Bound For Nowhere
November 3, 2019 6:30 PM   Subscribe

MAK and Owen have been on the road for a little over three years. Overlanding has overtaken Vanlife, and it seems to be a thing that doesn't require so much sell-out. Not that there aren't setbacks.
posted by valkane (16 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
One of my old bosses did this. He was borderline retired before getting called by an old friend for a startup gig, got a few years into it, had a cough that wouldn't go away and it turned out he had cancer. He beat it but wondered why he was still working for a startup when pushing 60 instead of enjoying his life with his wife and young son.

He bought an old military truck and spent a lot of money putting a custom shell on it that was built in Germany. Now he drives around the US and Mexico, doing part time tech work to pay the bills while his kid is "home"schooled. He absolutely loves it except for the inevitable problems that come up when having a son in his tweens that lives in a small camper with his parents.

I'd love to be able to do that some day. My wife would happily do it now, but I'm just too addicted to my stuff and would need a home base to come back to regularly.
posted by mikesch at 7:19 PM on November 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

sounds great. I just don't see how it's safely possible without the kind of up-front investment I don't at all have. I mean, Step 1: buy a custom reliable overland vehicle.

If I had the means, I be on it - fuck this conventional consumerist hamster wheel.
posted by j_curiouser at 7:31 PM on November 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

Where the ?!?$& can you drive overland without doing even more environmental damage? Is it obvious that that’s the other half of the cool?

Brownfield reclamation needs a hashtag.
posted by clew at 7:39 PM on November 3, 2019 [6 favorites]

My friends keep telling me to do something like this. "Finance your travels with blogging and product deals and self-marketing". Now that I've been unemployed for about a year, it's starting to sound like an attractive prospect. However, upon consideration, it's always a select group of people doing these things, most often in teams. It seems to require a very set group of skills, extraordinary motivation (I'm also physically injured and very mentally ill, so this is probably out of my reach), and at least a little luck to make something like this happen. Of course, as with all prolifically described and published "success stories" within any given archetype online, there's a selection bias for the ones who make it thus denying us a full picture of what the fail/drop out ratio is like. There are also big questions about the decades-scale longevity of such a lifestyle and employment structure. Hah, I'm not sure whether my friends realize I'm a broken person on welfare who has progressively fallen out of society entirely and forfeit his life, instead of another potential go-getter hustler ready to make some impassioned case on social media to pay me for traveling.
posted by constantinescharity at 8:17 PM on November 3, 2019 [2 favorites]

Where the ?!?$& can you drive overland without doing even more environmental damage?

Much like the term "offroading", overlanding doesn't literally mean there is no road. There is always a road or trail. True "no trail" bushwacking is super hard and I have no idea where you'd do it.

Real off-trail damage done mostly by dirt bikes and quads.
posted by ryanrs at 8:18 PM on November 3, 2019 [3 favorites]

“Overlanding” basically means” expensive car camping “ but with a veneer of adventure.

But sure, momentary cynicism aside, I’d love to have the kind of career that let’s you work from anywhere and afford a $100k+ camping mobile. That sounds genuinely awesome and looks like a great way to live for a while.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:43 PM on November 3, 2019 [2 favorites]

I like to go offroading in my bone stock 2000 Toyota Sienna minivan. I will spend a week driving forest roads and camping wherever, usually sleeping in the minivan. I think the main difference is my van is worth $2,500 and I don't blog about it.

I see pics of these guys driving on graded dirt roads and gravel and I'm pretty sure my fwd minivan can go 99% of those places. And sometimes I go places a big truck wouldn't fit, but the minivan squeezes through.

All you really need is normal camping/backpacking gear and a decent offline mapping app for your phone, and you too can go driving around BLM land in your normal car. Stay out of mud/snow, don't go down steep or sandy slopes you won't be able to go back up, and generally don't be stupid. When you're tempted to do something risky, try visualizing the tow bill. Carry a PLB so you don't die if something bad happens.

Try it, it's fun!
posted by ryanrs at 9:10 PM on November 3, 2019 [8 favorites]

You know, I like reading vanlife blogs. I had dreams to do that in my 20's. I like the do-it-yourself ethos, the bohemian lifestyle, and being free to do what you like. But this is just two rich kids in an $85K full sized Toyota Tundra camper, which they bought three months after buying and outfitting a Tacoma, which was just one month after they spent a shit-ton of money trying to upgrade an 80's Toyota camper. They couldn't even figure out how to put a tire back on when it came off. No thanks, I can't connect with these people at all.
posted by Grumpy old geek at 9:33 PM on November 3, 2019 [8 favorites]

This guy Chris lives in a jeep and makes youtube videos about it. He has a nice video style with mostly locked-off tripod shots, no music, no over-emoting narration, no fast edits, no superfluous drone shots or epic slow-mo, and no drama or clickbait. It's not fast, loud, or flashy like most social media, it's slow and deliberate and a little meditative.

