Show Notes for Podcast #3
Clay Croft :: XOverland
We spend time with Clay Croft of Expedition Overland discussing Toyotas, traveling with family, producing high-quality video from the road, and the challenges of pursuing your travel dreams. Note: We had a minor issue with one of the mics. We apologize for the intermittent volume problem.
XOverland on the web: www.xoverland.com/
Hiline Productions on the web: www.hilineproductions.com/
Transcript of Episode #3
Scott: Hello and welcome to The Overland Journal Podcast. I am your host, Scott Brady, and I am here with my co host, Matt Scott. How’s it going?
Matt: How’s it going guys? Oh, it’s going.
Scott: How’s Overland Expo treating you so far?
Matt: I’m slightly sunburned, because I’m slightly ginger.
Scott: Yeah, I feel like I have two gingers in the van.
Matt: He’s more ginger than I am!
Scott: On that note, we’re going to introduce our guest for today, Clay Croft from Expedition Overland. Thanks for being with us Clay.
Clay: You’re welcome, thanks for having me.
Scott: Yeah, this is going to be awesome. We’ve been enjoying a couple days at Overland Expo, which is always a time to pull together people in the community. To pull together the people that have really made a difference for this industry, and you are one of those people, Clay. You’ve had a very successful career, in and out of overlanding, but in the overland space, Expedition Overland is the authority on the video side, you guys have inspired tens of thousands, if not millions of people through your videos that you have on YouTube and on Amazon. What inspired you to do this? What made you decide that, “I’m going to go from filming TV production and doing long form films to producing X Overland.”? What was that inspiration for you?
Clay: Yeah, for me, cinematography, for one is a feast or famine type of job. Especially when you’re getting started. You work really hard hours for the ability to get a job and hopefully feed your family for a little while. And I had just come out of a good run and then the economy hit pretty hard in Montana and then after it hit there, all of my jobs fell through. And I reached this point where I was like, “I can either continue to look for other work, and work for other people, or maybe this is the point where I should step out and go for it. And what else do I have to lose?” Because I didn’t really see any really great future in front of me at the time. Like, it was going to be a slog to get more work, and it just seemed like it’s a slog either way. Let’s figure out how to...
Matt: Might as well work for yourself.
Clay: Might as well work for myself, yeah.
Scott: And that’s interesting because all three of us in this van have taken that journey of working for others and then finding that moment in time to work for ourselves. Matt’s now importing Maxtrax and doing very well with that and other products. X Overland has been very successful, and I feel fortunate with the magazine and website that I do. But, that’s such an interesting thing, and it’s something that we see often in this space. We see, and it makes sense, right? Because it requires a certain degree of entrepeneurialship, even just to decide to go travel to Ushuaia. You have to be willing to take some risk, you have to be interested in new frontiers or new ideas. And that is certainly the case for someone who wants to start their own business.
Scott: And, I’ve known you for a long time, Clay. You’ve had this ability to maintain some degree of focus and mindset towards your family. You have three boys.
Matt: Great kids.
Scott: Yeah, great kids, an amazing wife, that also does her own adventures.
Scott: Tell me about how you’re mindful of your family. How does that dynamic enter it, because Matt and I, neither of us have kids. So it would be great to hear how you meld young ones, a family with travel and the production that you do.
Clay: Well, I will start off by saying it is not easy. This is really hard. And we have not done it perfectly, maybe ever. But we really work hard and have a mindset towards making it the best we can with the circumstances that we are in. Entrepreneurship takes tons of time, and effort, and late nights. And, doing that inside of the overland space, requires you to travel when the jobs hit good, you know, hit big and leave. So, what we have done, we’ve done two things. We, Shelly and I, proactively went to counseling, probably starting almost five years ago. At the time, she was going through, she was doing The X Elles racing and she had the ‘You Are Loved’ campaign. It was bring up awareness toward sexual abuse that she had gone through, and was bringing awareness to that. So, bringing up things like that inside of a marriage is pretty intense. So we said, “Ok, we want to do this. We want other people to have freedom from these things, but we better make sure that we have our ducks in a row as we step through this.” So, we sought out a counselor and his name’s Mark, and we’ve been seeing Mark now for five years. Sometimes once a week, sometimes it’s three months apart. But we proactively pursued our marriage first so that we could hopefully help other people. And then when it came to the kids, we decided that we’re going to be gone a lot, that’s just the reality of what we do, and if we can make the time that we do have really intentional, that it’ll be okay. My dad was a truck driver and he was gone, over the road trucking all the time for years. And he made his time with us intentional and I can look back at my childhood and I can say, “I had a really great relationship with my dad.” He wasn’t there every day, doing all that stuff, but the time I did have with him was awesome. And, I wouldn’t change anything about my childhood. So I just wanted to relay that to my kids too. Thankfully I had a good example.
Scott: I can see that when I’m with you in Montana, I can see how you are intentional toward the boys. You want them to experience life. You want them to develop those skills. What are some of the things that you’ve taught your boys that you’re so glad you exposed them to?
Clay: That we teach all of our boys to be leaders right off the bat. I think a lot of parents can pick out one of their kids and say, “You’re a leader.” We try to make all of our children, you know, they’ll be leaders in something. So we try to encourage them there and then try to encourage them in the way of teamwork. That they are a team, instead of brothers. And that seems to be effective. And then, instill in them that adventures are good, mistakes are good and if you’re not failing then you’re not pushing hard enough.”
