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Episode 116 Ferenc and Evelin of Overland Site on Rallying, the Silk Road, and Overlanding China in a 2006 Prado

Show Notes for Podcast #116

Ferenc and Evelin of Overland Site on Rallying, the Silk Road, and Overlanding China in a 2006 Prado

Summary:
Hungarian overlanders Ferenc and Evelin traveled from Budapest to Singapore for four years in their 2006 Land Cruiser Prado. In this podcast from the field, senior editor Ashley Giordano learns about multi-country rallies, tips for traveling through China with a guide, and Overland Site’s latest Pan-American trip in a 1998 Iveco Tubodaily 4×4.

 

Guest Bio:

Evelin and Ferenc have years’ of overlanding experience. So far Ferenc has explored six continents and well over 75 countries. Evelin is up to five continents but has her sights set on the other two as well!

They’ve been blissfully together since 2014. A few years later they both quit their day jobs (as a marketing consultant and as a lawyer), committing themselves to the Overlander lifestyle full time.

For them, Overlanding is incomparable to any other kind of travel style. There’s the tourist experience and then there’s the Overlander experience. The highest points of their travels have almost invariably happened in some small, remote village or on an off-off road.

Their choice of weapons include a 1978 Toyota Land Cruiser, and a 2006 Toyota Land Cruiser Prado, but currently, they are exploring the Americas with a 1998 Iveco TurboDaily 4×4.

Host Bios:

ASHLEY GIORDANO

Ashley Giordano completed a 48,800-kilometer overland journey from Canada to Argentina with her husband, Richard, in their well-loved but antiquated Toyota pickup. On the zig-zag route south, she hiked craggy peaks in the Andes, discovered diverse cultures in 15 different countries, and filled her tummy with spicy ceviche, Baja fish tacos, and Argentinian Malbec. You can usually find Ashley buried in a pile of travel books, poring over maps, or researching wild medicinal plants. Ashley is a co-founder of Women Overlanding the World and crew member of Expedition Overland. You’ll find this Canadian-born couple exploring a different continent in 2021, and sharing their trip every step of the way at Desk to Glory. @desktoglory_ash

 

 

This episode sponsored in part by:

iKamper

Dometic Outdoor

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Full Transcript

Ashley Giordano 0:04 Hello and welcome to the Overland Journal Podcast. My name is Ashley Giordano. I’m the senior editor of Overland journal and Expedition portal. And today we’re doing a podcast from the field in beautiful -and cold- Alberta in the Rocky Mountains with Ferenc and Evelin from Overland Site. Welcome, you guys! Thank you so much for being here.

Ferenc 0:25 Thank you, yeah. Thanks for having us.

Evelin 0:27 Yeah, thanks for having us.

Scott Brady 0:28 And a special thanks to Teren designs for supporting this week’s podcast. When you’re buying the best for your rig, you might as well do the same for your wardrobe. Teren is the best outdoor apparel on the market, and the sharpest looking as well. From their flagship, lightweight traveler pants with built in bug repellency to their innovative fire resistant, campfire puffy, you can pack lighter, stay fresh longer, and push the boundaries on adventure. Build your kit today at terendesigns.com. That’s t e r e n designs.com. Because you no longer have to look like you live out your vehicle when you actually live out of your vehicle. Thanks again, Teren.

Evelin 1:10 Yeah so excited!

Ferenc 1:11 Yeah, as I mentioned yesterday, we were feeling (inaudible).

Ashley Giordano 1:15 No!

Ferenc 1:16 Overlanding legends.

Ashley Giordano 1:19 Nonsense. I feel that way too, actually, because you guys have done- you’ve seen a lot of things and gone to a lot of places all over the world. Just tell me how you got into overlanding. What was the beginning of it all?

Ferenc 1:33 Okay, well, I guess it started with me.

Evelin 1:35 Yeah.

Ferenc 1:37 We’ve, well, I was always into cars when I was a kid. I loved cars. And then I got into traveling in my 20s I guess. So this is combining the two. And when I- with two of my friends- we decided to enter the Mongolia Charity rally. We bought a pickup truck on eBay and then we just left from London, heading to Mongolia and long story short, we didn’t make it to Mongolia with the truck. We made it to Mongolia without the truck. By the time we got to Tajikistan, I really kind of suddenly loved the whole thing and I love the fact that I’m with my mate, we’re going camping, we don’t know where we’re going to sleep and we’re off-roading. We’re going through the sand dunes in Turkmenistan and meeting people that we would never meet as like a tourist in a regular sense of the word- meaning of the word. Yeah, I just- after the trip we met and apparently that’s all I was talking about.

Evelin 2:25 Exactly. He kept talking about this Mongolia rally that he did with his two friends and-

Ferenc 2:31 One of the friends is named Ashley.

Evelin 2:35 The whole trip was five weeks for them and I was thinking about oh my God, how can you sit in a car for five weeks! I need to you know, get out and do exercises and workouts and everything and they just constantly driving on the road. And fans just told me I can not imagine how cool is to follow just some tracks in the grass in Mongolia and we should do that someday. He kept talking about this dream and we decided to quit our job in 2017 so we did and we also bought rooftop tanks to our- first for our-

Ferenc 3:08 But first we actually- so when we met we didn’t have our Prado but when we were like going to buy a car- we needed a car so we’re like, okay, what can I- what can we buy that’s gonna be good for a future trip. We didn’t have any plans at that point, just like okay, I know that at some point, we’re gonna do this and so what is the car that I can drive every day? I can turn it into an Overlander. And that’s when we did with the Prado and then like a couple of years or maybe a year later we like- let’s buy a rooftop tent. That’s how it started.

Ferenc 3:10 So in 2016, we bought the Prado and in 2017, we decided to quit our job we did in October and I did in October 1 (inaudible) December, and we both bought a rooftop tent and we went to Scandinavia for two weeks. Just to test how am I feeling.

Evelin 3:38

That was before quitting jobs, actually. In the summer, like a test trip kind of thing.

Evelin 4:02 That was a test trip because before that I have never slept in a tent.

Ferenc 4:08 Not even a ground tent.

Ashley Giordano 4:11 What was that experience like?

Evelin 4:13 I mean, it was so comfortable because that rooftop tent was quite big with a (inaudible).

