Couple’s 15 years of life on the road brings them to York

Herman and Candelaria Zapp, outside Partisan cafe in Micklegate, York, where they will be meeting the public tomorrow, Monday, between 1-5pm.
Herman and Candelaria Zapp, outside Partisan cafe in Micklegate, York, where they will be meeting the public tomorrow, Monday, between 1-5pm.
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The idea of starting a whole new life in which every day is an adventure is more than just a pipe dream for a couple from Argentina.

Fifteen years of being on the road later, and having negotiated all sorts of terrain across every continent in the world in a car that is now 89-years-old, Candelaria and Herman Zapp’s incredible journey has brought them to Yorkshire for the very first time.

Have car, will travel: The Zapp family car crossing the Amazon on canoes, Santa Rosa, Per�.

Have car, will travel: The Zapp family car crossing the Amazon on canoes, Santa Rosa, Per�.

They left their homeland as a young married couple, gave up their jobs and their home, and despite plenty of advice not to go through with their plans, the pair have seen the world - from Egypt’s pyramids and the Amazon rainforest to Mount Everest and a tour of Australia - and they have had four children along the way, all born in different countries.

Their epic mission to fulfil what is a shared lifelong dream has brought them to York, where they are staying with fellow Argentinian and York businesswoman Florencia Clifford, owner of the Partisan cafe in Micklegate.

To sustain their quest, the couple have documented their travels in a book, and they will be outside the Partisan, along with their equally well-travelled 1928 Graham Paige automobile which has wooden spokes, to meet people and answer questions between 1-5pm tomorrow.

Their book, Spark Your Dream, will also be available to buy.

We have learned about different cultures, food, music, about what people do for a living - it is the best part of the journey.

The Zapps - including siblings Pampa, Tehue, Paloma and Wallaby - have been in England for around 20 days, having arrived from Spain. They have travelled north from Portsmouth, via London, Oxford and Shrewsbury, to Yorkshire as they make their way to their next stop, Scotland.

Speaking to The Yorkshire Post, Mrs Zapp, 47, said: “We really like York. We like this kind of town, an old town. We are keen on history.”

Mrs Zapp first met her husband, who is now 49, when she was eight-years-old, and he ten.

“Since we started dating when I was 14, we have always read about travellers and we always asked, ‘Why not us? Why not go on our own journey?’

The couple pictured earlier in their epic journey, in Altiplano, Peru.

The couple pictured earlier in their epic journey, in Altiplano, Peru.

“We got married when I was 23 and we always wanted to travel so we said we would save for two years and then go for our dream, to travel.

“But when we got married we got distracted with different things, we had good jobs, we didn’t have enough money, we were building our house. Six years passed and we realised we were making excuses, which were really our fears to leave everything behind.

“We wanted to have children but what would happen to our dream? It would be impossible to depart. So we decided let’s go with what we have and then come back and have children. People said we were crazy but we felt there was something very big missing.”

What started out as a trail through the Americas, eventually became so much more.

“Our plan was to travel from Argentina to Alaska but we didn’t manage to come back. After six months we had only made it as far as Ecuador. We didn’t realise that people would be so nice and we started staying at people’s homes. We discovered that when you stay in a family home, they don’t let you leave! They want to take you to a festival next week, ‘and then we can show you this’...

“We couldn’t get to Alaska and after six months we ran out of money. It was then that we discovered how to pay for our journey. I started painting with watercolours and learned framing, and started selling my pictures. We started selling postcards too. Then, in Columbia, we started writing our book, which tells of our first four years on the road.”

Sales of the book took off and coupled with the generosity of strangers, the Zapps found that they could manage the cost of continuing their adventure.

Two years into their journey they had their first child, now aged 15 - and in the years since they have become a family of six. The other children are now aged eight, nine and 12.

Mrs Zapp said she had become the children’s teacher.

“People are always concerned about their education but they are learning a lot about the world. I am following the curriculum from Argentina. I’m their teacher now and it has been a big challenge. They also have lessons online and every two months they do a test and we send it back to the Ministry of Education in Argentina.

“We also adapt the journey and the subject of the journey to suit them, so we have learned about the food chain watching wild animals in Africa, and we have learnt about the pyramids, while being in the pyramids themselves.

“We have a 12-year-old learning about the Vikings at the moment so maybe tomorrow we will see the Viking museum here in York.”

With nearly 70,000 people following the family’s progress on their Facebook page, they now receive invitations to stay with other families.

“We have spent more than 2,000 nights in family homes, all different kinds and religions. We have learned about different cultures, food, music, about what people do for a living - it is the best part of the journey.”

Life on the road is not always easy, but Mrs Zapp said the challenges simply make them stronger.

“We miss the family of course and we go through challenges but when we do that we realise how wonderful this is and we grow up. We are learning about ourselves.

“What we miss a lot is when a good friend is getting married or a death in the family. In that moment, I wish we could be there or something like that but I never imagine myself returning back without completing my dream.

“We will only say this is enough if we or one of our children is not happy with it. As long as everyone is happy and entertained and having a lot of fun, we will keep going. We are focused on our dream.”

She said her relationship with her husband has also grown through their shared experiences.

“You can get depressed in the first month or you can get stronger. We are 24 hours together and every day we have to decide something together, whether it’s where to stop to eat or where to go next. We are only 15cm apart in the seats of the car. It’s not like you can go some other place.”

The warnings from friends and family back home when the couple first embarked on their journey included reservations about the vintage car they were relying on.

“We have had problems and we still will, but every time we have a problem on the road it has surprised us - it’s in the right place or we have met the right person, or we have to learn something about it.

“The car, instead of being a problem which everyone said it would be, we realised it had style and the very first thing when people see it is they smile, it’s a beautiful thing, even if it’s a little girl, a teenager, an adult or an older man.”

Bar a stop in Morocco and Brazil, for the Zapp’s, Europe is the last leg of their journey. They have travelled to around 100 countries across South and North America, Asia, Australia and Africa, and have trips to The Netherlands, Belgium and France planned after they leave Britain.

“In one year from now we will be back in Argentina,” Mrs Zapp said.

“The next adventure will be how to live in one place.

“When you fulfil one dream and see it is possible, that’s what we want to teach our children. We want to teach them that we are all here on this planet to fulfil our dreams, not just let life pass us by, that we live in a wonderful world, to have faith in people and learn how to be confident in this world.”

For more about the Zapps, visit www.argentinaalaska.com or see their ‘Familia Zapp Family’ Facebook page.