Matt: That you’re not learning.
Clay: Yeah, failure is okay. This year we got motorcycles. We got some dirt bikes, and they’ve been failing. We were talking about this just last week how good it’s been for the kids to, like, put them in something that’s scary, make them go do some stuff, and yeah, I think that’s been good for them.
Scott: You know, hearing you say that Clay, I can see how you had those same parallels in your own life. The team that you pulled together. How you try to have everyone that’s involved with XO be a leader in their own right.
Scott: You have stretched yourselves, and your organization. Tell us a little bit about how you selected your team of people that have been in your most recent series of XO? I mean, Kurt Williams obviously comes to mind.
Scott: An amazing guy.
Scott: A friend to all of us, a friend to the industry. Kurt runs Cruiser Outfitters in Salt Lake City. But talk a little bit about, what do you do to bring together a team of people? We can all see it in your production videos on YouTube and Amazon that you guys are a team. It doesn’t mean you don’t have challenges, or difficulties.
Scott: But, how do you address that as a group?
Matt: I mean, you guys portray being a team on that show, it comes across.
Clay: Yeah, well, thank you. And that, that feels good, because we do work towards that. In the last three years we’ve had a lot of changeover with our team. The original team was easy. They were guys that I knew for a long time and I just knew who they were. And when you know guys for a long time, you understand where they’re going to fit and where they aren’t. So I just had a great pool of folks to pull into the team. As we got six or seven years into Expedition Overland, XO is a high demand, and we started to lose people. And then marriage, Jeff and Heather got married, you know, through XO, through part of being in XO. And they moved out of town, and things like that. We really got to this point where we really had to start selecting new team members. And when I look at what I’ve had to do in the last three years, in what I’ve managed with teams, it really boils down to, first, maturity. You have to express a certain amount of maturity right off the bat. And that is a priority over any skill set.
Scott: You can teach a skill set.
Clay: Right, but maturity takes time, that’s a slow cook. You know? One of the best indicators of that is teachability, and the ability to listen even though you may know the answer, or whatnot. But, they’re there and say, “Yes, tell me more. I may not know everything, I want to know what you know.” You get the guy in there that’s, “Oh yeah, yeah, yeah.” He’s probably the wrong guy, you know? So we’ve scoured. And, frankly, some of it has just been, I wouldn't say luck, it’s nurturing relationships that have been around for a long time. Some like Bryan and Megan that came in this year? College. You know, how long ago was college? We’re talking 2001? So we’re talking eighteen years since I’ve hung out with Bryan and Megan. But I knew from way back when, and from keeping in contact that they were an awesome group, a couple to bring in. So, some of this stuff just takes twenty years to figure out, or bring in.
Scott: I find, when I try to pull together a team, like what we experienced with Expedition 7. One thing I really look at is emotional balance, right? Is the person able to be kind? To be considerate? Like, are they able to maintain their humanity, even when things start to go sideways. Because I find that people who have very weak emotional balance, they tend to do very poorly when things are going sideways.
Matt: They get easily frustrated.
Scott: Easily frustrated, and that can blow up at a border, they can have a tantrum because there’s some issue with a document. That can easily escalate the issue, or start that cascade of events we talk about. Where that one small emotional blow up then results in someone ending up in prison.
Scott: At the other end of it Matt, what are some things that you’ve seen in your travels? What do you look for in people that you travel with?
Matt: I think people have to be self aware. That’s my biggest thing, honestly. People need to admit that they are wrong, you know? And I’m not saying you shouldn’t stand up for when you’re right, by all means you should. But, being able to admit, “Hey, the reason the vehicle failed was because of me. The reason we missed this border was because of me. The reason that we’re stuck in this swamp at 2:00 in the morning when you’re significant other told you not to go through that way, it’s because of you.” I think that that has parallels through so many things, through business, through personal relationships. I look at the people I’m close with, people I work with, people that I’ve assembled a team with, and they’re self aware. I think it’s important to know your strengths, as much as it is to know your weaknesses.
Scott: That sounds like that parallels with this teachability idea. Someone who has self awareness, they’re willing to be teachable. They’re willing, even if they think they know the answer, to listen to someone else's perspective.
Matt: People that ask questions are good.
Matt: That was something drilled into me at a young age is: ask questions. And if you are around people who are not willing to take the time to answer the question? They don’t care about you, right? Time is very finite. And again, being self aware enough to not waste time, but to recognize the value of other’s time, and to be realistic.
Clay: There’s another side to that too. When I’m asking and interviewing for team members, I’ll ask a series of questions. And one of them is, “What are your strengths?” obviously. People love to tell you their strengths, but the guys who are really self aware, know their weaknesses too. And they will admit their weaknesses, “I have a hard time here, here and here.” So, if you’ve got a guy that is able to do that, that guy will excel quickly inside of a team. Because, we’ve all heard it before, your weaknesses are as important as your strengths. And understanding them, you get a lot of teams that show up, and everyone knows what they're good at, but nobody knows what the other guy isn’t good at. So that sets up a big learning curve. And if you can find out what that is right away, and a person’s able to express their weakness, your team just hit another level, much, much sooner, that may take a long time in the field to sort out.
