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The Art of Volunteering While Overlanding | Interview With Candice of Be Old Later

If you ever come across Candice of Be Old Later, you’ll likely find her in the midst of various art supplies, drawing cartoons, catching up on freelance artwork, or teaching a group of children how to draw. Her enthusiasm for art developed at an early age, eventually leading her to become a professional illustrator and concept artist.

Candice and her husband Jordan recently returned from a two-year journey from Tuktoyaktuk, Canada, to Ushuaia, Argentina, in their Mitsubishi Delica, affectionately referred to as Bagheera. Candice put her art skills to use by volunteering in several local communities that she and Jordan traveled through. The duo organized drawing lessons for youths in various countries along the Pan-American Highway, transformed plain walls into colorful murals, and learned a lot about the local communities. I sat down with Candice to learn more about her art background and talked about why volunteering as an overlander is so important.

When did you start drawing?

I started drawing at three years old. I loved the Disney cartoons and clearly remember pausing the VHS tapes to draw the characters: Sleeping Beauty, Aladdin, etc. I later received scholarships in art and painting and attended the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia, where I completed a Bachelor of Animation degree.

Tell us a little bit about your work background.

Most recently, I was an art director at a mobile game studio in Vancouver, British Columbia. The studio created imagination-centric games that parents can play with their children out on their local playground, transforming the space into an imaginary interactive obstacle course. The goal is to encourage kids to be active while using their imagination to explore, whether it be underwater, by collecting dinosaur bones, or interacting with robots.

What kind of freelance work did you do during your Pan-American travels? How easy was it to do this?

I was hired by an author to do character design, backgrounds, and painting for a graphic novel. I also created logos, card designs, stickers, and decals for small businesses and friends, and designed a vehicle decal for an Australian overlander. I would love to do more of those!

Working remotely was challenging at times, especially in places where it was difficult to connect to the internet or access email. The van was pretty uncomfortable to work in, and the living space is quite small, so I was all folded up while trying to work in the back. Sometimes, we just had to put time aside and buy a cheap coffee at a café in order to work online.

How did this long-term trip change your creative process?

I learned to keep my cartoons simple and fast while drawing on the spot. I was often working with kids (and wanted to keep their attention), and people are fascinated with the process and like to watch, so that made me draw much faster.

Why and how did you use your artistic skills to volunteer?

I think it’s super important to give back during overland trips. You’re not just helping out, you’re representing the overlanding community in a positive way and contributing to another community that won’t forget it. Volunteering is also one of the best ways to get to know a place because you learn about so many cool spots from the locals you spend time with.

I’ve always loved working with kids and had a good lesson plan drawn up, so teaching kids how to draw seemed like the perfect fit. We found Hogar Infantil, an orphanage for at-risk youth in Chiapas, Mexico, on iOverlander. I emailed them in Spanish, offering a drawing class for the kids, and they responded right away. I picked up some poster board, pencils, and paper at the local papelería. By the end of the class, the kids, who ranged from 5 to 12 years old, looked at their papers and were like, “WOW! We did this?” It was a pretty cool experience to see them knock out a cartoon gorilla, cat, or dog with just one lesson. The first drawing lesson at Hogar Infantil was such a success that we continued on, teaching kids in San José Calderas, Guatemala, and Puerto Natales, Chile.

You’ve also painted some incredible murals along the Pan-American Highway. Tell us more about those projects.

We climbed Cotopaxi Volcano during our time in Ecuador. We were dropping off our mountain guide in Riobamba, but there was nowhere to stay in the town, so we ended up heading over to Finca Castillo de Altura in San Juan, near the Chimborazo province. We met the owner, Juan, who is just the kindest, sweetest person and loves sharing his farm with overlanders. Juan told me that his dream was to have a mural painted on the outdoor wall of the common space, and I said, “Well, I paint murals! What would you like?” Juan has always wanted to climb Volcán Chimborazo, so we centered the mural theme around that. The painting took five or six days, and we celebrated with cuy (guinea pig) that was cooked in-house by Juan’s family with plenty of pájaro azul liquor to go around!

We also painted a mural at the Apu Ecolodge restaurant in Caraz, Peru. We chose a variety of native Peruvian birds for the mural, which developed into a communal painting. The ecolodge has a berry farm and brewery, and we had a great time making giant family dinners, helping out at the brewery, hosting pizza parties, and putting up new handholds on the climbing wall.

What did you learn from volunteering?

There is so much good in people, especially in kids. They’re still so innocent. These kids have experienced hardship and are oftentimes set up for failure, but are incredibly well-mannered, eager to learn, and full of hugs and kindness. If you give just a little bit of yourself, you can change their day. Whatever you can give (talent, knowledge, time), nothing bad can come from it. It always comes back around.

What advice would you give to overlanders looking to volunteer?

My advice would be to talk to employees at hostels, local breweries, or coffee shops. Locals working within the community often know of organizations seeking volunteers or can put you in touch with someone who does. Also, there’s a section located in the back of Lonely Planet guidebooks dedicated to volunteering. Finally, the iOverlander app has a handful of spots that you can stay at AND volunteer, but honestly, talking to locals is really your best bet.

To learn more about Candice and Jordan’s adventures, check out Be Old Later’s website, Instagram, and Facebook accounts.

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. As Senior Editor at Overland Journal, you can usually find Ashley buried in a pile of travel books, poring over maps, or writing about the unsung women of overlanding history. @desktoglory_ash