Show Notes for Podcast #73
Summary: Interview with Nick Taylor
A Colorado-based Brit–originally from Sunderland–and a Chartered Engineer and technologist who became a devotee of the worlds deserts. He’s lived in half a dozen countries and traveled to over 70. Over the last 15 years he’s extensively traveled in the Sahara and Rub’ al Khali, with much practical knowledge of remote solo desert travel. Elected a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society in 2002, Nick has delighted in sharing his experience with many expedition groups, individuals and families planning remote journeys. He is a member of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Explorers Club and a Fellow of the Royal Society for the Arts. As a technologist, Nick has a particular interest in communications technology and automation, the antithesis of the simple diesel Land Rovers he loves.
Scott is the publisher and co-founder of Expedition Portal and Overland Journal and is often credited with popularizing overlanding in North America. His travels by 4WD and adventure motorcycle span all seven continents and includes three circumnavigations of the globe. His polar expeditions include two vehicle crossings of Antarctica and the first long-axis crossing of Greenland. @scott.a.brady
This episode sponsored in part by
Dometic Outdoor - https://www.dometic.com/en-us/outdoor
RedArc Electronics - https://redarcelectronics.com/
Scott Brady: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to the Overland Journal podcast. I am here for day three of the Overland Expo and Mike Mcmod has been kind enough to let us do the podcast here in his EarthRoamer. It's a rainy day as it can be oftentimes at Overland Expo and I am here with Nick Taylor who's one of the founders of 7P Overland, formerly 7P International, global traveler, longtime friend. We're going to talk about the fundamentals of Overland training, and we're also going to learn a little bit about his life and traveling around the world, principally in Northern Africa as well. So thank you, Nick so much for being on the podcast.
Nick Taylor: Thank you, Scott. Thanks for having me on this beautiful British summer’s day.
Scott Brady: It feels like home for you
Nick Taylor: It absolutely does.
Scott Brady: You're actually wearing your Arizona winter gear right now. This is as much as you need.
Nick Taylor: Shorts and flip flops that will do.
Scott Brady: It always, it always makes me laugh because I think, the number of people from the [00:01:00] UK who've literally done the first exploring the most remote places of the world. Is it just because of the bad weather there that they are inspired to leave despite the chance of death.
Nick Taylor: I think it's a strong encouragement to go and explore somewhere where the weather might be better, you know? And you know what they say... they say the British empire was really just about the search for good food as well, so perhaps that's part of it.
Scott Brady: Good food and good weather. You know, it's bad when you have to go to Antarctica to get better weather.
Nick Taylor: Yeah. We do have some interesting weather, but yeah, I can't complain too much.
Scott Brady: Well, you and I we've known each other for close to two decades now, I think. I mean, I remember we went to several Land Rover rally events, and you were one of the first to have a Defender that I saw in the United States. And of course I was wide-eyed to see a green Defender 90 bouncing around, and you've had some others as well. And you know, it's really fun to have you on the podcast, just because we've had a lot of [00:02:00] shared experiences and I've admired your career and your growth within the industry that has been growing so quickly. So let's talk a little bit about how you even got started at this. Where did you grow up and what were the first kind of insights into that you may travel in the future.
Nick Taylor: Well, you know, we kind of touched on it a minute ago with the weather, I think. So I'm what you call a Mackem so I'm from Sunderland. I'm not a Jordy, which will be from Newcastle, right? So I'm from Sunderland in the Northeast of England, that's where I spent the first part of my life. And you know, it's really a great town. It's not a tourist town or anything like that. It's got some fantastic history. And most importantly, I think the people are great. You know, whenever... I don't go there very often anymore, you know, maybe once a year. Obviously not in the past year. I haven't been there for almost two years now, as my mother reminds me every day when I speak with her that I haven't been there for a while, but I'll be going back soon. But as soon as you go back, it feels familiar. Everybody chats with each other. Strangers say hello. It's a very sort of friendly place as well. [00:03:00] So I do like going back home and I miss the ability just to walk to the local pub, which of course hasn't changed in decades, probably since my grandfather's time, they would probably go to the same pub. So yeah, I like to go home, but it's. Where I live in Colorado now... Colorado’s famous for 320 days of sunshine a year. I'm pretty sure Sunderland has 320 days of rain a year. So that kind of encouraged me to maybe search for that better weather, but also growing up, you know, I was in the Scouts and the Air Cadets and, you know, playing the boys old games, you know, the climbing and we've got some small mountains compared to Colorado, but they are definitely mountains in character. So I spend a lot of time outdoors and mountain biking and that kind of stuff. You know, my cousin and I were probably some of the first people to have mountain bikes in the UK in maybe '86, '87 where there were no regulations. So we could actually use it in the tenners mountains, we rode actually probably largely pushed over Helvellyn in the lake district. And I remember a bunch of stuff up in [00:04:00] Weardale, which is the river valley that comes out in Sunderland. So a lot of that kind of outdoors... spending a lot of time outdoors as a kid. But I'm a bit of a geek as well. I know that those who know me know I'm a bit of a computer guy. So it worked out well in the winter I suppose, playing on Spectrums and things like that. But that also helped me with another part of my career. So yeah, that was it really.
Scott Brady: And then what was your, what was your first big trip out of the UK?
Nick Taylor: The first... well, you know, I'd been traveling, you know, as a lot of British people do. Again, good weather, you know, maybe going with your parents in the '70s, for me, going to Spain and stuff like that. But also there were packaged holidays going to Eastern Europe, which is still under the veil of the iron curtain at the time. So I went to places like Bulgaria and Yugoslavia. And as a kid and exploring you see these different cultures and different places, places that just felt so different from, from being back home. And then of course flying over places where you see these big, empty, parts of the planet, which I'm sure we'll talk about because they have such an attraction to me. So seeing that kind of stuff, you [00:05:00] know, that sort of planted that seed. And then as I got older, you know, you go to university, you meet different people from different places. And then, you know, I was lucky enough with my first job... loads of travel. You know, loads of loads of European travel. Loads of Asia as well, and of course the U.S. I was spoiled as well. It was the nineties I was working in investment banking. There was lots of money in that. I'm an engineer, fundamentally. Maybe some people call it a recovering engineer, I think right now. But you know, that travel again, you got used to it seeing different places. But, you know, bringing it back to what I did when I was much younger, that sort of backpacking approach, the hiking, just being out. You know, and I of course had seen the Camel Trophy videos, which I'm sure you've spent a bit of time talking about you know, I wasn't part of the Camel Trophy but a lot of my co-founders were, and that spirit there and watching the way that they when to very remote places, the teamwork involved, the fact that you could take something mechanical, like a Land Rover like they did, to these so far off the beaten [00:06:00] track places. So for me, it was an extension of that backpacking and camping that I'd done when I was younger. And I thought, well, having a vehicle, hey you can just chuck a load of stuff in that, and you don't need to worry too much about it. And you go to all these places much further. So it was about range and all that stuff. And of course I did it wrong when I started...
Scott Brady: Like all of us.
Nick Taylor: With too much stuff at all that kind of thing. You know, you live and learn, but that's kind of how I got into that. And of course it had to be Land Rovers for me, right? Because if you grew up in the UK, in the '70s, '80s... no, actually '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s. You know, all those formative experiences you have as a kid and being in the Scouts, you know, 12 of us chucked in the back of a crew bus with the bench seating along... and rattled around in the back of an old Land Rover, many of us. First vehicle we drove, apart from maybe a tractor, was going to be an old Land Rover. The emotional attachment to the Land Rovers is there and it's still strong, I mean, you've talked to the guys, you know it's still there. It's definitely emotional, not a logical relationship.
Scott Brady: It's [00:07:00] sometimes it's a dysfunctional relationship as I've found.
Nick Taylor: It can be, you know, the 90 that you mentioned, I've had a long time... I've got a bunch of Defenders as well as other Land Rovers because it's clearly a disease. But having a vehicle, and a lot of overlanders do this, a lot of people have those vehicles for a long time. And you know, when you've owned something for 10, 20 years, it's not just a car anymore. Right? It's something, you know, again that emotional attachment, it's more like a pet, right? That you have conversations with, you know, you kind of treat it... I'm not superstitious by nature, but there's a few superstitions around the trucks, you know? But yeah, you develop those relationships with the vehicle, which is strange and unexpected.
Scott Brady: And which one's been your favorite to this point.
Nick Taylor: Well, you know, it's a hard one, which one is your favorite child?
Scott Brady: They can't hear you right now.
Nick Taylor: I mean, it's probably going to be the green 90, because I've just had that for [00:08:00] what feels like forever. And it's been a lot of places with me, and it's always got me home, you know what I mean? Obviously, you know, you own a vehicle for 20 odd years and there’s gonna be mechanical issues, and it was an ex-farmers car from a place called Hexham near that. For years I was pulling sheep hair out of the back, but I think that phase has passed. But, you know, again it's just the stories you could tell a guy with the photographs you have.
Scott Brady: Is it a 200 TBI or a...
