Dennis did not see the grey reef shark. He was just snorkelling through the warm and colourful Finding Nemo land in the Ningaloo Reef. The 250 kilometre long coral reef off Australia’s northwest coast is a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site and a diver’s paradise. When Dennis slowly moved across the reef’s edge, the mood changed abruptly. Suddenly the water was cold, the current tugged on the fins, it became dark. In front of him, something resembling a cone, colourless, shadowy and in constant movement. The size of a three-storey house. Dennis snorkels closer and discovers around 30 sharks swarming around a shoal of cleaner fish. Dennis only hears his blood rushing into his ears and his heart pounding. And suddenly there is this grey reef shark three and a half metres in length swimming circles around him. Dennis, only with snorkel and fins: in front of him, a predator in his element. For the first time, Dennis felt at nature’s mercy. “I knew: no matter what I did, it wouldn’t change anything.” After a quick check, the shark lost interest and disappeared into the darkness. Dream or nightmare? Still, today, Dennis is awestruck when he remembers the encounter.
Travel means: getting out of your comfort zone
Dennis Pfitzner, 34, is team leader of the central marketing department at Neuer Höltigbaum in Hamburg Rahlstedt. He fuels the Globetrotter slogan “Living dreams” to induce sparks of ideas for customers. He is responsible for organising media and campaign events and acts as the interface linking together agents, manufacturers and Gobetrotter. Travel means more to Dennis then a holiday relaxing. “When I travel, I want to expand my horizon and collect experiences. How do I react in an unknown situation and a surrounding I don’t know?” Shark encounters are one thing, a dramatic weather change on a via ferrata in the Swiss Alps another, or simply a new walk in Hamburg’s forests.
He studied communication studies in his home city Cologne and regularly went to the Globetrotter store as a customer. “Globetrotter Cologne is still my favourite shop. I would go there for a holiday 5 days a week without thinking.” In 2010 he applied for a job at Globetrotter because he wanted to link his career closer to his hobbies. Instead of a vacation in the Olivandenhof store, Dennis got a job at Globetrotter’s head office in Hamburg.
Also in charge of Andreas Kieling
Is it not difficult to sit in the office and just tinker on customer’s dreams? Dennis laughs. “No, it is great. I get inspired every day.” Let it be colleagues, customers or the products. Dennis also coordinates sponsoring. Desert photographer Michael Martin and nature film-maker Andreas Kieling are two of the well known partners, but also extreme mountaineer Alix von Melle, who is also press spokeswoman at Globetrotter Munich. “Our marketing department also delivers content for the website or the print issue of 4-Seasons.” Several media provide impulses for new ideas. However, “Living dreams” is not only about athletic achievements or outdoor activities full of pain and deprivation. “It is about all experiences in nature and on travels,” says Dennis. “No matter if it is a beach holiday in St. Peter-Ording or the ascent of the Kilimanjaro. At Globetrotter, everybody finds his own piece of cake.”
Dennis knows the dreams and pictures which stay in your head for life. When he was five years old, he received his first postcard. It was from his aunt in Australia. The picture ignited his aspirations, and over the years, this dream took shape. After university, in 2003 he put dream to reality: he quit his apartment and his job, packed his backpack and flew to Australia for a year. He arrived at the airport in Sydney without a plan and a goal. “I felt free. It didn’t matter if I turned to the left, to the right or went straight ahead.” Dennis found his way. If necessary, he earned a few dollars with occasional jobs. “I was a tour guide near Cairns and a digger operator in Sydney.” Just enough work to give me enough for a week in the bush or to go surfing. Meanwhile, he says he knows Australia better than Europe. He has been Down Under five times. The country just did not let go of him.
After studying media, Dennis went back to university to study biology to intermediate-diploma level. However, he could not imagine a life in the lab. “Here at Globetrotter, I now have my finger on the pulse of nature.” On his travels, he learned to focus and observe. The Australian outback opened his eyes: “First, I was totally overwhelmed as there is nothing except an endless barrenness. But when you squat down, your eyes adapt to the slowness. Suddenly, you can see a thorny dragon, a lizard, in front of you in the sand. You realise the wealth of life in such an environment and gain a different focus.”
Travel brings experience
It is the same in Germany, explains Dennis. When he looks out of his office, he sees forest: natural reserve, a former military training area. “Some people walk through the forest for hours and don’t see anything. They should just sit down and wait for half an hour.” Dennis has seen red deer, cranes and martens in the forests and natural reserves around Hamburg. “North of Bargteheide, people have even seen wolves.” Less than 50 kilometres away from the Reeperbahn.
On his first trip to Australia, Dennis’ backpack weighted 30 kilos. After one month, he got rid of half of his luggage. But no matter whether on a trip to the forest, a meadow in Hamburg, or a jungle adventure in the Khao Sok National Park in Thailand, Dennis always takes his Leatherman Tool with him. On his last trip, his backpack weighted only twelve kilos but he did not miss a thing. If you can carry in your backpack everything you need for everyday life, your look on life will change, thinks Dennis: “Travel teaches experiences.” And: “Travel teaches humbleness. In Australia, I met some guys from South Africa who really enjoyed a sunset on the beach. Because of the crime in their home country, they wouldn’t have dared to go out at dusk.” Against such a backdrop, life in Germany suddenly looks much brighter.
Dennis has toured Norway with a dog sled, seen crocodiles in Australia and king cobras in Thailand. He would not call himself a hardcore adventurer though. “My activities were never based on special performances. I never wanted to ascend an eight-thousander – I simply wanted to satisfy my curiosity.” Four years ago, Dennis hiked along the Rothaarsteig for 155 kilometres. “It is an absolutely beautiful low mountain range with old mixed forests. It is so quiet in the middle of Germany.” It was an aha-experience. One does not have to fly half way around the world to live ones dreams – an assumption, that Dennis is slowly distancing himself from.
04. November 2013, Text: Manuel Arnu | Translation: Cindy Ruch