Picture Credit: Phil Dera

The two of us are Vincent-Immanuel Herr (30) and Martin Speer (32). We are two activists, writers, and Europeans and have been working on projects of youth empowerment and European integration for the last three years.

The idea for #FreeInterrail was the result of an Interrail that we took in 2014. Witnessing and seeing Europe first hand turned us from Europeans in theory to Europeans out of experience. On the road, we also noticed the number of young people who could not afford to travel and thus lacked access to their Europe. We found this to be tremendously unfair and thought of ways how all youth, independent of their financial or national backgrounds, may be able to experience their home continent first hand. The actual idea came up at a dinner table in Vienna while we were chatting with Austrian author Robert Menasse. From there, the idea started to gain support and momentum.

We are incredibly grateful for all the help and encouragement we got along the road. Clearly, #FreeInterrail would not be where it is now without many helping hands and open minds. While we may have gotten the ball rolling on #FreeInterrail, this project has become a true civil-society initiative with many people involved. Our goal is to broaden that alliance and to include everyone who wants to work on #FreeInterrail in a shared effort.

For all questions regarding this project and how you can participate you may contact us via contact (at) freeinterrail.eu. Or find out more about our work at www.herrundspeer.eu.

#FreeInterrail Ambassadors

The #FreeInterrail ambassadors are young European change-makers, who believe in #FreeInterrail and help to spread the word, strengthen the campaign, and get in touch with diverse civil-society stake-holders. These young women and men are top-notch individuals, who you should keep an eye on, as they are doing wonderful things for Europe and will continue to do so.

Katarina Milacic is a political scientist and EU researcher from Montenegro, who lives in Germany. It is her wish to give her own contribution towards improving the perception of the Western Balkans in (Western) Europe. She believes in the power of personal encounters to overcome stereotypes and prejudices.

Daniel Draskóczy is from Hungary and has traveled around most of Europe on foot and by bicycle, train, bus, car, and plane alone and with friends while he has worked in over 16 countries in Europe with tour groups as a guide. He firmly believes that traveling is one of the best activities to open one’s mind and to help putting one’s life into a better perspective.

Zlatin Georgiev is a passionate entrepreneur and start-up guy from Bulgaria. He thrieves in an international environment and bases his projects on a vast network in many European countries. He is particularly concerned about bringing green solutions to current-day challenges and constantly seeks to protect our environment.

Nini Tsiklauri is a Georgian writer, actress and activist, who grew up in Hungary, Germany and currently studies in Austria. She is a true extrovert, change-maker, Europe enthusiast, speaks six different languages, and enjoys long hiking walks in the mountains. She is deeply connected with her home country of Georgia and works to improve its relations with Europe.

Picture Credit: David Ausserhofer

Wolfgang Gründinger, born in 1984, has acquired an outstanding reputation as fighter for future generations. He is board member of the renowned Foundation for the Rights of Future Generations, the most important think tank for intergenerational justice in Germany, and has published six books on demographic change and other issues for the future.

Katharina Moser is a social entrepreneur, author, and European at heart from Vienna. In 2015, she founded MOSAIK – European Communication Projects, an agency that aims to foster a positive European spirit. Its main projects are the entertaining event “Route 28”, a European journey in the middle of your city and the card game „Come on over!“ Katharina believes that personal experiences and the empathy that grows out of them are the underlying basis of a productive cooperation in Europe.

Picture Credit: Guido Engels

Robert Franken has been working in the digital space for 15 years, he’s been CEO of urbia.de and Chefkoch.de. He is a consultant for digital transformation, diversity and organizational cultures. Robert lives in Cologne with his wife and son and is a frequent and passionate (if the WiFi is working) rail traveler.

Annika Päutz is from Germany and believes that the challenges of the future can only be handled together as a European community. She is loves to bring different people to one table to find solutions for all. Working as a coach and trainer with people from all over Europe, she empowers young visionaries and change-makers to find their passion, get active and create a society they want to live in.

