Show Notes for episode 108
Mali-Mish, a Family of Five on Four Continents

Summary: 
Mali Mish is a family of five that have been living on the road since 2008, visiting 41 countries on 4 continents. They are currently traveling in a Mercedes Sprinter 

Guest Bio:

Marlene and Dan and children-
We are a full-timing family of 5 living, working, and exploring the world in our home on wheels. If you were wondering, the name Mali Mish (pronounced ‘Mah-Lee Mish’) is Croatian for ‘Little Mouse’. It’s a name bestowed on Marlene by her grandmother and we randomly chose it to be our blog name. Little did we know that the age of social media was on its way and that we would be referred to as the Mali Mish Family for the next 13+ years. Yes, you read that right. We have been living on the road since 2008 when there was no such thing as Instagram or mobile hotspots or vanlife. There were no shortcuts to this lifestyle. No YouTube tutorials, no e-books, just a handful of other full-time family blogs here and there. So we did what we had to do. We figured out what worked best for our family and did it.

Host Bios: 

Scott Brady
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:

Moonshade Moonfab

New England Overland Rally

 

To follow on travel adventures please check out the links below:

To follow all things Mali Mish - A Family On the Road website is a great resource 

Instagram:@mali.mish

YouTube: YouTube

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Full Transcript

Scott Brady: 0:03: Hello and welcome to the Overland Journal Podcast. I'm your host Scott Brady and I'm here with my co host, Matt Scott and we are here with Dan and Marlene from Mali Mish. And they have traveled to over 40 countries and they just got back from a big trip. They drive a Mercedes Sprinter and they travel with- there's five of you in there, isn't there? 

Marlene:  0:24: There is. Three children!

Dan:  0:25: The three here. Technically seven if you count the cats, these days.

Marlene:  0:28: Yeah, we have two cats!

Matt Scott:  0:28: You have cats in your Sprinter van? That is amazing.

Marlene:  0:31: Plenty of room! Plenty of room.

Scott Brady:  0:33: Give us a little bit of insight into where you've been- what you've done. Just give us kind of an overview so people know where you guys have been in the world. 

Scott Brady(Ad):  0:41: And a special thanks to Moon Fabrications for supporting this week's podcast. Moonshade by Moon Fabrications is the portable vehicle awning you've been waiting for. Moonshade is built to last, simple to set up, and ships with everything you need to mount the Moonshade to most vehicle styles, without a drill, right out of the box. With over 60 square feet of shade coverage and multiple setup configurations, Moonshade is the ideal choice for rigs of all sizes. Moon shade only weighs eight pounds and shrinks down to the size of a yoga mat so you can pack more of what you need out on the trail. Visit moonfab.com. That's m o o n f a b dot com to place your order today. For the worst summer sun, treat yourself to the best. Moonshade as you covered. Thanks Moonshade.

Dan:  1:25: It's just sort of raw numbers. We've been on the road for about 14 years. 41 countries, four continents, 49 US states. All the provinces in Canada, however many there are. Couple of territories. Most of the Mexican states.

Scott Brady:  1:40: Okay. 

Dan:  1:41: We are in a- currently we're in a 170, four by four Sprinter van.

Scott Brady:  1:45: Nice!

Dan  1:46: That we switched to in 2018 with the intention to ship across to Europe, which turned out to be a good idea. But before that we were in a four wheel camper on an F-250 chassis for two years. And before that we were doing just North America in a 2007 Airstream trailer.

Scott Brady  2:04: And there's nothing wrong with an Airstream.

Matt Scott  2:05: I think that's where I became first familiar with you guys, was the Airstream phase. That was like, five or six years ago or something? Because that's when we were like-

Dan  2:13: Yeah, that was six years ago.

Matt Scott  2:14: Yeah, that's when we were kind of like looking at, you know, can we like run the business from an Airstream? And we bought an F250 and everything. I don't know why we didn't end up doing that. I think we realized that we would we would kill each other as people living in a confined space together. So that's my first question: how do you not kill each other having five of you and two cats in a van? Cause, I mean, a 170 Sprinter is big.

Dan  2:37: It is, and I think what we realized at this stage, we can and shouldn't go smaller. So we've actually gotten smaller over time, because we started when our oldest, who's 15 now, was just one, and these two weren't born yet. As our family grew bigger, our ambitions got bigger so we had to choose- okay, we have to go smaller in the vehicles so we can go more places. But we also have to make them more comfortable. What became really important- which is layout. As a matter of fact, our 25 foot Airstream isn't laid out as good as our four wheel camper or our Sprinter for our family of five. So that's what it's really-

Scott Brady  2:37: Interesting.

Matt Scott  2:37: Interesting. What's kinda- I mean... did you have like the front bedroom?

Marlene  3:09: We did.

Dan  3:12: Yeah.

Matt Scott  3:12: Okay, why? That doesn't make sense to me. Like, what was it about the layout of the Airstream that didn't work for you? I'm just curious. These are the best questions, when Matt's curious it's usually good.

Dan  3:23: He really wants to know! It's the idea of having full time beds that don't convert. 

Matt Scott  3:28: Okay, okay.

Dan  3:29: You know, because when you live in it full time- and there's all different types of scenarios can happen. And you've got to consider the worst case scenario, which is: long driving day, everybody's tired. Nobody wants to, like, finally find a place to stay the night and then go in the camper and then realize you have to do an hour of setting up.

Scott Brady  3:47: Sure.

Dan  3:47: You know, so I think people that have done this knows that... if you can make the setup as easy as possible it's going to make your life- and that's kind of goes with not killing each other, it'll make your life easier.

Matt Scott  3:59: That makes sense! Just reduce stress, reduce-

Dan  4:01: Yeah, in every way you can.

Matt Scott  4:03: Reduce the TTB- time to bed.

Dan  4:05: Exactly.

Matt Scott  4:05: Yeah, so that's a new term that we've invented on the Overland Journal Podcast.

Dan  4:09: #TTD.