Nick Taylor: It's now 300 TDI. Its engines have got about 150,000 miles on it right now. So it's really not that high for that kind of vehicle, but it's been a good trip. Yeah. It's a little slow by modern standards, a little cluttered and clunky by modern standards. But then again, it's EMP proof and you can push start it and all you need is a few volts to the fuel cut solenoid and it'll go, and then I hope it will outlast me. So somebody after I'm long gone, hopefully will have that vehicle.
Scott Brady: That is what I love about the 300 TDI. I remember I had crossed the Andes into Argentina. We were coming into Mendoza [00:09:00] and I shut off the 110 that I was driving. And it wouldn't re... I mean, it would turn over, but it wouldn't restart. And I remembered I'm like, it was probably Graham that told... you know, Graham Jackson that told me this he's like, Scott, it only needs a nine-volt battery to run. It's got to open the fuel solenoid. I'm thinking there's only one thing that this card needs to run. So I got under the hood and I'm looking around. And of course the one blade connector to that fuel solenoid had rattled off in going over the Andes and all the corrugations. I plugged it back on and fired right up again. And it was fine for the rest of the trip. So, you know, there is a lot to be said about the simplicity of those vehicles. The blinkers may stop working, or there may be little things that happen. Maybe the fan blower cuts out on you or whatever, but they do tend to get you home. And that's been my experience for sure, and I also wonder if there isn't actually an advantage to the adventurer to drive a vehicle that isn't [00:10:00] always so reliable. Because I think back on the most favorite times that I've had traveling and it's usually when something's gone wrong. So I think about like Ray Highland and his trip with his family across what was the original first overland route in a 1950s Land Rover series truck and like making gaskets out of people's leather hats and stuff. It's so fantastic. So I actually wonder if there's really any fundamental advantage to reliability, other than if you're doing it for work, like if you've got to get somewhere or you've got your family with you and maybe you're anxious about. Having a good experience or whatever. I don't know that for the adventure, there's actually a whole lot of advantage to that.
Nick Taylor: I think, what we've noticed, you know... so I remember a time in Morocco where there were a European group with a bunch of brand new four by four vehicles. And Morocco, if you're not ready for it can be a [00:11:00] little bit crazy. There are a lot of people there. They're very, you know, you're the most exciting thing that's happened to them that day, particularly in the rural south. And this group came through and they looked terrified, you know, they wouldn't wind their windows down. They were sitting there in their clean cabs, you know, in their HVAC sealed environment. The noise from outside wasn't a part of it. So they weren't... they were in southern Morocco, which is awesome, but they weren't part of it. They weren't really having an experience. And you know, I think actually it was Graham and I who were there on motorcycles, and when you're on motorcycles. Particularly for a solo motorcycle rider, and you know, we know there's a lot of them here. You know, they were really the first wave of overlanding in the U.S. I think people traveling around the world and motorcycles. You've got to rely on people. You can't do it by yourself. So you have these kinds of forced engagements with people who have so different backgrounds, different languages, different cultures, you know, and we need more of that. I think given the way the world is at the moment, that that kind of engagement. But as a solo motorcyclist, you need a ton of that because you know, you [00:12:00] have that hard week, not just day, hard week, and then you drop your bike for what feels like the thousandth time, and you're done. And then, you know, friendly locals in a very overloaded old truck will come along and they'll help. You'll get some tea, and you'll get some food, and they'll pick up your bike, and they'll ask where you're going. You know? So that kind of thing you were talking about. That adventure quite naturally enrolls, right? If you're in a brand-new vehicle with the windows up and you're not talking to the locals, you're not experiencing it. You're there, but you're not really there.
Scott Brady: You're almost like watching a movie in a way. You're more like a spectator instead of a participant, and on a motorcycle, you can only carry so much food, you can only carry so much fuel, you can only carry so much water. So you are very much dependent upon those small little villages along the way to find those supplies. So you got to ask questions and find out who's got that five gallon. Jerry can in their hut to give you some fuel. And that, to [00:13:00] me, those are the best memories that I've had was those moments when I needed to rely on others to help me get through a problem. Yeah, for sure. So, yeah, I wonder... that reliability thing, I think it makes sense though. When I first started overlanding I had so much equipment with me and I was so concerned about my ability to solve any of the problems that I might encounter, that I tried to stack the deck by driving hyper reliable vehicles, like an Isuzu Trooper or a Toyota or whatever, and bringing all of the things I thought I could ever need with me. And with time, I think the motorcycle has probably been the best teacher for me, because you simply can't bring that much along with you. And you do have to rely on the locals and owning a KTM taught me about unreliable vehicles, so you start to figure it out. You make a plan.
Nick Taylor: Yeah, it's and that little bit of unreliability... then also thinking about, well what [00:14:00] spares do I need to bring, and what tools? And we see folks, you know, new folks at the training area here at the Overland Expo. You know, their minds are blown, but blown by... we could talk about the mechanical things, talk about fixing things, and I have to remind them, we weren't born with this knowledge. We have been where you have been. All of us have been where they have been, you know, being that new. And in fact, I'm kind of a bit jealous sometimes because I know the journey that we're about to go on. And it's a fun journey, you know, 20, 30 years of that. It's really exciting. And today, you know, we've got some amazing vehicles around. We've got everything that, you know, the Jeeps are always just great. We've got things like the new Defender at the opposite end of the scale. So technology wise, maybe the Bronco is somewhere in the middle and then all these other platforms, bigger vehicles. I think it's a fantastic time. And it probably is the internal combustion engines last gasp anyway. That might be the right metaphor to use, but you know as we're going to see more hybrids and electric and, you know, some of these vehicles that I love they're probably not going to be politically correct in [00:15:00] another 3, 4, 5 decades or maybe even sooner.
Scott Brady: We'll be driving hydrogen powered Grenadiers soon.
Nick Taylor: Yeah, I'll take that for sure. I'll take it. I'll absolutely take that. And I love the idea of electric vehicles, which are probably going right off topic here, but a driven motor to each wheel. You know, when the software's reliable enough, there's no reason it shouldn't be... they're going to be a lot of fun off road.
Scott Brady: There's a lot less complexity actually with an electric vehicle than there is with an internal combustion. So that time will come, we'll all resist it. There'll be screaming and gnashing of teeth, but eventually they'll figure it out and hydrogen will of course solve the range issue. And then that'll be a very interesting solution. I think that there's a privilege to being a rookie and I think it's unfortunate that people that are new to overlanding... they're afraid to say that they don't know something or that they have a question or that they don't have the experience that they may see someone else represent on [00:16:00] Instagram, probably not accurately. But I actually think there's a privilege to being a rookie. I think about my recent sailing experience, and I knew nothing. I mean, I knew less than nothing, and I left knowing nothing because there was a... what I found was the further that I got away from land, the deeper the ocean got. The deeper the well of knowledge is that I need to obtain to actually be a true captain of a sailboat. And even a month of doing it, I didn't even scratch the surface. And I felt privileged to be in that spot to be able to learn and to learn so quickly and so many new things that all of these new experiences. So for those that are listening, when you're getting started with overlanding take privilege in being new to this activity, there's so many amazing things to learn and all these new experiences. And that's why we have people like Nick on the podcast, because of what you do with 7P Overland is you give people that are new to [00:17:00] this activity, the opportunity to learn so much from so... you guys have done this combined experience hundreds of years, I'm assuming. That's incredible.
Nick Taylor: Yeah. That's all mostly Duncan, as we say.
Scott Brady: Yeah. But that's so incredible... so talk to us about your first trips into Northern Africa.
Nick Taylor: So north Africa was an obvious place for me to go just head south, you know. So head south, weather gets better. Going from what feels like one of the wettest places on... it isn't really one of the wettest places on the planet, just feels like it. To somewhere that's the opposite. Somewhere dry and some were adventurous and exotic somewhere where the cultures are different people, in different... all that sort of thing. So obviously we call it now, Morocco is Sahara one-on-one. That's a great place to start that sort of adventure, that sort of journey. It's a safe place. I know particularly in the U.S., Which doesn't really get too much of what I would call well-balanced international news. You know, people come along with a preconceived idea of what [00:18:00] it's like in North Africa or the middle east or Iran, or wherever. In my experience of traveling to those countries probably look a lot like yours... the reality is very different from what our opinion is told, you know, the opinion that we're told to have about those places. Very, very different. Some of the...
Scott Brady: You mean the propaganda that we see?
Nick Taylor: I think that's probably the right word for it, unfortunately, because I've never been on the receiving end of so much friendliness and hospitality as I have in places like Sudan and Iran and Libya. And I know those very countries, you could almost feel the... I don't even know what the right word is, but the apprehension that people automatically feel when they hear those words, because they come with so much baggage now. And of course they have issues with that with their governments. I mean, we all have issues with our governments. I'm both British and American, so I have the joy of having issues with both of my governments. But it's just not the reality on the ground. These places are wonderful. So back to Morocco, a great place because yeah, it's a bit crazy, it's a bit chaotic. You know you're in Africa when you get there, but there's nothing that beats that feeling. So [00:19:00] we had cars, it was a small group. We had cars. It was an organized trip actually. The idea for us was to learn the ropes and we're part of an organized trip cause we were in our twenties thinking we could learn all about that... our early twenties thinking we could learn everything because, you know, when you're a young man who's maybe 22, of course I can learn everything like that, and I'll know everything in three weeks. And of course the older you get, the less you really understand, right?