Scott: Yeah, so true. And what I found is that the more quickly you can get to that point you just described, the more effective the team will be under duress, when something really goes sideways. I mean Clay, you and I have had the chance to travel to some very cool places together, including crossing Greenland, and crossing Russia, and in both of those scenarios, we encountered times that we were concerned for our safety, in some way or another. Maybe it was a crevasse we were traveling through, or maybe it was because we nearly did a head on with a Russian driver coming the other direction. But it definitely, quickly does tell you the quality of character that you are traveling with once things start to not go well. And that’s how you know who you want to travel with in the future. And it's really a good idea to start off with a shorter trip, start off with something simple.
Clay: Do something small first, yeah.
Scott: And see how people really fit. And that kind of brings up the next question for me, Clay. You have definitely been, if not a virtual, but an actual mentor to many people in the industry. And when people watch your videos, I’ll often hear them talk about, “He’s such a good dad,” or that “He's a good leader,” or “This team really communicates well together.” Tell me what started that for you? What brought about, as I consider you a man of character, what really brought that about for you? What are some of the things that happened earlier in your life, or the people that were your mentor, or mentors, that really brought that about? What were some of your jumping stones to that?
Clay: I would say, when I was young, my family was part of a big ranch in Montana, Scott Ranch. And, growing up with cowboys, there is a whole lot of code inside a cowboy. And my dad was a cowboy, my mom grew up in a very intense cowboy world. And they have a lot of values that they poured on us, so I think that’s the first thing. The next is, my dad ran his own business being a truck driver, and I would go with him. And I saw him interact, on the road, with clients, and he would teach me a lot of stuff. “This is what I’m doing, this is why, this is why I said that, because I’m afraid of this,” you know? “So I want to make sure they feel these things.” All from a very genuine place. So, there’s that. And then, obviously for me growing up in the Christian church was a big part of morality, and what I have as values, and I still hold on to those very strongly today.
Matt: It’s made you a wonderful person.
Clay: Well, thank you.
Scott: That’s for sure. I mean, your whole family.
Clay: Yeah, and then when it came to leadership, the National Outdoor Leadership School. I did a NOLS class the year I graduated 2001, highschool, I’m thirty seven now. And, I went into the back country for mountaineering school and it was half mountaineering, half leadership. We learned how we ticked right there. And by the time I walked out of that school thirty days later, I had a general understanding of what I was good at, and what I wasn’t, because they flush it out of you, you know? And they make you start to work through it. So I really think that was probably the best thing I ever did. I did school, and I did college, some of that, I never graduated, but the best money and time I ever spent was the National Outdoor Leadership School.
Scott: Well that’s great advice, for sure. And kind of along that same line of giving people advice. I know a lot of people listening will have their own aspirations, of being a cinematographer. You know, aspirations of documenting their own adventures. What are a couple of tips that you could give people? I mean, watching you work in Greenland, with a single camera, and the quality of the output on the other end of it was unbelievable. What would you recommend people start with, maybe a few equipment tips, and some other ideas to help people better capture their own journey?
Clay: Sure. Well, to start off, you need to be your own man. If you’re looking to do something that someone else has already done, and you want to do that too. It’s already probably a dead end. You need to find a way to be your own man, and do whatever project it is on your own. We can take adaptations, of course, but that to me is like the first start to something that will be successful. From there, we can get into the nitty gritties of camerawork. But for me, when I approach a scene, and I approach movie making, I try to see if from three levels. Well, four. The thirty thousand foot level, and then work your way in. The wide shot, and the medium shot, and the tight shot. The wide shot is all the details. The medium shot is the meat, and the details is what makes it savory. So, you work your way into a scene, starting that way, and then you work your way back out. And if you can see where those transition points are, you have to be able to flip your brain all the time. I’m in the middle of the details, but I’m using my ears right now to what’s happening around me, I need to be able to zip out to a thirty thousand foot level, real quick, and recognize when I need to start filming a transition to whatever’s about to happen next. And that’s kind of the skill set that I’ve been working on trying to perfect over, well, as long as I’ve been doing it. Equipment choice? I had this guy, Andrew was his name, I can’t remember his last name. He came in when I was just starting XO, he did some photography for us, he was working for ExOfficio at the time, and I asked him a very similar question. I said, “What would you recommend for me as a young photographer trying to go do all this stuff?” And he said, “Don’t get caught up in the gear. The tool is between your ears, and you can run yourself out of money and go broke quick trying to keep up with the equipment. It’s not what’s necessary.” So, I’ve taken that to heart. And it took a long time to go to 4K, but I have recognized that there are some tools that are essential to have to keep an edge, and right now I’m kind of at a loss with what that new tool is. It was drones for a while. We invested heavily in those to tell stories, and things like that. And everybody’s got them now. So, I’m still looking for that next thing. But, that’s where I would invest in equipment, it’s whatever that next thing is that gives you a real edge. Not just the fad, there’s a lot of fads that come and go. Like, since we started XO, how many transition fads have you seen?
Matt: How many ‘slider’ shots can we see on YouTube now?
Clay: And I’ve fallen trap to all of them too, the ‘slow mo’ stuff, the ‘slider’ stuff, but still we’re making current films that need to be relevant.
Matt: Yeah, yeah, of course.
Clay: And yet, you’re still looking for that long term piece. And really, it’s going to be in the skill set.
Clay: It’s not the equipment.
Scott: So, speaking of a long term use, tell us a little bit about what’s happening with that?