Matt Scott  4:11: I actually call it time to beer. And it's the thing I love about the Roamer, because I don't have to do anything, and then I can pull up and crack a beer. It's the best TTB in that regard.

Dan  4:21: That's the big difference between our four wheel camper and the Sprinter, is we can access the fridge without going outside.

Scott Brady  4:27: Yeah, sure! And that's good.

Dan  4:29: Not that we're, you know, promoting having a beer when you're in the driver's seat!

Matt Scott  4:34: Obviously, we're not doing that.

Dan  4:35: Sodas.

Matt Scott  4:36: Yeah, road sodas.

Dan  4:38: Cold brew coffee.

Scott Brady  4:38: That's right. Now, what did you guys do before you started traveling full time? And is- were you able to transition your business or your career to doing that while you're traveling? How did that all work?

Dan  4:50: I've been a web developer. I was working for mostly startups in the Southern California area, and in 2004, the last company I worked for was acquired by a Fortune 500 company, so it has some stock options. So as a young 30 something, I felt like I've made it.

Scott Brady  5:08: Yeah, sure.

Dan  5:09: Really, you know, it was just enough for me to walk away for a bit sure to kind of start my own thing. So I started my own sort of freelance business.

Scott Brady  5:16: How old were you when you did that?

Dan  5:17: 2004, I was 29.

Scott Brady  5:20: Okay, cool.

Dan  5:21: So in 2004, I became a self employed freelance web developer. You know, we were still young, we  haven't had kids yet, so our mentality was totally different. We weren't necessarily the people that have these world traveling ambitions. Were like...

Marlene  5:35: We need to buy a house.

Dan  5:35: Suburbanites. Okay, we're in this house, we gotta buy a house, we gotta get a bigger house, we gotta get a cooler car, and all the stuff.

Scott Brady  5:41: Yeah, you can do that, you can go down that road.

Dan  5:44: Yeah, you just go down that black hole and like, never come back.

Scott Brady  5:47: There's a sailing couple. It's called sailing Uma, they're on YouTube. Their tagline is: don't buy a couch. If you can avoid, like-

Matt Scott  5:56: We were talking about this and it makes so much sense! Like-

Scott Brady  5:59: If you can avoid that first purchase.

Matt Scott  6:00: It all ends when you buy that couch.

Scott Brady  6:01: As soon as you buy the couch, you're kind of done. 

Dan  6:03: Don't ever live in a place that has space for a couch. Even the thought of it!

Scott Brady  6:11: Yeah, exactly.

Matt Scott  6:12: I remember that couch. It was a futon.

Scott Brady  6:14: But that takes a lot of courage to buck the system, to go in a different direction than buying the house in Riverside and just going down the road.

Dan  6:22: For sure, right. I guess for us what really got us the desire to go see stuff is actually after we started having kids. You know, we had our oldest in 2007. You know, and now we're like a young family of three and we're like, you know what, let's go take her to go travel. I work from home, you know, we don't have to stay here if we don't want to.

Matt Scott  6:38: And what were you traveling in at that point?

Dan  6:40: Our first ever camper was a was a Tab.

Matt Scott  6:43: Okay.

Marlene  6:43: Like a little teardrop.

Dan  6:44: So a little tear- the teardrop form Europe. They were relatively new to the scene at the time. I think they went away for a couple years and they came back, so they're pretty popular now again. Our first trip was actually to Tucson, Arizona, with her, for like three weeks.

Scott Brady  6:57: Awesome.

Dan  6:58: And two of those weeks she got like a really bad respiratory infection and was hospitalized.

Scott Brady: 7:03  Oh no!

Marlene: 7:04  Yeah.

Dan  7:04: So luckily they have a good Children's Hospital. So we were in the- I was in the trailer, she was in the hospital room with her during that time and I was in the camper in the hospital parking lot. And my thought was like, well, you can camp at any hospital for free, probably. They won't kick you out! 

Matt Scott  7:22: Don't put that on iOverlander.

Dan  7:24: No, no. I've never camped in the hospital since think about it's like, they're not-

Scott Brady  7:29: A few WalMart parking lots.

Marlene  7:30: Yeah, more than a few.

Dan  7:32: We're probably in the three digits of WalMarts slept at.

Matt Scott  7:37: It's like expectation of living life on the road is this beautiful campsite; The reality, Walmart parking lot.

Scott Brady  7:43: Sometimes it's your only choice, yeah.

Dan  7:45: I mean, when we came back from Europe a month ago, when we finally got our van back. It was actually quite comforting to pull into a Walmart. We're like nostalgic for it. Unfortunately, like a lot of Walmart's have stopped letting people part.

Scott Brady  8:00: It's true. That's true. 

Matt Scott  8:01: You guys just got back from Europe relatively recently. I mean, you guys did RoRo over there and back, I think right? I mean, I guess one of the things we've never really talked about is that shipping to Europe. You know, we've had people talk about shipping to Africa and all these kinds of things. What was that process like? Was it easy? Where did you exit the US? Where did you enter Europe and vice versa? Like I'm selfishly curious.

Marlene  8:25: 2018, we shipped from Baltimore.

Matt Scott  8:27: Okay, a lot of cars come in there, right?

Dan  8:30: It's a big RoRo turbo, yeah.

Marlene  8:32: For the safest route with not a lot of stops- 'cause stops mean chances of break in or something  happening to your vehicle. So we went directly from Baltimore to Zeebrugge and Belgium. 

Dan  8:45: Like for those that don't know RoRo, you hand over your keys to the shipping company and then they say: "leave the doors on unlocked." 

Scott Brady  8:52: That's how it works.

Marlene  8:52: Yeah. 

Dan  8:53: They say there's nothing in there, right? And you say, right.

Scott Brady  8:56: That's right.

Marlene  8:56: It's full of hot sauce and clothes, and our stuff.

Scott Brady  8:591: Yeah, 'cause you're not supposed to ship personal effects. Like, when I shipped back from Panama RoRo, you're not supposed to have any fuel in it. Like just enough for it to get on. And of course, you know, you do the nod, nod, wink, wink and of course, I've got like all my stuff.

