Road trip around the world: image

Road trip around the world:

An unforgettable adventure with the Volkswagen T3

Let go, climb aboard, and let the adventure begin – Regina and Thomas are living what many can only dream of: a world tour in their VW T3 Camper.

A breakdown, in the middle of the Bulgarian outback. The gears refuse to shift and there is nothing they can do about it. Within fifteen minutes, a Bulgarian they met on their travels has organised for the car to be seen by a mechanic in Sofia. Three Austrians coast along the motorway towards the capital Sofia in second gear at just 30 km/h. Diagnosis: damaged gearbox. The very scenario that Regina and Thomas had always feared.

The three Austrians are a well-practiced team – a trio on grand tour: Regina Hochecker, 33 from Rohrbach a. d. Gölsen, artisan and mechanic; Thomas Hadinger, 37 from Vienna, film maker and photographer; and “Edelweiss”, 35, VW T3 Camper and, for the past year and a half, home to the two Austrians. That is how long the three amigos have been on their world tour together.

But could this be the end of their big adventure? It would cost thousands of euros to repair a gearbox back home in Austria, and to get hold of a good second-hand unit would take a long time. “Then the mechanic used Google Translate to ask whether he should install a new gearbox there and then? He had a few used ones that would fit lying around in his spare parts store,” Regina recalls. “We were stunned, and asked tentatively what it would cost. €230 including labour, a special price for fellow VW T3 lovers.” Three hours later, the trio was back on tour. Things have a way of working out when you are on the road in a VW Bulli.

The adventure began in the autumn of 2021. Very deliberately without any time frame, and as an open-end journey, there was just one main goal: to travel overland from Austria to India. The rough route would take them through the Balkans, Greece, Turkey, Iran and Pakistan. Since then, the trio has covered roughly 21,500 kilometres together. “Edelweiss” has proven to be a reliable vehicle, as a home with a panoramic terrace and as a mobile workplace. Or, as Thomas puts it: “It is more than just a car – it is a family member and travel companion.” The fact that Regina and he are on a world tour with a VW T3 Camper is the result of thorough preparations – and a long story.

Big VW Bulli dreams image

Big VW Bulli dreams

Thomas was bitten by the bug as a child on camping holidays in a VW van. In 2010, he achieved his dream of owning his own Volkswagen Bulli camper van: a T3, originally a standard van built in 1988, which had been converted into a camper van and licensed for the first time in Salzburg in 1989. From that point on, Thomas spent almost every free minute exploring the countryside in his camper, christened “Edelweiss”. With the VW T3 came the next dream – a trip to India. And when Thomas met Regina in 2016, one of the first questions he asked her was: Could you imagine going on a world tour in a camper van? Regina, with no previous camping experience, was soon won over by Thomas and “Edelweiss”. Three years later, they made the decision to get off the treadmill – to quit their jobs and leave behind their everyday routines, which had been dominated by heavy workloads.

A new one of everything, please! In preparation for their world tour, Regina and Thomas completely renovated and individually equipped their 1988 VW Bulli camper van. Photo: Thomas Hadinger


“The little free time we had was packed, in order to make the most of it. The only mantra was ‘efficiency, efficiency’,” Thomas recalls. They resigned from their jobs in early 2019, Regina from her position as an accountant in a large company and Thomas as a journalist at ORF. “Back then, getting out felt like the only logical decision.



Breakfast in Dubrovnik (Croatia): from accountant to self-determined artisan and mechanic. The decision to go on a world tour in the T3 camper van was the best decision of Regina Hochecker’s life. Photo: Thomas Hadinger

A made-to-measure home

The VW T3, which was getting a little old in the tooth, first had to be made fit for an adventure of this magnitude. As such, “Edelweiss” was completely gutted, given a general overhaul, repainted and refurbished. The majority of the work was undertaken by Regina and Thomas themselves – electrical system, solar system, water filter and interior, all done ‘in-house’. Regina, in particular, rediscovered her craftsmanship skills during this period, and dived right into the world of car mechanics. She now knows “Edelweiss” like the back of her hand. The only things Regina and Thomas did not do themselves were the paintwork and engine. The recreational vehicle was transformed into a lasting home. It took one and a half years to prepare their VW T3 for its world tour.

A life on tour demands meticulous preparation: the household had to be dissolved, finances and legal issues managed, rough routes drawn up, and much more. After a good two and a half years of planning, they finally embarked on their adventure in September 2021. With 33 years and 209,000 kilometres on the clock, VW Bulli “Edelweiss” set off on by far its longest journey. The routes are planned at short notice, with Thomas usually doing the research while Regina drives. If they come across somewhere they both like, then they set up camp there. “We decided not to make any definite plans for the first time, and instead to simply wait and see what happened. We now live by the philosophy that ‘the journey is the destination’.”