Ferenc 4:21 Mattress.

Evelin 4:22 Mattress but basically it was this (inaudible).

Ashley Giordano 4:26 Spongy mattress.

Evelin 4:27 Yeah, exactly. So that was really comfortable for me and also the weather was really good and first we camped in proper campsites, so we didn’t do any wild camping in Scandinavia. I really enjoyed that trip and on the way back, we just decided to go to Africa because we saw an advertisement- or sort of like an advertisement- on Facebook that an amateur rally from Budapest is going to Gambia so we just decided okay, let’s do another test drive before we do the Singapore (inaudible).

Ashley Giordano 5:00 Gotcha. And you are both originally from Hungary?

Ferenc 5:03 Yeah, we are, yeah.

Ashley Giordano 5:05 And did you buy the Prado there or somewhere else?

Ferenc 5:07 Yeah, in Hungary. Yeah, just yeah, like it was like nine years old, perfect condition, first owner was really good and then I actually wanted to do upgrades before we went to Africa. So I got some gear ready, I got bought the (inaudible) fridge, I bought the rooftop tent, we got a few bits and pieces, camping stuff. But then I knew if we want to go to Singapore, over six months, seven months, or however long it was, and then also through the Sahara desert and everything, I want more than a stock truck. We brought it to a place in Austria, where they just done all the work and it’s got a Australian suspension system now. It’s got the snorkel, it’s got the rooftop roof rack, it’s got the- just a regular- the usual stuff. And we built draw system in the back with my dad, just a DIY, we didn’t want to buy an off the shelf one- it was like, built not bought kind of thing. And so we built that, actually, we built two versions built one for Africa, and then we decided that was good. That trip was actually good. That’s why we call it like a test trip. It turned out to be a proper difficult trip, actually, because we thought, oh, yeah, month and a half in Africa. Let’s see. Let’s try our equipment. And then see if that’s gonna work for us driving from Europe to Singapore. It turned out to be not just a test trip, it was actually quite difficult. But then we learned a lot, we learned how to drive on sand dunes, we learned how to go through a river, we learned quite a bit.

Ashley Giordano 6:29 So which countries in Africa did you go to during that trip?

Evelin 6:31 So Morocco, Western Sahara, Mauritania, Senegal, and Gambia.

Ferenc 6:36 And then all the way back, of course, as well.

Evelin 6:38 Five countries in total. Yeah. But before that we haven’t done any overlanding trip, or I haven’t done before.

Ferenc 6:46 At least not like this.

Evelin 6:47 Yeah, so it was a good test drive.

Ashley Giordano 6:50 So you use the Prado for your daily driver as well as an overland vehicle. What benefits did it have for both? Like how did that work together for both things?

Ferenc 7:01 Well, the- first of all, we live in the middle of the city so we were owning other cars as well. So like I couldn’t possibly justify another two cars. So we just had the one and we had to make a compromise, I guess. It was big enough for an Overlander, we could even sleep inside. And the fact that it’s not like a roof conversion, there is no pop top, there is no permanent changes in the truck other than the suspension and the snorkel, the sleeping platform inside or obviously the rooftop tent can be taken out the sleeping platform could be taken out. So once we got home, I could remove- unbolt all these things, boxes from the roof and the rooftop tent, and then it suddenly was a normal car. Okay, it looks a lot better than the normal car because it’s lifted and chunky tires and everything. But still, it was a good daily driver still.

Ashley Giordano 7:48 Okay, so you did this trip to Africa? What did you take away from that trip? Like what did you learn in terms of- about yourself or about Africa or the world that you didn’t know going into the trip?

Evelin 8:00 So I learned that we are so lucky, just in general to live in a very developed country in the middle of Europe. So because we so many Africans dealing with water problems, or any kind of problems with programs and everything, we could easily cross any border without a European passport, and the African people- they were just you know, gathering at the border, they try to cross the border, and they couldn’t so at that time, I just realized how lucky I am that I born in Hungary and I have the European passport and also that we can have access to water drinking water, for example. So it just taught me that how lucky we are just in general and we don’t have to, you know, always say that ah… complain about everything, yeah.

Ashley Giordano 8:53 Oh, yeah. You guys are so funny. You were telling me last night about Hungarians.

Ferenc 8:57 Just complain, all the time.

Evelin 8:59 It’s a habit actually, yeah, sorry to say that but that’s true.

Ferenc 9:04 If any Hungarians are listening, I don’t care what you think! It’s true, it’s true. Yeah, no, but we are on a smaller scale of things, we also learned that we get cold very easily, because we slept in a rooftop tent and we had ice outside and just frozen. And we were cold a lot in Africa, which was shocking. Yeah. But it was January to be fair, January-February going through the Atlas Mountains. Still, we thought it’s gonna be warmer than it was. Also, another thing, I have to admit that one of the factors why we went with this organized rally, which I would never do, again, let not be that kind of organization, at least not that I don’t have any issues with the organization with that organization. Just wouldn’t go with 150 cars again, because that’s how big it was and it was a rushed trip and it was too fast for- I think we travel faster than regular overlanders anyway, but it’s not like we want to drive 20 hours a day. So it was a bit overwhelming. It was a lot of driving and a lot of distance. And a lot of, I would say chaos in like trying to get from A to B. Anyway, so I wouldn’t do that again. But one of the reasons why we signed up to that rally was because we never been to Africa. And we like, okay, northwest Africa, we don’t know how it is there. Let’s go with other people. And this is like, this sounds fun. So let’s do that. When we plan a trip, like let’s say this one, and we are going to go to South America or Mexico or places like that normally (inaudible) friends and family are asking us, how can you go in there, it’s so dangerous, and you’re gonna get killed, or those kinds of comments that many people get when they plan trips to these countries. I’m kind of getting upset when I get those questions. I’m like, Why do you think that you’ve never been there, you just hear news and you think is bad. And people shoot that there’s a lot of killings and whatever. But I was the same kind in a way. When I plan my trip to we plan our trip to Africa, like we were comfortable, more comfortable to go with other people then alone. And we would have been fine. Of course.

Evelin 10:59 Yeah, because on the way back, we didn’t have any issues. Because on the way back, we were alone, almost alone.

Ferenc 11:05 And yeah, it was fine. Of course.

