The start of a new series on overland travelers. Who are they, where do they travel, how do they prepare…? Let them inspire you to start your own adventure on the road.
Daniële & Mischa, have always been travelers. First it was quite innocent, vacationing a few weeks each year. But after finding out about Overlanding they decided to travel differently.
A Mercedes 1625AK expedition truck became their favored mode of travel and, for a while, their home. For them it was a logical choice, considering that exploring new horizons had always been a fascination.
A multitude of options was explored: from travelling full-time to using the expedition truck for shorter trips. In the end it was decided to not sell the house, travel for one year, and see what happens next.
Please describe your last big adventure.
We travelled Transafrica. We decided driving home to the Netherlands would be fun. So we shipped the truck to South Africa, pointed our compass North and started our adventure. We drove up the East Coast, took a ferry from Sudan to Saudi Arabia and shipped from Israel to Greece. That one sentence summarizes an incredible year, each day a new adventure, each horizon waiting to be conquered. It is said that words cannot describe the beauty…. but words really can because we wrote a book (“TransAfrica” – written in Dutch) describing this journey, our very own epic saga.
How did you prepare yourself for this trip?
We both work in IT, so planning was exhaustive and redundant. Information was gathered from every possible source: other travellers, forae, weblogs, but also regular travelling websites. Routes, destinations, costs, mode of travel and places to stay, border crossings, bribes and cultural challenges, every bit of information was a piece in an epic puzzle. Navigation was judged to be an important factor so thousands of waypoints were collected. Navigation systems were selected and tested. Preparation also came in a practical way.
We made several trips to get to know the truck (and ourselves). We went to Scotland to get used to narrow roads, cold weather, and an incomprehensible language. Later we went to Moscow to find out about difficult border crossings (and we were not disappointed). Finally, we went to Morocco so we could experience the desert.
A journey like this will regularly throw a surprise at you. Sometimes the surprise is an amazing sunrise, or a view from the escarpment of the Great Rift Valley. Other times the surprise is realising that you are really changing your outlook on the world. Or knowing that, maybe due to being prepared, we wouldn’t change a thing if we had to do it all over again.
How did you experience your return?
Arriving back in reality can be a bit of a challenge, for several reasons: we have experienced a ‘life-event’ while most people around you have not. The journey has altered our perspective on many things and has caused a shift into our belief as to what is really important in life. Society, on the other hand, has not made such drastic changes and cares little for the strong-minded traveller which, ironically, makes fitting back in easier.
Any advice for the aspiring overland traveler?
We spoke to many people, both travellers and those aspiring to become explorers. One of the most important lessons we gathered from those talks, and from our own experience, is how to make a trip like this come true. In the end it turned out to be quite obvious: decide to do it, and gather the finances to make it happen. It’s just that making the decision is the most difficult part. However, once the decision is made everything else follows easily; every next step is a logical result of the previous step. That also goes for the actual journey – as long as you follow a few basic rules based on common sense.
You really have to like surprises to travel ‘Overland-style’ – often you are fascinated by the slowly changing landscapes, and sometimes amazed by drastic vistas when you come around a corner. You may be surprised – or irritated – when someone is trying to overcharge you hundreds of times more than what locals pay, but you will meet many more people who are truly friendly and will help you where possible. You will at one point look back and be blown away when you realise how far you have come, and you will also look forward and have no clue where to go next – and be totally fine with it.
Final thoughts about your overland travel adventure?
In the end this journey has given us an amazing experience. Given the opportunity we would do it again – given the right conditions. In fact, we are working hard to create these conditions so we can once again set out on an amazing adventure because that is what Overlanding really is: the last true adventure, exploring what is over the horizon, seeing new sights and learning new cultures.
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