“Are we there yet?”
In the case of Emil and Liliana Schmid from Switzerland, the answer for 38 years has been a resounding “no”.
In 1984, a couple of years after purchasing a brand new 1982 Toyota FJ60 LandCruiser in Zurich, the couple set out on what was initially supposed to be a two-year road trip across North America.
So they flew into the USA, while the Toyota followed them by ferry.
Upon completion of that “short” trip, Emil says they looked at each other and said “okay, we still have money, why should we go back home? Let’s continue with another two years in South America, and then four years in Africa, then Australia and so it went, on and on”.
Fast forward to October 2022, and the journey has just ticked over 38 full years. Every year they have broken their own world record.
In 2017, the duo were recognised by Guinness for the longest driven journey in the world, which at the time was 741,065km (460,476 miles) across 186 countries.
In addition, they hold records for the most miles done in a single car and the most countries visited in a single car.
“Today, October 18th, 2022, we have to celebrate something again: Our 38th travel anniversary! Exactly 38 years ago – on October 18th, 1984 – we set off from Zurich in Switzerland on our trip around the world, which is still going on”, Liliana says in their online blog.weltrekordreise.ch (18/10/2022)
Travelling around the world isn’t as glamorous as one would imagine, Liliana reveals. She has been living in (or near) the Land Cruiser FJ 60 for 38 years.
Although the vehicle is set up as a mobile camper and is equipped with water storage, gas cooker, extra fuel tanks and a makeshift bed, Emil and Liliana don’t always live in the car.
They often spend the night in hotels or rely on the kindness of strangers to spend a night here or there, but when they have to sleep inside the four-wheel drive, they can.
Emil and Liliana seem to have tackled one of the biggest challenges for couples: being in the car together.
Most of us would struggle to drive to the coast in Australia without arguing over a wrong turn, a missed fuel stop or even what song or podcast to play next.
Somehow, this Swiss couple have managed to keep their cool for the never ending road-trip.
According to Emil, they have “a democracy” inside the car and decide on their next destination together. They keep track of the weather ahead, avoid cold temperatures, and know exactly what places they haven’t seen and where they’d like to go.
Approaching four decades on the road, the couple still have no plans of stopping, nor do they have any plan to retire their faithful ‘Cruiser.
It is no surprise that the trusty steed has been through hundreds of tyres, dozens of shock absorbers, several clutches, batteries galore, and several alternators, starter motors, wheel bearings, brakes and engine mounts.
She has undergone three major overhauls since they set off, with the biggest recurring issue being that pesky cancer that spreads throughout steel, also known as rust.
She was torn down and “rejuvenated” in 2006, 2012, and again in 2017.
Over the car’s 40 year span thus far, it has faired pretty well considering the weather and terrain it was subjected to – with only one engine rebuild (2006) and one gearbox rebuild (2017).
Most recently she underwent a strip down and respray to combat rust and address wiring dramas.
At any rate, that is impressive for 38 years, five days, 778,922km, and 186 countries of travel in a vehicle built in the early ’80s.
At the time the engine rebuild was performed, the couple estimated each piston had performed over 4 billion cycles over the 16,225 hours it was running since new. Some incredible numbers to consider from that little bit of alloy.
Now, I know you’re all thinking it. How much fuel has this old FJ gone through? Emil has kept a logbook of their fuel consumption and economy.
At the log book entry when the vehicle hit 742,551km, records show that 185,252 litres had been used to date, a 35.8km/h average speed since they set off, and a fuel consumption of 24.3L/100km.
Which to be honest isn’t too bad for an old ’80s LandCruiser with the aerodynamics of a brick.
Emil hopes the old girl (the FJ60) will continue running until they decide (or have to) stop traveling.
“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the places that take your breath away,” Liliana once mused. “It’s little things that make it worthwhile – it’s a flower, it’s a bird, it’s a mountain.”Emil and Liliana Schmid
So how exactly is anyone able to afford to pay for such a journey? More-so, how is one able to not work for four decades?
According to Emil and Liliana, they often do side jobs to make extra money, or rely on support from communities (and no doubt workshops to help keep the old Cruiser on the road).
We would also assume there would be a bit of financial backing from sponsors. In all, their frugal lifestyle suggests they have very few expenses outside of keeping the LandCruiser gassed up.
So, where are their favourite places in the world? When asked, they tell us these are their top three:
Papua New Guinea – “I liked it for its different tribes with their unique costumes and paintings, highlighted at the Goroka and Mt. Hagen Shows. “
Chile – “I appreciate it because it offers everything: From desert, glaciers, volcanoes and coastal areas. I loved the solitude and untouched nature – a camper’s paradise. “
Oman – “Oman offers deep Arabian tradition, great hospitality, a unique scenery and security. I had no worries at all to camp out in the wild.”
But the road trip hasn’t been all but fun; she had a scary confrontation in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia: ‘We had the most frightening encounter with bandits, equipped with knives, who blocked the road with their car. We finally escaped unharmed by ramming their car, it was pure luck.
So, when will they call it a day and head home to Switzerland? Emil says “at a certain point you cannot stop”.
“This is the life I like, I couldn’t imagine another life. If I woke up tomorrow and I couldn’t travel I wouldn’t know what to do. I can’t imagine just settling down, it would be too boring for me.”
What an absolutely amazing tale!
Emil and Liliana are currently travelling through Argentina, you can follow their adventures on their blog here.