Inside, the movie will keep playing for a long time

Victorinox employee Andrea Maier thrives on adventure. Both at work and during her time off. That’s why during her vacation she’ll even take part in a very special rally.

Back in Ibach after driving 12,163 kilometers by car

We meet Andrea at her usual place in the office at Victorinox headquarters. Andrea is responsible for visual marketing concepts for our stores and has her hands full. She and her team just recently opened the latest Victorinox store in Lucerne. But she couldn’t make it to the big opening celebrations. Because Andrea was on the road, somewhere around the 2,500th kilometer on the Allgäu–Orient Rally, the second largest rally in the world. In the middle of nowhere between Oberstaufen in Germany, Tbilisi, and Dalyan in Turkey. On unknown terrain, without a navigation system. Dusty. Tired. But primed for action.
The Allgäu–Orient Rally is a very special race that is not driven by professionals or in ultramodern cars. Quite the contrary: the vehicles must be at least 20 years old or have a residual value of no more than 1,111.11 Euros. That’s what the challenging rules require. Another such requirement is orientation without modern technology, only with traditional maps.

“Chance treads paths that intention cannot even reach.”

The Goodvibes
Less than two weeks after the adventure rally, Andrea still has many vivid images in her head and tells us enthusiastically about her experiences: “Together with my team, I had a fabulous time, even though we also often reached our limits. But that is quickly forgotten in light of what you personally gain in the process. The moving encounters with the people on the way remain a living memory.”

Charity – the actual reason behind this rally

On April 30, 2016, Andrea, her partner Marcus, and a couple they are friends with approached the starting line in Oberstaufen as team “smile.” In a car they specially prepared for this purpose and – true to their motto: “help with a smile” – named “Smileomat #1.” They packed the vehicle to the gills with relief supplies, because the team’s primary focus during this trip was the idea of charity. Covering some 7,000 kilometers on unpaved roads and at the same also doing something good? We want to learn more about this. “The AOR has a tradition of providing aid and support,” Andrea explains to us.

 

 

“It’s worth overcoming fears of contact and your own limits and encountering others with genuine interest and openness. You get so much in return.”

Andrea on her charity effort

Andrea recounts: “The participants themselves decide what relief supplies they take along as well as whom and when they help. I immediately liked this idea. Our spontaneity, in fact, brought us the most beautiful moments – often on the side of the road. A common language isn’t necessary in order to understand each other; wealth isn’t necessary in order to treat us with hospitality.” Sometimes Andrea also witnessed shyness and reluctance. Primarily among children: “At first this frustrated me, but later I thought: It’s actually quite good if the little ones don’t trust everyone right away and look after themselves.”

Bad weather, strong material, joyous atmosphere

We ask Andrea about the best moments of the rally. “Oh, so many!” beams Andrea. “Once it poured the entire day. Then on the side of the road we met a cowherd with his herd. His coat was thin, full of holes, and he himself was already completely soaked. We spontaneously traded his coat for a Victorinox parka that was part of our relief supplies. A moving moment for both sides.”

 

 

“It was a completely new, profound experience, meeting people without the possibility of speaking in a common language. And to understand.”

Andrea Maier about her encounters along the way

One enduring image: the girl with the red clown nose

And another experience, too, created an especially deep impression and remains in her heart: the small girl whom she met in a group of children on the road. The oldest of them was maybe ten; the youngest was around two years old. All of the children very decent and obviously well-raised, but no adults anywhere nearby. Along with teddy bears and children’s clothing, Andrea handed out toothbrushes and soap. What a joy! They knew exactly what they were used for. One of the girls then asked for another toothbrush for adults. The problem: there were none left. Andrea impulsively decided to give away her own spare toothbrush from the glove compartment. The two of them went together to the car – and as Andrea opened door of the glove compartment, she first discovered the red clown nose and placed it on the surprised little one. For a moment, the girl completely forgot about the toothbrush and ran back, beaming, directly to the group... “This childishly exuberant laughter, a priceless moment!” Andrea is delighted even now. “Of all the experiences, one realization remains: what really makes you rich are your encounters with people. It is the warm feeling that you experience and that remains for a long time. I am very happy that I got involved.”
It will still take some time before Andrea gets herself and the more than 3,000 photos from the trip completely sorted. But having just returned, she is already back at work, full of enthusiasm. What is our Head of Visual Merchandising possibly planning next? We eagerly look forward to being surprised – both with respect for her job and her wholly private life.