Dan  9:12: I gotta drive it away from the port when it gets there!

Scott Brady  9:15:  And I'll tell you, Panama was amazing. They were perfect. And nothing got stolen!

Dan  9:18: Yeah, we haven't had anything stolen. But you know, you hear about it.

Scott Brady  9:18: Yeah, for sure. 

Dan  9:18: But of course you only hear about the bad stuff.

Scott Brady  9:18: Yeah, that's right.

Dan  9:23: Yeah, we were fortunate, because, you know, we also chose- the first time they actually had two extra stops that were unanticipated. But it went to like Frankfurt, and then maybe it went to somewhere in UK?

Marlene  9:36: Right.

Dan  9:36: But just coming back was- yeah, non stop port to port and then minimize the chance of somebody sticking their head in, seeing what's theirs to take.

Scott Brady  9:45: And as I recall, it's a lot cheaper to ship to Europe than back. 

Dan  9:48: Yeah.

Scott Brady  9:48: Because of the number of- there's more cars coming this way than the other way.

Dan  9:52: We had heard that, and that turned out to be true, but we don't know how much of the increase in price was due to just the troubles with the current logistics.

Matt Scott  10:01: I mean, when you initially shipped in 2018, and then shipping back in 2022? I know what containers just cost me '18 and I know what they cost me in '22.

Dan  10:11: Yeah, I think container prices have jumped higher than RoRo.

Matt Scott  10:15: RoRo is relatively consistent because they can't produce the cars in as great a volume, right? And these ships are so specific.

Dan  10:21: And then with containers, you're competing with everybody who's selling little tchotchkes and getting them made from wherever. I think it went up about 60% compared to shipping there and shipping back.

Matt Scott  10:31: And can I ask how much it was initially like to get there and-

Marlene  10:35: 2,500$, all said and done, paperwork and everything, to get there. And on the way back, it was 4,000$.

Matt Scott  10:41: What about insurance for the EU? Like, what... because I don't know why more people don't ship to Europe. There's so many cool things there. You have access to North Africa, you have access to these places in Eastern Europe, you have all the Nordic countries and all that kind of stuff. There's so much cool stuff.

Dan  10:55: And great infrastructure.

Matt Scott  10:56: Yeah, great infrastructure and the world's best art museums which I'm super keen on. So what was the insurance process like for a US registered vehicle? Was it easy to acquire? Who did you use?

Marlene  11:06: It was easy.

Dan  11:07: For us, we use a company that specializes in foreign vehicles traveling in Europe. So they require- you can do full coverage if you want, but at the minimum you need liability. And for liability, they use what's called a Green Card insurance and that's what everybody has. Anyone who has a car in Europe has to have a Green Card insurance card and it has like all the countries names on it and then the ones that they cover are circled, the ones that aren't are like punched out or something. 

Marlene  11:07: Yeah.

Dan  11:07: So we had all EU countries covered.

Marlene  11:10: As Americans I think we get-

Dan  11:12: As Americans, through our insurance company, you can get more but I don't know how we didn't get- but you can also buy liability insurance per country while you're there.

Scott Brady  11:46: Okay.

Dan  11:46: For non-EU countries. Our liability was $1,500 a year?

Marlene  11:51: Yeah.

Matt Scott  11:51: That's really not that bad when you think about it.

Dan  11:53: They did require us to keep our liability insurance in the US, which I don't know why, but...

Marlene  11:58: Cause we have to keep- We're from California so we have to keep liability minimum to keep our registration.

Scott Brady  12:04: Sure.

Matt Scott  12:05: Gotcha. I think Arizona does that, too, because I realized one of my motorcycles' registration has been canceled because it dosen't have insurance because it's been sitting there for like, three years in a corner gathering dust.

Dan  12:17: Pretty straight forward, but full coverage gets expensive.

Matt Scott  12:20 Yeah.

Dan  12:21: I think if you want a full, like, theft and accidental coverage, just like... for our van, anyways, it was gonna be like 7000$ for the year.

Matt Scott  12:29: Wow that really...

Marlene  12:29: So we just took a chance.

Scott Brady  12:31: It's very expensive and there's only a few that do it. Thumb insurance is one, you can insure through Lloyds as well but that's even more expensive.

Dan  12:39: Yeah. What was the one that we looked into?

Scott Brady  12:41: Just a few months trip down to Panama with a vehicle it was over $5,000?

Dan  12:46: For full coverage?

Scott Brady  12:47: Yeah.

Dan  12:47: Yeah, yeah.

Scott Brady  12:48: Just 'cause the vehicle was expensive enough *.

Dan  12:51: As far as insurance is concerned, you have to also pay for separate loss insurance. If you want full coverage for the RoRo trip, if you're concerned that something would happen to the ship. Which on the way back we were just- a month before that, a RoRo ship sank. With all those fancy cars, and-

Scott Brady  13:05: They were all on fire and everything!

Dan  13:07: And we were thinking, does this mean the odds are better for our ship that won't sink?

Scott Brady  13:13: Or is this a trend?

Dan  13:15: Yeah, right! Hopefully it's not the start of something! Both of our trips were very... well, I wouldn't say easy but we're fortunate nothing bad happened. There's delays, obviously, there's always delays, so...

Scott Brady  13:26: Well, one of the questions that I have, I don't have children myself, you know, I spend a lot of time with my nephews and I just- I know how joyful that is to be with them. But I get to give them back, so for you guys, how did things change from what you expected travel to be like with a family of five? And the realities now that you guys have traveled in Europe together and you've spent so much time in close quarters? What's been the amazing joys from that, that things that have changed you as a family? And then what advice would you give to a family that wanted to do something similar?

Marlene  13:56: I think when we started we wee like, let's go to Florida and back and do like our big three month trip and we'll show our kid the sights. It didn't become what we were gonna go look at, it became our bond, you know, was so much stronger.

Dan  14:11: We're still on our three month trip.

