There are quite a few books available proclaiming to be the ultimate edifier of all things overland. I’ve read only a few of them, skimmed over most––but enjoyed only one. That book is also the newest in the mix and gives hope for an otherwise dull literary genre.
When Graeme and Luisa Bell first announced they were compiling an overlander’s resource, I knew it would be rich with expertise and equally enjoyable to read. Graeme’s first publication, We Will Be Free, is something every traveler should pick up, particularly those unable to hit the road because they can’t get out of their own way. For those who eventually summon the moxie to load up a truck, the Bell’s new book, Travel the Planet Overland, spells out how to do it properly.
Unlike other overland textbooks which are so florid they make a Tolstoy novel read like a travel brochure, the Bells applied far more restraint with their selection of content. That efficiency is probably derived from their experience as full-time overlanders living in a Defender 130––with their two kids. Just as not everything fits in a Landy, not everything needs to fill the pages of a book. Although extensive in its reach, their book contains no superfluous information to clutter the read.
Without spoiling the plot (The butler definitely didn’t do it), the book covers a sweeping range of categories from practical tips on vehicle modifications to product reviews, travel stories, camping strategies, medical considerations, safety tactics, and much more. Have you ever wondered how to cook a proper South African Braai? Grame spells it out. All of their information is concisely delivered with a refreshing bit of levity that is all too rare in overlanding books. Every page is also filled with colorful graphics and Luisa’s beautiful photographs. The next time your friends come over for dinner and ask, “What’s overlanding?” Just hand them this book and a beer, but don’t forget to ask for the book back when they leave.
The quality of the book speaks to the Bell’s dedication to a producing a premium product. The images are vibrant, the pages thick and hearty, it will last for years to come.
If you’re as fascinated by overland culture as I am, you’ll love the section containing an elaborate listing of some of the overlanders the Bells have encountered in their travels.
What I appreciate most about the Bell’s book is the level of experience it exudes with every successive page. I’ve read their stories enough to recognize the early years when their Defender 130 looked as if it had just rolled off the showroom floor. It’s still a stunning vehicle, but it now wears the patina of thousands of hard won miles. Those miles, and the years required to travel them, have made all four of the Bells experts of overlanding.
A testament to the creativity of the book is the fact it’s fun to read even if you never want to leave your own zip code. For those who plan to push further afield, Travel the Planet Overland should find a spot under the front seat where it can be accessed quickly when a border guard gives you a sideways glance or your hub bearings go flying into the bush.
After reading it myself, more than once, I admit I now have a compulsion to hit the road and never look back. To me, that’s worth the $45 asking price, right there.
See you on the road, Bell family! – CN
Not only a fun and informative read, it’s a very high quality book. Hard bound with thick pages and vivid printing, it would make a great gift.
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The Therm-a-Rest Space Cowboy 45 is rated 4.6 out of 5 stars from 9 cusomter reviews on Amazon.