Clay: Yeah, that Greenland film, what an interesting project that was. Because I went into it, when I talked to Greg, when we were all talking about going to Greenland, when he asked me to go, I said, “Yeah! I’d love to go, but if I’m going to be gone for a month, I need to be able to do something with Expedition Overland”. And he said, “Absolutely.” So, my intention was to go in there and shoot a couple of episodes for XOverland and when we got there, I mean, it was apparent the very second that we arrived that this was something so much bigger. And I started just filming it the best I could under the circumstances that we were all going through. And went through the systems that I knew from doing Expedition Overland, and came out with a lot of material. Not as much material as I wish I had, but had I known I was going to make a movie at the time, I would have brought a couple of different things with me. Maybe I would have pushed a little harder. But, it worked out. And anyway, we got home and started going through this footage, and I was like, “Man, this has got to be something more, this is a bigger story, this is the biggest thing I’ve been a part of. This is the biggest thing I think a lot of these other guys had been a part of. And I think the world would need to see this in a more meaningful way than what we’re doing right now. And the only way to do that is to put it into a movie format and give it the credibility that it deserves.” So, I went and I approached Greg on it, and I worked for two months on an edit, on our own dime and everything, to get him up, and I convinced him to come up to Bozeman. He dove up in his Land Cruiser one day and I said, “This is what we want to do, this is what it looks like, here’s the rough cut of like, a very, it was two and a half hours long at the time.” He said at the end of this, “We’re doing this.” And that kicked it off and for nine months I cut on that film to get it where it was then. We did interviews, and all kinds of things. It grew and became something bigger.
Scott: It was fun.
Clay: It was a wonderful project. Yeah, I can’t wait for people to see it. Currently it has been submitted to the Sundance Film Festival, just about a month ago, and we wait until December 6th of ‘19 here to find out what happens. If it gets in, then awesome. If it doesn’t, we’re going to keep moving it though other festivals, and eventually it’ll be out there so that the world can see it.
Scott: That’s exciting.
Clay: It is, I mean, it’s a dream come true. It checked, it started, I don’t want to say it checked the box, because I think it started a new chapter for me. To do a project that was 100% to the best of my abilities, with all of my means I could find. You know? That was really fun.
Matt: It couldn’t have been easy, because it was just you filming.
Matt: In thirty days on the ice?
Clay: Twenty one days.
Matt: Twenty one days, on the ice.
Clay: Yeah. And, I had a lot of problems, you know, so many problems. There were all the equipment problems, but then my microphone died. My main microphone quit working, right when we got into the north part of Wolfland, my main mic quit. So I had to hull... Not many people know this, but the last half of that movie, the last third, is recorded off the internal microphone of an a7R Mark III. That little teeny microphone thing, is what recorded all, and it turned out pretty dang good.
Scott: Yeah. Well, and you have to deal with the frostbite, and I remember by the middle of the trip I completely lost feeling in my middle finger
Matt: Like this was not an easy trip for you guys.
Clay: No! No. Even to this day like, knowing what I know now, if you ask me to go back and do it again, the answer is yes.
Matt: I need to drag you guys someplace warm.
Scott: We do need to go someplace warm, some place tropical.
Matt: Vietnam with scooters and twenty five cent beers.
Scott: I think that actually came up at some point in the trip we were talking about doing 50cc scooters somewhere.
Clay: Yeah, let’s do something different.
Scott: With flip flops.
Clay: It took me a while to recover from that.
Matt: You were burned out for, I don’t want to use the word ‘burned out’...
Clay: No, but it’s the right word.
Clay: I was burned out for a while. 2019, the last half of ‘18 and into ‘19 here, has been a tough year, a tough go.
Matt: And I mean, I’m sure everybody doesn’t know, you guys were the first team to do a North-South crossing of Greenland. I mean, is that correct?
Clay: Mmhmm, South to the North.
Matt: South to the North in vehicles.
Clay: And most of the way back.
Matt: When you guys were at like abandoned US military facilities from the Cold War that, I remember Scott you saying something like there was still milk in the cupboards, or that sort of thing.
Scott: Yeah. I mean, there was beer in the bar, it was unbelievable.
Matt: This was, this was a legitimate expedition. You know I think that the term gets thrown around quite a bit these days, but this was, I mean you had to have medical staff with you because if you messed up, you know… It’s not like you had a long walk home, you were done.
Scott: Yeah, we had an ER doctor by the name of Jon Solberg on with us and we needed to, because we were essentially in these areas of inaccessibility where you could not get a rescue helicopter in easily...
Scott: ...to pick us up. So, Jon would have to stabilize, or maybe even have to deal with an emergency appendectomy in the middle of the Greenland Ice Sheet.
Clay: He learned how, he read up on how to remove an appendix before he left.
Matt: Which was it an appendix in Australia, for Bruce [Dorn]?
Scott: It was an appendix.
Matt: Yeah, so early on in Expedition 7 that was almost a thing.
Scott: It actually was almost a thing.
Clay: There's two things I worry about.
Matt: On the Canning Stock Route.
Clay: It’s my appendix and teeth. You know? If any of those two things go down, man. Oh, it’s going to be horrible.
Scott: It can be horrible, teeth can be debilitating.
Scott: It’s amazing. And that’s definitely something for the listeners to be mindful of, is when you plan a big trip, go to the dentist before you go. Get all of that sorted out before you leave because teeth can literally bring you down, or get you really sick too, if you have an infection.
Clay: Good thing is you can pull them out, if it gets real bad. You can do that necessarily with your appendix.
