In terms of around the world adventures, they don’t get much more impressive than the one undertaken by Over60 community member Elizabeth Grey and her husband Gary.
In four and a half years Elizabeth and Gary drove a caravan around the world, visiting almost 50 countries in the process. The pair’s journey took them extensively through Europe, Africa and North and South America. And they’re set to embark upon a new trip around Australia.
We talked to Elizabeth, and asked how they managed this amazing feat!
What was the main inspiration for the trip?
Travel has always been a dominant feature of our life together. I met my South African husband in Sydney in 1968 when he was travelling around the world on his own… So by the time we started to think about retirement we had already travelled to many countries. We day dreamed and talked about travelling more extensively as many people do. Glossy magazines, weekend newspaper articles, other people’s tales and online travel blogs, it all inspired us.
I’m sure you found some legs of the trip were more RV friendly than others. Which countries had the best and roads to drive a motor home through?
The countries on the Continent (including Scandinavia) were by and large very motor home friendly. England and Wales not so much. Scotland and Ireland, yes... with plenty of unrestricted free parking spots, day and night. England did have farm stays though that were cheaper than RV parks. We enjoyed parking our motorhome on sheep farms and on the moors. We don’t love crowds.
How did the MH fare along the way? Were there any mechanical problems?
We bought a six-year-old, Mercedes Benz 7.5mt motor home to travel in Europe. It was very comfortable, had very low mileage and had been looked after. While on our way to the English Channel crossing to France the gears stuck in low gear.
Embarrassingly the motorhome had to be carried on the back of a tow truck to the repairer and it turned out to be a faulty part that cost 70 pence to replace! The only other occasion we had a problem was in a mountain town in Morocco. A local mechanic and his brother got busy with their tools (a wire coat hanger I suspected) and had us back on the road in double quick time.
How did you find the US? Favourite state?
We visited 46 states in the US. If we had a favourite state it would probably be Texas or New Mexico. We found the southern states much more motor home friendly, residents friendly and accommodating. One of the greatest trips we did within the US was to follow the Mississippi River from the mouth in the Gulf of Mexico to the source at Lake Itasca in northern Minnesota. This took us just over 3 weeks. We highly recommend this trip to anyone who wants to embark on a historical tour de force in the US. In a snapshot it encompassed the Civil War, the Indian Trail of Tears, Elvis Presley, Mark Twain, the era of river boats, the building of locks, and let’s not forget Superman!
Was it difficult to organize the shipping of your truck between the US and South America?
Intercontinental travellers tend to write extremely informative travel blogs where necessary, so my husband did a lot of travel blog reading. In fact we were reading travel notes long before we left Australia in 2010 to get a feel for what was possible and the various pitfalls to be aware of when considering intercontinental travel. To research how others did it is far more productive than setting out to reinvent wheels. By doing this you have reference points, somewhere to start. We read blogs by travellers who had shipped vehicles in recent times, made contact with some bloggers and agents by email and phone and ultimately made a decision that was right for us, our budget and our timing.
What is the main advice you'd give to someone who is inspired by your travel story and wants to take a similar trip?
Do your research. Don't rush blindly into things. Take your rose coloured glasses off and look at things in a practical way. Set yourself a monthly budget. Research the cost of petrol/diesel in countries and the availability and cost of camping places as these are your major expenses when you are on the move. Find travel health insurance that suits you and your needs. Our Australian medical insurance company was fantastic as was the treatment I received at a hospital in Cartagena, Columbia. Research vehicles, type and size and whether or not you will be wanting to sell when you are ready to come home. Some companies will sell MH's with a guaranteed buy back.
And don't listen to negative chatter about places you are considering visiting.
Elizabeth and Gary have a website detailing their adventures called 'Global Travellers'. To get regular updates of their adventures around the world, click here.