Ashley Giordano 11:07 And you guys it was it two weeks from Hungary down to…?

Ferenc 11:11 It was about 16 days from Hungary to The Gambia. So it’s a lot of distance, like 8000 kilometers or something. And then on the way back, we took our time and then stopped in places where we wanted to but otherwise, it’s because it’s kind of a that rally we talking about, it’s kind of a challenge to do. So you got to be there, your truck has to be able to do, your- you have to be able to do it. The advantage of that- doing that rally- was that we got to places we wouldn’t even be going (inaudible) because it went through some really sketchy areas actually, where the military was guarding the camp because it would have been a target- too many people from Europe in one place in the desert, apparently. It would have been a target so we went far into the Sahara desert as well in Mauritania, so we wouldn’t have done it alone. So things are for those kind of things. It was a very good experience. And we met fantastic people on the trip nice.

Ashley Giordano 12:03 How would you prepare for another rally, if you’re gonna do one versus a longer term overland trip?

Ferenc 12:09 I wouldn’t do a rally.

Ashley Giordano 12:13 (inaudible) out there that are want to do a rally (inaudible).

Ferenc 12:15 Okay, actually there was a guy from California who’s done the same trip, (inaudible). There’s a lot of things to consider, because you either buy- because it starts in Europe in Hungary but honestly, once you’re in Europe, you can buy the truck or the car that you want, anywhere in Europe, and then just use those plates and drive to Africa, sell it there, if you want or drive it back to Europe and sell it then. But then what Mark’s done, he weighed the pros and cons of buying it locally in California, upgrade the truck in a way that he wanted to buy everything tested, gone to your, like a four wheel drive driving course thing so he could do that with his own truck. And then he shipped it, and then use the trucks sold it in and- well actually he gave it away in Africa to charity. One thing is the vehicle to consider. The second thing is whether you want to go to the other side of the planet and do a rally like this, or you want to do something like the Baja rallies, I’m sure there is rallies in Africa, like that are in in Asia as well like that. But it’s fun, because you meet a lot of like minded people in a very short period of time. So if you don’t have time for like a six month overland trip on your own, then these tend to be much shorter, because most people do in this specific rally, we’re on just a yearly vacation for two weeks, because then you can do that you can fit it in. So that’s, I guess- that’s another advantage of it.

Ashley Giordano 13:32 Out of the rallies, the purpose of it is to leave a vehicle behind (inaudible).

Ferenc 13:36 A lot of it would be like the, like the charity rally that I’ve attempted to do in 2014. And we didn’t make it there. But yeah, that was the same kind of idea. Although, for example, compared to this rally to that one is like one of like the the African one was to all 150 cars, going almost with the same pace every day, checking in, like every stage kind of thing. Although there is different categories you might not need to check in. But there is like the rally was going as a group together. Whereas with the London to Mongolia charity rally was like you live on one specific day if you want together and it’s like there’s like a ceremony and then you arrive in Ulaanbaatar whenever you want. So you take as long as you want, any route you want, whereas the African rally was like a set route.

Ashley Giordano 14:23 What were the names of those rallies you (inaudible).

Ferenc 14:25 So the African was the Budapest Bamako rally, then the London to Mongolia was to the Mongolia charity rally because there’s a Mongol Rally, but that’s totally different so this is Mongolia charity rally. So we not only- we were not only doing rallies, but we were doing our own little road trips and camping trips as well other than Scandinavia and these rallies. So we didn’t just do these organized rallies we’ve done- I’ve done a lot of road trips with friends. A lot like in Europe, it’s- I think Europe is fantastic to do road trips. Not necessarily at least not the western part for off roading or remote backcountry camping because there are too many people for that. And Europe is too crowded for that. Eastern part you can do it southern part, yeah. But for road trips and maybe stay in organized campsite yeah, that’s, it’s beautiful.

Ashley Giordano 15:13 So you finished the Africa trip slash rally and then you went back home to prepare for the big?

Ferenc 15:21 Not really? We’ve been back home for like a week.

Evelin 15:26 Yeah, a week. But after that we flew to Asia, Southeast, Southeast Asia to Vietnam to spend the month there and also to Bali.

Ferenc 15:39 So we’ve spent a month in each in Saigon and in Bali, and we just spent two months in Asia, and then we flew back. So this is another thing I might, I wouldn’t necessarily do again this way. Because we flew back from Asia. So we spent like a month and a half in Africa, then two months in Asia, just flying there and then we flew back to Europe, and then started the trip but that meant it was a very hectic preparation, because we got back and okay, let’s upgrade the drawer system. Let’s buy this. Let’s order (inaudible) is not going to arrive. We can’t buy that. So I wouldn’t do it this way anymore but we were like, okay, we have two months. We’re not working. Let’s do something that doesn’t involve sitting at home. So we flew to Asia. Yeah, it was fun. It was good.

Ashley Giordano 16:21 Yeah. What were the highlights of the trip? Your backpacking, I imagine?

Ferenc 16:25 When we actually worked. We actually worked online. So I was setting up the website. Evelin was also starting her freelancer.

Evelin 16:35 I tried to build a web shop and drop shipping webshop. But after that, I just realized that how much I love the advertisement part of marketing. So I specialize myself in Facebook and Instagram advertising and also in Google advertising. So yeah, we went to Singapore and after Singapore, then I just started to work as a freelancer, basically. But the two months that we spent in Southeast Asia, it was a very good time for me to learn a lot of things about online marketing. So interesting. I really appreciated that time. And also, we met amazing people that and beaches, you know, you just get inspired by other people.

Ferenc 17:15 Because we stayed in this really cool co working space, we worked in a co-working space in Bali, like you have a pool and the beach is like 200 meters away, but you’re working all day. So we were thinking, Okay, we’re going to spend this two months between the two trips Africa trip and the Asian trip with work. We trying to sort of establish ourselves working online, but let’s not do it in Europe or Budapest. So we flew to Asia and it was like two sounds maybe sounds a bit I don’t know…

Ashley Giordano 17:42 Wonderful?

Ferenc 17:43 Yes, but sounds a bit like, oh, that’s just a bit too extravagant to fly to Asia to work or something. It was actually cheaper to stay there for those two months than staying at home.

