LEIGH & STEPH: @GRIZZLYNBEAR.OVERLAND
By Paul Strubell of Dirt Orca’s – 6/18/18
For the eightieth installment in our ongoing interview series here at Dirt Orca’s, we are extremely pleased to share the story of Leigh and Steph. You may know them as @grizzlynbear.overland.
Leigh is a 36 year old from Australia. Steph is a 32 year old from France. They met in Thailand nine years ago and were married five years later. They share a love of the outdoors, specifically rock climbing, and have used that passion to fuel their travel together for nearly a decade.
Steph and Leigh are great reminders to follow your heart and let your happiness guide you.
Check out our interview below.
What do you consider to be your place of work?
Leigh : I work away offshore in the petroleum industry. I work for 4 weeks and get 4 weeks off to travel.
Steph : When Leigh is at work I stay with the car and catch up on video editing.
Tell me about your vehicle. What do you call it?
This is our 3rd Land Rover Defender. It’s the 130 model from 2010. His name is BEAR 2. Bear was involved in a crash and was declared a wreck. That was heart breaking. The accident happened over in Portugal last December. A truck driver was speeding and we had a head on collision.
What other vehicles did you consider and what made you ultimately pull the trigger on the one you bought?
We only considered a Defender. We bought our first Defender (a 90) in 2014 and since we are absolutely in love. We could never go back. We’ve upgraded to a 130 as we decided to make a permanent home out of our car and we bought a pop top truck camper.
Have you made any upgrades or changes to it?
After the accident we had to get a new car and exactly the same as the camper was especially made to fit that specific car. The Defender 130 are getting pretty rare and the one we’ve found was in poor condition. We did a big rebuild on it with many upgrades such as engine Re-map, Hi flow intercooler, diesel pre filter, heavy duty shock absorber, air bag suspension, lots of additional features like checker plate bonnet, bull bar, led lights, auxiliary diesel tank.
What is your favorite part about it living/working out of your vehicle?
We absolutely love living in our car / camper. It is a tiny house but quite spacious at the same time.
All our belongings fit in our set up. It’s a fantastic feeling of freedom, we can go where ever we want, and always have a wonderful view, close to nature. We meet some amazing people along the way. You never really know what to expect, you never really know where you will be the following day. Life is always exciting.
What is your least favorite part about it?
This is hard, I’m not sure. Ha yes I know, the never ending battle against condensation.
How many miles have you put on your vehicle?
As we have just finished the rebuild just out of the garage 3 weeks ago. We only did a 2000 miles maybe on a maiden voyage, France, Switzerland, Germany and the Czech Republic.
What is the best place you have taken it?
We took it to Germany, to a place call Bad Kissingen and we took part of the Guinness world record of the largest parade of Land Rovers. 632 vehicles and we set the new world record.
Is there just one?
We took Bear to Morocco and that was absolutely amazing. The scenery, the rock climbing, the off road trails, the culture, the people, the food. We crossed the Moroccan Sahara desert.
Favorite road you’ve driven?
The most memorable, the Gibb River road in the Kimberley region of Western Australia (We had a Toyota Land Cruiser at the time with a trailer and a roof tent) It’s very remote and challenging, corrugated trails and red dust. With some of the most spectacular scenery in the world.
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?
Leigh : Take a good chef, house keeper with you.
Steph : Take a good mechanically capable partner with you.
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 those people?
We have been on the road for the better part of 9 years now. There have been several times in those years we have attempted to settle down, this usually lasted no more than 6 months. It was during those times we realized that we were completely addicted to the Overland lifestyle.
You have found a strong place in the community of travelers. What values do you think your home or family instilled in you, that you take on the road?
Both our parents has been really supportive, they just want us to be happy even if that means we only see them every couple of years. I think we have adopted a hard work ethic from our parents on both sides of the family and this is essential to continue living this lifestyle.
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?
I think we just enjoy being different, and embracing life one day at a time. Not thinking too much about the future. For sure Leigh’s job gives us the opportunity as it allows us the live this different life style. It is a really hard and dangerous job but the rewards are there when I get home from 4 weeks offshore and the world is our house we just choose the next country.
Where do you want to go next?
At this stage 3 options and the decision will be made in the days to come regarding to the next work contract.
1 Asia : Georgia / Iran / the “stans’
2 Ship to Canada and do Pan-American (Alaska to Patagonia)
3 Ship the Namibia and do the South of Africa or maybe North of Sweden