Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 24 April 2011





Marriage Proposals
Government Gazette

Around the world on a steady truck

Emil enjoying the sun at the Negombo beach

The idealism of life means following your passion and conquering what others would claim as impossible, having understood this basic principle of life, Emil Scmid and Liliana Schmid did what an average man will not dream of exploring. They toured the world on four wheels, they made it to the Guinness Book of world records and they are now in Sri Lanka enjoying the scenic beauty. This is the 169th country they have set foot in since embarking on their journey in 1984.

The culture here is unique, says Switzerland born Emil, who along with his wife Liliana has been exploring the world for the last 26 years. Many thought initially that we were wasting our time but that has now fizzled out. The idea for the tour came when I was 42, an age at which many men claim they suffer with a mid-life crisis. I was working at an IT firm and Liliana was a company secretary, I got back from work one day and thought, what is going to be our significant achievement in the future?

Not much, my inner voice said. I am not going to be the state leader of Switzerland nor am I going to start my own business. I wondered if I could have first hand experience of what people of my age in other countries were feeling about life and it all began from there. I had to convince Liliana that we will do this only for a year and then settle in Switzerland but our plans changed and here we are talking to the Sunday Observer in Sri Lanka in 2011, said Emil.

"Dreams do come true" said Emil.

Emil who thought he was not going to be his country's leader is today more popular than many leaders all over the world. They have 26 years of adventure and a Guinness world record to their credit and most of all, the satisfaction of having followed their passion and succeeding in grand style.

Liliana shows off her tiny kitchen

I was quite sceptical at the beginning because I had a sick mother who was 80 at the time, said Liliana. “I wanted to be available for her but I took a plunge for a year and decided to join Emil. We began our tour in New York on October 18, 1984. We have travelled to about 30 countries by plane as well but we are entitled for the record only if we travel with our truck. I do not regret our decision to explore the world. This is our life now, we will do this as long as we can and the day that one of us are physically unfit to do this anymore, we will call it a day” said Liliana.

There truck is an automobile wonder in its own right. It has the space to store everything Emil and Liliana want for basic survival. Arguably the tiniest kitchen in the world, portable tables, chairs and tents, a water tank which can contain 50 litres of water and a washbasin that has an adjustable tiny tap with an in-built filter are a few features of this truck.

One cannot help but wonder how a vehicle can take this rough ride so well? 'He' has been very good, said Emil pointing at the truck. There are times when 'he' has given us some trouble too, but all in all 'he' has coped well, he said.

“When we started, Emil didn't know anything about motor mechanics but he is an expert now. I don't fear it breaking down even in the darkest of jungles because my motor mechanic in shining armour and with silver tools is next to me” Liliana added laughing loud.

Emil and Liliana with the Guinness Book of World Records

Travelling costs money, then how does this adventurous couple cope with their expenses, especially the clearance cost of the truck, food and fuel costs? “At 42 an average earning worker from Switzerland will have saved enough to at least pay their initial deposit for a mortgage to purchase a house. We don't have children, so owning a house was not a desire. We used that money to travel instead. It is costly; the clearance is what costs the most. But our day-to-day expenditure is lower than people who have settled in various areas all over the world. We don't have a rent to pay because we sleep in our truck and we drink water out of lakes and rivers whenever possible” said Emil.

“We did suffer setbacks around year 2000 and we were running out of money, I then inherited a sum of money after my mother's demise and then the adventure continued. Now we get a pension, so things have eased. The Guinness record makes it somewhat easier for us to clear our vehicle faster with less corruption, so the costs have also gone down” added Liliana.

Comfort has become a necessity in today's world but it must be really tough for this couple to cope with the never-ending cycle of adaptability as they have to cope with cultural and weather changes almost all the time. It certainly isn't a bed of roses says Liliana. “We were in the Swat Valley in the Afghanistan and Pakistan border when the region was taken over by the Taliban troops. All was fine in the night and by morning as we were trying to leave the place we were stopped at nearly 20 checkpoints and warned about the Sharia law that was implemented that morning, it was a very unsettling feeling” she said.

The truck on the river Congo

Once a group of thugs attempted to rob us in Mazzadonia, we were threatened with knives hence we drove into the jungle after knocking two vehicles used by the robbers out of the way, thanks to our strong truck. If the gang had threatened us at gun point, we could have been shot trying to do that stunt.

That was a very scary experience. Illnesses are something we haven't always escaped either, Emil was bitten badly by a dog in the Kingdom of Tonga, then we contract various illness depending on the geography and now he claims that he has Dengue fever” she said.

We are extremely happy about life as a whole, we are doing what we like, we have made it to the Guninness book of world records which happened by sheer providence and we meet many media personel in most countries we visit. We are trying to go to either Bhutan, Mauritius, Myanmar or Madagascar from here, but it will all depend on how easy it is to get our entry visas sorted and the logistics of clearing our truck without wasting much time.

Emil and Liliana say that Taiwan, Oman, Chilly, New Zealand and India are very special countries they have visited in their adventurous world tour. They plan to travel to Galle and the hill country over the next few weeks. The couple will stay in the country until the mid May.

Pix: Ruwan De Silva


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