“By mountain bike, on motorcycle, hiking, hitch-hiking or in a 4×4 camper van. There were many different ways but the philosophy was always the same, discover the world by ourselves and always ready to capture it with our camera. Have a look to all our expeditions.”

Between April 2013 and May 2017, we visited nearly 70 countries on motorbike. When we returned home people asked us, “And now what?” Many people think that after fulfilling a dream you have to start a process of “returning to normal life”, but we’ve been doing this for so long that life on the road simply feels normal to us. However, if we could change one thing, we would continue traveling in a van instead of a motorcycle.

When we traveled via motorcycle, we explored areas like Patagonia and deserts like the Sahara and the Atacama. We reached the northernmost point of Alaska, the heart of Australia, and the African savanna. We’ve seen various mountains, like Pamir and the Andes. Our motorcycle took us to so many amazing places but exchanging the motorcycle for a van allows us to imagine all the new possibilities of future trips and projects.

With a roof and so much extra room, a van would allow us to bring more photography equipment to document the trip and even more accessories for outdoor activities, such as mountain bikes. It also would allow us to stay longer in remote regions that attract us more. With a van, we can be more self-sufficient and face the extreme weather conditions without having to worry about how to escape the storm.
Those close to us know how impulsive we are and how little we like to plan. For example, when we decided to travel around the world on a motorcycle, we just opened a map of the world in front of us and pointed to three places that we would like to visit. We ended up picking Uluru in Australia, Ushuaia in Argentina and Deadhorse in Alaska. We didn’t have anything else planned. No visas, no organized route, no time limit. We only had enough savings to live off for about 4 or 5 months. We didn’t even have the necessary equipment to travel for that long or previous experience driving motorcycles.

Even with all the above being said, we finished the trip after 170,000 km and 1,476 days on the road.

We feel so proud of what we’ve accomplished so far but are ready for the next step. Thinking about transferring to a  van can be unnerving in ways. We have no experience traveling on 4 wheels and our knowledge of mechanics is minimal. Given the circumstances few would probably bet on us, but we are choosing to take on this amazing challenge of traveling around the entire world in a van. The first steps are scary but most importantly, we are determined to connect the two ends of America in our Syncro, Arctic to Antarctica.
Since we’ve always traveled by motorcycle, we knew we had to learn to drive a 4-wheel vehicle, something that even at 35 years old, we didn’t know how to do. As soon as we finished our motorcycle tour we went to Spain (Manu’s born country), signed up for driving school, and after only two weeks we got our drivers license in October of 2017. The next thing on our list was to look for a van and our requirements were simple: we wanted our van to have style, history, and allow us to maintain the same travel philosophy we practice on our motorcycle trips, more off-road driving than asphalt.

Only 3 days after getting our driver’s licenses, we got lucky. We found a 1989 VW T3 Syncro in Barcelona. We immediately took a plane to check it out and ended up buying it on the spot. We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into but the next day, we were traveling in our new van to Macedonia (Ivana’s born country), where we would transform it into the perfect vehicle for a route full of adventures.

By the end of April 2018, we were supposed to leave Europe and arrive in New York, our starting point. We stayed stationary for 6 long months, an eternity for nomadic souls, while we prepared for our project and began the long process of modifying and transforming the old T3, all with hopes of increasing the possibilities of successfully completing our self-invoked challenge.

Our to-do list consisted of:

  • Engine and gear box restored
  • New suspension system with Old Man Emu shock absorbers and the complete Powerflex Polyurethane Bushes kit
  • Customized 2mm bumpers
  • Bull guard
  • Led bars
  • Electric winch
  • Roof rack
  • Rear door rack for spare wheel, fuel canister and mountain bikes
  • Camper conversion
  • Cleaning of oxides and paint
  • Many other small adaptations and accessories

We also wanted to be more prepared for our project this time around, starting with some sponsors, designing the route and goals, investing time in adapting and transforming the van, and making sure to collect all the gear we need. We almost gave up a few times in this planning process. Trying to have everything prepared before leaving on a trip is a slow process and those months of preparation were filled with confusion. The magic and enthusiasm of that first moment when you decide to pursue a dream were starting to disappear. Also, the inertia we had of continuously traveling and taking things as they came did not align with the idea of spending six months in one place working on a project.

After a lot of hard work, we finally finished and were ready to start the journey by putting the van on a cargo boat to America. Before leaving for the long adventure, we decided to do quick health checks and unfortunately, Manu’s results came back with some indication of cancer. Boom! This was something we never could have suspected – one of those little jokes that life seems to play on you.

So suddenly, all of our plans became secondary. In April of 2018, Manu flew back to Spain the next day to see what was going on.

There’s no doubt that this news was shocking and intense, but we quickly remembered that during our 10 years of traveling around the world, we were taught that things happen for a reason. It did not seem like a coincidence to us. During all this time, we had been doing only what we liked, finding ways to keep going and financing our dreams through selling handmade crafts to tourists, selling our photographs, writing our stories for magazines, and organization spontaneous events with small talks for donations. After so many years of traveling around the world, 4 of them on motorbike, we pushed our bodies to the physical limit in extreme climatic situations. We coexisted with viruses and bacteria from all around the world, and we never had a single visit to the doctor.

We are confident that this is just a small shock for us to recover from and to remind us of our strong philosophy before returning to our trip plans. For now, we just have to wait for the results of all Manu’s tests to confirm what the final diagnosis is. What we’ve seen so far is that the first consequences of this situation are only positive. We have rediscovered a huge desire to travel and explore the world again. We appreciate more of life every single day and we have continued to gain motivation to quickly overcome any medical hardship if the first diagnosis is confirmed. The route calls and waits for us.

Manu Torres (35. Sevilla, Spain)
Ivana Colakovska (32. Skopje, Macedonia)
www.aroundgaia.com
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Around the World /// Van Tour
First Phase: Arctic to Antarctica (Tuktoyaktuk to Ushuaia)
Van: Volkswagen T3 Syncro 1989
Starting Point: New York City (May 2018)
Estimated Number of Countries we are Going to Visit: 20