Scott Brady: Dunning Kruger effect comes back to bite. It’s a long arc.
Nick Taylor: It is, you know, the older I get there, obviously the less I realized that I know. So, but that's why this stuff's fun, but especially teaching I'm sure we'll talk about that too. But I remember that day distinctly, it was beautiful. We'd had a lovely drive down through... we basically got the ferry from the UK to Spain, and then we did this really, really lazy S down through Spain and Portugal. You know, drinking their beer and eating their food and seeing all the touristy things, you know... one of the things I miss about living in Europe is the fact that things change so very quickly. [00:20:00] You can literally be on a flight, less than an hour, and language has changed. Money has changed all that kind of stuff.
Scott Brady: Have you been to West Virginia?
Nick Taylor: I have been to West Virginia, and I sometimes feel like I haven't explored enough of the US in 20 years...
Scott Brady: It does change a lot.
Nick Taylor: Actually. I think a lot of British Europeans are standard. The U.S. Has a lot of culture and a lot of history. It's just not in your face, like the buildings you see, or the pyramids, or all of that stuff, but the U S certainly does. I still need to explore a bit more here, but that feeling of being on the lazy journey through Spain and then the excitement of a group loading onto the ferries here and the docks in Algeciras, and it's starting to get crazy because there's a little bit of Africa there, right? You know, there's folks who live in Morocco, where they're in their very, very small car. A Ford Fiesta Mini. They have stuff piled on the roof to three car heights of stuff, you know, those plastic bags and bungees, and they're [00:21:00] smoking cigarettes that you can't buy in Europe, so they smell differently. Already, and you're still in Spain, you're still in Europe. The whole atmosphere has changed. And so you remember that. You remember the sights and smells, and then you get on there and then when you're on the ferry, and it doesn't take long. Right? But then you can see the coast of Africa, you know, we're going to Africa now. And what a way to arrive in Africa, on a boat... so you can see it looming in the distance, getting bigger and bigger, and the excitement's building, and then you roll off the ferry and you really know you're not in Europe anymore. You know? I mean the port Tanger has gotten a lot better in the last few years. They built a new port actually, so some of that craziness...
Scott Brady: I didn't know that.
Nick Taylor: Yeah. So Tanger-Med is the main port there now. It's a little bit out of the city center.
Scott Brady: Yeah, cause the one I went into was just right... you went right into the city center.
Nick Taylor: Welcome to what feels like medieval Morocco, but it's changed a little bit. But still it's, it's kind of a full-on experience. You know, you're somewhere different... Being English by default, we don't really [00:22:00] believe other languages exist and we just expect everybody should speak English. Right? So you don't know the language and the paperwork is in Arabic and French, you know, for your convenience. How do you fill that in? What do you do? So finding a fix... and then people coming up to you almost pretending to be officials. And how do you fill in that paperwork? It's an exciting day, sort of a high stress day, but you know it's different. And then after hours, usually it is hours, after hours you've got the documentation sorted. Got your insurance. Changed some money. And now you're off, you know, now you're off into Morocco, where there's a lot of people that live in Morocco, especially the north of Morocco. And it's not a desert country in the north at all. It's very green. A lot of the produce sold in Europe and the UK is grown in Morocco. So you see the farms and all that stuff, but you still know you're somewhere else. Let’s put it this way, it's a different driving style that you might be used to. You've certainly gotta be a bit more of a defensive driver there, but that's one of the things about travel I love. The different styles of driving, you [00:23:00] know, it's...
Scott Brady: The chaos of it.
Nick Taylor: The chaos, you know, and some guys that I'll give you the thumbs up. The young guys, and they've got a vehicle that was a European hand me down on its 16th owner. And of course they want to race, so you don't get into that kind of stuff and of course the big, heavily loaded underpowered Land Rover is not the ideal race car, but it's just part of that fun. And people want to talk about the vehicles cause they're very unusual, but you know, so you're in this interaction all the time, you know, and you find a place to stay and it's different and people fuss over you. But what I really liked was to get into the desert. So you go south, you go over the mountains twice. You stay in the seat of the forest, which is an awesome place. Bloody freezing cold usually.
Scott Brady: There's snow in Morocco, a lot of people don’t know that.
Nick Taylor: Yeah, absolutely. There's big mountains in Morocco. So it is cold in those mountains, you know, and then during the day you're getting lower, it's getting hotter, and you can see the landscape changing, you know, it's almost like... well it is, it's almost like when you drive down the Western slope of Colorado and you stay on I-70, and it changes. The [00:24:00] mountains turn into Mesas, the trees give way to sand and dirt and then the geology changes. And it's just like that as you had south in the Morocco, you know you're in a desert and you know you're in the outer reaches of something big, you know, the Sahara is the size of the continental U.S. and as you cross that boundary, I get really excited, now still, you can tell I'm excited. I'm thinking about soon we'll be able to go back, you know? But Morocco, it'll give you that. And the people in the south are different from the people in the north, still super friendly, but there's just a lot of people. They're almost aggressively friendly. And to be honest, it does wear on you a little bit sometimes, when you're a part of... my idea really to go into the desert was to seek a bit of solitude. Some introspection, you know, not quite sitting on top of a mountain for six months as a hermit, but just to sit on top of a sand dune...
Scott Brady: There's times that doesn't sound like such a bad idea either.
Nick Taylor: I wonder how many people are around us right now? I'm pretty sure I know some of them are having that idea right now, but [00:25:00] we are in quite a busy place, but it's just being out there and being in a different environment is so refreshing as well. In my heart as well, I'm a driver. So I like it when we get to that more technical terrain. You know, I'm not the world's best off-road driver, and I've learned a few things. But just to be out there with a technical challenge, you know, I like an underpowered turbo diesel engine with a manual transmission because you're driving that car.
Scott Brady: You're earning it. You are earning every kilometer.
Nick Taylor: Absolutely. And when you, at the end of the day... traveling with Grey Medmorte a couple of years ago, and we were driving heavy underpowered manual diesel trucks. And we had a day where it was mostly sand dunes. It was just an incredible day. Nobody else out there. Quite a bit of winching, we do some special sort of fast winching techniques for when we get stuck in the sand. But we came out of that day and we looked at each other and we were smiling. We were exhausted, but we were like, that’s one of the [00:26:00] best days driving I've ever had, you know, and it was just so engaging, you know? And that's the big Sahara in Mauritania you're getting into the rest of north Africa. Morocco gives you a flavor of that. You can actually stay at a nice hotel and then, and then do some dune driving. And then you can stay in an auberge, which is a traditional hostel where you know, there'll be rooms, there might be dorm rooms, private rooms. They'll cook for you, family owned. It's not a Hilton or a Sheraton. It's a family owned very, very simple place, but they're great too, because there's more of that interaction, you know?
Scott Brady: That's what I found. Or even if you can get into the Torres camps a little bit out in the desert.
Nick Taylor: Yeah, absolutely. So the camps in the desert are great as well. Of course, they're very industrious, you know, the Moroccan folks, they understand how a market works. They understand capitalism, right? Just because they live in the desert doesn't mean they're not part of the 21st century, and so yeah, you could pay to stay at one of these camps, they run it professionally. They have [00:27:00] chefs, they make great food. You know, of course there's going to be camel rides and, you know, Mohammed's brother has the best carpets in all of Morocco. If you want to go that route too.
Scott Brady: And his other brother has all of the meteorites that have landed out there. The number of people who tried to sell me meteorites in Morocco. Now, is your favorite place in Morocco? Is it more Erfoud in the north, or do you prefer Mhamid in the south? What's your...
Nick Taylor: Yeah, I know when you run into Mhamid, you're going to have a good time cause you're in the desert, you know? So I like it, the weather... not so much rain. You know, there's just something... It's changing rapidly though of course, you know, a lot of the roads that we drove years ago, 20-25 years ago were tracks, very indistinct tracks. Easy to get lost as you go through the villages now. The asphalts down, they're all tarmacs. It's changing, and part of me thinks it is a selfish thought, isn't it? Oh, just leave it the same. It's wonderful. It's beautiful. It's fun. But of course, people live there, and they would much rather have a road where [00:28:00] it takes them 10 minutes to get groceries than half a day on a horrible road that's damaging the truck that I have, which costs me a lot of my money to keep running. So it's better for them, of course it is. And it just feels selfish, it would be nice to have it the old... but then again, there are still places like that.
Scott Brady: You have to work a little harder to find them. So now tell me about, I mean, Morocco is such a great place for people to go. There's a lot of vehicle hire opportunities there. There are guides in Morocco where you can get access to vehicles. Outside of Morocco, what is your favorite place in Northern Africa? And tell me... maybe tell us some adventures that you've had that stand out in your mind.
