German geocacher Ann-Kathrin (biotonne88) wanted her solo travel project “biotonne88 goes Europe” to draw attention to Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and help herself to deal with this taxing disorder. To accomplish this, she planned a solo journey through Europe for half a year and shared her experiences along the way. (You can follow her geocaching adventures on Instagram). With the project now complete, Ann-Kathrin shares her trip report:
At the farewell event the day before I started my journey, my cache friends gave me a Signal trackable made of fabric they called “travel companion.” I placed it behind the windshield of my small camper so that, like me, he could look ahead to what was to come. And a lot was about to happen!
Starting in Frankfurt, Germany I made my first stop in Eutin – still in Germany, from where I went through Denmark and Sweden, and then crossed over by ferry to Åland, Finland and Estonia. All these countries amazed me with beautiful landscapes, warm hearted people, and an incredible ease with which they took everyday life. I am especially grateful to the Swedish geocacher Graazzt, who not only offered me to stay with him, but also showed me Stockholm and took me and his cacher friends on a fantastic tour to Uppsala.
In the Baltic States, LouisCifer joined my travels for two weeks. Our trip even took us to Belarus for a day. The first difficulties with loneliness and fears of failure caught up with me in Poland and Slovakia. I often felt very depressed. But I forced myself on two hikes to interesting Earthcaches in the Carpathian Mountains and gained my confidence back, only to lose my cell phone during one of these hikes. To avoid further slipping into an unhealthy state of mind, I decided to temporarily interrupt my tour. I went home to recharge after visiting Kosice, Bratislava, and Munich.
I had already been on the road for two months. Without a big plan, I was mainly letting myself be guided by Earthcaches. I enjoyed nature and experienced and saw something new every day. Climbing caches, Lost Places, and CITOs offered me a welcome variety. And the many warm and helpful people I met during this time made the trip worthwhile against all obstacles I did and was about to encounter.
I spent two weeks at home, not only visiting the highly favored “Vergissmeinnicht” (GC6Z4NP) and Hart am Wind (GC48B12) caches, but especially enjoying the time with my family. I had a blast volunteering at the Mega-Event “Event am See” (GC7WGBB) and to get to meet Lackey Mark from Geocaching HQ. Afterwards, I had a tank full of energy to continue my travels.
I spent a few days in the beautiful Königsee area and completed my first alpine hike. Through Austria I went on to Hungary. This is where I was really scared for the first time. A few drunk teenagers pounded on my car in the middle of the night, saying nasty and threatening things to me. Fortunately, they stopped after I ordered them several times to leave me be. I quickly packed up my camper and drove off.
I then spontaneously traveled to Serbia, North Macedonia, Kosovo, Albania, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina within four days, to then treat myself to a few days of relaxation on the Croatian coast. Besides having amazing beaches to relax, Croatia is also a dream for Lost Place lovers.
In Slovenia I attended a CITO where we cleaned the coast of garbage. Next stop was Italy, where I experienced two more challenging situations. While I was doing the 10 Castella GeoTour (GT97) someone tried to break into my vehicle and destroyed my lock. Fortunately, I quickly found help at a workshop in the next larger town. I was allowed to sleep and shower here, while two gentlemen quickly got to work and installed a new lock for me. A couple days later I tore open the sidewall of my van on the railing of a narrow bridge. I was lucky here too, as it was just damage to the sheet metal that I could have repaired once I got home from my trip.
After a short visit to San Marino, I went on to France, Monaco, Andorra and Spain. I made sure to find the oldest caches in each of the countries respectively. I met wonderful people, saw wild horses and flamingos and experienced how much this world has to offer. With my trip almost coming to an end, I accepted ionpaint’s invitation to Switzerland. Here I was invited to stay at his cache shop and attend his exciting Halloween event. With a day trip to Liechtenstein, I acquired the last country souvenir of the trip.
For five months I had driven more than 12,000 miles (20,000 kilometers) through 30 European countries. And as time goes on, I learn more and more about the benefit I got from it. Even though I was homesick and was not sure whether it would be good for my health, my confidence grew and I learned I was able to manage just fine on my own. I make a point of reminding myself how much I have experienced and that I can be proud of myself. I have immensely benefited from allowing myself this experience while dealing with BPD.
From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank everyone who contacted me and told me how much my openness means to them, because they not only gave me strength, but also showed me that I have raised awareness of the disease.
To learn more about Ann-Kathrin’s journey follow her on Instagram.