Scott: Not as easily.
Clay: Not as easily. “Scott, I got this pocket knife! Could you help?”
Matt: So we were talking about camera gear, and you said, your advice was, “Don’t get caught up in the gear.” Do you think sometimes people in this industry have a tendency to get caught up in the gear and not the travel?
Clay: That is a loaded question.
Matt: Oh, it is. It is a loaded question. But that’s why we’re here, is to ask the real things.
Clay: Yes. And I’m guilty of it too.
Matt: We all are.
Scott: Shiny objects.
Clay: Yeah, and here’s the deal. I’ve really pulled back in some ways, ask me tomorrow it’ll be a different answer, but the gear is a lot of a part of the fun.
Matt: Yeah, yeah.
Clay: It’s a big part of the fun.
Matt: It enables the adventure.
Clay: Yeah. And, as I’ve gone through the different cycles of adventure, and going on trips, and then not being able to go on trips. You know, and I’ve kind of evaluated myself. The gear can help you get, the selection of gear, and the picking of this, and buying of that...
Matt: You have to have good gear.
Clay: It can help you get through the dry time. You know? And then you get on the adventure and you realize, “Okay, a lot of this stuff, I didn’t need.” You know? But, it’s there. It’s just a part of the process, and I don’t know if I’ll ever eliminate it, I think you just need to be aware.
Matt: I think it should, I mean it's not a problem, and maybe I should backtrack there. I don’t think there’s a problem.
Clay: Well, there is a problem.
Matt: I just think, you know, what’s your advice for getting people out on the road? How do you think you can, I mean, other than dedicating your life to making a series that influences adventure? You know, there’s that small thing that you’ve done. What’s your advice? Take somebody that is your average person, three kids like yourself, married, you know, has a nice life, has probably the financial ability to do these things, but may not have the, I’m going to use the term, emotional ability. I mean, it takes a lot to do a 180 in your life, you know? And you did that 180 in a big way. You jumped off the deep end. You did the traveling and turned that into your career as well. But, for a guy that wants to get out, what do you tell him?
Clay: Yeah, it’s that classic, take small steps, baby steps, with the big picture in mind. You can work, you can become, I think you can become an established, or an experienced explorer over time, without ever going on a big trip. Eventually you have to. But what I’m saying is you can get a lot of the skill sets in small steps, small trips. And if you focus on this right now, and focusing on fuel management on this one. This one’s maybe mechanical stuff, this one’s food preparation, this one’s… etcetera. Doing this over micro adventures, eventually you are building the toolbox that you need to execute a big one. And then, eventually you’re going to have to jump, and go do something big, and put it all to the test. And that’s really fun. But you can have these microadventures along the way, and put it together, and I’ve always taken Scott’s advice, when it comes to, and what I tell people, and I give you credit for this, is “Your truck’s finished when you’ve taken the last piece of kit off of it,” you know, “that you don’t need” If you need it, you need it, sure. And so, I back fill that with if you’re building your trucks and you’re going on these adventures, make those purchases for that vehicle based out of a need from your micro experience trips, that you’ve actually seen a need from this, not just something that you want. You’ll go a lot further faster.
Matt: And what I think is so cool is that if you follow along, through the history, and you watch XOverland, that’s almost exactly what you did. I remember when you guys were in Moab with the 100 Series, and what was that, a first generation Taco? Or was that a second gen Taco?
Clay: It was 2001, so that would have been a second gen. First gen. It was first gen.
Matt: Tacoma people must hate us.
Clay: It’s alright, it's about the adventure.
Matt: Or, in my case, please take a number.
Scott: You know, I think from my perspective, the industry needs to take responsibility for encouraging people. And that starts at the manufacture level, and it goes down to outfitters and includes media. You know I think that modifications can be, they can enhance your trip. As long as you do it with that intention in mind. I want people to be excited about sharing their trip story more so than sharing a picture of their vehicle with somebody else. When that mindset starts to shift, and people talk more about where they’ve been, than what they talk about what they’ve done with their vehicle, then I think that things are in balance. And you can always tell, when I talk to someone here at Overland Expo, the more they talk about the truck, the more I know they haven’t traveled, because they haven’t made that shift yet. I think about Matt, the trips that you’ve done on 50cc motorcycles in Vietnam, those are some of your best adventures.
Scott: And there wasn’t a winch in sight. And I think that, obviously equipment can enable things, like what we did in Greenland would have been impossible without extensive modifications to those trucks. That is the reason to do it, is because that’s the only way you’re going to achieve your goal. But I think what I shared, even today in a class at Overland Expo was if you’re spending more money on the truck, than you are on travel, flip the script. And start to spend more money on your trips than you do on the truck.
Matt: Yeah, and I think it's fair to say, I mean there is a lot of equipment that is very usable, right? You just don’t want to be the guy that has so much equipment. If you are truly a traveler, yeah, flip the switch. I mean, I would take a Subaru Crosstrek around the world, I mean people do every day.
Matt: I’ve been to some very, very random places, and here I am on 37’s with my crazy suspension or something, and a local family passes me the other way in a [Toyota] Corolla. And the rule is, there will always be a Corolla, or a scooter, or a something.
Clay: A Rental car.
Scott: Yeah, you’ll be humbled, you’ll be totally humbled. And I remember crossing parts of Columbia, towards the Venezuelan border, and I was on a GS and I was working hard, and I was adventuring to the max, and here comes two local dudes, two up on a 50cc motorcycle, and they blew by me, like they were winning the Dakar. And they were two up! They were just heading to their ranch, or whatever they were doing.
