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Around the world in a campervan

The friends enjoying a drink in Verdun, France.
The friends enjoying a drink in Verdun, France. / SUR
  • Tired of the rat race, two friends quit their jobs and bought a campervan to embark on the trip of a lifetime

It's a dream most people have had at some point in their life: pack in your job and then go off exploring the world.

But these two friends turned that dream into a reality after setting off from Norway to circumnavigate the globe on 1 December last year.

Armed with a 1986 Fiat Ducato campervan affectionately called Murphy Number 1, Snorri Sigurbjörnsson and Harald Brevik are currently in Estepona, having already driven through Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, France and the east coast of Spain.

From the Costa del Sol the pair plan to drive through Europe to Bulgaria, before catching a ferry to Georgia. From there, depending on what visas they are granted, they will head through Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Mongolia, Russia (Vladivostok), take a ferry to South Korea and Japan, a freighter to Canada, then on to the United States, before driving all the way down through Central and South America to Cape Horn, on the southern tip of the continent.

Snorri, 28, from Iceland, a physiotherapist, told SUR in English: "We just wanted to travel and we got the idea that travelling in a campervan would be cheaper and more fun. We quit our jobs with not too many savings, so we thought we would help out on farms along the road or do any odd jobs along the way to buy food."

Harald, 32, from Norway, who used to manage a restaurant in Fredrikstad in southern Norway, where both friends lived until they started their trip, added: "We talked about travelling all the time and came up with this idea and it just evolved and escalated very quickly.

"In the beginning we planned on going to India. I thought, that's a cool idea, but why stop there? And then we just thought why don't we just go to Cape Horn, the end of the world - sort of. It's almost the furthest you can go from Norway in a van."

As for what they are looking forward to the most, Snorri said: "Mostly to seeing how it is to travel and how we are going to figure things out along the way, and how we will communicate with people. The most fun part will be when we get to spectacular places, take some photos and write some things about the countries that we will post on our website.

"At the moment we've been to countries that a lot of people have already been to, but when we go through Russia and the Stan countries (Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan), it's going to be more special. And more interesting I guess."

"An impromptu thing"

After they quit their jobs the pair told their family and friends, who Snorri said, thought they were "mad".

"They said we should wait a few years and save more money. There were many disagreements but they kind of understood it in the end. It was sort of an impromptu thing where we said, we've got to go now."

Harald added: "When we talk about this to people then say, oh that's cool, we always wanted to do something like that, but you've just got to fire the gun and do it. The longer we wait, the more we get entrenched into what we do - it's better to just get going."

Minimal finances

After splashing out on 3,500 euros for their van, the pair had minimal savings for their trip. "Our journey is not financed. Except for the help from a few well-wishers and a few sponsors that have assisted in covering some of the starting costs and equipment. Thus, and this is part of the goal, we have to work our way from place to place. We have to work for food, drink and gasoline," said Snorri.

"We'll rely on people's goodness to a certain extent. And that's also part of the premise of travelling by van, to see how people are around the world meeting with total strangers. Often we have preconceived notions of other people, but when you meet people in smaller groups, the dynamic changes, and so that will be interesting to see. Most people we meet are helpful."

The friends are set to stay in Estepona, where a family friend has a flat, until March or April while they look for work and apply for the many visas they will need over the coming year.

In addition, they are writing about the experience on their Facebook page and website, as well as uploading video content of their journey.

Different languages

One of the highlights of their trip so far was the Duvel Moortgat Brewery in Belgium. Snorri said: "We had a good night meeting local people, playing pool, talking; they locked the door of the bar and made some food for us. We had a really good time talking to them; they talked English though, so it was easy to communicate. We'll be going to countries where we don't speak the same language, so we'll just have to try and communicate somehow."

However, the pair also ran into some trouble in Coma-ruga near Barcelona, when someone tried to break into their campervan while they were parked overnight in a Carrefour car park. Luckily, the would-be burglar left them alone before the police arrived. "It was an experience as well," explained Snorri.

"We sort of know that it won't be the last time. And if we have to drive away it takes about five minutes for the van to warm up," he joked, before adding that they have a golf club for protection.

Breakdowns

So far the campervan has only broken down once, in their home town, shortly after buying it. Snorri said: "We named it Murphy Number 1, after Murphy's Law, as it broke down in the middle of rush hour in our city on the way to the garage. Loads of people were joking that we didn't get far, but all PR is good PR."

Harald added: "We're not worried about it falling apart; the rust is tightly holding it all together. But we're realistic optimists. So no matter what, we'll keep on fighting; we'll make it to Cape Horn, one way or another!"

As for how it feels to quit their jobs and embark on the adventure of a lifetime, Harald added: "Quitting our jobs wasn't easy but we knew it was the right thing to do, so in the end it felt like a relief, like the beginning of something new, something real, something we've always wanted to achieve.

"Long-term we're hoping that the creativity we foster and share with our followers on this trip will be the foundation of something we can live off in the future. So in a way, our journey is our job. That said, we still have plenty of room for stickers on Murphy No. 1, and even more on our websites, should there be any sponsors or generous souls out there."

In it for the long haul

As for how long the friends will spend travelling, Harald said "as long as it takes". "When we get to Cape Horn, we'll have to figure out if we want to keep going. If we want to continue we can take a freighter over to Africa and start driving from the bottom of Africa up to Norway again. We'll see."

If you would like to contact the pair, you can email them (harald.brevik@gmail.com).