Traveling abroad for 10 days would be a dream come true to many people. But for one Argentine family, even 10 years of traveling has not been enough.
Argentine couple Herman and Candelaria Zapp have been living a nomadic life for the past ten years, driving to every corner of the American and Australian continents in a classic 1928 Graham-Paige. Unlike normal tourists who purchase souvenirs, the couple “made” them along the way – Pampa, 9, Tehue, 6, Paloma, 3, and Wallaby, 2, were additions to the family born in the U.S., Argentina, Canada and Australia, respectively.
Herman and Candelaria’s adventure began in 2000 when they decided to put everything aside and make their pre-marriage vow a reality. The couple, who had been dating for ten years before tying the knot, realized they both shared a common interest in traveling so they promised to make a backpack trip within two years of getting married. But six years into their marriage, they were still at home with no children. That’s when Herman and Candelaria realized that they had to stop postponing their dream and turn their desire into action.
“People postpone their dreams because of the fear of going into the unknown or because they’re scared to leave their job, but if not now, then when?” said Herman.
In 2000, as the couple was getting ready to start a 6 month backpack trip from Argentina to Alaska, an acquaintance offered Herman to buy a very old vehicle, a 1928 Graham-Paige which he instantly fell in love with. So forgetting the backpacks, the couple decided to get to their destination on wheels.
Lots of unforgettable experiences were made on the way to the icy state. Herman and Candelaria both agree that their time in the Amazon was one of their most fun and exciting memories.
“In the Amazon, we met aborigines who had never seen a car before,” said Herman. “When we go to a new place, we become very involved with the local people and adjust well to their environment. So just like the locals, we ate monkeys and crocodiles.”
Also in the Amazon, the couple had to build a raft from scratch in order to transport their old friend Graham from one side of the river to another.
Busy exploring and experiencing something new everyday, their original plan to return home in six months to resume their routine life turned into a four-year journey. And in the midst of it all, the Zapps began to realize that they wanted to continue to be in their dream, not to put an end to it.
“When I arrived to Alaska, I thought I’d be overjoyed. But as soon as I got there, I started crying and crying because Alaska meant the end of our dream and I didn’t want to end it. Dreaming means to be living in it, not to accomplish it or end it,” said Candelaria.
Before embarking on their trip, Herman ran his own networking company and Candelaria worked as a secretary at her father’s company. After returning home in four years, the couple didn’t stick to their jobs but pursued yet another dream, a dream to travel around the globe for an unknown period of time.
“When people first heard our dream, they were very skeptical and tried to stop us. If you go against the current, against the system, people call you crazy and try to talk you out of your dream when all you really need to do is to hear your heart,” said Candelaria.
Herman and Candelaria (top) and their children (from left) Paloma, Pampa, Wallaby and Tehue pose on their Graham-Paige. Ahn Hoon/The Korea Herald
According to the pair, not once did they regret living this life of uncertainty and instability. They say that life never gets comfortable and it’s through the difficulties and challenges that one learns and grows.
“If you plan or think too much in advance, you miss the best part of trying to figure things out one by one,” said Herman. “If you want things to be perfect, nothing fun can happen.”
The veteran travelers said that the most difficult part of traveling is always the first day because everything’s in limbo. But after a day or so, the entire family, even the littlest members, quickly adapts to the circumstances they’re in and befriends the locals they encounter on their way.
Meeting people is the best part about traveling, they say. The people they meet in each town, each place are their assets because once they park their car in the streets, people start coming up to them to offer them help of all sorts.
“People approach us and ask us questions, especially how we manage to make a trip when we don’t have a stable income. We’re not rich and we don’t have sponsors. We’re ordinary people just like everyone else,” said Herman.
“When we need help, we tell people that we’re trying to live our dream and earnestly ask them if they would like to be a part of our dream,” he added. “By doing so, we’ve received all kinds of help so far from shipping companies who shipped our car for free to local people who invited us to stay with them at their homes.”
In the beginning stages of their nomadic lifestyle, Herman and his wife drew paintings and sold them or traded them with other goods and services whenever their money ran out. But they later decided to write a book not only to make traveling expenses to continue their dream but to also serve as an inspiration to others who are afraid to listen to their hearts.
Wherever the Zapps go, they load up copies of their book “Spark your Dream” (“Atrapa tu Sueño” in Spanish) into the car and sell them in the streets. The book is sold on the online bookstore Amazon.com as well. With excellent ratings, the family receives tons of emails from readers across the world who thank them for the inspiration and who in turn want to share their dreams with the Zapp family.
“Spark your Dream talks about our four-year trip to Alaska. We hope people can start pursuing their dreams after reading our story,” said Herman. “We don’t even work with a publishing company because we have no intentions of making profit with the book. We’re only interested in making money just enough to continue traveling.”
Starting this year, the sixsome will be traveling in Asia for two years. They arrived to their first Asian destination, South Korea, on July 5 and plan to stay here for about two months before leaving for Japan.
After two years, when their firstborn Pampa turns eleven, they want to go back home. Currently, all four children are car-schooled by Candelaria, who receives all the necessary teaching materials via online. The children not only learn so much through their adventures but are all perfectly bilingual. Their father speaks to them in English and their mother teaches them in their native language, Spanish.
“Other children read about kangaroos in books. As for us, we go see kangaroos. The best school in life is traveling.”
The four young Zapps are natural-born adventurers and love traveling as much as their parents. But their mother says that they want Pampa to experience school life such as being part of a soccer team and other interactive activities that one should not miss out in life.
During their stay in Korea, the Zapps have already touched the lives of many people as their story was introduced on TV and several local newspapers. The family also shared their dream and experiences at a small lecture room at the Seoul National University on July 23 and in Itaewon the following day, where they parked their car in front of a busy street and sold books to pedestrians.
“We’re not special or different. We’re just doing what everybody wants to do,” concluded Herman. “We’re all dreamers. If you don’t have a dream, life becomes hopeless. Look, we have nothing in our pockets but we’re full of life. You only get one chance, only one ticket to live your dream. Are you going to miss it?”
To meet the Zapp family and learn more about their journey, visit their personal website at www.argentinaalaska.com.
By Yoo Bo-lam (firstname.lastname@example.org)