Posted September 4, 2019 in Red Oxx Overlanding by Minister of Information
AEV custom-built Chevy Bison tackling the Altar desert. Photo by Scott Brady.
Overlanding is becoming a big deal these days, a genuine new travel trend. Red Oxx caught up with the guru of overlanding Scott Brady, CEO of Overland International and Chairman and Publisher for the recreation’s leading publication “Overland Journal,” to ask him why it’s growing so quickly. Red Oxx and Scott go way back, having toured seven continents with our bags, including Antarctica. During the interview we learned why travel matters and how it improves our lives.
Brady spoke with long-time Red Oxx enthusiast and business advisor Patrick Pitman of E-business Coach, Inc. Patrick talked with Scott from his offices in Austin, Texas, where he runs an ecommerce and training consultancy. A frequent traveler, Patrick helps testing prototype bags for Red Oxx. But his growing interest in overlanding might bring him to swap his messenger bag for an expedition duffel.
Patrick caught up with the ever-exploring Scott during the dog days of this summer and paused to drop a few questions about the growing industry. First on his mind was what defines "overlanding"?
Is it the equipment, fielding rare, expensive and highly modified 4×4 trucks roaming the land, bouncing over old trails, and carving new ones?
Or is it more like a Safari, where perhaps there’s a goal in mind, a much-sought image of a pride of lions or a rare rhinoceros?
Or perhaps Overlanding is more like hard-core off-road four-wheeling? Crawling over rocks or bogging through mud.
Or maybe it’s the opportunity to go camping somewhere distant, yet accessible with a tough truck or motorcycle. Turns out, it’s kind-of a mixture of these outdoor vehicular passions.
Scott: "This is a subject that I love. I think overland travel, if I can define it, is vehicle-based adventure travel. It doesn’t need to include 4×4 off-roading, nor camping. Overlanding means you’re getting in a vehicle or getting on a motorcycle and you’re off exploring some new locations, some new country, some new state that you haven’t been to before."
"From my perspective, I think that’s the beauty of it and I think that’s why not only overlanding but van-life and other similar outdoor vehicle categories have have done so well in recent years. People are looking for an opportunity to escape, for an opportunity to have a genuine experience because we’re inundated all day long with these digital or electronic interfaces."
"The opportunity to get out in nature is very clarifying. And it’s just really fun and enjoyable."
Another common thread in discussing overlanding is visiting foreign countries. What is the main difference, say comparing overlanding to airplane travel? And is there a common theme, despite the access difference?
Scott: "Yeah, airplane travel is enjoyable in its own way. What I enjoy most about overlanding is is the concept of seeing everything between point A and point z, not just the high-point tourist destinations or the top 10 lists, but you’re going to see everything in between with the stuff you didn’t expect. That is an amazing experience."
"The Journey is the stuff that’s maybe a little grungy or a little less curated than you would see if you came in on an airplane. As a tourist and as a traveler, I want to see it all. I want to see the entire breadth of experience that you can have in a new country. And then you also have this very cool experience of crossing borders. That’s something we so rarely do when people travel to Europe. Now there’s open borders, and it’s very easy to move from country to country there."
"But in a lot of places of the world, when you’re traveling overland, you have to roll up to a border, break out your passport, and all your documentation for your vehicle. You have to check out of one country and check into another. To me, that’s a thrilling process. It’s the haphazardness that adds a lot of the fun for me."
Naturally, once the parameters of what defines the concept of overlanding were set, Patrick was curious as to its history. What was Scott’s first exposure to overlanding? How did this involving and roving lifestyle come to be born?
Scott: "I was in the Air Force just after high school. They decided to send me to Italy to serve during the Bosnian conflict (1992-95 – Ed). When I got off that plane and started to experience that country, I recognized how much I wanted to see the rest of the world. I recognized how much I enjoy being in a foreign place, and hearing a foreign language and having to overcome the challenges that come with being totally unfamiliar with a place. It was that first experience stationed in Italy for almost six months, that really exposed how much I wanted to do that in the future."
"It took me quite some time to to actually make everything come full circle. After I left the military I got a business degree and went into manufacturing. And then I went into higher education, software development. Ultimately I did well enough with that, but I wanted to come back to my passion and start a business. All-around overland travel."
Since Scott is the publisher of the Overland Journal Magazine, a print magazine loaded with phenomenal landscape images, he’s also described as a devoted photographer. Patrick wonder’s, "Is photography something that you have made a name for yourself as being really committed to, or is it just sort of a way to document your adventures?"
Scott: "Photography is a personal passion. And it’s it’s my art, my personality type. I’m very much a creative person and as an entrepreneur, I love the opportunity to be able to capture a moment in as beautiful or engaging a way possible. It’s the one thing I’ve never given up through all the years, even as the growth of my business has grown considerably in size and scope."
