Apr 2013

Asia, Blog

DISCUSSION 28 Comments

Kickstarter to the Silk Road

Nine months ago while Sheena and I were stranded in the Colombian mountains, we made a decision. If Nacho ever made it through South America, we would ship to Europe instead of our original plan of shipping to Asia. Things were getting difficult, and we needed a break. From Europe, if things got hard, we could always turn around and end up back in a familiar place. But then, after traveling in Chile and Argentina for five months, we were tired of things being easy. We wanted a challenge, so we switched our plan back to Asia.

We knew that once we got to Southeast Asia, we would basically be stuck, locked in place by impassible borders. We would need to get to India, but the Burmese border is closed, and it’s prohibitively expensive to drive through China. After India, we’d be locked down again. Our options would be to go through China (too expensive), or through Pakistan and Iran. As it turns out, getting a visa for Iran is virtually impossible for self-driving Americans, and we’d likely have to fly back home to apply for a Pakistani visa. We wanted a challenge, we got a challenge.

So far, the most likely route to get to Europe from here is to ship from Thailand to India, and then ship again from India to Turkey. This, unfortunately, would cut out almost all of Asia. So what’s the point? We had to look for other options. Where there’s a will there’s a way.

We asked ourselves, “all other things aside, what would be the most interesting and adventurous route possible?” We decided on the Silk Road. This would take us through China, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and the central Asian republics (AKA “the Stans”). We would cross the Himalayas twice, pass through Tibet from one end to the other, and explore the most remote regions of Central Asia imaginable. The one challenge, we found, was the cost to cross China (twice). After the tour company and guide fees, we’re talking $19,514 just for permission to cross China.

But where there’s a will there’s a way.

We’re determined to make this happen, so we’re making a big deal out of it. We’ve started a Kickstarter project, which will use crowd-sourced funding to raise money to fund the development of a book about driving the Silk Road, Nacho style.

We have 30 days to raise $25,602. We hope to accomplish this by letting ordinary people invest as little as $1 in our book project. Here’s a link to our Kickstarter project, where you can read our plan, watch our project video, and see the rewards we’ll provide to our helpers:

Drive Nacho Drive: China & The Silk Road by Volkswagen Bus

Still don’t understand what Kickstarter is? It’s basically a new way to fund creative projects. In essence, you’re basically pre-ordering a book that we haven’t written yet. Once we have the adventure and write the book, you’ll get a copy of it (along with other rewards depending on your funding level), and will know that you helped make it happen. Read all about Kickstarter here.

Help spread the word!

Just like high school, Kickstarter success is a bit of a popularity contest. The more people who know about our project, the more likely we will be to successfully raise our funds. And this is important, because if we don’t reach 100% of our funding goal in 30 days, we don’t get anything and we’re off to the shipping yard.

Funding must be met by Friday, May 17, 11:05pm EDT!

Besides investing in our project, the best way to help is to share our project through social media. Share the following link on your Facebook wall and Twitter feed, we can spread the word about our goal and have a much higher chance of success.


There are a lot of great stories out there waiting to happen. We just have to go find them. Thanks so much for your help.

And now behold the wonder of our low-budget Kickstarter film, created here in our dingy Thai hotel room!


  1. Brian

    Would be great to throw in your first book as part of the larger KickStarter donations? (yes, i’m greedy for your honeyed words, dripping forth from the pages of your epic journeys)

    Comment by Brian on April 17, 2013 at 9:43 pm

  2. Good idea, Brian. I’ll update the rewards to add the first book as a deal sweetener. And thanks for the pledge!

    Comment by Brad on April 17, 2013 at 10:35 pm

  3. Matthew White

    I think you should also put out some sort of press release with your first book release. Have you done that? Is it out? I didn’t know that.

    Comment by Matthew White on April 18, 2013 at 1:21 am

  4. Damn, guys! You really are determined to make our feet itch, aren’t you?

    We’ve chucked a donation your way, and we’ve given you a bit of publicity on our blog – so hopefully, we can help you get a step nearer. Drop us an email, and I’ll put you in touch with a couple of people we met on the road who might be able to give some other suggestions, too.

    Adrian & Ellie.