Nick Taylor: It's another one of those what's your favorite child type of questions, isn't it? But I guess the countries aren't going to care too much about the answer. So as you graduate from Morocco and you've spent some time in the desert, and again Morocco is Africa. Africa is a place that's impossible to go only once. And it's a huge continent, as I said earlier, the [00:29:00] Sahara itself is the size of the continental U.S. The whole continent is huge. And a lot of people spend months, if not years, traveling around and seeing everything there is to see it. And it changes of course, but sticking with north Africa... wow, you've got such a range. I like Mauritania. Mauritania is a bit off the beaten path right now. They haven't decided that you need to travel with a guide or have impossible permits and that kind of stuff to get. So it's still quite easy to do that. And some of the locals there who know some fantastic routes perhaps more to the east, as you get towards Mali, there's a phenomenal route out there as well. We've scratched the surface, only merely scratched the surface of doing reggies to that part of the world. You know, there's those folks who invest in the big sand driving and staying in very remote locations, that's the place of Mauritania I really like. It's relatively easy to get to too. The way that we would run a trip there is flying the Atar in the summer. There's direct flights from Paris. So you could be having a lovely meal the night before you are [00:30:00] thrown into the chaos of Atar in Mauritania. In many ways, it feels like Morocco did 20 years ago. So then you're in Mauritania and you know you're in Mauritania. But there's some great routes. Just the geology, there's museums, in air quotes, where basically somebody built a wooden shed, but they've got a bunch of artifacts, like ostrich eggs or equipment for the big camel trains that would, you know, go to Timbuktu back in the day. Carrying salt, spices in one direction or the other, which is a thing that's been going on for thousands of years. And we've been lucky enough to come across some huge camel trains as well, hundreds of animals still doing what they did. And it's an amazing site, cause you really feel like you're looking at history at that point. And again, one of those unexpected things, it's not like there's a schedule. It's not like you paid for a ticket and now at seven o'clock on a Friday, they're going to be there. It's just one of those things you accidentally stumble across with this kind of travel, which sticks with you. [00:31:00] So Mauritania is phenomenal and still easy to get to and safe to go to right now, as you move through, through north Africa Algeria... I haven't spent much time in Algeria, but the south of Algeria again in the big desert is phenomenal...
Scott Brady: Some of the images that I've seen from Tom Shepherd come out of there... There's something about Algeria that... I mean, the only time I spent in Algeria was when I accidentally crossed into Algeria and was lost. So that was the full extent of my Algerian experience. But fortunately I was able to get back across the border without much incident, but yeah that was, that was amazing. But Algeria looks incredible.
Nick Taylor: Algeria, it's Thomas' favorite country. Tom Shepherd, of course. You know, the guy who wrote the Overlanders Bible, the Expedition Driver's Bible, the VDEG, the vehicle dependent expedition guide. But he also has another book cause again in his heart, he's a photographer and as you know, these photos are incredible. So the book he wrote Quiet for a Tuesday is a lovely coffee table book full of [00:32:00] incredible imagery from Algeria. And you know that area in the south, Atazantrooft, a very remote area. Difficult... not necessarily difficult, but very time-consuming to get to with the vehicle. The images in his book... just look at his book, you'll want to go. Algeria is one of those communities where you do need a guide, but actually it's quite good because one needs to know where the wells are, which is important, obviously. They know some of the routes, if anything happens, they know how to deal with it. The best guides... and there's a chap, funny enough, Mahammad. Seriously. He's a guide there, he is awesome. He's worked on both sides of the law. I think... I suspect. But now he works with the government, he works with the tourist agencies, but he knows all the contacts around that blurry line of what's legal and what's perhaps not. But that's the kind of guy you want, you know, because I sometimes think we forget in the west that's a line and you make a very conscious decision to cross that line or not. A very conscious... It's very black and white to us. The law is the law, [00:33:00] not so much in other parts of the world, you know, there's a bit of blurriness around that and people who understand how both sides of that work, because they're both worlds that work in particular ways. And when those guides... you really have nothing to worry about. You don't have to worry about the authorities who can make your life miserable. You don't have to worry about the bandits who could make your life miserable. You know, none of that stuff is anything to worry about when you've got someone like that. So sometimes traveling with a guide is, especially one like that, a good idea.
Scott Brady: It doesn't take away from the trip, oftentimes it adds to it because they can translate for you. They can introduce you to people. You can get people's stories that you wouldn't be able to get otherwise.
Nick Taylor: Yeah. It's phenomenal, and... well right next door to. Algeria is Libya. Very difficult to travel to now with the human traffic elements and the not quite settled status of the government probably. It'll come back, I think it'll take a long time to come back, but Libya was one of my favorites. It's just a big desert. It's just a big desert... and the Libyans [00:34:00] are not really desert people, not like the Algerians. They like the coast, the Mediterranean coast. So as you get into the deep desert there it's a really different experience. It's like Moab, but when Moab grows up. Moab, by the way, is one of my favorite places in the world too, that whole area in Utah. But there in that border area up against Algeria and Libya... man, if you like the desert, that's where you've got to find a way of going. We know some people who've crossed that border... really, really difficult and potentially a bit risky for a westerner right now. But we know quite a ballsy young American lady, who's done some of that stuff as well, and that shows you that you can do these kinds of things. You've got to know how to do the risk assessments. Right? You've got to understand what you could potentially get into. Not like really most places you don't need to bother too much about that, but Libya in particular right now, is a place you've got to be a little bit careful with...
Scott Brady: You have to pay attention.
Nick Taylor: You have to pay attention. So it's not impossible to go there. But maybe my [00:35:00] beard would have to be a little bit larger, and I need a few more days out in the sun, you know, to pass for that. But it's such an incredible place. It's definitely, you start thinking...
Scott Brady: Isn't there a lot of antiquity along the coast there as well.
Nick Taylor: Yeah, for sure. Libya would be... I'd love to run trips there. Again, don't think it's going to happen for a long time, but there's roman north Africa. So there's loads of history there. There's the sort of prehistoric side, you know, again working with good guides, they can show us things like the rock art only a few thousand years old, as I found out after I'd seen it, with giraffes and elephants and hippos in the middle of the Sahara from only a few thousand years ago, which is...
Scott Brady: Things have changed.
Nick Taylor: Things have changed, you know, so I would have liked to have seen that, but there are still things. There's still elephants in Mali. If you want to go and find them. Again, the desertification issue, but we've got environmental issues everywhere. Right? But the change [00:36:00] is, you know, you can almost feel it. You almost feel it. But once you're out into the big Sahara, it feels like it's pretty dead. Actually, a very fragile and delicate ecosystem if you look closely. But the change is astonishing from this lush area to this very dry and desolate place that it is now. But on the other hand, sometimes desolate places are magical places, too.
Scott Brady: There's a couple places that I've been interested in going to. Have you been to Djibouti?
Nick Taylor: Nope.
Scott Brady: That one sounds really... Eritrea?
Nick Taylor: No.
Scott Brady: Those are both really interesting to me right now.
Nick Taylor: We have a couple of routes that we've not probably recorded... sketched out, let's say. Be quiet, Siri. We've had... you know, so there are some good routes. So Somalia of course is a place that people would think of as off limits, but Somaliland, which if Somalia is this inverted L around the horn of Africa, Somali land is that horizontal strip at the top. Their embassy in London is brilliant. It's like being in somebody's terraced [00:37:00] house. They're very small, super friendly folks. Very excited for people to visit Somali lands. Recognized state by UN standards. But still the right thing to do is to do the paperwork and go there. And yeah, I got halfway along that journey, and something cropped up and it didn't execute unfortunately, but that area Djibouti and Eritrea, not far away as well. They clearly had some disagreements with Ethiopia, but Ethiopia as well. Another place in that part of the world I haven't spent much time, but I'd certainly like to. As you hop a bit further to the east, as you get into the Arabian Peninsula, I spent quite a bit of time there.
Scott Brady: And how about Egypt? Have you explored them much?
Nick Taylor: Yeah. Egypt’s, again, different. Obviously, what do you think of when you think of Egypt? All of that stuff, which is very touristy, but really a must see. Again, I was lucky enough to work with a good guy there. We actually, when we went to Egypt, the trip that we did is we flew into Khartoum in Sudan and drove to Cairo. So we did Khartoum to Cairo in a hundred series Land Cruisers for most of [00:38:00] it. A bit of a train as well. So I know folks think I'm a bit of a Land Rover guy, as I said. But I spent... I've done a lot of miles in a hundred series Land Cruisers.
Scott Brady: Right tool for the job.
Nick Taylor: White ones usually, right?
Scott Brady: Do they make any other color than white?
Nick Taylor: They serve it in Sullivan Africa if they do so. Yeah, and you know, as we... Egypt, Sudan to Egypt, phenomenal. At the time you'd use the boat, you spend a bit of time in Wadi Halfa, and then you'd get the boat over into Egypt, cross the border and then train or whatever to get to the car. It just seemed like a fun way to do it.