Marlene  14:13: 14 years later! The bond between us was stronger because we were together all the time. We knew what we were feeling and we're experiencing everything together. So we have the same memories. We can talk about the same things. And then once we had more kids, the sibling bond and how much they liked spending time together is why we keep doing this.

Scott Brady  14:32: Just as a logistics thing I'm just thinking about- if you're pregnant on the road, like how do you plan on where you're gonna have the- like, how does that work?

Marlene  14:39: We made a bad financial decision and we left our house empty and we weren't in it until I was pregnant.

Dan  14:46: Until we knew we were done with having kids.

Marlene  14:48: And then we sold it before having the third kid, between the first and the third kid, we left our home empty in California and I used the same doctor and they were all born in the same hospital and as soon as they had their shots and they were clear from the doctor, we went back into.

Scott Brady  15:01: So when you were pregnant, you would come back to California, you would be there and-

Marlene  15:05: And deal with that, yeah.

Scott Brady  15:06: Got it, okay that makes sense.

Dan  15:07: I mean, people have-

Scott Brady  15:08: I was like, that sounds like an adventure in and of itself!

Dan  15:10: And people have done that!

Scott Brady  15:12: I'm sure.

Dan  15:13: We think that's crazy.

Scott Brady  15:14: That is crazy!

Dan  15:15: So for us, it was never... it wasn't about like trying to get all the adventures done before kids. We didn't start till after we had kids. So it was all part of the equation. We didn't really have a lot of people to kind of ask questions about, at the time. Because social media, when we started, wasn't really a thing. I think we had BlackBerry's for our phones.

Matt Scott  15:33: I haven't heard the word BlackBerry in like a decade.

Dan  15:15: It's gotten easier now. We've met a lot of folks. We've had a couple of, like, sessions with other families that want to do this. So we've talked to a lot of people and we just- we tell them like... clearly this is not like- having kids doesn't mean you have to stop. But you do have to change your mindset about what traveling is like. So we talk to the kids every year. Right around like end of the year, we say do you guys- are you guys still having fun? You still want to do this? You know, because you don't want to have- you don't want to drag your kids along on your adventure. You want to be on an adventure that every wants to do.

Scott Brady  15:32: It's a family adventure. 

Dan  15:28: So I think that's the mindset change you have to have when you're doing it with with kids.

Scott Brady  16:06: And we are seeing it more and more. I was traveling through Central America- you would definitely bump into like French families in an RV that they bought in France and they shipped over RoRo and they got 87 kids in there. Well, you would find that on occasion and they were all so well adjusted and happy. I mean, we have Greame Bell here in the audience and he's traveled for decades with his kids. People that are doing it.

Dan  16:28: And it's funny when you say French family because when the families we come across in Europe, usually they're French. You know if there's a family, it's French and it's a couple-

Matt Scott  16:35: I'm always so jealous of the French like they just seem to like have these like wonderful peaceful lives with bread and cheese and stuff.

Dan  16:43:  It's the wine and cheese.

Marlene  16:44:  It's wonderful there.

Scott Brady  16:44:  It's more rosé, Matt, more rosé.

Dan  16:44:  Yeah, champagne, you know. 

Matt Scott  16:47:  More rosé! It's all gone to my complexion this weekend.

Scott Brady  16:50:  You've turned the color of rosé!

Matt Scott  16:51:  Essentially, yeah, essentially.

Dan  16:52:  Looking at you makes me thirsty!

Matt Scott  16:53:  You are what you drink: 25% Red Bull, 75% rosé.

Scott Brady  16:58:  Now that you're looking back on that trip from Europe, how would you say that having your kids with you has changed you two? How have you guys seen your perspective on the world change?

Marlene  17:09:  We're more aware of the environment. And like when we camp and wild camp and there's just trash around, it just makes me sad for the next generation. But it makes me excited to raise kids that can see that and say this is wrong. Like, we need to clean up the earth and take care of nature more.

Matt Scott  17:29:  So I don't really want to focus on like Western European countries, like we know- no offense to like France and Germany and that kind of stuff, but industrialized and whatever. What were the most wild places that you went to in Europe?

Dan  17:41:  As Americans, you have to do what's called the Schengen shuffle. Fortunately, we didn't have to deal with that but we were well aware of it and we have friends that-

Matt Scott  17:49:  180 days, nine months or whatever.

Dan  17:53:  180 rolling window, previous 180 days, so you have to leave Schengen countries that are the most popular tourism countries. So you're forced to go out, you know, you can go to Morocco, you can go to Turkey, you can go to Serbia.

Matt Scott  18:06: Did you guys do Morocco?

Marlene  18:08: We did, we got stuck there during the pandemic and had to wait for a rescue boat.

Dan  18:14: With all French campers.

Marlene  18:17: Yeah, cause they closed the borders!

Scott Brady  18:18: So you had to leave your van there, then?

Dan  18:20: So other Americans and Canadians had to, because they were only allowing EU citizens or residents back into the EU.

Scott Brady  18:27: I see.

Dan  18:28: So that's what I was saying, we didn't have to do the Schengen shuffle because Marlene's family's from Croatia.

Scott Brady  18:32: Gotcha.

Dan  18:33: She was able to get dual citizenship for herself and the kids and then I was able to piggyback off of her.

Matt Scott  18:37: And you're just a freeloader, yeah.

Dan  18:39: They said you can stay as long as you're with them. So we got back. We were able to come back to Europe during that lockdown period because of that. And then there were a couple from Montana that was stuck there longer. There was a couple from- there was a family from Canada that was stuck there longer and there was a couple from Malaysia that was stuck there longer. So we actually felt pretty fortunate. But we were sharing our experience pretty much live at the time. So you know, I think-

Scott Brady  19:05: It was an amazing time, a strange one.

Matt Scott  19:07: I'm sure it was really stressful. Like it would suck, let's be honest.

Dan  19:11: Yeah.

Matt Scott  19:11: But I mean, looking back like it's kind of a unique thing, when the world shut down and you had to figure out how to get you, your family, and your car from one continent to another when everything shut down.

