Around the world on a steady truck
Emil enjoying the sun at the Negombo beach
The idealism of life means following your passion and conquering what
others would claim as impossible, having understood this basic principle
of life, Emil Scmid and Liliana Schmid did what an average man will not
dream of exploring. They toured the world on four wheels, they made it
to the Guinness Book of world records and they are now in Sri Lanka
enjoying the scenic beauty. This is the 169th country they have set foot
in since embarking on their journey in 1984.
The culture here is unique, says Switzerland born Emil, who along
with his wife Liliana has been exploring the world for the last 26
years. Many thought initially that we were wasting our time but that has
now fizzled out. The idea for the tour came when I was 42, an age at
which many men claim they suffer with a mid-life crisis. I was working
at an IT firm and Liliana was a company secretary, I got back from work
one day and thought, what is going to be our significant achievement in
Not much, my inner voice said. I am not going to be the state leader
of Switzerland nor am I going to start my own business. I wondered if I
could have first hand experience of what people of my age in other
countries were feeling about life and it all began from there. I had to
convince Liliana that we will do this only for a year and then settle in
Switzerland but our plans changed and here we are talking to the Sunday
Observer in Sri Lanka in 2011, said Emil.
"Dreams do come true" said Emil.
Emil who thought he was not going to be his country's leader is today
more popular than many leaders all over the world. They have 26 years of
adventure and a Guinness world record to their credit and most of all,
the satisfaction of having followed their passion and succeeding in
Liliana shows off her
I was quite sceptical at the beginning because I had a sick mother
who was 80 at the time, said Liliana. “I wanted to be available for her
but I took a plunge for a year and decided to join Emil. We began our
tour in New York on October 18, 1984. We have travelled to about 30
countries by plane as well but we are entitled for the record only if we
travel with our truck. I do not regret our decision to explore the
world. This is our life now, we will do this as long as we can and the
day that one of us are physically unfit to do this anymore, we will call
it a day” said Liliana.
There truck is an automobile wonder in its own right. It has the
space to store everything Emil and Liliana want for basic survival.
Arguably the tiniest kitchen in the world, portable tables, chairs and
tents, a water tank which can contain 50 litres of water and a washbasin
that has an adjustable tiny tap with an in-built filter are a few
features of this truck.
One cannot help but wonder how a vehicle can take this rough ride so
well? 'He' has been very good, said Emil pointing at the truck. There
are times when 'he' has given us some trouble too, but all in all 'he'
has coped well, he said.
“When we started, Emil didn't know anything about motor mechanics but
he is an expert now. I don't fear it breaking down even in the darkest
of jungles because my motor mechanic in shining armour and with silver
tools is next to me” Liliana added laughing loud.
Emil and Liliana with
the Guinness Book of World Records
Travelling costs money, then how does this adventurous couple cope
with their expenses, especially the clearance cost of the truck, food
and fuel costs? “At 42 an average earning worker from Switzerland will
have saved enough to at least pay their initial deposit for a mortgage
to purchase a house. We don't have children, so owning a house was not a
desire. We used that money to travel instead. It is costly; the
clearance is what costs the most. But our day-to-day expenditure is
lower than people who have settled in various areas all over the world.
We don't have a rent to pay because we sleep in our truck and we drink
water out of lakes and rivers whenever possible” said Emil.
“We did suffer setbacks around year 2000 and we were running out of
money, I then inherited a sum of money after my mother's demise and then
the adventure continued. Now we get a pension, so things have eased. The
Guinness record makes it somewhat easier for us to clear our vehicle
faster with less corruption, so the costs have also gone down” added
Comfort has become a necessity in today's world but it must be really
tough for this couple to cope with the never-ending cycle of
adaptability as they have to cope with cultural and weather changes
almost all the time. It certainly isn't a bed of roses says Liliana. “We
were in the Swat Valley in the Afghanistan and Pakistan border when the
region was taken over by the Taliban troops. All was fine in the night
and by morning as we were trying to leave the place we were stopped at
nearly 20 checkpoints and warned about the Sharia law that was
implemented that morning, it was a very unsettling feeling” she said.
The truck on the river
Once a group of thugs attempted to rob us in Mazzadonia, we were
threatened with knives hence we drove into the jungle after knocking two
vehicles used by the robbers out of the way, thanks to our strong truck.
If the gang had threatened us at gun point, we could have been shot
trying to do that stunt.
That was a very scary experience. Illnesses are something we haven't
always escaped either, Emil was bitten badly by a dog in the Kingdom of
Tonga, then we contract various illness depending on the geography and
now he claims that he has Dengue fever” she said.
We are extremely happy about life as a whole, we are doing what we
like, we have made it to the Guninness book of world records which
happened by sheer providence and we meet many media personel in most
countries we visit. We are trying to go to either Bhutan, Mauritius,
Myanmar or Madagascar from here, but it will all depend on how easy it
is to get our entry visas sorted and the logistics of clearing our truck
without wasting much time.
Emil and Liliana say that Taiwan, Oman, Chilly, New Zealand and India
are very special countries they have visited in their adventurous world
tour. They plan to travel to Galle and the hill country over the next
few weeks. The couple will stay in the country until the mid May.
Pix: Ruwan De Silva