The Turtle Expedition Shares 50 years of Overland Wisdom
Show notes for podcast #113
The Turtle Expedition Shares 50 years of Overland Wisdom
Scott Brady interviews his longtime mentors, Gary and Monika Wescott of the Turtle Expedition. They share insights from over 50 years of vehicle-based adventure travel from around the globe, including favorite vehicles, most memorable expeditions, and how to stay together through it all.
MODERN-DAY VAGABONDS ON THE ROAD OF ADVENTURE!
Known for her ability to make friends anywhere, Monika became buddies with this young monkey in the Amazon Jungle. Even with her five languages, she could not explain to her new friend why he couldn’t come with us.
During a 1988 visit to the Galapagos Islands, Gary came face to face with the original mascot of the Turtle Expedition, traveling slowly with its house on its back.
If you had stopped Gary Wescott on his way to journalism class at San Diego State University in 1967 and told him he would spend his life traveling around the World; or if you could have caught Monika Mühlebach Wescott as she peddled her bicycle home from school in the small Swiss village of Wiesendangen and tried to explain that she would join Gary in Mexico ten years later—–well, you might have encountered some disbelief.
Never-the-less, for the past thirty-nine years, these two intrepid adventurers and photojournalists have globetrotted from the arid deserts of Afghanistan, to the deepest jungles of the Amazon, and across the frozen steppes of Siberia, with sometimes no more than a camera and a backpack. Their travel/adventure stories have been published in fifteen countries and ten languages around the World, including Off-Road, Four Wheeler, Power Stroke Registry, Front Line, My Ford, Trailer Life, Truck Trend, Motorhome, Camping Life, and other U.S. magazines.
While backpacks are still an important part of the couple’s standard equipment, they do most of their wandering in specially prepared Ford four-wheel drive trucks. Replacing four previous travel/research vehicles, The Turtle V and its European-style Tortuga Expedition Camper is the latest home on the road. Based on a Super Duty F-550, it is carefully outfitted with equipment of proven quality and reliability. “Through years of experience, we’ve systematically found out what works.” said Gary, “In the places we go, reliability becomes all-important! This is not a vacation.”
A list of product sponsors on The Turtle Expedition’s trucks reads like a who’s-who of the automotive, marine, and outdoor equipment world—Michelin, Goodyear, Lowrance Automotive, Amsoil, Warn, Red Line, K&N, Racor, PIAA, Rancho, Everpure, Keiper Recaro, Blue Sea, Coleman, Dometic, Norcold, Xantrex, Eureka!, North Face, Cascade Designs, MSR, Old Town, Sage, Yakima,—–to name but a few.
In 1989, The Turtle Expedition spent fourteen months exploring South America. After shipping their vehicle to Colombia, Gary & Monika drove more than 50,000 miles, circumnavigating the continent and crossing it twice. Their path took them from the snow-bound Andean Mountains, over passes as high as 16,710 ft.; across the vast Atacama Desert, where in places, a drop of rain had not fallen in recorded history; and through the jungles of the Amazon Basin in Peru, Colombia and Brazil, where mud-choked trails were often impassable, even with four-wheel drive. Barges were needed to travel up swollen rivers.
Always in search of extremes, finding these giant lobsters was a goal during Turtle Expedition’s first video filmed in 1987. The Treasures of Baja California is slated to be re-released soon.
In the winter of 1996, they succeeded in driving completely across Russia, including Eastern Siberia, from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean. Siberia alone wraps around one third of the northern hemisphere and spans ten time zones. Complicated by the fact that there were no all-weather roads across the Far East, most experts, both Russian and American, said it couldn’t be done. In temperatures which can drop to below -100°F, plastics and rubber become brittle and even metal can crystallize and snap. Rumored shortages of food and fuel, and reports of highway robbery had to be contended with. Using a GPS and U.S. Defense Mapping Agency Navigational Charts, Winter Roads were followed for over 3,000 miles, including a 640-mile leg on the ice of the frozen Lena River.
