Families — Parents — Kids

Family of Five Goes Around the World in a Trick Land Rover Defender 110

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Hello? Yes, hello there. Eyes down here please. You can't seem to stop staring at that Land Rover, can you? This is the Jelinksi family, Igor and Rachel and their three children Sarah, Charles, and Eléonore, who, in 2009, left their home in France for a 21-month roam around the globe. In that. That beautiful Land Rover 110 Defender. They planned their trip around the world with flexibility in mind, as sometimes they parked their truck and traveled like backpackers for weeks without wheels. Then, on the leg home, they traveled by freighter across the Atlantic in 26 days from Buenos Aires to Emden, Germany. Neither cruise ship nor yacht, but cargo ship, and if you know anything about traveling by cargo ship it certainly qualifies as dirtbagging. Around these parts, we consider dirtbagging as a family a good thing.

To give you the overview, they drove the classic Africa route Cairo to Capetown, then flew to Southeast Asia for a bit, and shipped the Defender to South America to hit some highlights like Machu Picchu, and parts of Boliva, Brazil, Argentina, and so on. Their Defender is outfitted with the usual, and not-so-usual: a rally suspension set up, 170-liter (45-gallon) fuel capacity, and not one but two roof top tents. Applaud that.

As many of us wonder how families or couples manage to score the mad cheddar required of a life like this, it's usually answered by one of these:

  1. Save, save, save like hell for many years.
  2. Work from the road. Easier said than done.
  3. Be the beneficiary of a rich relative. Ditto.

They're all hard to pull off, and they all have their requisite sacrifices. This stuff isn't easy. If it were, everybody'd be doing it, right?

Here's how this family pulled it off. Igor worked in executive-level positions of international companies until his late thirties, when he essentially burned out. He had been earning enough money for the family to live comfortably, but he was gone nearly every week, all week. As he says:

We hadn't won the lottery . . . it [travel] was a priority for us. There are people who would rather get a new car every three years, buy an apartment, a house or a summer cottage, look forward to a promotion in the hope of glittering career trajectory, get a redemptive pay raise to let them spend even more and buy a state-of-the-art flat-screen television set or one more 3D video game . . . Our priority wasn’t to invest in things, but to spend quality time with the family, with our children to pass on our values and our love to them.

So you'd think that was that. But it wasn't.

Igor was known internationally and very successful. So when he turned in his resignation just months before embarking on the trip, he soon received an offer from another company. "Working while on the road was absolutely out of question for me," he says. "But the arguments they presented to me were so interesting that it was hard to decline the offer."

I'd wager that "interesting" is a euphemism for "sick wads of cash" or something, but for the moment that remains none of my business. Fortunately, the project allowed for him to manage things remotely. He took two laptops, a small arsenal of mobile phones, and off they went.

Their adventures were extraordinary. They were invited at home for a week by ministers of Tajikistan, they were forced to flee into the night from a Taliban camp, visited the rock architecture of Petra in Jordan, and saw a photo exhibit in Argentina by Steve McCurry (popular for his unforgettable portrait of a green-eyed Afghan girl in 1984), and yep traveled by cargo ship across the Atlantic.

Here's a journal passage from Egypt that's easy to relate to:

We are now in Cairo by backpack. It’s different. We are missing our car. We are more free when we drive. We go where ever we want et... Without the truck we need to plan each travel & each movement. So, we do expect hardly to get back our car as soon as possible. Maybe next week in Tanzania?

Our trip in Egypt is clearly different from what we did until now. We are tourists and no more overlanders... We do not like this. Even, this is a good occasion to take time and have a good rest and some holidays for kids. Travelling with children is easy when you provide them with games & time for them. They need to play and have a fun. After weeks of "old stones" they are quite often fed up with visiting. So, Egypt then it’s a good opportunity to dedicate time to them.


Check out some of these photo galleries from their travels:


Colin Burns
+5 / 0
# Colin Burns 2012-03-09 17:43
I love seeing families do this type of thing! It's an incredible opportunity to spend time with your kids while they are young enough to still enjoy your company ;) We all know there will be a day when they'd rather not hang out with Mum & Dad.

I agree, forget about upgrading your TV to the biggest and best flat screen out there, get your kids and go do something fun with them.

Thanks for sharing their story.

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0 / 0
# Mark 2012-03-10 10:24
Thank you, Colin.
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Patricia Ellis Herr
+5 / 0
# Patricia Ellis Herr 2012-03-12 09:07
Love this. LOVE THIS!! Green with envy. :-)
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+1 / 0
# Mark 2012-03-12 21:32
Agreed. :-)
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