Most of us love travels. Each of us does it in a million of different ways. While I would call our caravanning & vanlife experience an easy one, there are people seeing such travels as beyond possible. Tatra Around The World is an expedition trying to get as far as possible with an expedition truck — to circle the globe around.
Let me introduce Marek Havlicek, one of two guys who came up with the concept and who made it possible. Marek, together with Petr Holecek and several other people got the idea, the truck from Tatra (a Czech truck manufacturer) and got so many great ideas, such as that you can participate in the expedition as a member! What a great idea.
I had the opportunity to get involved as well. And as I see this a project of my lifetime, sure I volunteered to help in what I can, meaning editing graphics. And who knows, maybe I will also be part of the expedition itself.
Marek, how come you are doing this expedition?
Well, I’ve met Petr in Angola, Africa in 2009. He was doing business with Tatra trucks, servicing them and delivering goods around, and I was just on my way around Africa. Since then we know each other – me travelling around the globe without ambitions about telling it to public – simply trying to learn from other cultures and people’s stories. And it did changed me quite a lot. So I wrote a book, that was published in 2015, where I mentioned what I’ve learned and which situations changed my perspective on life.
In short – I learned that everyone, each place I have been to gave me something. I realised that great life is not about nice house and shiny car. There is way more to it.
So I said, hey, how can I give such an experience to even more people? How can a single person help others be humble, have respect, like themselves, and like people around them. Because people who have everything start caring about crap. Their life can quickly turn into a big mess.
So we started to plan an expedition that had Tatra in it (Petr will not approve any other truck maker) and the vehicle would be able to welcome 10+ members to participate in the actual thing. They would not be on a vacation, they would be part of the real thing.
Tatra – The Legendary Expedition Vehicle
There were many expeditions in prior decades, powered by Tatra cars & trucks. Last one was Tatra Around The World number one, that circled the globe under the flag of Czechoslovakia in 1987 to 1990.
And so it made perfect sense, to continue this tradition and after 30 years of capitalism in Czechoslovakia and later in Czech & Slovak republic, we gave it a thought and named our expedition Tatra Around The World 2. Knowing that it would surface many negative and positive emotions. And it did.
We have met with Martin, who manages all the materials from the original expedition as well as with mr. Stanislav Synek, who is the last living member of the expedition, to ask him for permission, for blessing. Same as we asked author of original logos to be able to use them and we needed Tatra company to be on our side too. It all worked out well and so here we are!
What is your and Peter’s travel experience?
Marek — My first trip outside Europe was to Thailand in 1998. Then I visited New Zealand and Australia, where I worked for about a year. There, in the middle of nowhere I suddenly realised that I’ve met real me, real Marek. Something happened there, hundreds of kilometres away from civilisation, with a broken engine. I felt it so clearly.
So I started to travel way more. Without any real experience, I took my girlfriend to Africa. From 2008 until 2010 we made some 90,000 kilimetres. We’ve seen most african countries and it was such a huge life lesson.
The trip was so dofferent, so eye opening, you cannot imagine. Africa really changed me so much. I was now ready to travel anywhere. So I took a motorbike and travelled even more. From 2016 till 2018 we circled the globe for the first time, in a home-made van.
Petr — I have lived in Angola for 12 years. Working with Tatra trucks, repairing them in the jungle, worked hard. I didn’t travel much, but I learned a lot about fixing things in rough conditions.
Marek, What has Czech republic to offer?
Czechoslovakia, wherever you come, they know it. People talk about Zetor tractors, Tatra trucks, great working people & tasty beer. Since that time the Czechs were sterilised, many companies are no longer owned by Czechs and others became just good enough.
But it changes, slowly but surely, it does. For example Tatra is still a Czech company, it is unique, delivers quality as other companies do. We are becoming proud again, that we gave the World something great, something significant. It is on us to get more positive and be happy about every achievement. Because we were brought to our knees many times in history, we need to find confidence again.
What has changed, since the last expedition?
Marek — After 30 years in Tatra, they still make the great solid trucks. Even that they cannot be sold in EU because of energy regulations, still they are beating other manufacturers that comply with the regulations and sell their trucks in Czechia & EU.
In terms of the society, we try to cherish the experiences the most. We are not participating in any politic games, and we try to listen to our gut feelings. I realised that most of the content, that media broadcast is manipulation or advertising. So to find out the truth, one needs to look elsewhere.
I have seen bad stuff in Kosovo after the dirty period there. And when I brought it to media in Czechia people were not happy to say things as they are. I was in Africa and seen schools that have been built for NGO money but they used them as a shelter for cows. I have seen other bad things in Africa, Iran or Ukraine and it changed me, but it was difficult for the media to tell the same story publicly.
