world traveler

The World Traveler




journey faithful nickname
proud memento accomplish
wist trip (2) incredible
entry set out hit the road
CEO adventure crisscross
board container to the hilt
allow accident gain admission
slope fortune on their side
roll tip over improvise
jug refuge worthy
deserve poignant voyage
cope illness clipping (2)
calm hurry landscape






It’s the end of a long journey. Gunther Holtorf has finally reached the Brandenburg Gate. Together with his faithful 4 x 4 lovingly nicknamed, Otto, he’s visited 215 countries and territories, driving 890,000 kilometers.

Now at the end of his trip around the world, he’s proud of his accomplishment.

Gunther: “I did feel a bit sad or wistful. You could say I had a tear in my eye, standing there. After 26 years, it was my last day with Otto.”

Meanwhile Holtorf has returned to his home-village of Golenshausen in southern Germany. He’s been going over his journey and his mementos.

He had this map prepared before he set out.

Holtorf’s journey may well be the longest ever road-trip accomplished with only one car. An entry into the Guinness Book of World Records is in the works.

Gunther: “When I look at the map now, it’s really hard to imagine that I’ve been to all these places. And that Otto has too.”

It all started in 1988. He decided to quit his job as a CEO of a small airline company and hit the road. A year later he was joined by his wife, Christine, who has since died.

They financed their adventure with savings. At first they planned to stay just 18 months crisscrossing Africa.

But then….they just kept on driving.

Gunther: “The freedom was wonderful. Being able to wake up each day and decided what we wanted to do. And we enjoyed that to the hilt.”

They boarded a container ship with Otto to continue to South America. Then came the US and after that they continued north, all the way to the Arctic Circle.

Next was Australia. Then came Asia, the entire continent all the way to the Himalayas.

Gunther: “The loveliest parts were when we left civilization behind: so the desert, the Sahara, also the Namib Desert, the Taklamakan Desert in China where we were alone.”

They even managed to gain admission to countries like Myanmar and North Korea, where they were the first Western foreigners allowed to bring in their own car.

Apart from one serious accident in Madagascar, good fortune was on their side.

Gunther: “I hit a slope and then tipped over. Otto rolled over about one or one and a half times…but in the end it didn’t hurt him too badly.”

Otto was more than just a car: it was their home. They spent almost every night in the car. A big jug of water served as an improvised shower.

They even set up a mobile kitchen.

Gunther: “Otto was our home-away-from-home. Otto was our refuge, our place of safety you could say. We were happy there.”

Otto is retiring now, and will get a worthy home in the Mercedes Museum in Stuttgart. The well-traveled car is getting a well-deserved rest.

Saying good-bye was a poignant moment.

Gunther: “Today was the last time I’ll ever sit in Otto, to drive anywhere with it. We drove slowly into the door here in the museum. So this is my last good-bye. And I do feel a bit sad about it.”

Fortunately he has plenty of mementos of his voyage, like the many newspaper clippings he has from all over the world.

Stern, a German periodical, also captured the journey on an online project.

Many of the pictures show Gunther Holtorf with his wife, Christine. They spent 20 years on the road together. She died in 2010, after a long illness.

Gunther: “After her death, I set out again, in part it was a way to cope with that very difficult experience. And in the past four years I went everywhere I hadn’t gotten to yet.”

For now though, he’s had enough of traveling. He’s enjoying the quiet landscape of Lake Chiemsee. He’s planning a book about his travels . . . but he’s in no hurry to finish it.

Gunther: “I’m a calmer person now . . . more relaxed. I don’t take some of the things that are so important in Europe so seriously. I’m happy and I’m at peace with myself.”

It’s been an incredible journey. But after 26 years, Gunther Holtorf has come home.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *



1. Has Gunther begun, is he continuing or has he finished his journey?

2. What do the numbers mean: 26; 890,000; 215?

3. Gunther will probably be in the Guinness Book of World Records. Why will he be in the Guinness Book of World Records?

4. Gunther traveled during his vacations. Is this true or false? What was his original plan?

5. He traveled alone. Is this correct or wrong? Did they stay in hotels?

6. What were the loveliest places? Did they only go to “friendly” and “democratic” countries?

7. What happened to his car, Otto?

8. What is Gunther going to do now?
A. Why did Gunther exchange his life as a CEO for a life on the road? How did he finance this journey?

B. I would like to quit my job and travel the world for many years. Yes or no?

C. Would you travel to every country around the world, or concentrate on certain places?

D. Are there (famous) travelers from your country, like Gunther?

E. What will happen in the future?


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