    Comment by Adrian & Ellie on April 18, 2013 at 2:30 am

  5. Jonathan

    Hi, first heard of the ‘Nacho’ thing a couple of weeks ago, and have been avidly reading since. I have owned a T25 (‘vanagon’) for 11 years, and have just quit my job to do some travelling in Europe later this year. Re your funding,if you haven’t already done so you should check out ‘Club 80 90′ on the web, and if you go to the public forums / camping and travelling / post title ‘drive nacho drive’ you will see where I learnt of your trip. Maybe a post from you there would generate some more income…after all, they are all VW mad! :-) Will be making a donation to the cause and spreading the word. Good luck to you both, stay safe and well and you are most welcome to visit when you reach the UK (near Brighton, South Coast!)

    Comment by Jonathan on April 18, 2013 at 4:51 am

  6. @Matthew, there will be a press release and we’ll push really hard when our first book comes out. I’m still editing, and have a little bit more content to wrap up before it’ll be ready. Don’t worry, you’ll hear about it ;)

    Comment by Brad on April 18, 2013 at 5:27 am

  7. @Adrian & Ellie: thanks for the pledge, and thanks for putting a plug on your blog for us! We’re really excited about this, and really hope that we get funded. We dreamt up the most far-fetched and awesome adventure we could, and then pulled the trigger. Hopefully it works out. So far this kind of decision has worked out well :)

    Comment by Brad on April 18, 2013 at 5:46 am

  8. Judy Bailes

    Two of my favorite things, Nacho stories and Kickstarter! Best of luck!

    Comment by Judy Bailes on April 18, 2013 at 5:52 am

  9. @Jonathan, thanks for the lead, I’ll go check it out. Also, thanks for pitching in. Things are looking up after the first 12 hours of the project’s release, so maybe this thing will actually happen! Keep spreading the word.

    Comment by Brad on April 18, 2013 at 8:02 am

  10. Thanks @Judy, and thanks for the pledge!

    Comment by Brad on April 18, 2013 at 8:05 am

  11. Rob

    India is a big place, if you had to ship your bus somewhere there could be worse choices.

    Comment by Rob on April 18, 2013 at 8:09 am

  12. Cruz

    Brad and Sheena i have posted the following on my linkedin page and hope that this hleps! It’s linked back to your page.

    Need some help making a life adventure happen! Drive Nacho Drive is truly an epic story being written as we sit in our offices, be a part of the story by helping this happen.

    Comment by Cruz on April 18, 2013 at 8:10 am

  13. Love it! Good for you guys. Kickstarter has done some amazing projects. You might also want to check out uncornered market’s website… They didn’t drive through the “Stans” but have traveled there extensively and it’s one of their favorite places in the world. Good luck…we’ll donate!

    Comment by Rhonda on April 18, 2013 at 8:27 am

  14. @Cruz, thanks for spreading the good word!

    @Rhonda, we appreciate your continued friendship. Thanks for being there for us! We’ll check out the Uncornered Market site.

    Comment by Brad on April 18, 2013 at 8:47 am

  15. Barb Wieber (Sheena's Mom)

    Brad & Sheena,
    Awesome once again. You know how I love to spread the word!!!! about Drive nacho Drive!!!! I get so excited when people I have connected with before especially in your hometown of Cave Creek!!! So happy to get started and make Kickstart yours and everybody around world a epic dream come true for you both!!!! and all of your Nacho fans!!! Time to get out a kick ass!!!! Love Mom $$$$$$ No time to monkey around make MONEY $$$$$$$$$

    Comment by Barb Wieber (Sheena's Mom) on April 18, 2013 at 9:04 am

  16. Johngo


    In addition to Kickstarter, here’s an idea for fundraising.

    People offer you $ on your webpage.

    In return you email them a photo from somewhere amazing on your trip, with you two holding a sign that says “Thanks for keeping Nacho on the Road” or something like that.

    People give you money, and they also get something back of value, but that does not cost you anything other than a few minutes of your time for a photo and to send out emails to contributors. I’d make it my screensaver!

    This woman is doing it: http://alisontravelsblog.blogspot.com/

    (She has a Eurovan, but we still love her. =^)

    Comment by Johngo on April 18, 2013 at 2:16 pm

  17. That’s a good idea, @Johngo. Always nice to see others out on the road in VW buses. There’s also a couple from the UK driving a Eurovan in the Americas at http://seventeenbysix.wordpress.com/.

