You Know You’re An Overlander When…

We all dream of being that guy (or gal). Suntanned, sinewy and wise, a world traveller with a million stories to tell and the scars to prove it. The life of a long-term international overlander is far from glamorous though; in fact, the closest he gets to glamour is drinking wine from a glass. That first year on the road is a massive learning experience, but the rewards are massive as well. Before long your perspectives will begin to shift, and you’ll know you are a long-term overlander when…

  • You wear the same pair of shorts five days in a row (and don’t care).
  • Customs officials in remote countries ask to take photos of you.
  • Young girls in remote little towns ask you if you have met Justin Bieber.
  • Your friends think you’re permanently on holiday, but you know they probably wouldn’t last a week doing what you do.
  • You forget which day of the week it is.

  • You know every single off-road tyre on the market, including its load rating.
  • Cooking and pooping indoors is the ultimate luxury.
  • You can make a fire out of almost anything.
  • Cars pull up next to you on the freeway just to take a look and give you a thumbs-up.
  • Random people congratulate you for just being you.
  • Shaving is optional, and your feet are always dirty.
  • You repair everything you own to make it last forever.

  • Running out of duct tape is similar to running out of toilet paper.
  • A luxury campsite is defined as having reliable WiFi, electricity, and maybe a toilet seat.
  • For Christmas, you give and receive car parts and tools.
  • You spend so much time being lost that you forget what the word lost means.

  • You have more international friends than hometown friends.
  • Your daily conversation revolves around which route to take, visa requirements, the budget, and food.
  • You spend two hours each day looking for a campsite (using apps is cheating).
  • You find a good campsite and can’t seem to leave.

  • You spend so much time covered in mosquito repellent that you suffer from temporary amnesia and uncontrollable muscle tics.
  • You forget what it’s like to live in the “real” world.
  • Major news events go completely unnoticed.
  • The police and military pull you over just to take a look at you and your rig and ask where you are from.
  • Your diet consists of fruit juice, beer, pasta, and bbq items.
  • Reading about the most dangerous places in the world, you realize you’ve been to, or are going to (time will tell) most of them (not as dangerous as they say).

  • Camping at a gas station parking lot is totally normal.
  • You’re either usually boiling hot or freezing cold.
  • You start looking like a Rastafarian and not by choice.
  • Your first language starts sounding like your second language.
  • You finally see yourself in a mirror and are totally shocked at what you see.
  • Upon entering a supermarket chain you get excited to see bright lights and shiny things.
  • Doing things that are extraordinary become your day-to-day routine.

  • Someone travelling with a washing machine in their rig makes you envious and gag a little.
  • A microwave oven seems like a foreign object.
  • Most of your arguments with your spouse are about how you’re driving (and how lost you are).
  • You’re disoriented waking up anywhere besides your tent or truck.
  • One of your arms is tanned darker than the other.
  • You have “I Love” T-shirts from both Mozambique and Peru/
  • You have left an array of expensive “great idea at the time” gadgets across continents.
  • In a year, you spend 11 months living outdoors.
  • Eating Western fast food is a grand treat.

  • You consider yourself ever so slightly superior to backpackers and other tourists.
  • Meeting other overlanders driving the same brand vehicle become instant family members.
  • You make lifelong friends you will probably never see again.
  • Your children wash the dishes by hand and the laundry by foot.
  • You spend hours dreaming up ways to make money.
  • You get to know cities, bus routes, restaurants, and the best supermarkets while looking for vehicle spare parts.
  • You won’t know the date, but you will know the exact exchange rate to the dollar of the country you’re in.
  • You’ve eaten such strange food that your stomach is now lined with cast iron.
  • You never get a cold or flu.

  • You lose huge amounts of weight eating the crappiest fatty food (because you hardly ever taste sugar).
  • You have a strange relationship with your facial hair.
  • You drink almost as much beer as water.
  • When driving on tar you miss the dirt, when driving on dirt, you miss the tar.
  • Driving on a freeway makes you feel like a NASCAR driver.
  • You can change wheel bearings with your eyes closed and have mechanic fingernail.s
  • The smell of a bushfire makes you hungry.

Graeme Bell is the author of three incredible books dedicated to the art of long-term overlanding: We Will Be Free, Travel the Planet Overland, and Overlanding the Americas-La Lucha. You can get your own copy at or follows his family’s adventures on Facebook at A2A Expedition, on Instagram @graeme.r.bell, and on Patreon

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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.