You may be wondering, who is this guy, writing all these articles in the Overlander Notebook? Well, I’m here to tell you that I’m not some bot or a mercenary, I’m a regular human being who has a hopeless passion for adventure travel just like you.
My name is Steve, and I thought I’d pull back the curtain a bit to share with you where I’m coming from, why I live for a life on the road, and what our goals are here at Overlander.
Like many of us, I was exploring remote places with 4x4s well before the word “overland” crept into our collective vocabulary. I grew up in Oregon, Wyoming, and Montana, camping, skiing, and fishing.
The four wheel drive (and more often the family station wagon) was always a means to an end - getting to the trailhead, a favorite campsite, or that primo casting spot. Within the last decade or so, my wife Julie and I had expanded our camping adventures in our trusty Jeep Cherokee beyond our home base in Missoula, Montana into Utah, Idaho, and Washington.
But that narrow perspective shifted dramatically in 2015 when Julie and I took a huge leap. We rented a Toyota HiLux with a 12 volt fridge and roof tent in Windhoek, Namibia and embarked on a truly different overland adventure - an experience where the trip was the end in itself.
It’s a cliche, but two weeks living out of a truck by ourselves in the lonely places of Namibia and Botswana, among the giraffes and lions, changed us - so much so that 24 months later, we went back to live in Botswana for two years.
While we were there, we had the amazing privilege to travel overland through a dozen countries in Africa for long periods, including one epic journey in our Land Rover Defender from Ethiopia to Botswana. We met all kinds of people, saw unbelievable landscapes, and came home to Montana knowing two unshakeable things.
One: we wanted to keep the adventure going. Two: we wanted to share what we learned - the good, the bad, and the amazing - with like-minded people. We believe firmly that the world is a beautiful place, and we all should be out there exploring it.
We taught courses at Overland Expo and the Rocky Mountain Overland Rally, I wrote an article for Overland Journal, and Julie wrote in ROVA Magazine, SA4x4: Overland Adventure Magazine, the late Alloy + Grit, She Explores, and the Christian Science Monitor. We gave interviews for Adventure Journal, Women Overlanding the World, Expedition Portal, and the GHT Overland Podcast.
Last year, when my neighbors in Bozeman at Overlander came knocking for ideas for the Overlander Notebook, I leapt at the chance.
Expedition Overland was just hitting their stride on YouTube in 2015. Clay and Rachelle, and Kurt, and Jeff, and the rest of the crew’s confidence, honesty, sense of adventure, and the fact that they were Montanans just like us, inspired me and gave me confidence of my own to expand what was possible as an overland traveler.
In the Overlander Notebook, we want to do the same for you.
We’re not here just to sell you stuff. Gear is a huge part of what we do, and the products we put the Overlander name behind we believe in, because we use them. But the experiences are what matter.
All of us at Overlander have learned a lot from our adventures both here at home and in far flung places around the globe. We’ve encountered some intoxicating highs, and some deep basement lows. One important thing that we’ve learned is that we don’t know it all, and we’re still discovering fresh ideas, cool gear, and plenty of new things about travel and about ourselves.
If we knew everything already, we wouldn’t continue to push our boundaries.
The Overlander Notebook is designed to be a community. We know you are out there doing amazing things on the road - whether you only get out for a few weekends a year, or live as a permanent nomad - we want to hear from you.
Add your comments to the blog, ask questions, share ideas. Tell us about your successes and your failures. Hit us up on Facebook and Instagram. It’s a small world among us hopeless adventurers, and we want to know where the trail takes you in the bigger world.
Now for a lightning round:
What is your current adventure vehicle and how is it equipped?
We currently have two adventure vehicles - both Land Rovers (I know, I know…). The first is “Toto”, a 1992 Defender 110 that we bought sight-unseen from strangers on the Internet in Ethiopia, a foreign country we had never been to, and drove it home to Botswana across nine thousand kilometers and eight African countries.
