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Before I started my long term overland adventure 2 years ago, I dreamt of the places I’d see, the people I’d meet and the cultures I’d experience. I dreamt of sharing this experience with Graham and it was exciting beyond words. I gave very little thought to what life on the road would be like and the challenges it would throw at me as an individual. So what’s life on the road really like? And more specifically, what’s it like from the female perspective?
A Female Perspective of Life on the Road
Overland travel is dominated by men and their overland vehicles. Yes there are women who are into overland vehicles and even travel alone. We know because we’ve met a few of them. But on the whole, this is quite rare. Most female overlanders are travelling with their husbands or boyfriends. The men get excited about other vehicles, choose challenging routes just to do a bit of off road driving and are quite happy to spend their days tinkering with the truck. But as a woman, I don’t want all my conversations to be filled with such talk.
Any woman thinking of travelling overland long term with their male partner should go into it with their eyes wide open. It’s not all exciting adventures and new horizons; daily life can at times be challenging.
The Daily Challenges
I live in a small box
My living quarters are 2.2m wide by 4.6m long and I share that space with my husband 24/7. When in fair weather climates, this isn’t so difficult. We live outside mainly. But when it’s raining or cold, outdoor living is less practical. That relatively small space can feel incredibly tiny and finding my own space almost impossible. If I was on a 2 week holiday, I guess this isn’t much of an issue. But 2 years in, the need to have my own space is, at times, the be all and end all.
I can’t kick Graham out just so that I can lounge and read a book for an hour without hearing him pottering in the galley kitchen that’s 2 inches away from me. Well I could, but then he’d get cold and wet. I accept that’s better than me being cold and wet, but it’d still be unreasonable of me.
I have to be tidy, all of the time
I’m a tidy person and I find untidiness a little stressful to be around, so perhaps you think this isn’t so difficult? Well when you live in a multi roomed house, leaving things down on a counter or sideboard isn’t an issue. Each room has its function and if your office desk is dishevelled because you’ve been working all day, you can leave it as it is. You can tidy up later; it’s your desk and temporary untidiness won’t disturb anybody else. But my office is also my dining room, my desk is also my dining table and my dining table often serves as an extra kitchen work bench. And that whole space is no bigger than 1.5m by 2m. I can’t leave the laptop open without dinner preparation being severely hampered by the lack of space.
In such a small living space, everything must be strapped down and in its rightful place
Mowgli is obviously mobile and driving over rough mountain tracks, sand dunes and off road trails demands that all contents are secured. Either that or home looks like it’s been burgled each time we pull up. Ok so we get into a routine each time we head out onto the road, but it can get tiresome.
My wardrobe is all neatly packed into a 1 metre plastic box
I accept this is small, but it’s all I need. I would imagine many women would struggle with such a small wardrobe but if you want to travel long term, there are sacrifices that need to be made. Wardrobe space is one of them and for me, it’s not a big deal. That said, my wardrobe is stored in a cupboard accessed from the bed. So when Graham is still sleeping when I get up in the morning, which invariably he is, I cannot get to my tiny wardrobe. Suffice to say that this is bloody annoying!
Finding female company
There are times I crave female company. I don’t want to talk about overland trucks, where we’re going next, what great off road tracks we’re yet to find. I just want to sit and chat to another woman about something or nothing. Of course I meet many women on our travels but I don’t always get the time to get to know them long enough for a good old natter or even better, a girl’s night out. This is what I miss most.
So Is It All Worth It?
Absolutely! It’s so worth it. I’m driven around the world by my husband and best friend. I travel slowly so I can truly experience a country and its culture. I see places far off the beaten track that I couldn’t get to if I flew into a country for a 2 week holiday. This gives me opportunities to have genuine encounters with people; encounters that are not contrived or staged like on many organised tours.
Much more than all of this, travelling overland on a long term basis, has allowed me to get to know myself more than I ever could have if I’d not undertaken this adventure. I’ve had challenges thrown at me that had I even imagined, I wouldn’t have thought I could deal with. I’m far more resilient and resourceful than I ever knew; more tolerant and open minded than I would have ever admitted to and so much more in love with my husband than I ever thought possible; even if he does prevent me accessing my wardrobe in the mornings.