Austin Rogers, the New York bartender now becoming ever more famous thanks to his exploits on Jeopardy!, outlined what he planned to do with his winnings on a broadcast this week. They included a 1991 Mercedes-Benz W124 300TE 4MATIC wagon and a trip around the world. How far would he go and how much would that cost? Let’s do the math.
You have to listen a bit closely, since Rogers talks very fast, but he lays out a route, which, in plain English, is something like this: Starting in New York, Rogers plans drive down through Mexico, take the wagon around the Darién Gap, ship it to South Africa, go up the middle of the Africa, ride a boat to Gibraltar, drive the wagon to Vladivostok, drive south west to the tip of India, ship the wagon to Perth, drive to Sydney, ship the wagon to Anchorage, and then, finally, drive back to New York.
That’s a lot of driving and boating or whatever, but let’s give it a shot. I hope you’re reading, Austin, though frankly I’m doing this more for myself after I win the lottery and go on a similar world tour. One note before we begin: Before you travel to any country do yourself a favor and check out the U.S. State Department’s travel alerts. The world is a chaotic place. Also, I’m not a travel agent so, you know, do your own homework before going anywhere.
The New York down to the Darién Gap part is fairly straightforward, except you won’t be going anywhere near the Darién Gap, since you’ll need to stop in Colón, Panama, where you’re going to stuff your car into a shipping container and end up in Cartagena, Colombia. (The Darién Gap is impassable by Mercedes wagon and extremely not recommended by foot because of mosquitoes, jungles, rogue elements possibly tied to drug cartels, and other hazards.)
How much will the shipping cost? Around $1,800, according to at least one traveler who hired a ship to transport their car from Colón to Cartagena in December. You will have traveled 4,500 miles just to get to Colón and taken about three and a half days to do it, and then another 315 miles by sea to get to Cartagena.
From Cartagena, Rogers says he’ll go through the Andes, and eventually, ship his car to South Africa, meaning that he’ll probably end up in Buenos Aires, no matter what route he takes to get there. One option is to continue to the southern tip of South America and drive back up the eastern coast, but to keep things simple let’s just say he goes direct. That’s still a lengthy drive, or around 4,700 miles and 110 hours on the road, according to Google.
Next, the car will have to be shipped in another cargo container to South Africa, which, by some estimates, will set you back up to $10,000. And then all you have in front of you is about 8,500 miles to get to Ceuta, or about 8 days of driving.
Google initially suggests you do this by going up through Niger and Algeria, which is a route that would take you through the Sahara Desert. I’m going to say don’t do that. There aren’t many gas stations out there, for one thing, which might lead to death. This is a better route.
From Ceuta, you’re going to take a ferry to Algeciras, on the Bay of Gibraltar, which will be around $100 or so. And then you’re going to drive for 158 hours across Spain, France, Germany, Poland, Belarus, and Russia to get to Vladivostok, on the coast of the Sea of Japan. That’s around 8,600 miles.
And that’s when things get even dicier, since to get to India, you’re going to have to cross China, and then, presumably, go through Nepal, driving, along the way, on some of the more dangerous roads this world has to offer, on roads that are very far from the beaten path. I’m not entirely sure, in fact, that all of the roads on this route are passable in a 1991 Mercedes station wagon. But we can pretend.
Assuming you make it, you’re then off to Chennai, in southern India, on a mission to find someone willing to ship your car to Perth.
I couldn’t quite find a proper quote online, but the journey by sea to Perth is nearly as long as going from Buenos Aires to South Africa, meaning that you should expect to spend up to $10,000 on this part of the trip as well.
Perth to Sydney, then, is relatively straightforward, requiring only about two days of driving and 2,500 miles.
At which point Rogers will need to get his wagon to Anchorage somehow. One option? Ship the wagon to California first, which at least one company quotes me as requiring about $1,500, then another $1,000 to get the wagon from California to Anchorage. So, counting unforeseen costs, let’s call it a $3,000.
Anyway, after all that, it’s just a simple drive from Anchorage to beautiful New York City. You’ll be seeing a lot of Canada.
So just three days and 4,372 miles. Then you get to arrive back in New York and take a nap.
Our extremely unscientific totals? Around 30,000 miles in the car, and untold number on the seas, and about $25,000 in car shipping fees, which is probably being conservative. None of this accounts for gas. That model wagon gets around 19 mpg, so you will go through around 1,600 gallons of gas. The U.S. national average is currently $2.56 per gallon, though gas is more expensive abroad. Let’s use the U.S. rate to keep this simple, though. At that rate you’ll burn through over $4,000 in gas. This also doesn’t account for food or lodging. You should consider buying food cheaply and sleeping in the Benz, though money probably won’t be Rogers’s problem, having won $411,000 on Jeopardy! so far and possibly winning $250,000 more Thursday night.
(A reminder here that I am not a travel planner and this post is purely for entertainment purposes.)
Anyway, I’m exhausted and feel broke already, just having written this post. Maybe stay home, Austin.