Denver – July 31, 2011 One particularly difficult afternoon on their 80,000-mile, round-the-world road trip, Steve Bouey and his traveling companion Steven Shoppman were pulled over by AK-47 wielding rebels at a checkpoint in the Republic of Congo. Fortunately they were road savvy and travel hardened enough to know how to handle themselves.
‘Our strategy was to break the ice, show no fear, be confident but not cocky, ask questions, and be engaged,’ Bouey says. ‘We handed out cigarettes and cash, and took photographs. We told them we were tourists, not government officials. It took us fifteen minutes to explain what a tourist was. That was the place where I felt the farthest from home.’
The trip was Shoppman’s idea. Over a couple of beers, he talked Bouey into going with him; although, truth be told, it didn’t take a whole lot of convincing. Bouey had just returned from three months of triathlon training in New Zealand, and the experience had kindled in him a thirst for adventure.
‘Steven kind of caught me at a vulnerable moment,’ he says. ‘I’d worked for six years in the Colorado State Auditor’s Office, and I was having a hard time going back to wearing a suit and tie.’
That evening Shoppman, a graphic artist and freelance web designer, handed Bouey a book called Who Needs a Road? Back in 1965, the author, Harold Stephens, had driven around the world in a Toyota Land Cruiser. Stephens argued that the world was becoming so dangerous that his would most likely be the last round-the-world motor trip anyone would ever take. ‘We took that as a challenge,’ Bouey says. ‘We decided it was ‘Go big or go home.’
‘Going big’ would mean driving through 80 countries. And having a car would mean customs, permits, insurance, and Chinese driver’s licenses.
Two cars, actually. ‘We knew that if it was just the two of us together in one car for three years, we’d be at each other’s throats,’ says Bouey. ‘So we decided to take two vehicles and open the trip up to friends and family.’ Thirty people came along for the ride; among them a Thai Buddhist monk, a young South African woman, a guy from Argentina, and a government mandated minder in China who turned out to be ‘Jason,’ a 21-year-old kid in jeans, T-shirt, and a New Zealand rugby hat.
To help defray the expedition’s estimated $200,000 price tag, Bouey and Shoppmann put together a ten-page marketing proposal and shopped it around to all the major car dealers in the Denver metro area. Stevenson Toyota stepped up with what Bouey describes as a ‘soccer mom, grocery grabber Sequoia SUV,’ plus a Toyota Tundra with a camper shell in back for the gear.
On February 10, 2007, ‘with only 20% of the planning completed,’ the lads drove to LA and shipped the vehicles to Australia for the first leg of their 30-month odyssey.
Favorite country? ‘Mongolia, hands down,’ says Bouey. ‘It was like taking a step back in time.’ They were fed and sheltered in yurts wherever they went. At a Mongolian wedding 300 km from the nearest town, the father of the groom raised a toast to his ‘fellow nomads,’ and gave them money to help them on their way. ‘Crossing the Gobi,’ Bouey says, ‘we spent three days without seeing another human being.’
He says his travels have revealed to him more similarities than differences among the peoples of the world. ‘Everybody wants peace,’ he says. ‘Everybody wants to feed their families and to have prosperity and comfort.’
The experience also led him to simplify his life and shift his priorities. ‘When I came back, I got rid of a lot of the material clutter,’ he says. ‘I can live a happier life by helping others.’
In 2009, National Geographic Magazine named Steve Bouey and Steven Shoppman ‘Adventurers of the Year.’ Bouey’s thirst for adventure, however, remains unslaked. He’s planning an 8-month, 8,000-mile solitary bike ride across Russia. Departure is set for May 2012.
For more info:
The trip website
The educational initiative
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