If you have been following Expedition Portal’s front page in the last few months, you’ll be familiar with Coen and Karin-Marijke of Landcruising Adventure. On the road since 2003, they’ve driven their Toyota BJ45 Land Cruiser through Europe, Asia, and South America taking their time to fully experience the landscapes and cultures they visit. A decade may seem like a long time to traverse just three of the world’s continents, but their journey is not a trip so much as it is a lifestyle.
When the Expedition Portal team sat down to reflect on the past twelve months and begin the process of selecting the recipients of our Overlander of the Year Award, we couldn’t think of anyone more deserving than the adventure duo of Coen and Karin-Marijke. We not only admire their unusually slow pace of travel, we are captivated by the elaborate stories and images featured on their website. Their collection of windshield views is one of the best pictorials in all of overlanding.
Ever eager to share in their travels, Coen and Karin-Marijke took the time to answer a few questions so we could all get more insight into what it’s like to travel for a full decade.
It’s hard to wrap my head around the idea of traveling for ten years straight. Does it still feel like you’re on a trip, or is this just now your lifestyle and simply what you do?
I guess you could say that when we started generating an income (through publications), our journey stopped feeling like a trip and grew into of a way of life. This was after some three years on the road. Today, a trip sounds boxed in to us, as if it has a date stamped on it, telling us when or where it will end and that isn’t something we aspire. Above our co-pilot’s seat we have a sticker saying, ‘The Journey is the Destination’, and that pretty much characterizes our way of life.
Your Land Cruiser is clearly the third character in your travel narrative. Would your travels be the same in a brand new vehicle? What made you chose that particular platform?
Our travels would be different for a couple of reasons. Because we bought an old, rusted BJ45, it has always had little mechanical issues. A nuisance as they may be at times, they have also contributed to the many fantastic meetings with local workshops and people around the world. With a brand new vehicle I doubt we would have had any trouble in the first couple of years – and thus would have missed those encounters.
From the start we were open to a variety of older vehicles. We considered the small Citroën 2CV, the spacious VW T2 Combi, and a stylish Land Rover Series. You see the line here? There are all classics in their own league. Those kind of vehicles simply appeal to us. We weren’t quite sure what we were looking for, so we posted a question on the Lonely Planet forum [Expedition Portal didn’t exist yet], asking what vehicle we should buy to cross Asia with. The majority of the answers pointed in the direction of a Land Cruiser, and some made it clear to stay away from the modern, computerized models. So anything before ’87 would do it, if I recall correctly.
Good-looking 70 series in the Netherlands were beyond our budget and, worse, the 45 series only came in mint condition. I had my classical-car friends on the lookout for something special and one of them emailed me a picture of a beat-up BJ45 in Germany. Another friend joined us to check it out as I didn’t have any knowledge of diesel engines. The Land Cruiser stood in the snow and it hadn’t run for some time, but started perfectly after just one glow cycle. Our friend told us not to buy this old piece of rust, but Karin-Marijke and I had fallen in love with the old beast at first sight. In our minds we had already bought it. Seeing this Land Cruiser brought smiles on our faces, as it does a lot of people all over the world who see us sailing around the corner.
While discussing options for our Overlander of the Year award, one thing that kept popping up is your website and how beautiful it is. I spend hours on your site. It has to be a huge endeavor to maintain it. How does it fit into your travels? Is it a hobby or a job?
The website started as a collection of stories for family and friends, more like a diary. It was in Dutch only. As we crossed Greece and Turkey, people we met on the road started asking if they could follow us on the net so we started adding English summaries to the website.
Being a graphic designer, I had fun in designing our first website in GoLive [before it was bought and killed by Adobe] but uploading any new content on the road was a terrible ordeal. I had to learn how to use Windows FTP programs [no fun, being a pure Mac guy] and find internet shops with a working CD drive. There I had to wait patiently for a dial-up connection in order to handshake my friend’s server. Frustrating times, for sure. The invention of USB sticks and especially WIFI has made life much easier in that respect.
In Pakistan, Karin-Marijke was about to give up on the English summary, as it took a lot of time writing them. However, around that time we received an email from a teacher in the U.S., asking when our next story about Iran would be published – she used our observations in her classroom because our impressions provided such a contrast to the image presented by the mainstream media.
We had not realized the effect of our stories and this email turned priorities around. Karin-Marijke concluded it was too important to continue writing in English as well; that we needed to invest time and effort to help open eyes and widen horizons of people worldwide. She set her mind to showing that the world is a beautiful place, that most people are kind and loving, and that most of them want the same as we do: a good health, food, shelter, and a future for their kids. As she likes to say, “If we all stop fearing our neighbors, we have world peace.”
With the coming of our website 2.0 at the end of 2012, we incorporated some longstanding wishes from our readers: more and bigger photos, a comment section and social-media integration. With the new website, our workflow on the website has become easier and more fun. Whereas before updates sometimes stagnated or came to a standstill for a month or two, we are now getting things out there much faster and more frequently.
So yes, like you said, keeping up the websites, we now have four: landcruisingadventure.com, notesonslowtravel.com, photocoen.com, and overlanderstoday.com, is a lot of work. It’s a combination of hobby and work. There’s the sharing of experiences, showing people the generally positive side of the world and its inhabitants. That part is hobby, but you could also say that’s how we contribute to society and hopefully help making it a better place. On the other hand, it’s work too. Through our websites we’ve gotten requests for articles and photos, and selling them is our main source of income.
Ten years into your travels, I have to ask––any plans to stop? Where to next?
No plans to stop. We love our way of life and intend to continue living this way. A dangerous trap in travel, or actually in life, is to focus too much on the future. It’s good to have a sense of direction, but thinking about the future is just that: thinking about the future. We prefer thinking and living in the present. Here and now. If at one point in time we grow tired of overlanding, we’ll find another way of life. As far as we are concerned it’s no use fretting about that now.
But, like I said, we do have sense of direction. We slowly want to round up our South America adventure by visiting Colombia and Venezuela. Then we will have to see what comes next. Central America and eventually North America sound evident, but the ridiculous prices of shipping around the Darien Gap are discouraging. Having said that, I am looking into making our Darien Gap experience a memorable one but still have a lot of loose ends to tie. So stay tuned.