At the end of 2015, after practicing law for 12 years and paying off a mountain of debt, I decided to finally take a break from my office existence to realize a dream that I’d had for over twenty years: an around-the-world overland journey.
Three years earlier, I had tried surfing for the first time and was immediately hooked. My growing passion for surfing made it easer to muster the courage to break away and explore the world and its oceans—and finally learn to drop into some barrels.
So, I wrapped up my legal cases and sold my apartment, along with many of my possessions; and I packed up my trusty Land Cruiser, ready for two years on the road. In addition to seeing the world and hopefully becoming a better surfer, I also plan to do some volunteer work along the way and hopefully leave a positive trace. !Pura vida!
The map above charts my intended overland route across five continents. (Though the truck has a snorkel, the oceanic portions involve container ships.)
The trip starts and ends in New York City, my home of the past fifteen years. For budgetary reasons, I’m spending most of my time in developing countries; for surfing reasons, I’m favoring coastal countries that have good waves.
For certain legs—especially Africa and the Middle East—the exact route is somewhat up in the air, as political developments and road conditions must be reexamined closer to the actual approach date. I’m also keeping an open mind to follow the tides where they lead!
As my journey progresses, you can follow the actual route I’ve taken so far on this map:
The key piece of equipment for the trip is Pearl—my 1997 Land Cruiser FZJ80, purchased a couple of years ago for $7,000 and modified extensively for expedition travel (see “Preparation” below). Although Pearl is 19 years old, she’s a tank and in great condition. At departure, she has over 140,000 miles and is just getting broken in. But, crucially, if and when anything should need replacing, the parts are ubiquitous around the world.
As for daily expenses, I am trying to live off approximately $45 a day by spending most of my time in developing countries, camping as often as possible and eating like the locals (which is how I like to eat anyhow).
There will, of course, be repairs and unforeseen expenses, and there will also be occasional splurging. The idea is to live both small and large at the same time.
Overlanding, as defined by Overland Journal, is “self-reliant adventure travel to remote destinations where the journey is the primary goal [and] where the principal form of lodging is camping; often lasting for extended lengths of time (months to years) and often spanning international boundaries.” For me, meeting locals and sometimes relying upon their good will is an enriching part of the experience, but that otherwise describes my endeavor quite accurately.
Improvisation is as important as preparation. With that said, quite a bit of preparation has gone into getting ready to depart for this trip. I have completed off-road training as well as additional courses in vehicle recovery and field repair. I’ve attended rallies where I was able to confer with other overlanders on the general logistics of making such a lengthy voyage, and I’ve discussed my planned route with others who have undertaken similar ones.
Based on extensive research and generous recommendations, I’ve modified my Land Cruiser by adding beefier coil springs and shocks (Old Man Emu), an auxiliary gas tank (LRA, for a combined total of 50 gallons), roof rack (BajaRack), awning for camping (ARB), winch (WARN), bull bar (ARB), rock sliders (Slee), mud tires (BF Goodrich Mud-Terrain 285/75R16), internal cargo barrier, and a dual battery system (IBS with Odyssey batteries).
I’ve also consulted the U.S. State Department’s reports on travel conditions in each country; met with locals from various places that I’ll be visiting; learned first aid and emergency field dressing; prepared all the necessary documentation for the red tape that I will encounter; and honed my native fluency in Spanish (Latin America will be one of the riskiest regions of the trip).
I’ve previously had the opportunity to drive through about 25 countries and have learned the basics of dealing with military and police checkpoints, as well as avoiding carjackings. There are a host of best practices for international road travel that I am going to follow as closely as possible, like sticking to the safest roads and never driving at night.
However, all the preparation in the world cannot guarantee a voyage without incident—so please wish me luck!