Colorado man nears end of international journey
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.” Six continents, 68 counties and nearly 70,000 miles.
Steve Shoppman rolled into Albuquerque on Tuesday after spending the last two years circumventing the globe in a sport utility vehicle that’s now dusty, dented and scratched. His mission: to inspire people to explore and see for themselves what’s really going on around the world.
“The only way to really get down to the bottom of something, to understand something is to actually go ask questions right there on the spot and then learn about it,” he said during his last stop before heading home to Denver. “One thing I’ve realized is that my perspectives of the world that I had formed over the first 26 years of my life were grossly wrong in a lot of ways and my eyes have been opened incredibly.”
Shoppman, who is now 30, expects to reach Denver on Wednesday. That’s where he started planning the four-wheel drive expedition a few years ago after convincing his mother that he wouldn’t end up dead in the middle of nowhere.
He talked his friend Stephen Bouey of Denver into joining him, recruited a few helpers, got Toyota and more than a dozen other companies to sponsor the expedition and they were on their way to document snippets of life around the world.
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Shoppman grew up taking road trips with his father and later spent time traveling from Africa to New Zealand and South America. He said only one-fifth of people in the United States have passports and even fewer actually leave the country in any given year.
“When you have a place that has so much influence over the world, I believe that more people should get out there and see what’s happening for themselves instead of just reading what’s in the news,” he said.
The expedition went through friendly African villages, the Australian outback, South America’s jungles and countries that were engaged in civil war.
The team endured sweltering temperatures in the Sahara Desert and lows that dipped to minus 40 in Siberia.
There were also some tense moments.
“In the Congo, we were stopped by some rebels there. They invited us to stay in their camp,” Shoppman said. “You realize as much as it’s scary when you have six guys surrounding you with AK-47s, if you can make them laugh and put a smile on their face they realize you’re good guys.”
Then there were the roadless areas in Mongolia.
“We would just use a compass and binoculars to navigate because we didn’t have a GPS,” he said. “You thought you would be at the next small town to get some more gas and supplies but you had already gone 100 kilometers farther than you were supposed to and you get a little bit scared.”
The two-year journey cost the crew about $30,000 for fuel. Shoppman and Bouey had saved up for the expedition but much of the rest of the expenses were taken care of by sponsors and generous people they met along the way.
“I think that’s an incredible thing, the generosity of the world,” Shoppman said. “People saw that we were trying to do a good thing, trying to educate people and make people understand that the world is a great place and they wanted to help us out.”
Shoppman, a multimedia designer and consultant, plans to write a book and put together a documentary about the trip. He has about 150 hours of video and 22,000 photographs. He also is scheduling a speaking tour at high schools and universities in hopes of inspiring more people to see the world in a new way.
“We went to 68 countries,” Shoppman said, “but there’s over 200 in the world so there’s still a lot of it that we didn’t see.”
The World by Road: http://www.theworldbyroad.com