Meet Brad, Sheena and Nacho

Drive Nacho Drive

Driving through China is a pricey proposition. The couple will need to pony up a staggering $19,514 just to cover the fees.

Brad and Sheena Van Orden are in the midst of a life-defining campaign to travel around the world, and they're doing it in a 1984 Volkswagen Vanagon custom built for the occasion. The past 15 months have seen the couple quit their jobs with Gore-Tex and drive from Arizona to the very southern tip of Argentina after spending a full two years saving and preparing for the trek. Now they're in southern Asia gearing up for the next leg of their journey.

Currently, Brad and Sheena face two options when it comes to making their way west toward Greece. Right now, the couple plans to point their faithful van, Nacho, toward Cambodia and drive through Laos before entering China. No one said the Van Ordens were taking the direct route.

The only problem is that driving through China is a pricey proposition. The couple will need to pony up a staggering $19,514 just to cover the fees associated with obtaining a Chinese driver's license, registering Nacho in the People's Republic and paying for an official, government-required guide's food and lodging during their time in the country. Considering Brad and Sheena have budgeted $2,000 a month for their entire adventure, the price tag is a bit out of reach. Or at least it is without our help.

We caught up with the Van Ordens while they were stopped at a campground in Thailand for a quick chat.



Brad and Sheena met in high school during a mountain bike race and went on to build a traditional life for themselves with all the success and comfort that your mid-twenties can afford. But the couple couldn't help but feel something was out of place.

They've been kind enough to share their savings plan; you can find it on their website.

"We looked back at the last five years of our life and didn't have much to show for it," Brad said. "We said, 'We need to do something interesting before the rest of our life flashes before our eyes.'"

After a friend passed along a National Geographic Explorer article about a couple who had quit their day jobs to travel down through South America and up through Africa in a Volkswagen bus, Brad asked Sheena if she wanted to give it a shot. She said yes.

Sheena quickly turned her skills as an accountant toward finding every way possible to squeeze money out of their budget, from giving up their large rental home for a smaller place located closer to work, to riding their bicycles more often and skipping frivolous spending altogether. By the end of their two years of saving, the couple was spending less than $200 a month on non-essential items. They've been kind enough to share their savings plan, and you can find it here on their website.



"I didn't even know how a car worked until we decided to go on this trip," Brad says.

While on a business trip, Brad found the ideal vehicle: a 1984 two-wheel-drive Vanagon that had 200,000 miles on the odometer when he drove it home from Hollywood.

"You'd think I would have done more mechanic work before we started," Brad said, "but I just fixed the things that were broken on [the van] and just left it. We focused mostly on making it a comfortable place to live for three years."

While he didn't know much about mechanic work, he did know a thing or two about making the van more livable. He immediately rendered the entire interior in CAD and had all of the cabinet work machine cut. From there, he custom built a heat exchanger to provide hot water and a separate water purification system, complete with filters and a UV light, for the basics of civilization on the road. You can read all about Nacho's transformation and Brad's incredible ingenuity here.

"I didn't even know how a car worked until we decided to go on this trip," Brad says.




He bought some tools and a shop manual, and when things went awry, he started reading. If he couldn't figure it out on his lonesome, he turned to a few forums for a little help, but that doesn't mean the first few months were all smooth sailing. After a few rough run ins with shady mechanics, Nacho was breaking down every 100 miles or so. The final straw came in Colombia when Nacho decided it needed a new transmission. Unfortunately, Colombia had just passed a law barring the importation of used auto parts, which meant the Van Ordens would have to find a "new" gearbox to bring into the country.

They were forced to leave the van at a farm, fly home, find a suitable transmission, stuff it in a suitcase and haul it all the way back with a bit of legal vagary.

After three weeks of hunting, they were forced to leave the van at a farm, fly home, find a suitable transmission, stuff it in a suitcase and haul it all the way back with a bit of legal vagary. Brad also brought along a slew of other parts to replace everything that had been worked on during the trek south, and now Nacho is running as happily as can be.

After hitting southern Argentina, they loaded the van into a cargo container headed for Malaysia after a brief exchange with a money launder and flew to meet the machine. By then, Nacho had 299,999 miles on the clock.

But China presents a big financial challenge, and if they can't come up with the cash for the border crossings, they'll need to follow another route, one that will take them through both Pakistan and Iran. While the couple isn't necessarily worried about Iran, Pakistan has seen a number of foreigners kidnapped in recent months, and that's enough to create worry.



"There has to be an end sometime, and hopefully we can use the trip a springboard into a new frame of mind."

So, like any enterprising soul with an internet connection, they've fired up a Kickstarter to pay their way through China. Pledge some cash and you'll receive any number of excellent thank-yous, including a book all about Nacho's adventures along the old Silk Road through China, Tibet and into India. We can't think of a better way to spend a few dollars. Head over to Kickstarter to help out and be sure to check out the Van Orden's site. It's some compelling reading.

"Every day the landscape changes and we get to have these amazing experiences," Brad said. "Yesterday we were riding on a boat through limestone islands. Tomorrow will be something different. I don't know how we'll go back... There has to be an end sometime, and hopefully we can use the trip a springboard into a new frame of mind."

Here's hoping we can tag along for the ride, at least in spirit.

You can listen to the full interview with Brad and Sheena below. Please excuse the breaks in audio. Thai campground internet can be spotty.