The Zap Family takes a trip to the five continents for 22 years, where he traveled 362,000 kilometers and became convinced that “humanity is wonderful”. The adventure culminated in Argentina and was accompanied by a car from the year 1928.
The city of Gualeguaychú, on the border of Argentina and Uruguay, is one of the last stops before arriving tomorrow at the Obelisco, the famous monument in the heart of Buenos Aires, from where Candelaria and Herman Zapp left on January 25, 2000. They return with four teenagers, born in different parts of the planet.
“Feelings are very mixed. We are completing, or rather realizing, a dream. What is good is to live it. What will happen next? Thousands of changes, thousands of options” , Herman told the AFP, who, at 53, now dreams of sailing around the world.
Candelaria was 29 when they started the journey. Now, at 51, he says “everything was more beautiful than we imagined. What we discovered were the people”.
“The people are wonderful, the humanity is amazing,” said the woman, who has visited 102 countries, despite once “conflict or war forced us to detour.”
The “open door” car
The couple had been married for six years and both had “good jobs”. They had finished building their house on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, the one that will finally be the family home. They wanted children, but first they wanted to travel. Thus began a Alaska backpacking adventure.
Someone gave them the 1928 car, a Graham-Paige, which had a bad engine and bad paint. “It wouldn’t even start,” Candelaria recalled.
“The car doesn’t have the best seats, or the best cushioning, or the air conditioning. It’s a car that requires you to be vigilant. Doesn’t look cozy, but it was wonderfulit was a ‘door opener’, it was used for cities, for mud, for sand,” Herman said.
In 22 years, they’ve only used eight sets of tires and performed two engine starts.
“If I had a zero mile 4×4 it wouldn’t exist anymore, this one is prettier now than when it came out,” Herman said as he unfolded to the tent the car has on its roof and where sleep the four children when they have to camp.
Already on the road and with the first two children—Pampa, born in the United States, 19, and Tehue born in Argentina, 16— they enlarged the car. It was cut in half and 16 inches and a seat was added.
Thus she prepared for the arrival of Paloma, born 14 years ago in Canada, and Wallaby, in Australia 12 years ago.
Now Timon the dog and Hakuna the cat have joined. adopted during a recent stay in Brazilwhere they got stuck in 2020 due to the covid pandemic.
A tarp falls from the roof, giving them privacy inside the vehicle, where the parents sleep. They carry the trunk as a kitchen and in the engine they can cook eggs and sausages or heat water. Clothes and supplies are stored under the seats. As if it were a snail, the old car served for many years as a family home.
“It’s a small house, but with a huge garden, with beaches, mountains, lakes. If you don’t like the landscape, you can change it,” Herman joked. The bodywork reads: “A family that travels the world”.
In general, the Zapps stayed in houses. They estimate that they have been received in two thousand homes. “Humanity is incredible,” Candelaria said of the solidarity received. “Many helped us just to be part of a dream“.
But all was not rosy. During the trip, Herman contracted malaria, they crossed Asia when there was avian flu, Africa with Ebola, Central America with dengue fever.
“We came out of covid, we entered into a huge war, if we wait for the right moment there will always be a reason not to achieve dreams,” says Herman.
From Alaska to Oceania: the journey
In the streets of Gualeguaychú, horns greet the passage of the Graham-Paige. Vintage car enthusiasts come in awe to take a picture. Some buy a copy of the book catch a dream, in which the Zapps recount their experiences. With 100,000 copies sold to date, it is their main source of income, they said.
Other “door openers” in the world have been star Lionel Messi and Pope Francis, for being Argentines, like them. They even went to visit them to thank them and bring them their book.
It all started with a six-month trip, no cellphones or GPS, and only $4,000 in savings. It took four years and a son to get to Alaska, they sailed back to Argentina and traveled the country. Africa, Oceania, Asia and Europe followed.
They touched Mount Everest, tasted balut (fertilized duck egg) in Asia, danced with the Himba in Namibia, entered the tomb of Tutankhamun in Egypt, traveled many seas.
For the children, it was a direct experience that they finished distance school and mother’s lessons. In Argentina, face-to-face school awaits them.
“What I want most is to make lots of friends,” Paloma says.