Editor’s Note: Monthly Ticket is a CNN Travel series that spotlights some of the most fascinating topics in the travel world. In July, we’re heading for the great outdoors as we highlight everything from incredible adventures to unique camping experiences.
It’s something many couples dream about. But few actually do it.
Matt and Leah Prior have quit their jobs, sold everything and on July 15 set off on a round-the-world overland journey with their two children: Jack, 3, and Charlotte, 1.
Travel has always been part of the Prior family’s DNA.
The couple met in Laos in 2011. At the time, Matt was raising money for the British Red Cross while driving a London black cab around the world, while Leah was on a year-long globe-trotting adventure after teaching in South Korea for a few years.
They instantly connected and maintained a long-distance relationship for a year after his road trip ended before moving to Hong Kong to start a life together.
During that same trip, Matt ran into the Zapp family, who traveled the world for 22 years in a 1928 Graham-Paige classic car and welcomed four children during the journey.
“Leah and I talked about the Zapp’s adventure soon after we met, and from then on, the seed was planted – maybe one day we could do something similar,” Matt Prior tells CNN Travel.
And now, that dream has become a reality. Taking off from London, the family is traveling in an INEOS Grenadier 4x4 with a Patriot Camper X3 off-road trailer, which has a pop-up tent. They will travel through over 100 countries over the next five years, stopping at national parks and protected areas to support social and environmental initiatives.
After the UK, they’ll cross Europe and the Middle East before moving on to Central Asia, China and the Himalayas, Southeast Asia, Asia-Pacific, Africa and the Americas.
During the project, dubbed “Project Wild Earth,” they will also share stories on their website and social media accounts about inspiring rangers, support organizations, government officials and entrepreneurs they work or come in contact with.
“We have a unique window of opportunity before our kids start school, so if we are going to do something a bit wild as a family, now’s the time to do it,” says Matt.
“We hope to contribute to the protection and preservation of our planet’s biodiversity – and if we can deliver on this, I will feel like we have played our little part in leaving the world better than when we first entered it and helping to adjust the course away from the one we’re currently on.”
The road to Project Wild Earth
After reuniting in Hong Kong, the Priors lived in the busy city for just over a decade.
Leah, an American, worked as a primary school teacher and helped establish a Sudbury school in Hong Kong that empowers children to direct their own education.
Meanwhile, Matt, who is British, held many roles: a commercial pilot, co-founder of AdventureX specialized adventure travel company, and the director of The Explorers Club in Hong Kong, to name a few.
When political turmoil rocked the city in 2019, the couple started reassessing their plans.
Ready for a change, they hoped to move to Indonesia to live on an organic farm and start a family.
The Covid-19 pandemic forced them to press pause. The Priors found themselves stuck in Hong Kong, which had some of the strictest pandemic restrictions in the world due to its “zero-Covid” approach.
Matt worked as a pilot throughout the pandemic, delivering supplies worldwide under challenging conditions.
“There were endless tests, forms, tracking and tracing… I had to quarantine in hotel rooms for weeks on end,” he recalls. “Sometimes with armed guards and no ability to even open your window.”
Meanwhile, Leah was pregnant with Jack. At the time, Hong Kong public hospitals had banned partners from labor wards, meaning Matt couldn’t be there while she endured an emergency C-section to give birth to their son.
“Jack was a bright light during a dark period,” says Matt. “We moved out to Sai Kung [in the eastern part of Hong Kong’s New Territories] to be in nature, which helped a lot and allowed us to live a simple life away from the city.”
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