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Rebelle Rally Run with Expedition Portal’s Paula Burr

2023 Rebelle Rally Paula Burr

Registration is already open for the 2024 Rebelle Rally competition, an eight-day, 2,500-kilometer slog through the California and Nevada deserts by map and compass. Founded in 2015 by Emily Miller, it’s the first women’s endurance off-road rally and the longest competitive off-road navigation rally in the United States. Self-described as a “movement built on community values,” the event is about empowerment, extreme challenges, and working together to lift each other up. After dreaming of participating in the Rebelle for many years, Expedition Portal’s Paula Burr joined the 2023 Rebelle Rally media team for part of the competition this past fall. She came away from the experience equal parts elated and exhausted but with an excitement that still shines when she speaks of the event.


Paula and Emily 2023 Rebelle Rally

You were part of a special media team in the 2023 Rebelle. Tell me about your teammate and the vehicle.

Scott Brown from Stellantis helped out with sponsoring the media team with a new 2024 Jeep Wrangler 4xe Rubicon.

I was lucky enough to be teamed up with Emily Benzie. She has been involved in the Rebelle for many years and is normally paired up with her mother, Chris. They are a dynamic duo, to say the least and such wonderful humans.

2023 Rebelle Rally Jeep Wrangler 4xe Rubicon

How was it different from being part of a regular competing team?

Not being a regular competing team just meant that we were a non-compete one. We did everything, starting with tech inspection. We chased checkpoints and collected points, but in the end, our points didn’t count. However, in the spirit of the Rebelle, we were out there in it and running at a competitive pace. I was proud of us. We worked really great as a team, and had we been actually competing, we would have been right in the middle of the pack. It is one of the most challenging things I have ever done, and I wanted to keep going.

2023 Rebelle Rally Emily Benzie

Co-driver Emily Benzie

What attracts you to the Rebelle?

There is something about the Rebelle that just ignites my spirit of adventure. Founder Emily Miller really pours her heart and soul into creating the most breathtaking routes, and the locations are beyond stunning.

There is no place to hide at the Rebelle. You will figure out your strengths and weaknesses, face your fears, and be forged into something better—or crumble. It is strenuous and demanding on every level. I wanted to see if I had what it takes.

Competitors lined up near a ski area

Being a rookie at anything is always daunting. Before the Rebelle, I was full of anxiety. Preparedness and practice helped, but there are always going to be unknowns. Even though I was participating in a media team vehicle, I chose to give up my phone and technology and be fully immersed. It wasn’t until after the Day Zero shakedown that I really felt like I was in it and got a taste of what was to come. The time flies by, as every day you are running from the time the cowbell rings until your head hits the pillow. My adventure was over before I knew it, and from that second on, I knew I was hooked.

Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

You were a little intimidated by the whole affair. Did you still feel that way once you arrived and settled in with the other competitors? Did it come and go?

It is a whole vibe. You practice and train and hope that you have what it takes when you finally get there. Once there and you are meeting all the new faces and then seeing some familiar ones, the emotions start to settle a little. That being said, there is so much energy surrounding the whole Rally. Everyone is in the same boat, whether you are a rookie or a veteran because it changes every year with different challenges. Emily Miller really does a great job at creating a level playing field, so it’s up to the teams to bring the skills to the table. Overall, the emotions don’t really go away, I think you just sort of settle into the rally, and once you get focused on your tasks, the rest of the world melts away.

Emily and Paula

Biggest high/favorite moment:

Being able to hit the timed enduros and that first checkpoint you know is yours. Getting to know your teammate and establishing trust within the team. I had never met Emily Benzie prior to the tech inspection, and it was a great match for us. Once you’re out there, you just have a sense of purpose, and you know you are in it.

