New Zealand couple relives their world trip from the '60s in their 56-year-old Volkswagen Beetle

When Ivan and Beth Hodge were bitten by the travel bug 56 years ago, they went out and bought a Beetle.

It was 1960 when the newlywed couple, who were living in London at the time, purchased the Volkswagen for £439 ($840), and decided to drive it all the way home to New Zealand.

"We were just adventurous," Ivan said.

Ivan and Beth Hodge, before heading off on their cross-continental adventure in 1961.

"It was what we could afford. The car was perfect for us."

With their possessions strapped to the roof-racks, they set off across Europe, the Middle East, and into the Asian subcontinent, before hopping on a cargo ship in Kolkata, India, bound for Auckland.

For much of the journey, they were travelling into the unknown. Their only form of communication with family back home was through letters, which they collected at post offices in Istanbul, Tehran and Pakistan.

"We weren't up to date with the news because we didn't have a telephone. We didn't really know what the hell was going on in the world," Ivan said.

"We were conscious of communism. We were fearful of it. We really didn't need to be as fearful, but that's the way it had been built up."

Beth added: "I think a lot was based on what we had read or heard, and a lot was unfounded. Really, it was a very easy trip for us."

Thirty-five years later, Ivan and Beth dusted off the Beetle to retrace their original journey, which has been documented in a book, For Love and a Beetle.

This time they had a different perspective of the world, as well as a mobile phone and a laptop.

"Driving into Eastern Turkey was a risky area because there was a war," Ivan said.

"We were warned not to drive at night, in case we broke down and were taken hostage.

"The Embassy said 'don't go', but they always say that, don't they?"

Once again, the trusty old Beetle delivered Ivan and Beth safely home.

Since then there has been no stopping the couple, who are based in Sydney and, now in their 80s, continue to travel regularly.

"Every year we're away somewhere. We just love travelling anywhere," said Beth.

Ivan said: "It's not high-class travel. It's travel with the best available. Modest transport, self-catering - we're not going to fancy restaurants. It's all affordable stuff. Anyone can do it."

The pair are now embarking on one last expedition in the Beetle - a trip around the North Island, before the car will retire at Auckland's Museum of Transport and Technology.

"It was a concern to us what we were going to do with it, but it's lovely to have a good home for it," said Beth.

Ivan said it was the "end of an era" for the car, which has been in their lives almost as long as they have been married.

"The thing about the Beetle is it's been going for so long and it identifies with so many people," he said.

"For many, it's their first car. Many of them have lovely experiences in the Beetle, as we have.

"It's been the third person in our marriage."

Stuff.co.nz

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