The expedition involved more than simply crossing two continents. The couple took time to explore many parts of the former Soviet Union, including Lake Baikal, Tuva, and Altai regions. Eleven months and 16,000 miles later, battling the 80-mph winds and 3-foot snowdrifts of an Arctic gale, The Turtle IV pulled into Hammerfest on the North Atlantic’s Norwegian Sea, the most northern town in the World you can drive to. To their knowledge, they had become the first foreigners to ever drive completely across Russia without using trains or barges, and in all likelihood, no Russian has ever attempted this difficult route.
But Hammerfest was only a stepping stone, not the end of this three-year global circumnavigation. After exploring some of Central and Southern Europe, sorting through 15,000 slides, and publishing over 70 magazine articles, the couple retraced their route through Finland and continued around the World, with stops in Norway, the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Newfoundland, and Nova Scotia, on their way back to their California homebase.
After an exhausting two-day trek from Kilometer 88, we reached the famous Macho Picchu ruins near Cusco, Peru. Growing up in Switzerland, Monika has been an avid hiker all her life.
Long-range plans are currently under way to drive from Lisbon, Portugal, to Shanghai, China, following the Northern Silk Route. The Trans-Eurasian Odyssey will cross as many as twenty-seven countries and produce a documentary series for television on the children of each nation.
Do they worry about the political instability of some of the countries they visit? “Well, a little,” says Monika, with a slight Swiss accent, (she speaks five languages), “but what can you do? In over thirty-eight years we’ve rarely had a serious problem. It’s like the poisonous snakes and insects of the Amazon. You know they’re out there, but you still go into the jungle. The essence of an adventure is not knowing how it’s going to come out.”
While many envy Gary and Monika for their unique and exciting life-style, most of us are more inclined to remain armchair adventurers. We must be content to read—or watch—from a safe distance. The full-time travels of The Turtle Expedition, Unltd. may look like an endless vacation. “Actually,” says Gary, smiling, “it’s a lot of work—but someone has to do it.”
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:
Scott Brady 0:08 Thank you all so much for showing up to the Around the World Pavilion and the Overland Journal podcast. This is an absolute delight for me because Gary and Monika Wescott are, without question, the most inspirational couple that I've ever experienced in overlanding. In fact, I would credit them for my passion for the subject. So when I was still in the military, I was a multi sport athlete and I got into the- I first saw the Campbell trophy and that made me realize, wow, this is an amazing thing to do! Trucks and multi-sport. And then I started reading four wheeler magazine and also off road magazine and Gary and Monica had their stories of traveling around the world in that magazine and as I read it, I was absolutely wonder struck with their adventures- I was. I remember, like underlining and circling, like equipment that you use, and you guys had this list of stuff and then following your trucks, and it made me realize that a life like I live today was positive. So I have so much to thank you both for that. So it's an It's a huge honor for me to be interviewing you two today and to have known you both now for almost 20 years. So, it's a sincere pleasure. So thank you both for being on the podcast.
Gary Wescott 1:25 Thank you. Thank you for all your effort in bringing this whole concept of overland travel to the public eye.
Monika Wescott 1:31 Yeah!
Gary Wescott 1:31 We help, but you had much more- with starting overland journal and now this (inaudible). People know about it now.
Gary Wescott 1:38 A few more know about it now, for sure.
Scott Brady 1:42 Special thanks to this week's sponsor, GCI Outdoor. Whether you're heading out for a weekend of adventure in the woods or to your backyard, firepit GCI Outdoor gear is ready for whatever you have planned. GCI outdoor has been around for 25 years so they know what they're doing when it comes to the best in portable recreation gear. GCI has innovative products ranging from outdoor rockers to complete camera kitchens and everything in between and with a limited lifetime warranty, you know they stand behind everything they make. GCI outdoor gear is comfortable, durable and built for adventures big and small. Try them out for yourself, head over to their website at gcioutdoor.com and save 10% off your first purchase when you sign up for their email list. Thanks again GCI.
Scott Brady 2:26 We read a SEMA one year. Standing around their truck and we're talking with Paul Walker. You guys know the actor, unfortunately, he's passed away since but, we're all just talking about overlanding. There was three of us in the conversation and now there's a lot more that are a part of this conversation. So one of the first things that I'd like to do is just let the audience know where you guys have traveled around the world. So can you give us the highlights of your adventures? What were the big expeditions that you guys have done?
