Since I was a little child, I’ve always had itchy feet, but the real travel bug caught me when I was 16. At that time, I was given the chance to travel to Honduras to work in a service project, building a house as well as teaching and supervising kids in an orphanage. As you can imagine, picture quality back then wasn’t amazing, but here’s a photo of me (still with braces, too!) playing with the children:
What followed were two more projects in South America, one in a school in Colombia, one in Ecuador. Back then, I couldn’t pinpoint why these projects were so important to me but I came to realize that I was drawn to engaging with initiatives that provided children with an education in countries where schooling is far from being taken for granted. This has to do with my personal background, too: When I was 13 years old, I was placed in a children’s home because of family issues at home. During this time, studying became my safe haven. I started my first bachelor’s when I was 15, parallel to high school, becoming the first in my family to study at the university level. Being able to pursue an education allowed me to become independent and live the life that I always dreamed of. To date, I am passionate about passing these chances forward, trying to enable children all around the world to fulfill their visions, too.
In 2017, I headed off to China for four months to study in a traditional kung fu and Sanda boxing school. Spending six days a week, training for eight hours a day definitely taught me a lot about resilience, my personal boundaries, and how to push them a little bit further every day. It was one of the physically most exhausting times in my life, but one that allowed me to grow immensely personally, too. I also picked up basic Chinese while trying to teach the other schoolkids a bit of English. I absolutely hope I’ll get a chance to go back there one day.
My biggest adventure yet took place in 2018 though. I took off with one of my best friends today to drive an Opel Corsa from 1998 that we bought from eBay for 300 € from Germany to Mongolia and back. It’s called the Mongol Rally and every year around 400 teams try to get to the finish line – but only about 30 % make it. Don’t get me wrong, this is not an all-inclusive rally experience with set routes, on-course mechanical support, or medical assistance. Quite the opposite: You’re on your own for the whole journey. Your car breaks down in the middle of the desert? You better hope to have enough cable ties and ducktape to fix it or nice locals who tow you to the next mechanic (which can be 100s of kilometers away without any spare parts for your car). Emergency on the Pamir highway, the second-highest street on Earth? Get out your satellite communication and hope for the best. Lost your way? Too bad, Google Maps won’t help you in Iran – but locals might. And if not, the sun always tells you where East is 😉 Luckily, our little baby (the blue one in the picture below) made it more or less in one piece and got us to the finish line.
One of my biggest and most daunting adventures yet, it was also the one where I had the most extraordinary experiences and met the most amazing and friendly people in places I’d never even heard of before.
Triathlon came into my life when I was just three years old. Barely able to stand on my own two feet, I saw the athletes of the Ironman European Championship racing through my hometown close to Frankfurt. The crowd was cheering for all the brave women and men, swimming 3.8 km, cycling 180 km before running a full marathon. All in one go, all in one day.
Time and time again, I watched the spectacle, and the older I became, the more excited I got every year. I admired the athletes’ passion, determination, and sheer willpower. Showing physical toughness and mental strength, beating the odds, and pushing limits. In hindsight, I think I caught the bug when I was about six years old. That’s when I started to tell people that when I grow up, I am going to be an Ironman, too.
Fast forward, 19 years later, I’m still on it. I’ve completed my first Ironman 70.3s (swim 1.9 km, bike 90 km, run 21 km). Unfortunately, due to an accident, I wasn’t able to keep my goal of finishing my first full one in 2020, but I’ll do my very best to finally hear those words, that I’ve been longing to hear for so long, when I’ll cross the finish line of the Ironman in Frankfurt, back at the place where it all began:
“Anka, you are Ironman.”
India 2018, Tuffman Beach Run