Here is Sebastian from Camping-Pioneers again. In my posts I usually tell you about van life and everything that goes with it: about freedom and responsibility, the best accessories and beautiful outdoor experiences.
Of course, we always discuss what I should write about beforehand. However, when I was commissioned to write this text, I was initially surprised, then became more and more interested and ultimately very impressed and enthusiastic. So let me take you on a very special journey, which somehow includes the usual topics of van life, experiences, equipment, adventures and encounters, but at the same time means so much more!
To Ukraine instead of all over Europe
As true van life fans and experts, Camping-Pioneers is of course part of the large community and follows many of the numerous exciting projects in the scene. One of them particularly touched us:
Maik and Caro had already gone on great tours in their self-built van “Ellie”. For example, they drove through Norway to the North Cape and returned to Germany via Finland. On their journey they experienced snowstorms, the legendary Northern Lights and many adventures. The two of them quickly decided: We're going on another tour through all of Europe!
But while they were preparing, planning and packing for their European tour, the war started in Ukraine. Guns fired, rockets fell, families fled, people died. Could Maik and Caro go on vacation without any worries in such a situation? The two realized that this was not possible for them. Instead, they wanted to help. In the places and in the ways where and how it is possible for them.
Maik and Caro established initial contacts in Ukraine and neighboring Poland, collected donations in kind and money, for example, and used the budget they had originally planned for the trip to collect as much of the things as possible that people and animals in Ukraine needed Most urgent needs: food, blankets, medication, wheelchairs, protective clothing, pet food and much more.
Work, stress and nerves instead of a relaxed vacation
Maybe this reads quite casually and simply. But take a look at the stories in Maik's Instagram channel on.
. You will quickly notice how much work and nerves are behind this campaign. Here is a small selection of tasks that the two had to complete:
- to make contacts
- Find out how and where help can be provided
- Plan routes and adjust them again and again
- Find out the things needed in Ukraine
- Buy or organize these things in Germany or on the route
- Collect donations in kind
- Sort the donations in kind
- Repackage the donations in kind
- Prepare the Van Ellie
- Clarify legal matters, such as border crossings
- Numerous (!) larger and smaller tasks more
And at the end of all the preparations there was the first trip to Ukraine. While Caro continued to organize everything in Germany, Maik drove alone for the first time in the fully loaded van to the war-affected country. Originally he had “only” planned a short trip to the border, but then it turned into a stay of several days in Ukraine. He got to know the local people, brought urgently needed donations into the country and saved many animals in homes that were injured and homeless.
Effort, sadness, gratitude and joy
I can't describe to you all the experiences that Maik had on his tour. Maik can do that much better and more impressively with his
. He talks about encounters, storms, crossing the border, the Ukrainian streets, the people and animals there, the difficulties and joys. I have actually watched all the stories in the highlights and can tell you that I am deeply impressed by his experiences and his commitment:
Maik's reports make it clear that such a trip is something different than a conventional "I bring things from A to B" campaign. The usual questions in van life – Where am I sleeping today? What do I eat? Is it warm or cold? Where am I going next? Where can I fill up? – take on a completely different dimension when you suddenly find yourself in a country where there is war.
Maik addresses the very personal challenges in his stories. When, for example, after a 14-hour drive or after a sleepless night and a day full of work, he is totally exhausted and just briefly tells a story about his experiences, you can feel the physical and psychological stress. Because Maik sees destruction, people fleeing, children who have lost their parents, injured pets left behind and many other terrible consequences of war.
And at the same time you see the beautiful moments: when helpers from different countries become friends, when local people support each other and Maik is repeatedly invited to dinner out of gratitude, when children laugh and play, when rescued animals cuddle up. Then you realize that this action has meaning and that despite all the suffering there is hope.
Lots of tours now and no end in sight
After this first tour at the end of February/beginning of March 2022, one thing is immediately clear to Maik: It should continue, there must be further relief efforts! Maik and Caro intensify their existing contacts, build new ones and almost develop a routine for their aid campaign. They get a new, larger van, provide all the necessary documents for aid transport online, find passengers with their own cars and continue to diligently collect, sort and pack donations in kind. Since their private reserves will soon be used up as a result of the campaign, they create a PayPal -Donation account, so that we can all support them easily.
In this way, the two of them have now (as of July 2022) been able to organize 6 aid transports to Ukraine! Each relief trip lasts several weeks, and Maik is always on site for a long time. There is now even a fixed process, he reports:
“My transport trips first go to my temporary camp in Poland. I then stay there and drive from there to Ukraine several times until I have everything out of the warehouse. Half the village supports me with a place for me to stay overnight and for people who want to help me locally, with a large storage area for donations and food.”
This makes it possible to easily bring donations to the camp in Poland without having to travel to Ukraine. If you would like to support in this way, please feel free to Contact Maik< /a> on. At the base camp in Poland it is also possible to stay safely in the van and spend the night; there is a large, private area located out of the way.
Maik has now been to Ukraine 18 times and will probably make around a dozen crossings on the next tour. He was several times in Lviv, in Kyiv, in Odessa on the Black Sea and in numerous smaller places with refugee, children and animal shelters. Every tour involves a lot of preparation and work and is not without danger. Maik experiences several air raids and during his first stay in Lviv, as he later learned, a rocket hit just 30 kilometers away.
But despite all the effort and danger, Maik and Caro continue for one simple reason: the people in Ukraine need help and they can make a contribution to this help.
“The topic is still relevant and, unfortunately, will probably remain so for a while. Because the war is not over,” Maik and Caro emphasize again and again in their reports. People and animals suffer and die in Ukraine every day. Perhaps we have already gotten used to the terrible reports from the country, perhaps they are mentioned less often in the news and perhaps we switch off when we hear new terrible reports. But that doesn't change the fact that there is still war in Ukraine with its terrible consequences.
Maik and Caro are therefore already planning the next aid tour to the country and as Maik writes so beautifully in one of his Insta stories: They will continue as long as the people need support.
This is how we can support Maik and Caro
So that Maik and Caro can continue to help, they rely on donations. That's why Camping-Pioneers is supporting the project with €1000 and I'm adding my fee for the article. If you also want to help, you can via PayPal or you can support with donations in kind. You can find out what is needed in the Insta- Stories by ellie.on.the.road. And whatever helps: tell others about the project, share the stories and make the campaign even better known.
I definitely think Maik and Caro's project is really good and it's really great that a van life community supports each other on topics like this.
Your Sebastian from Camping-Pioneers
Here you can find all information about Maik and Caro and their relief tours
All links + information about donations in kind and downloads: