Show Notes for Podcast Episode #17
Overlanding Around the World With Your Family, Featuring Graeme Bell
Scott interviews Greame Bell, a South African that has traveled around the globe overland with his wife and two children. Their stories include choice of vehicle, how to work together as a team, the benefits of minimalism, and how to earn a living while on the road. Their travels have included the length of the Americas and Africa, along with explorations in Europe and the Middle East in their Land Rover Defender.
About Graeme and his Family:
Following Graeme and A2A Expeditions:
We Will Be Free
Travel the Planet Overland (Guidebook)
Overlanding The Americas, La Lucha
Europe Overland, Seeking the Unique
(Editor's Note: These are links to Amazon, where the books are sold. The links are also affiliate. The books can also be purchased directly from A2A via their web store: https://www.a2aexpedition.com/store)
Graeme's Recommended Books:
Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging, By Sebastian Junger
The Prophet, by Kahlil Gigran
The Village Graema and Scott discussed at the end of the smuggler's route between Andorra and Spain (in the Pyrenees)
The book about the murders in the village: tretze cases i tres morts (Tor: thirteen houses and three dead), by Carles Porta
The Little Black Box (Graeme's Recommended Piece of Kit)
Mafuta, the leaky Land Rover Defender 130
Shown with the camper open
Yuki The Silent Explorer
Their Travels to Date
Scott is the publisher and co-founder of Expedition Portal and Overland Journal and is often credited with popularizing overlanding in North America. His travels by 4WD and adventure motorcycle span all seven continents and includes three circumnavigations of the globe. His polar expeditions include two vehicle crossings of Antarctica and the first long-axis crossing of Greenland. @scott.a.brady
Matthew is a leading expert in automotive adventure. He has extensively explored the world's most remote places by 4WD and is considered an industry authority on overland travel. He is the only American to ever become an editor of a major Australian 4WD publication and has over 15 years of competitive auto racing experience. @mattexplore
Scott Brady:Hello and welcome to the Overland Journal podcast, I am your host. Brady and my co-host Matt Scott are not available today for this interview because, as all of us, we were overcoming challenges and opportunities coming from being sheltered in place. But I have a distinguished guest today and I say that personally because Graeme Bell and his wife Luisa and their family have been an inspiration to me in their travels. They run a website into their expedition, which is also the name for their Journey and I have watched them for the last six or seven years as they have traveled throughout the Americas and then ultimately traveling down the length of Africa. For us, as Overland journal the people we associate with the publication is I believe is critical to our audience, it's a service that we provide to a reader. Having someone that is as entertaining a writer as Graeme is, his depth of experience and genuine knowledge around the subject Is very rare. So we try to as much as possible to surround ourselves with journalists in Travelers that have that experience that they can share from a genuine place of knowledge. And I'm really proud to have Graeme on the call today, thank you for being with us.
Graeme Bell: Thank you so much for having me Scott, the three of us appreciate it.
Scott Brady: Tell us where you are right now in the world.
Graeme Bell: We are in South Africa, we are preparing for our next big Journey. The troubles came along so we had to find ourselves in a good situation. We found ourselves in a little place in the forest and we just are waiting it all out.
Scott Brady: We were actually trying to do this podcast together in person in South Africa, it just so happened that your journey, your trip North on the Eastern side of Africa was going to correspond with the trip that I had planned up to either Zambia or possibly even ending in Kenya. We were going to try to connect along the way and have the podcast there, but we're going to take advantage of Technology. I hope we still can as well because we do plan on getting back to Africa as soon as possible to do that trip. Tell me a little bit about your family, tell me a little bit about your wife and kids and how long you guys have been on the road.
Graeme Bell: My wife Louisa, she is the ginger ninja, she is the driving force behind everything. we all fear her. There's my son Keelan who is now 20, and my daughter Jessica who's 15. When we started traveling she was 7 years old and he was 12. They're all grown up traveling the world on the Land Rover, so they're pretty tough kids but they're super sweet, I really love my family, they're wonderful people.
Scott Brady: It seems like such a blessing , and travel can be such a blessing for families and for children in particular because they're not just hearing about a place like Morocco and a textbook from a teacher, your kids are actually experiencing Morocco. They know where Casablanca is on a map because they've been there, and that's one of the questions I have for you is, how do you engage your kids in the travel experience and educate them as they're going around the globe?
Graeme Bell: It's an interesting question because for many people they look at our lives and they think, it's difficult to describe how other people feel but, it's exciting and amazing but the kids have been doing it for so long that it's just become a way of life. For them, crossing a border or entering a new country is like normal kids going to school. I'm not saying they don't enjoy it but it's not exceptional to them anymore. To me, the world is their oyster, they've met so many different people from different cultures and then to five continents. They can communicate through a bunch of languages, but it's just been the most amazing experience we could give to them and ourselves, because we're about to spend almost every day together through our childhood. We grew up together so we know how to communicate with each other. We're learning how they learn, and they teach us and we teach them, and it's pretty amazing. From a textbook academic point of view, they do the American syllabus. My son just graduated. Oh, he finished his studies in high school and he has an average of 75 or 76%. We're looking at his future, maybe he's going to study law maybe in Germany, but we'll see how it goes. Our daughter is fighting mathematics with her heart and soul. *both laughing* She is really really good at working with people in working with animals, her relations are fantastic and she has great vocabulary and she's got a strong heart. What we're trying to do is to teach our children straight.
Scott Brady: What a beautiful experience, if you think about it it's only been in very recent history that families haven't done exactly what you guys do. If you think about families even 60 to a hundred years ago, we spent so much more time together. they may have had a farm,everybody grew up together, everybody worked together, they learned from each other and I believe that what you're doing is giving the opportunity to genuinely experience your children growing up. And for your kids they're able to genuinely know and understand their parents, I believe that soufeel people in the modern world have the opportunity to have that depth of connection with their kids because we can all be so busy that we all work so hard to make ourselves even busier that it's amazing that we have connections at all because of how much we have to work.
Graeme Bell: Well that's the thing is that you hit the nail on the head there. It's all in the last hundred years. People before that lived pretty much in isolation, small towns, small farms, they did their own things and were agricultural. And families were together, they spent most of their days together and they worked together. And that's what we do. Everyone has their goal within the family, we all take care of each other and everyone pulls their weight. And that's so important, not only in terms of us getting along as a family but also for the children's future that they learn these very basic but very important lessons that are hard to learn in life, and hard to have good solid relationships. But there's nothing temporary about our relationship so we are very strong together and we're really solid together. And I can only vouch for them going into the future.
Scott Brady: No question. It's such an inspiration what you guys have done with your kids, I remember being I think in Belize and I came across a French family, and I actually don't remember how many kids they have but they started coming out of this RV and there was many, an entire gaggle of children, talking with the wife a little bit about it she said, “ I didn't want my kids growing up as strangers, I wanted them to all know each other and to know us.” And I thought that that was really beautiful and so different in today's time.
Graeme Bell: The French are really good at traveling with families. they don't tend to do it long term, obviously buy long-term I'm talking about almost decades. They are so well behaved those kids, they are very good manners and they help to set everything up, and they feed each other and the older takes care of the younger, and I was astonished when I first came across these French families. It really is a good example for us, there are good examples from every culture that you can take to improve yourself, and that's one thing we learn from the French.
Scott Brady: Yeah I agree and I have learned so much from different cultures and mostly how bad I am at so many things. So that's why it's nice to run across to people as we travel because then we recognize what is a better way to live whereas when we are isolated within our own culture, and it's not to say that any culture is bad but obviously growing up as an American there's things I'm proud of, but there's also things that I have learned in my travels that make me want to live my life a little different than the norm Within my own country. Those have been really powerful lessons for me. One thing that's also unique just a Segway a little bit is you guys are traveling in a Land Rover Defender, tell me a little bit about your vehicle and what made you decide on a Land Rover to begin with.
Graeme Bell: *inaudible* to tell the story of the Land Rover I think I can talk about how I got into overlanding, can I do that?
Scott Brady: Yeah of course! We would love to do that.
Graeme Bell: I've always been a traveler in my heart, growing up in isolated parts of Africa I listen to American music and listen to European music and watch movies and I always had a burning desire to get up and get out of the town. Even just over the horizon. I tried to hitchhike South Africa a lot and then I eventually saved up enough money to buy a flight to Israel and stayed in the kaputz for a little bit too long with a few Scandinavian girls but that's another story for another day. Returning to South Africa with Luisa, then we took a little bit of a call and then we would just go camping. Just with a cooler box and we'd go off and have a good time. I just Explorer the country, first we were in Johannesburg because there was a lot of exploring to do out there. then we started looking, “ hey look I want to go there” but my little pickup couldn't get up the hill or through the water or whatever, so I got the Land Rover. Then you know how it goes with Land Rovers, a little bit of addiction doesn't make sense all the way. The first series is just phenomenal. Taught me how to do mechanical work, I fixed her up and then sold her, that actually paid for my wedding. As soon as I could afford it again we bought another series and we got a Range Rover Classic which was a terrible idea. Then we went to South Africa with a station wagon with a long base. That became our first Overland vehicle, we bought a roof tent for that so this is in 2005, something like that. We drove all the way around South Africa and had a really good time. And when the next year came up we thought, let's do something crazy, let's just drive to Kilimanjaro. the series 3, she was okay, she had a 7.3 engine in her but she was not exactly reliable. We started looking at the other options and to be honest we looked at a lot of vehicles that are available in South Africa, in terms of Overland Vehicles we are spoiled for choice. So we looked at the tour Land Cruiser, the Double Cat pick up which would be very good for us, but it was very expensive. There were missing controls, there were problems with space, with storage, and then eventually we stumbled across the defender the storm Edition they called it in Africa with a 35 engine which wasn't desirable. The TDI Would have been a better choice, but it was available, it was at the time $20,000 which was a deal back then. She was gorgeous. I also looked for a vehicle that wasn't a previously used Overland vehicle. I found an agricultural vehicle and this Defender was a x prong truck which to me was perfect. It had a snorkel oh, it had a full bar and that was about it. The body was in great condition, the hood area was pretty dented and we were throwing rocks and towels and stuff in the back. But it wasn't a big deal for us. So I turned around and I built some support on the roof and a drawer system and we were good. We drove her up to Kilimanjaro.
Scott Brady: I think that the TD5is actually a bit underrated by folks. I had a Defender 110 that a friend of mine owned in Guatemala that we were storing here in Arizona for a while, I got the chance to drive it all over and did not only had a much better drivability than the 300tdi but it also proved to be very reliable oh, there were certain issues with the motor and the wiring harness excetera that needed to be addressed but, it was extremely reliable. The 110 that I have now how's the 200tdi and it has been 100% reliable. I have lots of leeks as everyone does, but no other issues with the vehicle, even after years of ownership. I've changed a lot of fuses and a lot of seals and filled a lot of oil, but it's never failed to start or do its job on any one day. What's your experience been with the TD 5? Hasn't been reliable?
Graeme Bell: Absolutely. The Kilimanjaro trip was kicked off up to the border of Kenya and then down across Zambia, Botswana, Namibia and back to South Africa I didn't touch my toolbox. And that was twenty five thousand kilometers. South America we drove all the way, all the way up to the top of Brazil and all the way back down to Aishwarya. Then we had to get new tires because we made a rookie mistake. But she was perfect. We only really started having problems with her when we hid Xtreme altitude. Driving at 5000 meters up we started to have little problems, which became bigger problems. without the extremes of altitude, she was absolutely reliable, the little engine management system that I called the little black box that people always get questions for, “ what is the one accessory you can't leave home without That you have to have?” And I say it's this little black box. It saved me so many times because it gives me that warning before the cooling is low, or when the engine is hot and it overheats and that's when you start to lose your head here. and I think that in the 11 years that we've had it, after mm of overlanding we haven't had that problem with the oil but we did have the lube cook on top of the gearbox which causes all types of electric interesting problems. A couple of fuel pumps have gone. it was in the mountains in Morocco we decided to do the 4 by 4 Trail in the mountains which is where they produce all of the hashish, and we tackle the worst part of the trail and I'm climbing up the mountain and I think okay I'll get out of low range and I wait for this little drift, and up this little Hill, and boom the clutch just broke and we were stuck there and we couldn't get it in one go which was strange. The pressure plate had just shared, and we were stuck up there for 4 days trying to fix the thing, and that's the first time she's been towed in many years.
Scott Brady: That is an experience that you'll never forget. I always find it interesting, it seems like the less someone travels the more they obsess about reliability but it seems like the more someone travels the more that they recognize that reliability is very important, but ultimately even the best vehicles will break down, so if you just Embrace that is part of the adventure in reason why you left your home was to go have an adventure, I think it puts a different perspective on it. I remember I was in South America too, I was driving a 110 and 300tdi and the engine only needs one wire to work oh, and I remember I was stopped someplace along the side of the road and of course the engine will run forever until you turn it off. So I shut it off and restart it and it would turn over but it wouldn't run, and I think there's only one wire that it needs and sure enough I traced down to one wire and it had failed, broken. So I put on a new clip and reattached it and it was connected back to the fuel so the engine fired back up again. So those are fun memories that I think about the times that I broken down or gotten stuck and in the very first moments of it it can feel terrifying, and I might think, “ oh know what's happening, am I going to trip over, or how bad is it?” But normally within a very short. Of time you start to come with a plan, you realize how resourceful and kind of locals are in the next thing you know you're towed over to somebody's shop and they're helping you out. I remember being in the middle of turkey and this entire town came to our Aid and got us to the right shop, I was at the right shop and it was the tribes four-wheel drive Club shop, and they had Expedition exchange stickers on their windows, it's such a small world, those are beautiful experiences when you get to have them.
Graeme Bell: They’re such wonderful people. I actually did break down in Turkey. *laughing* But that's another story.
Scott Brady: And other than your black box what's the favorite thing that you've done to the vehicle? What modifications really change the overall travel experience for you?
Graeme Bell: That would be the conversion into hardside Camp, it's a big modification. It's been a game-changer for us. We lived in a Holly Lynn estate which is a 2.4 by 2.4 meter, that's when it's open. We lived as a family in it almost every single night for 4 years. And we got up to the states and camped in the old deserts in Oregon with a guy called good guy Steve. There was an ambulance, a Defender 110, that night there was a sandstorm up on the plier and we went inside his ambulance and had a little party. We just realized, this is it! This is the way to go. I realized in terms of- we are addicted to the Overland lifestyle until her heart stopped beating probably. We just looked at this and thought this is the way to go. So we have put a lot of time and resources into it, and me and my son struck the old land down from a double pick up and pulled the camper on the back. It hasn't all been smooth sailing, we made some mistakes that we've had to repair, there's always something to do. But structurally is fantastic, it's comfortable, we've got space Ace. We can get from the front into the back without getting out of the vehicle, it pops up which fits me perfectly, I'm quite tall. It's really been a game-changer for us.
Scott Brady: I can see how that would be such an important modification for living on the road, you're literally in your home and I hear that often. Ann Grecks said something similar after his trip around Africa that the next time he wanted to do it in something that had a little more interior space, he talks about the benefits of the Sportsmobile that he had been traveling with and it also seems that you try to strike the balance which is something that I recognized in myself. You try to strike the balance between livability and remote travel capability, cuz it seems like you like to get remote areas challenging tracks, and challenge yourself as a driver, challenge the vehicle. Is that kind of why you have stayed with the defender in a sense?
Graeme Bell: Yes, absolutely. I'm in love with this vehicle. We've done a 700 kilometer Beach Drive in this vehicle. you couldn't do that in most Vehicles. We crossed the Amazon, we crossed West Africa and then now with the way it's set up and I've added more to it now, and it is getting a little over-the-top now. I always joke with the kids that I'm going to put in a hot tub in a pub. At the end of the day you cook some food, you lie back in the back and read a book, it's a completely different lifestyle to travel inside a roof tent. We also work as we travel, with videos and we've got everything we need in our space which is essentially the size of a king size bed. And we got two children in there as well
Scott Brady: I remember when the first time I met you in person, I believe you had come to Prescott right? Right, and you guys were still sleeping and the roof tent at that time, and I was so impressed by your fortitude and I think it's that you probably take a little bit of time to get used to it and then you get used to it like you would anything else. But I think more importantly it shows your commitment to wanting to see the world that you decided that the most important thing is to see the world and then you just figure everything else out, or you let everything else be what it's going to be.
Graeme Bell: Yeah, pretty much. I'm no spiritual person but tell me the road gods and the traveler gods and all those guys and if you kind of do the right thing and play in the right way and have the right intentions, things tend to work out. Luisa's not that patient but I am very good at being patient and just saying, ” Well let's just see how this plays out. Let's see where we can go and see how it works out.” Converting into the camper half of that was that I wanted my family to be comfortable. It's one thing for adults to have this desire but to expect kids to live in a tent, it's not right it's not fair to ask them to do that. That really was a tight decision, changing it to the camper. I wanted to make it comfortable for the family. Having, and still being able to go wherever we could in terms of driving and off-road abilities. But with that Comfort comes possibility, and it opens up in the future, and we jump for it. Everything we need we are going to go now. It really frees us up to achieve our dreams.
Scott Brady: And we talked a little bit about your wife, and your personality being a little bit different from yours. Talk about the rules everybody has within the team. What are everybody's jobs in general and with this difference in personality between your wife and you, how would you describe how you guys stay healthy as a couple and you work through those challenges despite having different temperaments let's call it.
Graeme Bell: Well you know, if you didn't yang it's 50% each, you can't be too similar or it won't work. It kind of goes back to before we started traveling, we had immigration together. That was our job. We had immigration Specialists, and that served us very well. But we work together in a law office. Oh, we have a huge building but a tiny office, and we work side-by-side for a couple of years every day. So then to be side-by-side working together in a Land Rover, it wasn't a difficult transition oh, it was quite natural. But you have to figure out a way to communicate with each other. Give each other space. Try to let go of anger and use humor a lot, humor is incredibly important. We're very good at that as a family, we use humor as a way of venting frustration, we also have a way of drawing lines in the sand. You can use your humor but you can't go past that line. So that we don't have confrontation. It's easy to get frustrated when you're in a terrible situation, and example is when we were staying in a little apartment, or a cottage, or a house we tended to have a lot more problems with each other. That sounds terrible but you know what I mean. With traveling it's different. I'll give you an example, we were driving through the Republic of Banga and we had a problem with the CPS. It was out of position around the bell housing, it was out of the TD 5 when moved. we suspected the wiring was going, the problem was that we were driving this terrible track, the locals were all drunk, it was a Sunday afternoon oh, my daughter had malaria in the back, we had a Japanese hitchhiker eating bananas oh, it was one of those days. It was extremely hot, the Land Rover was really struggling going up hills, the sun was deadly, it was just one of those days where you kind of go, “ why did we do this?” And found a quiet place to park close to the road, hidden away from everyone. And straight away we got the fire going, *inaudible* and we fixed it, we didn't shout at each other, we didn't give each other a hard time oh, we weren't angry or frustrated, we know by now that the best way to deal with it is to just deal with it. Find a solution and sit down and just chill. And that's something we've gotten really good at is working together through hard times.
Scott Brady: I've picked up a few Hitchhikers in my day and it's almost always worked out really well. How often do you do that and tell me how you decided to pick out a Japanese Hitch-Hiker in the middle of the Congo.
Graeme Bell: His name was Yuki and apparently he was a bit of a traveler. He's been all around the world and hardly speaks any English. She wears this white tunic thing. We met him in the Ivory Coast. Generally I don't take hitchhiker's especially when we are in a border state. We went across the border with a hitchhiker and I was confused about that. She uses a lot of public transport and if I'm in the middle of nowhere and there's someone in trouble and they're hitchhiking obviously I will pick them up. But in a family Dynamic when we've got our space, it's not always a good idea. and when Yuki got to the Congo border and we came later and I saw him sitting under a tree, I was like, “ okay, well I'm going to take this guy with me.” That's why we picked him up then. Big Advocate when it comes to hitchhiking.
Scott Brady: That's a good piece of advice and so the listeners can benefit from. One of the main reasons why I don't pick up hitchhikers when I'm leaving a country is that they can accidentally leave something in the vehicle or intentionally leave something in the vehicle like drugs or other paraphernalia that can really get you into a lot of trouble. I picked up a Russian hitchhiker after the Uzbekistan border going into your jika stand and that worked out really well cuz she spoke Russian and was able to actually facilitate travel for a short time. Of time. I remember picking up some Indians in a Copper Canyon area of Mexico and I was driving a Sportsmobile at the time and I let them into the back, these two guys are looking around like what in the world is this machine? I remembered that the fridge was accessible to the driver so I kind of rotate the seat around and I open up the door of the fridge and I had them both in ice-cold Coca-Cola because they knew what a Coca-Cola was for sure, and then to put it in their hand they could see that this thing was ice cold. And for them they just sat back there silently, we couldn't communicate and we didn't speak Spanish really and to watch them look around in this van and drink these ice cold Coca-Cola has and then we drop them off at the next Little Village oh, but it was such a neat experience to do that in to bring them into the vehicle, but you're right you have to be very careful. It seems like the more local they are the better off you are. It seems like when it gets near cities where people are traveling you might have more issues.
Graeme Bell: We've got four seats; we don't really have the space for it. Someone could sit on the floor, he was okay. For me it's crossing the borders, you just don't know. Because I have a family I have to be careful and I have to think about what is in the best interest of the family versus the best interests of someone else. They're always the priority.
Scott Brady: That makes a lot of sense, obviously when someone is in real trouble we always want to do everything we can to help but if it's just someone that's looking for transportation then we do get to put the needs of safety and our families first for sure. You have done overlanding for nearly a decade now oh, you were doing this even before that when you were in South Africa long before you were well ahead of the curve on the popularity of overlanding so you've seen a lot of change in the last decade. What are some of the things that you like most about how overlanding changes and what are the things that you have concerns around as you see that not only the community is growing but also the sides of the audience and the scope of Overland and change?
Graeme Bell: Because we've been doing it nationally and on the road it's kind of that this growth has been happening without us it's difficult to describe. We cross borders, we go across countries, and a lot of things I've seen these days are localized overlanding. People are mostly staying in their countries and maybe going into the neighboring countries. I understand that because that's what we used to do, I just wish people would go a little bit further and take it to the level where, what I consider overlanding to be in its purest form is international traveling. That's what it is to me. It doesn't have to be that for everyone. And I think in so many different ways not just how a person can grow with overlanding but also the community they meet that can change people's perspectives. Too many people focus on the vehicle, the modifications, the suspension, engine upgrades, on all the add-ons and all this stuff Instead of focusing on the actual Journey. I've always said it's about style of travel, it's all about what you want to do. It doesn't make any rules about where you should Overland and how you should go about it. I used to Overland in a Toyota Corolla with a ground tent *inaudible*.
Scott Brady: I think for me it definitely is an interesting thing. We've been defining overlanding as vehicle based Adventure travels since 2008 or 2009, it's the definition that we kind of came up with in the easiest form for people to remember. One of the things I think is important to ask ourselves is, “ are we going someplace remote? Or are we going someplace for it?” And I think those are kind of the modifiers that I like to use to differentiate overlanding from just camping or some other form of travel. There's nothing wrong with any of it, it's all worthwhile and healthy. For me once I start to get remote which means far away from help, I feel like I'm overlanding. If I get to someplace that's foreign to me, and it doesn't necessarily mean another country, but it most often is for me. Once I get somewhere unknown or uncertain, I'm not familiar with the local cultures or I'm not familiar with the language or I don't even know where to go because I've never been there before, then it starts to feel more like Overland travel to me. Certainly it's been traditionally defined much more towards longer distances and longer periods of time, as it's become more popular those things have reduced a little bit. I do think what you speak to is the most important thing is that when you first start doing this stuff, because we haven't traveled and the journey hasn't even necessarily cured yet because it's all been so fractura l'orso local, that we do focus on the vehicle, we do focus on the stuff, because that's the thing we can actually interact with in that moment. When we first start getting involved with any hobby it's a lot about the gear because we haven't done enough of the real thing to know the difference yet, so the gear is a very exciting attraction and it allows us to research and buy things and feel like we're starting to become a member of the tribe.
Graeme Bell: I like to compare overlanding to surfing. You start out with a basic boredom and you struggle and you learn a little bit and eventually you get better and better, but the important thing is the Stoke. As you get better at it you can travel further to find those big waves and you're just going to get into it and it makes you feel alive. The way we travel is challenging. It's the most difficult thing we've ever done by far, but it's so rewarding . for example that break down we had, the feeling of, The Stoke, the buzz of achievement. I got my family through it, we made it to the other side, we made it back to survival and we did it ourselves. It was amazing, it was so good for us. It's those kinds of things that if you're pushing yourself or pushing yourself too far you get a little bit further, and you get a little bit less comfortable, and you see what you pay for and what the limitations of your vehicle are and what you can improve on. And it eventually takes you to the perfect set-up, and it's perfect for you. Not perfect for everyone else. I think that's a great goal and that it's something that everyone should be able to achieve. Start small and then grow big.
Scott Brady: Travel is such a wonderful teacher and it keeps us humble because you make mistakes all the time when you travel because you're not familiar with where you're at, I make much less mistakes when I'm in Prescott Arizona Because this is where I live and all of it is familiar to me. I really appreciate being in places that are unfamiliar because I do make mistakes and learn and get stuck because it's a new kind of experience, and my experience before where I've been in a vehicle and what I've driven before, I really appreciate that. I think that most people deal with fear and fear is only overcome with experience, so the more experience you have, the more confident you feel, the more confident you feel in an unfamiliar place and the less fear we feel. I think that helps people start to break out of that comfort zone and realize that they don't have to have as much money in the bank as they think they do, they don't have to keep the job they've been around for 20 years necessarily, but they can go and have experience about Lifetime and come back and still get another job. And they've been better for it, they experience the world.
Graeme Bell: And something that goes hand-in-hand with overlanding is minimalism. At the idea that less is more. Something that you learned when you're traveling and on the road can take back into everyday life. It's a fantastic opportunity, it's a great learning experience. It doesn't matter how you're doing it but you just gotta do it.
Scott Brady: You're right, and the longer you do it the more you realize that you don't need that big of a tire, you don't need all of those gadgets, you don't need all of those extra pieces of equipment. You think about the Japanese hitchhiker you picked up, how few things he owned and he was seeing the world.
Graeme Bell: But that's the thing is your type of traveling. What suits you, where are you traveling, what can you afford.
Scott Brady: and that kind of leads to a couple more questions for me. When you're traveling on the road, a lot of people ask, “how do I possibly travel full-time? how do I make a living?” Can you kind of describe in general terms how you guys make a living while you're traveling to afford to go see the world.
Graeme Bell: The first thing to bear in mind is that I keep coming back to the idea of minimalism. When people are looking at trailers like that and they're looking at how long they've traveled, I know that people assume that we have wealth and that we are lucky. But the reality is that we have made a lot of sacrifices because we realize that this is pretty much how we want to live our lives, this is more important than having New Gear, New Clothes, nice watches, big houses, swimming pools. This is important to us, and we're willing to sacrifice for it. So we can get by depending on the continent. Oh, some countries are more expensive but we can get by on $2,000 a month. When people are looking at it from our perspective they imagine how much they have to burn to afford the way we live. The way we live we only have to earn $2,000 a month to be comfortable and safe for future savings. Essentially we repair everything we have, will you reuse everything we have, we wear the same boots until they're not boots anymore. We fix everything, we recycle, we don't own anything we don't need. I think that's very important for us, we don't have expensive things, we don't have to pay for school tuition or stuff like TV or mobile phone connections and all the stuff that people usually have to pay for, we don't have that. That's the thing that people have to understand is that if you're only spending so much you only really have to burn so much. I don't plan to retire, I have no plans to retire. Because my work has become my life, it's become my passion. I love doing it, and I'm doing it and I get great satisfaction from doing it, and I do it as often as I can. I hope that answers your question.
Scott Brady: Absolutely it does. It's a reminder that we have to just continually reassess as people what is most important, but if what we really want is to see the world then we have to find a way to make that work and I'm really proud of you guys for how you have made living on the road full time possible. That inspires a lot of people that you don't have a huge trust fund that's allowing you to go around the world, you were in it every single day and you work for magazines like mine, Overland journaling, you have your own outlets and you have your own companies that you work with that allows you to work on the road and that's definitely an inspiration. Just a couple minor things that I got some questions on, you wrote your own books. Can you give us the breakdown of the books that you've written yourself?
Graeme Bell: The first one oh, you know when the rock band comes out, Pearl Jam, Ten was their best album. I don't know if we know what is the best book so far, I think the rarest book is full of emotion oh, it's about starting traveling, giving it all up, it's about the South African version of the American dream to go and pursue a dream and not knowing where it's all going to end up. That book is about exactly that, going up to Kilimanjaro and coming back and realizing that there's not much else that we want to do than Overland. We were so happy off on the road than sitting in our mansion on the seaside Working 16 hours a day and just being miserable. It was getting out of life and just extracting ourselves from the metrics, but that's horrible.
Scott Brady: It paints a very clear picture that oftentimes were plugged into a matrix of either our own design or of our own beliefs or of other circumstances and we have to remember that ultimately we do have a choice to say “no I'd like to do something different with my life.” not everyone has that privilege or that opportunity and I recognize that. It's not to minimize those who cannot make different choices but if you have the opportunity or if there is a way, people should really look into how they start to do that. What are the small steps that allow us to have a different experience. That's a great book. I remember reading it myself. What was the next one that you wrote?
Graeme Bell: The next one was Travel the Planet Overland oh, it's a beautiful book, hardcover, I know you've got a couple of copies in the office. the things I write surprise people sometimes and surprise me as well but there's a lot of tongue-in-cheek and there, a lot of good advice surrounded by bad humor. But Traveling the Planet Overland was hard for me to do because by then we'd already been on the road for three years and had a lot of experience and made me learn from those mistakes. That book is supposed to be how to do what we do, and how to understand the overlanding community, how to understand the long-term overlanders and different types, how they afford to do what they do, and then breaking down how to motivate your significant other to take care of health issues like a South African. It's good stuff. There was nothing better I did in my life then travel around the world. Even when it was just camping, getting away, getting out of nature it's the healthiest thing you can do for your mind and for your spouse's mind and for your relationship. I have motivations using linguistic programming to get someone to do it.
Scott Brady: absolutely. And it looks like you've got Overlanding the Americas which has got a fantastic cover, I love the cover artwork on that one. So good from the Dia de los Muertos. And then you've got Europe Overland which is from your time after you were in the Americas right?
Graeme Bell: Overlanding the Americas, La Lucha means the fight.Basically, we arrived in a space pretty much alien to us. We were at a junction in our lives but through hard words and opportunities and writing to you guys we managed to change part of it. We were thinking, “ where are we going to go?” It really was that we arrived in the states with nothing and we rebuilt our camper in Florida, we published Travel the Planet Overland and we're sitting on a lot of copies that would be free. The time we had in the States was fantastic because we learned from the Americans and if you want to learn business, you learned from the Americans, if you want to cook you learn from the French. That was said Toughbook to write because we were in a really rough time but at the end of it we came through with great humor and hard work and we proved that we could do it. Europe Overland For me Europe doesn't seem like an Overland destination.
Scott Brady: You're right, most people don't think it is.
Graeme Bell: Yeah but it can be. It is a great starting point because it's so beautiful there's a lot of nature, you can go in the mountains, Spain and Portugal as well have opportunities to explore. It's so close to Turkey, Morocco, Scandinavia, we obviously didn't get to Scandinavia but I heard it's fantastic up there. With overlanding Europe is hard because we were trying to see if it could be an overlanding destination, a lot of times people think about what's over there but they don't spend much time looking at what's in their backyard. It was very interesting as well to spend a lot of time with Europeans because those guys are serious overlanders and they are everywhere. It was a great learning experience getting to know these guys, it was fantastic.
Scott Brady: Europeans are prolific overlanders oh, I would say that between the Germans and the Dutch, there's certainly some of the most prolific overlanders in the world. I didn't really enjoy traveling around Europe, and you mentioned Portugal and that's highly on the end. I would love to go explore there because as I understand it there's a lot of remote Trax and four-wheel drive roads and things to see.
Graeme Bell: Portugal is a great experience, the people are wonderful, it's really quite cheap, the weather is great, oh, nice beaches, lots of places where you can just chill. Portugal is very nice. Spain from an Overland point of view especially the *inaudible*, you can just disappear and then just pop up in a beautiful Village. You can buy steak that's perfectly matured and wine, it's a different experience and I really enjoyed it.
Scott Brady: I really enjoyed span as well, I remember I did a route from Andorra, it was an old Smuggler's route but doing countries before the Schengen agreement and you're right. I came down into this little 16th Century Village, the church steeple was barely standing and there was one littleI Inn, the only place to eat and they brought out these thick pork steaks and a bottle of wine where the bottle had probably been reused for the last 50 years, just absolutely wonderful and it is such a great destination for sure.
Graeme Bell: And the culture in history as well oh, that little town you're talking about that is by the river oh, I'm struggling to remember the name. There's a book written about that town that's called 13 Houses and 13 Murders and basically if I could just tell you a little bit about it, there was a conflict that the local government had to change the borders and some lines had been drawn incorrectly and became this conflict about real estate. And in that tiny little town there was a whole bunch of murders which is very interesting.
Scott Brady: Your books are great and for those who are listening we will have a link to all of the books in the show notes but t highly recommenTravel the Planet Overland as one that I highly recommend and then I would start reading about Graeme’s travels with We Will Be Free it does get into a lot of challenges and emotions that come from separating yourself from the life that you've lived for so long into an entirely new way of living. I think that it's a powerful inspiration, I think it'll give you a lot of sense behind what Graeme and his family have done. And obviously get all of his books ultimately but those are the great ones to start with. And speaking of books Graeme, but some of your favorite books? It can be about overlanding, anything, but what did you say your top three favorite books you read in your lifetime are?
Graeme Bell: One of my favorite books that taught me a lot about life was The Profit by Kehlog AlbranOh, I don't know if you've read it but it's a fantastic book, you've love it. And then there is Sebastian Junger, I picked up a copy of Tribe,While we were taking care of a fellow in Italy. It's not all suffering and hardship but we were taking care of a man well house sitting which I can talk about another time but Tribe! Have you read it? Sebastian Junger?
Scott Brady: I haven't but I am familiar with Sebastian Junger. He is very well-traveled.
