26 year old Jim Petterson and his girlfriend, 29 year old Maria Larsson, are sitting at Suvarnabhumi International Airport. It is early in the afternoon but the two Swedes have a long wait ahead of them. Their flight home does not depart until 1 a.m. Therefore, they have plenty of time to go over their trip and talk about their experiences.
For five months, the couple has been travelling through South East Asia. Jim on long board, Maria on roller skates until her feet got so bad that she had to change and ride a bike the rest of the way. In total, they spent 35 days on the road, riding a distance of about 2000 kilometres.
“We were actually supposed to do 3000 kilometres, but because we got sick and Jim got really bad heat rashes, we had to cut it down,” says Maria as she sits on an airport trolley, tanned and with her hair bleached by the sun.
Although it was not part of the plan to cut the trip short, the couple faced fewer problems than they had expected.
“We travelled on the highways in Thailand in the bike lane, and on the smaller roads in Malaysia, and we thought we would get more problems with the local police and with the roads, but everything went pretty smoothly” says Maria and adds that they love the Thai police because they were more laid back and interested in what they were doing.
And what were they doing exactly? Why does someone decide to skate through South East Asia when it’s just as easy to get a bus or catch a flight?
That is an easy question to answer for the young Swedes.
“We had read about others, who had done something similar,” says Jim and continues:
“We both like to travel, and this was an opportunity for us to combine holiday with adventure. We wanted to do something different and then combine it with some kind of charity. Normally, we both work with children so we decided to raise money for the Swedish organization Childhood Cancer.”
The couple raised money by finding sponsors back in Sweden who were willing to support the project. They also planned to sell t-shirts but unfortunately the company went bankrupt. As the business crashed, so did the dream of raising more than 200,000 baht for cancer children in Sweden. Now that the trip is over, they have however managed to raise about 100,000 baht – money that will also go a long way.
The two Swedes seem a little disappointed that unfortunate circumstances prevented them from raising the amount of money they had hoped for, but there is still no doubt in their minds that the trip has been worth it.
“I wouldn’t call it easy, but it has been easier than we thought. It was definitely worth it,” Maria says.
“We have seen so much, so many places, and we have met so many people that have been so friendly even though we couldn’t always communicate with them. But the biggest wow-factor for us was the amazing nature. Sometimes it was just unbelievable.”
And the relationship hasn’t suffered either.
“We haven’t had any big fights, but we have learned a lot about each other, they say and add that they are still boyfriend and girlfriend, and it looks as if they will stay like that for a while.
It is time to leave Jim and Maria. The interview is almost over and the couple still has another seven hours until they are able to check their luggage in and enter the terminal building.
However, one question remains unanswered: What is next? The answer is surprising because although they are tired and looking forward to going home to see family and friends, the experience has not scared them off and they are more than willing to do a similar adventure again. Jim, in fact, already has one planned:
“In August, I am going to Sardinia with my brother where we’ll ride 500-600 kilometres along the West coast of the island, and we’ll raise money for the same charity,” he says.
Maria is not joining him on that trip. She will stay in Sweden and take a well deserved break, but she is still very open to the idea.
“I won’t do it on roller skates again,” she says, “but I will walk or ride a bike, because this was just too hard on my feet. And maybe in a different part of the world, too.”
The future will tell what they come up with, but for now, their next stop is Stockholm, Sweden.