Monika Wescott 2:56 First one was driving around South America. Starting in Cartagena, Colombia, and when we went down to (inaudible) and then went up the Atlantic to Venezuela that was in 88-89 and we were traveling for 14 months.
Scott Brady 3:10 And then you guys have since- the one I remember the most was your trans-Siberia in the wintertime. Again, I was completely wide eyed like how is this even possible?
Monika Wescott 3:20 We didn't know either!
Gary Wescott 3:21 There were no roads (inaudible). Yeah, they said it wasn't possible and we had to worry about: no food, we knew that; no fuel, maybe; no roads, we already knew that. The weather was- could be minus 60, minus 70 degrees, which it was on (inaudible) occasion, and minus 60 was a normal day. And then was the people and can I tell a quick story about that?
Scott Brady 3:41 Please do!
Gary Wescott 3:42 I had been on three Camel Trophy's and the last one was the one in Siberia and one of the guys in the- Mark (inaudible) was the Camel Trophy contender, I was just a journalist. And so we went over to his father in law's house near Moscow and went to the dacha and had a barbecue and everything and went back to his father's apartment and had our traditional three shots of vodka. And we were talking about all the dangers and we wanted- we're still planning this trip to drive from Bhagavan all the way across Russia alone. Can we do it? I don't know, maybe you could do it. We should have a guide. We had gone to the consulate in San Francisco and he said Oh, bring a gun and wild animals, you have to have a gun. Okay. Alright, so we're talking to this guy and his bring marks farther along. And suddenly he looks at me and he says steel your pulse. So I did. And then he said feel your have pulse. (inaudible) Our hearts beat the same. We knew at that moment if (inaudible) across Syria also here all of Russia alone because the fact is our hearts beat the same. That's the true all over the world.
Scott Brady 4:38 And have you found that to be true?
Gary Wescott 4:39 Absolutely.
Monika Wescott 4:40 Absolutely. There's about 2% of people who are bad, but most people are good. You treat them with respect. They treat you with respect. You can find help anywhere. So even if you don't speak the language, Americans are worried about that, doesn't matter. Use your hands. Now you have translators offline. Just do it.
Gary Wescott 4:58 Sorry for the 20 questions but what's the most spoken language in the world?
Scott Brady 5:01 I would say it's English, most likely. Or hand signals.
Monika Wescott 5:03 Could be.
Gary Wescott 5:06 After smile, broken English. Everybody speaks a little bit, you know? Almost everybody.
Monika Wescott 5:12 You were asking about the second trip, so that was in 96. We left in January, we shipped from Tacoma, Washington to Macedon on the Pacific coast and then we traveled all across Russia for 11 months. We drove up to Norway to- we wanted to go to the North Cup, which is the most northern point in Europe but there was a huge snowstorm and the road was blocked. So we went to North Cup and we drove down into Switzerland where I'm from. We just hung out with- my mom's house a lot. And we traveled around Europe and then returned finally going back to Scandinavia, shipped to the Faroe Islands, then Iceland, then the truck was shipped to Newfoundland and then we drove back to California. So that was until the end of 98, so we were gone for three years. And the latest one was in 2013-14 we drove around the world the other way.
Gary Wescott 6:00 (inaudible)
Monika Wescott 6:00 We did that. We we drove to Baltimore, shipped to Belgium, and then officially started our Silk Road trans-Eurasian trip in Portugal at the most western point you can drive to on the continent and drove all the way to China, all through the (inaudible) to China. To the Pacific and then we took side trips, we went through Mongolia, Siberia on a new road that didn't exist in 96. From Vladivostok, we shipped to South Korea, spent a month there and then we shipped the truck back home and we went to Japan for three weeks. Well, that was the third year. And then we were ready to go again for South America in April 2020 but the borders were closed so we're hoping to ship early next year.
Scott Brady 6:15 Things changed, very much so.
