We’re at the top of a hill, looking out at an incredible vista. Chalky rock mountains wearing scruffy green layers tumble into turquoise lakes of cool, clear water. Chiming bells tied around the necks of cows echo faintly from beyond. Afternoon sun cuts through the crisp air, bringing welcome warmth.
We’re in Aiguestortes y Sant Maurici National Park, in Spain’s Pyrenees Mountains. Bruno and I have just walked almost four hours uphill to reach this viewpoint. But we didn’t walk alone.
This isn’t the first time I introduce other overlanding couples on Wandering Footsteps. The trend first started about a year ago, when Bruno and I met up with his long-time friends, Josu and Ana, in Nairobi. Several months later, I introduced overlanders Phil and Angie to my online community after our meet-up and two week holiday together in Turkey.
Today, as part of my sustained effort to demonstrate that we are not alone in living this nomadic lifestyle, I wish to introduce yet another overlanding couple: Frank and Sharon.
We first met Frank and Sharon at the end of 2013. I’d recently quit my job working at an international school in Kampala and Bruno and I, beyond giddy, had just hit the road. We were two days into our extended honeymoon.
Frank and Sharon had parked their Land Rover nearby, in a beautiful campsite in Jinja, Uganda, along the banks of the Nile River. We chatted with them intermittently over the course of a couple of days, exchanging stories, information and routes. And then Bruno and I were off, too excited with our newfound freedom to sit in one place very long.
That should have been it between us and our new Australian acquaintances.
But as such things go in the overlanding world, we stumbled upon one another again a week or so later, in a campsite in western Kenya. We spent an evening discussing every overlander’s favorite topic: travel. Email addresses were exchanged, bequeathing us all with the key to our eventual reunion.
And now, here we are, almost two years later, hiking together in the Pyrenees. We’ve braved the frigid cold together, crunching through the thin layers of ice on the fresh morning trail. We’ve climbed up together, slowly up, past the cows and lakes, monasteries and waterfalls, and the hordes of Spanish locals out for a long-weekend dose of nature. We’ve stopped together to look at mushrooms growing in the forest, to share a picnic lunch, and to snap photos of one another (a definite bonus to having another couple around!).
We don’t talk much. We’re too busy taking in the view, which may or may not be rose-tinted for Bruno and I, who are so happy to finally be back on the road. But when we do talk, we share stories that illustrate our deep appreciation for the luck we all feel to be living the life we live.
See, when we’d last seen Frank and Sharon, they were on a once-in-a-lifetime one-year overland trip through Africa. Their sabbatical from work was already half over, and then it would be back to the daily grind of things back home in Australia. It was pretty clear to me, however, that their Africa trip was giving them both a serious case of the travel bug. (Well, they probably already had the illness, but I’m guessing the trip made it a lot worse.) Frank, in particular, had that glimmer in his eye when he shared his adventures, showed us his route, and especially, when he listened to Bruno talk about his own life.
Bruno must have seen the glimmer, too, for he launched into his Travel Speech. That one he gives when he meets people who’ve got no desire to stop traveling. That one that pushes people’s buttons, that tugs at their innermost desires. The one that starts something like you don’t need to go back to work, you don’t need more money, continues with you could die tomorrow, and ends with if I can do it, so can you.
I don’t mean to imply that Bruno was the reason we got to catch up with Frank and Sharon, almost two years later, in the mountains of Spain. I think the conclusion would have been the same whether or not they’d met us in East Africa, at least according to Frank’s telling eyes.
That conclusion was this: a few months ago, at the age of 48, Frank retired from work, he and Sharon transformed a new Land Cruiser into an overland vehicle, and just weeks ago they hit the road for a new lifestyle.
We sit outside, sipping on wine and munching on snacks that Sharon keeps pulling out of hidden corners of their seemingly tiny vehicle. Each of us is bundled up with layers five-fold. If we weren’t together, we’d all long be inside our homes-on-wheels instead, such is the cold; but their company is too friendly, the story of their lifestyle too pleasing.
That lifestyle will look something like this: travel around the world for six months of the year with the new Land Rover, and live in Australia the other six months of the year, using their first Land Rover (the one we met them with in Africa) to travel in the outback of their fabulous country.
Both Frank and Sharon have left the door open for part-time work opportunities, and family ties mean they don’t want to travel full-time. Their version of the overland travel life isn’t the same as ours, but neither are those of Josu and Ana or Phil and Angie. The beauty in this type of travel is being able to define your reality according to your own dreams and circumstances. There are as many versions of overland travel as there are overlanders, which is why Wandering Footsteps will continue bringing you Overlander Profiles. You just might find one that inspires you to give overlanding a try yourself.
This winter, Frank and Sharon’s reality does look quite a lot like ours. They’re testing out their new Land Rover in Spain, Portugal, and Morocco. Yep, chances are we’ll be seeing them again soon.
(We actually ran into Frank and Sharon a few days later, in Pamplona, but that’s a story for another post!)