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World’s Most Traveled: Emil and Liliana Schmid – The Longest Driven Journey

On the 18th of October way back in 1984, Swiss couple Emil and Liliana Schmid boarded an Iceland-air jet bound for New York, leaving all of their worldly possessions in storage. Originally this journey was penciled in as a one year world tour, but the Schmid’s soon discovered that one year was not going to be enough.

Map of the Schmids record journey

You could say their end date has been blown out a little, as they’ve now been on the road in their 1982 Toyota Land Cruiser for the last 26 years. Their epic travels have them listed in the ‘Guinness Book of World Records’ for the ‘Longest Driven Journey’, and to date this odyssey has taken them through 168 countries, with a total distance driven of well over 640,000 kilometers.

Emil and Liliana Schmidt and Their Toyota Landcruiser

A photo of the Schmid's with their Toyota Land Cruiser

A photo of the Schmid’s with their Toyota Land Cruiser

The Toyota Land Cruiser has been described as indestructible by some, but a journey as grand as this will kill any vehicle. In 2006 after a long debate and many an argument, the Schmid’s decided against retiring the vehicle to the scrapheap, and replacing it with something newer. They managed to find a small workshop in the town of Miri on the island of Borneo, and completely rebuilt their beloved Land Cruiser, which they aptly describe as family.

The Land Cruiser Would Require A Complete Rebuild

A photo of the Schmids car being repaired

A photo of the Schmids car being repaired

The Schmidt’s are now in their late sixties, and are currently making there way through the archipelago of the Philippines, and there’s still no end in site to this incredible voyage. I’ve been following their adventures on and off, via their web site for a number of years now. Back In 2008 whilst I was on a short trip to Vanuatu, I spotted the all too familiar baby blue Toyota 4WD making its way up the main street of Port Villa. During the rest of my time there, I kept a keen eye out for them, as I would have loved to have caught up for a chat. It was a shame I never laid eyes on the vehicle again.

Emil and Liliana Were Faced With Many Obstacles Along The Way

The Schmids car on a barge in the former Zaire

The Schmids car on a barge in the former Zaire

I think there’s no secret that Emil Schmid is a stats man, and the amount of information the couple have kept throughout their journey is staggering. I will post a link to their site so you can check it out after finishing reading here (you’ll need a bit of time as there’s a massive amount of information there). An unconventional statistic that I found interesting was that they’ve taken about 19’260 slides, 18’660 prints and 34’450 digital pictures, that calculates to one image taken for every 9 km or 15 minutes of driving time. The couple have also had 166 flat tires and consumed 31 batteries, 138 spark plugs, 22 air filters and 54 shock absorbers during the previous 26 years.

There’s also and extraordinary amount of media interest in their voyage and as they visit each new country it seems the local media want an interview. The media page on their site is full of magazine and newspaper articles, as well as radio and the odd television interview.

There can be no denying that Emil and Liliana Schmid are suffering a serious case of Dromomania, and from this day forward are honorably inducted into the ‘Dromomaniacs Society’ here at DigiDrift.com.

Go to Emil and Liliana Schmid’s web site of their ‘World Record Tour’ can be found here.

A Little More About The Author

Jason has traveled the world extensively during the last 20 years, with overland journeys on six continents and across over 90 countries. This site serves as a chronicle of the images and tales from these journeys, as well as offering advice and general information for other like minded travelers.

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  1. [...] miles, equivalent to more than 50 trips around the planet’s entire diameter. During their epic journey, the couple has visited 172 countries and territories, incurred 166 flat tires, and burned through [...]

  2. kalpesh says:

    Hi, jason,
    I read your travell tour its amaging, i have tata safari suv car we are planed our country ( india) tour first pl. guide me for planing of tour with my suv.

    • Jason says:

      Hey Kalpesh, The article was written about a German couple, but I would love to help you on that one, although I have never driven through India myself. I’ve only travelled the country on local transport. Good luck with your journey though….

  3. Mhed says:

    Wow.. thanks for writing about this.
    Its always my dream to be doing this with my Wife-to-be..

    But practically, this will be costly.

    Still. I’m looking forward to that day when we will embark on a small trip, that will lead to another, and so on.

    :D

    • Jason says:

      Hey Mhed, Yes I think this is a dream for many people that are born with an adventurous spirit. I believe the Schmidt’s had a property back in Germany that they owned and then basically travelled on the rent money. I would still be hard top make ends meet, as fuel costs alone would be pretty high. Glad you liked the post and don’t stop dreaming.

  4. Trevor says:

    What an amazing journey. Does anyone know how exactly they afforded 25+ years of unplanned road tripping?

    • Jason says:

      Hey Trevor, I believe they owned their own property, and either sold it or travelled on the rent money. The weekly rent from a European house or apartment would go a long way to covering the cost of their journey. Fuel would be their greatest outlay, and they were pretty self sufficient with food and accommodation.

      The other large outlay is the transporting of the vehicle to various island destinations. They are no doubt quite a unique couple and I’m glad you enjoyed the read.

    • Eric says:

      I met them, around Sept/Oct 1999, at an RV park in Tsawwassen, (Vancouver); they were living in a tiny tent, and driving a rental car, while awaiting the arrival of the Land Cruiser, (being shipped, courtesy Toyota, from Japan), before embarking on the next leg of their journey. The Land Cruiser arrived a few days later……mesh covers on the windows, jerry cans on the roof…..must’ve been a blast!

