Two people, known as Mr. & Mrs. T on Tour (T for Tesla), went on an epic Tesla adventure that spanned 18 countries, used 9 Tesla vehicles, and involved the couple embracing their dream despite the challenges and fears of what could happen from such a risky decision. I got to interview Ralf Schwesinger (Mr. T), who took part in this adventure. He shared the thrilling story that is the soul of his and Nicole Wanner’s new book, #recharge — the world’s first EV Travel Guide.
@elonmusk This is Ralf (Mr T) wrapping your Christmas present! 🎁
The book is based on our 20 months @Tesla world tour.@mayemusk @ToscaMusk @kimbal
I would be delighted to send you a copy of #recharge the world’s first https://t.co/Z2N6CCPU1a 📙 as well! pic.twitter.com/HmrkifIFmG
— ⚡️ Mr & Mrs T on Tour ⚡️ (@mrandmrstontour) December 15, 2020
The story began back in 2015 when Nicole and Ralf needed a new car. Unexpectedly for them, a Tesla wound up meeting their exact criteria. What they didn’t know then was how Tesla would change their lives — entirely. Fast forward 2 years into 2017, and they wanted to know if they could really live a life on the road. That question popped into their heads while sitting in a hotel in San Francisco. They had just witnessed the preview of the Tesla Model 3 at the Tesla Fremont factory.
The two shared that when they heard Tesla’s Chief Designer, Franz von Holzhausen, speak at the event, they had this realization: You need to leave your comfort zone in order to experience something truly special. Later that year, both quit their jobs, and then in April of 2018, they embarked on their 20-month-long journey to see and experience the world in a Tesla.
Interview With Ralf Schwesinger
I got to speak with Ralf over the phone and he had quite an interesting story that is filled with adventure, joy, and passion for electric vehicles. Although Ralf came into this as a Tesla owner, he and Nicole wanted to emphasize that this is something that all EV owners can enjoy.
The Spark That Ignited The Love For Tesla & EVs
It all started in 2015 when he and Nicole were in the market for a new car. “I didn’t have a car at all — I didn’t have a car for over 10 years,” he told me. He explained that Nicole had an old Audi and that they wanted something for weekend trips. “I want a car that does not use that much fuel,” he recalled telling Nicole. “We didn’t have a clue about Tesla,” Ralf said to me.
The duo had been looking around for the right car for months. They wanted a car that would fulfill all of their needs. “We didn’t find anything. And then in Geneva during the Geneva Motor Show, she was like, ‘Hey, hang on. What’s that?'” That turned out to be a Tesla Model S, and what appealed to Nicole was the design. So they walked over to the booth and were introduced to the Tesla Model S. “We were both impressed about the size — impressed that it’s all-electric,” Ralf said. After their first test drive, Ralf was impressed that the car would tell him where he could charge it — something he still finds impressive today.
After their test drive, Ralf and Nicole made the decision to purchase the Model S, which arrived in January of 2016. They had an idea bouncing around in the back of their mind from the day of the test drive. “How could we bring more people to the topic of electric cars?” he wanted to know. “How could we, in a positive way, influence people to switch to electric? Because we loved it so much.”
The Mad Decision To Quit Their Jobs And Travel The World In A Tesla
The idea was to create a travel guide. At the time, they were thinking of some kind of webpage that is similar to their website now. The idea evolved as they considered a way to share this guide with people in a way they can easily find the places they’ve been. “If you want to suggest a place without being there, you know, without having seen it ourselves, that wouldn’t work. It would not be honest. It would not be authentic.”
The only solution was to go there, but at the time, both had jobs. The idea simmered and then in 2017 a friend of theirs from the Tesla Owners Club in Switzerland invited them to join the Tesla Model 3 pre-launch event. At the event, Ralf and Nicole watched as Franz von Holzhausen took to the stage and shared why he joined Tesla.
“If anyone else says, ‘you can’t do it, or you shouldn’t,’ but you believe in it, and you want to do something very special in your life, at some point, you need to leave your comfort zone in order to get it done,” Ralf recalled and pointed out that was the message that he and Nicole took away from the event.
That night in the hotel, they realized that if they were going to create this guide, they needed to do it themselves — this would mean traveling to those places and experiencing them in person. He gave me a visual of what the conversation was like.