Krzysztof Ignaciuk is a linguist, policy thinker, and pragmatic dreamer from Poland. He is a great believer in civic education and the positive effects more equality has on everyone’s well-being. Kris has been a member of the European Youth Parliament for many years, including serving as the Polish‘ sections President. He strives to enable all European youth to have the same opportunities in order to unfold their full potential.

Aileen McKay is an stubbornly optimistic writer, English tutor, feminist, and activist from Scotland. She views the free movement of young people between European nations to be absolutely vital for a more inclusive continent. Access to travel and and cross-border exchange of ideas and resources is all the more vital in a post-Brexit UK and Europe.

Kevin Müller has worked in different political contexts, always with the desire to get to know new places, perspectives and stories. A vagabond by training and passionate lover of the old continent. He believes that the European idea needs active and mobile young citizens. #FreeInterrail is the most innovative policy idea to keep building the European idea.

Annelie Jenne has found that true understanding of one’s position in a global society can only come from interaction with the other – other people and other cultures. Having lived and traveled on three continents she has experienced firsthand how traveling can shift ones ideas and broaden ones horizon in a way that nothing else can.

Nico Amiri is a passionate young European with Persian roots. He loves to travel, writes on his own blog, and is addicted to sports and politics. As an optimistic activist he is working to combat social injustice and poverty, and for achieving gender equality, fair education, and a united Europe. He believes that can problems can only be solved collectively and is thus in favor of building a European Republic.

Kristina Lunz is an activist, writer, and political scientist currently working on feminist foreign policy in Colombia and at the United Nations. She possesses extensive campaigning experience, having initiated and co-founded several campaigns, including a ‚No Means No‘ campaign on sexualised violence. She believes that it’s mainly through personal and genuine encounters that we can sustainably fight prejudices and is therefor a vocal supporter of #FreeInterrail.

Christian Freudlsperger is co-president of Polis180, a grass roots think tank that aims at providing young citizens with a powerful platform for their ideas on European policy. He is convinced that he has gotten to know himself and others better in exploring this continent’s beautiful mosaic of cultures, languages and cuisines. He hopes that, thanks to #FreeInterrail, every young European will soon have the same opportunity.

Heidi Marleen Kuhlmann is a think-tanker, researching on and communicating about Europe at the Jacques Delors Institut – Berlin. While her parents are German, she feels somewhat French, sometimes Polish and always European. Heidi is convinced that #FreeInterrail would bring the EU’s countries and people closer together.

Picture Credit: Holger Boening

Born in Ukraine, Natalya Nepomnyashcha grew up in Germany, studied in the UK and later worked on several international projects. Having experienced multiple times how personal exchange can help overcome cultural and social barriers, she is a great fan of the idea #FreeInterrail. In 2016, Natalya founded ‚Netzwerk Chancen‘, a dialogue platform that advocates equal opportunities for kids from low-income households.

Picture Credit: Florian Carlo Gehm

Sven Liebert studied political science and international relations at the Zeppelin University near Bodensee and in the United States. His MA thesis focused on the future of party politics. He seeks to foster youth participation in politics and iniatiated the I vote Europe campaign as well founded the Unsere Zeit think tank on interngenerational justice.

Madeleine Hofmann is a German journalist with main focus on the living situation of the young generations, future of work and intergenerational justice. On this subject, she founded the online magazine KNOWING WH(Y) in 2015. Madeleine supports the German Foundation for the Rights of Future Generations. She is a passionate traveler and has lived in several countries such as the US and Mexico.

Julian Leitloff is Co-Founder and CEO of influencer commerce platform Stilnest. The Berlin-based startup develops direct-to-consumer brands together with social media influencers. Julian studied economics at Zeppelin Universität with the focus on Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Julian started his career with Deutsche Bank before meeting his cofounders during his graduate studies at Zeppelin University. Julian is one of Forbes ‘30 under 30’ in 2016.

