LOUD & SLOW
JESS & SCOTT
GENERAL INTRO :
Countries Travelled :
(While overlanding) Canada, United States
What inspired you to travel the way you do?
Scott bought a motorbike, and I (Jess) thought it would be fun to travel by motorbike in South America for a few months… the idea got a little out of hand.
How long do you travel for at a time (or are planning on)?
We have been in North America since Jan 2016, but for a year of that we lived in an apartment in Canada. We will be on this trip a few more years at least, but we aren’t sure what we will do after we finish our travels in South America.
How did/do you plan your journey(s)?
We plan ahead for any bureaucracy such as visas and paperwork for border crossings, and we take note of anything we happen to see online that looks fun to visit. Otherwise we don’t plan nearly as much as we should. Tourist brochures, hasty google searches, and word of mouth when we reach an area are usually how we find things to do.
Current Overland Vehicle / Mode of Travel :
2003 Toyota Landcruiser Troopcarrier (70 series) called Duchess.
Why did you pick your current overland vehicle to travel in?
They’re tough, simple mechanically (just like us!) and there’s a certain romance in doing a trip like this in such a classic vehicle.
What’s the best thing about your vehicle set up?
4WD and being able to climb into bed without setting anything up.
What’s the worst thing about your vehicle set up?
We don’t have an inside sitting area, and to a lesser extent cooking area.
What would you change / add on to your vehicle if you could?
A pop top would give us more internal room which would be nice, but otherwise we think we’ve got her as good as we can while still obeying the laws of physics.
Have you broken down on your trip or had an accident? If so, how did you resolve the situation?
Nope, touch wood!
How do you navigate? GPS / Sat Nav / Phone Apps Other?
Offline google maps, although we have started trying out maps.me which is meant to be the way to go outside the US/Canada.
LOUD & SLOW :
The Duchess and her Solar Panels
Do you stay in campsites / hotels / motels / airbnbs?
We aim for mostly free camping or government campsites (eg. in national parks), depending on whats available in the area. We spent some time in motels this winter, partly because Scott had to work and partly because we kept running into big snow storms!
How do you pick where you stay?
A combination of iOverlander, looking for green patches on google maps, curiosity (follow random trail) and blind luck.
Name one of your favourite places you have stayed to date and can you explain why it was your favourite place?
Hardest question of all! Our favourites are the magical combination of free, quiet and beautiful. Bonus if we get phone signal!
A good one recently was in Alaska. We drove up a shallow river to an area surrounded by mountains. A short hike away was a glacier which you crossed a suspension bridge to reach.
LOUD & SLOW :
Camping near Gulkana Glacier in Alaska
What is your sleeping set up and why have you chosen this system? :
We use a doona (duvet?) like we would in a real home. This has kept us toasty warm past -20 degrees C, plus the cover is easily washable which is important when the dogs bring in snow, mud, sand or god knows what else.
Can you offer any advice to help travellers ensure they get a great nights sleep?
Scott: With white noise and blackout curtains you can convert even the noisiest campground to a little sleepy haven
Jess: The only downside is that you have less awareness of the world around you which I don’t love
TRAVEL PETS :
What pets do you travel with?
We have two 8 year old King Charles Cavaliers called Wesley and Lily.
What’s it like travelling with your pet?
It didn’t occur to us to leave them at home, they are a crucial part of our day to day.
The obvious downside of bringing them along is that you are quite tied to the vehicle. You can’t leave them in a hot car and go out exploring all day, and unfortunately ours can’t hike like they used to. Also they shed hair like nothing else and snore like chainsaws (see the white noise suggestion above). It’s lucky they are sweet!
We were surprised by how dog accessible Canadian and American national parks are, we could even take them on some trails.
Cavaliers are rare in North America and so we get a lot of people coming over to talk about them and give them love. At more than one border crossing we’ve found that having cute dogs brings out the friendly side of border guards
LOUD & SLOW :
Wesley and Lily - the King Charles Cavalier travel family!
CAREER & FINANCE :
What were your previous careers?
We were both IT Business Analysts at home, Scott more technical, Jess more business facing
Do you work on the road? If so, what do you do and how does it affect your travel?
Scott does some contracting work. It’s great in that it extends our travels and means we rely less on savings. Unfortunately this also means we are more tied to areas where we have phone reception.
Sometimes it means missing out on things because the timing doesn’t work out, or because you can’t get away from phone signal for that long. Recently we spent a gorgeous, sunny week stuck hanging out at a Starbucks in Anchorage because there was a lot of work on, and when we were finally out of there the weather turned miserable.