Most challenging element:

Working with your teammate. You really are glued to the hip, and you better be ready and willing to feed each other snacks, and you will definitely see each other’s behinds. There is a lot of information being thrown at you throughout the day. Both women are working really hard and will be hyper-focused. Communication with your teammate is crucial because there will be times when you need to sort some things out. How well you can move through the difficult points and keep moving forward will be key.

Camp in the evening

Most empowering event:

Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable is something that will help you keep moving forward. Feeling confident in your position and supporting your team and moving through the highs and lows.

Aha moment:

Emily Benzie is showing me her map skills. She is a pro through and through. Also, her mother, Chris, is fantastic. The two of them dropped little nuggets of info to help me visualize the map better, making it easier and improving my navigation skills since only a compass and a map were allowed. It was a game-changer.

Pro tip: Read the rulebook. You will hear this a lot, and it helps with all those questions flooding your mind about what to do and not do.

Paula at a checkpoint

Would you like to give any shoutouts to those who helped you along the way?

Without the support of the team at Overland Journal, I wouldn’t have felt remotely close to even trying this endeavor. The relationships I have built through the years with fellow adventurists have helped give me the courage to say yes to the things that stoke the fire. I have always loved off-road adventures but never really realized how many people like me there actually are out there. Nena Barlow and her training sessions are by far what started this for me, from my first time driving in the sand dunes and then getting seat time with her. Being surrounded by a group of women who all want to lift each other up is really positive and overwhelming: there are so many people chasing the same goal, helping each other practice and problem-solve.

Rebelle Rally

What advice would you give to women who are considering participating in the 2024 Rebelle but are unsure?

Just commit and do it. If this is really something that you are passionate about, you will be so thrilled. Overwhelmed but thrilled. Just be open to the idea that it will be hard. Every day presents new challenges, and you will rise or fall short as a team. Work with your teammate because she really is your only support system and be the most supportive teammate in return that you can be. Get comfortable with the uncomfortable and be able to problem solve and feel confident in your abilities, because there will be issues that come up daily.

Rebelle Rally

Are there any cautionary elements to share to make sure a person is up to the task?

The Rebelle is physically and mentally challenging. Make sure you can change a tire or dig yourself out of the sand. You have to be physically strong enough to fix anything that might come up mechanically on your third teammate. Know that you will not sleep well. Make sure you’re hydrating and stay on top of your health. Everything will compile up as the days go by, and you forget about drinking water. Paying attention to all of these things will help you excel.

2024 Jeep Wrangler 4xe Rubicon

The best reason to participate in the Rebelle:

It’s something I can’t explain without getting a little emotional. Putting all the skills you learn to the ultimate test and being able to navigate not only the map in front of you, but the rollercoaster that is the whole experience is beyond rewarding. It is the best scavenger hunt I have ever participated in. It will challenge you at every turn but also show you that you can do hard things. With all the other teams experiencing something similar, you all have one common goal, and together, anything is possible. I can’t wait for the 2024 competition.

Paula Burr

Read more:

Rebelle Rally Registration Returns

Living Legend Emily Miller

Inside Rivian’s Triumph at the Rebelle Rally

Listen More:

Overland Journal Podcast Episode 114: Emily Miller discusses Morocco, Navigation, and Rebelle Rally

Our No Compromise Clause: We do not accept advertorial content or allow advertising to influence our coverage, and our contributors are guaranteed editorial independence. Overland International may earn a small commission from affiliate links included in this article. We appreciate your support.

A steadfast believer in the power of words, Tena can usually be found with her eyes turned toward some source of written knowledge, be it for pleasure, information, or planning her next adventure. Recognizing the value of the spoken word as well (unless it is coming from her GPS, in which case, she is perfectly capable of getting lost on her own), Tena finds there is no substitute for confabulation. Refuge from the monotony of the everyday is found by immersing herself in her surroundings—whether in an exotic locale or her backyard—and disconnecting from technology and seeking solace in the great outdoors is a cure well taken. While vehicles are a component for overlanding, she finds enthusiasm provides the only fuel required to get you there.