From poshy La La Princess to Overlanding Pro: Life-changing travels on a Big Yellow Truck

“Euuuuwwww”, she exclaimed, as Amazonian Jungle mud oozed through her toes, marring the pretty purple design. Suddenly she started madly flapping her hands about her head, desperately trying to persuade the oversized fly that she wasn’t a suitable enough perch to land on. After a pause to make sure the bug had definitely moved on to the next person in line, Lauren finally stumbled out of the boat and started trudging up the hill into our Jungle Camp.

“Wow” my driver Kyle murmured under his breath, “this might be a long 4 months…!”

And a long four months it was; it was an absolutely brilliant trip through South America, one that I’ll never forget. Because I met and got to know Lauren; a girl who’d never camped before in her life, didn’t particularly like getting dirty, had (and still has) issues with shower curtains that left me in fits of laughter, and has a not so small terror of flying things (I won’t even go into her fear of the dark!).  Yet, despite all of this, she’d decided to embark on a 15 week journey from Quito to Rio de Janeiro, on a truck, where half her nights were under canvas. It was her first foray into the world of “Adventure Travel”, and she was jumping in at the deep end.

Overlanding attracts a whole demographic of people from all over the world.  Generally speaking, they like the outdoors: they have camped before; they might enjoy trekking, and like cooking over the fire. They’re sometimes even used to rolling out a sleeping bag and brushing the bugs away before putting their head down for the night.

Occasionally, (and thankfully it’s happening more and more), you get people who have no idea what they’ve let themselves in for. Sure, they’ve read that they will be spending most of their nights sleeping in a tent (yes, that means on the ground!), have glanced at the temperature chart to check if they really need that woolly hat when they’re also packing their bikini; they might even have thought to bring a car charger that means they can fire up their smart phone while the truck is driving!  But the idea that they won’t be able to have a lie in on every morning of their “holiday”, or that they will have to cook outside for the entire group even when it’s raining, or they might have to help dig out the truck and then not shower for 3 more days…that’s all new.  And not always exciting.

Lauren was a complete newbie.  Her first time putting up her tent was her first night sleeping under canvas ever.  Her first cook group was the first time she’d ever cooked outside, and for a big group of people (she later admitted to going out to eat almost every night of the week at home, because that’s what people in the city do).  And, just to help set the scene, I should also let you know that Lauren is very pretty, very blonde, speaks in a wonderfully posh accent, and at first glance, could be assumed to be – in overlanding terms of course – a  “Princess”.  But she’s also a person who gets involved, who always wants to help, who loves to start the party, and who endears herself to everyone because she’s a great person to be around.  The perfect person to have on an overland truck, and very much not a princess! (Well, until there’s mud…and bugs…)

And get stuck in she did!  She tackled and completed the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu (and the mandatory 24 hour challenge afterwards!); she survived three days in the Amazon Jungle; she pitched and took down her tent about 100 times; prepared not only her own cook groups’ meals but helped out with almost all of the others, and wasn’t even the first in the shower queue after not washing for 4 nights!!  And to think that at the very start of the expedition, she’d never done anything like this before!

Overlanding is a “different” way to travel.  It challenges you; it takes you so roughly out of your comfort zone that often you have to redefine the boundaries.  It will probably make you sweatier, dirtier, and more dishevelled than you’ve ever been before.  You will learn that pooing in a hole you dug yourself is nearly always preferable to every other option; that t-shirts really can endure 5 days in a row without disintegrating (and that you smell yourself before others do…usually), and that talk of bowel movements is perfectly acceptable at breakfast time.  You will also realise that drinking beer around the campfire is the best way to enjoy them (as long as there’s ice in the esky!); you really don’t need to care about what you look like (an incredible relief!) and you will probably make some of the best friends you’ve ever had on your trip, as a result of the amazing (and some not so amazing and way more personal) experiences you’ll share.

Lauren, in fact, enjoyed her first Oasis trip with me so much that when she saw I was later running trips through Central Asia, she was the first to book! And this time she came armed with knowledge about the sh*t shovels, how best to roast marshmallows around the fire, how long her hair can last before she really does need to wash it, and when to party and when not to risk that hangover at altitude again!  She also arrived with bucket loads of enthusiasm and “getting involved” vibes, which infected everyone and helped us all have an incredible few months. And, I think she’d agree that her trip also gave her the confidence to start travelling all over the world.

So if you’ve always thought overlanding wasn’t your thing; that you couldn’t handle it, or you’re scared, think again. It takes all sorts to travel on a big yellow truck, and as long as you want a challenge; fancy travelling off the beaten track; want to meet new people; can enjoy dinner around the campfire; and don’t mind missing out on a shower or two, you might just be missing out on the trip of a lifetime.]

See ya on the road….!!