Road Trip from New Zealand to New York: Interview with Steve Shoppman

Road trip from New Zealand to New York: the crew.

From New Zealand to New York in two Toyota 4x4s. That’s exactly what Steve Shoppman, his friend Steve Bouey, and a changing crew of extras are attempting, living out their dreams while raising awareness of the world’s diversity.

After setting out from Auckland in February 2007, Steve, Steve and the rest of the crew made their way through Australia, Asia and far north Europe before turning south and driving through Europe into Africa.

TravelBlogs caught up with Steve via email while they were in the Congo.

Who or what inspired you to do this trip?

The original inspiration came from numerous conversations with friends over the years about how the only way to travel is with your own transportation. When using public transport the ability to see the truly untouched and different parts of the world becomes very difficult and the constraints of timetables never help to have a truly organic experience in a place. After proposing the idea of the trip to my friend Steve Bouey, the first idea was to try to drive from Europe to the China through the Middle East.

A few months after we first talked about it, I read a book named “Who Needs a Road” by Harold Stephens and Al Podell. They drove a Toyota Landcruiser around the world in the 1960s and I thought, “Why stop at the Middle East?” I gave Steve Bouey a call as I was in Norway at the time and told him the new idea. I think at first he kind of just brushed it off as me being silly, but when I got home he was convinced and we started planning. The next hurdle was to find a way to pay for a journey like this.

Your goal is to promote awareness of the diversity of people and cultures around the world. How do you hope to achieve this?

In Africa

This goal is achieved every day with our growing audience on the website and all of the outlets we syndicate our video to. We produce short video segments, write stories and have thousands of photos up online. But this is just the beginning. We will eventually produce a documentary of the journey and write a book. Beyond that we have talked with a couple of guide book companies who are interested in commissioning us to write an overland travel guidebook to help others to know the best ways to get from point A to B. Some of our video segments will soon be syndicated on a television show called Nice Drives on the Altitude Network.

The approach is to intermingle more serious issues with fun and adventurous stuff, with the hope of keeping our audience’s attention while presenting some of the issues that tend to get overlooked by modern media. After returning home a tour is in the works to visit Universities and High Schools in the States trying to educate young people about the importance of understanding other cultures in our increasingly globalized world. We visit Aid organizations, political leaders and hit the ground talking to locals to do our best at understanding the places we visit, instead of just doing the usual tourist activities.

For you personally, what have you learned most on this trip?

It is simple, nothing is what you expect and the only way to truly understand something is to shut your mouth and listen.

It is simple, nothing is what you expect and the only way to truly understand something is to shut your mouth and listen. There are so many people out there that can teach you so much, but in a world where many of us turn to the mainstream media for the answers, we forget that the answer might lie with the person that lives down the street.

What is the hardest thing about doing a journey like this?

The most difficult thing is that we cannot just quit when the going gets tough. Currently we are stuck in the Congo waiting for our Angolan visas. It has already taken us a week and we are still waiting, and still unsure of the outcome. If we did not have the trucks we could just get on a flight and go somewhere else, but with the trucks we must find a way to get our visas and the proper permits to get though.

One simple question that I repeat to myself regularly, “Is there a way?…There is always a way.” We do not have an option to give up, we just have to find out a solution. Most of the countries we are in have very limited means, so truck problems, visa problems, or all the simplest things in first world countries are big problems for us.

How are you able to afford it?

We had a lot of money saved before we left, which is now mostly gone. That paid for less than half of the expedition. Some people donate money to us to help us keep going. They enjoy the content we produce and believe in our mission, so they contribute. Our families have helped as well, but the main thing is sponsors. Toyota gave us the trucks in cooperation with a local dealership in Denver. Over the course of the expedition we have had about 15 different sponsors come on board. About 20-30% of our time is devoted to finding more sponsorship to keep us on the road. Due to the economy, that has been very difficult lately. Right now we are just about to run out of money, so the expedition may have to be put on hold for a couple of months while we look for more sponsors, or get enough donations to keep going. But finding funding is all part of the adventure.

What is the advantage of travelling by car?

I answered that above in why we did this, but the principal advantage is the ability to change your schedule at a moment’s notice, or go to a place that public transport does not. If we meet an interesting person who invites us to stay in their home, we just have to drive there. If we hear about a festival we just have learn the location.

Most recently we made our way from Gabon to Congo off road for over 700 km. Each night we would stop in a village, talk with the locals and camp with them in the jungle. It is experiences like these that make the permits and troubles with the vehicles all worth it. Lately we have not even been using the guidebooks at all, just looking at the map and talking to locals. It is a whole different way to travel.

Check out The World By Road website to keep track of the trip.

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