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Minimalism and Overlanding

Minimalism and Overlanding


Written by Graeme Bell
Photos by Luisa and Graeme Bell

Back in the day, when I was a functioning member of society, I would spend every Saturday at my favorite hardware store. It was call De La Reys and now that I have traveled much of the world I realize that it was an incredibly well stocked and managed store.

As my income grew so did my “needs” and De La Reys could rely on me dropping a grand every weekend on a new angle grinder, generator, air compressor, spray paint, a socket set, axle stands, assorted tools, boerewors rolls, cheeseburgers and storage boxes. Soon my garage was full so the only logical step was to get another garage which was too big and needed more stuff to fill it.

So I bought a Range Rover Classic and a South African military Series 3 R6 with a 4.1 Chevrolet engine. Then I bought a new Volvo V50 station wagon without trading in my Fiat Sienna 1.1L runabout and a Defender 130 for long overland journeys. Old Land Rovers need to be filled with camping gear and spare parts and equipped with mud tyres and road tyres and new wiring and fuel, each vehicle required services and annual registration renewal and insurance.


While I was busy filling the garage, my wife Luisa took to filling the new house which boasted 180 degree sea views, 4 en suite bedrooms and two living rooms. Our stuff had stuff and when we were feeling down we bought more stuff to fill holes stuff can’t fill.

Work hard, live simple.

Luisa’s Dad passed away suddenly after a short life and before he could fulfill his dream of traveling the world. In his honor we packed the Defender, took the kids out of school, organized a house sitter and set off for Kenya from Cape Town overland. Those six months on the road were incredibly difficult as we struggled with African bacteria and a suspension crushed by stuff, but it was also the greatest experience of our lives.

We returned home and soon began planning to drive our Defender from Argentina to Alaska; overlanding is addictive and it fills the holes stuff can’t fill. We stumbled on a well known secret as we sold almost everything we had and bought no more – less is more. Our bank accounts filled as we sold stuff for a loss and bought only what we needed. Luisa’s Dad had tried to teach us about Minimalism and it was a lesson which we eventually learned and which allowed us to fulfill our dreams.

5 example of 'essential' gear.

Now we live as minimalists, completely. Everything we own and treasure fits in the back of our self built Defender camper and we travel the planet on a budget of $2500 a month which covers all expenses for a family of four. We have travelled four continents extensively and would not have been able to if we were not minimalists!

Here are a few tips based on our experience.

  • Cry once. Buy the best quality product you can afford. Yes you can still have stuff, in fact you can have the very best stuff available on the market. Think Rolex – a watch to last a lifetime and be inherited.
  • Buy only what you need. How you define “need” is up to you but unless it is something you will use at least once a week, you probably do not NEED it.
  • Sort your possessions and sell what you do not need and use the proceeds to pay debts or deposit in a fixed savings account.
  • Buy products which are versatile and serve dual purposes.
  • Pay cash – credit cards are for emergencies, not purchases. If it is worth having it is worth saving for and debt is an anchor. But, if you have self control, a credit card can be a great asset. You will usually earn interest if you have a positive balance and you will not be charged transaction fees. And the better you manage your account the higher the credit limit will become.
  • Buy local. Support small companies and tradesman who are struggling to compete with the online beasts who would rather sell you limited life, one size fits all crap.
  • Learn to maintain and repair your vehicle and gear. Not only will you save money but you will also learn to love your gear and the satisfaction of a successful repair.
  • Cook your own food. Men, this applies to you too. Eat vegetables and once a week grill a big, fat, juicy steak. Wash that down with a good red wine or cold beer. Eating out should be reserved for special, once a month occasions.
  • Drink water.
  • Have a dream and a goal and live towards that goal. Living as minimalists has enabled us to achieve our dream of traveling the planet overland. We have swapped possessions for experiences.
  • Rent don’t buy.
Repair before replacing.

Work less, live more.

Visit www.a2aexpedition.com to find out more about the Bell family, their travels and their books.

Pictured Below

  1. A fresh catch provides a meal.
  2. Barber shop on the Amazon.
  3. Roll, roll, roll for maximum space efficiency.
  4. Home sweet home on wheels.
Corrie Co-Founder, Marketing and Editor @ Overland Bound. Often found behind the camera, keyboard or steering wheel. (But not all at once.)