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This Vietnamese globetrots in minivan

This Vietnamese globetrots in minivan

Sunday, March 31, 2024, 10:57 GMT+7
This Vietnamese globetrots in minivan
Tran Dang Dang Khoa checks in at Mount Bromo, an active volcano nestled in the Tengger mountains of East Java, Indonesia. Photo provided by Khoa

Tran Dang Anh Khoa, one of Vietnam's most renowned travel bloggers, set off on his latest adventure more than four months ago in a customized small van he affectionately named Soc.

Currently, he finds himself on the serene shores of Bali, where he is immersing himself in the local community's vibrant celebration of The Day of Silence Festival.

At 38 years old, Khoa is a familiar figure in the travel community.

In June 2020, he achieved widespread recognition by completing a 1,111-day expedition around the world on his motorbike, proudly displaying a number plate from his hometown of Tien Giang -- a province nestled in the Mekong River Delta.

Now, after a hiatus of three years, Khoa has embarked on his second global adventure.

This time, he opted for a more spacious mode of transportation -- a minivan meticulously modified to accommodate all the essential gear for his ambitious journey, which is slated to span three years.

Exploring the world in a minivan

After more than four months of traversing through Cambodia, Thailand, and Malaysia, Khoa made a stop in the Indonesian paradise of Bali.

Enthralled by the island's charm, he decided to extend his stay beyond the initially planned week, captivated by the allure of experiencing the local community's holiday festival, known as the Day of Silence.

"The night before the Day of Silence, there's the lively Ogoh-Ogoh parade, infusing the streets with a vibrant energy," reminisced Khoa.

"But when the first day of the new year dawns, a serene transformation takes place.

"The island plunges into a profound stillness -- lights dimmed, voices hushed, and an enchanting silence enveloping everything. It's a time for deep introspection and meditation."

Reflecting on the experience, Khoa likened it to the lockdown days amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, with only the occasional presence of pecalangs, the local security guards or community patrols in Bali, ensuring compliance with the sacred rituals.

Tran Dang Dang Khoa takes a selfie with an Indonesian man and his son. The local man hopes his son will be inspired by Khoa's journey as a photographer traveling the globe. Photo provided by Dang Khoa

Tran Dang Dang Khoa takes a wefie with an Indonesian man and his son. The local man hopes his son will be inspired by Khoa's journey as a photographer traveling the globe. Photo provided by Khoa

Throughout his second expedition around the globe, Khoa embraces the spirit of adventure, opting for less-traveled roads and exploring new destinations.

His minivan, adorned with a distinctive Vietnamese number plate and quirky decorations, has turned heads wherever it went.

Thanks to the eye-catching logo emblazoned on his van, curious onlookers often snap photos and seek out Khoa's accounts on Facebook and YouTube, leaving behind amusing comments and connecting with his journey.

Making connections is not just limited to the digital realm -- Khoa has forged genuine friendships with locals at every stop along the way, receiving warm hospitality and enthusiastic support.

"For me, the true joy lies in discovering unfamiliar places and making adorable new friends," Khoa said with a smile.

"And reconnecting with old friends who are amazed that I'm still unmarried and continuing my solo travels across the globe."

Challenges and huge costs

Throughout his second journey around the globe, Khoa has encountered various obstacles, including adverse weather conditions and the logistical challenge of transporting his minivan between countries.

The latter proved to be a significant financial burden, constituting a substantial portion of the trip's expenses.

During his first global adventure, Khoa traversed westward on his motorbike, enjoying the freedom to drive continuously as he pleased.

However, this time, his trip eastward involves navigating through numerous island nations, necessitating the intermittent transport of his minivan.

As a result, he spent considerable time waiting to retrieve his vehicle during the initial phases of the trip.

Khoa revealed that the cost of shipping the minivan from one country to another was quite substantial.

For instance, transporting the vehicle from Malaysia to Indonesia alone cost him nearly US$3,000.

Moreover, upcoming transfers from Timor-Leste to countries like Australia, New Zealand, and Panama are anticipated to incur similar costs.