Gary Wescott 6:44 Yes, Monika probably doesn't want me to talk about her too much but one of the amazing things you're asking about what changed our lives and the steps- when we were driving through Tajikistan, following the Silk Road (inaudible) a landlocked country, more than half of it's over 10,500 feet. Very third world and we're driving over a 14,000 foot past normal and we come down the road was terrible. We were following the walk on corridor, which was where Marco Polo went. And so we drive down to a level of about 10,000 feet and there's a little village there and a little creek running across kind of coming off a river and the truck is trashed. So we backed into the creek got a bucket and (inaudible) brush out, started washing it's (inaudible). Three girls came walking across this little footbridge. The one at the back stopped and walked out into the water took the brush out of my hand and started helping. She was 11 years old, she had magic in her eyes. We stayed there for three days, met her family. When we got back to California, we decided to sponsor and we've been doing that since that time and she is now 18. We just took her on a two week trip to Turkey to open up her eyes to the world and now she's getting ready to go to university. And we were just like we don't have any children buy boy. That has been the life- that trip changed our life so much, meeting that girl. And it's been the case of all of our trips. It's not the countries, not the landscape, you can see beautiful- we have beautiful mountains in Colorado and California. It's not food, you can get the recipes out of a book and cook them yourself at home. What really makes the difference is the people we meet on these trips, that's what is the exciting part for me.
Scott Brady 8:03 And they change us. I mean, we expect our journey to chang us in some way but it's always the people that we meet along the way that actually change us.
Gary Wescott 8:12 Big time, yeah.
Monika Wescott 8:12 Yeah. And then one of the important things we learned in traveling is don't travel too fast. Take your time, spend a week, two weeks in one place. You go to the market, no, the old lady is gonna recognize you the second or third time and you have this conversation which is part of their culture, having a conversation and she'll stick another tomato in and you become friends. And these are the memories you keep that you live.
Gary Wescott 8:37 Part of this don't travel too fast was when I left South Lake Tahoe in 1972. And my land rover before I met Monica was talking with my girlfriend who started a turtle expedition with you together and we were going to South America. Okay. And I didn't I lived in Mexico before I figured you know, okay, I'll give them all in a couple months, no problems. But I read a book by John Steinbeck called Travel the charm and he said don't take the trip. But the trip take you down like that in the back of my head of our backpack of our first T shirts with when a turtle expedition became a reality had to have a name landour was very slow and it was blue with the blue turtle. So we call the turtle so don't take the trip which chip Thank you. Okay, so I started off down so South American bilateral and then along the way when I broke up, like my girlfriend and we and I was still going to South America, but that wasn't taking the trip. The trip was taking me nine years later, I was still driving around Mexico doing stories for winter magazine and off road finally got to South America. But that will be tough. But that the myth of that travel use point don't take the trip take you and so important.
Scott Brady 9:39 Would you say though that that decision is what helped you encounter Monica? The fact that you had a bit you weren't so focused on the objective. You were focused on experiencing the journey allowed for you to connect?
Gary Wescott 9:51 I've been camping on a beach with a guy who is my travel partner FM's and somebody that skinned I wouldn't be safe and so he had Our camping on the beach in Gonzaga Bay, which is a bog California and we had we would get into we ran out of important things like ice and mayonnaise and stuff like that. So we hadn't stopped that there was a place called La Sunita hotel to fly and fishing resort. And so we knew we could go there and park the landlord would wash it. And maybe it was one of the routes to take a shower, which we haven't had for a long time. So we didn't have any water for showers just sure ocean been pushing that. And that's when Mark and I were sitting. We're sitting on a table with a couple other girls who slept with one other girl while some other some other people who did we're done Mexicans and probably will we were just chatting around, you know, the way you do around table after dinner. Question comes up, what do you do? And I think Bruce and I would film he said, No, I'm I'm a carpenter, you know, that was working part time now. And Monica said, Well, I'm a, I'm a teacher, I'm going back to Switzerland to teach. And I said, Well, I'm driving to South America. And I looked at Monica and I said, I want to come?
Gary Wescott 10:02 And I said maybe! (Inaudible) Anyway...
Scott Brady 11:02 Wonderful. It's incredible how just making those decisions to slow down I think about if there was anything that stands out to me that I would change with buying Bibles, it's that I've traveled to. So that same area that you went through, we do the walk on corridor, I did that in about three and a half days. Yeah. And you guys probably took (inaudible), so...