Clay: Every day.
Scott: And so, it’s just so important that we maintain that perspective of, add the modifications that you need to, but make the focus to be to get out and travel. And that brings up my next question which is, you’re embarking on some new adventures. You just started taking up powered paragliding. Maybe, did you do it because you felt like a rookie all over again?
Clay: I absolutely did it for that. Well I’ve always wanted to fly, but there’s just something about being challenged. And that’s what overlanding, when I first began, was a big challenge for me. I eventually learned a lot of the systems and was able to go on really amazing trips and get comfortable with it. And once you get comfortable, what’s the saying, “You get comfortable, you’re dying,” or something?
Scott: Yeah. You’re either growing or you're dead.
Clay: And I recognized I was in that spot and some people have said, “Oh you just did that to elevate the show.” No, I would have done it regardless. I just wanted to challenge myself. And flight’s been a big deal for me. I went to get a private pilot’s license, but I was shut down due to a class three medical at the time, two years ago. And I just never was able to get back, to get the training and stuff. I had a narrow window there. This was something that I could do. This was something I could step into. Ten days of training, cost is fairly low, but I could go and get it and start having that experience. And it’s been refreshing, because there hasn’t been a lot you can do to a powered paraglider. You can’t modify that thing. The heavier it gets, the worse it gets. So, there’s not much to do to it.
Matt: No lightbars, you’re saying.
Clay: Yeah, there’s no lightbars, yet on my powered paraglider.
Matt: We’ll work on the Maxtrax.
Clay: Yeah, working on that. So, that has been what it is for me. It’s an experience driven thing that I have been able to incorporate into another experience driven thing of overlanding.
Scott: And have you started to film some of that? Is that something we’re going to see soon?
Clay: Yeah. We have filmed seven episodes. We were going to break it into two series, but I got into the edit, and I was like this is all one big story, and I need to tell it that way. So we’re seven episodes in, of our nine part series that we’re shooting this year. And I do have two more episodes to film from Utah, down into Mexico coming up. And it should be good. We’ve been getting our butts kicked, it’s been hard, and it’s been good.
Scott: And where can people find that content right now?
Clay: That content will be released on YouTube, on our Expedition Overland channel. Follow our social stuff too for the updates as it gets closer and then I’m hoping that later next year I can find a way to get it also on Amazon Prime. Just like our previous three seasons.
Matt: Yeah, because you’re on Amazon Prime now?
Clay: We are! We are.
Matt: That’s an accomplishment.
Clay: That’s been a big deal.
Matt: Overlanding has gone Prime... Time.
Clay: I think that’s pretty cool.
Scott: Very cool.
Clay: We built our content to thrive on the big screen and YouTube was the platform that allowed it at the time. When we started on YouTube they only allowed ten minute videos.
Matt: I remember that.
Clay: Remember that?
Matt: It was a deal that you had to have so many followers until you could have a video above ten minutes, and that was a struggle at first.
Clay: That was a struggle at first. We’ve gone through it, but it was always built for the big screen, it was built for bigger platforms, because that’s the field I want to play on. So, eventually we got there. Just took nine years.
Scott: That’s amazing though. So what has been your most favorite vehicle you’ve ever owned?
Matt: That is a good question.
Clay: That is a hard question. I think right now it's… I’m a Tacoma guy, I am a Tacoma guy. I really like the X3 Meridian with the Habitat on the back. Love that.
Matt: Not the 60?
Clay: The 62 Series? That is like, that’s like your baby.
Matt/Scott: It’s soul. It’s just soul.
Clay: It’s got soul to it, yeah. And I haven’t driven that in over a year. That’s parked and put away because I can’t give it the attention it deserves. So it’s put away in my dad’s barn right now.
Matt: I mean the Meridian, it’s such a practical vehicle, right? I mean what more could you ask? I believe it has a heater in it, it has the AT Habitat.
Clay: Yeah, it’s the get in and go truck.
Matt: It’s just so built. And it’s relatively light weight too. I mean all of your sliders...
Clay: And it scoots too.
Matt: I want to say you had all of your stuff done in aluminum too, right?
Clay: It’s all aluminium, it’s super light, it’s a really well built truck. I think it’s one of our best built trucks we’ve ever done. I love my Prospector right now. It’s my daily driver, and for different reasons, due to its strengths. It can’t beat the 200 Series, it’s a hard thing to pick!
Scott: So if you were to leave, if you had to tomorrow. Someone said, “Clay, I’m handing you a million bucks, I need you to drive around the world, you can pick one vehicle, something you currently own, or something you could magically make appear the next day.” What would you leave in? Anything you wanted!
Clay: If it was in my fleet, and I had to drive around the world? It would be the 200 Series.
Matt: It’s comfortable.
Scott: And capable, and global serviceable.
Clay: Yeah. And I’d put a bed in the back. I’d sleep in the bed and I’d scoot. If I had anything? Right now I’d like to really build a Prospector with a Four Wheel Camper in the back, something like that would be really good. But the diesel platform wouldn’t be great for global stuff right now. With the DEF [Diesel Exhaust Fluid], and all that. So I’d probably have to go back to some form of gas.
Scott: It’s a tough spot.