Ann Cathrin Riedel is a Social Media strategist, working for political parties, think tanks and different associations. She studies Islamic studies and political science and writes, talks and posts about her favorite topics Islam and the Arab World, feminism and the digitalization. She combined these topics in her BA thesis on women and social media activism in Saudi Arabia. She thinks, the Moroccan explorer sums up perfectly why #FreeInterrail is so important. He said: “Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.”

Fabian Stephany is a data scientist, columnist, and passionate European. He holds degrees in Economics and Sociology, as well as a PhD in Social Science Statistics after having studied in Germany, Italy, the UK, and Austria. His research examines social capital and trust in Europe. Fabian strongly believes that the personal encounter creates the mutual confidence young Europeans need to jointly master the future challenges of our continent.

The passion for traveling was developed by Ronja Teschendorf at the age of 15. Curiosity, openness and love for adventures led her to discover several cultures, experience different ways of living and to find out what really mattered to her. This is why she studies politics and languages while being an active in projects with refugees and other young people. As part of the youth organization JEF, she encourages people to participate and experience in politics in Europe. She is convinced: Europe is, what we make of it!

Yannic Bellino lives in the Meuse–Rhine Euroregion where he had the privilege of making friends with people from all over Europe. His studies in Maastricht made him realize the strong need for a truly European identity among the continent’s youth. He is convinced that through the opportunity of discovering the diversity and beauty of the manifold European cultures, the idea of Europe as a united entity can gain new momentum among the generations that will shape our common future. To him #FreeInterrail is the expression of a nascent European civil society and public.

Bastian Kenn currently works at the European Democracy Lab promoting the idea of a European Republic. Student of International Relations at the University of Groningen, he co-founded ThinkTheWall, a movement of young Europeans celebrating their right to free movement in light of increasing violations to the Schengen Agreement. He believes that #FreeInterrail is the way to go because Europe is a shared experience and everyone must have the chance to be a part of it!

Carla Hustedt is a political scientists, photographer and the founder of the German-Ghanain NGO Boa Nnipa that focuses on sexual & reproductive rights and the creation of an egalitarian dialogue between the civil societies of the two countries. She knows by experience that leaving your comfort zone and getting to know other cultures is the best way to learn about yourself, fight stereotypes and create openness. Since the first time she heard about #FreeInterRail she was thus convinced that this is exactly the kind of project Europe needs right now.

Peter Jelinek believes in Europe as the place where millions of people are gathering peacefully to find progress, discuss and explore democracy, economics, and environmental or social issues. Europe is an extraordinary project in the making. That’s why he supports #FreeInterrail as a project that grants the freedom to discover the European Union. Peter studies, lives, and works in Berlin, but loves to discover Europe time and again – #BeEurope

Katja Sinko is Vice-Chair of the Berlin-Brandenburg section of theYoung European Federalists (JEF), a supranational, politically pluralist youth organisation that seeks European integration through the strengthening and democratisation of the European Union. She has just started “The European Moment” campaign to bring together pro-Europeans to stand up passionately for the European idea; open to everyone who believes in the importance of a peaceful and united Europe. Katja, who has been lucky to travel more than 20 European countries, is convinced that #FreeInterrail will bring Europe closer to the citizens and the citizens closer to Europe.

Akilnathan Logeswaran (Akil) was named one of the world’s top 100 Visionary Leaders (Under 30) by the Real Leaders Magazine. Having worked in Germany, Denmark, Poland & Austria the young activist and consultant for digitalization is known for having ties to virtually every corner of our beautiful continent and beyond, especially through the European Master’s program CEMS and the World Economic Forum Global Shapers Community, which he is leading in his hometown Munich. Akil is strongly passionate about removing borders in our hearts, our minds and on the ground.

Paula Thierack is a passionate traveler, young student and board member of the pro-European youth organization Young European Federalists Germany (JEF). She strongly believes that the free movement of people within Europe is one of the most vital forms of realizing this continent. If #FreeInterrail succeeds in empowering young people to overcome not only national borders, but also social inequalities, it is a powerful opportunity to foster a European identity!

