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The Warsaw Voice » Travel » October 26, 2012
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Around the World in a Land Rover or how to go traveling while running a firm effectively (11)
October 26, 2012   
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Where the Hard Road Surface Ends
Chris, Elayne and Victor came to visit us at our house in France recently. Victor, let me explain, is not Chris and Elayne’s son, but a... car, a buggy which Chris built from scratch to take them on their trip. Unlike me, our friends had sold their business before they hit the road. Many travelers who choose to stay on the road for a longer period of time sever all ties with their careers before they start their adventure. Chris and Elayne have been traveling the world for six years now, staying off the beaten track. If you want to find them, you have to drive where there are no more hard road surfaces. They are the real adventurers, the ones who brave the world, live life to the fullest and are no stranger to extreme danger without ever bragging about it. And despite all the amazing things they have been through, they still have the awe of a child at the beauty of this world. Chris and Elayne have been to 110 countries so far and they are going to visit another 40. But today, they were finally visiting us.

We first met them in Cusco and then in La Paz, from which we traveled together. Lost, we spent hours trying to get back on our path. Stopped by the police, we refused to pay a toll, as we were foreigners. Numb from the cold, we made an improvised campfire to get ourselves warm. Tired, we camped in minus 15 degrees Celsius at the foot of majestic volcanoes. Chris can talk for hours on end and always has an interesting story to tell. He has this special gift of transporting his listeners to the very center of events, making us feel like we are living out the adventures ourselves. Whether Chris and Elayne reminisce about getting stuck in mud in the middle of a jungle or being chased by the Taliban under gunfire, they are always their composed British selves, even though they have lived in Australia for 40 years.

Long chain of friendships
As tends to happen with many other globetrotters, our traveling experience rearranged our circle of friends. Today, we are mainly surrounded by voyagers rather than people who have settled down. The lack of understanding bordering on envy which we get from some people and the ability to share our passion with others are probably the two main reasons behind this change. Ever since the trip, our home has been a meeting place where our friends are always welcome. Friendships emerge from shared values and interests and when there are more differences than similarities, people just grow apart. Friendships between “overlanders” form bonds which help you endure the hardships and discomfort of traveling. But is this a true friendship that will last for years or is it a temporary acquaintance? We shall see. To begin with, friendships are about sharing and giving. It is all spontaneous, there is nothing deliberate about it and helping others comes from the heart. Alphonse de Lamartine was so right when he said that it takes great skill to get to know God through nature, that is, through all his creations. Théodore Monod remarked, in turn, that God will not let you touch Him easily and you need to have the soul of a nomad to find Him. Friendships were what took us across Brazil. Crossing the border between Bolivia and Peru, we ran into Paul and Marike who we had met four months before in Fitz Roy, Argentina. We were also taken totally by surprise when in the very heart of Pantanal we saw Steffen and Alexandra—three months after we had parted ways with them on the Hill of the Seven Colors in Purmamarca. Later, we decided to drive thousands of kilometers all the way to Brasilia, invited by Nero and Sylvia who we’d met in Mendoza.

Brasilia, the capital of Brazil since 1960, was built in four years in the middle of a desert, owing to the perseverance of Brazilian president Kubitschek. The city was thought up by urban planner Costa and architect Niemeyer. Admittedly, the city was not a success as a whole due to its founders’ blindly imitating social realism architecture promoted by Le Corbusier, but viewed separately, each building looks modern and stunningly beautiful. All you do to find this out is explore the nooks and corners of the Cathedral of Our Lady Aparecida, wander about in Three Powers Square, marvel at the Supreme Court building, discover for yourself the Presidential Palace and so on. Visiting the cathedral, my friend Nero remarked on the amazing fact the modern world’s most beautiful cathedral was designed by a communist and atheist architect.

We left Brasilia and the chain of friendships took us farther on. We had one of our most beautiful encounters with local people in the picturesque turquoise lagoons amidst dunes in Lencois-Maranhenses. Sylvia and her family taught us and our kids a lesson in kindness. Farther on in Natal we went to a Land Rover garage where Mr. Divaldo and his people took care of our car like nobody had ever done before. In the evening, we bumped into Nelo on a crowded street by chance and thanks to him, we had a wonderful insight into the life of a Brazilian jetsetter. Then, Sylvie, a friend who lives in Rio, shared with us her love for the city.

The list of friends we made is far longer than this. It is men and women who were the soul of our trip. Our journey was an enthralling experience mainly because of all the encounters. Each was different and none of the people we met knew the others. Could they become friends too? They probably couldn’t, for many different reasons. But they graced us with their friendship and shared a part of their own lives with us. In a way, we were like milestones to each other on our respective roads through life. The people we met on our journey guided our route around the world. Today, our role is to be a stop on other people’s routes.

Igor Jeliński
Barbara Deręgowska
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