      Nice couple.

    • Jason says:

      Hey Eric, I would have loved to have met them personally. I just missed them in Vanuatu a few years ago. How could anyone miss the bright blue Land Cruiser. Their journey since 1999 has been incredible and it was astonishing up to that point. Not the life for everyone, but they must be enjoying what they are doing. Thanks for stopping by….

    • Eric says:

      I met them before I ‘met’ the Toyota, (and, oddly enough, although I got to see it, the ‘blue’ factor had evaporated in my memory)……the RV park in question had just turned into a terminal for (primarily) German/Dutch tourists coming to Canada and renting RVs.

      The renters returning to Europe generally had unused or partially used purchases, especially things like dish detergent and foodstuffs….the Schmid’s, being German speakers, were the primary recipients of these overages and passed some on to us.

      During our chats they told me of their travels, (I’ve been to approximately 60 countries, so of course there were overlaps), and how Toyota had arranged visas to Saudi Arabia for them, (I spent 7 years + in that country), under the ‘guise’ of field testing the vehicle.

      (Before their Land Cruiser arrived, on a trip to the local mall I checked out the Guinness Book of Records as verification…..hey, I’m a skeptical person at heart)……THEN the vehicle showed up!

      I still recall the STUFF they had in it….they said that sometimes, in unsure surroundings, they’d sleep inside, and I remember thinking that’s it’s a good thing they’re not large people, ’cause there ain’t much room!

    • Jason says:

      Hey Eric, Thanks for the follow up mate. Those RV parks or Caravan Parks (as referred to in my country) are quite the bargain basement at times. I know what you describe happens often at one of the parks in Darwin. With backpackers coming and going from SE Asia.

      As an avid traveller yourself, you must (as do I) admire in bewilderment as to what the Schmidt’s have seen in one life time. I also don’t blame you for verifying their story. It’s sometimes hard to fathom a journey so far and for so long.

    • Eric says:

      Darwin, eh? Geez, a few lifetimes ago, circa 1962, I worked as a laborer on a dam construction in Kununurra, WA; also, before that, hitched a ride from Adelaide to Alice Springs with Al McDonald ( http://www.myrasplace.net/hstones/htencrk.htm #128) a half-Maori, former boxer, known as “The Mayor of Tennant Creek”, (soldier on the Kokoda Trail, and also, he told me, the Northern Territory heavyweight champ of 1948).

      He used to regale us with tales of being with a travelling boxing troupe hitting, (literally), the mining camps of the north.

      So….long story short…I’ve been to Rum Jungle, Mt Isa, and points east, west & south.

      Now I’m just an old fart…..but we did go to Botswana a couple years ago….my 5th trip to sub-Saharan Africa.

      Cheers.

    • Jason says:

      Hey Eric, Some great tales you’d have to tell no doubt regarding your time in the Australian outback. Botswana is a place I have yet to visit, but that may change in the near future.

  5. A/Satth says:

    Dear Mr. Jason:
    How are you today ? I’m very impressed to read your article that you have already traveled over 90 countries around the globe. It’s very interesting. I already read Mr & Mrs Emil’s story but I read your one first time.
    During the 100 countries did you use CARNET D PASS OR ANY OTHER MEANS TO FACE THE CUSTOMS OF THE WORLD COUNTRIES?

    It would be highly appreciative if would kindly let me know that. I’m very interested on it.

    Thank you and have nice time and enjoy your journey.

    • Jason says:

      Hello Mr Satth, Thanks for taking the time to visit my site. Most of the travel I have done has all been via the means of public transportation or hitchhiking. I have never taken a private vehicle across an international border in Africa, Asia or South America so I’m sorry but I cant help you with your problem in relation to the Carnet.

      There is allot of information around the web on this subject, so I’m sure you’ll find what your looking for if you keep searching. Hope you enjoyed the site.

  6. Micah says:

    Nice! Had never heard of these two before…makes my 1 year RTW trip seem pretty tiny!

    • Jason says:

      Micah – There are many people out there who aren’t as publicized as the modern travel blogger, who’ve seen vast amounts of this world of hours. I hope to slowly hunt them all down and bring their stories to DigiDrift over time. Thanks for your comment mate.

  7. Great article and amazing couple… and the photos… “one image taken for every 9 km or 15 minutes of driving time” – wow!

    • Jason says:

      Jonathan – Thanks for stopping by. I know your into photography and would be quite impressed by the mountain of images this couple have put together over the years. Lets hope they get all their film and slides scanned, so they can share them with the rest of the world going forward.

  8. Wow what a cool couple, love it!

    • Jason says:

      Andi, they certainly are. Traveling has just become their life now, and by now would seem quite normal to them. For the rest of us, it’s bizarre and incredible.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I can’t believe I have never heard of this traveling couple yet! Love the profile on them and the nature of their journey, overland and feeling every mile of the road…so wonderful…plus I’m a fan of random stats so those are fun too :)

    • Jason says:

      Shannon, the Schmid’s are an amazing couple and I’m disapointed I couldn’t catch up with them in Vanuatu. There are so many amazing people out there, that have been on some epic journeys, or have been traveling for decades. Most of these people are from an era that are not as tech savy as those in the world of travel blogging today. I will continue to try and find these ‘Dromomaniacs’ and bring their story to DigiDrift along with their crazy stats as well. Glad you enjoyed the post and you must vist their site.

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