An Overlander’s Real Christmas List

Dear Santa,

I hope all is well up north; I hear that it is unseasonably warm up there. It has been a while since I last wrote you a letter, about 34 years to be precise. My older brother told me then that you didn’t exist, but he also told me that the bottom of a swimming pool smelled like mint chocolate. To add to that initial doubt, I am still waiting for that Raleigh Scrambler BMX in red. Despite my misgivings, dear Santa, I have decided to give you another chance. I have been a very good boy, relatively speaking. Here is my list. See what you can do, alright?

1. Time

Free time, family time, road time, a good time…

2. A new pair of shoes

But not just any pair; these need to last forever, be leather, if possible, and they have to make me look taller and smarter than I really am. I know this is a lot to ask from a pair of shoes, but nothing else has worked so far.

3. A subscription to Overland Journal

Simple, right? Well, I need The Journal to be delivered to wherever I am in the world. Since I have no idea where I will be a month from now, it has to be one of those magical 1980’s movie types of deals, you know? Or a digital subscription would work, too.

4. A new Land Rover Defender

I am not sure if I want the new Defender; I’d prefer a new one like my old one, like the one I had in mind before they unveiled the new one. And I want the 130 wheelbase, like my old one, with a flat nose, and one ECU, and a ladder chassis. I would like the new interior though, black and tan if you please. However, if you could stuff the new 110 under the tree, I would not say no.

5. A year of excellent weather

If it is warm by you, it should be warm by me, too. Not too warm, though, as I don’t sweat well. I would like half an hour of a friendly storm every afternoon. I want perfect blue skies every morning, comfortable humidity, and a constant gentle breeze, except when we are driving—then I would like a gale at my back.

6. New camera gear

But futuristic, preferably self-cleaning, with auto mode, an infinite battery, the ability to fly, an auto filter, and auto-post capacity to social media with all the wit of an overlanding Ryan Reynolds.

7. A perfect, healthy body

All these years of driving and sitting around campfires swigging beer has taken its toll on my physique. I can’t tell whether my love handles are an extension of my belly or a second, elevated ass. My trucker’s hernia is well earned but worrying, and my ankles are thinner than my wrists. Oh, and my skin has seen more sun than a hundred George Hamiltons, melanoma be damned.

8. A universal passport

Yes! Please make sure it is one hundred pages, waterproof, visa-free everywhere, with diplomatic immunity, and answers to the call of a whistle. Also, be sure to take the passport photo after you give me that perfect body (I am assuming you will also fix the face). Can we also have one of these magical passports for each member of my family? There is no point in me being able to go everywhere if they can’t.

9. A Cummins diesel

My friend Billy tells me that the Cummins diesel engine is not actually bulletproof, but I think Billy is just being mean like my older brother was when he told me my parents adopted me after finding me in a swamp. I want my Cummins to be an 8-litre, 8-cylinder, double-turbo—supercharged, and omnipotent. It should bolt directly to the Defender’s transmission, require zero maintenance, be no bigger than an anvil, but significantly lighter. Please also make it either super silent or incredibly loud, depending on my mood. It should last forever and run on oxygen.

10. Another planet to explore

Yes, I know, ridiculous, but that’s what I want. This other planet should be as ours but bigger, with all of the continents connected by land bridges (or my Landy should be able to swim, we could always talk about that next year). It should have the climate I requested earlier but also have many deserts, peaks, and glaciers that spill perfect, clean water onto white sandy beaches. The oceans should have pristine waves with toothless sharks swimming within, and cool coconuts should fall from perfect palms. This other earth should have existing trails but no other 4x4s (by invitation only), no bloody mosquitoes, nothing that bites harder than a friendly horse, and docile herds of Uruguayan cattle. The planet should ideally be populated by ancient, peaceful cultures who brew ale and have perfected the asado grill.

11. Winning lottery numbers

If the above (very reasonable requests) are beyond the ability of the all-mighty Santa, then winning lottery numbers will do. But it has to be a cumulative lottery, okay? Something like the British lottery where one person can win a billion Great British pounds! But unlike that one Englishman, we are overlanders— we will not squander the money on castles, Bentleys, Gregg’s pies, chequered clothing, and a muffin top. No, we will squander ours wisely. You see, we discovered the secret to happiness before we had money. We will set up overlanding camps around the world, which will double as animal shelters. The workshop will have a pit, drinks will always be cold, and the campfire ready. We will have a vehicle on each accessible continent (which our good friends are free to borrow), and a modest 50-foot sailing boat to cross the oceans. We will offer scholarships for deserving overlanders, and we will eat avocado on toast every single day.


Thank you, Santa! I am really looking forward to Christmas. Don’t let me down—seriously.

Graeme Bell was born in Johannesburg, South Africa. Together with his wife and two children he has spent much of his adult life chasing momentous experiences and campfire smoke across five continents. He has traveled overland to Kilimanjaro from Cape Town, circumnavigated South America, explored from Argentina to Alaska, Europe to Asia, and across the entirety of coastal Western Africa, all in a trusty Land Rover. Graeme and the family are now encouraging their self-built Defender live-in camper (and permanent home since 2012) to find a way from Cape Town to Vladivostok. Graeme is a member of The Explorers Club, the author of five excellent books, and an Overland Journal contributor since 2015.