Overlanding Vehicle Part 2: Just What Am I Looking For?

It is so easy to get excited at the idea of buying a new vehicle. It is even easier to let dreaming get out of hand when you avoid looking at prices and imagine that you have unlimited resources. In the last post I talked about the dream of EarthRoamers and EarthCruiser. Those rigs are amazing but The EarthCruiser is close to $200,000 US and the EarthRoamer is closer to $500,000! Time to think for something more reasonable.

What Am I Looking For?

The more that you look into Overlanding the more you find out that there are a million ways to do this. To this point I have spent the time getting around on my motorbike. As I have said before the bike is an amazing way to see and be a part of where you are. As you travel you experience the sights, sounds and smells in a very intense way that is not possible when the metal of a car or truck is separating you from it. That said I have learnt that the idea of building your house and making your bed every day gets old after a while. On the last trip to Europe I also found it hard to find campgrounds as language was a barrier and in the end didn’t even set up my tent once.

So for a year away I am looking for some things in a new vehicle. First is that I need something that will allow me to be independent. That means somewhere I can sleep, eat and possibly use a washroom. Secondly I am also interested in a 4×4, I have no idea what the state of the roads will be like and I don’t want that to be the reason why I don’t see something cool.

There are a few different options that might fit these conditions.

Class B RV’s

There are a bunch of different types of vans that are being used by people to live in for long periods of time. As houseing prices soar, #Vanlife is becoming more popular. The vans are quite amazing and usually have most of the things that I am looking for. The company Sportsmobile creates some amazing off road capable vehicles.

While these trucks are right for the task I have two issues with them. First, and least important, is that they generally do not have washrooms. Some designs do but most do not and I guess that I am now getting old enough that comfort is becoming more of an issue for me. I am assuming that access to showers in campgrounds in South America will not be the same thing as here in the North and the idea of always showering in the outside with portable showers may become a little old.

The second and most important issue is that for the years before and after the trip this will probably become my primary vehicle. I don’t have amazing amounts of space to store an RV and being able to afford two cars is a lot of money that I just don’t have. Driving a camper to the grocery store every day may get a little old.

Truck Campers

Truck Campers seem like the perfect comprimise. These rigs allow me to leave the camper stored some place and a pick up truck to drive around in at home. I have never owned a truck before but I do treat the hatchbacks sort of like pick ups, I rarely have the back seat up. Many trucks on the market come as very good 4×4’s and will allow me to learn about off roading before I go.

The campers also match most of the things I am looking for. Depending on the size they come with bathrooms, full kitchens and beds that I won’t have to make up every day. Air conditioning and heating systems are possible and storage of water and food is easy. I really like this option as it means I have something for trips before and after South America.

So there it is, time to start looking for the right truck and camper.


Overlanding Vehicle Part 1: The Dream Vehicle

I guess I come by the idea of travel over long distances by vehicle honestly. Most summers when I was young my parents took my sister and I on a trip. While most of my friends were on their way to Grandparents houses or off to the cottage we headed out to explore North America which really means we headed south of the border to places in the U.S.A. We would pack up the stationwagon, hook up the pop up trailer and head off. Mom would navigate, Dad would drive and my sister and I would load up the back seat with books and music to spend the time between camp sites. Once a trip my father would get angry at us for having our noses in our books. “I brought you all this way to see this and you are ignoring it!” he would say.

Border between British Columbia and Yukon Territory on the Stewart-Cassiar Highway

My recent trips have allowed me to see more of the world. I still love the idea that getting there is part of the experience and the enjoyment of travel. My motorbike has taken me to Alaska, Vancouver Island, James Bay and all across Europe. Overlanding on the bike is a fanstastic way to experience where you are. You are open to all of the sights, smells and elements of that place. If it is warm outside so are you, if it is raining you are wet. It means that you are very much in the moment at that place.

So should I take the bike to South America? There are many reasons why this would be a good way to go but this time I think that I will go in a different vehicle. All of my past trips have lasted about a month and I find that even in that length of time I do grow a little tired of setting up and tearing down my tent every day. Even if I spend a few days in one location it is hard to feel that my things are secure in a tent and that means I tend to pack a bunch of things onto my bike even if I am not putting away the tent.

What do you think? Travel South America in style? My favorite part of this is the tent!

So the search for the perfect vehicle begins. Type Overlanding Vehicle into Google and you get all sorts of different ideas of what that will look like. There is an amazing range of setups from the very rustic, small and lightweight to the massive truck made to go anywhere in epic style. So if money were not an object what should I get?

UniMog Camper.

Unimog: These trucks are amazing. Mercedes-Benz trucks and chassis are modified into campers by companies all around the world. They are very popular in Europe where the idea of traveling around the world is not new. The massive wheels and hard core suspension can deal with most everything and the campers are designed to be self sufficient for extended periods of time.

Unlike the Unimog which is a chassis that many different companies modify, Earthroamer is a company that make high end overland truck campers. These vehicles seem to be very well built and have luxuries that I wouldn’t even have considered. They can even have a tv larger than the one I have at home on the outside of the camper.

EarthCruiser: Just like Earthroamer, EarthCruiser is a company that builds overland vehicles. I would have to say that I think I am most impressed with the design and thinking that go into these trucks. The design that allows for travel anywhere in the world seems to show that the owners actually do travel with these themselves. I would love to see one of these up close some time soon.

So…. what would you want to go in for a year away?

Who’s Going With You?

About a year ago I downloaded an ebook titled ‘Don’t Go There. It’s Not Safe. You’ll Die’. This book’s title amazingly encapsulates the sentement of many of the reactions or questions I get from people I talk to about this upcoming trip. As the trip is two and a half years away I do have my nervous or doubtful moments.

The way in which people express their concern to me really does depend on our releationship. My father has the ability to be amazingly blunt and has expressed his concern for the idea of crossing into Mexico and the danger of the Cartels. The irony that my father has walked across this border isn’t quite lost on me but those were safer times, wern’t they? More recently my students found out that I would be traveling to this area of the world. Beyond their very touching anger that I would not be at their commencement ceremony they also wanted to know what would happen if I was kidnaped or left for dead in some ditch. My nonchalant response that I would deal with that when if it happened did not sit well with them.

The other question I get often is “Who are you going with?”. This question has been with me for as long as I have been traveling. My first real overseas trips were either done with friends and family but more recently I have done quite a lot on my own. In the beginning I spent quite a lot of time trying to convince people to come with me but for a variety of reasons (family, availability of time, not interested in that location or that method of travel) no one would come. I realized that if I waited to find company then I may never go where I want to at all.

I will say that I do have my fears. Gangs and drug smuggling, petty crime, robberies and vandalism, corrupt police and government officials are all things I should prepare for but my biggest fear isn’t any of those. I can be / am an introvert. My biggest fear is that I will travel all of this way but not make the most of it. Traveling through countries where you don’t know anyone can be quite isolating and not knowing the language does make things worse. After trips in the past, a month has been just enough and I have looked forward to friends, family and home. I worry that after a few months I will lock onto the end goal and miss the stuff inbetween in a rush to go home.

In the end I will just have to go and find out. Then again my answer to the question of company is …. You are welcome to come if you like, only you will need your own vehicle.