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ABOUT THIS BLOG

In the summer of 2009, Nicolas Rapp decided to take a break from his Art Director job at The Associated Press to attempt a one-year overland travel around the world in a 1996 Toyota Land Cruiser. He was back in New York in February 2011 after traveling 15 months and 37,000 miles.

Visited countries

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MONTHLY ARCHIVES

THE ROUTE

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  • Halfway through, questions and answers

    Posted on July 21st, 2010 Nicolas 56 comments
    Arriving in Muscat.

    Arriving in Muscat.

    - daysAre you still on schedule?
    I think I am. I am planning to be back in the U.S. sometimes in March or April 2011. It means that the trip would have taken a year-and-an-half. If I would have cross Europe as I originally planned, I would be way behind.

    - Just wondering if you are well protected – what kind of gun do you carry?
    I keep pepper spray in my door, and plan to run if something bad happen. Seriously, once I pass Pakistan, I should be OK.

    - You do tell us interesting things about the trip, but truly, are you having fun, or has it become tiring and tedious? The other night when you slept in the desert, were you frightened at all? Do you just go through the day enjoying it, or do you worry and get aggravated with the delays… fill us in a little on “Nick”
    I am still having fun. But it is true that the trip took its toll on me. I feel more tired that I was at the beginning, thanks to sleeping conditions not optimal everywhere. Some days I have low energy. The food requires adaptation, I pass on meals pretty often when I need to be somewhere at night, and finding vegetables can be difficult if you want to stay healthy. Because my fridge is down, I can’t really stock up, and have to eat more street food.
    It has been tedious sometimes, especially the bureaucracy involved in the visas quest. But it makes me feel great as well when I finally succeed getting into a new country. I also now have a lot of equipment letting me down. The heat and vibration damaged many items, the latest being my laptop. I plan on buying a new one, along with a new battery for my fridge, in Dubai. So basically, everyday there’s something breaking.
    I don’t worry much anymore about anything, finding that everything eventually turns out to be OK. I also learned to not take “no” for an answer. The most recent annoying news is the refusal from the Pakistani embassy in Muscat to give me a visa. I hope to be able to get it in Dubai, or Iran. Because I am on schedule, I have some freedom of movement and ready to adapt.
    Being alone can be difficult on a trip of this scale. You really have to take care of everything. Driving, cooking, washing clothes by hand, trying to get information on the next leg of the trip, finding ways of communicating. There is really not one minute of down time. When finally I can crash somewhere for few days, I sleep a lot and usually have annoying paperwork to take care of.
    But again, it is very satisfying to be able to overcome the obstacle, and keep pushing through. So yes, I am happy, and proud to be still on the road.

    - I don’t know if you have calculated your half-way point since you changed your Africa route, but it looks to me like you must have passed it by now!  Keep on going!

    Cumulative miles for trans world expedition

    I am not sure exactly of the route I will take, but I agree, I think it’s pretty safe to say I am half-way home. But something can happen anytime.

    What will I do if I can’t get the Pakistan visa? Cross Afghanistan? Ship my truck to India? Since the beginning of the trip, I drove 23,000 miles (36,800 km).

    - I take it you have to go to Tehran for touristy stuff or just strictly getting more visas (because it’s quite a detour from Pakistan)?
    I was actually planning to go north through Iran to visit some sites of historical interest and turn east toward the border without going through Tehran, but I may have to go there to get the Pakistan visa. It would be interesting to visit the city, but the traffic is supposed to be very bad.

    - Just curious why your route has you traveling north in Iran before swinging east?
    There are interesting places to see going north, especially up until Esfahan.

    - You’re so matter-of-fact and objective in your reports. Are you having fun? You’re really into your trip now, is it everything you imagined it would be? What have you learned about humankind? Do you read the responses to your journal entries? Are you lonely?
    Yes, I am still having fun. I met some great people while travelling, and learned a lot about how people live in the countries I crossed. It was also interesting to spend a bit of time with expats from many countries and see how they adapted in their new life.
    Before the trip, I imagined I will have more time to enjoy my visit in all these different places. I reckon staying on the road takes a lot of work. I always think about Asia as the place where I will be able to relax and have more of quality time, as travel there should be easier. Africa has not been easy, and yes, I am lonely sometimes.
    People everywhere I wet have been amazing, and I mean it. I think this year has, hand will be, a great lesson for me, and will teach me to be a better person. That was one of the goal of the trip.
    And of course, even if I don’t reply immediately, due to limited internet connection time, I read every comment on the blog.