Dan  19:22: Well, you know, the ferries to Spain is only a 30 minute ferry.

Matt Scott  19:25: Yeah, yeah.

Dan  19:26: Except Spain was the country though that closed itself to Morocco. So we had to wait for a ferry that came down from France. Which is- it was a two day ferry because it was coming to get people so they weren't carrying anybody down, so everybody had to pay for a roundtrip ticket for the fare to come get us. We still have the return ticket to Spain.

Marlene  19:48: Yeah, like we'll use it one day! One day we'll be back. Talking about favorite countries, though, it seems like our favorite countries... like, we love all the countries but the ones on the outside like... Okay, we went to Morocco and it's like oh so cool here, we can go further! Like, it pushes us, like, Oh, we love Turkey! We can just keep going to Central Asia. I think those are somehow that- you know it pushes us.

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Dan  21:00:  We were talking with some friends that- Richard and Ashley.

Scott Brady  21:05: Yeah.

Matt Scott  21:05: Yeah.

Dan  21:05: They were talking about their experience in Saudi Arabia and they're like, oh, yeah, you know, it's like when you- the first time you hear the call to prayers in the morning, it's amazing. For an American, it's a complete different cultural experience.

Scott Brady  21:16: Yeah, it's incredible.

Dan  21:17: And people say oh yeah, I didn't have time to go down to Morocco, I was in Europe for a little bit. I only- if I had gone I would go for like two days to Tangier but I was saying like, well, you know, if you take a half hour ferry the Tangier, that's practically a spaceship to Mars, you're in a different planet when you get there.

Scott Brady  21:31: You are.

Dan  21:32: 30 minutes away.

Matt Scott  21:33: That's right.

Dan  21:33: So, if you just have that little bit of time, by all means go try it.

Scott Brady  21:36: Yeah, Morocco is really special.

Dan  21:38: Yeah.

Scott Brady  21:38: For sure.

Matt Scott  21:38: I want to go back.

Dan  21:39: Morocco is like so easy to get to. It's the equivalent of Baja for Europe.

Matt Scott  21:44: Yeah, it's European Baja.

Dan  21:45: Even with the surfing, too.

Matt Scott  21:46: I think its fun to like- you find the airport in Marrakech and they're like- in the parking lot there's all these overland trucks that's like parked there. It's really cool. Like, people leave them there. They fly in, fly out, they travel.

Dan  21:58: Marrakech, Casablanca.

Matt Scott  21:58: We just had a rental car. That little DACIA Sandero or something.

Dan  22:03: Those were real popular down there.

Matt Scott  22:04: Yeah, really cool. It had like- it was diesel and it had like a 90 litre fuel tank. It was like a lifted Corolla and we may or may not have found some really cool Dakar course by Agadir and we may or may not have taken off the front skidplate on it. But it was a really fun place.

Dan  22:18: We wish we had more time there, we ended up only having a month before everything happened.

Matt Scott  22:22: Yeah.

Dan  22:22: We would go back and experience the coast, which is what we missed. The thought was okay, let's go inland first, because it's gonna get hot. And then we'll slowly come back up the coast. And our slow back up the coast was like half a day, trying to get up there before the border closed.

Scott Brady  22:37: You're moving at that point.

Dan  22:40: But still, like you said, like the harrowing experiences end up being the ones you remember and you kinda look almost fondly back at it.

Matt Scott  22:48: Well, we were talking about that yesterday. We're so lucky as humans that we're programmed to forget the bad stuff. As time goes on we just remember those good memories of travel.

Dan  22:57: Oh, even the bad memories become stories.

Scott Brady  23:01: Well, they say it's not an adventure until something goes wrong. I'm really curious about Eastern Europe. Things are very dynamic there at the moment. Mordovia and just going into like Bosnia, Herzegovina, that area. Did you guys travel there much?

Dan  23:16: Sure, yeah. 

Scott Brady  23:16: What did you guys find in there? I have not been to that country, so...

Dan  23:20: Marlene's families from Croatia originally.

Scott Brady  23:22: Sure.

Dan  23:23: So- and then they left during the Balkan War.

Scott Brady  23:26: Sure.

Dan  23:26: Or actually, before the Balkan War. She would go back as a kid when it was still Yugoslavia. And there was a period in the 90s where they couldn't go back. So we kind of see the Balkans with a slightly different perspective, because of that familial history. It feels like home to us because she speaks Croatian, everywhere we go it diffuses any tension that may happen. Like we're Bosnia, or is it Serbia, like we need to park the van somewhere to go to this cevapi place, we parked in front of this house and the guy comes out, starts yelling at us and Serbian, or Bosnian, and she asked him in Croatian back- and it's the same language practically- and he's like, Oh, okay, yeah, you can park there. And then his mom comes out starts yelling, and he says like, No, no, no! They're cool, they're cool. Let 'em park there.

Matt Scott  24:08: I think a lot of Americans are still intimidated by that area, or they just don't know... They don't know it as much more than a war.

Scott Brady  24:15: When I was there I was under completely different auspices, so that's why I'd like to go back.

Matt Scott  24:22: Yeah.

Dan  24:22: I think a lot of people who have experienced there, I think they have military experience from being stationed nearby and having to negotiate that stuff.

Matt Scott  24:31: I grew up in Chicago, and I grew up with so many people that came from that area during the war, when a lot of people ended up in Chicago.

Dan  24:36: There's a lot of Croatians in Chicago.

Matt Scott  24:37: They didn't have necessarily- they had just left a country that was at war, you know, so it was like, I really want to push myself to go there, I just don't know anything about it. And I think a lot of people are in the same boat that they get stuck in the Schengen countries in Europe, and they just don't explore and they don't appreciate or recognize the history that is in that whole region.

Scott Brady  24:53: And that coastline and it really is stunning. What was a route that you guys did in Croatia that comes to mind as being more adventurous and maybe a little more remote that you could share?

