This British Pakistani couple are on an expedition to drive around the world in their own car and if they successfully drive around the world, they will be the first South Asian couple to do so.
Who- Shahrukh Shahid & wife Jia Shah
Based in- London
Known for – Driving around the world in Land Cruiser Prado
Started on – June 1st’ 2022
Finishing on- Yet to be decided
Countries covered so far- 30
Shahrukh Shahid (36 years) and Jia shah (35 years) are married for the last nine years and have always wanted a trip like this ever since they have been together. Popularly known as The Highway Couple, Jia and Shah give insights into their journey filled with aspirations, hopes, dreams and unknown challenges, “It took us several years to plan, save money and sort other things in life to materialise this trip. We are both professionals, working with reputable international organisations with a clear career path. Shahrukh is a CA working with Ernst & Young and myself as Finance Administrayor with ACCA until we both resigned from our jobs, mortgaged our home to do what we always wanted to do.” reckons Jia. Adding to this, Shahid says, “Our ultimate goal is to go around the entire world in our own car and if we are able to achieve this, we shall probably be the first South Asian couple to do so.”
Our first choice to do this trip was to buy a Mercedes GLE. However, those in the know and those who have done something similar convinced us that we have no option but to buy a Toyota Land Cruiser series. Reluctantly we bought a Land Cruiser Prado (J150 series). There is a school of thought that prefers Land Rover/ Defenders but since we were both mechanically clueless, we had to go with an option that is considered more reliable. So far, we can only say that our choice has not let us down even when we have taken it to places it’s not meant to go.
We have discussed and planned this trip for years. Especially when you are driving, it has its own challenges. Unlike when you are backpacking, you don’t have an option to skip any area/countries that are unfeasible for any reason. You have to drive through all the points from A to B, whether we like it or not (which is also part of the adventure).
Planning the route is therefore paramount. You need to know all the territories and their requirements. We have spent months (if not years, we have lost count) going through each country to understand what it entails to drive there. But no matter how much we plan, there will always be things that we cannot prepare for. Riots in Iran are prime example.
For us, the preparation was simple. Save the money, know the budget, take time off work, find the right car – and off we go.
Obviously, things were never that simple. The car we wanted to take to the trip was involved in an unfortunate collision 2 months before the start date of our trip, we ended up buying another one 2 weeks before the trip started. As risky as it was, we decided to go ahead with our plan and luckily for us, the car has not given us any heartache so far (touch wood)!
Obviously, there are issues with arranging car transportation documents. The most important of which is carnet de passage which allows you to temporarily enter most countries in the world without paying any local customs and duties.
Luckily for us, most things have gone well, just the way we planned and as such we have not had a difficult time. But you are always going to face unforeseen challenges on a trip like this, and we expected some to come our way.
To travel around the world is challenging enough at the best of times but to do it in your own vehicle does add a layer of complexity when it comes to paperwork and various permits required for each country.
The most difficult of all the challenges for us was presented to us in Pakistan when we found out that it will not be possible for us to continue as per our plan as its practically impossible for us to obtain Indian visa. Rejected, we looked at alternatives and discovered that we couldn’t go to China either as the borders were still closed at the time. The only option left for was to go back through Iran. And while we were getting ready to leave, riots and unrest started in Iran which ruled out that for security reasons especially with our UK passports.
Riots in Iran lasted longer than anyone thought they would and going back to Iran was no longer an option. As luck would have it, we started looking at shipping options and against all our plans decided to ship the car to Malaysia from Karachi. This came with challenges of shipping the car out of the country and to adapt to the new requirements in Malaysia which we were not prepared for before leaving home. It is just one of many examples and we are sure that it is not the end of it and we will have a few more unplanned challenges to deal with in the months to come.
We try to remain in hot countries and avoid rainy climate to make the most of our trip. Road conditions and shorter days in winter and rainy seasons mean that we will inevitably end up having less time to travel.
However, not everything goes as per plan. We have faced relentless thunderstorms on our way and scorching heat. At one point while crossing a desert, thermometer in our car read 58-degree Celsius in Lut Desert in Iran. We are sure to witness storms and snow as well in coming months if our trip continues as we plan.
As such we have not had many instances which we will consider dangerous but there have been some close calls whilst driving and a minor accident on a quad bike.
Unlucky for us, neither of us are the expert in quad bikes rides and we opted to go with a tour with moderate difficult track. A few hundreds meter into the track and we crashed into a tree – this was more than 6 months ago, but some of the scars are still with us. Lucky for us, no serious damage done and we continue with our adventures.
The world is very beautiful place and we have only one life. There is life outside our home and comfort-zone which is worth experiencing. There is so much to explore, every day brings out a new excitement, new challenge and a new experience. We consider ourself very fortunate to have an opportunity to be able to do a trip like this. The more we see, more we learn and experience, more we want to travel.
Message to people:
We all have aims and ambitions in life. It could well be travelling or something else we want to do. Our only message is, do what you want to do, don’t wait for things to happen. Nothing will happen unless you plan to do things and make efforts. So be clear in what you want and don’t be afraid to pay any price to achieve your goals and fulfil your dreams. When it comes to travelling, one thing is clear – you need courage and determination more than anything else. We have met some amazing people in our journey, some travelling for years with no money. Let nothing come in your way of your dreams and you fulfilling them!