33 years, from Stuttgart, Germany

So Many Ways; Vanlife; 2022; Portugal; Teneriffa; travel; lifestyle; van; camper; lebensgeschichten; life stories; Saskia Uppenkamp; Portrait; Fotograf; Fotografin; Berlin; Friedrichshain; Studio; On Location; Reportage

Everything you buy, you don’t buy with money, you buy with your time. If you go to the shop and want to buy a TV, and it doesn’t say this TV costs 3,000 euros, but this TV costs you 2 months of your life because you had to work 2 months to get the money together, then it looks very different. I’ve been to the North Cape, I’ve seen the northern lights, the moon is changing the sea, a ball of fire is heating up the earth. I can’t imagine that we are on earth to work and pay bills! We need sleep, we need food and good people around us. Everything else is relative and transient. 

So Many Ways; Vanlife; 2022; Portugal; Teneriffa; travel; lifestyle; van; camper; lebensgeschichten; life stories; Saskia Uppenkamp; Portrait; Fotograf; Fotografin; Berlin; Friedrichshain; Studio; On Location; Reportage

Karim – Playa Las Americas, Tenerife
33 years, from Stuttgart, Germany
Karim says that if he had to describe the person he 
was a few years ago, he would describe himself as a fancy-money-oriented-wants-to-please-everyone type of guy. If someone had told him a few years ago that he now lives in a bus with his dog, he would ­probably laugh himself to death. 

As a teenager he was the typical rebel, he only finished school with a secondary school certificate. A teacher, who believed in him despite everything, helped him ­apply for a hairdressing apprenticeship at a larger chain. The profession suited him, and he quickly became excellent at it. Following his apprenticeship, he completed a trainer course, trained all over Germany, bought his first hairdresser’s shop from his boss at the age of 22. He afforded himself an exclusive lifestyle, drove a Porsche. The opening of the second shop followed. Here, things didn’t go as smoothly as Karim had been used to. The second shop went bankrupt, Karim was 250,000 euros in debt. His flat and car were gone, he had to move back in with his parents at the age of 26. Many of his close friends supported him during this time.

In his late twenties, he opened his third shop, this time with a new concept. He set himself a fixed income, everything over and above went to the employees through a revenue share; the motivation was ­incomparably higher than in any other hairdressing business. In his first shop, he was only a silent partner at the time and responsible for the bookkeeping. Karim noticed that he felt less and less like taking on responsibility. He never truly had a clear head, he lived a life in a tunnel. Karim always had the feeling that more had to be done, more money had to be earned, a bottomless pit. He worked a lot during the years, and in the little spare time he had, he partied all the harder.

At some point, his partner suggests that he take a break for a month or two. He bought his first small bus, threw in a mattress and drove to Spain. In the morning at sunrise, as his dog was romping through the water on the beach, and he was eating canned tuna, he realized that this very moment made him the happiest person in the world. And it cost him exactly: nothing. He became aware that he was not satisfied with his life in Germany, even though he had everything that was socially prestigious. Karim decided to return to Germany, save money and then leave for a longer period of time. 

He worked again, bought a big van and converted it himself. He saved 10,000 euros, then 20,000 euros, 40,000 euros, the feeling of being caught in a treadmill was back. The hard part is taking the step out of the comfort zone. The beginning of the pandemic was the final ‘kick in the ass’ for him to leave Germany, to dare the adventure. His shops had to close. He felt he was no longer needed there. 

After he had been travelling for some time, his partner contacted him and asked whether he planned to return to Germany or if he wanted to sell his shares in the shop. At first, he was irritated, feeling pushed out of his own business, but he soon realized that the business was the last thing that still burdened him from his old life. He sold his shares in the first shop and handed over responsibility for the third. He invested the money in a real estate property, from whose rental income he can finance his life in the van. After each contract Karim terminated, he felt freer and better. Now he is at a point where he gets no more mail, pure freedom, no more burdens.

Karim has understood, for him, the most valuable thing he has is his time. He says he doesn’t know whether he will die today or tomorrow, but no matter how rich he is, he won’t be able to buy time with money. When he tells people that he wants to emigrate, to travel forever, it is met with enthusiasm. It was a sad experience for him when he visited his best friends after a while in Germany and realized how rich his journey so far has been in great, different experiences, while his friends were still caught up in their daily grind. At first, he tried to convince them of his lifestyle, to inspire with his story. He learned that this is a decision everyone has to make for themselves.

Occasionally, he offers people he meets during his trip, who impress him, a haircut with a sea view. He doesn’t ask for money in return, some invite him to dinner, others exchange something. For him, it feels like he has received 100 times more than he has given. Of course, in the back of his mind, there is always the thought that he could go back if he doesn’t feel like living this way any more: just find a flat again and open a new shop. For now, he is happy with everything as it is. There is no plan for the future.

»I try to always find a spot so that I go to sleep with a sea view and wake up with 
a sea view, and who can afford a flat with a sea view everywhere in the world!«