Dan  25:05: The second you go inland, it's like a different country. So, when you're along the coast, tourism is by far the biggest industry there and it's unfortunate because they rely so much on it that it's either you're doing that and you make good money or you don't and then you're poor. You go inland, right away, you still see bombed out houses and villagers, people left and just never came back. And then after a few bombed out houses, just like a massive mansion that somebody immigrated to America, poured money back to build up their own family home. So you know, going inland and then meandering through there, there's a lot of- the things that we love most about Croatia is all the communist relics that are still there, like these old like urban exploration stuff that you-

Scott Brady  25:44: Fascinating, those abandoned villages and stuff.

Marlene  25:46: We went to an abandoned airbase, and- well, the police pulled up to make sure we weren't camping there or causing any trouble there. We were like, can we go in there? Can we go explore the you know, the old airbase? They're like, you can but there's bears living in there now. You gotta be careful of the bears.

Dan  26:04: They came to talk to us not because they didn't want us to be there. They came to warn us about the bears.

Scott Brady  26:10: That's amazing. And you wouldn't think about like a bear encounter in Europe.

Marlene  26:13: Yeah.

Dan  26:14: This is like straight out of Star Wars. It's an underground- under a mountain! This is like where the rebels would have hid their x-wings.

Scott Brady  26:22: Yeah, sure.

Dan  26:23: You know, so it's like, deep in the tunnel. Probably still stuff in there.

Matt Scott  26:26: You have piqued my interest.

Dan  26:27: It's really cool and it's right on the border of Croatia and Bosnia.

Matt Scott  26:33: Okay.

Dan  26:33: So now there were- so they also do patrolling for like, whatever, like illegal immigration, because, being part of the EU now, they're sort of at the front lines of their borders. And the thing about Croatia is like, they've always been like going way back 1000s of years, they were the frontiers against the Ottoman invasion, you know. So now the frontier is against non European Union countries.

Scott Brady  26:52: Right.

Dan  26:52: Serbia sort of aligning themselves with Russia. There's some conflicts- at least ideologically there- too. There's always been you know, her family being Croatian, the war still felt fresh for everybody. But I will say that within the last 20 years, a lot of the younger people's mentalities have changed. You know, her cousin, who lives in Croatia, was dating a Serbian girl for years and years, and 20 years ago, right, we would have never imagined that.

Scott Brady  27:15: No.

Marlene  27:16: Camping there is great. And wi- the thing is, a lot of countries have- they banned wild camping, which is boondocking, here. If you get away from the coastline, and you're not in peak summer season, then there's trails and places to camp, and-

Matt Scott  27:25: And they leave you alone.

Marlene  27:25: Camp by yourself, and-

Dan  27:26: And what don't realize, you know, there's these popular apps kind of like, what we have here, are user contributed like, iOverlander works there but then they have this other one called Park for Night. A lot of the properties are private properties. And you have to really be mindful because, having friends and relatives that live there, we know when we go to her family's village, all this land is owned by somebody. It doesn't look like it, but it's owned by somebody. You know, so when we go to like places like Portugal, or go to like, you know, other more- countries with a lot of like wide open rural space, we're mindful that somebody may own this land, but let's not tell everybody to come here. If they let us stay, you know, that's awesome but let's let everybody else who tries to come here first communicate with those locals.

Matt Scott  28:11: Figure it out on their own, yeah.

Dan  28:11: Get their permission, you know, instead of just sharing it with the world, and then like... while we were there, like, Portugal shut down all wild camping, because it has gotten so bad. So you know, it's something to be mindful of.

Scott Brady  28:23: And it'll happen here if we don't take responsibility for...

Dan  28:25 It feels like it has in some places.

Matt Scott  28:27: For sure. When Moab shut a bunch of stuff down. Sedona shut a bunch of stuff down, so...

Scott Brady  28:32: Party will be over if we don't take care of it.

Dan  28:35 Absolutely.

Scott Brady  28:35: So now let's talk a little bit about your van, talk about what you've done to modify it to meet your needs and any advice you'd have for someone that was looking for a Sprinter?

Dan  28:44: We bought our sprinter four months before we shipped to Europe. For us, it was really more about comfort. We don't have anything in our van that's there just to look cool. The one- we do have snorkel.

Matt Scott  28:55: Oh, okay. You're an overlander.

Dan  28:58: We only (inaudible) because our plan was to drive through- across Mongolia.

Scott Brady  29:02: Yeah, sure.

Dan  29:02: But now we're sitting around with a snorkel like, oh, yeah, we're such posers! 

Scott Brady  29:07 It's the overland wave!

Dan  29:08: We just kind of add things as needed. You know, we added skid plates last year and a snorkel last year with the intention to drive it across Central Asia, Mongolia, Russia.

Scott Brady  29:18: That's an amazing route, I hope for you guys to be able to do that.

Dan  29:20: We hope to be able to do it. I think it's gonna-

Scott Brady  29:22: Take a while.

Dan  29:23: It's gonna take a while. So I think what we'll do is when we go back to Europe, we'll buy a different vehicle from there. I think it opens up more possibilities not having a California license plate for when we start going to eastern part of that area, Central Asia, like former Soviet bloc and stuff like that, especially now. People in Europe go drive through Iran, which is a beautiful country, but as American passport, US passport holders, it's challenging. They're dual citizens with Croatia, I'm dual citizen with Taiwan but the California license plate is what gives us away.

Scott Brady  29:53: Yeah, I drove across the Silk Road with UK plates and it was easy.

Dan  29:58: Right.

Scott Brady  29:58: You're on a V5. They recognize the document oftentimes, so it's not unusual.

Dan  30:03: And we feel like having kids also helps diffuse the situation.

Scott Brady  30:07: Always helps, yeah.

Marlene  30:08: Whenever we're crossing a border.

Scott Brady  30:10: You got a couple of military age males in a vehicle, it always raises suspicions, so...

Dan  30:14: Wearing multicam.

Marlene  30:19: We roll down the windows and like kids smile, wave!  Say hello in that language! And they're like, okay, you guys are good!

