“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have, if only we seek them with our eyes open.”
This is not an average story. Our ongoing overland journey started in 2003. We are among the slowest overlanders in the world, averaging some 50 kilometers per day. To us, travel is not about covering distances, or about driving from A to B as fast as possible. Life on the road is about being in a place, not only to see it but also to feel it, hear it, taste its food and sniff its smells; to connect with people and share their lives.
When we started our overland journey, we had no idea it would transform into a way of life. The idea was to travel for a year or two. How did it start? What happened?
Spring 2003: The Netherlands
When we informed friends and family we were going to drive from the Netherlands to Southeast Asia, quite a few considered us insane.
“Isn’t it dangerous?”
“You can’t travel in Iran and Pakistan! Those are hazardous countries!”
“Will you take a gun with you?”
“What if you’re robbed?”
East European countries like Serbia, Romania and Bulgaria were notorious for corruption. There was avian flu in Hong Kong and SARS, the virulently infectious disease in China, threatened to become pandemic. The world lived in fear, a destructive emotion largely stirred up after 9/11.
The Americans were searching for Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan and they were about to invade Iraq to eliminate Saddam Hussein. Especially a potential uprising of Kurds in Iraq, Iran and Turkey could easily cut off our route east. We had no idea if we would ever reach the Far East. But those fears of the outside world didn’t bother us; we were too excited about our journey.
We both stood on a crossroads in our lives. We had met only months earlier and were both ready for a drastic shift in the course of our lives.
One Sunday afternoon we lay stretched out in deck chairs in a remote corner of a lawn, still steaming from the sauna we had just left. We heard the twittering of birds and in the distance sounded idle chatter of other sauna visitors.
We let ourselves drift in the comforting temperatures of the Indian summer and contemplated our lives.
“If I were going to travel through the world for two years, would you come with me?”
’I glanced sideways and looked at Coen.
“Yes, I would.”
“What would you do with your house?”
”And your job?”
2003–2006: Overland to Southeast Asia
Within months we got rid of our home, found homes for our cats and dogs, and bought a 30-year old Land Cruiser BJ45. We drove off with little more than the idea that we would drive as far east as the Asian continent would allow us.
A fantastic overland journey followed during which we took 3,5 years to drive from the Netherlands to Vietnam.
We crossed expensive Europe in a matter of days but lingered in Greece. From Turkey we drove to Iran, Pakistan, northwest China (backpack), India, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar (backpack), Cambodia, Laos, China & Tibet (backpack), and Vietnam.
By then our savings were running low but magazines started to ask for stories and photos. We created a shop with Landcruising Adventure goodies, and a Fuel-our-Adventure page.
2007–2015: Overlanding in South America
We shipped the Land Cruiser from Malaysia to Buenos Aires. From here we took 9 years to drive to the remotest corners of all 13 countries of South America: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, and Venezuela.
Why did we spend so much more time here than in Asia?
In South America it was easy to cross back and forth between countries, whereas from Europe to Vietnam we were sort of forced to continue east. We often wanted to stay longer in a country but bureaucracy (visa and car papers) didn’t permit it.
In South America, on the other hand, paperwork was easy and free of charge (for Europeans). We got visas and temporary import documents for the Land Cruiser at the border, and they could generally be extended.
We learned Spanish and Portuguese on the road. In South America we could to talk to 80% of the people, whereas in large parts of Asia few people speak English (the educated, often upper class, or people working in the tourist business).
One of our great joys in South America was to talk not only with the educated, but also with those with whom in Asia we had been able to speak only hand-and-feet language with. This made for a much richer experience when it came to connecting with people.
2016 - Today: Overlanding in Northeast & Central Asia
Our initial plan, when shipping to Argentina in 2007, had been to drive all the way north to Alaska.
Why didn’t we?
After 9 years of South America we had fallen back into a comfort zone, the one that in 2003 we had wanted to leave. Traveling in South America had become too easy and, in a way, more of the same. Continuing to Central and North America no longer felt challenging enough, at least for the time being.
A change of scenery
We took a look at the world map: Africa or Asia? Central Asia, the Stans in particular, had been on our wish list for a long time. A good indication on where to go next is to go wherever your eyes continue to be drawn to.
Korea and Japan
And so, in January 2016 we shipped the Land Cruiser from Suriname to South Korea. 7 Months later we ferried to Japan where we took 9 months to drive from Kyushu to Hokkaido and back.
Russia and Mongolia
Via South Korea we ferried to Russia in March 2018. We slowly drove north and west to Lake Baikal. After a summer in Mongolia and a stint to China we returned to Russia once more.
