By Paul Strubell of Dirt Orcas – 10/16/17

Today is a very big day. Not only is this weeks interview with a true giant of the overlanding community, but this also happens to be our 50TH INTERVIEW HERE AT DIRT ORCAS!!!!!!! We are so very please to be speaking with Graeme Bell and his family about their extensive overland travels around Africa, North and South America, and beyond.

Graeme, his wife Luise, and his two children Keelan and Jessica, have been travelling the world with tremendous zeal for places, culture, food, photography, wildlife, and genuine experiences for many years now. Full time overlanders who take us along with them, through photography and writing, on their incredible journey. Their excellent website,, is a great central hub for everything overlanding, as well as keeping up with their overall story.  Additionally, they have excellent social media pages that make it very easy to stay up to date with their whereabouts and activities.

You can subscribe to their YouTube page to watch terrific videos about family life on the road and the many adventures that they find themselves encountering.

Oh and you should also definitely follow Graeme’s Instagram page and his check out his new project The Hungry Overlander as well. Or if Facebook is your thing, follow that too.

However you choose to learn about what the Bell family is doing just make sure you find the time to do it. The world needs more people like them. Kind people who are looking to share their own experiences with others and to learn about the world around them through personal interaction. They exhibit a zest for life and genuine curiosity we could all use a lot more of these days. The world is changing quickly and the more we can understand about each other the better. Travelling and experiencing a place in person is the best way to do that.

Graeme and his family are on the front lines of an exceptional global education and we should all be very interested in what they are learning and how we can incorporate it into our own lives.

Check out our interview below and check out the links to buy Graeme’s fantastic books about Overlanding at the bottom of this page.

What do you consider to be your place of work?

We work as we travel, writing, making videos, educating our kids and maintaining and modifying our Defender. We work everywhere!

Tell me about your vehicle. What do you call it?

The other love of my life is my Land Rover Defender affectionately known as Mafuta (which means oil in Swahili, Landy owners get it). She is a 2003 RHD TD5 130 which we have been exploring with since 2009. In late 2016, early 2017 we rebuilt her as a camper and did all the work ourselves. She now has 350 000 km’s on the clock.

What other vehicles did you consider and what made you ultimately pull the trigger on the one you bought?

We looked at the Nissan Patrol, Unimog, Toyota Land Cruiser and 101 Forward Control. We chose the 130 because she is beautiful, extremely capable, has a load capacity of 1500 kg’s, was a double cab with a diesel engine and was cheaper than the competitors by a long shot.

Have you made any upgrades or changes to it?

Oh, Lordy. The engine and running gear are stock standard but we removed everything from the front doors back and built on a camper pod with space for four adults to sleep, solar power, a fridge, kitchen, etc. We love off road driving so we swopped the biscuit tyres for serious rubber – 33/ 12.5 / R15 Falken Wildpeak mud terrain tyres and fitted Bearmach heavy duty springs and custom made shock absorbers from Cibex Spain. The shock absorbers are the kind used in armoured Defenders. One of the best modifications we ever added was the Little Black Box engine management system which saved the engine a few times when we were driving at altitudes of 5000 m in South America.

What is your favorite part about it living/working out of your vehicle?

The experiences and the challenge! Plus, we are addicted to overlanding the planet, it is not like we have a choice.

What is your least favorite part about it?

Bureaucracy and red tape. We have to be extremely creative to be able to explore to the extent that we want to (we circumnavigated South America and have been to every country in the Americas except El Salvador, we really like to get under a continents skin). Luckily Luisa and I ran an immigration firm back in South Africa so (third world) bureaucracy is our back garden.

How many miles have you put on your vehicle?

She is now on 350,000 kilometres, 200,000 of those kilometres were fully loaded and overlanding.

What is the best place you have taken it?

I would have to say a 700 kilometre solo drive through the upper reaches of the Amazon jungle, in the rainy season.

Is there just one?

The Serengeti was epic. Patagonia, Alaska and the Yukon were incredible and camping under the Sugerloaf in Rio was surreal. Switzerland in summer was unforgettable.

Favorite road you’ve driven?

The Lethem to Lindon jungle road from Brazil to Guyana.

In one word, what describes your approach to life?


If you could give a person one piece of advice when thinking about living from a vehicle, what would you tell them?

Be flexible, take care of the vehicle and step out of the comfort zone, often.

It takes a special kind of person to recognize that the journey, not the destination, is the point of life. Travelers know this. Was there a point in your life where you became conscious that you were one of those people?

After I graduated High school I spent a lot of time listening to The Doors and Bob Dylan. I wanted the American road trip experience but had no wheels and lived in Africa. I became a hitch hiker, trekking around South Africa. Those journeys shaped my love for the freedom of the open road.

You have found a strong place in the community of travellers. What values do you think your home or family instilled in you, that you take on the road?

Both Luisa and I had to learn to be self-sufficient from a young age. We were rebels who were not held close to the familial bosom, instead we set off to find ourselves and eventually found each other.

I admire your outside the box approach to career and home. Do you see yourselves as people who took a leap of faith to live in an unconventional way or do you think it kind of just happened?

We definitely took a leap of faith. I knew when we left South Africa that I would not return for a decade (and I still have not). Luisa returned home in 2014 but almost immediately declared that she only wanted to travel with the kids and me, exploring the world. We believe in ourselves because we know that we can take failure, will survive adversity and succeed, no matter the odds because we have very little, we have little to lose.

Where do you want to go next?

In early October we will be leaving our new base in Portugal and driving towards Asia. I have been relatively successful as an author and have always wanted to be a film maker (I was accepted to film school when I left high school but could not afford the fees) so we will be making short documentaries of our journeys. It’s going to be wild!

To support the Bell family’s travels and to enrich your own life substantially, you can purchase these beautiful books by Graeme about their travels and experiences. The books also make great gifts and the holidays are just around the corner.

We Will be Free: Overlanding in Africa and Around South America – $20

Travel the Planet Overland and La Lucha – $50 and $25

Mud, Malaria, Guns, and Miracles – $25

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