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On tour in the VW T3 Bus

The 2023 classic car season has begun - the long winter finally seems to be over and we can finally get going again. But where to? Maybe to the big adventure? Regina and Thomas have taken the plunge and are travelling the world in their T3 camper.

On Tour in the VW T3 Bus.

The VW Bus connects
A breakdown, in the middle of the Bulgarian outback. The gears refuse to shift and there is nothing they can do about it. At 30 km/h, the T3 rolls along the motorway towards the capital Sofia. Fortunately, a Bulgarian travelling acquaintance has organised an appointment with a local mechanic within just fifteen minutes. Diagnosis: damaged gearbox. The very scenario that Regina and Thomas had always feared. “Then the mechanic used Google Translate to ask whether he should install a new gearbox there and then? He had a few used ones that would fit lying around in his spare parts store,” Regina recalls. “We were stunned, and asked tentatively what it would cost. €230 including labour, a special price for fellow VW T3 lovers.” Three hours later, the trio was back on tour. Things have a way of working out when you are on the road in a VW Bus.

Dreams become true

Our three protagonists are all in their mid-thirties and a well-rehearsed team: Regina, Thomas and “Edelweiss”, their T3 Bus from 1988. It has been home to the two Austrians for one and a half years, because that is how long they have been travelling the world. Since then, the trio has covered roughly 21,500 kilometres together. “Edelweiss” has proven to be a reliable vehicle, as a home with a panoramic terrace and as a mobile workplace. Or, as Thomas puts it: “It is more than just a car – it is a family member and travel companion.”

The fact that Regina and he are currently travelling the world in an old Bus is of course no coincidence. Thomas, who was already "infected" by camping holidays in a VW bus as a child, has owned the T3 since 2010. Since then, he has spent almost every free minute in nature with his Edelweiss camper. Soon the next dream was born - a trip to India. And when Thomas met Regina in 2016, one of the first questions he asked her was: Could you imagine going on a world tour in a camper van? Regina, with no previous camping experience, was soon won over by Thomas and “Edelweiss”. 

For the big adventure, the two completely gutted the Edelweiss, overhauled it, repainted it and fitted it out according to their own ideas. Regina and Thomas did most of the work themselves - on-board electrics, solar system, water filter and interior fittings, all of which they did themselves. Regina in particular rediscovered her manual skills during this time and also got deeply involved in car mechanics. She now knows every corner of Edelweiss. Only the paintwork and the engine were not done by Regina and Thomas themselves. It took a year and a half until their T3 Bus was fit for world travel and the recreational vehicle had become a permanent home. At 33 years old and with 209,000 kilometres on the clock, Edelweiss was able to embark on by far its longest journey.

On Tour in the VW T3 Bus.

On tour

However, before getting into the T3 Camper, both had to leave their previous jobs and their previous daily routine with too much work. “Back then, getting out felt like the only logical decision. “The little free time we had was packed, in order to make the most of it. The only mantra was ‘efficiency, efficiency’,” Thomas recalls. At the beginning of 2019, they both quit their jobs, Regina hers as an auditor in a large company and Thomas his as a journalist at ORF. After that, more travel preparations follow: Dissolving the household, sorting out finances and legal matters, exploring rough routes and much more. After a good two and a half years of planning, they finally set off in September 2021. The only thing that was clear was the big goal: to travel overland from Austria to India. The approximate route was to lead through the Balkans, Greece, Turkey, Iran and Pakistan. “We decided not to make any definite plans for the first time, and instead to simply wait and see what happened. We now live by the philosophy that ‘the journey is the destination’.”

The routes are planned at short notice, mostly Thomas researches the routes and places while Regina drives, and where the two like it, they stay. The Austrian trio travels through Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro, Albania, Greece and Bulgaria and Turkey. In each country they spend several weeks, sometimes months. Bicycles, folding kayaks and hiking boots are on board, and so they explore the countries in a variety of ways. They are always interested in getting to know people and culture as authentically as possible. Wherever they can, they are free with their VW Bus, always respectful towards nature and the locals. It is important to them to live as self-sufficiently as possible; for example, they generate all their own electricity. Regina and Thomas live modestly, they enjoy life in nature and are grateful for their experiences. “When we return from an excursion and see our ‘Edelweiss’ stood there, our hearts fill with joy,” says Thomas. Regina adds with a smile: “It always feels as though it greets us with a friendly face.”

You’ll never drive alone

The travel companion has proven to be a popular figure around the world. “It is so nice to see how people react to ‘Edelweiss’. As a traveller, you are a foreigner at first. However, people hoot their horns, smile and wave at us when we are on the road. The VW T3 is a great conversation starter and has led to us making a lot of friends. It is like driving through the region with a smile,” says Thomas. “It has almost become a little star and is often photographed. A lot of people tell us about their own experiences with VW Campers.” However, Thomas and Regina have also discovered whilst on tour that their mobile home is also part of a big family. “We have found out that there is a classic community in every country. People with an old VW Bus can be found everywhere,” Regina says. “T3 fans are really well connected – if your VW Bus has a problem, it doesn’t matter what country you are in, someone will help you!”

So what could possibly go wrong? Already, the world trip in the van has changed their lives. Regina and Thomas will find their way. The goal is clear - to enjoy the intense life on a great journey. And to arrive in India at some point. But only with their VW Camper “Edelweiss”, Regina stresses: “It is a part of us. We couldn’t go on without it.”

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