Scott Brady  30:26: Makes a big difference. So you added the skid plate and the snorkel for Mongolia. What else have you guys found like- oh, this really made a difference for our travels.

Dan  30:34 I mean, we have a four wheel drive sprinter but I don't think it's absolutely necessary but having good tires always helped. We would go smaller if we could just to fit into more places. You know, we switch from the four wheel camper for Europe, partially because it was easier to find parts if something broke. For an F250s, like, you're completely out of luck if you're there. 

Scott Brady  30:52: You're shipping it in, yeah.

Dan  30:53: You're paying more for fuel with a vehicle like that, and also it was six inches narrower and that made all the difference in some places. In many, you're dragging your car along this rock wall or just barely fitting through.

Scott Brady  31:04 Well, all the goods in Europe are delivered to the little stores with a Sprinter.

Dan  31:09: That was exactly what I said when we decided.

Scott Brady  31:11: Or like a little Citroen, some equivalent, right? They're all the same size.

Dan  31:15: Right? I said this the other day, they gotta have beers delivered here. That comes in a sprinter. And if they're not delivering beers to this place, I don't want to go.

Scott Brady  31:25: I like this. This is a good philosophy, this is a good philosophy.

Matt Scott  31:28: What did you guys do on the interior for like a build out? I mean, obviously, like you're living in it.

Marlene  31:31: So, yeah, permanent bunks in the back because we don't want to set up anything. So the kids sleep on top, all three together and then Dan and I sleep below. We have two cabinets so our bed's a little bit smaller. And then we have our garage below that.

Dan  31:44: Before the Sprinter or four wheel camper was the front dinette version. So it had the cab over our king sized bed, and then the dinette underneath so that was sort of like a bunk bed with the galley and fridge on the side like this. So we actually really liked that, we just wanted hard sides. So that's where the Sprinter helped. So we sort of mimicked that layout but instead of having the dinette in the cab over, we have upper and lower bunks. So we're on the bottom, kids on the top. And then we had the sort of galley style kitchen, and what's nice about the Sprinters that we don't lose the cab space.

Scott Brady  32:15: Oh sure.

Dan  32:16: Like we did in the four wheel.

Scott Brady  32:17: Yeah, you can turn it around.

Marlene  32:18: Yeah, our favorite things are the swivels.

Dan  32:21: So, even though we don't have like a nice big dinette tabletop to kind of play games or do stuff in but we can still sit and hang out-

Scott Brady  32:28: Where did the kids sit while you're driving? 

Dan  32:30: We have- they call the...

Marlene  32:32: Crew.

Dan  32:32: Sprinter Crew.

Marlene  32:33: Factory crew.

Scott Brady  32:34: Okay.

Marlene  32:35: So we bought it, yeah.

Dan  32:35: So it has a bench seat.

Scott Brady  32:36: Oh, I see

Dan  32:36: Has a second row bench seat.

Scott Brady  32:37: I see. Got it. That makes sense. Cool.

Marlene  32:39: It was completely empty but the bench seat and some headliner.

Scott Brady  32:43: Yeah, that makes sense.

Marlene  32:43: And then we built the rest out ourselves.

Matt Scott  32:45: Okay, so you did it, okay. I was wondering if somebody did it. 

Marlene  32:48: No, it was us in front of my parents house.

Dan  32:51: There are vendors here that have you know, seat bases that attach to L-track. 

Scott Brady  32:55: Sure.

Dan  32:55: Fully customizable, stuff like that. So we would have gone that route if we couldn't find this van. This was the van that we would have built on the Mercedes website if we were to build one and in fact, when we decided to switch from the four wheel, we went to the website and I was like, okay, so what would it be like for us to build one? So we picked Stone Gray, because that was a cool color that we wanted. We picked the 170 Crew four wheel drive, and then we built it, said that looks great. I'm like we're never gonna find this. This doesn't exist. You can order one, and it'll happened two years after.

Scott Brady  33:24: Yeah.

Dan  33:24: Then we went to the closest Mercedes dealership and it was like...

Marlene  33:26: There.

Dan  33:27: It was just sitting there!

Scott Brady  33:28: Talk about meant to be!

Dan  33:29: It was meant to be!

Scott Brady  33:30: That's incredible. 

Dan  33:31: Yeah.

Marlene  33:31: It was a sign.

Dan  33:32: Somebody had ordered it and then decided that they couldn't get enough for their trade in and just said give it to somebody else.

Scott Brady  33:37: What a day.

Dan  33:37: And then we showed up, we were, like, this to 2018 and it was already hard to find by then. And we were getting, like, no deals.

Matt Scott  33:44: That was like peak, Sprinter, like, Four Wheel Drive, they finally come to the US madness.

Dan  33:44: Yeah, and there were no discounts, you're paying MSRP and they gave us $1,000 off, we were like those people only gave us a $1000 off? And now we look like geniuses.

Scott Brady  33:57: Yeah. For sure. I mean, just to get it at MSRP is impossible.

Dan  34:01: To get a van at any price, really, it's been tough.

Scott Brady  34:04: Yeah, it;s impossible.

Scott Brady (Ad)  34:05: This content is brought to you by Overland Journal, our premium quality print publication. The magazine was founded in 2006 with a goal of providing independent equipment and vehicle reviews along with the most stunning adventures and photography. We care deeply about the countries and cultures we visit and share our experiences freely with our readers. We also have zero advertorial policy and do not accept any advertiser compensation for our reviews. By subscribing to Overland journal, you're helping to support our employee owned and veteran owned publication. Your support also provides resources and funding for content like you're watching or listening to right now. You can subscribe directly on our website at overlandjournal.com. 

Scott Brady  34:48: What is coming up next for you guys. What- now you're back in the US, what's the plan?

Dan  34:52: So we have a 15 year old.

Scott Brady  34:54 Okay.

Dan  34:54: So in three years she can choose to leave us if she wants. But she doesn't want to, she wants to keep adventuring and we talk about it each year. So when we came back, we weren't originally planning on shipping the van back. We came back because her brother is getting married, and she only has one brother and we can't not go.

