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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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  • Questions and answers

    Posted on April 3rd, 2010 Nicolas No 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.

  • 1960’s world traveler says expedition can’t succeed

    Posted on November 3rd, 2009 Nicolas No comments
    Albert Podell and Nicolas Rapp meet at AP headquarter in NY

    Albert Podell and Nicolas Rapp meet at AP headquarter in NY

    I was lucky enough yesterday to receive the visit of Al Podell, a New Yorker and veteran traveler who has visited 178 out of 192 countries in the world. Back in the mid-1960s, Al and his friend Harold Stephens circumnavigated the world in a Toyota Land Cruiser. They drove across 42,000 miles and crossed more than 30 countries at a time where it wasprobably more difficult than today. They wrote a book when they came back, which I bought few years ago. It was a major inspiration for my trip, and I was incredibly surprised when Al, through a common acquaintance, agreed to meet with me. He was doubtful I could succeed in my journey, but he gave me valuable advice about my safety, and finally offered to recruit and pay thewages of a 3-women-with-machine-gun team who would protect me through Colombia. I had to decline, but the fact that he cared went straight to my heart. Al, you are the best.

    I recommend the book “Who Needs a Road?” which describes their trip, and hope I will prove the authors wrong when they they asserted, back in the nineties that “it was a motor trip that cannot be repeated in our modern day and age.”

    On another note, I was really busy in the past days wrapping up everything at work, and didn’t have much time to work on the trip preparation. I am also busy answering hundreds of supportive emails I received in the last week, as my story became popular across the U.S. If you wrote to me, please be patient, you will eventually hear something.
    I received numerous donations, and I can’t thank enough all the people who want to be part of the adventure. Thanks also to all of you who invited me to their house, I will see you guys soon.
    Lastly, i can’t thank enough the people who were on my side for many years at the Associated Press. I will have time in later posts to go back and reflect on my career and the wonderful people I met there.

    Yesterday was my last day at work, and now, I really should work full time on the car and on packing up my apartment. I will post more updates soon.

    Here’s a link to the book:
    Who Needs a Road?: The Story of the Longest and Last Motor Journey Around the World