    - Are you still on budget?

    budget for trans world expedition
    I didn’t compile all the numbers, but I believe that I still am on budget. Yet, I just tallied numbers on fuel, food and accommodations costs. It shows that I am right on target. But surprises can be found later when I will compile all the numbers.

    - Even with the issues you’ve encountered (and endured) yourself personally, the Toyota seems to have worn well too. With all the vehicle options available to a world ‘asphalt’ traveler, I’m guessing you approve of your choice. All these months on, are you still happy with the Toyota…?
    Yes, I am very happy with the truck. It has done well with very little maintenance. I am just dreading the day where something very bad will happen. Hopefully I will be in a place where I can get parts. But maybe nothing bad will happen?

    - I’ve been wondering, has your stomach rebelled at all against the local foods and drinks you have been experiencing?
    I pay attention to the food I eat, and even if my stomach is never the same than back home, I never have been sick to the point where I had to stay in bed for one day. I avoid meat outside of supermarkets, and wash vegetables with water and bleach. But I always keep toilet paper handy! I sometimes experience low energy because of this strange diet and the heat.

    - What about gas prices in the upcoming countries?

    map_fuel_cost
    Gas will be pretty cheap until India, which is good. Unfortunately, I will probably have to pay for places to camp or sleep while in Iran and Pakistan. Asia should be pretty cheap for food and accommodation.

    - I haven’t seen Nadia post anything on here. How’s she doing any Hoot?
    She is good. She is now working in Paris, trying to make some money. She is still not married.

    - Did you get your new passport with empty pages to get more visa stampings?
    I got one back in Tanzania. It is an emergency passport with only ten pages, and next week, I will only have three pages left, thanks to those countries taking full pages for each visa. I will have to make a new one, maybe in India.

    - I guess you have asked some help getting Indian visa. Did you get that? Where do you plan to get that? I live in US and I am not sure if I can be of any help regarding that.
    My passport is at the Indian embassy right now, and I should have my visa next week. The Iranian visa, which I thought would be impossible to obtain, turned out to be easy to get. But now the Pakistan visa is an issue since the country decided to restrict foreigner travels.

    - I heard that it was illegal to drink alcohol in the middle-east, is this true?
    Indeed it has been pretty dry lately. In Djibouti you can drink, but beer is pretty expensive. In Yemen you can’t buy any alcohol anywhere. In Oman, you need an authorization to buy alcohol. Dubai should be more relaxed, but then it will be dry through Iran and Pakistan. I guess it’s good for me, right?

    - Is your route in the United States written in stone?
    No, it is not. My point of arrival will depend of boats schedule and shipping prices. Maybe San Francisco, L.A., or I would also consider a port on the west coast of Mexico. But I definitely want to cross the U.S. from west to east. Often while I am driving, I am thinking of the kind of party I will do when I am back.

  • Questions and answers

    Posted on April 3rd, 2010 Nicolas 40 comments

    Hi all,
    Since there is not much travel going on these days, and because I feel bad I didn’t interact enough with people posting comments on this blog, I thought I would try to round up recent questions I received and answer them the best I could:

    Did the issues with the Cruiser work themselves out after the salt incident?

    At the Salar de Uyuni

    No, I still have problem with indication of low oil pressure. I tried to clean all the electrical connectors under the truck with no success. In the north of Argentina, I stopped in a Toyota leadership, but they could not find a solution. The A/T TEMP indicator also comes up once in a while. I think the truck is OK mechanically, and it is just sensors problems, so I am not too worry.

    I’m curious to know…why did you decide to drive & ship your car? Wouldn’t it have been easier & cheaper to stay in cheap hotels/hostels & rent cars? The expense of your car has got to be extreme now, yes?
    This question comes up a lot. In my mind, driving is better because you can choose the route you want. You also see more of how people are living than if you were just flying to tourist hotspots. You travel at your own rhythm, and can choose where you want to stay few days, or keep driving if you don’t like a place.
    Yes, this is way more expensive to drive yourself around the world. But it makes the trip more of a challenge. I like the fact that this travel is not a vacation, but more like a daily job. When I get to places, I feel I really deserved it, after all the problems solving skills and efforts that were involved.
    The truth is I could not have done it by flying, because it will not have kept me busy enough. I am kind of a work addict, and I will have miss getting things done if I was not traveling this way.

    Have you had anyone offer to travel with you through Africa?
    Yes, people contacted me to come along. I may have visitors. In general, there were more people interested in easier parts, like Asia. There are currently not too much people interested in the Pakistan or Yemen leg of my journey!