Evelin 17:56 And you know, it’s a lifestyle. So digital nomads live in Southeast Asia and work for from there. Yeah, it’s just a very cool lifestyle.

Ashley Giordano 18:05 Nice. How did you transition from your full what I imagined was a full time job to being a freelancer?

Evelin 18:13 Yeah. So I always hated this nine to five job, but I really loved marketing and I was always working in online marketing. I hated this office lifestyle so I was really relieved when (inaudible) decided, okay, let’s quit our job, then I have a year to figure out what am I gonna do with my life, and I was 26 or 27 (inaudible) I was quite young. So I just realized I still have time to figure it out. And Southeast Asia, it just happened, you know? And I realized that what am I gonna focus on be done with the Singapore trip. And when we got back home, I was still a little bit confused. And I went job interviews and my steps in the building. And in the office, I looked around me and the people were so depressed and so you know, exhausted and I just decided, you know, I can’t do it anymore. So I went back home after my first job interview, I registered myself on artwork, because that’s a freelancer platform. And you can find jobs that and I was just really focused to find an online job there. So that’s where I got my first clients and the clients just came by recommendations.

Ashley Giordano 19:35 That’s so powerful, that word of mouth, like you have one client- do a really, really good job, they will recommend you to a bunch of other people who will recommend you to other people. And that’s I think, even with social media and email and all that it seems like word of mouth is still super powerful. And what were you doing?

Ferenc 19:59 Originally I’m a lawyer and I work for investment companies in London and I’ve done it remotely from Budapest most of the time, but I spent a lot of time in London as well before. And I like a lot of parts of my job, at least initially I used to, but I’m mostly liked the whole environment with like, worked with very smart people, I like challenging tasks and everything, but after a while, it just got to be too difficult for for what I like compared to what I want to do, like, be outdoors, you know, spend more time with travel and this was like very strict corporate environment that I didn’t like anymore. Even though I was very lucky to work remote a pre pandemic world, you know, I was working for like seven years from my own department for boss that was 1000 miles away. And there was again, still like, it still got to a level and I’m like, Okay, I went to Mongolia with my mates, I know I want to get out of this job. And finally we quit in 2017 but it’s very hard so I guess because I don’t dislike all of the parts of my job but it gives me the opportunity to do this right now is very hard to get away from it but I did three times but that means I went back three times. So this is what’s happening now. Like I quit my job well it’s not a say job and it’s really a job but I also have like clients because I work as a consultant and it also goes through recommendation and but it’s just a very official very strict world working for these big companies and and it’s just I want this like you know, you look outside and there’s a river that doesn’t involve that what I’m trying to do is set up my own online business and like do my own things online as well. So I’m in the process of doing that but chances are I will just go back and work for another like do another six month project made it for one project and now we’re off to the Antarctica again. I don’t know I find that this is a very frequent question when you talk to people especially people who are not overlanding or not long term like how can you afford it? How do you do it? And the main answer that we have usually is we don’t buy stuff you know we don’t buy the latest phones we don’t buy new clothes we don’t buy new cars we don’t we don’t have a car loan, especially if somebody is asking who’s paying for like a $700 monthly car loan and asking us like how can you do this how can you afford this I’m like there’s your answer. I mean, but if that’s your preference to drive a brand new truck but then not travel like you can’t maybe you cannot have both some people can we will be able to pay for a car loan and a mortgage and everything else and then do this so we decided this is our preference.

Ashley Giordano 22:26 Making a priority and then there are always sacrifices or decisions that you have to make.

Ferenc 22:31 Yeah, and it’s just as I said like we were driving the same truck that drove to Singapore a lot of people would have bought to be fair I would have bought two separately my mindset now I would have bought a separate tracks for that trip and then sell it later.

Ashley Giordano 22:45 So now looking back you said that you would actually in an ideal world prefer to have one purpose built vehicle for overlanding and then a separate one for a daily driver. What about that vehicle that was built for both do you feel like should have been changed?

Ferenc 23:00 I still love that truck. I love that it’s a Mr. Toyota Landcruiser 120 Prado. It’s really great. It’s a great truck. But then if you’re doing like two weeks overland trips, maybe a weekend trip maybe like shorter trips, my answer would be still be the same as in like, use your daily driver put a rooftop tent on top or sleep inside, just do that but if you’re going on a six months plus long trip, have a purpose. Lee made overland truck because your life is going to be easier and better on the road. Like for example with the Prado, it was a wish we had like a pop top roof where we could have stood up inside and if the weather was bad, we could have made a tea or Russia thesis or something like that we were always outside and the fact that we went through Central Asia and the Himalayas or part of the Himalayas, being mountain ranges bad weather if you’re doing everything outside it’s not as comfortable if you just have your daily driver with a rooftop tent. And also another thing is even though it’s a very capable truck, I would have probably bought a stronger one maybe higher lift or bigger tires, more recovery equipment we I think we were again this is a balance, how much money you want to spend and how much weight do you want to take and I think weight is equally important as money in in these terms and like we ensure high lift jack or things like that if you have a smoker which the 120 Prado relatively is a small one you get to decide whether you take a big tool that you may or may not need over to play that so long trips have a purposely built one shorter trips (inaudible).

Evelin 24:35 Yeah but mostly it was a good idea to show the people that you don’t have fancy car so if you have a family car you can just upgraded it go wherever you want for an overland trip. Yeah so you don’t know you can do fancy cars or fancy man’s or but as you can see on the road so it was a good opportunity to show the people that the fact that you can have a family car and you can have Maybe a bit actually inspires my friends who has who have to Corona is it? Yeah, like a 15 year old Corolla. Very small car. And yeah, financials inspire them, they destroy our system in the back. So they be that on and they could sleep inside in that small cart and they went to Croatia and also to Slovenia last year and also this year they’re gonna do that again until they they find their I don’t know dream van which is a transporter the four or the three? I can’t remember. But yeah, they just inspired our friends and it’s so cool.

Scott Brady 25:43 This content is brought to you by Overland Journal, our premium quality print publication. The magazine was founded in 2006 with a goal of providing independent equipment and vehicle reviews along with the most stunning adventures and photography. We care deeply about the countries and cultures we visit and share our experiences freely with our readers. We also have zero advertorial policy and do not accept any advertiser compensation for our reviews. By subscribing to Overland Journal, you’re helping to support our employee owned and veteran owned publication. Your support also provides resources and funding for content like you’re watching, or listening to right now. You can subscribe directly on our website at overlandjournal.com.

