Our Mission Takes Shape
Defining our mission has been a gradual process. It started with Matt and I knowing that we wanted to spend several years of our retirement traveling and living internationally.
Our original idea was to spend a year at a time in different countries. Maybe we would start with a year in Thailand, then spend the next year in Portugal. And so on. We always talked about starting this after Wolf finished high school, which would put us at pretty normal retirement ages - me at 58 and Matt at 66.
The more we talked about it, though, the more we wanted our adventures to include Wolf - rather than being something that we did by ourselves in our retirement. What if we spent a few years traveling and home schooling him on the road? We could teach him English and math, but he could also learn about ecology in the Amazon, indigenous history in Peru, and so on. How much more fun and interesting could education possibly get?
It turns out that this kind of learning is a thing and it’s called road schooling.
The road schooling idea really got us thinking creatively. If we sold our house, made a tiny house out of an overland vehicle, and stuck to mostly low-cost countries, we could potentially fast-track our plans and have an amazing experience for all of us.
After many long talks, a few bottles of wine, and one VERY detailed financial spreadsheet, we had our mission defined:
Travel the world overland as a family for at least a few years - maybe more. Move slowly, plan loosely, follow our interests, and spend time together in interesting places.
After a few years of overland travel, our rough plan was to sell the truck and settle in one country (Thailand, Portugal, and Spain are still on our short list) for a few years at a time. Wolf could go to an international school and Matt and I could volunteer, pursue hobbies, or even work full-time again.
With the goal in place, we turned our attention back to finding the right vehicle to support the adventure we wanted for our family.
Our core requirements:
Rugged enough to travel easily on bad roads
Easy to repair with parts we could source internationally
Largely self-contained with solar powered batteries and redundant systems
Extra-large fuel and water tanks
Comfortable and homey
Secure as possible
It turns out that there is a niche market for exactly this kind of travel (who knew?), and the vehicle itself is known alternately as an overland or expedition vehicle. One particularly useful resource we found was Expedition Portal. It has a very active forum, and through this site we learned about a company called Global Expedition Vehicles (GXV) out of Nixa, Missouri that makes this type of vehicle.
Nixa is just three hours away from our home base of Kansas City, making a trip down there a no-brainer. We headed down to Nixa to meet the owners of GXV, Mike and Rene, and see their vehicles in person. At the very least, we hoped to leave knowing if we could seriously imagine ourselves in one of these vehicles.
Mike and Rene showed us their fleet of vehicles and let us climb all through them. They did not disappoint. GXV had rigs that looked like just what we were looking for: about 18 to 20 feet long with solar panels, redundant systems, and all the creature comforts of traditional RVs.
There was a lot of thoughtful design throughout the vehicles, as well as a clear belief that traveling - even off-road - can and should be comfortable. This kind of comfort does not come cheap, though – a rig cost upwards of 400 – 650k.
The trip to Nixa confirmed that we could easily see ourselves living and traveling in one of them. But as much as GXV impressed us, half a million dollars was way more than we wanted to spend.
We went back to the Expedition Portal drawing board to do some more digging and found an interesting GXV competitor, BlissMobil. Unfortunately, it had a similar price point to GXV and the additional hassle of being built out of Holland.
Just when we were beginning to think we were running out of options, we saw a YouTube video of an Alaskan couple vlogging about their tour of a now defunct company called ETL Overland that also made expedition trucks.
Stumbling across this random video ended up being a major turning point for us.
Next: We find our truck!