“I was like, hang on, what do you mean?! We find those places and we travel? And she was like, ‘Yeah, I always wanted to. Why don’t we find those places for everyone else and collect them ourselves? Then we can talk about it. Why don’t we do it? Why don’t we just do it?”
The Hardest Thing For Ralf Was Quitting His Job
He explained to me that it was really hard for him to leave his job. He’d studied and used to work in banking for 20 years. “It was the hardest thing for me to leave my job and the people I worked with,” he said as a touch of melancholy softened his tone. “We flew back home, and then three months later — in December — we quit both of our jobs.”
He recalled that meeting with his boss. He asked him for a moment of his time, and as he sat there with his boss, Ralf was suddenly at a loss for words. For someone who is extroverted, this was unexpected. “I’ve always known what to say, kind of, but in that meeting sitting in front of him, and for five minutes, I couldn’t say a word,” he told me. Then, he just let it out. “Look, I want to travel the world in a Tesla.”
His boss’s reaction was notably predictable. It’s that type of reaction where the cautious person in your life — whether a friend, colleague, or family member — is stunned and wants to make sure you know the consequences of your actions. It’s normal. “You’re in the middle of your career. You want to jump out of your job. You’ll have nothing when you return,” he recalled his boss saying. Then he replied, “Look, I don’t know what happens in two or three years’ time. The only thing I know is this: I will miss something if I don’t do it, and I have the chance to do it now. And if I don’t go, I will regret that. That I know. That’s the only thing I was sure of.”
Ralf told me that they literally left everything behind. He also told me that he’d never embarked on any sort of adventure like the one he was preparing for with Nicole. “I was not the typical adventurer. My cousins, for example, are different. Both used to work as diving instructors and traveled all over the place in their younger days. One of them even became the #1 German-speaking NYC tour guide. I’ve never done anything like that.” However, to be on tour seems to be a family thing after all.
I wonder how Tesla and Elon Musk see it — will Ralf’s former boss remain right? Shouldn’t someone with such a unique story and experience be working for Tesla? He probably did already in the past 3 years, but without a paycheck.
Planning The Epic Tesla Adventure
Once they made the decision to go on their epic adventure, Ralf told me that he told the guys from Tesla in Switzerland, and two weeks later he got a phone call from Tesla’s local marketing department (which no longer exists today). Tesla was on board with doing a Tesla customer story. They would provide a film crew — and they did. The video from that is below.
“They sent a camera crew with six people from Amsterdam,” Ralf explained. “They did what they call a Tesla Customer Story and then we had a farewell party. So what you see in the video were all of our friends and family and owners from the club who’d gathered to say goodby.”
He also spoke about the history of the event location. “Up until 46 years ago, electric transformers were built in the former industrial halls and the flat we used to live in was located in the same building just above the hall — so there was even a connection from the place where we did the party and where we waved goodbye in the video,” he added that, “It was all connected — we didn’t arrange for it — it just happened. Everything just, you know, seemed to come together and it was so right — it seemed to be the only right thing to do, and everything kind of, like, worked.”
The Adventure & The Global Tesla Community
Ralf and Nicole started in Switzerland and drove from place to place. In total, they visited 238 destinations in 18 countries — 14 of those countries were in Europe. They also went to distant places such as New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and the U.S. They also made it to Hong Kong, which was just a stopover in Asia.
“We also met some presidents from the Asian Tesla clubs,” he told me. He told me that what helped make this trip possible were the different chapters of the Tesla Owners Clubs and some very special club members — Ralf and Nicole met several and he told me that they made him feel like he was family.
Personally, I’d never traveled outside of the U.S. — never had the opportunity — so I wanted to know what it was like for him and Nicole being so far away from home. “So the one thing that happens is that the car became my home. It was the one place that was always the same and provided a well known secure feeling. Also, hotels became a kind of like home. So while we entered a new place every 2–3 days, it did not feel strange. It always felt familiar. But the nicest thing — no matter where we were in the world — was the members of the Tesla Owners Clubs.”
Ralf and Nicole met every Tesla Owners Club in every European country they visited that had one at the time. Once they left Europe, they had to cope with the fact that renting a Tesla was quite expensive and the whole point of this trip was to do it in Tesla vehicles (always local, as shipping their own car was not a sustainable nor a technically viable option). Many Tesla owners from different clubs pitched in to help. Mark Sanford, the president of one of the Australian Tesla Clubs, loved Ralf and Nicole’s project so much that he gave them a Model S for them to continue the Australian segment of their adventure. “I think what you do is extraordinary and I want to support you because I think it’s the right thing that you do. I have three cars, so why don’t you take my Model S?” Ralf recalled Mark saying.
