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I Signed On To The New Silk Road Project Expedition

It only took 12 emails.

It took 12 emails before I finally responded. Charles Stevens’ emails were persistent to the point that I started getting curious about the guy and the expedition he was leading:

A journey by Jeep along the New Silk Road from London Gateway to Yiwu, on the east coast of China — the start and end points of the China-UK train.

There are others who are doing similar journeys. They contact me too but I usually don’t respond. I know if I do there is a good chance that I’m going to say, ‘Fuck it, I’ll come along too.’

I have an endless stream of other projects going on — books and documentaries and multiple article series. I cover new cities and the New Silk Road and international e-commerce. I’m all over the place and have too much to do at any given time. But I know myself and I knew what was going to happen when I finally responded to Charlie’s twelfth email.

Few people have the guts, the determination, and the perseverance to arrange and complete an expedition from London to the east of China, but nobody emails someone 12 times in a row without getting a response. But this showed me that this kid has an essential quality that is needed for such a journey: all out irrational persistence. It was clear that he wasn’t going to give up. There was just something about this that I liked — kind of reminded me of myself a little when I was his age.

So I’m jumping on the New Silk Road Project expedition in either Istanbul or Baku, and I’m going to help them set things up along the entire way — I’ve already arranged visits and interviews for them in Rotterdam, The Hague, Duisburg, Berlin, and Małaszewicze. I have already traveled this ground many times over … and I made some friends along the way who can help.

This is an interesting project. Charlie and his crew are university students from the UK. They’re 22 years old, if that, but they’ve already accomplished some things that few people could ever do at any age. Ex: they got Jeep to sponsor them with the first of their brand new Rubicons to come off the assembly line.

Getting a mere response from a big company is tough enough but to get them to give you a new vehicle so you can trash it on rough Central Asia roads and load it onto industrial ferries crossing the Caspian … well, that’s just not heard of. To do this takes a special sort of something.

“So Charlie, how did you get Jeep to give you that truck?” I eventually asked.

“Well, it took a lot of emails.”

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Find out more about The New Silk Road Project.

Filed under: Expeditions, New Silk Road

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3548 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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