Ashley Giordano 26:39 Speaking of inspiring and vans so you guys did this trip from was it Budapest to Singapore? In the Prado.

Ferenc 26:48 Yeah.

Ashley Giordano 26:48 And you learned a lot about that you like many, many other people that I’ve chatted with had the experience in that vehicle, and then the inside living space for longer trips becomes more important. And so what did you choose and why?

Ferenc 27:05 I mean, my ideal dream truck was always the 70 series trophy Land Cruiser, but then by the time we’d so that would have been ideal for Budapest Singapore trip and we met lots of really well built 70 series on the trip. And I was like it was just jealous. And but then by the time we got back and we were thinking of okay, how permanent are we going to work online, and how long and all those kind of things and for that a roof conversion like a pop top roof if that’s that’s how you call it right? Those are just those are great but not enough not big enough for for permanent living inside which we had plans for. So we wanted a four by four van we we wanted to stick with four wheel drive, because that last part of the trip that you want to take to get to the most beautiful places you need for a drive or high ground clearance and all that so we’re looking at all the options we were looking at what kind of vans Can we buy? What can we afford what is on the market. And luckily in Europe there is a maker truck maker called the backhoe which we’re sitting in right now, which is a major brand is not known in North America, but it’s a major truck maker in Europe. And they have this sprinter Mercedes Sprinter size van that they making today. Flox l’orange gearbox four wheel drive, high ground clearance, everything that you need. So we were looking for that for two years because we weren’t in a rush because then obviously COVID hit and we were like, Okay, let’s, let’s do this. Let’s find one. But then COVID make COVID Just made buying these vehicles more difficult, because everybody found out about this kind of travel style. And there was a couple of vans that we looked at. These are all used vans, obviously that we looked at about 20 years old vans that we looked at the younger ones as well. But then the price just goes through the roof, there was like two or three that we were just not quick enough to buy because other people bought it. And this will be talking about a couple of days that they went up on a on a like an advertising site. And then suddenly this came up we just bought it without even seeing it just like transfer the money straightaway talk to the guy in Germany, just like can I send you the money now and I think the next day I sent it haven’t even obviously I’ve seen pictures and I’ve spoke to the owner transferred the money, no negotiations, nothing. I’m like how much you asking? Yeah, here you go in. I think three weeks later, we drove there with my dad and picked it up. Of course, there was many that we didn’t like so many that we by that time we learned what we want, like we want to table inside we want to sleep inside won’t be able to stand up inside have a little sink and fridge. And that was like kind of the basics that we wanted. And this had everything of that and a bit more like it had solar panels already. It had a tougher suspension.

Ashley Giordano 29:44 So it was used for travel before you purchased it?

Ferenc 29:46 Yeah, yeah. So the owner like two owners prior to me that built the truck and he was a mechanic who wanted to travel the world. And unfortunately he had a paragliding accident so he couldn’t use a manual standard anymore. He had to buy an automatic. So we had to sell this and sold it to the family whom I bought it from. And the family sold it because they had their second kid on the way. So it’s too small for that. And but I think the token of the size of the van it’s perfect size because it’s short will short wheelbase, very high ground clearance as a like a as a base. And it’s got the low range gearbox and diff locks. So the engine is the weak point in a way that it’s very, very it’s lacking power like very much. It’s like 102 horsepower for for Tom vehicle. The actual standard gearbox is the gear, the gears are set up in a way that it’s compensating for the lack of power. Plus, we have the low range, so it can go anywhere, but slowly and loudly.

Ashley Giordano 30:44 What would you change about it? Or are you happy with pretty much everything in terms of-

Ferenc 30:50 We changed a lot on it. Like the main build was there and then we did a few bits like we changed the box on the front which at LED light, we changed the I don’t know we set up our Wi Fi kind of router. The inverter- there was like there was no inverter so I have a really good quality inverter. I’ve got a victron 800 watt inverter installed. We made it I think a little bit nicer inside.

Evelin 31:15 Yeah, so I put this white foil on the furniture, so it looks more modern. And also we changed. Yeah, and also cushions.

Ferenc 31:30 Yeah, yeah. So my dad helped a lot because he’s like, really into DIY. He loves DIY. So he made the cushions and he helped with various bits around where it’s like, you know, hammering and using a screwdriver and bolt. So right, we’ve done a bit and also recovery, we got all our recovery gear from ARB. We got a nice morning outside. So there’s these little things, little changes that we we just customized it for our needs. But the main build was there.

Ashley Giordano 31:58 Gotcha. Yeah, it’s very well laid out. And this area, the dinette folds down into a bed, right?

Ferenc 32:05 Exactly.

Evelin 32:05 Yeah, exactly. Nice. and under the seating area, we have a lot of storage. So it’s just really comfortable. And I know that I mentioned you before in another interview that I really liked this, the boxes to organize everything. So we bought some boxes in the IKEA put our cloth in it. And also we have some plastic organizers in that cupboard so we could organize our food, our clothes are gears, accessories, everything. So yeah.

Ferenc 32:37 Obviously we’ve been in bigger bills, and nicer big expedition trucks and everything. So we see how comfortable can attract be. And of course when we are here inside and we cannot go outside because of the weather or whatever, it’s in the evening. And we you know, we are inside already. And we sort of scramble around because the space is too small. And but then you kind of okay with the small space because we compare it to the Prado like we will be outside now we would be or sitting in the tent, you know, like on the roof. So compared to that this is luxury, really. And the fact that I can stand up is just so exciting.

Ashley Giordano 33:11 So I’m gonna go back a little bit and I want to talk about your Budapest to Singapore trip. Which countries did you go through? And how long was it?

Evelin 33:20 So I suppose six months total and we went through Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Georgia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Russia again, be it and Mongolia, China, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore.

Ashley Giordano 33:41 Countries though that was what were your strongest impressions about certain regions or places along the way on that trip? Because you saw a lot obviously, those are there’s a lot of countries to go through.