Scott Brady: It looks like the desert is like... if you were to look at Algeria on the Western side and Egypt on the other side, they're both connected in many ways, but they look so different. What was your experience with traveling the deserts in Egypt?
Nick Taylor: You know, the travel... Egypt's a north-south country, right? Because of the Nile [00:39:00] and everything is influenced by the Nile in Egypt, in the modern world. And it's strange to see these blue and green things snaking through the desert, you know, but all life is around the Nile in Egypt. Very much that's the country. As you go west it changes, right? In the Western desert. But for me, I'm a tourist. Seeing the pyramids was important. You know, going to the natural history museum in Cairo. There's a lot of history there. There is a lot of history there, and again experiencing it with people who clearly descended from those folks, and they know their history. You're gonna have a very different experience because you feel like you're a part of it. It comes to life. I was lucky enough actually to... there's some smaller pyramids further south than the usual suspects in Gaza. So just a bit further south, and I was lucky enough to be in a fairly large pyramid by myself, which was one of the most eerie [00:40:00] experiences I've ever had. You know, being in someone's tomb by yourself. I remember the smell. I remember the temperature because it was blazingly hot outside and, you know, cool in here, like a cave. But you know, when you think about what went into that? Why was it built and how was it built? And again, to be able to touch those cold rocks on the side by yourself and this experience with just a little flashlight. Very eerie book, but on the other hand it connects you with the past, which is amazing actually. So some great experiences in Egypt.
Scott Brady: Yeah. One of the greatest civilizations in history. I mean, the fact that they could muster the effort to... of course discounting the whole alien theory, but...
Nick Taylor: I'm a big fan of Stargate history so I know really what that’s about.
Scott Brady: Yeah, but the amount of effort it would take to construct those, it would take a very wealthy, powerful nation to do that.
Nick Taylor: One of the modern theories is that that we've thought they were slaves, [00:41:00] but one of the more modern theories has been proposed that they weren't, that they were paid workers to do that, which logistically... having run some big teams in my career, that's impressive. They must've had an impressive management structure and the meetings must have been great, and I bet they went through a lot of PowerPoints.
Scott Brady: Yeah. Not another meeting... I'm just trying to get this done in the next a hundred years. Oh, that's incredible.
Nick Taylor: Maybe that's why they took so long to build it, it was all the bloody meetings.
Scott Brady: That's right. We know it. Oh, that just sounds like an incredible area. I've not been to Egypt either and I'm so excited to go.
Nick Taylor: You must do the touristy things because...
Scott Brady: Yeah, I want to.
Nick Taylor: It's fun, but you can explore, and going south into Sudan is phenomenal. More pyramids in Sudan and Egypt, but not very well traveled. Sudan for me... I just remember people were trying to [00:42:00] feed me all the time. Couldn't stop. You know, you start to have a conversation with folks in two different languages. And it's come, come, you know, come and do this. And then all of a sudden, these plates of all the food just brought out and it's like another meal, another meal. And it feels very rude not to, but they're very curious about you, you know. Sudan really doesn't see a lot of Western tourists, very few Americans, you know? So they treat you exceptionally well. They're very excited to hear about a lot of people who aspire to America's values and lifestyle. So when Americans are there, they're fascinated. If I traveled on my British passport, they're just not interested, but when they hear I live in America, then they're interested. So it's curious, but...
Scott Brady: They want to know if you know Kanye, isn't that right? And I remember going into South Sudan from the Uganda side and they were totally fascinated by the fact that we were there. Why would you want to be here? And I would tell them, 'cause your country is amazing. It's beautiful. [00:43:00] And I'm so excited to be here, and they just felt really proud that we wanted to be there. And that's such an important thing to remember when we travel. First off, we're guests in their country. They may have beliefs and values and ethics and ways of living that are different from ours, but we need to honor all of those. And that's the reason why I don't wear shorts when I'm in certain countries, because it's actually very disrespectful for me to do that. And it's our responsibility to understand their local ways of living.
Nick Taylor: Yeah. Not only are we guests in their country, we're ambassadors for our own. So we don't want to make a bad impression. And Americans are strange creatures in these parts of the world, not many Americans travel to those... the Americans you meet in these parts of the world are exceptional Americans, I think. People who've got tons of stories who are well-traveled. They can hold opposing views in their head, of [00:44:00] the dichotomy of what they're told versus what they see on the ground. And yeah, fantastic... I mean, it's a cliche, right? Travel broadens the mind. It really does, but that's about the interactions with people and other cultures. And as you said respecting those cultures and their history, and I think it's something we forget about even here in the U.S. You know, people move around a lot and... I'm from Colorado, from Colorado I think I can say now, and you see shift. You see that people not really knowing the history, and I'm sure this happens in other states. I just don't know, but Colorado you can see some of that changing, I think. You know, and I'm an immigrant, right? I'm not going to... I'm going to say Aluminum, not Aluminum, right? Just as a point, and I'm going to drink tea and not coffee, but I'm not suggesting for a second it should change to adapt to me. I think I should change to adapt to it, respecting its culture and its history. And that's just in Colorado, so around the rest of the world it's very important that we bear that in [00:45:00] mind. Because at the end of the day, we're all human. We have different... we've been brought up differently, right? Cause their cultures and the history of...they weigh on us, but we're all human. And fundamentally, you know, I've traveled 70 odd countries and in every single one of them people want the same thing. They want their family to do better than they did, they want to keep their family safe. They want to have a laugh with their mates and maybe a beer. Alcohol for some reason transcends all cultures so doing that. Then they want to hear the stories from other people, the strangers who are becoming their friends and everybody's the same. All the stuff that divides us, to me, is artificial. It doesn't exist. It's fabricated because one of the oldest tricks in the book is divide and conquer. Right? And you feel it happening. Let's say another large North American country, perhaps that's going on a bit now. And it's awful. We're all the same [00:46:00] same. We actually all want the same things in life. And why do we feel so divided, and travel reminds you of that. Travel reminds you of people with very different backgrounds, very different cultures... they're the same. We're all the same.
Scott Brady: Yeah. Our nature is all the same, I feel. It's just that we're nurtured. It's the difference between nature and nurture. As humans I think our nature is to be kind and to be hospitable and to be curious, but we're oftentimes nurtured by our environment to be suspicious. Or to think that they're another, or that they're different from us when... I think Mark Twain said it best. I think he coined the phrase that travel is fatal to prejudice, and the more that we travel, the more that we realize we are all the same. And like you said, we all want the same thing, and that's why travel is so important.
Nick Taylor: It really is. You know, he wrote that book under the name of Samuel Hum. Of course, like you I like travel books. The Innocents Abroad, [00:47:00] it was about the grand tour that Americans would do back in the day. Steamboat travel, all that kind of stuff, and writing about how different those cultures were. And that book to me, even though it feels old in a way, it feels very current. I haven't read it in a while admittedly, but yeah, he traveled, which is why he wrote that, and why he saw that, and why he said that. So yeah, it's quite wise words, I think.
Scott Brady: Before we move on to our next topic, that is something that I do like to ask. And I know that you are well read Nick, and if you were to pick the top two or three books of any subject, something that's really influenced your life. Maybe your business, or maybe your view on travel or travel itself... What were some of the most influential books for you?
Nick Taylor: It's always a difficult one to answer because being a bit geeky by nature, you know, Tom's VDEG is a great book. I know it's not fiction. I know it's not... but he's an ex-test pilot. Engineering mindset and discipline mind. Which [00:48:00] as you know, comes across in his writing. And we know Jonathan's been involved in the later additions of that, and Jonathan kind of thinks the same way. I actually, I think he brought some of the North American viewpoints to that book, because it was definitely very British, or maybe even influenced by the sort of traditional home of overlanding and south African, Australia. Of course, I think it's grown massively here. I think it's overtaken those markets now, and the innovation coming out of the U S overlanding industry is incredible right now. But the book... yeah, it's just geeky. It's full of tables and numbers and calculations and that kind of stuff. You're thinking about, well how much water am I going to need? And how much fuel do I need and how do I arrange a fuel cache. You know, so when you read a book like that, as I did, I've got one of those ridiculously priced first additions now that you will see crop up on eBay for thousands of thousands of dollars. And that was the first thing, and actually in line with that, I have a very beat up copy of Sahara Overland by Chris Scott. Another one of my favorite books. Again, it was the promise before I traveled. Reading about his [00:49:00] journeys through the Sahara and, you know, my copy is usually on the trip when I'm in the Sahara. So it's very beat up and the pages are all brown where I've thumbed through so many times. And it almost hearkens back to this time of travel that is now more difficult than impossible. If you're willing to bend the rules a little bit, but any of those books that really make you think about... Oh there's an idea.
