Overland travel: More than a pretty body

My dear fellow travelers,

I have been “suggested” not to write this post. But stubborn as I can be, I do it anyway 🙂 . I believe it’s my responsibility towards you, whom I try to inspire and inform, to go beyond posting only the umpteenth sunset picture. So here it is. 


In April 2017 I wrote my first critical post about how life portrayed by #vanlife is becoming the new marketing rat race and has little to do with the reality of life on the road. The “perfect life”-lie not sold on TV, but in a different package. My post was fueled by an article that had appeared in the New Yorker, titled “#Vanlife, the Bohemian Social-Media Movement”. And one particular line has stuck with me:

They want to see Emily in a bikini, they want to see a sunflare, they want to see the van”

Since the publication of that article, I saw thousands of overpolished, staged pictures, portraying exactly that what #vanlife has been reduced to. Women doing yoga poses in bikini on top of their vehicle, because hey that is what you apparently do when you leave the conventional life behind. Or women laying naked in their mobile bed staring in the abyss, not worried about the tons of mosquitos entering their van or defender. You know the pictures I’m talking about.

Badass Overland Women

It seems I missed the memo that I should be doing this to promote #overlandlife or #expeditiontrucklife — nah, not really, but I stubbornly refuse to.   Instead I’ve been posting pictures of me behind the wheel of our 9.2 ton expedition truck or me trying to fix something in my old greasy clothes. Doing things so many other badass overland women do on a daily basis.

And I definitely forgot to add the caption “Look at that view”. Maybe I’m supposed to semi-conform to the Social Media Movement and start adding “What a ride” while maneuvering half-naked into the downward facing dog pose on top of our truck or motorcycle. Or is that already taken? 😉

But maybe with a caption like that, instead of #BeBoldForChange, the picture I posted on an Overland travel Facebook group would not have been removed under the pretext that it broke the rule of self-promotion… PS I posted it on International Women’s Day.

How could I have been so bold to advertise gender-equality and celebrate your sister/girlfriend/wife/mom/daughter’s courage to brake barriers and travel overland? Can someone lend me the “How to get a bikini-body for summer” guide please?

More than a pretty body

Yes, there are also pictures out there where I skipped a few layers of clothing. In two articles* I even include an element of nudity —- how do I dare! 🙂  I just do not feel like my curves should be ogled and compared to the curves of our so sexy Steyr. Nor do I purposely x-rate our stories to collect more likes – the business cards of the social media rat race.  I believe that when you promote a certain lifestyle and take part in its community, you’re also a spokesperson for its values. So does the overland community admire and value women for more than their physical beauty, and do we act accordingly?

*The “infamous” articles:

    1. “Our first bush camp with our expedition truck” 
  1. “Overland travel:A perfect bush camp in Italy”

PS: If you can’t help yourself making comparison between the sensual human and exhilarating vehicle’s body … then ladies take your 11:30 break and let the 1990’s Coca Cola hunk service your vehicle … and do not forget to caption it with “I want you … to work all day… I want you ….” 😉

Thank you for reading this post!

Written by one badass overland woman!

This article was not written to offend or shame anyone. Nor is it my intention to start a discussion where people need to defend themselves. My goal is to challenge your thinking and to encourage you to be attentive about your online presence, the values you celebrate. It is always the right time to improve and make a change.

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23 thoughts on “Overland travel: More than a pretty body
    1. Can we have it both ways?

      Can we ogle hunky studs in ragged jeans? As they maintain the rig, negotiate borders, deal with breakdowns == of all sorts?

      I’m describing a resilient man. An intelligent planner. And he never lets me play ‘female’ games? Yes, these qualities are rare… why settle for average?

  1. Nicole, You couldn’t be more on the money! Overlanding is getting to or is now big business. In order to get Men to buy bigger vehicles or more stuff and get that girl or earn more on social media the business believes it has to exploit women. It isn’t about experiencing culture or seeing our wonderful world, it is about money, sadly!
    Having traveled the world with my wife and experience this wonderful planet we live on for the passed 50 years I look at what is being presented and chuckle. When friend state that we should tell our story we cab only say it is not for me. No one wants to see or hear from a pair of late 60 year olds about what it is like to get stuck in the mud or ride you bike through the streets of Athens when you are 50. That doesn’t sell T-shirts or get money sent to you.
    Nicole, We respect your candor. We believe you have a good soul. We don’t know if you can change mass media money making ways. Please don’t give up. If you help one person, that is one less person that believe overlanding / trekking is all bikinis and bottoms.
    Good luck. May yours roads fair and full of sun shine. Keep up the great work.

    1. Hi Thom & Karen, Thank you for taking the time to write this down and share your perspective. And to be honest I would love to hear how you experience the roads. The years that you have more on the clock, might give me some very interesting insights. Indeed, it will likely not earn you a lot of money, but it can make a difference. So hopefully, we will hear some of your stories when our roads cross.

      And thank you for the encouraging words!

      Nicole & Elmer

  2. Very happy you did write this. Instagram “vanlife” is getting too much.
    All sexy, no real detail or life 🙁

    1. It’s encouraging to hear that it is well received! Thank you Grahame

  3. Great post and great to hear from you! Greetings from CO, USA. Where we are not wearing bikinis but maybe we should be…LOL.

  4. Ok this made me smile.

    My husband and I are about to retire at the age of 54 and 51. We will be travelling the world for the next 20+ years in our own MAN 4×4 expedition vehicle. Yes we have a facebook page and will have a website, but no it won’t be all sunshine and lollipops! Our trial run was 6 months in Africa in a Landcruiser and a tent, and nope it does not all go to plan, but that is the joy of the journey and that is part of what we post about!

    Life is too short, enjoy the journey!


    1. Now you make me smile! The struggles of the journey are as much part of the adventure and do make it rememberable.

      Enjoy your great adventure!

    1. I absolutely love this article. You spoke my heart!
      2 years after your wrote this article, this photos havd gotten more and more. I sometimes feel sad about that. I want to see the real facts about vanlife, not sexy pics taken in/next to vans.

  5. Tell it as you see it Nicole if you think it’s wrong tell them and if enough people who believe that it’s wrong put pen to paper maybe just maybe they might take notice.

    I’m in agreement with you if I wanted to look at half naked women I’d be buying a porno book or video.
    I despair at some so called full timers with their don’t care attitudes I’ll do what I want!

    I’ll look at your Steyr any day

    Thanks for the update.


  6. I know this is an older post, but I only came across it today. Thank you for writing it. I recently read an article somewhere else suggesting Vanlife and Overland travel were basically the same thing. Your post served as a good counterbalance. Thank you.

    1. Thank you John. This is how I understand Vanlife versus Overland Travel. One can live/travel in a van, but not leave your country; this would still fall underneath Vanlife. Overland travel on the other hand specifies that you use your vehicle, which can be of any kind, is to travel “over land” through different countries. There are people who do both, or either one of them.

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