"I still want to travel and photograph those experiences, because it’s part of the richness that comes from my job."
"I didn’t want to build a such a big business that it required me to be back in the office all the time. So I’m really lucky to have a team of executives that run the the operation in my absence."
Photography is also dear to Red Oxx’s founder, Jim Markel. Wherever he goes, taking interesting pictures is always an important element of his adventures. Throughout Jim’s "Oxxtails" he’s managed to illicit a feeling you are there, this is what you, the reader also did. The Red Oxx website is an integral part of who, what and where Jim as been.
Patrick was curious if Scott felt the same way. Did Scott ever sit back and reflect upon his pictures while sifting through old overlanding photos? Like Jim, did he frame them and put them on the wall? In what way did those images affect him years later, even after the expedition is but a memory?
Scott: "I was actually going through the year 2009 and removing some duplicate images. A lot of times when you do an import from the camera, you end up with these pairs of JPG and raw files. And I was I was literally just going through and running a duplicate check on an old image gallery. And I found myself looking back and remembering that trip and the things that I had learned and the things that I’ve learned and experienced since then. How formative those early adventures were, not only to me personally, but to the formation of my business."
Overlanding can be quite a bit different than the typical "Off-roading". Overlanding tends to explore more remote areas. Go where roads are only imagined, sometimes even taking an old forgotten trail and recreating a new road. Scott’s thoughts on the subject of what characterizes this certain remoteness and why that should be a core element of overlanding.
Scott: "I think it all depends on the individual. A lot of people do enjoy the challenge and the risk that comes with being remote. Ironically, I’m not much of a risk taker myself, even though a lot of the things that I do, like crossing Antarctica, or crossing Greenland, are quite dangerous. I’ve never done it for that reason. Probably the riskiest thing I do on a regular basis is ride ride a motorcycle. But for me, if someone wants to ask the question, now that we’ve defined what overlanding is, am I really doing it? Am I actually overlanding?"
"The first thing that I would ask is, ‘Well are you remote? Or are you in a foreign place, which means a place completely new to you?’ When you have to work through challenges, do you use maps? Forget your local campground or a trail that you’ve done 100 times. Again, are you remote? Are you in a foreign place? That captures the essence of what overlanding really is, this idea of exploring a new horizon."
"And oftentimes, you’re not that far away, as the crow flies, but you can be days away of driving in very remote places, even in the United States. So when I get into the back country of Utah, or Arizona, and I’m at times days away from civilization that does feel very remote. And that feels highly rewarding to me as a traveler."
"… adventure only really starts to occur when when the unexpected happens…"
"If you’re traveling in a place that’s very familiar to you or you’re always in cell phone coverage, for example, that isn’t much of an adventure, because you have this giant safety net. It doesn’t mean it’s a bad experience. And it doesn’t mean that someone shouldn’t do it. I do it all the time — I go camping within 30 minutes of my house quite often. But I just call it camping, I don’t call it overlanding."
Patrick asked, "We have such opportunities to passively observe today. When putting yourself into an remote, foreign, uncomfortable, adventurous position, how has that changed you as a person? As you look back, how are you different? You’ve gone to the uncomfortable places and why are you different because of it?
Scott: I think it was Mark Twain that said that travel is fatal to prejudice. I’m close to 80 countries and three circumnavigations of the globe. I’ve learned a lot about myself and a lot about the world. The thing I’ve learned most about the world is that I don’t know anything. That’s kind of a beautiful feeling to recognize that the world really is that big, and that cultures really can be that diverse."
"I’ve learned a lot about myself, I learned to be a lot more patient. I learned to be a lot more open-minded. I’ve learned to accept others points of view. I’m a lot less insulated. I think that’s one of the challenges that we have in the modern age is that we literally can isolate ourselves into our own tribe, to the point that you stop learning and that ignorance just propagates from there because if you continue to communicate with the same people and the same philosophies, you never really learn about what’s possible, and then innovation starts to die."
"My greatest concern is that people begin to supplant genuine, real experiences with virtual experiences. And those virtual experiences are going to become more and more compelling with the virtual reality and other other tools like it. It’s so important to remind ourselves, and to remind the people in our life, that real experience experiences are the only ones that are real experiences."
Patrick mentioned briefly how his eldest daughter is traveling the world. He opines that there are things that frighten him, such as his daughter considering getting a Honduran driver’s license. Scott pointed out that…
"The one thing that we can’t escape in life is death. It will come at some point. I think the challenge for us all, as adventurous people who like to travel, is to have those genuine experiences. And, you know, this kind of trip will be so formative to your daughter, it will, it will change her in ways that you can’t even imagine, just as your own travels have changed you."
Stay tuned for Part II when Scott and Patrick chat about soft-sided bags, why Red Oxx bags work so well for overlanders, and Scott’s side projects like Expedition Portal, the overlanders go-to forum community of 180,000 members.
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