Graeme Bell: He goes into a part about guys fighting in Afghanistan. He wrote this book about tribes and he started this conversation about how people used to live together on farms and how we've changed over the last century and people are more organized. He is saying in this book that there's something we have lost over these years, we are no longer the tribe that we used to be. He describes people returning from Afghanistan with PTSD and he's saying that one of the things really difficult for soldiers returning from conflict is that they go from being in type, rotary situations where they're there with their brothers in arms and they're fighting and they come back to the States and they're out there on the road. And there's something that's very interesting to me, there's no way in the world that I would rather be in a city than in My Land Rover with my family because it's the most safe and secure place, no matter where we are in the planet everything that is important to me is right there with me. That's one of the takeaways that I got about overlanding is that he speaks about families that used to be all people they would kidnap back in the days when you had the frontier Wars, you would get kidnapped by the Cherokee Indians or Native Americans. The Native Americans were very brutal with their prisoners and they would torture them and beat them, but once that was over a lot of them actually integrated into the tribes and after a couple of years of living with the tribe and they had a opportunity to return to civilization and most of them refuse to do it, they couldn't go back To the Civilized way of living because the Tribal Way was so much more rewarding. It was better suited to the human soul. To me was a very good book to read.
Scott Brady: What a wonderful suggestion that’s a great one. We're getting closer to the end here but I do have a couple more questions for you. What would you say was your best that you've had as a family traveling around the world where it just let your soul up so profoundly that you remember it as if it happened yesterday?
Graeme Bell: That's so difficult because we've had a lot of those moments. I was talking about that break down earlier, that was the highlight. It was also one of the worst moments but at the same time it was the fact that the whole family worked together with the machine, there was no selfishness, it wasn't about me or it was about us. I would actually go back to that, that wearable terrible situation where this family just pulled together so well in that moment. Of course there's things like running on the beach or running into the most beautiful pristine Beach and we would all enjoy ourselves, it was absolutely peaceful. You just look at your wife and think, “ yeah it's difficult but man what experience we are having.” it's exceptional. It really is.
Scott Brady: If someone was to come up to you and they had maybe done some local overlanding and they wanted to go see the world, what would be the first piece of advice that you would give them?
Graeme Bell: For me it's about identifying a person's style of travel. What do they like? It's one thing watching YouTube videos and you see guys like us driving through Africa or South America or other guys who are doing extreme stuff going into the Outback, all of that's fantastic. That's the big wave surfing of overlanding, but at the same time you can get a fantastic experience just getting in your car, throwing the camping gear in the back and just going out and seeing what Suits You. You can't just mimic that guy because that's how he does it and he looks great, you want to find out what's best for you and what suits you and kind of grow from there. So it's really establishing your style of travel, what you want to do, do you want to go driving in the remotes or do you want to spend some time in the country going to see some beautiful sights and get to some cities, get some good food, live in the culture, go to museums, do it differently. What's most important for me is that they establish what works for them. And that's from the point where they can make it a reality.
Scott Brady: That's a great piece of advice. And Graeme I'm so thankful for you spending the time with me this morning, it's your evening in South Africa and you're taking time away from your family and thank you for being an inspiration to me as well and showing me another facet of travel throughout your time working with us. You've been a pleasure to work with as a contributor as well and for those who are listening expedition portal Overland Journaling regularly features Graeme’s writing and photography. How did people find out more about you? If someone wanted to follow you on Instagram or get your website, let's share that with the folks today.
Graeme Bell: First I just want to say thank you to you Scott for the opportunity Expedition Portal Overland journaling oh, you guys have been a very important part of our journey and I had to grow as the person I am, I've had to think out-of-the-box and become exceptional and it's great to be working with you guys. I really hope that I'm going to get there so thank you to you. I appreciate it. My Instagram is @graeme.r.bell and on Facebook we’re a2a expedition. The website is www.a2aexpedition.com. What we're going to do in the future is we plan to drive from cavetown to bloody vostok in Russia and that's pretty much one of the longest Overland drives you can do, we have to jump over a canal and if we can get over Syria then we can go. That's our big mission now is to drive from cavetown to Russia.
Scott Brady: you will so enjoy that Journey oh, I have not done it in its entirety but the road for me was one of the most enjoyable Adventures I've been on, going through the stands, going through the Middle East and all of that, Mongolia is absolutely incredible. That sounds like such an amazing journey, we're going to look forward to following you along the way and will have all of those links in the show notes as well, as well as links to grams of excellent books. We're going to look forward to following your Journeys, this is not going to be the last time that you and I are going to talk because there's so many subjects that we could go into in detail and hopefully Matt can join us for that. Thank you again Graham and so much appreciated. Those that are listening, thank you for your ongoing support and for listening to the Overland journaling podcast and we will talk to you next time.
The way we move through life is what defines us. We're honored to have an incredible team of R.A.D. ambassadors who reimagine what it means to pursue a life of adventure. Our mission to Love People & Love Nature rings true in the stories we tell and the inspiring members of our community who are leading the way. We're excited to share those stories here and to continue to seek adventure in every corner of the world!
ThThe way we move through life is what defines us. We're honored to have an incredible team of R.A.D. ambassadors who reimagine what it means to pursue a life of adventure. Our mission to Love People & Love Nature rings true in the stories we tell and the inspiring members of our community who are leading the way. We're excited to share those stories here and to continue to seek adventure in every corner of the world!e way we move through life is what defines us. We're honored to have an incredible team of R.A.D. ambassadors who reimagine what it means to pursue a life of adventure. Our mission to Love People & Love Nature rings true in the stories we tell and the inspiring members of our community who are leading the way. We're excited to share those stories here and to continue to seek adventure in every corner of the world!