Alone in Africa – the film
Anselm from the city of Hamburg fulfilled himself a dream, a dream others wouldn’t even dare to have: he traveled around the world by bike, three years and all by himself. His luggage was limited to essentials only. He faced numerous challenges along the journey with a decent share of self-confidence and courage. Anselm captured the first year of his trip with his camera, this is what the movie “Somewhere, alone in Africa” is all about. The incredible story about an adventurer and his bicycle in a foreign country; this story is deeper than you can imagine. Anselm takes us along his odyssey through Africa, and also along a journey to himself.
Franzi: Your first bike tour took you and your friend from Hamburg to Freiburg, and in the end you cycled, mainly alone, around the world for three years. What was it that inspired you to set out for such a long trip?
Anselm: My four siblings and I have always used ours bikes to get to school or to see our friends. Later on I started bike touring all over Europe. I can’t really remember why I decided to tour Africa. I guess the continent always had a particular fascination on me. It seemed to be so far away, and that was exactly what I wanted: exploring the unknown.
Franzi: Can you remember the thoughts running through your mind on the day of your departure?
Anselm: I was relatively relaxed, probably because I didn’t really have a definite plan. In spent only two days preparing this trip, every decision was pretty spontaneous. I didn’t mention anything to my friends or family, I thought that way they couldn’t unsettle me and I wouldn’t worry so much. Therefore I just called them from the airport and told them: I’m in Africa. I had learned before that it is smarter to keep crazy ideas to myself without involving others.
Franzi: In the beginning you set out together with two friends from Berlin. However, after three months they decided to quit, you didn’t expect that. Suddenly you faced the challenge to continue the trip all alone or return back home. How did you feel?
Anselm: I was really shocked. I didn’t expect them to quit and leave. I was really disappointed, I stumbled around for a few hours with confused scenarios in my mind. I simply didn’t expect to end up all by myself and to face the decision to either return back home or continue cycling through Kalahari Desert. It took me a few days to take a decision. Then I came to the conclusion to travel to Namibia for another five weeks with the option to go back home in case it would be too much. But then I continued through Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Tansania, Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenia, Ethiopia, through Sahara to Sudan and further on to Egypt.
Franzi: Did you plan right from the start to cross the continent from South to North?
Anselm: No, it happened along the way. In South Africa my plan was simply to cycle for a few weeks with Daniel and Fabi. Then I was suddenly all by myself. I didn’t have a fix plan which was good, it would have meant a lot of pressure. I just cycled and the miles passed by. My plans focused just on the next village or where I would spend the coming night. A year later, 15,000 kilometers later I was standing at the north tip of the continent.
Franzi: It seems you prefer the spontaneous way. Maybe such a journey cannot be prepared in detail?
Anselm: Yes, I guess it would be difficult to make long-term plans. The hardest thing is facing the unkown. Of course you can plan a route and buy expensive gear, but once you’re on the road everything will turn out differently.
Franzi: What did you feel when you were suddenly all by yourself in a foreign country?
Anselm: I believe most people, including me, have problems being alone. I was used to be around people and I was afraid of being alone, isolated. Our surroundings always reflect who we are. Traveling all by myself meant the reflection was suddenly no longer there. In the beginning this was a bit scary, even if it sounds like the unlimited freedom. Suddenly I was confronted with myself, had to face myself and define myself. Traveling by myself was a constant challenge and never really easy.
Franzi: How do you cope with the challenges of such a trip? Did you want to quit at some point and wish to get onto the next plane back home?
Anselm: It took me almost a year to reach the Sahara Desert. 3,000 kilometers of sand were lying ahead of me. I knew right from the start that it would be tough. The hardest thing, however, was the headwind from the north blowing all year round. Several weeks of headwind, I only made 7km per hour on flat roads and I couldn’t stand it. The power you need in such situations is not muscles but pure will. You really need to want this.
Franzi: Tell us about difficult moments of your trip?
Anselm: I didn’t buy any water during my journey and I got my water supplies from local wells and creeks. Some stretches were difficult as fountains didn’t have enough water or pumps were defect. These experiences were quite drastic. I realized the basics of life directly and intensely. We all need water in order to survive, but we only realize its value when we run short of water.
Several times I was confronted with weapons. Never before did I realize the immense effect of a Kalashnikov directed towards me. Suddenly the powers are out of balance, and once you are confronted with such a dominance you respond intuitively.
Franzi: What is fascinating for you about Africa?
Anselm: I was really fascinated by the fact that time doesn’t matter. The future doesn’t play a role and is not part of any conversation, and not even part of the people’s way of thinking. This results in a full focus on the present tense. In the beginning this was strange for me, but then I started to realize the logics of this perception of life.
Franzi: What is it that the locals moved in you?
Anselm: I experienced many areas of Africa as extremely honest, unprejudiced and interested. Reactions, actions and behavior are all very close to what a human really is, pure and sincere. During the trip I started to develop a deep feeling of trust allowing me to open myself for this continent. In the beginning I was skeptical, but my emotions were reflected. Mindfulness is reflected by your body language, especially if one’s communication is restricted to smiling and gestures.
Franzi: You filmed your entire trip. Did you plan to come out with a film right from the start?
Anselm: The moment I was suddenly alone, I started using my camera and telling my emotions and impressions to my camera. This was really good, especially at the beginning of Kalahari Desert, the most remote area of Africa. I was used to sharing my life with others around me. Now my camera was my faithful and only companion. This sounds a bit crazy, but sometimes I was even communicating with my camera. At some point I had fun trying new perspectives and settings. The idea of making a film came much later, about three years after my trip to Africa, when my friend Jana borrowed my hard disc and composed a short teaser. When I looked at it, I realized that this would be a story for publication.
Franzi: Producing a film is a lot of work. Why did you still do it?
Anselm: I haven’t really decided „now I will make a film“. When Jana worked on the teaser and said: “Anselm, your story is incredibly valuable and inspiring for other people“, I realized the potential. This was 16 months ago. Together with a small team we sighted the entire material and composed a film. Both the creation of the film and the result of the entire project were really exciting. I toured Africa all by myself, but I couldn’t have made this film all by myself.
Franzi: What is the intention of your film?
Anselm: I was looking for the big adventure and I found it. The film shows Africa’s beauty, its warm-hearted and open-minded people I met, its breath-taking and wild nature. Of course, it also shows the physical strains of such a bike trip in a very honest way, I have never used a bus or train, and I never bought drinking water. I wanted to experience the real authentic Africa. But the story also shows the journey to myself, I learned to be all alone by myself. My wish is that I can encourage people to face themselves and the unknown. And last but not least I wish to provide an honest impression about a continent we all know very little about although we hear a lot in the media.
Franzi: Are you afraid you are revealing too much?
Anselm: Yes, sometimes. The film reveals a lot about me and my personal emotions. As soon as the film is out there I ‘m out of control. In the beginning I intended to do a short film for my circle of friends in order to describe my feelings about Africa which are hard to depict by means of words. Then we created a larger coverage and I am not sure about the effects and reactions.
Franzi: Some who see your film might want to set out for a similar trip. What advice can you give them?
Anselm: Follow your instinct and trust your first emotion. When you think twice you will reconsider your idea or action and might change your mind. I always go with my gut feeling, and I’m not crossing a bridge before I’m there.
Franzi: What are your next plans?
Anselm: I’m looking forward to the new contacts and tasks arising out of this film. Apart from that I do not have any other plans for 2019.
The film “Somewhere. Alone in Africa” will start on December 13, 2018 in more than 30 selected movie theaters all over Germany. Find more information on the cinema tour at:
Written by Franzi from Tales on Tyres