Scott Brady  35:09: Yeah, that's important.

Marlene  35:10: Yeah, it's important.

Dan  35:11: So that's in two weeks. So our obligations back here ends in two weeks. And then the next obligation is the kids have missed trick or treating in the US, they don't do that in Europe.

Marlene  35:20: Yeah, that's a big deal.

Dan  35:21: So, we want to do that this year and then after that, we really miss Baja so we want to go back down there when it's cooler.

Scott Brady  35:27: Yeah, so special, yeah.

Dan  35:28: Yeah. 2023 sort of, you know, it becomes sky's the limit thing, again. So we were talking about possibly shipping to Uruguay. And then started starting the Panam coming up, going down, and come up the other way.

Scott Brady  35:40: Awesome.

Dan  35:41: Or also, I'm from Taiwan originally so the kids really want to go, mostly for the food. now. And I also have to show them that orange chicken is not the best dish. 

Scott Brady  35:50: What?!

Dan  35:50: I know! It's unbelievable.

Matt Scott  35:51: Mike drop, walks past.

Dan  35:53: He loves it, it's his favorite dish. He's like, I can't wait to go to Taiwan and still eat at Panda. We don't have Panda there in Taiwan. And if we do that, though, I don't think we'll ship a car. I think we'll just figure out-

Scott Brady  36:04: Yeah, South America sounds amazing, though.

Marlene  36:05: Yeah.

Dan  36:05: Yeah, so we have lots of friends that have gone. I mean, you know, you spend a lot of time down there so it seems like something that we could- one of the easiest things for us to do because we're neighbors, practically.

Scott Brady  36:17: And it's beautiful down there.

Dan  36:18: Stunning.

Matt Scott  36:19: Yeah.

Marlene  36:20: And there's penguins.

Dan  36:21: Yeah, and there's penguins, right.

Scott Brady  36:23: That's right.

Matt Scott  36:24: How do you feel about shipping down there and driving up versus driving down and shipping back? Like, is there a particular method or reason as to why you chose to do that?

Marlene  36:33: I'm scared of the heat in Central America.

Matt Scott  36:36: Oh, you and me both.

Marlene  36:36: There's two cats and we don't have an air conditioning by our choice. So I'm a little worried like-

Matt Scott  36:42: You think you'll do Central America?

Marlene  36:44: Yeah for sure, but I just... I don't know, I think it'd be easier for us to be in weather that we can mountains we can escape to.

Dan  36:51: Also logistically, for people that drive down, you got to ship across the Darien Gap anyways. And you come all the way down and what do you do at the bottom, but you just turn around and drive up. I mean, obviously you can do the- you can drive a different route up. A lot of people go up and ship from Buenos Aires or Montevideo, anyways, and come back to Texas or something. So if you don't want to sort of do a lot of double backing, and you do have to kind of play everything by weather. So if we can time it, right, we just go down and then we never have to, like redo any routes. We just come up and it also sort of minimizes the amount of shipping you have to do. Unless you're shipping from Montevideo to South Africa or Europe or something, then it makes more sense to drive down and then ship out. So if you're going to come back into the US, you know, seems that way and then we would love to just have the last place we be before we come back be Baja again.

Scott Brady  37:39: That's perfect. Yeah, I like driving-

Dan  37:41: There's tacos.

Scott Brady  37:42: Driving up is good. I think driving up is good, it makes sense.

Matt Scott  37:45: I've always been stuck on this romantic notion of driving down and ending in Ushuaia. Like I just don't think that I could do it any other way when I-

Dan  37:52: That is-

Matt Scott  37:53: When I eventually go crazy, buy a motorcycle and call my wife from Panama.

Dan  37:58: That is different to start from that but then you have to sort of picture yourself ending at Prudhoe Bay.

Scott Brady  38:03: Yeah. And you're gonna encounter a lot more travelers that are heading south, so you'll meet a lot more people.

Marlene  38:09: Oh, that's true.

Scott Brady  38:10: Whereas if you're all going the same direction, maybe you kind of interact with folks. But if you're going opposite of traffic, then you're going to bump into a lot more travelers.

Dan  38:18: Then you become the guys who tells people where things are.

Scott Brady  38:21: Exactly, exactly. Well, we're getting close to the end. But do you want to bring your kids up so they can- we can introduce them and- you guys want to do that or no, not interested?

Marlene  38:30: You guys wanna say hi?

Dan  38:31: Everyone just come say hi.

Scott Brady  38:32: Just come say hi? You guys are the awesome ones, going around the world; how cool is that?

Dan  38:37: This is Luca, he's ten.

Scott Brady  38:39: Okay, so we got Luca.

Dan  38:41: Yep. Introduce yourselves. 

Mila  38:42: I'm Mila.

Dan  38:43: That's Mila.

Scott Brady  38:44: Mila.

Eva  38:44: I'm Eva. I'm fifteen.

Scott Brady  38:44: And Eva. Well, we are so impressed by all of you and your stories and your adventures around the world. 

Dan  38:45: (inaudible)

Scott Brady  38:48: So what are the names of the cats?

Mila  38:50: Twin and Obi.

Dan  38:51: Twin, the, uh...

Mila  38:51: The nice one.

Marlene  38:52: The nice one!

Dan  38:52: The nice one!

Scott Brady  39:02: Is there such thing as a nice cat?

Dan  39:05: If you compare two then there's a nicer one.

Scott Brady  39:10: Thank you guys. Any other questions that you got, Matt?

Matt Scott  39:13: No, this has been so good. I've been able to ask all my selfish questions.

Scott Brady  39:18: Well, we so appreciate all of you being on the podcast and inspiring so many other families to go see the world and not be afraid to do that and what an amazing thing to experience together, so...

Marlene  39:30: Thank you. Thank you for having us, too.

Scott Brady  39:32: Thank you guys for being on the podcast. We thank everybody for listening. We'll talk to you all next time.