have someone at my side who was going through the same things, facing the same challenges, and being confused about the same things. We did everything together and always had each other to talk about what we were going through. We were mostly interested in doing the same things and had the same dreams, so there was little trouble about that. We felt like together we could do anything and thought those fights were ultimately teaching us a lot about ourselves, however hard the lessons were.
Pink Pangea: During your journey in Australia, you and your boyfriend split up, and you chose to continue your travels solo. Can you tell us a little about that time? Why did you choose to continue your travels? Where did you head after Australia?
Tina Reymann: We had settled down in Darwin for a few years to wait for our permanent residency — living in a tent for two of those – tropical wet seasons and a cyclone included – before we would continue our travels along the west coast.
When we split up it felt as if I had lost my identity, and I didn’t even know which of our plentiful dreams were mine.
In the meantime we had bought a stunning rooftop unit with sea views in the CBD, and it looked like we had mastered some big challenges. We were already living the bright future we had dreamed of, and our dreams had grown. But then old problems started creeping back in, and I got the terrible feeling that we were running around in circles and just didn’t know what else to try. I was tired and devastated about fighting the same old fights all over again.
When we split up it felt as if I had lost my identity, and I didn’t even know which of our plentiful dreams were mine. I had to turn “we” into “I” and figure out who “I” was. Even though I love Darwin, with its lifestyle and its people, I suddenly felt very stuck there. I guess I just couldn’t be in a place so close to him anymore and had to literally move on. I had to own the dream of traveling instead of giving it up.
My first destination was the Overland Track in Tasmania, a challenging seven-day wilderness hike, which I did with an amazing girlfriend of mine, and it was just what I needed to get my head clear and prove to myself that I could do stuff. After that, I headed to Bali to meet up with the guy I’m still traveling with now.
Pink Pangea: How do you support yourself while on the road? Do you work while traveling or save up beforehand?
Tina Reymann: I had some money saved up, but my dream is to be able to live like this for at least a few years so I needed some location independent income. Luckily my job is web development, which I love and can do from anywhere with power and internet, so I am freelancing now. It’s working out really well!
Pink Pangea: How has your travel style changed? What are some of the challenges you’ve faced during your travels? What are some of your tips for staying safe?
Tina Reymann: Now I’m living the dream that I had originally been dreaming with my ex-boyfriend: travelling at a pace slow enough to get to know a place and get a feeling for the culture before moving on. I’m also not confined to a car anymore but stay in guesthouses or rent apartments for a month at a time, which is a bit less adventurous but more sustainable in the long term. I’ll always be up for road trips and hikes though!
Now I’m living the dream that I had originally been dreaming with my ex-boyfriend: travelling at a pace slow enough to get to know a place and get a feeling for the culture before moving on.
The biggest challenge now is to fit my life into my backpack. Just kidding (although that is a big challenge for a girl!). Now I’m trying to balance my culture shocks, work and the urge to explore. When you’re having a culture shock in an unknown place, it can be a daunting task just to step out of the front door. It’s just too easy to hide working behind your screen instead, but that’s not what I’m traveling for.
So I have to get out and get uncomfortable and mess up until I feel better – it always works. As Susan Jeffers writes in her fantastic book, Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway, “You can’t wait until the fear magically goes away, you have to overcome it by doing it.”
I’ve always been scared of driving, but I went alone from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap on a motorbike. It’s a 400km trip on a dust road with potholes sized to bury babies. I can’t say I overly enjoyed the ride, but I did it!
So I have to get out and get uncomfortable and mess up until I feel better – it always works.
Pink Pangea: Do you have a plan for your future travels? If so, where are you headed? How do you decide where to go next?
Tina Reymann: I love to daydream about future adventures, but I rarely plan too far ahead. I do have a bucket list that includes the usual suspects, but if life has something else in store for me that’s even better. Next week we’re going to Turkey, and let’s see where to from there. I also haven’t had a “proper” Christmas (you know: snow, Christmas markets, hot chocolate, Glühwein and Stollen) in four years so I’d love to spend it in Germany this year but who knows what will happen.
I don’t even know how exactly I decide where to go next. I feel drawn to quite a few places so if the travel bugs are starting to bite at one place, there’s always an idea in my head where to go next.
I do have a bucket list that includes the usual suspects, but if life has something else in store for me that’s even better.
Pink Pangea: Why have you chosen to pursue long-term travel? Also, please share with us why you are passionate about sharing your travels with others.
Tina Reymann: Seeing Australia and experiencing how my view and everything changed on the road showed me that the world is too big to stay in one place forever. You come out of your little sheltered hometown and realise that there’s so much to see and experience, it’s addictive! Travel regularly puts you in tough spots where you just have to outgrow yourself, and after a while you start looking for things that will push your boundaries. It feels so incredibly good to see that you can do so much more than you thought you could.
I often hear people say, “I wish I could do the same” or “If I had the same opportunity, I’d too that too.” But the truth is: everyone can! There’s nothing special about me; I started as a fresh graduate with nothing, and we had to get a loan to afford going to Australia (which we could repay easily after the first year). The second week there we got robbed and really had to start over from zero but it still worked out.
There’s nothing special about me; I started as a fresh graduate with nothing, and we had to get a loan to afford going to Australia.
Sometimes it just takes one story to be inspired, and that’s what I’d like to do. I want to strike a spark and inspire people to follow their dreams. I want to be proof that dreams aren’t too good to be true, and that they’re worth pursuing.
If you can imagine it, you can do it.
Rachel Sales is the Co-Founder and Editor of Pink Pangea, the community for women travelers. Tina, the subject of this interview, is a Foreign Correspondent for Pink Pangea.