Clay: It really is, a really tough spot! I don’t know. If diesel things weren’t a problem, I’d probably look at, like these Global X Vehicles, the four door one, that I could put my family in it and go. Those are kind of cool. Nothing bigger than that, that’s already really big. But yeah, I think right now, a Four Wheel Camper, and big long range tanks...
Scott: And off you go.
Clay: ...and go.
Scott: Awesome, how fun would that be, right?
Clay: Oh, man. I’m going to do that in a little way, I think.
Scott: How about you Matt? If you had to leave tomorrow?
Matt: A million bucks?
Matt: You get a million bucks.
Scott: And you never have to come back. You’ve got to pick a car, you’ve got to leave tomorrow.
Matt: A million bucks. Man, that is a question. You know the Gladiator would be the reasonable choice, but it would be like a Lotus Elise, or something, you know? And I would just stay at the Four Seasons. I’ve done the camping thing, and now everyone’s going to hate me, but just something different. I think life is just about experiences, and I like to do things that are drastically different. I mean, I think to a certain extent you can really isolate yourself from adventure. What’s that Yvon Chouinard adventure quote, “When everything goes wrong… [-that’s when adventure starts].” And I think that remains true. I think you can’t set yourself up for too much success. Whether I’d really take a Lotus, I don’t know. But I think something different, I think a Grand Cherokee Trackhawk would be a really interesting one, or an SRT8. I think he’s talking about a golf cart?
Scott: Just race people randomly all over the world.
Matt: Just 700 and 7 horsepower.
Clay: What about the Pontiac Aztec with the tint in the back?
Matt: So here’s the deal man, the Pontiac Aztec is very easy to hate on, but it was way ahead of its time!
Clay: Way ahead of its time.
Matt: It was essentially like the first crossover that we saw. I mean, like, you’d gouge your eyes out before you really looked at it. But when you were in it, like it was that first kind of activity vehicle, and I think that was ahead of its time. I think the Nissan Xterra was ahead of its time.
Clay: I wanted one so bad!
Matt: Nissan, if you’re listening, like, come on man, why is there no Xterra right now? There’s been a lot of vehicles like that. I don’t know, Brady, what would you do? What would you drive?
Scott: So I was walking down the aisle over here, there’s this Triumph booth, and there’s this Triumph Scrambler 1200 XE, it’s like this vintage…
Matt: Yeah, yeah! That’s very Scotty.
Scott: I would just get on that bike, I wouldn’t even add luggage to it yet, I would just start riding, and I’d figure it out along the way.
Matt: Head to the Belstaff store with your Triumph and then leave.
Scott: Yeah, then I could put it on a plane. I would be out of the United States and into Europe in forty eight hours.
Clay: Yeah, that’s pretty cool.
Scott: But I think if it was a vehicle, I’d be pretty tempted by, Dave Harrington [from AEV] built a regular cab Dodge Ram with a flatbed, I’d be really tempted to do that with some kind of a camping module, or camper on the back.
Matt: How about Dave’s Outpost?
Scott: Yeah, the Outpost would be perfect, and it’s gas too, so it easily can consume fuel around the world. It’s actually really nicely done, I was able to be in that vehicle across the Altar Desert. That would be sweet.
Clay: Yeah. That’s a pretty high contender.
Scott: That’d be the Instagram.
Matt: I just want to be Dave Harrington.
Scott: Who doesn’t? At least be as smart as he is. Well good! So, now that you’ve done all of these things, what is the next thing for you? We’ve talked about the idea of going around the world.
Scott: But if you could Clay, start to think about, without sharing something you don’t want to share, but what is next for you? What is next for XOverland?
Clay: that’s a good question. I’ve really been working hard on that. And since the end of the Pan American series, that’s been a bit of a battle, because that was such a big vision to accomplish, and there were many many times when we thought that we’ll never be able to do this, this way. Then we did, and it was finished, and it was almost like we outran vision. You know, it had vision fatigue, at least for myself. So I’ve been really working hard on that, and I think I’m in the middle of processing what I should do next. I’ve learned a lot in the last year, had life events happen in the last year that shaped me as a person. And I just don’t ever want to get stuck in the rutt doing something because that’s what other people think I should be doing, or that’s what the industry says I should do…
Scott: What you did last year.
Clay: Or what I did last year. So I’ve kind of been going through this big like, discovery phase again. I didn’t see it coming, but it’s definitely there. Now that I’m there, we’re working through it, we’re talking a lot about it and I think I’m getting toward the back end of the troubling part of that. I’m actually starting to think through good solutions and it’s amazing how much time it takes. And you just got to go with what you think sometimes. Being so busy doesn’t help with all this. Yeah, so I’m putting in myself in a position where I can hopefully make really good decisions coming up. You’ll just have to see what we end up doing.
Scott: Well, you’ve got a lot of fans in this space, a lot of people that respect what you do on the industry side, and hundreds of thousands of subscribers that are passionate about your travels, so we’re all rooting for you.
Clay: Thank you.
Scott: We’re all excited to see what you do next. Since we’re at Overland Expo, what is the thing that you’ve seen here that you thought, “That was really cool”? What was the one stand out?
Clay: I’m always looking for the innovation, because there’s always a lot of the same stuff year after year. And where’s the innovation? And I’m seeing it in the flatbed stuff. Perhaps going towards the Australian things that have been proven down there for a little while. We’re starting to see that, and I think that’s good. I think on the human element, being out East here, I have gotten, I’ve been encouraged a lot by a lot of people walking around today. Folks out here are really awesome, and I have heard a lot of the folks saying, “This is where I’m going, this is what I’m doing.” To me, interacting, I’ve heard less truck talk, and more travel talk here.
