They were traveling for six months, the journey of a lifetime, they return 22 years later, after a lifetime of journey, four children born on the road and the firmly rooted belief that “humanity is wonderful”.
In Gualeguaychu (north-west of Buenos Aires), one of the last stages a few hours and 230 km from the end of the journey, Herman Zapp wonders if he should say to himself “my dream is over” or “I have achieved my dream”. It does not matter in the end. “Everything was more beautiful than we had imagined.” In the beginning, a couple were 31 and 29 years old, well earned for living, a house in the suburbs of Buenos Aires, desires for parenthood. But just before, there was this old dream for two: a six-month backpacker trip, from Argentina to Alaska, with $ 4,000 in his pocket. Also…
102 countries crossed
And then there was someone who offered them this tired old collector car for sale, an unlikely means of transportation: a 1928 Graham-Paige, wooden rims, “which did not even start”, but which they fell in love with. The journey would therefore take place in ancient times. Ah, Graham-Paige … Almost as much as Zapps – “Family driving around the world” as a sticker on the vehicle proclaims – she’s the star of the journey for 102 countries that have crossed, 362,000 miles traveled. Even though she only drove a few hours per stage, and not every day, out of respect for her advanced age.
The car that opens doors
“It does not have the best seats, it does not have the best shock absorbers, and it does not have air conditioning. It’s a car that forces you to be on alert. But she was wonderful, Herman told AFP. A “machine to open doors”, the smiles, the helping hands.
Of course, that has changed since the first kilometers – it only drove 50 on the first day, January 25, 2000, before the first crash … We had to switch to mechanics, do-it-yourself: that enlarge the car, “add” 40 cm, as the family grew. Pampa, now 19, born in the United States, Tehue (16) on his way back to Argentina, Paloma (14) in Canada and Wallaby (12) in Australia. Without forgetting the dog Timon and the cat Hakuna.
The world as a garden
Often the car has been a “main residence”, where the children have slept on a tent on the roof, the parents inside, all surrounded by a large tarpaulin for privacy. “The house is small, but the garden is huge, with beaches, mountains, lakes. And if you do not like it, you can change! ” joker Herman.
But to tell the truth, the zappers have mostly slept with locals, guests in more than 2,000 homes around the world, they estimate. “We had never imagined that people could be so beautiful in the world. This humanity that we live in is incredible”, still can not believe Candelaria, 51 years old. A meal, accommodation, free repairs … “Many helped us because they wanted to be part of a dream. ”
Discovery are people
Of course, not everything was rosy. Derived several times from a conflict, a crisis, they lived in Asia with bird flu, Africa during Ebola, Central America with dengue fever, Herman got malaria … Every three years they have approved a stay of 2-3 months in Argentina to see the family again . Then they set off, in fact attracted to something other than the landscapes, from Namibia to Everest, from Egypt to Peru: “what we discovered were the people.”
Hard to imagine the future, after two decades so full that filled three books – “Catch your dream”, sold to 100,000 copies, which partially funded the adventure. Herman talks about “thousands of possibilities”, evoking a boat trip around the world. Young children are not enthusiastic about the idea of face-to-face college, after years of training by correspondence or by their mothers. But with unsurpassed geography hours.
A shift might be expected with sedentary in a world that seems to be going from crisis to crisis. For Herman, this should not change the compass. “We’re coming out of a Covid, we’re going into a huge war. If we wait for the right moment, there will always be a reason not to realize our dreams.