Scott Brady: The Vehicle Dependent Expedition Guide for those that are listening, if you can find a copy Jonathan Hanson is now working with Tom Shepherd on that book, and they're doing an exceptional job of keeping it up to date with the most current information. And you can find those if you just do a quick web search, I know that you can find the current copies. Some of the original hardback ones are almost impossible to find, and I remember I bought my first vehicle dependent expedition guide from a Land Rover dealership. It was this dusty copy, I mean no one had touched it in probably years and it was sitting on a [00:50:00] shelf and I opened it up and my eyes went wide like, does this really exist? And yeah, it's a really proud possession for me.
Nick Taylor: So yeah, favorite book for maybe different reasons, you know, so it's great. I do read a lot, so having a favorite story is probably not it. I had The Bourne Guide to Spaceships when I was a kid, that's one of my favorites too. So maybe different kinds of travel.
Scott Brady: How about books that have maybe changed your perception on either business or the world. Has there been anything recently that you've read that was pretty profound?
Nick Taylor: You know, in my other life I still help... I put it as, I help companies, at least in IT, get out of their own way. So my background was in operations and infrastructure, one of the guys who drags cables, and nobody cares about you until something breaks, then everybody cares about you. Now there's a book there that I think anyone sort of starting in [00:51:00] that space, particularly maybe more junior manager is a book called the Phoenix Project, which anyone who's sort of been in that career and reads that book goes, oh yeah, I agree. You turn the page and go up. That's exactly what happens. It's a story about personalities, which you see in that thing, you talk about how it's perceived externally, and it helps you realize that you're not alone. You know, it helps you realize that this is normal. And again, to the more junior folks coming up helping manage that both internally and externally and downwards and upwards, it's a really good book. It's a really well-written book. It's kind of funny. It's a short read. So we recommend that we dole them out to folks who think they're alone in their suffering and they're really not. That's quite a good book.
Scott Brady: That's a great recommendation. Well, let's shift the conversation a little bit towards 7P Overland. For those that are listening, it's really important because Matt and I value this so much that we don't have any influence from advertisers. There's no advertorial [00:52:00] in the podcast or anything else we do in Overland International. So this is not paid time by Nick and his team. We brought 7P Overland into this podcast because we see them as the leader, the thought leaders in training for the Overland space. And we also, Matt and I, both believe that training is the most fundamental purchase that we need to make, before we buy anything for our vehicles, before we buy any gadgets or gear that we go and we get good training because that will help form our decisions going forward. The reason why we're talking about that today is because we think it is so critical towards safe, successful trips. It's going to save you way more money than you would ever spend on the training, because you're going to realize you don't need to buy all these widgets that people are selling because it's the gray matter between our ears that solves most of the problems as a driver. So for me, Nick, the first couple of things I want to talk about is what do you see as being the most [00:53:00] fundamental skills that someone needs to adapt quickly or early in their process of travel?
Nick Taylor: The first thing you need to do is, you need to know how to make a good cup of tea. Really again, what I've noticed about... I've lived more than half my adult life in the states, so I feel fairly comfortable saying Americans want to get it done. So let's get it done, but sometimes getting it done and just getting it done for the sake of getting it done might be the wrong thing. You might end up in more trouble than when you started. So the British way is more to have a little cup of tea, put the kettle on, and think about that. It's not, it doesn't matter if it's a cup of tea, it's just taking a moment to stop and to think about the situation. You know, I heard a story just a few weeks ago where some chap said that when you're stuck, you know, stop and have a sandwich. If you're really stuck, stop and make camp. And that's great because I jokingly say in pretty much every class, this is the situation. It will be dark. It will be raining or snowing. You'll be cold. You'll be [00:54:00] wet. You'll be hungry. You'll be thirsty. You'll be annoyed with your life. You'll be annoyed at yourself. You'll be annoyed at the vehicle. You'll just be randomly annoyed at the people around you. You're going to be in a bad emotional state. You're not in the best place to pull 10,000 pounds of vehicle out of the stuck. So stop.
Scott Brady: Are you talking about Tacoma?
Nick Taylor: I'm talking about some of the vehicles that I see around here that may well be a little bit over GVW.
Scott Brady: We're just kidding. We love Tacoma's.
Nick Taylor: We absolutely do. Yeah. But yeah, this is... What's the phrase? It's overlanding, not overloading.
Scott Brady: I do love that though, because Google still changes overlanding to overloading, auto-corrects. It is fantastic. It's an irony above all ironies.
Nick Taylor: Yeah. But so you've got a big, heavy vehicle, it's stuck, and just stop and have a think. What helps that thinking is of course the knowledge, right? And that's what's important to us. I think we've got some great drivers on the team. We have some world-class drivers on the [00:55:00] team, you know, I'm, I'm a rank amateur compared to other folks on the team. But what I think more importantly, what we have is we have world-class instructors, people who can take the things they've learned as they became world-class drivers, off-road drivers, expeditionary drivers, mobility, whatever you want to call it. Take that and put it into other people's heads. That is the skill that I think we have. And you know, toot our own horn a little bit. I think we do that better than anyone else. You know, the style of the instruction, and we have a team, right? We're not individuals. We have a team that has a broad range of experience. You know, we've touched on some of mine today. The other guys have centuries of experience in other areas, whether it's on the logistical side. We have people who are mechanically inclined. People who like the new technology going into the vehicles because it's not taking anything away, it's adding. And we have a choice today. You can go old school, new school, but all of these different things that that's kind of funneled down into what we'll see here with, with close to a couple of hundred hours of classroom hours at events like [00:56:00] this, little pieces of that, but then we matched the instructor with that. And then we've got the more junior folks. The newer folks. We mix them in so they learn as well because, you know, we're thinking about what succession looks like? None of us are getting any younger. Do we really want to lose the skills of the first guys who drove across Borneo unaided? Where do they go? Do they perish with them? Do they just become stories, or do we pass on those hard-earned skills to our new instructors and therefore to folks who want to learn that? So the instructional ability, and the style, and the patients, and the humor, all of that stuff is really important to us and Scott, you know all of us, I think, and everyone is down to earth. Everybody is open, honest, and transparent about these things, you know, nobody's well jokingly disparaging... amongst ourselves sometimes, but nobody's ever disparaging, you know. If someone's not learning, guess whose fault that is? It's certainly [00:57:00] not theirs. So we'll change track. We'll change track, we'll do something different. We'll find that person's best way of learning, and we have folks, another joke I have is we do small group training over multiple days, and we have a very... the ratio of instructor is usually a one instructor for one person or two people, often couples come, and maybe three or four sort of max. And that's kind of the max that we get. So the joke being, you know, the positive thing for the client is that they get to spend 8 to 10 to 12 hours in the car with us. Of course, the downside is that they get to spend 8 to 10 to 12 hours a day in the car with us. But, you know, we don't just talk about driving and recovery. We talk about you know, someone's thinking about buying a huge 40,000-pound truck. A six-by or an eight-by... yeah come and speak to Dunk. He's done a lot of that stuff, you know, or somebody who says, well what about traveling in north Africa? Yeah. Go and speak to Nick. He can tell you a bit about that. So all of those things, you know. And we love those experiences, they're a lot of fun for us because we spend so much [00:58:00] time with these small groups. You know, we eat, drink and drive together. So we spent a lot of time telling stories over dinner and people finding out. And then of course, between the clients as well, you know, folks who... you know, one chap who was traveling to Nevada, never been before, meets the guy from Vegas, who knows all of those routes, getting all those tips and building friendships. And we see so much of that, we see people who came along on one of our training trips or one of our travel trips and they become friends, they stay in touch. We just had another trip, just last week, actually that basically all the people who did it last year came on the trip. So we did it slightly differently. But we see a lot of repeats, and that to me speaks volumes to the type of service that we offer folks, because they like the personalities, they learn a lot, and they have a fun time.
Scott Brady: Yeah, very much so. And when we recommend training, there's a few things that we always ask people to look at. So the first thing that we look at is, do the people that are doing the training have recent and relevant experience. So oftentimes people will say I've been [00:59:00] training for 30 years. Well, if they do two training sessions a year for 30 years, that actually isn't very much experience. So I'd actually be more interested in the person that just got off of five years, traveling around the world and their training monthly. They're going to have more recent and relevant experience. And that's one of the advantages that you guys have is that you're not only doing four-wheel-drive training, you're actively traveling around the world. You're actively leading trips around the world. So when you look at a trainer, look at their resume. And if their resume all has the 1980s or 1990s in it then you may want to question how much they've kept their skills up to date. And also, it's just an impossibility for an individual or two people to stay current with all of the most recent technologies and all of these different places around the world. Nick, you've been to 70 countries, but if you look at your whole team, you guys have been to just about everywhere. And that's the advantage of having a team of instructors, [01:00:00] is that an individual who says, I want to go travel the silk road. You can say no problem, we've got this instructor that has experience in that part of the world. Someone else wants to go to Northern Africa, they will meet with you. Somebody who wants to do Southern Africa, maybe they will meet with Graham. Yeah. So I think one of the great strengths is that you guys have recent relevant experience. You guys are actively doing it. You have resumes that go from the eighties all the way up into 2021. And that's really important. You have a wide scope of experience. There's a lot of humility within your team, which means that you guys are still actively learning. What I'm concerned about is when you have the instructor who says that they've got all this experience and they've got it all figured out, that means they stopped learning a long time ago. You need to have a team of people to challenge yourselves, to continue to grow and to learn. And 7P is one of the few organizations that have that. There are definitely other organizations out there that do. But you're one of the few, and that's the reason why the Overland expo has [01:01:00] selected 7P as their training arm because you guys have this depth of experience. So I think when we ask people to look into training, that's what we tell them to look for is for those kinds of attributes. A humility, a desire to learn, recent relevant experience, and a wide range of experience within a team of people. And then I also really liked the fact that you guys have brought on junior instructors, and you've started to diversify your ranks which I think the industry desperately needs. It needs more diversity and needs more experiences from different viewpoints on life. And I think that that's really important, so I think the next thing that I would like to ask is if someone was... they've scheduled a training with 7P Overland, for example, and they just bought their new vehicle. They bought maybe a 4runner or whatever. What would be some of the things that you would recommend to them to consider preparing their vehicle for their first training session so that their [01:02:00] vehicle is ready?
