Thursday, October 29, 2009

Trans World Expedition by Driving around the world

This is definitely among 'things to do before I die' list. Time, money, energy, health and other risks would be obstacles, not to include safety in this mad world. Those with excess of wealth can travel first class to every corner of the world, even blazing up to the sky as astronauts.

Be adventurous. Dare to take the risks. My last most memorable travel was in the States and Canada, hopping from a city to another within 3 weeks on very limited budget. Across the USA and final stop in Hawaii.

Another memorable travel was on hitch-hiking around North Island of New Zealand in 7 days. Once I had to walk 20 km stretch in the Middle earth (somewhere between Ohope in Bay of Plenty and Rotorua), with no human and vehicles on sight. I thought I would have to sleep on the road side without food and water until a truck driver stopped in dark evening. In truly Kiwi friendly gesture, he offered me, a stranger who he thought was a Japanese guy) to stay at his house by Rotorua lake with good fresh home-cooked dinner.

I believe a trip like this is something many people dream of. When you’re young and a student, you don’t have money to travel, but when you’re working and can afford it, you don’t have time.

By Nicolas Rapp
In November, I’ll be quitting my job and heading out on one of the last true adventures left on earth: Driving around the world.

I’ll spend about a year on the road, starting and finishing in New York. When I can’t drive, I’ll ship the car by boat, then fly to the next stop to pick it up.

The route is sinuous. Cross Central America, then head down South America to Buenos Aires. From there, I’ll ship the car to South Africa, then drive north through Africa to Europe.
I’m a native of France, so I’ll stop in Paris to get some paperwork done, then go east through Eastern Europe, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, and India. I’ll ship the car to Thailand, drive to Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia and Indonesia, and put the car on a final sailing home to the US.
My blog about the trip, where I’ll post updates from the road, is called “Trans World Expedition: The year of living dangerously.” I hope it will be a good tool for people who want to do a similar trip.

It is scary to leave your loved ones, your career, your apartment and people you know to have a year of waking up in unfamiliar places. Many people think I’m insane to quit my job when the economy is so bad. But I’m 33 and I’ve worked since age 18. I came to New York as an artist and ended up as an art director. It’s early enough in my life that I can take a year off, then come back, hopefully pick up my career and start a family.

I believe a trip like this is something many people dream of. When you’re young and a student, you don’t have money to travel, but when you’re working and can afford it, you don’t have time. I always thought I would buy a place in New York, but when you think about it, is there a better investment than traveling around the world? Wouldn’t you be smarter after doing that? Wouldn’t you have incredible stories to tell your kids and grandkids?

The route
My path will change depending on places I discover, tips, climate, where I can catch a boat, driving conditions, and visas. Staying out of trouble will also determine my route and how long I stay in one place.
Driving around the world may be more difficult now than it was in the 1960s, even though cars are more reliable and roads are better. Wars and civil unrest have eased in Latin America, but the crossing the Middle East is now a challenge. Here are some problems I’ll face:

• Darien Gap: This 100-mile-long area of swamps and mountainous jungle separates Panama and Colombia. There is no road, no police or military. The inhabitants are tribes, guerrillas and drug traffickers. Solution: Ship the car from Panama to Colombia, and go myself in a small plane over the jungle. Pray that no emergency landings are required.

• Africa: Visas for Chad and Sudan are difficult to obtain, making west-to-east travel impossible. I’ll need to get through Angola, but again, visas are hard to get. In Nigeria, I’ll have to worry about kidnapping, carjacking, roadblock robberies and other violent crimes. Solution: Get a visa for Angola in South Africa, my first stop on the continent, and get across trouble spots like Nigeria as quickly as possible.

• Iran: Once inside the country, no problem. Great place, nice people, few incidents reported by travelers. But I worry about arguments between countries that could lead to border closings.
Solution: Get my visa in order and hope my government doesn’t get too excited about political events before I get there.

• Pakistan: Suicide bombings. Taleban insurgents. Imagine how much fun it will be to cross this country with New York license plates. Solution: Go as fast as possible, perhaps with the military escort some foreigners use when driving overland. I’m told the soldiers drive like New York cabbies.

• Asia: China makes overland travel expensive by requiring you to hire a government-approved “guide” to take with you. Myanmar’s borders are closed to overland travel. Solution: Ship the car from India or Bangladesh to Thailand or Singapore.

In order to afford a year on the road, there’s little choice but camping. I wish I could say I have no problem with scorpions in my shoes, and that whenever I catch a snake, I’m happy to have it for breakfast, but I can’t. After some research, I discovered most overlanders in Africa use a rooftop tent. The cheapest are expensive at $850, but they let you sleep anywhere, out of the mud, and they pop up in minutes.

