Two years ago, Polish PR and marketing manager Marta Hopfer and French graphic designer Jean-Nicolas Gilles decided they needed a change, and so they planned a 5,000 km, off-the-grid bicycle trip around Europe. Starting from Poland, one of their first stops was in Lithuania, where Marta agreed to talk to the Lithuania Tribune about their adventure and what they had seen so far.
Trakai castle. Photo courtesy of Rowe Lovers

Lithuania Tribune: What are your plans for this trip?

Hopfer: We have no deadline. We quit our jobs and decided to see how it works for us to be “homeless” for a while. We started up in Warsaw, did a small tour through Poland and now we reached Lithuania. After a short break in Vilnius we are heading to Latvia, Estonia, Finland, Sweden, Norway, flying to Iceland, Scotland, England, Wales, and finishing in France at Jean-Nicolas‘ family. It would be good to finish before the fall. It will probably take us up to 6 months, over 5,000 km on the bicycles + some flights, ferries and trains. We have already covered over 700 km.

- How did you guys decide on this trip?

- Over 2 years ago, Jean-Nicolas decided to go on the road, he needed a change, he didn’t have that much savings, he was curious about the world, and a bicycle sounded like a cool choice. Meanwhile, in Poland, the idea of a trip was rising in [my] mind. [I] needed a change, and [I] needed it badly. […] Since love is a crazy feeling and makes people do stupid things, [I] lost [my] mind and let Jean-Nicolas talk [me] into a big bicycle trip.

It’s more something of a inner trip for us. Something that will make us stronger as human beings, as a couple. More creative and efficient. More aware of others, of the world. The slow way of travelling gives you an amazing possibility to think, to be together but separately as well. See other people and really meet them.

- How did you guys meet, being an international couple?

- We met in Sarajevo, Bosnia. Jean-Nicolas was having a break in his year-long bicycle trip from France via Italy to the Balkans and was working in a hostel. [I] was backpacking in the Balkans. We spent about 48 hrs together and couldn’t stop talking. That’s why we decided to move in together. The only thing was – we were in different countries. So Jean-Nicolas packed his bicycle on the bus and after an awful, superlong trip to Warsaw – moved in.

- You've spent about a week in Lithuania. What was it like?

- We were more or less unaware what kind of people Lithuanians are. We are truly amazed with their generosity and open minds. We’ve enjoyed our time in Poland but it was mostly connecting the dots – friends of friends, parents, relatives. Here – we are total strangers, and we are being treated with great friendship.

We are enjoying our short city break in Vilnius at the moment, then we are heading towards Latvia. So probably 4-5 more days of cycling.

- What were your best and worst experiences in Lithuania?

- We are trying to be really positive and not stick to the negative things. Maybe the only thing is that the part of Poland we covered was quite flat and here we experienced a bit of climbing ;)

- You mentioned you'd be “off the grid.”

- Our idea is to try to live outside the corporate world for a while, enjoy being offline from time to time, not plan anything, not set any deadlines.

It’s an ongoing process. We are a bit different and coping with it in different ways. We are trying to secure a laundry possibility every 5 days, remember about buying bread and milk. Keeping some kind of rythm to keep us sane in the unpredictability of this reality. [I read] a lot, Jean-Nicolas likes planning the next steps. We are working on our trip as well as on the project, it motivates us and keeps us rolling. We created a fanpage (www.facebook.com/rowelovers) and we are reporting our trip in a funny and laid back way.

Check out a few photos from Marta and Jean-Nicolas' time in Lithuania below and visit their Facebook to wish them luck. During the interview, Marta also asked, “maybe your readers will give us some tips for the path we should choose?”

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