It started at the turn of the millennia.
While the rest of world anticipated dooms day….
Paige Parker – and then fiance Jim Rogers – started an epic three year journey around the world – later to earn a listing in the Guinness Book of World Records.
What kind of journey exactly?
- three years (January 1st, 1999 to January 5th, 2002),
- 1101 days,
- 116 countries,
- 6 continents, and
- over 245,000 kilometers (or 152,2300 miles)!
All traveled in a custom-made Mercedes-Benz!
You can read about Paige’s journey including running marathons, driving through war zones and planning a wedding in Adventure Capitalist, or hear it from the World Record Holder herself in this exclusive interview…
First off, how did this trip come about?
After reading Jim’s book Investment Biker, which chronicled his shorter motorcycle circumnavigation (about 20 months), I met him – and already I knew that he was a mad man, a thrill seeker, a person intrigued with learning.
About a month later, on our first date, after seeing the ballet at Lincoln Center and then riding a bicycle built-for-two into Central Park, where we dined at Boathouse Café, he shared with me, in an almost whisper: “I’m thinking of driving around the world again. I’d like for you to join me.”
Without hesitating, and not believing for a minute that this would ever happen, I replied, “Sign me up. Let’s do it.”
Two-and-a-half years later, we set off around the world.
How did your travels change you?
I’m wiser all around, as a mother, wife, daughter, friend, citizen.
I appreciate and acknowledge that my birth led to the life that I have. If I’d been born to a farmer in Togo, then my world would be vastly different.
I understand how fortunate I am to be a woman in the developed world, where it is a given that I have the right to a passport, to travel freely, to make my own decisions, to be educated.
I am more curious. I am more stable. I am more appreciative of genuine luxury.
What was your favorite country? Why?
Oh, that’s so tough!
How could one ever pick a favorite, since the diversity between, say, Iceland, with a population of less than 300,000, and China, with over 1.3 billion people, is significant.
Certainly though I had favorite spots, where I can’t wait to take my daughters – Punte del Este in Uruguay, Positano on Italy’s Amalfi Coast, Timbuktu and Djenne in Mali, safari in Tanzania, the mountain drive between Turkey and Georgia, the drive through Alaska in the winter; the list could go on and on.
If I am forced to pinpoint one country, then I’d say China, because I witnessed that it was on the way up; yet, for sheer tourism and sites, I’d say India or Egypt.
I obviously can’t decide on one!
What was your least favorite country? Why?
Hmm. I honestly didn’t dislike any country – one of the mantras that led me around the world was awaiting the pot of gold at the end of every rainbow, which I found to be true even in the poorest countries and during the most difficult times.
Someone, some deed or someplace always served as my gold.
However, an experience that I barely learned to tolerate, without losing my cool, was endless, prolonged border crossings that could and did take hours!
I still recall the four-hour crossing into Nigeria, where a border official, with nothing else to do, enjoyed watching the sweat roll of my nose as I awaited another officer to review my documents.
What challenges did you face being a woman traveler? How did you overcome them?
I didn’t set out to change the world but to explore and learn from it, so I observed the local customs wherever I visited, which certainly made life easier as a woman.
I covered my arms in temples; in Muslim countries, I covered and even wore an ababya in Saudi Arabia.
In West Africa, they cover the legs, but not always the breasts, since, “Breasts are for babies. Legs are for men,” the locals told us. Thus, I bought fabric and draped it around my legs, but certainly not as beautifully as the women there do.
Yet, offensive things still occurred: in a little village in India, a man pinched my bottom – and this had happened before in other places, but I’d not known the offender – so this guy received the brunt of my frustration, when I slapped him aggressively, trying to right the wrong of every woman on the planet. Jim said I’d probably humiliated him for a lifetime, at least.
In Saudi Arabia, I couldn’t drive, nor could I visit the gym to exercise. I found an underground gym in a plastic surgery clinic, where the young women were dressed (pretty skimpily) for aerobics just like ladies on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.
In Sudan’s desert, in Wadi Halfa, for three weeks, awaiting a boat to carry our car up the Nile (the border was closed to cars so this was our only option), I visited a girls’ school and showed them our route around the world, marked on our enormous world map. I, perhaps naively, hoped that I might inspire some girl there to get out of Wadi Halfa.
What was your biggest culture shock abroad?
The lack of status for women.
And the biggest culture shock on returning to the US?
The World Trade Center came down a few months before our return, so New York was an entirely different city upon our arrival home.
Who are your heroes?
My mother, for sure: she was a working woman with a significant career in a little tiny Southern town where women didn’t work, and if they did, the job would have been supporting a man’s role.
You and your family now live in Singapore. What three things do you love/hate about living there?
Love: Great education, health care and safety.
Singapore is a nearly utopian spot to rear bilingual Mandarin- and English-speaking daughters.
I don’t hate anything, as a matter of principle. I try to always find the good in the terrible.
Yet, if I could change Singapore’s weather to include a little less humidity and cooler temperatures – Singapore is nearly on the equator – then this really would be utopia.
You planned your wedding via e-mail while driving through Siberia and Uzbekistan. How on earth did you pull it off?
Goodness, I don’t know!
If I’d known how difficult it would be, then I’d probably have just foregone the big to-do; yet, I grew up with a Cinderella-dream wedding fantasy, so I made it happen.
My mother, in the US, worked as messenger for me with the bridal dress company in the UK and she handled the invitations.
I made countless calls in China and Russia, when we had working phone lines; I sent faxes and more faxes; and then I spent three weeks on the ground, before the wedding, in Henley-on-Thames aiming to cross all the Ts, since attention to detail makes or breaks a fabulous wedding/party/event.
In the end, we celebrated with over 100 friends from the US, England and Europe, on an atypically warm, sunny UK day, on 1 January 2000, with an almost-perfect wedding.
Any plans for another record-breaking adventure?
Hoping my daughters will one day award me the World’s Best Mother award …. For right now, my adventure is rearing my daughters. When they are older, we shall see some of the world together, for sure.
I climbed Kilimanjaro at age 30, during our world circumnavigation. I climbed it again at age 40, on my own.
I’m contemplating another climb at age 50 with my daughters to set a great record for family posterity!
What travel advice would you give to any woman travelers?
Do your homework.
Know the customs, cultures, religions of the places on your itinerary.
Don’t just show up at a 17th century mosque and know nothing of it; any significance it might play in your life will be lost if you don’t understand the history.
Dress like the locals.
Eat with the same hand as the locals.
Take fewer clothes on overland travel journeys.
When I told Jim that I wouldn’t have enough to wear – after packing just a few things in a tiny suitcase, for a three year drive around the world – he replied, “If the Queen invites us for dinner, then she will understand we don’t have fancy dress.”
Any other thoughts?
Remember where you are: in China and parts of Asia, it’s customary to drink the soup, but when I did this in Costa Rica, I could sense the attendees all kicking each other under the table, in the shins, at my indiscretion.
Don’t offend: “My way or the highway” won’t cut it when traveling around the world.
Everyone is different, yet the same. Children are born color-blind, but learn discrimination – it’s not innate.
For more info including videos and articles on Paige Parker’s epic journey, visit PaigeParker.com.
And the Trekity founders would like to give Page a BIG thank you for participating. She’s has been a personal hero us for several years and the entire experience was a huge pleasure. Thank you!