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A man spent 2 months driving 6,800 miles across Europe to Turkey and Kazakhstan

Priya Raj   

A man spent 2 months driving 6,800 miles across Europe to Turkey and Kazakhstan
Entrepreneur Matvey Usanov with his 1962 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud in Tajikistan.Matvey Usanov
  • Matvey Usanov drove from London to Istanbul and flew his car to Kazakhstan.
  • The 6,800-mile journey took two months to complete in a 1962 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud.

In June, Matvey Usanov, a 28-year-old financial analyst from St. Petersburg, set out on the adventure of a lifetime.

In a bid to explore the world, the London resident embarked on a two-month, 6,800-mile journey from London to Turkey and onwards to Kazakhstan. He finished the journey in August in Uzbekistan.

A seasoned adventurer, this wasn't Usanov's first rodeo, he told Insider. He had previously driven from Saint-Tropez to Venice, London to Palermo, and St. Petersburg to Kunashir Island.

Usanov likes to travel by car for spontaneity and freedom, especially in places with limited tourist infrastructure.

"I think that it gives you an extra sense of the road," Usanov said.

For a seasoned adventurer, a challenge was a must.

For a seasoned adventurer, a challenge was a must.
Usanov on a journey from Saint Tropez to Venice in a Porsche 356.      Matvey Usanov

Matvey Usanov and three school friends once made a pact to open their horizons and explore the world around them.

Usanov made good on the promise. He had previously driven from London to Palermo in 2017 in a Mercedes-Benz W113, and from Saint Tropez to Venice in 2018 in a Porsche 356. Those conditions were too easy for the group looking for the excitement of a challenge, Usanov said.

After completing these trips, he and his friends set out on their next adventure in June, a journey through the "stans" — Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, because the countries were a bucket list destination for the group.

In total, Usanov covered around 6,800 miles over two months, driving from London, through Europe, and ending up in Turkey before flying the car to Kazakhstan.

The friends picked old cars for their new adventure.

The friends picked old cars for their new adventure.
The 1962 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud was Usanov's weapon of choice for this mission.      Matvey Usanov

To add a thrill to the trip, the friends decided to add another hurdle: the cars needed to be produced before 1980.

"There's this superstition that the car actually picks you," Usanov said.

In December, he purchased a car in London specifically for the trip, a Rolls Royce Silver Cloud 1962. He declined to disclose the car's price; Classic Cars lists early 1960s Silver Clouds from $36,500 to $100,000. He told Insider the car needed six months of work, to ensure it would be able to withstand a trip of this magnitude.

The car isn't just a means to an end on this kind of trip, Usanov said.

The car isn
The car determines the success of the journey, pictured here in Kyrgyzstan.      Matvey Usanov

"It adds a lens, and if you choose the right one, it targets the type of reaction you want to receive. I spend my time trying to figure out what particular vehicle might provide me with that."

The classic Rolls Royce drew lots of attention on the trip from passers-by curious about the unique car.

Usanov's plan was to drive from London to Kazakhstan alone, before meeting the group and touring the countries together, stopping in hotels along the way to take his time to explore.

Driving the first half solo was the perfect opportunity to understand the capacity of the car, Usanov told Insider. In some ways, he wasn't alone at all, with the car to keep him company.

The journey included one major border hurdle.

The journey included one major border hurdle.
The first half of the journey to Hopa, Turkey.      Matvey Usanov

Usanov's route took him through France, Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Italy, Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia, Bulgaria, and Turkey.

His original plan was to cross into Georgia, drive to Baku, Azerbaijan, and cross the Caspian Sea to meet the rest of the group. But this plan was cut short when he was turned away at the Turkish-Georgian border for unclear reasons, he said.

His only option was to return to Istanbul.

Usanov said in a turn of bad luck, the car's generator stopped working while he was trying to cross the border. After he was turned away at roughly 2 a.m., Georgian border officials helped push his car back onto Turkish land.

He needed to fly the car to the last leg of the journey.

He needed to fly the car to the last leg of the journey.
The car arriving in Almaty, Kazakhstan.      Matvey Usanov

Usanov had to abandon the car in a small town close to the border of Georgia and fly back to London to pick up spare parts. Once installed, he drove the car back to Istanbul.

This left the adventurer in a precarious position. Safety concerns stopped him from driving through Iran, the only other neighboring country, so he needed to fly the car to Kazakhstan.

Flying a car isn't as simple as buying a plane ticket. Usanov said Turkish Airlines gave him a list of 100 authorized agents who could organize the paperwork and customs process, but only a few responded.

"I'm assuming my setup was a little strange, because who on earth would fly a 1962 Rolls Royce out of Istanbul to Almaty?" he said.

One helpful broker figured out the logistics, and one month later the car made it onto a flight to Kazakhstan, where he met his friends.

Usanov said finding a local is the key to exploring the unknown.

Usanov said finding a local is the key to exploring the unknown.
The group being greeted by locals at a gas station in Kyrgyzstan.      Matvey Usanov

For other budding adventurers wishing to make a similar journey, Usanov said the key is finding local community members who can help.

"Every crossing and every legal aspect for local authorities is a business. They get very involved in the process," he added.

The group had to provide their route, their personal details, and the value of the individual cars to local governments in most of the countries they visited, Usanov said.

Governments set some of the rules for their travel. In Kyrgyzstan, he said the travelers were required to pay for a police escort, which turned off stoplights to manage traffic on their route.

Sacrificing modern comforts made the experience more meaningful.

Sacrificing modern comforts made the experience more meaningful.
The group in Kyrgyzstan.      Matvey Usanov

Usanov told Insider that he was driving in 95-degree weather without air conditioning. Though it made the journey uncomfortable at times, it served as a grounding lesson.

"When you feel the temperature outside without any additional comfort, that gives you a superb understanding of where you are, what's underneath you, what's around you. That's worth that sacrifice," Usanov said.

The journey is more important than the destination for Usanov.

The journey is more important than the destination for Usanov.
Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.      Matvey Usanov

Over the course of the trip, the group saw how locals spend their time. Usanov said he enjoyed watching a game of Kok boru, played by locals in Kyrgyzstan. The game is similar to polo, but played with a goat carcass.

"The best part of the trip was the people who I met," he said. "I was able to understand the cultural differences and see how people live. What they do, what they feel, what they eat. This is something worth chasing and dedicating your time to."

The next adventure could be anywhere.

The next adventure could be anywhere.
The last leg of the journey in Bukhara, Uzbekistan.      Matvey Usanov

Though the car has safely been transported back to Usanov's hometown in Russia on a trailer, he told Insider he is looking to bring it back to the UK, perhaps for the next edition of his adventure chronicles.

The destination isn't confirmed, he told Insider, but Mongolia tops his list of options. He and his friends plan to keep the rule about driving old cars.


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