Around the world in my Bug

My plan is to drive my 1971 Volkswagen Beetle around the world.

Nov 5, 2008 at 6:00 am
Around the world in my Bug
Ross Gordon

I’m starting in Louisville this week, and I will drive south through Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. From there I will take a boat — probably to Ecuador — then drive through Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina. From somewhere in South America, I’ll ship my car to Africa.

From the window of my Bug I will see: South Africa, Namibia, Zambia, Botswana, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia and surely a few other countries before heading back down Africa’s east coast to Durban, where I will send my car to India.

While my car is making its pilgrimage, I will make mine toward the Middle East to indulge in falafel, sheep brains and hookahs before meeting my car in Mumbai. I hope to spend several months in India perfecting my downward dog, shalabha-asana and sun salutations before floating my car across the Indian Ocean to Perth for a drive across the Australian Outback. If I haven’t reached nirvana and actually make it to Sydney alive, I’ll be heading back stateside to drive my car from the Wild West back home to Louisville.

Along the way, I will be photographing and experiencing cultures that are vanishing from the earth as you are reading. While I hope to photograph the most exotic, secluded, awe-inspiring entities and cultural events that remain on earth, I’m going to start by photographing my car and see where that leads me. My most honest intention, however, is to photograph the world as it is right now. 

Sound pretty daunting?
Over the past six months, I have been preparing tirelessly for this adventure. With intentions of keeping it as close to stock as possible, I have worked so hard on my car that I have permanent grease stains under more than just my fingernails. My hands have become arthritic. With the help and infinite patience of a local air-cooled guru, I have done all of the following: I rebuilt my engine, installed a full flow oil system, installed an external oil cooler, replaced the CV’s, replaced the ball joints, put in new transmission seals, new clutch cables, new throttle cables and a new clutch, rebuilt all four brakes, put on new tires and had my wheels and steering balanced and aligned. I put in an electronic ignition and installed a cigarette lighter for power. I put in a new starter and generator. I replaced seals and filled fluids, repacked the bearings and put on an inline fuel filter, and I put locking lug nuts on my wheels. I packed a jack, stand and every tool I could carry, including a five-gallon can of gas. I put in an alarm and a steering wheel lock, rigged a system to padlock the hood and the engine compartments closed. I bought a coffee-cup holder and welded a rack to the roof. All of that — along with roughly 200 pounds of extra car parts, food, a stove, pots and pans, clothing, a GPS unit, a Carnet de Passage which is essentially a visa for my car, my license, title and registration, three cameras, a laptop, an audio recording device, a global cell phone, extra batteries, three travel and evacuation insurance policies, an auto insurance policy, six or so injections of malaria medication, a mosquito net, a tent, a sleeping bag, toothpaste, a toothbrush, shampoo, mosquito spray and Imodium, $1,000 in travelers checks, a fake wallet with a real ID, small cash and a few cancelled credit cards to make it look real in case I get robbed, and of course my iPod — comprises my vessel. I’m as excited as I am scared.
I’m absolutely crazy. 

This column will appear once a month in LEO Weekly. Follow his travels more frequently at and