Scott: That’s awesome.
Clay: And I thought that was cool.
Scott: That’s a positive. How about you Matt? What’s been, like other than your dog, which is awesome.
Matt: Yeah, my dog’s cool.
Clay: Sweet baby angel?
Matt: Sweet angel baby Dakar. Please consider adopting a greyhound. But what have I seen that’s super cool? You know, this is one of the first times I’ve seen one of the Bruder trailers.
Clay: They are cool.
Matt: And I think you’re right, I think the industry is lacking a little bit of innovation right now. I have my own thoughts on that. But that Bruder is really next level. I think as the industry grows, it’s going to need to have those companies, even if it’s not a trailer, you know they’re really quite expensive. How much are those things?
Scott: Maybe $130/$145,000.
Clay: Starting, yeah.
Matt: Yeah, it’s expensive. You know, this is the camper trailer that Land Rover, when they’re launching the Defender for their prerelease photos, this is what they towed for their photoshoot. Like, it is really, really cool, and there is great attention to detail. I mean, there’s a lot of stuff going around. I think unfortunately there’s a lot of the same stuff going around, I think that’s something that as an industry, we’ll have to soon tackle is, “How many roof tents can we have without seeing any real leap forward in quality or innovation?” How many air compressors can we have?
Scott: I’m starting to see a lot more diversity in the vehicles. When we first started doing Overland Expos, it was like Tacoma, Tacoma, Tacoma, Land Cruiser, 4Runner, maybe a Land Rover.
Scott: And then we are now starting to see full size trucks.
Clay: Full size, yep.
Scott: We’re seeing Chevy Colorados, we’re seeing a lot of Jeeps.
Matt: Yeah, the industry is really taking hold of the Gladiator.
Scott: Yeah, which is all extremely positive and that might be the thing that sparks that innovation to a degree, but I think the thing that I took away so far from this Overland Expo that I loved the most was, all of the classrooms were packed full. In fact, there was standing room only, and a lot of them had a line of people out the door. Which, in my mind, you don’t really have an industry, if you don’t have people that want to learn something new, and they want to go experience it themself. And then along with that, there are couples in training.
Clay: Lot’s of couples.
Scott: There’s kids in the training.
Matt: There’s a lot of kids running around. You know, there’s a lot of that new generation that we have to make sure we inspire.
Scott: If you don’t have kids, and you don’t have families, you don’t have a future as an industry. And to see that here was extremely encouraging.
Matt: Yeah, I really hope Overland Expo continues that strong training classroom element, because without it they’re just going to really, rapidly turn into a trade show. I guess on the industry side, there’s been a lot of talk about, you know, are they going to continue doing this. I think it’s really essential.
Scott: I agree.
Scott: And it’s so positive, and I think it maintains the spirit of overlanding. I mean Clay, you’ve done such a good job of recognizing, like, the founding elements of overlanding and you’ve always reinforced those ethics. Which is one of the reasons why I believe that your video series is so critical, is that it doesn’t play into the hype too much, and it stays very ethical in its undertaking. And I think that’s a responsibility that all of us have in this industry, and which is why I’m so excited about this podcast series. I’m so excited about the people who remain the leaders in the organization and in the industry as a whole, including XOverland. I am really grateful for your time today, thank you so much for spending time with us. Matt, do you have any more questions for Clay?
Matt: Hmm, I have one more question for you. If you didn’t have to take a camera with you, and you were going to take Rachelle with you, where would you guys go overlanding?
Clay: I’d go to South America again. I want to do it all over again.
Matt: That’s awesome.
Clay: You know, I want to see it again, without having to produce something.
Matt: And speaking of your badass wife, who is actually way more inspirational than you are, she’s currently doing the Rebelle Rally.
Matt: And as of the first stage she was in the lead.
Clay: She was in the lead. I may have heard somebody walking by saying she was in second. So, I don’t know where she’s at right now.
Matt: But she’s so experienced with this, she’s been doing the Gazelle Rally in Morocco since…
Clay: She did three Gazelle Rallys in Morocco, and then one Rebelle, and this is her second Rebelle, so this is her fifth rally.
Matt: She’s definitely someone that we need to get on the podcast soon.
Scott: So isn’t it cool that we’re sitting in a white van at a trade show, and your wife’s out racing.
Clay: Ripping across the Nevada desert somewhere right now.
Scott: How awesome is that?
Clay: It’s pretty awesome.
Scott: That is pretty awesome.
Clay: I am so proud of her.
Scott: Yeah, you should be. She’s a wonderful human being. Well, thank you Clay, appreciate it.
Clay: You’re welcome.
Scott: Matt, thanks again.
Matt: You’re welcome.
Scott: And this wraps the Overland Journal Podcast, thank you all for spending time with us today.
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 include three circumnavigations of the globe. His polar travels include two vehicle crossings of Antarctica and the first long-axis crossing of Greenland. @scott.a.brady
Matthew is a leading expert in automotive adventure. He has extensively explored the world's most-remote places by 4WD, and is considered an industry authority on overland travel. Matt is the only American to ever become an editor of a major Australian 4WD publication, and has over 15 years of competitive auto racing experience. @mattexplore