They have been traveling the world for four years on an ambitious trek which has taken them to 50 countries on five continents.
But the coronavirus pandemic has stopped the couple in their tracks. And now they’ve been stuck in Florida for two weeks, living in their car in a parking lot in the mall north of Miami, their visa is about to expire.
“We had a dream,” said Aldo Giaquinto, a 38-year-old Italian, “and our dream was to go around the world with a car.”
For four years, they were able to live this dream.
But then came the pandemic. The country-by-country travel restrictions were like slamming doors around the world. And now Giaquinto added, “We are stuck here in Florida.”
He and his wife Vera Kozlovskaia, a 35-year-old Moldovan, left their job in 2016 to go on an adventure in a black Toyota Land Cruiser Prado nicknamed “Toto” – short for Toyota, but also a tribute to the comic actor Italian deceased.
She worked in information technology in England, where they lived; he had a fish and chips restaurant.
Swimming with manatees
Their ambitious journey began with a journey through the Nordic countries. From there, they made the long crossing of Russia and China, then in Southeast Asia before crossing Australia.
From there, they sent Toto by boat to Uruguay.
The couple spent 2018 driving slowly across South America to Panama, before heading north across Central America and then for the past year across Canada and the United States.
Everything was fine. They went swimming with the huge but sweet manatees from Florida. They were among the last tourists to visit the Florida Keys, the chain of colorful islands that stretches near Cuba.
Then came the coronavirus.
Failed but “lucky”
And now, said Giaquinto, “we are stranded here in Florida.”
Yet, he added, “Our life has not changed. We are sort of lucky” and have remained healthy.
However, with the expiration of their tourist visa on Tuesday, the couple became more and more nervous. They have asked for an extension but so far have heard nothing in return.
So for now, their Toyota remains parked in front of a Walmart store in Hallandale, 30 kilometers north of Miami.
The car became the couple’s home. They sleep and wash there. The “kitchen” is a stove in the trunk. Internet connection is free in nearby shops.
The couple normally depend on public facilities, such as toilets on public beaches, but “for now, everything is closed,” said Kozlovskaia. Fortunately, this does not include the nearby Walmart store.
“It is a bit difficult, but we are trying to stay positive, hoping for the best,” she said. “We remember that there are people in much worse situations, we are grateful for all that we have.”
Despite the setbacks, they kept their spirits up and especially appreciate the support of the locals who come to chat or offer food.
“We are overwhelmed by the number of people trying to help,” said Kozlovskaia. “It’s amazing how many good people are there.”
The couple’s Instagram account @alvetoexpedition tells of better times: visits to spectacular Lake Tahoe in California; at the Salar de Uyuni, the largest salt marshes in the world, in Bolivia; the magnificent Cerro de los Siete Colores (hill of seven colors) in the Argentine Andes; at the Brunei mosques, at the Angkor Wat temple in Cambodia and at Red Square in Moscow …
The plan was to send the Toyota by boat to South Africa during their flight to Johannesburg. At the end of the African part of their trip, the couple can’t wait to settle in Italy, where they have an apartment under construction.
And with so many new experiences to their credit, the couple have put together a long list of projects they hope to undertake in Italy to help the environment.
But for now, everything has stopped. They hope to get their visa extended, then wait for the virus in Florida until the crisis passes and they can travel to Africa.
“We will wait,” said Aldo.
“Like everyone else does.”
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