A friend of mine met this overlanding family of 4 on a road trip and immediately I wanted to know more about them. They left behind a comfortable life in Cape Town, South Africa to circumnavigate around the globe in their 2003 Land Rover, “road schooling” their two teenagers while cruising between continents! Meet Graeme, Luisa, Keelan and Jessica.
What life did you leave behind ? Can you tell us more your family ?
I am Graeme. I do the writing, driving, mechanical repairs, and most of the cooking as well as helping out with the photographs and trying to build a social media following with our original content. Luisa is the boss, she is always working and issuing instructions while coming up with new and excitingly tedious tasks for the family. Luisa is our principal photographer, organizer, navigator, penny counter and back seat driver.
Keelan is the first born. At age 16 he is 6 foot and a few hundred pounds, he should be back home playing rugby. Keelan is responsible for eating all the food, dinner dishes and doing all the heavy lifting, is a great assistant mechanic and spends his free time designing vehicles and structures. Jessica is 11 apparently, I could swear she is 23. She takes care of her Dad and all the stray animals we meet, is in charge of breakfast and lunch dishes as well as helping out with the laundry. Both kids are homeschooled.
Luisa and I ran our own successful immigration firm in Cape Town, the most beautiful city in Africa. We were living the South African version of the American dream, despite our terrible government and pathetic bureaucracy. We ate salmon and cream cheese, chilled in the pool, made a steak BBQ twice a week, had two PS3’s, a Volvo station wagon and worked 14 hours a day. We had no head start in life and had to work persistently for every penny we earned.
Can you tell us how you “roadschool” your kids?
Keelan is currently completing a modular paper based curriculum from South Africa and Jessica is working online with Khan Academy as well as another online software programme from South Africa.
When did you start living on the road ? Which countries you’ve visited?
Our lives have always been somewhat nomadic, even before Luisa and I met. Our parents were the unsettled types and we inherited that wanderlust. Our first major international road trip was in 2010 when we drove from South Africa to Tanzania and back. We were petrified those first few days on the road but soon settled into the overlanding rhythm. That journey took six months and thereafter we took every opportunity we could to take the kids out of school and drive to Mozambique or Malawi. Eventually we decided, over a glass of red wine, that the time had come to make a major change in our lives.
We left South Africa in October 2012 and have spent the last few years circumnavigating South America and travelling up through Central America and up to Alaska.
The countries we have toured overland are:
South Africa Paraguay Panama
Mozambique Bolivia Costa Rica
Swaziland Peru Nicaragua
Malawi Chile Honduras
Tanzania Ecuador Belize
Zambia Colombia Guatemala
Namibia Venezuela Mexico
Uruguay French Guiana United States
Brazil British Guyana Canada
Do you sleep every night in the rooftop tent? Why did you choose a Land Rover instead of a van or RV?
The Land Rover is a 2003 TD5 Defender 130 double cab with seating for four. We installed the largest roof top tent we could find which, when open, measures 2.4m x 2.4m.
We have spent 80% of our time in the rooftop tent and the remaining time house sitting or short term renting apartments. Being Africans, spending African currency, we do not have the budget for hotels, motels or camping on the California coast. We free camp and wild camp as often as we can and the Landy has been equipped as an overland vehicle while losing none of her off road capability. We achieved this by installing a canopy with an integrated double drawer system, a load area and a small kitchen area and an awning. We have an extra fuel tank which gives us a range of 700 miles (we get 27mpg) a built in 70L water tank and extra jerry cans for fuel and water.
Essentially we live outside which is great in the southern hemisphere but sucks in the north when the mercury drops. That said we have always been warm and comfortable in the tent which is extremely well made (in South Africa) and tough as nails.
We have been Land Rover fans for many years and we enjoy off road driving. In Africa, vans and RV’s (and caravans) are only used by surfers and retirees, almost everyone else opts for a 4×4 set up, especially if they are going to be getting out in the wild amongst the beasts. The Defender is a fantastic vehicle, it has taken us to many distant and wild places where other, 2×4 vehicles just cannot go and that is where we want to be. At the moment we are house sitting a ranch in Baja Mexico and it has wonderfully gnarly dirt roads which can only be driven in a 4×4 or a rental car.
How do you make your way with the vehicle between continents?
When outfitting the Defender we were careful to ensure that she would still fit into a high cube shipping container. We shipped her from South Africa to Uruguay and were lucky to catch the Ferry Xpress ferry on it’s second last crossing around the Darien Gap from Colombia to Panama.
How do you fund this kind of lifestyle?
Initially we sold our business in South Africa which supported our travels for the first two years. We are now selling my first novel and we’re busy working on our second book, which will be released in May 2016. The plan is to start merchandising products we use daily, and truly believe in and we will be selling adventure photographs and perhaps one of the kids if we have to.
Do you wish to settle one day ? Where would it be?
Perhaps one day, if Keelan decides that he would like to attend a University to further his studies. We would prefer to settle in Argentina or Brazil however the Scandinavian countries have a great social system. For instance, University in Norway is free for foreigners and I have always had a fascination with Scandinavia. Returning to South Africa is always an option, but there is still a whole lot of the planet left to explore. We plan to rebuild the Defender as a live in vehicle which will make our lives more comfortable which will in turn make continued long distance, long term travel so much more pleasant.
Can you share 3 beautiful places nomads should visit one day?
Internationally I would say South Africa’s Western Cape province, the Bolivian Altiplano and the Lake District in Argentina.
In North America I would suggest the Alvord Desert in Oregon, The Yukon territory in Canada and all National Parks in Utah.