He told me that Mark just wanted him and Nicole to be successful, and that they should promise him to keep going on. “I would have never thought that someone would come up and say, ‘Look, I’ll give you a $140,000 car — just take it,'” he told me. They drove 12,000 kilometers in that car. As a token of gratitude for Mark’s generosity, Ralf and Nicole invited him for a very special dinner (Japanese — one of Mark’s favorites) and also gave him a Dreamcase — which, Ralf emphasized to me — was nothing compared to what Mark did for them. “It’s not a one-way road — it’s always give and take if you want to make things work, and that’s something I love so much about that community that every member at every Tesla Club that we met on the trip gave us the feeling of being part of their community, although we were from Switzerland.”
Ralf and Nicole used a total of nine Tesla vehicles on their journey, but if you count the Cybertruck that they test drove during the reveal, that would be 10. The other vehicles they drove were the Models S, Model 3, and Model X. The Model Y hadn’t been out yet by the time their trip was completed.
Sometimes, when one makes plans, those plans have misadventures. This happened to Ralf and Nicole when they were publishing their book, which took hours and hours to finalize. Not only did they have a German version, but an English version as well.
The initial publisher they went with wound up going bankrupt and being bought out by another company. Ralf told me that it took around 9 months for everything to finalize, but they had to rebuy back the rights to their own book due to the initial publisher going bankrupt. Another thing was that they had to secure and guarantee the financing to the first publisher just to get them to even publish the book. It took a while, but Ralf and Nicole finally got the rights to their book back and were able to finally start selling copies.
When I first went to their website, I looked for an ebook version of their book — and there’s not one. Ralf would love to do an ebook version, but he pointed out to me that they started with a hardcover version as the initial publisher did not want to bear the additional costs to also provide for an ebook. Ralf told me that #recharge is sort of like a coffee table style book anyway — a conversation-starting piece that one would have in their home or give to a friend who is not yet into EVs, as an inspiration to switch. I think it would be cool for Tesla to incorporate the book into a digital format for its customers to view on their screens while Supercharging or parked.
Advice For The Average Person Curious About EVs
If an average person, who doesn’t really know about electric vehicles, was to cross Ralf’s path, this is what he would say: “If you have the time, just go for a weekend trip. Rent an electric car that you like and try it. Just try. This is how it started for us.” He also described what a sticker on the back of their car window was for. The sticker said, “The weekend getaway that never ends” — their slogan. The reason for this, Ralf told me, was that prior to starting their adventure, they used to do weekend trips to recharge after a hard work week. “The weekend trips were what gave us energy back.”
“What I would suggest,” he added onto his advice, “is choose a place that you like, or take one from the book. Make sure it is a place where you can recharge your car as well as your own batteries, and in case you are not sure, ask a friend who can tell you whether or not it’s a nice place. Then take the car, and if you don’t have an electric car, try one that you like and just travel there. Give it a try, see how it feels. When traveling for recreation, it’s also about looking left and right — not about getting faster from A to B. Try not to miss the things in between, and your vacation starts as soon as you jump in the car,” he said.
Ralf pointed out that an EV, with the need to stop and charge, gave them time to see what’s going on around their charging location — sometimes there are even sightseeing spots you can visit. “You start experiencing a lot of things that you would miss if you didn’t have to charge.”
A Good Start To Sustainable Living.
Ralf shared a brilliant quote from his book and explained why it was so important to him.
“Acting more sustainably should not stop with driving an electric car. But it’s a good start.”
Ralf explained that this statement for him is how he feels now — for a while, he wasn’t a very sustainable person. He was your average, everyday consumer who lived life and generally cared for the environment but probably not enough. “The car made me think about it, and it was like I said in the video — Tesla was my entry point for most of the lifestyle,” he told me.
He added that it was just the beginning — a first step. “If you want to behave more sustainably and if you are in the market for a new car, then take an electric car.” One thing he learned on the trip that the E in EVs also stands for: Easy. Because buying a Tesla is an easy solution to wanting to take that first step toward a more sustainable lifestyle.
You can purchase Ralf and Nicole’s book here.
All photos are by Ralf and Nicole, used with their permission.