Guest #18: Ivan Birukov

Name: Ivan Birukov
Lives in: Novosibirsk, Russia
Occupation: Michelin Tire Sales Representative 

Ivan met the team in Almaty, Kazakhstan. After seeing the vehicles he introduced himself as a company rep from Michelin; little did he know where his curiosity would lead him. Ivan was Drive Around the World’s Russian Angel, without him, we don’t know if we could have gotten into Russia.  He spent three days on a grueling drive from Almaty, to his hometown of Novosibirsk. Normally Ivan’s business is tires, covering a wide area of Russia and Kazakhstan for Michelin. He is married and has a daughter who is one and half years old. He loves to play football (soccer) and someday hopes to speak 4 or 5 languages fluently (he speaks Russian, English, and a little French, in the future he hopes to study German, Spanish or Japanese.  His goals in life are to work for a large company and watch his daughter grow up with a smile on her face.

Would you be up for 9 months of travel like this?

I am crazy enough to do this sort of expedition!   It was great to travel for three days; it really enlivened me. However, it is hard to imagine how I would be feeling after two or three months. Travel like this is very challenging.
What is your most memorable moment during your portion of the journey?
It was quite an experience to go through Russian Customs trying to speak English and Russian and learning about all the rules and regulations for foreigners. Although we spent 12 hours negotiating our way into Russia, at each station it was unclear if we would make it through.
What advice do you have for future travelers in the program?
Talk to as many locals as possible. Many people we met on the road were interested in the expeditions mission. The local people asked many questions and they were truly welcoming to us, many of them asked us how they could help. It was great to talk to them and answer their questions and further the mission of the project.
What surprised you the most?
It surprised me that it was so difficult for foreigners to travel in Russia. After attempting to go through customs and explaining the expedition’s mission, the officials still seemed uninterested in being friendly or helping us go through the process. On a litter note, I was amazed at how much interest Nancy’s bike generated. There were many people asking questions about that.
What was the best thing you ate?
I had a piece of cake (tort) in Rubcovsk, at an old soviet style cafeteria. It was very delicious, it tasted homemade, and was very cheap.
What was the most difficult part of the traveling experience?
Going through Russian Customs!
What kind of impact is the LONGITUDE expedition having in the communities they visit?
I was surprised to see how many people were asking us questions. People were truly interested in what this expedition was about. Many had heard of Parkinson’s disease, but this is a great way to further people’s awareness of the disease.