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WARNING: If you dream about dropping jobs and housing in your homecountry to travel around the world, do not read this article!
We have just had the first two months as full-time travelers in our little rolling camper home, and we have almost had the worst possible start of our trip: Stress, an unfair boss, loosing our job, infinite bureaucratic challenges with, among other things, tax, bank and insurance, disagreements between the two of us, a constipation, engine problems, bad weather, a lot of crying and frustration – and then last week … burglary in Turtle!
Not exactly something to write home about …
But we will do that anyway. “We” are Mette and Morten from Aalborg and our campervan “Turtle”, a red VW California from ’92. We have said goodbye to our home and jobs, and sold our possessions in return for living, working and traveling around the world. The 4th of December we departed, and on a regular basis we write home to you here in Aalborg:nu about our experiences.
And it is important to also tell this side of the story. Of course, there have also been positive experiences, but it’s the above-mentioned troubled experiences, tears and frustrations, which unfortunately have filled the most during our first two months in Turtle.
The bureaucracy game
The bureaucracy game is an involuntary ‘game’, which we have unsuccessfully attempted to complete since we left the job in Austria on 5th of January and we continue to struggle to complete.
Maybe you also know it? It affects people who do not fit into the “boxes”.
Right now we risk, for example, to return and drive 2000 km back to Denmark to move into a random address, just for Mette to receive a new driver’s license.
The bureaucracy game in this case has two main characters, who will try to travel around in a camper and experience the world. To complete the bureaucracy game, they must place a large number of invisible bureaucratic boxes in the right order – while keeping their adventurousness intact! But the game seems impossible to accomplish: Every time they have placed a box correctly, they get a new box – which doesn’t fit the others. It opens new levels to be completed; packed with rules, documentation, infinite phone queues, conversions, waiting tones and bureacratic blindnesses, and for each level the two people lose a little more of their adventurousness. And the boxes keep popping up …
In our case, we especially struggle with the fact, that the authorities can not handle that we’re (as the law requires) enrolled in the CPR / Population Register and therefore do not have an address in Denmark. Even though we are still Danish citizens.
Some of the levels in the bureaucracy game, we have played so far (but not completed) are:
– The insurance level: When we suddenly got fired, we lost our health- and contentinsurance. But from abroad and without Danish address, Danish insurance companies can / will not help (only with accident- and carinsurance. And here it even gets more expensive!) So we tried foreign insurance companies. But not soon enough: The day after we – without luck – tried to get the right insurance, we ironically had a break-in in Turtle and lost values for 675 € + Mettes driving license + damage to the car. It felt really unfair …
– The tax level: An employee tells us: You are “limited taxpayer” in Denmark. We fill in and submit a form and were proud to get through this level so easily! Shortly after: ‘Thank you for your application. We expect to have it processed within 5 months’. 5 months?! The following week says another employee (in an other tax matter): “You are fully taxable in Denmark”. Damn! Trown back to start again, just before the finish line …
– The bank level: After we were fired and robbed, new debit cards and access to each other’s accounts have become necessary. But we can’t do that when we can’t show up personally in the bank and don’t have an address in Denmark. We have a bankcounselor on the case and cross our fingers.
As if that weren’t enough, a new bureaucracy game started when Mette had her driving license stolen; First, we reported it to the local Polizia, then at the Carabinieri police station in the neighbourgh city to get the police report, then contact borger.dk and then send a handwritten letter (!), photos and emails to the police in Copenhagen to confirm that Mette have a Danish driver’s license (but first we had to call the Population Register and citizenservice in Aalborg Municipality because they hadn’t registered us correctly).
Now we have reached so far in the game that the Danish Embassy (in Rome, 500 km from where we are …) can give us a document that allows Mette to drive in Italy and home to Denmark (where she can only get a new driver’s license if she registers in the Population Register with an address). That is why only Morten has to drive if we move outside Italy for the next 4 months – otherwise it’s home to Denmark..
To be fair, we also want to say that there are also good things to say about Danish bureaucracy – for example, we clearly notice the benefits of digitization when we see how the foreign paper bureaucracy works or when we just log in to ‘e-boks’ from a mobile phone abroad. But having to juggle with boxes and authorities has just been very tough in our situation.
In fact, we have struggled with the bureaucracy game since summer when we prepared to drive away – and we probably made the initial mistake to be honest. It really increased the game’s difficulty. We have talked to over 15 authorities and at least 3 times as many employees just in the last weeks. It feels a bit like participating in the movie “I, Daniel Blake” or a book by Kafka.
Like others who travel like us (and probably some homeless people?) too, the authorities can’t help, when you can’t show an address. We know that some understandably end up giving up – or don’t follow the law – to avoid the troubles.
Because it has turned out that when we get out of the usual boxes and “allow” us to do anything but the ordinary, then the bureaucracy can not handle it and we get punished over and over again for our stupidity.
And for us, we may literally end up thrown back to start – back to Denmark. Damn.
MORE TURTLE TIME, thanks
So the bureaucracy game has taken a lot of our time so far! Time we had hoped to spend on each other and on exciting experiences, rather than calling home to Denmark.
And that’s also something that creates a lot of frustration and tears in our little home; cause why should it be so hard to embark a relatively simple dream; to move into a camper and travel around and experience the world?
But we WILL complete the damn bureaucracy game and get to the place where we can get more of the small everyday-travel experiences that we appreciate:
To sit in the winter sun looking at the Lake Garda and drink hot cocoa. To lie under the double duvet in Turtle and read aloud to each other. To walk along the beach, find a thermal bath where we can dip our feet and talk to the locals. To sit in the light from the light chains in Turtle and eat pasta and drink red wine from our plastic wine glasses.
– Is it too much to demand?
We did not even tell you about our disagreements, engine problems or constipation in this travel letter – but we guess you have had misery enough anyway… Next time we hope the luck has turned, so we can give you totally different angles on the roadlife! 🙂
Big hug and anti-bureaucratic greetings from Morten, Mette and Turtle.
This blog post was originally written as a travel letter home to the newspaper and online media Aalborg:nu.