Monika Wescott 11:21 But we were on a march route, because we had a certain date, we had to enter China. The other thing I want to say if you if you love to travel, go travel, because you will meet somebody else who loves to travel. Oftentimes there are couples or people who meet up and one wants to travel and the other one doesn't. And it's not compatible. But if you travel, if you dare to go and travel, you'll meet somebody that travels and that's happened to us, we have many friends it happens to.
Gary Wescott 11:46 To travel the way we travel, any kind of overland travel, takes a lot of responsibility. So you want to find somebody that has responsibility. And that's not difficult. But then you want to find somebody that doesn't have any responsibilities, like a house and a dog and a mother that taken care of a child or a job that can lead for more than two weeks. Those are the responsibility that stick you where you are.
Monika Wescott 12:08 Well the job today now you can do on the road.
Scott Brady 12:12 So that leads me to the next question without it being a definition. What does overlanding mean to the two of you, now that you've done it for so many decades, nearly five decades?
Monika Wescott 12:23 We've done it before the day was created.
Scott Brady 12:26 It was about herding cattle at one point. What does it mean to you guys?
Gary Wescott 12:30 I didn't have a direction. You know, I've been teaching swimming. I was cooking in a restaurant. I was hammering nails. I had been studying pre med for to be a veterinarian and (inaudible) college and I worked at the kennel and found out oh shit, all dogs aren't like mine. I had a border collie. So I'm not gonna spend eight years going to school to take care of mongrels of people who can't take care of that. Just stop that right there. So what am I going to do? So I switched to photography, because I've been editor of the yearbook and school photographer in high school. And then I thought where I got this idea. I took a girl out with foreign exchange in France and she gave me the book, I saw her pictures. I thought well, okay, this (inaudible) and then the people living in the commune that I was living at the time had gone to Nepal. So I put my backpack on, I got a plan, left my car with a friend in San Diego and flew to Amsterdam, Dam Square, where everybody met. And then I started hitchhiking.
Scott Brady 13:25 How about for you, Monika?
Monika Wescott 13:26 Well, I'm Swiss. I was born in Morocco. I did my school in Switzerland and one of my dad's goals was that we would be kids who would live abroad for a year because he knew what he brought him living in Morocco, just change of life experience, learning a new language. So I was kind of raised in that environment. I was 16, I went with four girls to France. I mean, Europeans do that. They still do that. The travel part I feel I've done it all my life. The overlanding itself was just kind of a continuation. I was teaching in (inaudible) for a year and then as he said, my girl friend, Veronica and I, we drove to California to lay on the beach where it was freezing cold so we decided to go to Baja and we had no clue-
Gary Wescott 14:08 You're going to San Diego and the beach. You don't get up until 11 o'clock.
Monika Wescott 14:12 So we ended up in Boulais and I met Gary and here I was in a split on the road. Do I go back to Switzerland, teach again- I'm sure my parents wanted me to marry a doctor or a lawyer and I become a housewife or should I go travel? Travel was more fascinating so that's how I ended up there and overlanding itself... we love backpacking, camping out in the boonies is no big deal. Waking up in a tent is my most favorite thing to do. I always feel it's kind of a prenatal experience. Traveling with a vehicle was different and easy. We really didn't (inaudible) for that. We really didn't know about overlanding or what we were doing except- and entertaining the people but we were always somewhere. We never were in that four wheeler or a magazine office, maybe once a year. We were always out in the boonies somewhere doing things.
Gary Wescott 14:59 And I stopped punching the clock, I was not working anymore.
Monika Wescott 15:01 When we came to the first overland Expo in Prescott, we were at- a truck was on its way and a man comes up, a retired man with a little folder, and he opened it up and here were all our South American stories that were published in Formula Magazine. And he said, I retired, my dream was to travel in South America and I followed the whole route that we took several years before that, and that's when it hit us, that our goal- our purpose in life is to inspire people to follow their own dreams and their own goals, so...
Monika Wescott 15:15 Since then, we've seen so many letters, so many emails, so many people following the with websites now. It is true, we have inspired- it's a little bit, kind of strange feeling to have inspired that many people but we have inspired thousands of people.
