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A2A Expedition: How can you afford to travel the world overland?

Back in 2011, while planning our cross continental overland journey, we came to the realization that we would most likely exhaust our resources in the pursuit of our dream. We were faced with a difficult decision to either commit and continue, or play it safe and abandon the idea completely and head home. If we did that, we could continue running our successful immigration firm and undertake month long trips once a year with regular camping trips to keep the overland addiction at bay. This was the sensible option, the safe and logical thing to do. It was also the option we eventually chose to ignore.

The overlanding addiction, however, was too powerful to ignore, the craving persistent and distracting, we were consumed completely by this one dream. The solution was to accept that we would have to reinvent ourselves and become proficient in many new skills. We had been financially successful in a country where we had to make your own opportunities and that we could do it again. We had to believe in ourselves and our potential.

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Four years later we were holed up in a comfortable little $15 a day cottage nestled in the Ecuadorian Andes, just south of Cuenca. I was putting the finishing touches to our first book, We Will Be Free, looking back at the trials and tribulations, the disasters and triumphs. Our young family had recently circumnavigated South America in our Land Rover. How many people can say that? I was proud of that accomplishment and of the book it birthed. No matter what happens in the future, those are two things which can never be taken away from us. Despite the satisfaction of those accomplishments, the cold, hard reality was that our resources were under pressure. The South African Rand had lost 60% to the Dollar since we had left home and we still had the drive across Central and North America, up to Alaska and back down.

The United States received us warmly, with open arms.  Americans were intrigued by our Land Rover and strange accents and astounded by our lack of tact as political correctness has not yet made it to South Africa.  We immediately felt at home, but somehow we knew that Baja, Mexico was going to be the soil upon which we would metamorphose into professional, full time travellers. There are a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, Mexico is much more flexible in terms of visas. Secondly, it is often only at the end of a life changing journey that the lessons are learned and given sufficient time for reflection. It has always been that way for me. Writing that first book in Ecuador was a therapeutic and it changed my life, but we still had many miles to travel and a lot to learn.

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The first rule of success in business is to keep your overheads low and profits high. This strategy had always worked well for us and it serves as the backbone of our current financial philosophy. We have few responsibilities and almost no debt, having severed those umbilical cords before leaving South Africa in 2012. We can get by with very little and do not need much more than what we have. No, we are not hippy, vegan, communists. If we were we would be driving an old VW van (I am kidding of course!), not a Defender, but we do value experiences over possessions. The trick is to live cheaply without becoming a moocher and without lowering your standards for good living. House sitting is a great option for a long term traveller to get off the road for a while, get some work done, reflect on the past and plan for the future.

Luisa found a house sitting gig in Baja, taking care of a small ranch up in the San Pedro de Martir mountains. The ranch is completely off grid, has a small holiday cottage and campsite for guests and a four mile 4×4 only track leading up from the main, paved road. Our nearest neighbour lives six miles away and at night the heavens are full of stars. Our days are spent either taking care of the ranch, cutting wood, taking care of the solar and water system, growing vegetables and maintaining the grounds or working on two new books.

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The one book is a sequel to We Will Be Free and the other is an overlander guide, how to do what we have done while making far fewer mistakes. We paid the school fees so you don’t have to. We are also setting up merchandising opportunities, writing articles, selling photographs and looking into gear sponsorship and reviewing. The income from the work we are doing here on the ranch will hopefully be sufficient to fuel our planned journey across the planet, living rough but living free. It is a gamble of course. Russia may invade Turkey, NATO may retaliate, and Europe may once again be obliterated. The aliens could turn off their invisibility shields and mine the oxygen out of our atmosphere and the water from our oceans. People could stop reading books and rely on Buzzfeed and Netflix for entertainment and inspiration. All of those scenarios are equally horrifying.

We will do our best and if that fails there is always bank robbery or teaching English in Brazil. Either way we achieve our dreams. The addiction to travel is more wicked than ever but we now at least have the privilege of experience and know our dreams are completely attainable if we continue to focus on the future and work hard.

 

If you are a long termer like us and need a break from the road you may want to look into house sitting opportunities. Check out the following international websites:

www.trustedhousesitters.com

www.mindmyhouse.com

www.nomador.com

www.housecarers.com

www.housesittersamerica.com

www.luxuryhousesitting.com

 

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Graeme Bell is a full time overlander and author. He was born in Johannesburg, South Africa but considers Cape Town home. He is currently travelling the planet with his wife Luisa and two children, Keelan and Jessica, in a Land Rover Defender 130 affectionately know as Mafuta. www.a2aexpedition.com

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