It was equipped for overlanding with the classic and simple set-up of a roof top tent, solar panel, auxiliary battery, 12 volt fridge, and a water system. Honestly, I believe that’s all you really need to travel in remote places. I drive it here in Missoula pretty much daily, but Toto will soon go under the knife for a big restoration.
Our second is a custom 1995 Range Rover County that is, well, let’s say it’s unique. Its rear two-thirds were removed and replaced with a 1973 Sunrader camper. That’s not a typo.
What piece of gear would you never leave home without?
Portable 12 volt fridge. My views on this unrivaled technological achievement are well known. As Edward Abbey says in Desert Solitaire, "[The refrigerator] is in fact one of the few positive contributions of scientific technology to civilization and I am grateful for it."
What are your top two overland destinations? One place you’ve been to and one place you hope to go.
While a huge part of my overlanding heart belongs to Utah’s Escalante country, southern Africa, and specifically Botswana, is unparalleled as an overland destination for me. If you can go, do it. It’s easier than you think and more incredible than you can imagine. The wildlife is beyond description.
Mongolia tops my list for a future destination where you can actually travel right now. But if the political situation ever allows for it, the deep Sahara Desert - Egypt, Libya, Chad, Niger, Algeria - would quickly rise to the top.
What do you like to cook on the road? What’s your beverage of choice for relaxing around the campfire in the evening?
When we’re on the road for longer periods, we tend to keep things simple and take advantage of foods and ingredients that are available locally wherever we’re traveling. In places like east and southern Africa, for example, you’re almost never far from a farm stand or a food vendor. As the late, great Anthony Bourdain always said, don’t fear the street food!
When we know we will be in really remote places for long periods, I like to pre-make meals ahead of time to sock in the fridge - anything that can go in a tortilla or a wrap is a go-to for us. The fewer dishes you need to wash, the better. I’m off alcohol these days, but it’s hard to beat an ice-cold IPA with friends around the campfire somewhere in Montana.
Tell us about a particularly challenging or meaningful experience you had on an overland journey.
One of my best memories from traveling in Africa is this one.
On Christmas day on our long trip home to Botswana from Ethiopia, we fired up the Defender and left a small campsite in the western Kenyan city of Kitale on our way to Uganda. Passports stamped, and money exchanged at the tiny border post of Suam, we began the long ascent to the Ugandan highlands in Mt. Elgon National Park.
I estimated the climb at nearly 3500 feet over about 20 miles - a never-ending sequence of mud-slicked and potholed switchbacks. The gravel track, sometimes only a goat trail in places, was lined by tiny villages and banana plantations. School children would run along with Land Rover, laughing out loud, as we whined up the grades in low gear, dodging cows and chickens.
We traversed several different ecosystems, from misty, sticky jungles to open-floored forests of towering pines. The vistas from the plateau stretched endlessly over the Great Rift Valley, across to Kenya’s ancient volcanoes whose conical shapes faded into the haze like they were in some kind of Instagram filter. Wood smoke from cooking fires drifted in our open windows. The locals waved and cheered us on as we bumped and bounced languidly forward, neither of us wanting the drive to end.
Four hours later we found ourselves taking in the equatorial sunset at a crowded but cheerful little bar in Sipi Falls, a cold Nile Special sweating in my hand. As Christmases go, I can’t imagine a better one.
Any advice for adventurers new to overlanding?
Often the advice that you hear about getting started in overlanding is, “Just do it!” While I agree with this idea in principle, I tend to qualify it with this advice: just do it, but do it with some knowledge and some preparation. Randomly heading for the hills without a little research can be a recipe for misery or disaster. The knowledge base of the overlanding community is vast and deep. Tap into it, ask questions, get equipped and you’ll have the time of your life.
Anything else we should know about you?
We travel with an adventure cat that we adopted in Botswana. Her name is Katsana - and she's a big Land Rover fan, as you can see.
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