Monika Wescott 15:52 And it's nice to hear back from them now. The one thing- if you're still in a dream stage of wanting to go get the DVD or the book called The Secret by Rhonda Byrne, it helps you laser focus on what you go with. Ignore the chatter from everybody else and saying you're crazy. Just focus on that goal and do it, that's one of my inspirational books I read.
Scott Brady 16:15 That's good, because I'm gonna ask you guys about books. One of the things that I've always admired. I remember it was at SEMA, most likely, and someone came up and they asked you, you know, how much- do you consider yourself a four wheeler? And you said, no, no, I'm not a wheeler, I'm a traveler. I happened to drive a four wheel drive to get me where I want to go. And that really stuck with me because it helped me remember and remind myself that the vehicle is a tool for me to get to where I want to see something in the world or someone that I want to meet in the world. And that was also really amazing to hear that. These vehicles are tools that we use. Looking back on all of your turtles, what was the one that you kind of love the most? And what was it about it that you love the most?
Gary Wescott 16:59 Well, it has to be, for me, a landrover. The turtle one (inaudible) because I built it from a 109. The dream came to me when I was sitting in a pudding shop Istanbul, famous place for travelers to meet on the way there on the (inaudible) trail. Clinton was there and I'm sitting there having my cup of coffee and I've been traveling now for almost a year- nevermind my little stint in prison in Iran, (inaudible) but what I was really tired of is I was tired of taking public transportation. I was tired of looking out the window and seeing what are those people doing? And I was tired of (inaudible) and I needed a travel companion. I could not stand in the middle of the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, looking up the aisles and go can you believe that? I can't- I'm not the kind of person- I need to share so that was the impetus for me, and then right then a landrover pulled across the street, a long wheelbase, they popped up their dormobile and a guy and girl got out, I said that's the way to travel. Six months later was walking down the street in San Francisco in a used car lot, 109 was sitting there waiting for me to buy it and I did it. That was the beginning, that was my- certainly my first love because the the tire in the hood and the tire in the back and the Land Rover, the whole image of the two (inaudible) together and going on an expedition. You just have that image. What turned out to be it wasn't gonna be the best travel vehicle but with the way I built it for two people to really be comfortable and clean and cook and it was just- it was a great design for us, Monika noticed that when she met me.
Monika Wescott 18:27 I think the least- that we use the least was to turtle two, the Chevy, but then the turtle- you know each one in our stage of life was a good vehicle to have and then a turtle four across Russia I mean you didn't sell it for almost 10 years because we didn't use it anymore because you felt that was the best vehicle you've ever had. And now that turtle five is well older it's a little more comfortable. Still the same places but we like them all.
Gary Wescott 18:54 We've learned a lot building the turtle five and riding it now around the world I tell people you know, a lot of these vehicles out here are wonderful and beautiful, designs are increible. Drive up the Silk Road to China and turn around and come back, you will find out what works. Drive it to the tip of South America and come back and find out what works, and we've done that. So that's my image of- now and if I were to build a turtle six on some other truck, there would not be a lot of things I would change because it works.
Scott Brady 19:19 Well, you found out what works for you.
Monika Wescott 19:21 Absolutely.
Gary Wescott 19:22 That's very important for us, yeah. It builds for two people you gonna build a camper for more than two people it's a whole different design.
Monika Wescott 19:27 Gary also suggests not to buy a new vehicle. Buy alone vehicle and spend the extra money and upgraded with better better components and make it stronger and safer.
Gary Wescott 19:37 There are millions and millions of full blown pickup trucks out there for it's okay if you like even with the 7.3 danger though maybe Mom and Pop had one a pulley trader across the country she wants to get a motorhome now trucks been immaculately taken care of. You can get it for practically nothing compared to what a new truck comes with now 80 $90,000 If you want to stay in the middle, I used truck. No reason that that's the fun part is that because there So many of them out there 1000s of companies at SEMA making products just a little bit better than Ford or Chevy or dodge, but every years, big bearings, huge joints, water pumps, fan belts, shocks, suspension, you name it, there are products out there, just over 7.3, which is a wonderful engine, we are the 1,000,001 there are probably 15 things we've done in that engine not to change the engine just to make it a little more reliable, a little more serviceable and that is so important to get people to realize don't go out buy a new truck with all these chips and electronics by us what make it better with the money you saved.
