Cycling Across Europe In 7 Months – The Amazing Story of Max & Tom

Max & Tom are two cycling filmmakers from Amsterdam. In June 2015, they left their hometown by bicycle with all their film gear on a mission to find undiscovered stories. They’re trading their video skills for food and shelter, and in return, helping people to tell their story to a broad audience. Now, over 7 months later, they have covered 4000 km on bicycles, all the way through Europe while making short documentaries on a broad variety of topics.

Written by Barbara Tzlil

4 years ago

They’re currently in Tel Aviv, Israel and they came to Mindspace to share their experiences and lessons from their journey. We took the chance to ask them some revealing questions:

1. When and how did you come up with the idea of creating Freewheel?

We’re guessing the idea arose about a year ago now. We were both working as filmmakers in Amsterdam. The both of us were in the midst of a good flow in getting jobs in and building a company, but we both had the longing to see more of the world and do something that breaks with daily routine.

The outcome was the realisation that our work could very much be improved by travelling instead of seeing travel as an obstacle to success. Filmmaking is a creative process. The possibility to see more of the world while using our skills to improve the journey both creatively and financially was an incredible discovery.

With that in mind we came up with the concept to create videos in return for food and shelter. Later on, the desire to do independent work instead of commercial projects moved the idea towards this ‘story-searching’ quest.

Now, as you might now, Amsterdam is cycling walhalla. You cycle everywhere: to work, friends, bars, supermarkets etc. So we figured, why not do all these things without sleeping at the same place every night?

When we tell people we’ve cycled about 4000km now, the first thing they ask about is all the hardships and effort. But to us, cycling is more like therapy than a physical challenge. It eases the mind and makes you reflect while enjoying beautiful landscapes around you.

Of course, there are moments where you’re climbing steep mountains and go through hard rain. But the experience as a whole makes you feel very much alive. It’s incredibly rewarding.


2. What is your main goal in life and in this project?

There could have been a lot of goals. For example reaching China by bicycle or making at least 20 videos. If we would have done this than we would have our eyes on this grand prize all the time. However, by the time we would reach the goal, everything would simply be over and boring.

Instead, we have decided not to set any goals. By doing this, the emphasis is more on the journey instead of some final goal. We try to apply the same principle to life although this is easier said than done. We’re guessing it all starts with sometimes reminding yourself that the ride is more important than the destination.

3. What is the weirdest situation you’ve experienced in this journey?

Definitely the moments on which we looked at each other and said “How the hell did we end up here?” It’s the moments where random people invited us to their homes in little villages, or ending up at weird raves in Berlin or Turkey. Also crossing borders by bicycle over the highway when there is a big line of cars waiting was a weird feeling. Or pitching your tent in a big field/beach/forest when it’s super dark and finding out the next day where you’ve been sleeping.


4. Tell us about the most fascinating character you met, and what did you learn from it

Definitely some of the Syrian refugees we have been talking to. The fascination here is in the optimism and strength some people have shown considering the condition they were in. What you learn from it is that you have to be really grateful for the place you were born in. It’s just dumb luck but defines the wellbeing of your whole life in so many ways. We get to be these cycling filmmakers, travel the world and witness all these things simply because we have a passport that allows us to do so and a background that’s prosperous enough.

5. What was the biggest obstacle you encountered during this journey?

Probably our financial situation when we arrived to Israel. It almost put an ending to the trip if we wouldn’t have had so many commercial jobs to work on here. It’s funny how you cycle for half a year but face the biggest obstacle while sitting in a comfortable place.


6. What are the up and down sides of being both friends and partners spending so much time together?

It’s incredible how we can answer that for us, it only had upsides. For some reason we’ve been able to spend 24/7 together on this trip and work super effectively, have fun, and be creative. It might sound as if we’re leaving out arguments we had in the past, but honestly, we’re very surprised with the way our collaboration on this has started and evolved. Because we know each other so well outside of work, we are able to get a good creative click during a production. We say everything we think, which can be deadly, but apparently it works for us.


7. What was the best experience you’ve had in Tel aviv so far, and why?

New year’s eve in Jaffa was incredible. Meeting Tom’s Israeli family and doing Kiddush every Friday is super cool. Having friends from the Netherlands over to visit is an amazing feeling and gives a sense of home. And people offering their place for us to sleep at, never stops to amaze us. There are so many warm-hearted people in the world, and Israel again is one of those places where it really shows.