    • Should we try to contact Toyota to have them help you?
    We can try. The land Cruiser could use a bit of TLC.
    Send them a letter at
    Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.
    19001 South Western Ave.
    Torrance, CA 90501
    Email: toyota_cares@toyota.com
    Twitter: @Toyota

    • Nick, just another thought (on the Egypt issue) in case you didn’t know yet… Did you look into getting a Carnet de Passage?
    CarnetDePassageYes, I have a Carnet de passage, which doesn’t allow me to cross Egypt. I did let a guaranty to AAA of about $20,000, and should have given the double if I wanted to cross Egypt. So now, my only option is to ship from the east coast of Africa to Saudi Arabia or Yemen. I will probably get more information about available options as I travel in Africa and meet people on the road.

    Hey Nick, while you have time, could you post why the West Africa route does not appear to be a good option to you. I would be curious to read what information you found about this route.

    A new routeThere are several reasons. The weather pattern, the visa situation, the deteriorating situation in Nigeria, and the cost factor.
    It took me too long to go across the Americas, and now, by the time I get to Cameroon, for example, it will be the rainy season, during which you can find yourself stuck in the mud all the time. It is especially hard if you do it alone, with no other vehicles to help you out. I remember reading the blog of a couple for who it took 10 days to do 10 kilometers.
    The visa for Angola is as always very hard to obtain, and I read this week about one more expedition who had to change their routes after spending a long time and a lot of money trying to secure the visa. On the west side of Africa, you have to cross many more countries than on the east side, and each time you spend time and money getting these damn visas.
    Also, skipping Europe and the high cost of gasoline up there will save me money.
    How is your budget doing with the car?
    It is not too bad I guess, especially if nothing bad happens in the future (unlikely) I don’t have the figures with me, as the accounting books are in the truck sailing to Africa, but I am still under the $4,000 maintenance figure I budgeted at the beginning of the trip.

    By the way why didn’t you include Australia in you trip?
    I would have like to include Australia. Unfortunately the high cost of shipping to and from Australia makes it difficult. If I find a treasure somewhere, I’ll do it.

    Have a question: you speak English & French (presumably) do you speak any other languages…Spanish?…??
    At the custom office, trying to communicateThe only languages I speak are English and French. Unfortunately, I didn’t speak Spanish, which made the communication harder for the first leg of the trip. You definitely experience way more as you can spend more time discussiong with the locals. English is widely spoken on the east side of Africa, which will make it easier for me.

    Can you give us details about the equipment you took with you and what you did on the truck before you left?
    I plan to add a link at the top of this page with more details on the prep work. This is long overdue and will help out people who want to do a similar trip.

    What will you do at the end of the trip?
    Try to find a job in New York City, and secure a work visa. Hopefully the economy will be in better shape. And more I travel, more I know that I want to live in NY when I am back, if I can.

    How often are you changing your oil? Are you sticking to a 3,000 mile routine or if you are changing it more often due to the harsh conditions you are encountering.

    I promised my old friendI will get him some fresh oil

    Since I left NY, I use synthetic oil and just change it every 6 to 8,000 miles. I may have to switch to regular oil when I will not be able to find better.

    How are you doing compared to the budget you had at the beginning of the trip?
    So far, I think I spent less on lodging/camping that I thought, even if costlt Buenos Aires will change that. I probably spent a bit less on food and more on gasoline. On the top part of the website, there’s a link to the expenses I had. Whenever I will have time, I will put more details into it.

    • Aren’t you tired yet of traveling?
    Surprisingly not. I was thinking I would get very tired of sleeping in different places every night, but so far, I like this life, and can continue like that for a while.

    • Which countries did you like more?
    The countries I preferred, I guess are Mexico, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia and Guatemala. But of course I had good time in every country.

    • What do you miss the most?

    The crew from Lefferts place wishes good luck to the expeditionI miss my friends in NY and working down there. Even the NY winter, can you believe that? I miss work and the people I used to see daily. I miss people from Lefferts Place in Brooklyn and Jay and Rosie who owns the house I lived. I miss friends in France, which I did not see much then, but even less now. I miss my bird. I also miss people at BK who helped me out setting up my truck and fix the multiple crappy cars I own in the past. But most of these things will be there when I come back, and New York will always be New York, right?

    Does every country have all-you-can-eat specials? Imagine a Latin American Caribbean smorgasbord with a never ending desert tray at the end. Good stuff.

    I didn’t see much of all-you-can-eat buffets, but I guess you can order a Parilla (barbecue) menu in Argentina, and there are few chances you will finish it.