Other equipment: fridge for the car, stove that runs on unleaded gasoline, lanterns, water cans, small pop-up tent with portable toilet and shower. Added costs: $800.

The car
There are not many choices when it comes to choosing a car for such journeys. In my opinion, only two vehicles can make it, Toyota Land Cruisers and British-made Land Rover Defenders. Both are tough, and you can find spare parts on all continents. Others, including American makes, are good quality, but you can’t find parts everywhere. Land Cruisers are used by the UN and other non-governmental organizations around the world. Thanks to the economic crisis and the abundance of used cars available, I got a clean 1996 LC with 92,000 miles for less than $7,000.

I can no longer count how many hours I spent getting the LC ready. I upgraded the suspensions so the truck could handle difficult terrain and carry all the equipment, including tools, extra battery, spare parts, cooking equipment, roof tent, water and gas cans, books and luggage. I installed a drawer system for storage. I upgraded the electrical system to run several devices for days before running out of juice.

Other equipment and modifications included a roof rack, reinforced front bumper, safety devices so people don’t steal my new home, bolting metal plates behind windows in the back to create a secure cargo area for my belongings, and bolting a safe to the frame. Added costs: $3,000. I budgeted $4,000 for repairs on the road, though I hope to use only a fraction of it.

Shipping a car is expensive. I’ll have to do it at least five times, sometimes for 100 miles, sometimes between two continents. Shipping costs: around $7,000, plus $2,000 for my air travel while the car is at sea. Gas will range from 38 cents a gallon in Iran to $7.40 a gallon in Portugal. Add $5,000 for gas.

Health care
This trip requires many vaccinations, some covered by insurance, many not. Getting them all in the US would cost more than $500. So I’ll get some of them in Mexico, my first stop, where it’s cheaper.

Yellow fever vaccination is required for South America and Africa; in fact, you need proof of the shot to get through many borders. The same is true in some African countries for the cholera vaccine. Hepatitis A requires two shots, hepatitis B requires three, so you need to start those early. Sometimes these can be bundled together with typhoid shots.

You need three shots for Japanese encephalitis, which is carried by mosquitoes in rural areas. Tetanus shots last 10 years, so you may need one of those too. Your doctor will advise you to get a shot for rabies. If not, you can get immunized within two days of a bite.

I asked my doctor for a strong antibiotic to take with me, and for a letter authorizing me to carry a syringe in case I need a blood test somewhere and the local needles look shady. There is no malaria vaccine. Pills to prevent infection have side effects, but if you get infected, you can take a heavier dose of the same drug. I’ll also take measures to avoid mosquito bites — repellant, net.
I have a first-aid kit and if I need medical care, I’ll go to local doctors and hope it won’t cost much. I bought insurance in case a super-bad event requires evacuation. It would not be helpful to survive an accident only to have a heart attack when I receive a huge bill for evacuation to my home country. I found a policy from that should run around $600 for the year with a $500 deductible.

My estimated total for the trip is $46,000, including car and tent; shipping the car five times while flying myself; gas and repairs; insurance and vaccinations. Other costs include $550 for visas; $300 for maps and guidebooks; $10 a day for food and $4,000 for campgrounds and occasional nights in hotels. I plan on spending less, bur prefer to take unforeseen events into account.
And that’s it. I leave Nov. 15. Time to start a new episode of my life. - AP


MrsHolcombe said...

I am profoundly impressed with your meticulous research and planning, and especially your determination to actually follow through with your astounding adventure. Virtually all of us have these dreams that we insist we will ignite "someday", yet sadly that day never comes for many. Kudos to you. I am so impressed that you have given me newfound resolve to take another look at my own "bucket list". Good luck and may God bless you with travel mercies. I will stay tuned to your blog with avid interest. Best to you!

Frank said...

Hi there!
I spent a great time last month in Buenos Aires. I rented a furnished apartment in Buenos Aires. I suggest that service called ForRent Argentina: Furnished apartments in Buenos Aires . They've good prices and quality, with apartments in Palermo and Recoleta.

JDSept said...

Take something inspirational to rear, may I suggest The Travels of Ibn Battutah by Ibn Battutah. He set out from Tangiers to visit Mecca and ended up seeing most of the known world at the time. It took him 29 years to get back home. Also he left home in 1325 so it makes a very interesting read.

JDSept said...

Take a few readings to inspire you. May I suggest The Travels of Ibn Battutah by Ibn Battutah who left Tangiers to visit Mecca. He ended up visiting most of the known world at the time and it took him 29 years to get back home. He left home in the year 1325 so it makes a very interesting read.