By Liza Mohd
What seemed to be a
short lived dream turned out to be an endless road journey for this
The couple spent most of their 22-year
journey sleeping in the car. It's their kitchen, bedroom,
bathroom and hospital.
Marking their 8,000th day on the road,
the couple stood at the Seria billionth barrel monument making
Brunei the 154th country they have driven
The Schmids have been noted in the
Guinness World Record book since 1998 for the worlds longest
driven journey, driving the longest distance and through the
most countries in a single car.
Liliana pointing to Brunei Darussalam,
the 154th country they have driven through with their Toyota
Liliana standing against the backdrop
of the amazing sand meer in Taghit, Algeria.
A collection of the couple's printed
publication records of their
Guinness World Record achievers Emil and Liliana Schmid from
Switzerland are real life adventurers who broke the world record for
the longest driven journey, driving the longest distance and through
the most countries in a single car. They have been named in the
Guinness World Record Book since 1998 and maintain the record till
Brunei Darussalam is officially the 154th country they have
travelled to in their vehicle.
The Swiss couple is currently in Kuala Belait and are staying
with Swiss expatriate Rudolf Schuepbach, after sending their FJ60
Toyota Land Cruiser for an overhaul and major face-lift in Miri,
"The vehicle is our home and our baby," the Schmids told the
Bulletin during an exclusive interview.
Their 'baby' has crossed six continents, 154 countries and
reached 603,306km since the couple embarked on their endless journey
around the world.
They have been sleeping in the 4.2-litre 4WD, practically
everyday throughout the journey. The car is equipped with a sink, a
shower, a stove, a table, water purifiers and a bed.
Aside that it is no different from the day they purchased it,
except with added reinforced springs, a larger gas tank, a roof
rack, grilles and spare parts, while bulky necessities to prepare
themselves for the harsh winters or the dry desert, are placed on
"So, how do you clean your clothes all these years?" I wondered.
"You see the 50-litre water container on the rooftop? It serves a
purpose. We fill in water, add detergent and chuck in our clothes.
The rattle of the moving car acts to twirl the clothes, similar to a
washing machine," Emil answered with a light shrug.
What a brilliant idea to survive, I thought.
The story began when Emil, 63, and Liliana, 64, purchased a
four-wheel drive Toyota Land Cruiser FJ60 in the spring 1982 for a
taste of adventure. At that time they bought it for an estimated
price of B$40,000, which is cheap compared to the market price
Back then, they were both 41 and Emil was working as a software
expert while Liliana was a secretary.
Facing a mid-life crisis in 1983 along with the thought of
wasting their lives buried in the boring work routine everyday, Emil
decided to take a one-year break and came up with a crazy idea to
drive through Africa in the car. At first Liliana refused since she
had a stable job and could not bring herself to leave her mother who
was sick at that time.
"Emil was persistent and he managed to convince me within a year.
I never regretted it once as it turned out to be a lifetime
vacation," exclaimed Liliana. They have no children and their only
commitment is the vehicle.
So the couple's dream trip materialised in October 1982 with
their first destination Montreal, Canada.
It took Emil and Liliana three and a half years to travel around
Europe, six years in North America, more than three years in South
America, three and a half years in Africa, nearly a year in
Australia and three years in Asia.
Most of their journey is spent in the vehicle when it is not
shipped from port to port. But if the vehicle has to be shipped, the
couple would then take a commercial flight.
In their 22-year journey, the Schmids have driven through 45
countries in Europe, 27 countries in North America, 13 countries in
South America, 35 countries in Africa, 34 countries in Asia and
through Australia. They have also driven through several disputed
territories such as Palestina, Golan Heights and West Bank and till
today have crossed 430 borders.
They have yet to visit 73 countries including Afghanistan, China,
Bosnia Herzegovina, Cuba, Indonesia and North Korea but they have
visited 31 other countries earlier without the car.
When asked whether they have encountered any bad or near to death
experiences during their journey, Emil said the most recent one was
during Christmas last year when Liliana broke her leg. A drunken man
had run her over with a car while she was outside taking pictures on
a ferry ride from Cambodia to Vietnam.
"This does not include a series of burglaries, robbery attempts,
checkpoint bribes, food poisoning and natural disasters such as
heavy storms and typhoons," Emil said adding that is was all worth
while once they got through it.
What about funding?