Monika Wescott 20:33 What's up fuel you have to use in the new trucks?
Gary Wescott 20:37 (inaudible) I haven't tried it yet, but I think it will probably drink vodka If you pour it in. But that would be a waste of vodka. Any kind of diesel and diesel all over the world is just diesel. Some of it has sulfur, okay, the engine doesn't care activities, get it done. The catalytic converter care, we don't have one. That's what care that'll tell the engine, something's going wrong slowdown with the engine doesn't care, it just burns anything.
Monika Wescott 21:01 And diesel is the best fuel to use in world travels, all the trucks use it. And those some of those trucks are very expensive, like in Brazil or whatever, your diesel will always be good. We still have an extra filter, but it has maybe twice in South America that we had bad field so it's...
Gary Wescott 21:19 Just bring the filter and the filter. So if you call up United Kenworth or Peterbilt, or something like that, in the unity country, come on, I was in Russia, and they're filling up their diesel engine cost more than your truck! Safe.
Scott Brady 21:30 And it's so much safer to store cans of diesel, it's so much safer than cans of gasoline.
Gary Wescott 21:34 I shudder when I pull up behind a van and it's got two cans of gasoline and a propane tank. (inaudible) somebody runs into the back of it!
Scott Brady 21:42 So now that we've touched on the one technical subject, I wanted to ask the next thing that comes to mind for me, because I'm sure people think about this is having traveled for five decades together, first of all, what have you learned about each other through that time that you find really made it possible? And then how have you changed your own interactions with each other to make it awesome?
Gary Wescott 22:03 That's a heavy question.
Monika Wescott 22:04 A couple of them, I think you need first of all, you have to be organized, and you sort of have to be in the same group. If one is really messy, and the other one is very organized, that's not gonna work. So that's kind of the same concept, then we share responsibilities. And we have separate responsibilities that said, like, for example, when we pack up, I take care of the inside here, it takes me outside, that doesn't mean I don't know how to change a tire. And that doesn't mean he doesn't know how to cook, I have to know- in my own mind, I have to know how to change the oil, how to change a tire, how to check the oil, how to check for everything, I can't change (inaudible). It's very, very crucial that to the partner who doesn't always drive and those do the maintenance doesn't do the maintenance knows the basic things because there could be an emergency, the driver can break a leg, you can be unconscious, whatever, you have to be able to get them to somewhere where it's safe. So what was the question again?
Scott Brady 23:03 Oh, maybe I'll frame it a little different after 5 decades of traveling-
Monika Wescott 23:06 Four and a half (inaudible) five years.
Scott Brady 23:09 Four and a half decades of traveling with Gary, what do you most admire about him looking back at all those years?
Monika Wescott 23:19 He is very focused on his goals. He does great preparations in the vehicle. He's a great writer, I think just the ability that we can give each other enough space to travel together for 24 hours a day in a vehicle the size of your bathroom.
Gary Wescott 23:34 Well obviously in the very beginning, I was traveling with a guy and the matter was built like all my trucks that I designed with Land Rover started out that way, but it was designed to sleep two people of the opposite sex. Okay, so I sat and looked across at Monica, she was a really cute, look about 18- she was a year older but she looked 18. I thought wow, what a cute girl. You know, I want to travel with her. Bruce, are you gonna leave he was gonna leave anyway. So my first impression was sort of purely physical attraction. But then- but that doesn't make a relationship. There's an infatuation point and then there's a respect point. And the more I learned about who Monica was and how better intelligence was, what her compassion for things were, a sense of responsibility without having responsibilities- remember that part- she was able to get away indefinitely without responsibilities. Like when I broke away from South Lake Tahoe wouldn't I be 72 If I didn't have to come back ever. Nothing threw me back, no job, no dog, no house, no carpet, nothing. She had kind of that position. She could leave anytime she wanted to. But she didn't have to. And that was a really special thing about her. And then as I learned to live with her and see her sense of responsibility and her abilities to do things that that maybe I could not do as well, like I don't think a checkbook, things like that you start getting to get back down to beyond physical attraction, it gets them to respect and that turns into real love.