Also, like Dip Flash says "overlanding" is a marketing term to sell stuff based on the Instagram-friendly veneer of adventure and exploration. For anyone being squeezed out of traditional housing or looking at the possibility of life on the road, The Homes On Wheels Alliance is a place to go for information on how to make it work with what you have. HOWA grew out of the Cheap RV Living website, forums, youtube channel and the Rubber Tramp community and has information on living in a vehicle (and not just RVs, campers, and conversion vans). It's a resource on everything from how to poop in a car, to how to find work on the road, to how to find like-minded people to caravan with for safety and community.
posted by peeedro at 9:57 PM on November 3, 2019 [4 favorites]

It's like these guys really liked car camping, so they spent lots of money buying bigger and bigger cars.
posted by ryanrs at 10:01 PM on November 3, 2019 [4 favorites]

I've been pretty heavily into this on the "create online communities" side, and puttering about Europe with my family. Highlights have been Iceland and the Pyrenees.

It's a rich and abled person's game, certainly, but you don't have to be in the 1% in the Western world to participate. Find a not new but reliable vehicle of some description, and go short trips to begin with to find your footing. Chuck a mattress in the back or a cheap tent, cook on a simple gas stove and focus on getting out there and seeing the sights and meeting the people. The people in the USD 100k custom Sportsmobile won't have prettier sunsets or find cooler secluded swimming spots than you.

If your confidence allows it, get a really unsuitable vehicle and just go. You'll be more approachable and thus meet more local people as you hunt for an ignition coil that might fit into your 70s Volvo in the rural backwaters of somewhere far away. Nobody really wants to chat with the guy that rolled up in a million dollar factory new custom German 3-axle truck camper anyways...
posted by Harald74 at 12:12 AM on November 4, 2019 [3 favorites]

An old high school friend of mine was a gym owner and endurance athlete doing marathons and tris before an accident in San Francisco caused him to lose his left leg below the knee. He took some time, went through some recovery, and got back into sports as a para-cyclist. He also bought a an old Land Cruiser FJ60 and has been using that to drive to different endurance events and motivational speaker gigs, posting photos of stopovers in Zion or Banff or the Redwoods along the way. Now he’s managed to build up a pretty good Instagram presence as a single dad doing car camping trips with his kids when he has them, living out of his truck, motivating other parents to go out and explore when they get a chance, or make their own opportunities to do that.

His disability aside, there’s certainly some privilege in the background of his lifestyle, but also a deliberate sense of paring down. I appreciate that this influencer space is rife with sentiments of “Live Intentionally!” “Don’t be held back by your stuff!” “Escape the trap!” that all may be window dressing over some form of inauthenticity that makes this world more bogus than it is, but I appreciate him for making a real go of it, and trying to inspire others. I have zero urge to get a camper, but at least one of his photos prompted me to plan a bike packing trip for next spring.
posted by bl1nk at 4:56 AM on November 4, 2019

I own an '85 Westfalia.I really got my money's worth traveling back and forth from Utah to Cali, visiting family. I took every road, photo'd wetlands, lonely byways, and observed the milky way out on playas...spent a lot of nights in the middle of nowhere. In this town, driving this van is like an invitation to conversation about when we owned, my family used to, and now, how much? I don't want to ever regret having sold it. My grandson is a car freak, he asked, "Grandma, what is your dream car?" I said, "Well, honey, I am driving it!"
posted by Oyéah at 8:06 AM on November 4, 2019 [8 favorites]

If you are a vampire in a converted hearse being chased by werewolves, it's called underworlding.
posted by lefty lucky cat at 1:46 PM on November 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

My dad and a friend drove from England to Afghanistan and back in the 1950s. They got a post undergraduate grant to do some biological research as I recall, although I get the impression that was a rather flimsy excuse. They drove a Land Rover. I’m pretty sure both had done their national service by that time, so they weren’t completely green.
posted by idb at 4:51 PM on November 4, 2019

If you like overloading channels on youtube, another interesting one is We Will Roam. It's a Australian couple who are currently making a loop around their country in a old Toyota Landcruiser Troopcarrier. They have a very stylized music-video feel to their videos; it's not very vloggy, not a lot of talk to camera shots or talking even. It's really beautiful video put to music to tell the story of the places they visit. The impressive part is they compose and perform all the music they use, so it has a unique and very personal feeling to it. Very nice, very slick.
posted by peeedro at 5:31 PM on November 23, 2019

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