Salar de Uyuni - salt flats in Bolivia. Those daring to drive through here have to give their names and passport details to the authorities before they leave. Vehicles have to be sprayed with a mixture of oil and diesel to prevent the salt from causing rust damage. Image Credit: Supplied Picture

Dubai: Modern travel has definitely made the world a smaller place. Simply step onto a plane, sit there for a couple of hours and step off to arrive at your destination. But what about all the bits you're flying over?

"Compared to when you are travelling by plane, it's very difficult to connect the dots, but this way you really get to see everything in-between," Nicolas Rapp, who is currently driving around the world, told Gulf News.

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"You actually find out that the world is kind of small, right?" Rapp left New York City in November and stopped in Dubai recently on his way to Iran.

Equipped with a 1996 Toyota Land Cruiser and a total budget of $50,000 (Dh183,619), Rapp has so far been down through North, Central and South America.

He then took a boat across to Africa, drove up the country's east coast and caught a boat to Yemen, where he drove through Oman to the UAE. At first glance, the four-wheel drive doesn't look too impressive, until you realise that Rapp has affixed a pop-out tent to the roof, where he sleeps every night.

Need for a break

"It's very comfortable; it opens and it's a tent and there's a mattress inside," the French national, 34, said, "except I camped in Abu Dhabi the other day, and it was crazy hot!"

Rapp found himself "tired of working, and it was time to take a break"."Everybody who starts to drive to work, you can just continue and go around the world: you don't need an amazing car," he said. Another reason that he decided to travel now, is because he didn't take a break when he was younger. "It's so frustrating that when you're a student you have time to travel but you don't have the money, and then after that it's even worse.

"And if you don't just decide to take a break, then after that it's even worse," he said. Rapp's plan was to sail across to India and drive to Pakistan. However, his plans were scuppered after he wasn't granted a visa for the latter. In fact, most of the problems he's encountered on his journey so far have been with paperwork.

To get an Ethiopian visa, Rapp's passport had to be sent back to France, leaving him stranded in Kenya for a week. "Kenya wasn't the worst place to be stuck," he laughed. However, now Rapp is faced with a choice. Go to Iran and try to get a visa for Pakistan again, and then catch a boat to India. Or the alternative is to go across Russia to Vladivostok. This would mean a large detour and the need to catch a boat to South Korea, missing out Asia completely.

He continued that if he doesn't get a visa for Russia either, he will have to go to Turkey.

So far, the intrepid traveller has driven through 23 countries. Bolivia, he said, "was the most surprising. The landscape is amazing, and there isn't that much tourism".