Why did you choose the Land Rover Defender as your vehicle?
After much discussion we put our selection criteria into order: Reliability, off road capability, ease of repair and maintenance, availability of spares, ease of modification, comfort, fuel consumption, availability within our price range.
The Defender most met these criteria in the right order. It looks the part too!
How long did it take to plan your adventure?
It took about two years for ‘the idea’ to germinate and become real enough to make the decision to actually do it. We then bought Landy, and that was the moment when the planning really started in earnest. That was in April 2008, and we leave in April 2010, so two years minimum.
Given your concern about the environment, is driving a car around the world a very ‘green’ thing to do?
Well the simplest answer is ‘no’! We’d much rather drive a vehicle that was more environmentally friendly, but at the moment (and, we’d guess, for a few years yet) there are no such vehicles capable of the kind of trip we are undertaking, nor the infrastructure in under-developed parts of the world to support them.
In the meantime Helen has done some tedious maths and come up with the following:
Currently our joint CO2 consumption is approximately 26.55 tonnes per annum – about 3 tonnes per person higher than average mainly because we both work from home and travel a lot in our work.
During our travels we will reduce our joint carbon footprint to about 19.07 tonnes: most of that will come from driving 44,000 miles per year which will equal 19 tonnes, while cooking using a combination of petrol (13 litres, 0.03 tonnes), gas canisters (21.kg, 0.04 tonnes), and dead wood (which counts as nil as it’s carbon will be released through natural decaying processes) makes up the extra 0.07 tonnes per year.
We will also be making sure there is a lot of value derived from our trip, so the benefits will partially offset the environmental costs.
How do you go to the toilet when you are travelling?
This is an interesting question, and requires a surprisingly complex answer.
Wherever possible we will use public facilities. In open country we will need to find places where we can go to the toilet that provide the necessary privacy, and do the least harm to the environment. We must avoid places close to streams, rivers and water courses, and anywhere where food is grown.
Our Land Rover will have a shower cubicle that can be put up providing some privacy (of sorts) in areas where there are people about, but using this will mean we have to store our waste until it can be disposed of (not pleasant!)
If the ground is moist, and there are livestock or people in the area, we will typically dig a hole and…’do it’.. in that. We will sometimes use a special seat, sometimes just squat down. Afterwards, the hole is filled and the toilet paper burned.
If it is very hot and dry, no hole is best, because the waste dries and breaks down much more quickly and is less damaging to the environment.
What will it cost to go on your trip?
There are two parts to the trip – preparing to go, and the actual travelling.
We have chosen to be away for a long time, so our comfort and security are important. We’ll also be travelling through some very remote places, so additional fuel and water storage is a must. Factors like these affect the preparation costs, as do the age and condition of the vehicle you buy in the first place.
Our Land Rover cost £6500 to buy, and we estimate we will spend another £15000 preparing to go. Once travelling, we have budgeted for £60 per day to include everything for two people. This is about the same as most people spend at home over the same period.
It is possible to travel much more cheaply, for instance by buying an older vehicle, being prepared to overcome reliability issues as they arise, and by buying second hand or less expensive equipment.
Where will you sleep?
Most of the time we will sleep in our roof tent on top of the Land Rover, but in warmer countries we sometimes hope to sleep under the stars, maybe just under a mosquito net to keep bugs at bay. Occasionally, we may sleep in hostels or inexpensive hotels, and we have been invited by people we know in Mexico City and Seattle to stay with them as we pass by.
People the world over are very hospitable in general, and given the opportunity, we would like also to ‘lodge’ with local families if possible.
Rarely, if the situation demands we can recline the seats in the Land Rover and sleep inside, but this is dreadfully uncomfortable!
Do you speak any other languages?
Helen learned Russian a few years ago, but is now very rusty. She hopes to crib up a bit before we leave, and no doubt once we are in Russia and Kazakhstan she will pick it up quickly again.
I speak a little French, but only enough get by in a café or to book a hotel room!
We anticipate having a lot of fun using hand gestures, facial expressions and mime!
Are you scared about travelling in strange countries, and how will you stay safe?
We’re not really ‘scared’. There are dangers everywhere, even in our own country, but it doesn’t help to dwell on them. Far better to get on with enjoying life and deal with anything untoward that happens if and when it does.
We are aware though. It doesn’t help to be blind to the dangers, so we’ll take precautions relative to the dangers we perceive. We’ll keep valuables out of sight, be careful in crowds, and the Land Rover will have extra locks fitted and security film on the windows.
Travelling in Azerbaijan a couple of years ago, a border guard poked his AK47 through our car window menacingly at the border, and asked for my brother’s watch. Staying calm and playing ignorant saved the day, and eventually he got bored with his failed mock extortion and let us through, finding a new ‘victim’ somewhere else in the queue. Often situations we see as dangerous are simply local practices intended to increase income from the unwary or unfamiliar.
Our philosophy is to take precautions, stay aware, and then get on with enjoying the trip.
What are you looking forward to the most?
Paul: “The wilderness areas, interesting people and cultures, and the opportunity to take life at our own pace.”
Helen: “Oooo ‘eck!! Being alone. Being together. Meeting people. Experiencing something of a life that is different from that which I have ever known.”
How do you think you’ll cope with spending 24 hours a day with each other for so long?
We suspect, pretty well, although there will no doubt be ‘moments’!
We are both very good at recognising when we have behaved unfairly or unreasonably, and are happy to admit it. We never go to bed cross with each other, and we are able to share the same physical space but be engaged in totally different activities. We also like to share.
The bottom line is though…watch the Blog!!