Herman Zapp and his wife Candelaria are fulfilling their lifelong dream to explore the world and have been travelling since 2000. Apart from a few months here and there, they have been on the road in their 7-seater Graham-Paige 1928 from Alaska to Argentina, all around Australia and around 13 countries in Asia. Their four children are truly global citizens and were born in the course of their parents’ travels – Pampa (11 in the USA), Tehue (8 in Argentina), Paloma (6 in Canada) and Wallaby (4 in Australia). Herman (currently in Zimbabwe) tells suitcases&strollers about the joys of permanently traveling with kids and why their life is so much more than just an extended family holiday.
How did the car become part of your travelling family?
We never thought to travel with a car but three months before we started to travel someone offered it to me. I didn’t want it, but he asked me to take a look as I might know someone who might want it. I went...and I fell in love!
[The car has its] original engine and wooden spoke wheels. In 2007 we stretched it a little so we were able to put in two more kids!
Where has been your favourite place to travel with kids?
After thousands of beaches or mountains, after hundreds of ruins or cities...they are just another one for us. But the people, that´s the best part of the journey. We can´t remember a favourite place, we only remember beautiful people! And that´s the reason to keep travelling for us.
Where has been the most surprising place you’ve travelled with kids?
So many and for so many reasons.Some places for their spirituality (Tibet, India, Nepal), some places for their mountains (The Matopos [Matobo National Park, Zimbabwe], Drakensberg, South Africa, Japan), other places for their food (China, Peru). But what always surprises us more are the people: the kindness, the hospitality, the willingness to be part of the journey. From the Philippines to Laos, Ecuador…anywhere the people are the most surprising.
Where is the one place in the world that you haven’t traveled with kids that you want to visit?
Before I started to travel I had, like, 20 places that I wanted to visit. Now that I know the world better and I am always meeting travellers and they tell me about places, I have hundreds more places to go beside the hundreds I already been. It's like that Greek philosopher who said, “The only thing I know is that I don't know anything.”
Now I can say: The only thing I know is that I haven’t seen anything of the world as there is so much more to see! For example, we were in India for 5 months. That it is nothing for such an amazing country.
[Inspired to quit your job and travel with kids? suitcases&strollers has all the travel tips for how to do it.]
How do you decide the itinerary and where you are going to next?
There is no typical day. We will be here [in Zimbabwe] for a week then we go to Mozambique. We go to where people recommend [we should visit] the most.
Why do you think it’s important for kids to travel?
Imagine the biggest living encyclopedia from all the most beautiful places to the most amazing animals, geography, socialising, learning languages, cultures and the different kinds of ways of life. But the most important thing is that they learn to adapt. As Charles Darwin said, it’s not the most intelligent or strongest who will survive, but the most adaptable. In today’s world you are out of business if you don’t adapt fast.
Have you been to any places that are unsuitable for kids to travel to?
If there are kids there, it’s safe. [Although] of course we would not recommend places at war.
We were told that Asia is not good for kids and ours enjoyed it so much. They were playing so much from the base camp of Everest to the most remote island in the Philippines. We stayed at one orphanage in The Matopos, Zimbabwe for three weeks and they made so many friends. Yes, in India the kids got some diarrhea but when we arrived in Miami we also all got diarrhea for a week!
Where do the kids call “home”?
We do have a home in Argentina and we visit and stay there every three years for two or three months. They call “home” the car and the backyard is our world.
How do you ensure the kids are maintaining their education while being on the road?
We follow a program from Argentina.
Do you think the kids are unsettled at all from the lack of a regular “routine”?
People think to go for your dreams, like this journey, is dangerous; try routine! That's dangerous. [Our kids] are growing up eagles, not like plants. They belong to a world, not to one spot. [Eventually] we will go back and, as we adapted to move, we will adapt to stay.
People imagine that we are travelling every day, all day. We don't, that's why we have had 14 years’ travelling and we’ve only done 250,000 kilometres.
People imagine that every day we eat camping food. Yesterday here in Zimbabwe we ate a leg of lamb with mint. We are in a lovely cottage that a family is sharing with us as we share our dream. They have 3 kids, same ages as my youngest, and Pampa has a friend just 250 metres away from where he sleeps.
How do you fund this non-stop travel?
We don't live in a world that all its about money and don't live life thinking first about money.
We have our book, Spark Your Dream, but we don't need much as we are not renting, fixing the roof, paying insurance, buying a flat or TV or car every 3 to 4 years. We only buy what we need, not what we want.
We do get help for the car shipping: we
go to the companies and share our dream and we always found the right person as
there are dreamers everywhere.
What is the best part of being a permanent traveller?
[We are not always on the road], we mostly are stopping. [For instance] we are going to Pemba in Mozambique [for the] wonderful islands and diving in the most lovely weather. We will look to stay there for a month.
But if you are talking [about] for travelling 14 years...these have been the best years of our lives! We’ve learned, enjoyed and experienced so much. Imagine watching a shuttle taking off in Orlando, the Great Barrier Reef, Tibetan temples, The Himalayas.
[Tibet with kids?! Yes it is possible; you can even drive them up to Everest Base Camp! To find out more travel tips, see the suitcases&strollers story here.]
Has your life on the road met or exceed your expectations?
A dream is not an idea; there is nothing more real and it's what will give you purpose to live. Yes, it has totally exceeded our expectations. We went to see a beautiful world, and it is, but the people are so amazing!
When and where do you plan to stop and settle down, if ever?
We have seen such lovely places in Zimbabwe that we say we could live here. But our family is in Argentina and we’ve been away enough. When? As soon as we finish the journey.
What are your top recommendations for family-friendly holidays and places to travel with kids?
Sorry, we are on a lifestyle journey, not on a holiday.
If we take out the war zones, where is not a family-friendly place? People may find New York City not friendly for kids, but we enjoyed so much. People naturally love kids and if they behave well they are welcome everywhere!
To find out more about the Zapp family read the suitcases&strollers interview with the two eldest Zapp children, Pampa and Tehue, here.
To find out more about other families that choose to travel permanently, read the suitcases&strollers story The Permanent Travellers, Part 1, The Permanent Travellers, Part 2, The Permanent Travellers, Part 5 and The World's Most Travelled Toddler