Ferenc 33:54 It’s a lot of countries in six months as well. So other than the Prado, I will change the length of the trip in terms of time, so I could probably a year would have been better for that distance. I’ve been to Mongolia before the trip and I keep mentioning Mongolia to you guys but it’s a fantastic place for overlanders, I think. I don’t know you but China was made a huge impression, especially that we were on the western part, not the eastern part. So we will say like, let’s develop that the west part but it was still massively developed, became through cities, they came across cities with five, 6 million people you’d never heard of. This I haven’t heard of and the roads are really well built. Cities are massive. People are extremely nice. And food is is out of this world is just so good.

Ashley Giordano 34:40 And you had to hire a guide. And you she wasn’t shared one or two guides with a couple of other-

Ferenc 34:47 No, there was only one guide at the time. So we have two guides but split into first two weeks and then the second was first three weeks and the second three weeks it was 43 days in total. So you have to have a guide yes to driving through China with your own vehicle, the guide is sitting in one of the vehicles, which is sometimes hours sometimes we were three cars in our convoy, super nice experience. The both of the guides were really nice, Shang, and Brenda. I mean, I guess you don’t know what to expect when you go to a totally different culture, and somebody you’ve never met before is going to sit with you for 1000s of miles or kilometers with you. And it was fantastic. Like, we could have a lot of questions we could ask like, we had a nice chat, we got to know them very well. Really great.

Evelin 35:32 And they speak very good English.

Ferenc 35:33 Oh, yeah.

Ashley Giordano 35:34 What were some things that you learned about that country from the guide that you wouldn’t have normally?

Ferenc and Evelin 35:41 (inaudible).

Evelin 35:42 And you cannot communicate with the people you know, there because they don’t speak English. You don’t speak Chinese, obviously. So yeah. And you cannot communicate non verbally, because that’s different days. So you need a guide. But we had a very nice experience. People were so friendly with us. And we also got some presents from the people there. Yeah, because we try to avoid the big cities. So we went through the rural area, but just mentioned, so the western part of China, and sometimes they just stopped at a small village, I mean, on the basketball, basketball field, and the whole village just turned up, and they were watching us cooking our meals for dinner. And they were just asking why don’t they eat rice for dinner, for example of (inaudible) we’re making Italian pasta. Yeah, and deeper, taking some photos and videos of me how I caught onions, because that was so strange for them, I don’t know, maybe they have another technique for that.

Ferenc 36:44 Whole village turned up, like whole village and 50 mobile phones just started like pointing at us and taking pictures and videos and like, everywhere you go as an Overlander you stand out, because you tend to end up in small villages and remote places. And I guess that’s a little bit even more extreme in China, because no overlanders go through really compared to the scale of the country, and compared to how much it has to offer. But I guess this guide requirements makes it difficult, both financially and makes it more complicated as well, or these people think it’s complicated. But if you find the right company to help you find the right guide, then it’s not that difficult. You have to provide a lot of documents.

Ashley Giordano 37:28 Right, I was gonna ask you, how did you find a good guide or guides? And then also, how did you link up with the other two travelers or two vehicles? I’m not sure.

Ferenc 37:39 Three travelers in two vehicles. And online, of course, so first of all, Facebook groups, like the Asia overland group, I think, or maybe the China group, I cannot remember one or the other. They were recommendations there before and also just Googling it. And then we made a list in like an Excel sheet. And then just, you know, put all the data into the Excel sheet. And actually, I didn’t do that. Neal’s who we’re traveling with was very organized, and internet, who just collected all the information we had, and we had like monthly calls with. Yeah, so first of all, we hooked up with the our future traveler partners, also online through the Facebook group or through the Facebook group. And we started chatting, we created our own little Skype group. And we started chatting who wants what only initially it was like five vehicles together. And then two vehicles dropped off because different timing or different preferences. I don’t know now, but it was three cars eventually. And we had monthly calls. And it took us about three months at least to decide which out of the six or seven companies were listed, which one to go for. And we were like the ones we went for the ones that were one that seemed to be more accommodating than the others in terms of like we want to wide camp, we want to go this route and that route and wanna do this this length price obviously was discovered. Consider this is how we decided we ended up with I think it’s called adventure dash china.com. And Shang is is a really great guy. He’s managing the company. Yeah, I can send it to anybody if anybody’s asking. But yeah, it’s it’s possible to find it in the Facebook groups, like through recommendations. And we also met other travelers through everybody ends up in like most people ends up in Laos, after China from Mongolia, or if people do it, obviously the other way around. But from European in Laos, and you meet a lot of other people who were going through China at the same time, but obviously on other routes with other companies and a lot more some of them were complaining that they didn’t get what they wanted. They didn’t actually go through those routes that they agreed to, or you know, those kinds of things. And we we didn’t have a single issue or problem. And our group worked really well as well. So other groups, it’s again, you’re sort of locked in for 40 odd days with other travelers many, many times that works out sometimes it doesn’t. Ours was just like a dream team so it was really good.

Ashley Giordano 40:01 Wonderful. So you did you plan out the entire route and plan out where you wanted to camp or which villages you wanted to go and then gave it to the guide? Or did they have some input?

Ferenc 40:12 Roughly the provinces, only the provinces.

Ashley Giordano 40:16 You can choose your own adventure, sort of.

Ferenc 40:19 Sort of you can, yeah. And then if you want to go through to that province, that’s an additional few permits and stuff.

Ashley Giordano 40:26 Spending so much time with the guide. Were there things that you learned about China, like, politically, or just what the life is like, for the local people or anything food related? That you that was-

Ferenc 40:41 So things like, again, you know, these things spread among travelers or future travelers like, oh, you have to have a guide in China, he must be a spy, who will then report on you do the government in some ways? And it’s like, it’s total BS. That’s what we actually are. So are you reporting? Oh, it was a joke by them, because we got to know that. It was, it was a, we became really good friends by then. But so we could actually ask these kinds of silly questions.

Evelin 41:16 And he loved it. So that was good.

Ferenc 41:20 And he said no, he wasn’t. But then so things like that. And also, when we went through the smaller, very tiny villages, but in like the Tibetan culture areas, he told us a lot of information about how they live in what they do and how they bury their dead or how, for example, food, we were all really interested in food, because it was fantastic. There isn’t I’ve been to a lot of Chinese places around the world a lot. But it doesn’t. It’s not the same. I don’t know why but it’s-

Ashley Giordano 41:50 What were these dishes you were having?