Thomas is an active citizen from France, always fighting for his first love: Europe. Driven by his passion for equality always and everywhere, he takes inspiration from the diverse communities he is immersed in. Although he has not yet had the chance to go on an Interrail journey himself, he is currently based in Germany and strongly believes that the European experience is one of travelling, exchanging and bonding beyond borders and cultures.

Hannah Kurek, born in Berlin, identifies herself as European rather than German. Having traveled to as many countries as she is old, she advocates for open borders and minds alike and passionately promotes the resulting intercultural exchange. Currently focusing on graduating does not keep her from planning her future, including greater engagement for the European idea and her own interrail trip.

Gary Paterson is a European youth activist focused on widening opportunities, tackling inequality, and developing European citizenship and education. He is active in European and Scottish politics; Gary works for a Member of the Scottish Parliament, and was previously Scotland’s Youth Ambassador for Europe, Strathclyde Students‘ Union President, and Vice President of the Scottish National Union of Students. Gary is passionate about the #FreeInterail project, and sees it as Europe’s next big Erasmus moment and is very keen on promoting the potential to open up European opportunities beyond our campuses to young people from all different social and economic backgrounds.

Edoardo Caroli is a young European who wants to shape a new generation of leaders. He is an adventurous traveller and a persevering motivator. Since 2013 he is trying to make European youth more proactively engaged in politics and in developing critical thinking. Edoardo is also funder of a Brussels-based pressure group that advocates for a common, sustainable and efficient solution for the migration management crisis.

Barbara is European by heart, Austrian by birth and Belgian resident by choice. For the last four years, she has actively contributed to several European movements such as the European Forum Alpbach, the 1989 Generation Initiative and The Good Lobby, all aiming at empowering Europeans to co-create the society of tomorrow. Why supporting #FreeInterrail? 1) Because it’s a bold policy idea that provides equal access to international travel for young Europeans of all 28 Member States, making the EU experienceable and creating a feeling of togetherness. 2) Because it encourages personal encounters with other European citizens and countries, conducive to solidarity and the fight against stereotypes. Barbara works in EU civilian crisis management. Get in touch for Brussels-based meet-ups and #FreeInterrail citizen lobbying.

Doing Interrail right after finishing school turned Nils Rübelmann into a train-loving, more sustainable person, eager to explore Europe even more. He is now engaged in European Youth Politics with FYEG, dreaming of a Europe without frontiers, where you can use all trains, public transport and bike sharing all over Europe – with one ticket!

Silvan Wagenknecht is the initiator of Pulse of Europe Berlin and member of the Young European Federalists. His passion for travelling and exploring Europe made him a supporter of #FreeInterrail. Silvan is from the Berlin area and currently working as a media operator. As a passionate traveler, he embraces the European idea by taking advantage of the freedom of movement. He has traveled to dozens of European countries and wants all young Europeans to have the same chance.

A student in Modern Languages and European Studies at the University of Bath, UK, Anna Rushmore shares a keen passion for culture and language. She believes that with greater cultural immersion comes a greater understanding of the world and an appreciation for diversity. Having had the chance to go on an Interrail journey last Summer, Anna recognises the Interrail pass as offering an incredible, unique experience to young people. This experience is something that she believes should be accessible to all young Europeans, regardless of their socio-economic background. That is why she supports #FreeInterrail as a project that seeks to offer everyone the right to discover and explore the homes of their European neighbours.

Franziska Sittig is a German high school student who loves to travel and wants to learn first-hand about international relations between  European countries. Resolving conflicts peacefully is what she is passionate about and respecting cultural values is a core concern of hers. Her experiences in both journalism and political discussions have led her to believe that these are key factors to help civil society make #FreeInterrail a success.

Margarethe Neumeyer is an enthusiastic European, passionate traveler and musician. She has lived in France and England and is currently studying law in Berlin. She is an active legal counselor at the Refugee Law Clinic Berlin and will provide legal counsel on the Greek islands in this capacity in the summer. As a member of the Berlin-Brandenburg section of the Young European Federalists (JEF) and the the German-French Youth Committee, she is committed to a deeper European integration. Traveling without borders to experience other cultures, languages and histories has become for a her a central element of enrichment, which everyone should profit from.