For us it is worth it because it means we can spend a little more money than we would otherwise, and it feels less like we are taking time out of ‘real life’ and reinforces that this is what our real life is. On the good days that feels pretty great.
How do you fund and budget for your travels?
For the first year we used only savings, now it is a combination of savings and contract work.
We just try to keep costs reasonable, but don’t worry too much about what we are spending. We probably spend more than other travellers, but it’s important to us to eat good food, and sometimes it’s easier to stay at a campground even though if you spent a bit of time you could probably find a free spot. Worst case scenario we figure we pause the trip and go earn some more money, but hopefully it doesn’t come to that.
TRAVEL GEAR :
What are the most useful items whilst travelling?
Our winch and Delorme Inreach (panic button) both because they give us the confidence to go down random tracks we might not otherwise go down. A bag that fits over our rear tire for holding rubbish, dog food, muddy wellies - things we don’t want in the car. Fridge because who doesn’t want a cold beer after a day exploring?! And our lithium batteries because we aren’t really very good campers and need a lot of electricity to power our laptops.
What has been the most pointless item(s) you have taken with you travelling?
We had a room that attached to our awning that we never used and tossed out after a few months. Scott’s ukelele which has never been used and would take 10 minutes to get out of storage. Jess’ makeup which is used occasionally but inexpertly.
Which photography / video equipment do you take with you? Would you recommend these to others or can you suggest alternatives?
We have an old Nikon DSLR (d7000), a fancy point and click (Sony RX100V), and a Mavic Pro drone. We’re pretty happy with the combo, but would probably get a fancy new mirrorless camera instead of the DSLR if we were buying now. The drone is a lot of fun to play with and you get some really cool photos.
Do you have any luxury / unusual items you take with you travelling?
We’ve got an overly powerful gaming laptop because Scott is a nerd. Also an induction cooker and sous vide machine because Jess is a food nerd. The cooker was bought so that we could cook in motel rooms which we kept ending up in over the winter months and definitely saved us money on eating out.
GENERAL TRAVEL :
Describe a moment you felt most happiest when travelling :
A few months ago we camped on Mendenhall Lake in Juneau, Alaska. We had recently bought an inflatable kayak and realised we could kayak across the lake to the glacier. As we paddled around the icebergs on the way over I had one of those moments where you mentally take a step back and realise how cool the experience you are having is.
LOUD & SLOW :
Pup on an iceberg! Mendenhall Lake, Juneau
Describe a time you felt nervous / uncomfortable / scared when travelling?
I (Jess) get nervous at every border crossing because if we aren’t allowed into the country life gets very difficult!
Otherwise we’ve had pretty good luck. One night we were in a forest in South Carolina and watched a scary movie. When we got to the end of the movie there was a big thump outside and something outside rocked the car. We turned on the outside lights but couldn’t see anything. Later at about 3am I woke up because a car had pulled up, and I watched as people walked out and into the depths of the forest with only the light of the moon. That was super creepy!
How do you cope with situations which are difficult or could involve conflict when on the road?
We deflect with humour and/or patience
What has been the best experience you have had with locals when travelling?
The number of people who have invited us to stay in or next to their houses after very minimal conversation is astounding. To name a few occasions, we’ve slept in a 200 year old farmhouse in Kentucky on a crazily ornate carved four poster bed. We met a guy in a Seattle park, slept in his driveway, spent a week at his aunt’s incredibly picturesque property overlooking a river, then a couple nights at their family cabin in the forest. We basically felt like family!
Another time we accidentally trespassed on some land in Nova Scotia and ended up camping on their lake and drinking beers they brought us (after they apologised to us for leaving the gate open… Canadians, eh?)
Which country / area would you love to revisit and why?
Scott - Victoria, BC because it is the most charming city in the world
Jess - I would love to return to most places we had previously visited as tourists as overlanders. Japan and Iceland are high on that list. It’s hard to explain exactly how, but you have a different experience when you are travelling slowly. Obviously you get further off the beaten track, but even the conversations you have with locals are different and you eat different foods because you have more time and don’t have a limited number of meals you need to make count.
What’s it like to travel with your partner?
I can’t imagine doing it without eachother. We are pretty codependent at this point…
Can you give any advice to those looking to travel with others / solo?
You are going to be with each other all day every day in unfamiliar places and frequently stressful scenarios with little space to escape. Make sure your relationship is in a good place before you go. If you survive the first month you’ll probably be fine, it’s the hardest when you are finding your groove.
Take alone time from travel partners, even if it’s just putting earphones on for half an hour.
Make sure to have both people take pictures! This is something we’ve failed at. We have a million photos of Scott in amazing places because Jess takes the photos. If we break up his dating profile is going to be epic.