    Perhaps if we have to pay our own way through China and run out of money, we’ll try her idea. There might end up being a long series of these photos of us in a Tajikistani prison cell while we await enough donations to post bail ;)

    Comment by Brad on April 19, 2013 at 12:40 am

  18. Mike

    Hi Brad and Sheena, My family and I are currently living west of Shanghai.I know it is along way from your proposed route but we want to offer you guys a place to stay and eat if perhaps you find your way this far east. We are enjoying your trip soooo much!

    Comment by Mike on April 20, 2013 at 8:50 pm

  19. John Collins

    Hey Guys!
    Be sure to look up my Bro Paul Collins of “BEST TUK TUK TOURS”– if you get to Chiang Mai!
    Many of my immediate family are in Chiang Mai, Thailand and my Dad would surely provide a place for
    You two to stay. Also, Paul could give you the “Tour of your LIVES!” He knows all
    the great places to visit off the beaten path. A trip to Thailand’s tallest mountain — “Intanon”- should
    be included on your itinerary! Btw, my Dad– Rob Collins– teaches at Payap University in Chiang Mai as another brother, Andy is a multi-media/ Video guy with CCI {Christian Communications Institute} a dept of Payap Univ. he could likely help you edit or arrange the Thailand portion of your Asian trek!
    Hope you and two can connect with my family at some point– they could certainly help save you MUCHO BAHT! Peace, John

    Comment by John Collins on April 20, 2013 at 9:45 pm

  20. ernesto

    Umm suerte con la venta

    Comment by ernesto on April 21, 2013 at 7:34 pm

  21. i know you guys’ll make it!
    and i know i’ve got to hear more of your great stories!!
    happy to kick a bit yer way to git ya started on that road!

    Comment by tom flinn on April 22, 2013 at 8:54 am

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  23. Nick

    Brad & Sheena – I’ve read about your story on Autoblog and TTAC. The ~$22k you need to raise to enter China represents about 10 years the average salary for a Chinese person and is an astronomical amount of money over there.

    Have you tried to post about your plight on any China-based forums or contacted anyone you know from the area to see what can be done and what other options there are? Others have driven across China and I don’t ever recall them spending over $20,000 to do it. Have you tried befriending someone who speaks Mandarin and seeing if they get the same answers you do when asking about the requirements?

    Have you checked with the Chinese consulate in the US, Malaysia or Thailand to see if you get consistent answers to your questions? If there really is a requirement to spend 10x the average yearly salary to enter the country twice with a car (this would be like the US charging Canadians $150,000 each time they drove into America) you should get consistent answers about such a huge fee.

    I would hate to see all that money go to finance a corrupt local offical’s mistress if you are being misled to about the “tour company” and “insurance” requirements.

    Comment by Nick on April 25, 2013 at 12:22 pm

  24. @Nick,

    I understand your disbelief, but this is a well documented reality about driving foreign vehicles into China. The cost actually is about $7-8k to enter and cross through Tibet, but we need to do it twice in order to complete our planned route. This would be from Laos to Nepal (cutting into India fora while) and then cutting back into Tibet to drive to Kyrgyzstan. We also have to pay for the guide’s food and accommodation, which further raises the price. There are other, cheaper, tour companies out there with less experience, but they’re not that cheap.

    Bear in mind that if we wanted to register our car in Singapore, we’d have to pay around $100,000, and there are other countries with similar laws. In America we take having a car for granted, but there are places that charge a premium for it, and further paying for a guide makes it all the more expensive.

    Comment by Brad on April 25, 2013 at 6:37 pm

  25. Nick

    @Brad – thanks for the response and I completely understand Singapore’s vehicle cost structure in a city where people are packed so tight gum is banned for the greater good.

    If you can’t make it through China, hopefully you can ship the car and bus/train/fly your way through the world’s most populous country and on through Central Eurasia. Samarkand in particular is one place I can’t wait to visit.

    Best wishes and safe travels.

    Comment by Nick on April 29, 2013 at 8:49 pm

  26. Guy


    We’re currently in northern Laos heading north for a 7 week China crossing, exiting into Mongolia. Costs came to $4500 each for 5 trucks.
    I understand the Chinese agency we used, NAVO, sometimes arrange for independent travellers to group together to share costs. Good luck and maybe we’ll see you on the road.

    Comment by Guy on April 30, 2013 at 1:49 am

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  28. I love it when folks get together and share views.

    Great website, stick with it!

    Comment by Novella on October 9, 2013 at 2:28 pm

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