In January 2019, our Russia visa expired and we started a fascinating journey in Central Asia, exploring Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan.
Our future is today. Our troubles about the future are generally related to visas running out or where we can get the Land Cruiser fixed.
As said in the beginning, our overland journey is not about covering distances or about ticking off countries. It doesn’t matter to us if we ever get to see Australia or Africa. If we do, great. If not, that’s okay too.
We are traveling today and here, wherever that is. Having said that, visas do run out and something of an itinerary is required.
The Stan Countries, Russia and Mongolia are fascinating and these countries will keep us busy and challenged for while (summer 2022).
To know how we fare as a couple after so many years on the road without killing each other, here’s the story.
How Covid affected our journey? Here’s how.
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23 thoughts on “The Journey”
Absolutely outstanding! You two are an inspiration to anyone who wants to travel.
WOW!…… what an adventure.
When you make it North America, I hope you come thru UT.
When are you coming to Colombia?
Depending how slow we will cross Peru and Ecuador I would say somewhere in 2014!
So, when you get to Colombia get in touch; it would be good to share experiences. We are planning our next trip and would like to learn more about yours.
Will do. In the meantime, if you have any questions about (preparing) your next trip, feel free to email us (see contact page).
So we can expect you in Peru soon? If we’re still around when you get here you guys have a place to stay in Lima, and possibly an underground car park that you’ll fit into!
Hello Damien, we just entered Peru a few day’s ago and are now in Cusco to check out the famous sites. Will get to Lima on a later stage. Underground parking sounds something that is limited by hight, and we would need at least 2.70 meters… 🙁
Please let me know when you are coming to Guatemala. You have somewhere to stay, I know my country pretty well… would be a pleasure to show it to you. Please send me an email or give me your email so I can give you all of my information so you can contact me. Keep on! Thanks for the inspiration!
Hi Rodrigo, Thanks for the invite! It will be a while before we get to Central America but, of course, when we get there we’d love to meet you and see your home. We’ll definitely keep in touch.
Belive it or not… I have been following you guys because I find what you do very inspiring. Just noticed you are going to South Korea! It has been more than two years since I wrote to you that you are very welcome in Guatemala, too bad you didn’t keep going north. Hopefully we will meet someday. And be sure that if you ever go to Guatemala, you have yourself a place to stay.
It is amazing what you guys do.
Hey Rodrigo, good to hear from you. No worries, one day we’ll return to the Americas. There is much more to explore! Hopefully our roads will cross one day.
I just found your website and I am in awe. I am north of Boston, USA and wish I had your courage! Please keep posting for those of us who camp close to home but dream of heading out to explore.
Hello Joy, thank you for that nice compliment. We will do our utmost best to keep the posting up 😉 And remember, adventure is not something that is far away, it could be camping in the woods, close to home!
What a wonderfull way of life!!! Congratulations and thanks for sharing the trip with us. Safe travels.
From time to time I visit your website… you are one of my inspiration to force myself do the trip I want in the nearby future. If you don’t mind, I will translate to spanish your stories for my wife. She has the idea of going with me but can’t read about because she doesn’t know english(pending for travel hahaha). Thanks for sharing your amazing trip and if you come back Chile, you are very welcome to our apartment in Antofagasta. Best Regards
And the journey just begins! I feel so fortunate to know and work with you both. BTW, you look glorious in those fluffy jackets in that lead photo!
Amazing overland journey and “primus inter pares” website! Can see you one day retiring the venerable Land-cruiser to the Toyota museum in Japan! More stories please and “keep on trucking!”
Hallo Karin-Marijke en Coen! Ik vind jullie verhaal echt fantastisch! Ik was een paar maanden geleden in Takayama en heb jullie daar toevallig voorbij zien rijden. Snel mijn camera gepakt ik heb een foto van jullie truck gemaakt, want ik dacht hee een Nederlands nummerbord op een truck dat is bijzonder. Na was zoeken op wat ik op de foto kon lezen heb ik jullie website gevonden! Ik wil zelf ook graag zo op pad als jullie. Hopelijk zal het in de toekomst gebeuren. Veel plezier met de rest van jullie avontuur! Groeten, Klaas-Harm
Hoi Klaas-Harm, dank voor je bericht en wie weet komen we elkaar nog eens tegen.
I am totally hooked.
I feel a rush of adrenaline, I am suddenly awake for adventure.
My heart is raising
My stomach growling to go and re-discover, myself and the world <3
Thank you for being an inspiration.
Where are you guys now! amazing life trip!
Heya Davide, currently in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. In the coming weeks, we’ll hope to explore more of Kyrgyzstan again.