"Once these phases are completed, I can drive continuously through Central America, Northern America, and Europe, reducing the expenses associated with shipping the van," explained Khoa.

He has encountered the challenge of adapting to driving on the left side of the road in countries where it is customary, such as Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

This stark contrast to Vietnam's traffic rules, where vehicles drive on the right, required him to adjust his driving habits accordingly.

"Driving on the left lane necessitates a shift in perspective, as I must prioritize checking the right side before maneuvering onto a main road -- a departure from Vietnamese traffic norms," Khoa elaborated.

"To mitigate blind spots, I installed additional rearview mirrors and extended the duration of signal lights before turning, allowing other vehicles to navigate around me safely."

Although Khoa gained experience driving on the left during his previous motorbike journey, transitioning to a four-wheel vehicle with a steering wheel on one side posed initial challenges.

However, he quickly adapted and honed his driving skills.

Tran Dang Dang Khoa stands next to his minivan Soc. Photo: Supplied

Tran Dang Dang Khoa stands next to his minivan Soc. Photo: Supplied

Despite the challenges, Khoa found solace in the versatility of traveling by car.

The vehicle's ample storage space allows him to carry essential amenities, such as laundry facilities and cooking equipment, enabling him to camp comfortably or spend extended periods in the vehicle.

The provision of solar-powered energy has facilitated his journey, while occasional hotel stays provide opportunities for reliable Wi-Fi connectivity for work.

"The car's amenities enhance my travel experiences, offering convenience and cost-saving benefits compared to traveling by motorbike," remarked Khoa.

Every day a new adventure

For Khoa, embarking on a global adventure at nearly 40 brings about a different experience compared to the globetrotting in his early 30s. 

"During my first journey, I fulfilled the dream of traveling the world," he said.

"Now, I continue it in a different vehicle, a different approach, and a different mindset.

"I travel with a sense of relaxation and contemplation rather than the hustle and bustle of my earlier days.

"This does not mean my passion for travel has waned; it has merely evolved into a new perspective."

During his initial expedition, it took Khoa just five months to travel from Vietnam to Paris, France.

This time around, he finds himself still exploring the enchanting landscapes of the Southeast Asian region despite four months having passed.

Khoa revealed that upon the expiration of his visa, he plans to return to his hometown to spend time with family during the Lunar New Year festivities or the summer months while awaiting visa renewal.

"Initially, I believed that traveling around the world was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, something I might revisit a dozen years later," the travel blogger said.

"It is surreal to find myself embarking on this journey again just three years later. 

"Now, I embrace each day with joy, living without the certainty of where I will sleep tonight or what tomorrow holds.

"Every day is a new adventure, filled with encounters with different people and experiences.

"I find happiness in the unpredictability."

In his second journey around the world, Dang Khoa embraces the simplicity and joy of the adventure. Photo provided by Dang Khoa

On his second journey around the world, Tran Dang Dang Khoa embraces the simplicity and joy of the adventure. Photo provided by Khoa

How to fund the global expedition?

Khoa has been sustaining his global adventures through a multifaceted approach to earning income.

As a seasoned travel blogger, he has leveraged his expertise to generate revenue over the years.

He has taken on various roles, including content creator, photographer, cameraman, and brand ambassador, for a few select labels.

Recently, Khoa has been actively promoting his personal YouTube channel, where followers can join him on his journeys and gain insights into his experiences, catering to those with similar aspirations.

"I juggle several part-time jobs in the countries I visit, but primarily, I work freelance online," Khoa divulged.

"Since I hold a tourist visa rather than a working one, I rely on remote work opportunities to sustain my travels.

"Similar to my motorcycle journey, I prioritize practical necessities over extravagant expenses."

Through his resourcefulness and dedication to his craft, Khoa continues to navigate the world, fueled by his passion for exploration and a commitment to living a life rich in experiences rather than possessions.

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Dieu Qui - Kim Thoa / Tuoi Tre News


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