By NATASHA JOIBI
Driving thousands of kilometres in an old car would be a mammoth task for anyone.
But 65-year-old F&B entrepreneur Seet Wai Song is a man with adventure in his veins, and his desire to raise awareness about cancer on his drive from Kuala Lumpur all the way to the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart, Germany served to spur him on throughout his long journey.
In the end, his excursion in his 50-year-old Mercedes-Benz W115, which Yahoo Southeast Asia previously wrote about, did not end in Germany as originally planned. It went on much further, as he decided to take a scenic drive through Switzerland and France and then on to the United Kingdom.
He had also faced a number of challenges, was involved in two accidents and even had to be hospitalised. But after 108 days, 20 countries and 22,000km, the young-at-heart "Chef on Wheels" is back in Malaysia with countless lessons learnt, and he's looking to inspire other adventurers.
The road to Germany
Seet's journey began in Kuala Lumpur on 1 July. Over two months, he drove across the likes of Thailand, Laos, China, Kazakhstan, Georgia, Turkey, Romania, Hungary and Austria and experienced numerous interesting sights and sounds before eventually arriving in Germany, a few days shy of Merdeka Day.
One of the most thrilling moments over the many kilometres of his expedition, he says, was when he arrived at the Schoene Sterne Mercedes-Benz Festival in the town of Hattingen, and was greeted with much fanfare.
"I was the first Malaysian to arrive (at the event). And it wasn't an easy feat getting there. But it was an exciting achievement for me. I even got to walk down a red carpet," he says.
"One of the highlights of the event was meeting the people there. They wanted to take photos with me. I was even interviewed. I felt very proud."
Hattingen aside, there was also that moment when Seet finally got to the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart, and achieved one of his lifelong goals.
"As a Mercedes-Benz enthusiast, I had an awesome time at the museum. I learned about its history, from the first car to the latest model. It was very interesting," he says, adding that being at the site where it all began drove home the reliability of his time-tested W115, which he describes as the "perfect car".
Long and winding drive
Seet makes it a point to note, however, that his journey was anything but straightforward. His original goal was to drive across 21 countries and cover 25,000km in 60 days. He soon found out, however, that things don't always go to plan, no matter how much one prepares.
Unlit tunnels, flooded potholes, landslides, gushing water, damage to his car's muffler and exhaust on more than a couple of occasions - these are just some of the things Seet had to contend with.
And in Lucerne, Switzerland, Seet had the misfortune of being involved in two accidents; one of which resulted in fractures to his legs, which landed him in the hospital.
"Thankfully, I was insured. Though it was unfortunate that I got injured, it was a blessing in disguise being in that world-class hospital. It allowed me to spend more time in Switzerland; a country where I had lived for seven years.
"Many friends came to visit me in hospital. I was moved," he says.
And despite the pain, he soon recuperated enough to get on the road again, this time driving from Lucerne to Paris and, finally, to Southampton in Britain, where he saw his Benz shipped back to Malaysia.
Lessons learnt from the trip
For the record, Seet was unsuccessful in his plan to raise RM10 for every kilometre driven, and so did not hit his target of RM200,000 for the National Cancer Society of Malaysia.
However, the F&B entrepreneur did manage to bring attention to his mission, raise about RM17,000 in total and even got to visit cancer facilities in several countries along his route. Plus, he plans to hold a fundraising dinner in the future to further the cause.
So, all in, Seet considers his long drive a fulfilling one. He adds that he has also gained a newfound appreciation for Malaysia.
"I learnt to be patient with myself and with other people. I was very fortunate to meet kind people along the way. That said, sanitation can be quite bad in some of the countries I travelled to. It's better in Malaysia," Seet remarks.
And one thing he is sure of is that this adventure won't be his last, even if he's still unsure of where he's headed to next.
"108 days may sound long, but time flies when you travel. There are places that you have to just drive by, without having enough time to enjoy the scenery," he says.
As for advice to those wanting to follow in his tyre tracks, Seet says, just do it.
"I don't think many will pay to go to the places that I went to," he jokes. "I'm not so much into visiting monuments and castles. I love meeting people, and seeing their ways of life.
"(But) I want to inspire others to travel like I did. If I can do it, so can they."
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