Name a couple of things you’ve learned on the road which you wouldn’t have ordinarily learned when at home?
Spanish (limited though it may be so far)
Scott wired up our 12v electrical system and I (Jess) kind of understand it
Our North American geography is a million times better than it was, and we are pretty good at converting American nonsense units of measure to something that makes sense
What skills would you like to learn to help you on your travels?
Spanish, this is a work in progress
We would love to have more mechanical knowledge
Would love to get better at taking and editing out photos
Any recommended websites or resources which has helped you with your trip?
Wikioverland, Overlanding the Americas, and PanAmerican Travellers Association facebook groups for border crossing and other practical information. iOverlander and freecampsites.net for places to sleep. Women Overloading the World facebook group, any blog I could get my hands on for inspiration
Do you record your journey? If so, what advice can you offer others who are looking to do the same?
We’ve got an extremely out of date blog, so around 6 months ago we started using instagram to share photos more immediately. Predictably Instagram is now also out of date.
Obviously we’ve found that it’s really hard to spend the time recording the travels in a format meant for others, but for the most part it’s very doable to write down some thoughts throughout the day or before bed. We try to summarise the day, record some funny things that we noticed, or said and add some quick phone photos. We now treasure these and frequently check back to what we were doing on the same day last year.
What is your favourite road tripping song?
We listen to podcasts and audiobooks more than music… largely because Scott has terrible musical taste! Lately we’ve been listening to the My Dad Wrote a Porno podcast and it has helped the kilometres fly by
What do you miss about a regular not-on-the-road lifestyle?
Amenities! Unlimited internet; unlimited power, unlimited water, (almost) unlimited storage space. And an oven.
LOUD & SLOW :
What advice would you give to other travellers to help them stay mentally and physically healthy on the road:
Mental health is important, just because you are on an amazing trip doesn’t mean you are automatically happy all the time.
Don’t sacrifice all the things you enjoy in your ‘regular life’ for the road (see Scott’s gaming laptop!).
Doing things just because you “should” is very draining mentally. There’s going to be tonnes of “must do” things on your journey, so don’t stress if you miss a few on the way.
It’s possible to workout on the road, don’t use it as an excuse to be lazy (we are definitely guilty of this one!).
What is your go to snack when travelling :
Spinach and black bean quesadillas with copious amounts of Valentina hot sauce. Also we’ve replaced more meals than I care to admit with popcorn topped with lime juice, smoked paprika and salt.
What has been the best and worst food you have had whilst travelling?
Way too many to list, this is a topic I could talk about for hours. Basically fit as much food / cooking related items as you can in your setup. Food is life.
Also we make sure we have a jar of Vegemite and a particular bbq sauce from home on hand.
What has been the best and worst food you have had whilst travelling?
I can’t think of a worst food experience, apart from our early attempts at eating bread and cheese in the US… we were naive back then.
It wasn’t on this trip, but the best food we’ve had was while we were in Japan we went to a restaurant in Kyoto called Okariba where all the food was all hunted or gathered by the chef. The restaurant was almost empty and after establishing we couldn’t really communicate at all he just started bringing us plate after plate of deliciousness as he finished cooking them. We ate things like smoked bear, bbq boar, steamed then chilled venison, bee larvae, homemade plum wine, killer bee and viper infused sakes. The food was beyond excellent, and our attempts at communicating were hilarious.
WRAPPING UP :
Do you feel travelling has changed you? If so in what way?
It probably has, but maybe we are just getting old. We are more codependent which is healthy, right?
Best piece of advice you have been given for your travels?
We don’t tend to listen to advice because most comes from well meaning people who haven’t done anything similar, but we have probably absorbed a tonne when visiting the resources above.
Worst piece of advice you have been given about your travels?
Anything that boils down to ‘don’t go’ or ‘don’t bring the dogs’.
What is your next step travel wise?
We recently reached Tuktoyaktuk which is most northern point you can drive to in Canada, so now we are heading south until we run out of land
One piece of advice you would offer to wannabe travellers :
Don’t overthink it. You don’t need to sell a kidney and get all the latest and greatest gear before you go, at a minimum you can travel with a vehicle, somewhere to sleep and maybe a passport. Anything you add after this point just adds comfort.
Write a journal every day and take tonnes of pictures
LOUD & SLOW :
In the most Northern driveable point in Canada : Tuktoyaktuk!
A big thank you goes out to Jess and Scott from the whole team at EXP52 for participating in this interview in late 2018! We hope you enjoyed reading through their travel tales and worldly advice - don't forget to follow them to keep track of their latest adventures!
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