The Austrian trio has travelled through Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro, Albania, Greece and Bulgaria, and currently finds itself in Turkey. They spend several weeks in each country, sometimes months. They take bicycles, folding kayaks and walking boots with them, allowing them to discover the countries in many different ways. They are always interested in experiencing people and culture as authentically as possible. “When we return from an excursion and see our ‘Edelweiss’ stood there, our hearts fill with joy,” says Thomas. Regina adds with a smile: “It always feels as though it greets us with a friendly face.” Where they can, they set up camp in remote places with their VW Bulli camper van, but always respecting nature and the locals. It is important to them to live as self-sufficiently as possible: for example, they generate their own electricity. Regina and Thomas lead a moderate lifestyle, enjoy living in the countryside, and are grateful for their experiences. As a freelance photographer and film maker, Thomas can also work on the road. In this case, “Edelweiss” becomes a mobile production studio.


The journey is the destination, with as few ties as possible: Regina, Thomas and their VW Bulli “Edelweiss” on Lefkada (Greece). Photo: Thomas Hadinger


Thomas is also largely responsible for their Instagram content (edelweiss.on.the.road), which they primarily use to keep family and friends up to date. However, it goes without saying that “Edelweiss” is also extremely photogenic. The fact that Thomas gave the appearance of the Bulli a lot of thought and opted for an emerald-blue metallic paintjob has paid dividends. “I wanted it to look good, from inside and out. When it travels through the countryside it is beautiful to watch, and looks good on film.”


There have been few critical moments so far, and they have been able to solve any issues without too many problems. For example, when the Turkish police knocked energetically on the door one morning, because Regina and Thomas had failed to notice the Camping Forbidden sign in the dark, they apologised and were soon given the number of the police should they have an emergency, as well as some sightseeing tips. Then there was the time that Regina became lost whilst hiking alone in the Albanian mountains, and a shepherd came to her rescue: he even went out of his way to escort her home safely. Or the time they both went down with coronavirus in a remote region, only for help to be organised via Instagram for the two global travellers in their VW Bulli camper van.


Dream photo: as a youngster, photographer and film maker Thomas Hadinger used to dream of owning his own VW Bulli. Now the T3 Camper “Edelweiss” is his long-term travel companion, as seen here on Kefalonia (Greece). Photo: Thomas Hadinger


A home with a view: VW Bulli “Edelweiss” in Dalyan (Turkey). Photo: Thomas Hadinger

A VW Bulli bringing people together

Whether on a beach in Greece, at a fuel station in Croatia, or on a village street in Turkey, the travel companion has proven to be a popular figure around the world. “It is so nice to see how people react to ‘Edelweiss’. As a traveller, you are a foreigner at first. However, people hoot their horns, smile and wave at us when we are on the road. The VW T3 is a great conversation starter and has led to us making a lot of friends. It is like driving through the region with a smile,” says Thomas. “It has almost become a little star and is often photographed. A lot of people tell us about their own experiences with VW Bullis.”

It was clear from the outset that a journey of this scale with a vintage vehicle would have its challenges. However, Thomas and Regina have also discovered whilst on tour that their mobile home is also part of a big family. “We have found out that there is a classic community in every country. People with an old VW Bulli can be found everywhere,” Regina says. “T3 fans are really well connected – if your Bulli has a problem, it doesn’t matter what country you are in, someone will help you!”


The world is their oyster, a VW Bulli their home: Austrians Thomas and Regina have been on a world tour for the last one and a half years. Photo: Thomas Hadinger


Home and family member: Thomas and Regina have built a relationship with their VW T3 Camper and are certain that they will never sell their “Edelweiss”. Photo: Thomas Hadinger

When asked for the highlight of their tour, there is no hesitation: “Albania! That was the biggest surprise for us. We were blown away by the beauty of the country. It was somehow magical and pristine. However, what struck us most was the friendly and open people. We experienced the greatest hospitality, warmth and readiness to help in Albania. Unforgettable.”

They are currently spending the winter in Dalyan, on the southwest coast of Turkey. The sun shines through the window on wood panels and colourful material. It looks cosy and idyllic. You could almost forget that, just 1,000 miles away, there has been a major earthquake that has left tens of thousands dead. If they had stuck to their original plans, they would both have been in the disaster area. “We were shocked when we saw the images. However, what touch us even more are the personal stories of the people we speak to here. Many have family or friends who have been affected, or who they have lost. It is heart-breaking and makes us very sad,” says Thomas. “We have posted links to donate to aid organisations on our channels. You wish you could do more than just donate, particularly as the Turks are such helpful people.”

The catastrophe and developments in Iran mean it is still unclear where their route will take them next. They will find their way, however. The objective is clear – to enjoy the intensive life on a grand tour. And to arrive in India at some point. But only with their VW Bulli camper “Edelweiss”, Regina stresses: “It is a part of us. We couldn’t go on without it.”