Christopher P. Lorenz is a political scientist from Berlin specializing in monetary and economic relations within the EU and the politics behind it. He deeply believes that only a truly European answer to the recent crisis is viable to further a democratic political and economic development and to defend such a Europe from the seemingly simple nationalistic answers of populists and extremists.

Photo credit: Soeren Pietsch

Max Stammnitz, born in 1990, is a German computational biologist, nature enthusiast and runner. He is currently doing a PhD in cancer research at the University of Cambridge, subsequent to studies in Germany, Spain and England. Max speaks four European languages, loves travelling through Europe by train and thinks that a positive vision for Europe inevitably has to embrace, connect and involve the diverse young of our continent. ‘Give #Freeinterrail a chance! Let’s make it happen!’

Susanne Zels is Co-Head for European Identity and boardmember at Polis180. She campaigns for a more inclusive Europe in projects such as EUROMAT and AlternativeEuropa!. At the heart of her agenda lies opening up Europe to participation, hence she strongly supports #FreeInterrail.

Valentin John, born in 1997, is already a huge EU enthusiast. He has looked into the history of his own family and sees European unity as a consequent step in order to learn from the past. He studies physics at the University of Hamburg and takes part in the Erasmus program. He considers himself a part of a generation of Europeans. Therefore he is deputy chairman of the Young European Federalists at the University of Hamburg and supports #FreeInterrail.

Julian Zuber is co-founder of Polis180, a grassroots think tank on European and foreign politics as well as an elected member of a district council for the Green Party in Munich. He is working as a researcher at the Hertie School of Governance with a focus on national identity. As Bavarian European he passionately supports the idea of #Freeinterrail in order to give all young citizens the same chance to explore their amazing content.

Sophie Pornschlegel is a French-German political scientist, think tanker and Europe enthusiast. She currently works at Das Progressive Zentrum on democratic innovation and spends her free time trying to give young people a voice in Europe – for instance in the Brexit debate. For her, #FreeInterRail contributes immensely to building an EU for citizens – after all, mobility is one of the key aspects for a successful cooperation in Europe.

Marcel Hadeed is political scientist focused on European and foreign policy and co-directing the EU program at the grassroots think tank Polis180. Having studied in the Netherlands, Spain and Germany, he has personally experienced the benefits of European integration and is now eager to promote this possibility for every European citizen. He is convinced that the European project is indispensable to tackle the challenges of the 21. century.

As an economist and mathematician, Robert Peter is particularly interested in game theory. He studies and works at the Institute for Mathematical Economic Research at the University of Bielefeld.
Robert comes from Friedewald in the heart of Germany and his heart beats for Europe.
He wants Europe to be felt by the people and is therefore committed to #FreeInterrail.

Johannes von Eyb is a law student from Germany, and a passionate traveler who believes in connecting people with different cultural backgrounds and their interests.  He is convinced  that #FreeInterrail is a huge chance to rejuvenate the European Idea for the majority of the younger generation, and therefore for Europe.

Peter Natter, born in 1992, is a German-speaking Italian living in South Tyrol. He studied political science in Bologna and is now completing his master in economics at the Free University of Bolzano. He currently works for the South Tyrolean government.

Peter is convinced that the European thought will only work, if Europeans can also experience Europe. Especially South Tyrol has always had an identity crisis. “What kind of Italians are we? Are we just Austrians with an Italian passport?“ In the eyes of Peter Natter this is a superfluous question. If Europe grows closer together this argument will eventually become redundant.

Jamil Osso is a law and political science student with a focus in European affairs from Germany. He is a travel enthusiast and loves to explore the cultural diversity of Europe. He is a passionate networker and personally enjoys to interact and connect with European stakeholders.

If you travel around Europe you´ll experience that people get a much stronger emotional connection. Therefore #FreeInterrail is the best way to fight policital apathy and to encourage the younger generations to get an overview over the achievements of the European idea.