How did 3 Generations of Mathur Family undertake the most exciting Road Trip of their lives - across 21 countries, 2 continents, over 24,000 kms
10 Confessions of a Road Tripper!
It has been just over a week since we got back from our 24,568 kms | 21 countries | Singapore to London | Equator to Arctic | ICC World Cup | 3 Generations | Road Trip
Looking back, these certainly were the best 60 days of my life! We were very fortunate that things worked out as we had wished and we could get to UK, exactly on schedule.
Typically, such trips require a minimum of 6 months of rigorous planning. In our case though, we had limited time at hand as I was a tad too late to think of this idea. We eventually had less than 2.5 months to plan the route, secure visas, permits, get the car ready, organize the logistics and most importantly to make the trip 3 Generations friendly!
Prior to embarking on the journey and during the 60-day road trip, it was critical that we kept ourselves in a positive and self-motivating mental zone, while still overcoming specific challenges on a daily basis. To get to this mental frame, we made a conscious decision to keep our communication very positive - both, within the boundaries of the car as well as in our social media updates. Simply put, we decided to place the “past in the past” and move on quickly, as far as any challenges were concerned.
Looking back, these challenges were however the biggest learning ground for me personally. Here are the 10 biggest challenges we had to overcome to live our dream!
1) Visas, permits and paper work: Very onerous, it was clearly the biggest challenge to overcome - to secure 10 different visas for 6 of us, get the right permits for the car across these many countries, all in about 2.5 months. Prior to February 2019, despite a rather self-revealing name, I didn’t know where Central Asia was on the world map! Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan had not been on my radar ever!
2) Safety and day-by-day route planning: Travelling with 3 Generations, we had to be very sure that the route was absolutely safe. Once we got that comfort, we went through possibly more than 50 different iterations of our itinerary and the day-by-day route plan on excel - we kept discovering more interesting places en-route, roadblocks on the way, border crossing issues, weird road closure timings, etc.
3) Stuck in a snow-storm: We were thunderstruck! Right after crossing China, Kyrgyzstan greeted us with beautiful scenery but also with a heavy snowstorm that lasted all night, while driving at >10,000 ft altitude. Our car is used to its equatorial habitat. We just didn’t have snow tyres, snow chains or any experience of driving in skiddy snow conditions. Driving challenge aside, we were at the brink of spending the entire night in the car!
4) Altitude sickness at 12,000 ft: My dad had severe altitude sickness during the night, while we were stranded in the snow-storm at 12,000 ft in Kyrgyzstan. A few days later, my mom slipped and injured her palm. In both these instances, what was most fascinating was the courage they showed - the very next day, they were up and ready for the marathon ahead. Tremendous mental toughness shown by both of them, all through the trip - it was truly inspiring for the rest of us.
5) Damaged Passport: While crossing the road border from Russia into Finland, one of our passports was inadvertently damaged by the immigration officer. With a damaged passport, the rest of our trip was in jeopardy. We quickly got on to SOS calls with our family and friends. It took a couple of days to have it all sorted - The officials at the Indian High Commission in Stockholm were very kind and they stepped in to help us and sort out the issue.
6) Getting the food right for 3 generations: Thousands of kilometers of barren land, combined with our dietary restrictions and sprinkled with whims and fancies of the taste buds of our little ones, had one simple implication - getting the food right was critical. We started with 8 bags of packed food, 250 small tetra packets of milk for the little ones and our Kitchen-on-wheels - all planned, designed and executed during the trip, courtesy my mom
7) Kids in their car seat for 10-15 hours a day, day after day: Yes, both Aviv and Avya were fantastic all through the trip. Not only did they sit through long journeys daily, day after day, they also made sure that rest of us were always in a jovial state of mind. Aditi got the trip absolutely right for kids. Never for once did they complain! All they ever asked for in return was probably 10 additional minutes at McDonald's play area en-route! :-)
8) Delays at Borders: For most customs officials at the border crossings, it was their first time processing documents for a Singapore registered car. It typically took a couple of hours at each border, sometimes up to 8 hours! Cumulatively, we spent >40 hours waiting at the borders!
9) World Cup Tickets: It was incredibly difficult to get the tickets for the World Cup. We looked for tickets remotely, almost every day of the trip. For the India Sri Lanka match at Leeds, Richa Dayal and Akshat Prasad sacrificed their tickets to help us fulfill our dream. Thereafter, we got extremely lucky as ICC granted us hospitality tickets for semis and finals. Super grateful!
10) Driving and power naps: Often clocking >600-700 kms a day, these 60 days were a privilege of a life time. Yes, I would sometimes get tired, particularly by late afternoon. A stop at a fuel station to take a 30 minute reclined power nap most often did the trick though... and got us back on the road ahead... !