Nick Taylor: Yeah. We get that question a lot actually. We get, I've just bought a new Forerunner, what do I need to do before I can come when you're training? And the answer to that is really simple. Nothing. So nothing because any of these vehicles pick them, you know, throw a cat around here right now at any of these vehicles, we'll see is absolutely suitable bone stock or out of the factory floor that they are absolutely superbly capable. That's the wonderful thing about these modern four by fours, superbly capable. Now, you know what we are, of course the first thing I'm going to say is, how should I spend my money? I'm going to say training.
Scott Brady: But it's also the right answer.
Nick Taylor: But it's a great thing because we've seen on several occasions, I remember one gentleman in particular we were doing some fairly basic training down in... financial training in Arizona. And he comes along and he's very excited and he'd bought a vehicle and then he found us and then he came along in the training, and he had a short wheelbase. It must have been a JK, I guess 37s, and it was packed with stuff. [01:03:00] And so three days for us, he comes up sort of sheepishly to the campfire, after having explained what he wants to do is as long-distance road biased travel he wanted to... I can't remember if it was photography. He had some equipment that he wanted to take with him and didn't really have room for it in the short wheelbase. So he somewhat sheepishly comes up and says, I've bought the wrong vehicle, haven't I? And it's like, honestly, yes, we think you have. And that's heartbreaking if we'd spoken to them a couple of minutes before we could've helped him make all of those decisions about what he needed, you know, he needed a long wheelbase because he wanted to carry a lot of stuff. He didn't need 37s cause he's spending most of his time on the road, you know, big, aggressive 37-inch tires are not really the right thing for a lot of interstate travel. So people talk to us and again, I mentioned people spend a lot of time in the car with us. Come along in your stock vehicle, we'll help you. You'll tell us what you want to do. We'll help you shape that… will you need a roof rack? As you know, we're not fans of roof racks because there's a temptation there to just put... you know, be part of the [01:04:00] overloading brigade. But roof racks have a place, right?
Scott Brady: A naked roof rack is great.
Nick Taylor: If you need it. I mean, it's great to put out firewood.
Scott Brady: If you have a vehicle breakdown, you can load up the other vehicle's gear.
Nick Taylor: Platforms for roof tents... again, roof tents have a lot of weight up there. So from a pure driving perspective, something we're not... of course I have one. But, you know, it depends. I'm lucky enough, I'm really very fortunate to have multiple vehicles, right? So they set up slightly differently for the demands of the type of trip that I'm going to do. And also, it's handy to have a 110 in Europe, right? So there's things like that, but when folks spend time with us and they say, you know... and I see it. This group now that we call sort of accidental overlanders. The people who are actually gray wrote that Wikipedia originally and it was kind of travel for the sake of travel. That was overlanding is not being too stressed about a destination, just letting it unfold naturally. And maybe what's up this left-hand trail? Let's go and find out. But now there are [01:05:00] people who, you got mountain bikers, and climbers, and HAM radio guys, and fly fishermen. All of this stuff. They're Overlanders, but that's not... they're overlanding to do that other thing. So we call them accidental overlanders. I apologize. I can't remember who coined that phrase. It wasn't me. But I think it's a great phrase, it's a great expression to describe what they're doing. So they do want to outfit the vehicles in the same way, but perhaps a fly fisherman, the short wheelbase thing might not be the ideal thing for them. They need a place on the roof. They might need something made of steel, so they can use little magnets to keep that go rod handy. So there might be stuff like that that they need to think about. Mountain bikers, you know, climbers, anyone... they've got photographers, they've got all different requirements. So talk to us, you know, and the training does that. Not only will we teach you how the vehicle handles, you'll be familiar with it. And maybe it is, oh you're going to spend more time on the more technical terrain? Then maybe start thinking about the suspension, maybe start thinking about tires, maybe a two-inch lift. How does that unfold? Of course we jokingly say the most important [01:06:00] modification is going to be a fridge, right? Because we upgrade to the fridge for obvious reasons. And then you can get... but the thing is sometimes I feel like I pick on the vendors a little bit too much. And of course like everyone else, I like the gear. I like the new toys. I like the jingle jangles. As Duncan would say, the shiny objects. And it's fun, and a lot of people put a lot of time and effort into doing that. I mean, some of the electrical system builds I've seen... wow. And that's not people who are professionals. That's people who've done this because they've taken months of time, care and attention to make that the right thing to do. Now I would love to do that, but I'm more likely to be driving across the Sahara given the choice, but hey that's great because this is a broad church, right? People have many different needs. There's people who just modify their cars, and maybe just camp on the weekend.
Scott Brady: That's part of the sport for them is just modifying.
Nick Taylor: Absolutely. Yeah, and you can see it. All the different vehicles. I love it. I love the fact that we are, because when you get so broad like that, you get all this great crossover. Another [01:07:00] Duncanism is every day a school day. So not only actually, do we learn when we're teaching, which actually teaching's the best way to learn. People ask, I believe newbies ask these questions that we may not have considered. So we think about it and come up with a good answer. But just looking at the vehicles and the setups, you know, you're learning there as well. And then when you think, oh, that, that thing that this mountain biker did on his vehicle, that's fantastic. Cause that'll work really well for this other thing over here. So, you know, the crossover we're seeing now and these ideas I touched on earlier, you know, the traditional overlanding, which came out of South Africa and Australia. The early days of overlanding here, which of course you were a part of. You saw that. What was it? It was imported. It was largely imported from those places. I mean, a few Europeans to a lesser extent, but now the U.S. has left them in the dust. Products and the innovation, the innovation coming out of here right now is incredible. Walking around here, the conversations I've had over the last two days with vendors here, it's incredible. Thinking about... sometimes it's problems I didn't know I had, you know, so [01:08:00] that's good too, right? So thinking about it in a different way, but the innovations are amazing.
Scott Brady: It is impressive and when we used to do some training, or when someone asks us about training, we always recommend you guys. But they say, well what should I do to the vehicle? And I say, don't modify it at all. Make sure you have light truck tires and make sure that your spare is the same size as the others. Oftentimes that's not the case. And then I also tell them to make sure that they have front rear recovery points cause it's interesting, you can have a lot of vehicles now that look very capable off-road, but they don't have front recovery points. That doesn't mean that you can't do training without front recovery points, but it's something that you should let your instructor know. And then they may have recommendations like, yeah, make sure you get front and rear recovery points, but it's interesting the number of people that I had. The last thing that I would always tell them is make sure that you've done a check of the four-wheel drive because we would have people come to training and they would push the [01:09:00] button or turn the switch and nothing happens. And then they've lost that whole opportunity for training, or it really compromises what they can learn. So yeah, doing a full systems check of the full drive light truck tires. Make sure you get a set of five that are all the same size and then front rear recovery points, and then the learning can begin.
Nick Taylor: That's right. You know, and when people book training with us, we asked them to send us some photos of that vehicle. A little text box description, and it's great. I assume people put a tiny little bit of detail in that text box, but as it turns out people want to write a story about their vehicle, which is great cause it just reminds you that there's passion behind it, you know? So we love that as well. But yeah, those sorts of things are the easy ones, but you're right. The recovery, I don't know what's happened with recovery points lately. It seems that people... they might look good, but they may not...
Scott Brady: An interesting example was I just went to the reveal of the 2022 Tundra, TRD pro. Rear locker, built on a Land Cruiser chassis. Like all of the things that we want, and you look at the front end of it and you [01:10:00] realize there's no recovery points. So you ask the engineer, and they say, well the aerodynamic requirement. We couldn't have those exposed recovery points anymore. So things are changing. So you can buy a TRD pro, which should be the most capable off-road vehicle that you can get in for that particular model. And it may not have front recovery points. Now the aftermarket will no doubt address that, but it's interesting how things are changing because technology and requirements are changing as well.
Nick Taylor: We were chatting about this, you know, we were lucky enough to drive the new Broncos the other day and we see it in the Jeeps and other cars where before 10 years ago, we had to wire auxiliary circuits in ourselves. It was very difficult. And now the manufacturers have listened to change, and you get a bunch of auxiliary switches. Fantastic. Thank you for doing that. So hopefully they'll hear the feedback about recovery points and other things and fix that issue as well.