Without hesitation Emil answered that they had used his hard
earned savings to cover their travel costs and later inherited some
money when Liliana's mother passed away. Halfway through the journey
they received their retirement fund, which provided them greater
incentive to continue their lifetime journey.
For parts of their journey, they were fortunate enough to enjoy
sponsored stays in luxury hotels and receive goodwill services and
maintenance by several Toyota distributors.
But they still had to be tight with their expenses. After
calculation, they spend an average of US$34.46 per day. Liliana said
one third of the expenses goes to petrol and vehicle maintenance.
Throughout their journey they experienced 161 flat tyres and had
to change 67 and have gone through 29 batteries, 132 spark plugs, 22
air filters and 50 shock absorbers.
So what do they do during their road journey, I asked.
Emil does all the driving while Liliana cooks. They have spent a
total of 5,395 driving days, which is 70 per cent of the total
journey and another 16,252.8 hours on the road.
As of September 11, the vehicle has travelled approximately
603,306 kilometres and consumed 14,8573 litres of fuel.
They usually drive for three hours a day covering a distance of
150 kilometres and enjoy the scenery and meeting new people. They
take the time to experience different cultures and religions,
replying e-mails and uploading the latest information and photos on
their website www.worldrecordtour.com.
Having travelled worldwide for more than two decades, the Schmids
have collected many items such as press publications, books,
sponsored T-shirts and mementos from people they have met throughout
Over the years they have collected a staggering total of 52,150
However, to save on storage space in the vehicle, they were
forced to part with some of the items particularly books, which
proved to be a painful moment as every item has its sentimental
values, said Liliana.
Before entering a new country, the couple often purchase travel
books to do their homework and plan their trip sensibly.
What travel book would they recommend?
Emil said the Lonely Planet travel books were the most
resourceful and its only flaw was that the book is designed for
backpackers. However, they still managed to obtain vital information
from the books.
"What is their impression of Brunei so far?" I queried.
"Beautiful and peaceful!" they exclaimed.
The couple were here in 1993 while waiting for their car to be
shipped to Singapore. They flew via RBA from Perth, Australia and
stayed at a budget youth hostel. Their faint memories of Brunei back
then were the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien mosque and Kampong Ayer.
On this trip to the Sultanate, the Swiss couple were invited to
an official dinner at The Empire Hotel & Country Club, and they
were amazed with the luxury décor of the hotel that reminded them of
the Sultanate of Oman.
I recommended a visit to the capital Bandar Seri Begawan to view
developed areas such as Gadong, Kiulap and Jerudong and they said
they would keep that in mind.
One of their most memorable experiences in Brunei was when they
managed to get a glimpse of His Majesty the Sultan and Yang
Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam and members of the Royal Family
during a get-together with the 'rakyat' in Belait district this
year, in conjunction with His Majesty's 60th birthday celebration.
They were fascinated by the massive number of people who turned
up to see their monarch, in a show of dedication and loyalty to
So what's next for the worldly travellers?
According to the couple, they are currently waiting for their car
permit approval to enter the Philippines. Their plan is to drive to
Temburong towards Limbang, passing through Lawas before reaching
Kota Kinabalu. They will then board a ship with their vehicle to
Zamboanga on Mindanao Island, South Philippines.
The enthusiastic travellers show no sign of slowing down and will
continue their journey from the Philippines to Papua New Guinea
before heading to the Pacific islands.
When asked on the best part of the journey so far, the Schmids
replied, the best experience gained is the wonderful friends they
Although they experienced hardships and seen the worst in people
especially in poverty-stricken countries, "people are still kind
hearted and were ready to share their last bite of food with us.
"It's remarkable and to us that's the wonder of life," they said.
|Interesting facts and figures of the Schmid's journey:
- Took 214 ferry and freight rides to cross rivers, lakes
- Applied for 68 visas, filling in eight passports
with a total cost of US$ 2,970 per person
- Visited 154
countries with 53 different languages and 129 different
- Been checked 284 times at a total of 430
- Travelled in 18 of the total 24
- The highest point the car reached was 5,320m
in Chacaltaya, Bolivia and the lowest point in Jordan 390m at
the Dead Sea
- Their highest paid petrol price was at
US$1.52 per litre in July 2005 in French Guiana and the lowest
at US$ 0.01 per litre in May 1995 in Iran
- Since 1995 they
have given 53 television interviews in 34 different
- They spent their 8,000th day (Sept 11, 2006) in