Growing up, the stories my parents told me of their overlanding adventures became part of my subconscious. We were a family of overlanders. When I was young, we did not have much money, my parents were both teachers, so our summers and Easter vacations were spent in our orange VW camper with the pop up top, traveling through Baja Mexico, the national parks of the west…anywhere where we could travel for cheap and set up camp. I have vivid memories of digging up clams in Mexico and taking them into small restaurants for the cooks to prepare for my parents. I remember the sand dunes of Baja, my Dad’s failed attempts to fish from the beach, the redwoods of California, red rocks of Utah and open spaces. I remember picking bouquets of wild flowers for my Mom and having her put them on the tiny table in the VW. It felt like home. I never remember being bored.
In our VW camper I had the little canvas cot in the pop up, my sister slept in the cot that attached to the windows across the front seats and my parents slept in the small double bed in the back. It was all I ever knew about vacations, I did not stay in a hotel or ride in a plane until I was 16. We did not eat out in restaurants; we cooked in our tiny camper and stored food in the little fridge where we chilled it with large blocks of ice. Using a Yuban coffee can as a toilet was normal to me.
Before my sister Heather and I were born, my parents told us stories of their pre-kids overlanding adventures that instilled in me a sense of adventure, curiosity and possibility. My whole life I have listened to those stories, they have become epic adventures in my mind. Of all the things that I associate my parents with, these trips seem to be some of the most defining moments of their lives. When I told them about our plans to quit our jobs and drive to South America, they were thrilled. I have really great parents.
My Dad’s first overlanding trip was in a Volkswagen Bug in 1961. He traveled all over Europe with his friend Ralph and slept in the car and survived off of almost nothing. When we talk about the trip he told me he invested in one good coat and brought along one pair of pants. I asked him how he lived day to day, he said they both slept in the front seats of the bug, froze their asses off, and did not shower for weeks on end; it was the time of his life. This trip started the travel bug in him and when he met my Mom he sold her on taking their own adventure.
In 1968 my parents took their life savings and bought a white Volkswagen camper and a one way ticket to Europe. For the next few years they traveled all over Europe, North Africa, Russia and Mexico. People thought they were crazy, but stories of them driving through the camel markets in Morocco, the ruins of Greece, drinking sangria in Spanish campgrounds and living off dollars a day were some of the best memories of their lives.
In 1972 my parents took one last overlanding trip to Europe in the orange VW camper that would stay with us until I was 17. They went with their friends Joe and Carla. 18 years later when I was in college, I took one of Joe’s European history classes, it helped me visualize the adventure he had with my parents so many years ago; he was one of the best teachers I have ever had.
In 1973 I was born, so all overlanding adventures my parents had now included a plus one, and in 1976 a plus two with my amazing sister Heather. I am glad they never stopped exploring, and I am grateful they taught me about a way to travel that not all children are lucky enough to experience. I hope they join Sam and me for parts of our new adventure. While I write this my sister is getting ready to head out to Africa again to volunteer for the summer. We both have made travel a huge part of our lives.
Mom and Dad, thanks for giving us both the courage to follow our hearts and instilling in us both a sense of adventure and the gift of travel.
The next chapter in our overlanding history begins…..