So I realised that media change people. They help them create a firm opinion on things where they don’t have quality sources. People don’t want to think twice, don’t have the time to look under the surface, and so it is difficult for them to accept new information, that might possibly break their opinion apart.
Why is politics poisoning travels & expeditions?
Marek — The society today is polarised. We are further from each other, we are aggressive, having strong opinions on everything. Traveling connects people together. When you are in the middle of Siberia, car is stuck in the mud, then you don’t care about politics. You care about your life, and if there will be any tomorrow.
Once I visit somebody’s house, or country, I try to behave. I first try to understand their habits and values. Only then I can learn. I can’t just judge people I don’t know, I can’t say I know better on the first day. Then I am blind to any inputs coming my way.
When our expedition gets fans and supporters we like them all. We don’t care if they are a member of a party, or a given religion. We respect them as people. We don’t measure how good they might be to support us. We would like to bring people closer together and that is it.
Back to the Expedition. What are the challenging territories?
Marek — The most challenging part is the preparation. Finishing the truck, getting reasonable funds, manage everybody and not forget any step, that is scary. Once we leave, it is all relatively easy & simple.
For the territories, countries and cultures — I try to get rid of prejudice, false expectations. The best is come over there, see the reality and then form my own opinion. It is really funny to see on how thin information people base their opinions. And it is even more fun when you see people breaking up, or fighting over information that was communicated wrongly.
When I travelled to South Sudan, I had all kinds of fears, based on information available in books and online. I was really scared when I entered the country and every minute after. But, after doesns experiences of my own, I had to change my opinion. To me the people in South Sudan are one of the friendliest I’ve ever met.
Since then, I tried not to put any opinions to my mind prior to coming over to a given country. I want to see for myself and experience for myself. On the other hand, I respect that the actual experiences could differ from person to person. I don’t try to convince others about my opinions. I don’t delete friends on Facebook, just because they don’t agree with me on a given subject.
For me, what’s the most important is thinking out of the box. Seeing the world as it is, as it could be. Listening to inputs coming my way, changing opinion with open mind and so on. Critical thinking is something people are slowly losing with sophisticated media all around us.
I always say: Be ready for the worst, and expect the best!
What countries do you look for?
Marek — I don’t have the motivation to pre-judge what might come. I am old enough not to measure who has the biggest balls. I look forward to see countries that were not colonised by western culture. Where people live their heritage, where culture was not hijacked by politics, power, physical assets. There it is a pure inspiration for me. I can learn from their thinking, how they take decisions, how their lives are sustainable, how they cherish the nature and how good they are in what they do.
Does Tatra makes the trip easier than other trucks?
Marek — There is no better truck than Tatra, for such a challenging expedition. A unique chassis that guarantees unprecedented stability. That itself is a core benefit. But to be a little bit more objective, Tatra is not really economy car, we might struggle with spare parts and the weight of the truck is also a limiting factor. So there will be challenges.
Still, we believe that Tatra is the best vehicle we could choose for this kind of travel. Our target is to deliver strong & authentic experiences to the members of the expedition. Yes, we might choose some obscure vehicle, to attract media publicity, but it would distract us from the primary objective. Our expedition desires to bring the far away places to you as we have experienced them, not to just amuse you with constant vehicle maintenance for example.
What personality do you look for? For team members.
Marek — Just by talking about the philosophy of our expedition, we attract the right people already. The main motivating factor is to help each other, to bring adventure to our lives and to enhance our lives with something so crucial. There have been people trying to block the right flow, and they are not coming with us. So I bet, that the actual crew will be a perfect team.
Do members of the expedition control the path?
Marek — That is a great question. Before we leave of each phase of the trip, we will talk about objectives. We need to set the team roles properly, we need to communicate the itinerary and optimize it so everybody on the team gets something out of it. I personally will be 3 years on the road (and off) to manage expectations and deliver the right experiences.
I believe I have enough experience and solid intuition. All team members must respect that I am the captain and even over-voting me might not be accepted. In many situations, expedition members might be less skilled and their opinion cannot get us in trouble anyway. I am responsible for the safety and I will make sure nobody gets hurt.
How many people participate in preparation?
Marek — Initially it was myself, Petr Holecek & Katerina Bozkova. Since then it varies and there was quite a lot of people who participated in making this expedition a reality. Some do it for pure happiness of helping such a great idea, other do it for money.
Marek, thank you!
Vita — Thank you for such a nice interview. Now I am even more thrilled to help you and I really want to become a part of some phase of the trip, ideally South America. I wish you luck and send good vibes so that on 2nd February 2020 the expedition takes the right course and returns safely home!
For you guys who might want to help, or greet the crew in your country sometime in 2020, 2021 or 2022, the official expedition website is tatrakolemsveta2.cz and I will be glad to connect you with Marek as well.