Scott Brady: Yeah. Hopefully one of the things that we also really like to ask, and I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Someone comes up to you and they say, I'm getting ready to drive [01:11:00] down to Ushuaia. I've never really done this before. What advice would you give someone who's ready to head out on their first big Overland journey? What would you tell them?
Nick Taylor: My instinctive response is to get going. Right? Just do it and learn the ropes as you go along. Because as we touched on earlier, you know, that experience that raw... because of your inexperience, the experience will be so much better. You're climbing a mountain in terms of what you're learning and the knowledge you'll acquire will be fantastic. You'll learn things the hard way, you know, and there's a lot to be said for that. You know, it's the same journey we've been going on. Your folks ask us... I think some of those folks assume we were born with this knowledge, obviously not. And just to drop yourself in the deep end and to go and do it, well we've got the internet. We've got those forums you can go on, I guess. I guess most people listening know that not everything on the internet is necessarily true. So be a bit careful, but the stories you'll hear... There'll be people with reputation on the internet. that we can follow their journeys. [01:12:00] I mean Tim and Kelsey Hubert spring to mind. With their videos and their stories, I'm sure they've inspired a lot of people to do the same thing. Get out there and do it. I mean, I got into this because it was really around the time that my dad got sick, he ended up with an industrial disease from working.
Scott Brady: This podcast is a private vehicle. Thank you.
Nick Taylor: Okay. Perfect timing. As I got all emotional talking about my dad. So the reason, the reason that I really started this is my dad got sick. He unfortunately ended up with an industrial disease from working the shipyards. And it was right on the cusp of him and my mum retiring and traveling... All the plans they had, and then they were just gone. And I'm in my early twenties when this happens and I'm thinking no way, I'm not waiting to do any of that stuff. I'm going to go and do it. So I did, [01:13:00] I just jumped in the deep end. Didn't do a little... found a VDEG and a copy of Sahara Overland. I thought I'm doing that, and I think it really did change my life, overlanding. I don't know if I called it that back then. I guess probably did but having the ability to not... and the good fortune of not having to wait until retirement, you know, and maybe I'm getting up there, but not that close still and doing it when you're younger and actually realizing that not everything revolves around this 40-hour week with three weeks’ vacation. Just being brave enough to stand up to the man and say, this is what I'm going to do. And then they'll say, no, you can't do that. No you don't understand, this is not a question. This is now a statement. It's a declaration, and I am going to do this. Because if these things become important, you go to Ushuaia. If it’s important to you going and driving the silk road, driving through the Outback, or [01:14:00] a safari in Southern Africa... all these things I recommend, by the way. You should do them, because as it says on the side of my camel trophy truck: one life, live it. Which is sometimes being interpreted in the Land Rover community in the UK as one wife livid, which I think it was stupid to do... but one life livid let one life live it, is actually a pretty good philosophy. Every time I see that it reminds me, you know, yeah... you know what? I can't stay at home and there'll always be another power point or spreadsheet or meeting or call to make. But you know what? I don't remember a meeting that I did last week, but I do remember 20 years ago when I was in the soup in Morocco buying spices. I remember these things and they are the things that we all should be doing. Our life in my view should be creating stories... creating stories that you can regale as a gin soaked curmudgeon when you're too old to travel, which is totally my life's philosophy at the moment, you know? So [01:15:00] I just think go, right? Go and do it. Learn on the way, with a bit of common sense. But yeah, read some of those books that'll inspire you. Read the travel books, read Delia Owen's book The Cry of the Kalahari. Read those books, read them, and you'll go, oh my god I have to do this. And I'm going to find a way to do this. I'm going to quit my job to do this.
Scott Brady: And it doesn't cost a lot to travel. People can do it in very inexpensive vehicles, and they've done it very inexpensively. Again, Tim and Kelsey, great inspirations on how they've traveled in their 80 series Land Cruiser. If you look at Graeme and Louisa Bell, they have told me that their budget is $2,000 a month, which is for many people... that's much less than they spend trying to do a 50-60 hour a week job. And so to recalibrate ourselves, if travel is the goal, and if seeing the world is the [01:16:00] goal, and learning more about ourselves and about other cultures is the goal. Then find a way to get out of the trap. You know, don't go into debt to get that widgety thing.
Nick Taylor: I have a good example, actually. It's a friend, a good friend of mine, who I met on my first trip. Chuck Chuckle Jim who lives in the Northwest. And I met him as he took the year, him, his wife and his two kids to travel around the world in a Mongolian, Camel Trophy Discovery. Right? So from the Mongolia event, they traveled all around the world. The kids at a young age got to see north Africa, the middle east, they spent three months in India, and they worked their way to the far side of the Pacific from the U.S. So a year on the road living out that discovery, and so he gets back home interviewed by the local paper and people reach out to him. Bear in mind this is about 20 years ago.... so I had dinner with a chap who was very interested in recreating that trip. You know, what was that trip? What does that trip cost? Now, $30-40,000, which is a lot of money... but the [01:17:00] guy kind of shook his hand, wow that's a lot of money to do on a trip like that. And Jim points at the $80,000 BMW, the guy drove up and reminded him gently that perhaps you need to think about your priorities. I mean an $80,000... especially back then is a very nice car, and I'm sure every time you get in that it feels great, and you feel comfortable with your purchase, and you enjoy every moment of ownership. But you know what year around the world with your kids when they're growing up... experience the history and the cultures and everything the planet has to offer. What do you think that's worth? Is that worth getting a little bit of a smaller car? I mean, a 50 grand car is still a pretty good car, again, 2000 prices.
Scott Brady: Even a thousand-dollar Honda to get you to work and back so you can save money. Yeah, no kidding.
Nick Taylor: We see a lot of people like that. People working and the travel bug has got them, and I can't help but think as well that maybe with last year in 2020, and COVID it's changed the American mindset a little bit to realizing that [01:18:00] working and then looking forward to the retirement, these kind of blocks of life that almost feel they're dictated to you. It feels like you're not writing a book. You're just reading the instruction manual. Maybe that's going to change a little bit. I hope it does.
Scott Brady: I hope it does, because we're not guaranteed tomorrow. I mean, I think about even my parents, my mom diagnosed with Alzheimer's as my parents are retiring and... you don't know. You have no idea what tomorrow holds. And I think about that, I think about what am I setting as a goal for five years from now, and how come I can't do it in the next six months? I ask myself now every time that I come up with new ideas, why am I waiting. If it's that interesting to me or if it's that important to me, why am I waiting? Why am I not making it a priority today? And I thank you for reminding us of that, Nick and I, and I really appreciate you being on the podcast and sharing your adventures in Northern Africa and the [01:19:00] good that you and seven P are doing for the community. For the Overland Expo... I'd highly recommend that people that are listening, attend an Overland Expo, sign up for the experience package, check a bunch of boxes on training that sounds interesting to you, and come and learn about the skills of travel. So that way, like the Mussai warriors say, a person carries their experience on their back. The more knowledge and the more skill and the more experience that we have, which has nothing to do with stuff, the less stuff that we need to buy, which means the more money we have for fuel, the more money we have to go see the world, and that's really the goal. I appreciate your time today, Nick. Is there anything else you'd like to share with the audience?
Nick Taylor: No, I like where you're going with that. Knowledge is light, right? It's easy to take with you, and I think it’s important as well, that some of this stuff is perishable skills. Like for example, I used to say I can't splice to save my life. I probably can splice just well enough to save my life. [01:20:00] But the tying the knots, the splicing stuff, which are enormously popular classes. If you don't do that, you forget how to do it. If you don't practice left foot braking, you kind of forget how to do it. So reminding yourselves that these things are perishable skills, go out and do it. Go out somewhere on the weekend and get into furlough and have a little adventure. It's good for you because everyone is good for the vehicle, gets all those fluids moving around... the mechanicals that need to be moving around. Just get out there and enjoy it and make the most of the time you have, because as I said, one life... you should live it.
Scott Brady: Thank you for that Nick, how do people find out more about you individually? And then how do they find out more about 7P Overland?
Nick Taylor: That 7P Overland is quite easy. The website is SevenPOverland.com. My bio is in there as well as the other senior guys in the team. Their bios are there, and like every other website it seems it's always a little bit behind where we actually need it to be, but that's a good place to start. I encourage people to sign up for [01:21:00] our extremely low volume mailing list, maybe one or two emails a year, but that's where we announced the stuff that's going on. The calendar. We announce the training, we announce the travel trips that we're doing, so that’s a good place.
Scott Brady: Awesome. Well, thank you so much Nick for being on the podcast. We appreciate you very much, and we look forward to seeing you out in the field and I need to come and take some of your classes. I'm so excited to do that.
Nick Taylor: Anytime, come along. Thanks for having me on the podcast, it was a pleasure.
Scott Brady: Of course. Thank you all for listening and we will talk to you next time.