Ferenc 41:52 I don’t know the names. I mean, they were a lot of them were vegetable based. Plant based. For the smallest places like just the undecided row. Let’s say we drove for three hours. And it’s lunchtime. And we are in a mountain somewhere. It is not even a village just like a shack, you can go inside and in order and it doesn’t even look clean or anything then we would order food was fantastic. Every single time we’ve stopped in one of these dodgy places, I was obsessed with food. There’s- I was at lunch, I was waiting for dinner (inaudible).

Evelin 43:00 Yeah, and sometimes the owner of the restaurant allowed me to go back to the kitchen and have a look at the fridge and just decide what we would like to eat. I mean, we could pick our vegetables and our meat. Yeah, but thanks to our guides, because our our guide because she and he was really kind to us. And they just wanted to make sure that we have a very good time in China. So they always asked the owners of the restaurants that we could go, you know, to the kitchen and have a look around them and to decide what he would like to (inaudible). And also they were really open minded about white camping. Because once we heard from other groups that the guide was really strict about you know about camping, so they couldn’t camp or they had to go to touristy quarters, so they spent a (inaudible). Yeah, but our guides just took their own. They’re amazing. Yeah, sorry.

Ferenc 44:02 Yeah, they had their own tent with them. So they can talk together in like in really like the Tibetan plateau or a similar area. We were lucky to go through the remote for us. It seemed remote parts of China. Yeah.

Ashley Giordano 44:15 What were some cultural experiences that you had that changed the way that you see the world anywhere in that whole trip? It doesn’t have to be China, it could be anything.

Ferenc 44:25 Very, very deep question. I have to think about it. But I think it’s more like in general, like for example, how careful we need to be with our resources. And it’s so that’s not that’s not necessarily a cultural thing. But on the other hand, we see now waste everywhere like we went through China, there’s also not China but like the whole of Asia and it’s just and it’s not just there but token of this trip. There is garbage everywhere, and the beaches are in a really bad shape. So it was an eye opening kind of trip I guess to her I’m careful, we need to be with this planet right now because it could be too late. And it’s a cliche, because this comes from everywhere now TV, radio, whatever, podcasts, whatever, whatever you reading, it’s all about that now, and people may get bored of this, but it’s so true. It’s so true. So that Yeah, I mean, again, another thing is that we learned is that we may be now talking of cultures, the local people are always really nice and, and maybe on a bigger scale of things, politics ruins everything. And that could be true for Iran, we went through Iran in 2014, the most fantastic people in the world Iranians or like, went through places where I think generally people wouldn’t choose as a as a travel destination necessarily, like Kazakhstan. We’ve had fantastic people in Kazakhstan, they’re very, very welcoming. And just in general, how local people live, wherever you go, like, where you go very far. People go to like, kids go to school, people go to work, parents pick them up, and it’s life goes on. And maybe they are half as rich as the Western world. But live is normal. Life is totally fine. I think that’s, that’s, that’s something that we learned are like parts of Southeast Asia, they used to be poor. Now it’s kind of very developed Thailand and Malaysia. And this is like, they’re just talking about generally about resources and stuff, you learn how to be resourceful with water very much, or electricity actually is like, do you run out of electricity or your battery’s gonna last until morning or, or your food’s gonna go off because the fridge stops working or, or you run out of water and you cannot drink in the morning and things like that. And you’re just careful.

Ashley Giordano 46:34 And back home, I think we’re used to turning the tap on-

Ferenc 46:38 And take it for granted.

Ashley Giordano 46:39 Definitely. And so it’s your we’re rewiring your brain. Use only what you have because you don’t know when.

Ferenc 46:48 I think this was funny. We went, we met a Canadian girl who they were with the whole family they were traveling through to all the way to Malaysia, and then back with a camper van. And she said she went back to because we met them like a year later as well in Europe. So she said she went back to the office work, same job she went back to and then she was standing around in the in the office kitchen or whatever somebody was opening the fridge and then talking to her and just like leaving the fridge open and she closed the fridge because she got annoyed with the fridge being open. Because you’re really careful with like your you got a small fridge and it’s running off of the batteries. And you don’t want to lose the coldness of the fridge. Just careful. I don’t remember closing the faucet on somebody else like the the head it run and running water. You’re not using that.

Ashley Giordano 47:37 I remember coming back and doing dishes by hand with hot water and it being like this big deal. And I was all I would be obsessed with washing dishes. And then on and people are like just put it in the dishwasher. I’m like, but I have hot water and soap is so amazing. Like, it was weird, but it changes you. What was the most hilarious thing that happened during your Budapest to stay on board trip?

Ferenc 48:02 There was a few funny things happened.

Evelin 48:04 Yeah, so we met a Russian family in Kazakhstan and next to our campsite. And we were just decided to park close to the buildings there. They were like, became cottages one of the the Russian family invited us to that cottage to have dinner together. But we couldn’t cannot speak Russian and they cannot. They couldn’t speak English. So we had a whole night together having a really good time together. We were speaking via the Google Translator all night. Yeah, it was fantastic. And also in Mongolia, we went through a national park. And that was a really, really flooded area. So we just decided let’s make a turn.

Ferenc 48:49 Go around the field. Next, it looked better than the road, which is like a track really, it’s not a road.

Evelin 48:55 Yeah. And it turned out it was a horse stool.

Ferenc 49:00 The whole area. The whole truck just sat in the whole puddle of horse manure, we stepped out of the car. And we sank until like mid thighs.

Evelin 49:16 I lost my flip flops. And they are still there.

Ferenc 49:20 So it was pretty difficult to recover the truck from there. But we were like, We were covered in crap, really. And we didn’t know what to do. It took us like two hours until the first Land Cruiser who was big enough to pull us out. Arrived. So we were sitting there not not in a level way. And we’re like how are we going to even sleep here if we like we are covered in this thing and what we’re going to do now, obviously, you end up in situations like this and it always resolves itself somehow, I think the most hilarious story that we have from that trip and it’s not it’s not our story, but we heard it from the person that happened with this this girl who was riding her motorcycle from Switzerland to Mongolia and she stopped in I’m dodging motel in Kazakhstan. And there was this person knocking on her door during the night. And then when she opened the door, there was this guy standing with a gun. And when the guy sees her he says, sorry, wrong door.

