A Road Trip Around The World In A Volkswagen Kombi: Following the Hippie Trail
Sebastian and Soize are a French couple who were not even born when the Flower Children were painting their Volkswagen Kombis with floral designs and burning rubber on the roads to the Woodstock in late 60s. Soon the Volkswagen Combi ( both spellings are used in different part of world) was the wheel of choice for Nirvana seeking Hippies who made Kombis their home and took it from Cairo to Kathmandu playing music more colorful than the flowers painted on their mobile homes.
Dollar deprived economies in Asia like Nepal and India were unable to decide what to do with them, ultimately deciding to leave them alone for most part. Soon from New York to San Fransico in US and Manchester to Munich in Europe a whole generation was driving in their Volkwagen Combis and driving towards Asia specifically India and Nepal hoping to find Nirvana on the Ghats of Varanasi. Soon the Kombi was an icon that still stands on a pedestal when most cars are traded for an upgrade every few years. The Kombi is still one of the most recognized set of wheels in the whole world even after many decades.
So when I learned about Sebastian and Souzic and their journey around the world I was very keen to talk to them and understand what is happening in their journeys. I spoke to Seb as he is called by friends, on phone while he was waiting for his flight to go to Dubai, the Combi has been shipped via a container to Dubai as they could not get a visa for Pakistan. Trust me he has nothing even remotely similar to the Hippies and that era of careless ness but the Kombi that they are driving around the world.
Given Below is an excerpt of my conversation with Seb, presented in form of Questions and Answers about their Road Trip and the Kombi
DT: Hi Sebastian Good Morning and thanks for speaking to me on phone, I am very excited and eager to learn about your discoveries on the journey around the world
Seb: Good morning, I am very happy to talk to you and would be happy to answer any questions.
DT: So please tell me how did this all started and how come you decided to go on a world tour kind of thing.
Seb: We have always wanted to travel, but wanted a great experience, the challenge was how to get so much free time to go on such a big trip. So one day we said what the hell, we need to do this when we are young, and still don’t have any kids. So we decided prepare for the trip, and it took us 6-7 months to do all the preparation like arranging for money, documentation, Visas, making changes to the Volkswagen Combi so that it can handle such a long trip and take us along. As we are not rich so we had to sell every thing we owned one by one to finance this trip.
DT: So what was your first trip and what all you have covered
Seb: We started the trip in Europe and from Rotterdam we shipped the Combi to New York and then toured the continental USA, before moving to Asia. In Asia we covered Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and now we are in India.
DT: I read on your blog that you had a not to pleasant experience with the Customs in Chennai, please tell me more about the same
Seb: We had a lot of frustration with the customs process in Chennai, what took us 2 hours in Singapore to get our Combi from Customs took us a full 2 days and a ton of paper work to get the car back from customs so that was a lot of time wasted and heartburn.
DT: Now that you have travelled to so many countries and have experienced them first hand, please tell me which country do you think is the most visitor friendly and where do you think India stands in this ?
Seb: We have been fortunate to meet good people all over, but if I have to pick one country then I will say Thailand is one of the most visitor friendly country we have visited. The government as well as common people are very friendly and every body has a smile on their face and they are willing to help you.
DT: I agree with you on Thailand, I have been their with my wife and really enjoyed it there.
Seb: Oh great! Where have you been in Thailand.
DT: In Thailand I have been to Bangkok, Pattaya, and Phuket and we met some very friendly people there. What is your impression of India ?
Seb: Well India is a land of extremes, every thing here is extreme, the richness of culture, the colors, the food, the people are very nice and friendly. But the traffic is so chaotic, and it is impossible to drive straight on the roads as you do not know from where some body will come, so you have to be extremely careful while driving.
DT: Oh, that brings me to my next questions, what made you chose the Volkswagen Combi as your car for this trip?
Seb: Well its a good car with a great engine, very reliable and spares are easily available. Plus I wanted a classic car for this trip, so I said if we have to do this trip we will do it in a classic car, and the Combi was the obvious choice.
DT: So did you had any breakdown on the road or any bad experience?
Seb: We have not had any major issues, and I have carried some spare parts with me, and those came handy and I was able to take care of the issues my self. We did get it checked time to time at the dealers for maintenance, when you are on such a long journey. We have been driving it on some very bad roads and customized it so that we can sleep and cook in the Combi. We have done that many times and just visited hotels for shower or meals and slept in the Combi.
DT: Did you traveled through any disturbed countries or areas of conflict or were you worried coming to India after reading about the Swiss tourist who was raped in jungles in India?
Seb: We have been to mostly peaceful countries, we could not go to Myanmar and now our Visa to Pakistan was denied due to Elections so we will be missing that. I think India has been fine for us, off course we have been careful to take care of parking only in proper places and not camp in lonely areas.
DT: So what are your next destinations?
Seb: We are going to Dubai next, from their we plan to go to Iran, Greece, and then back to France.
DT: So what do you plan to do after this trip ends? Write a book or some thing?
Seb: I am not much of a writer, though we have maintained our blog “Le Road Trip” just to keep our family and friends updated about where we are and share our travel story and pictures with them. We do not have any big business plans for the same.
DT: Any further trips after this one that you are planning?
Seb: Once this trip is over we will plan the next trip to North Europe, where we have not been, places like Norway, Sweden etc. Also I wan to work on the English translation of the blog so that more people can read it. As of now we do not get time to do that on the road.
DT: Thanks a lot for your time and sharing some of your experiences with us, If you do not mind can you share some pictures with me so that I can put them on my blog along with this interview?
Seb: Sure, will do that. Thanks .
DT: Thanks Seb, have a great and safe journey ahead.
NOTE: All pics in this post are courtesy of Seb, who kindly shared them with me.
So friends as you can see, Seb and Soize are not your typical touristy types, they are truly world travelers in true sense soaking the experiences from around the world and sharing them on their Blog Le Road Trip, and on Facebook.
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