Evelin 50:15 And he asked her out the next day.

Ashley Giordano 50:21 You guys are now in Canada with your (inaudible). Yep. And so you finished up your Singapore trip and then what did you have a couple of few years at home?

Ferenc 50:31

We went to Australia. No, we went, we had this little road trip in Australia. It wasn’t necessarily an overland trip, but it was a massive like, it was a longish road trip on the east coast of Australia. And it was connected the main purpose of going there was actually a very good friend of mines wedding. And then we done obviously a little to three weeks trip there. And then I think that was the last trip since like, after that word has changed. So. So we’ve done that. And then we already knew, like, let’s buy a van, come back to Australia. Let’s bring our product back to Australia, something like that. But then obviously, all those plans went out the window. And then we are here now because now we can travel again.

Ashley Giordano 51:16 Right? I was gonna say so you have this van. And you shipped from Germany to Halifax, Canada. How did you decide that the Pan American highway was next for you?

Ferenc 51:26 We wanted something as big as the Buddha for Singapore trip. And then there’s two options. We either drive through Africa, or we do this the Pan American and the Pan American. Obviously, we’ve done a bit of Africa already. So let’s do something else. So that’s how we ended up the Pan American and I think it’s bigger as well, like in terms of like, length. And I don’t know, I’ve been to South America before. And just know I want to go back. So I want to do that. And I’ve never been to Central America and Netherlands never been on the American continents. Yeah. So it’s always like the I don’t know, the scale was tipping towards the Americas. We were really overwhelmed with what we’ve seen in the last four weeks already. So I don’t know what this next year and five months brings? If that’s how long it’s gonna be, I don’t know.

Ashley Giordano 52:16 So you’ve come from the Maritimes of in Canada, across the country. And you’re actually getting close to the western side. So you’ve made it almost all the way across actually. What are some you’ve never been to North America before? No, never. What is it like? Like, did you have preconceived notions of what it would be like here? Are there weird things that you’re like why is this like this? What’s surprising?

Evelin 52:42 (inaudible) but I just thought everything is like in the movies. You know this big milk in the supermarket?

Ferenc 52:55 Little details seemed very funny or strange to Evelin, yeah.

Evelin 52:59 And also the scenery, these proper campsite. Yeah, just like in the movies. So for me, it’s just wonderful. I like I love Canada, especially the people here they are so friendly. They are really no chatty, chatty with us. They are really friendly and always asked us, How do we feel ourselves here? Do we have a good time here? They also invite us to their fear to stay there, I mean, to their garden or to their house to stay there. Yeah, so and they are very helpful as that so.

Ashley Giordano 53:37 I’m glad to hear that, as a Canadian. I’m always like, Oh, I hope they’re having a good time. That’s great. So you’re gonna head up too?

Ferenc 53:46 So we’re near Banff. Now we’re going to have to Alaska towards Alaska. And we’re going to discover north western side of Canada, as well. Bit of Alaska. Now we know we’re probably not going to talk, which is fine. I think that the the only reason why we would have gone to all the main reason we wouldn’t get to talk is just to be able to say that we went to the northern coast. So we can say that we went to the Arctic, we were gonna go north enough, I think and it’s not the point is not to be able to say something’s boring is to have, you know, enjoy our trip and discover whatever we want to discover. And we’re gonna go into Alaska. And then we turn around and start heading south. And I’ve never spent a bit of time in on the east coast of the US but never been on the west coast or on the western side. So there’s gonna be really great and going into those deaths in the southwest of us really looking forward to that. And I’ve never been south of the US in Central America only to South America.

Ashley Giordano 54:41 There are one or two questions that I usually ask on every podcast and in this one, I’m going to ask you if you could choose any country in the whole world to go to right now, where would you go and why?

Ferenc 54:53 You go first.

Evelin 54:55 It’s hard to choose. I would say Chile because I have never In that, but I saw some pictures on the internet. And I also heard stories from other overlanders that it’s just a beautiful country so diverse. I’m really looking forward to see it in person. But yeah, I would say Chile, but also Peru. So it’s hard to choose really? Yeah.

Ferenc 55:19 Yeah. So yeah, I had these 20 seconds to think about it. But I don’t have a good answer. Because there’s too many options. There’s too many. I mean, I guess the reason why right here, because this was our choice to be here. So that’s why we’re here. I mean, right now, I don’t want to be anywhere else. I want a one. Yeah, I want to see what you know, north of here, I want to see what’s there. But then, you know, we were looking through the, we went through the plans of where we can go and based on your advice, where we could be in Central and South America and all those places. And I said, like, we I cannot wait to to be around there. But then I don’t want to wish this trip away. In terms of like, you know, like, Okay, let that place can wait. And we see what’s here and….

Ashley Giordano 56:01 Be in the moment and soak it all in because you never know when you’re gonna be back.

Ferenc 56:05 Yeah. And then people are gonna ask, which was, which part was the highlight of the trip? And I will I won’t have an answer for that. Because I don’t have an answer for the Budapest Singapore trip either or the Budapest Africa trip, or I just cannot choose, because there are too many good places to see. And I think we’ve seen a big part of the planet, but still very little. There’s still too much to see.

Ashley Giordano 56:28 If people want to find you online. Where should they go? I know your website is very, very thorough and has a lot of resources and a lot of times had been put into it so yeah, let us know where we can find you.

Ferenc 56:42 Yeah, the website is overlandsite.com, as in s i t e, overlandsite.com. And of course, the Instagram which is overland site underscore com and we’re trying to build a YouTube channel now, we have a lot of footage from our earlier trips as well that I just never had the energy to edit together or like create the stories, which I will, I promise but now right now we’re building or creating the videos about this trip. So pretty much as we go. Pretty much live.

Ashley Giordano 57:11 Same name for the YouTube channel. Thank you guys so much for being guests on the overland journal podcast. I so appreciate you sharing your experiences and all the funny things that happen, your goals and everything. So thank you for having me as a guest in your (inaudible) We’re really excited to follow your journey. Thank you so much to all of the overland journal listeners and subscribers for tuning into this episode. And we will catch you next time.