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Monika Wescott 25:27 I one thing while we were in Russia, in Siberia, where we it was, it was not dangerous, but we still constantly were on guard. And so it was a difficult trip. And what we learned is that we had each other's back, whatever it was, we had each other's back. And I think that's extremely important.
Gary Wescott 25:45 Stuck on a mountaintop with a storm coming behind us and the land rover- the truck was stuck in the snow, (inaudible). I had just ripped off the mud flaps back in the snow and we knew we had to get over this pass and maybe get down the other side. Maybe we get it, (inaudible) and this was already you know, we were if we didn't, we'd be there till spring and so the two of us got that truck out of there, put the chains on, got over the top of the hill, down, pulled into an old barn that the Russians had used and had a shot of tequila and vodka and we realized that and that the teamwork that we had was amazing.
Monika Wescott 26:21 And you learn that you can actually do much more than you in situations like that you're much more powerful, and they have the direct journalism kicks in and you can do so much more survival skills than you've ever dreamed you can.
Gary Wescott 26:35 I didn't have the saying in my mind at the time. But it comes back frequently now having recently sat down and listened to The Secret. (inaudible) famous saying, whether you think you can or you think you can't, you're probably right. It's an amazing thought.
Scott Brady 26:47 Like you said he sets a goal. You guys have gone for those goals.
Gary Wescott 26:50 You got to be laser point.
Scott Brady 26:52 You really do you want to have success or you want to achieve the things that you want to see in life, you got to realize that life will always be hard will always be things that will come up. Don't delay from doing what you want you better dreams. So since you know that that's always going to be the case, it'll always be something stopping you, you just got to do it.
Monika Wescott 27:08 You just gotta push through it, and that's with travel or anything in life.
Scott Brady 27:13 In business and relationships, all of those things.
Gary Wescott 27:17 You have to be realistic about the fact that the essence of adventure is not knowing how it's going to come out.
Scott Brady 27:22 That's right.
Gary Wescott 27:22 If you know what's gonna come out, it's not an adventure anymore!
Scott Brady 27:25 Isn't that the truth?
Gary Wescott 27:26 And if you don't like where you are, by the way, you chose it, it didn't just happen. Whether you like it or not, you don't get to choose, you already did.
Scott Brady 27:36 And the only thing that we have control over is our reaction to it. Life is completely uncontrollable but the only thing we can do is change our view of how we experience it. We can be excited and happy and positive about it or we could choose to be grumpy about or complain or whatever else. So well, one of the things that I like to ask is, and this is wonderful to ask it of you too. If someone was getting started with overland travel, they want to go see the world what would be- from both of you- what would be your top two or three pieces of advice that you would want to give them if you had just a moment over coffee to talk to this young couple that's about ready to do what you guys did 45 years ago. What advice would you give them?
Monika Wescott 28:15 So they already have a vehicle?
Scott Brady 28:16 They don't have anything yet, they just want to go see the world.
Monika Wescott 28:18 Put on a backpack buy a ticket somewhere and hang out as long as you can with the money you have. Well, yeah, we don't have any kids. But yeah, I always said he had a kid What do you would do after high school or maybe after college? buy a plane ticket ask what where do you want to go give him buy my ticket, give him so much money and say go for it stay as long as you can find find a job, find out who you are. And you learn a lot about yourself going in and foreign country because you will have to rely on yourself. You have to make decisions you have to deal with people who don't speak the same language, but that's how you would start experiencing traveling.
Gary Wescott 28:54 And the other thing for sure, and I realized back now and things that I read that I that I have accomplished in my life things I wanted like my Austin Haley's, right like the Land Rover, like hiking the whitewash trail and Peru so many little things like that. I got those and I now I know how I got them and I didn't know exactly how I got but it was it was using the basic philosophy of the secret that system works have a dream board and I didn't even have a dream board write it down making the reminder put it on the wall and would be the bathroom. I laid in bed every morning looking up in my under a 24 foot trader before we even thought about going to South America who would read me by then. But I have a picture of a whitewashed range in front of the two big mountains glaciers coming out every morning I woke up and I looked okay, but someday we're going to hike there. I'd read something about it. Maybe I'm gonna get but that was you know, that was just one of those many things in my life. That happened because I was using the secret and get the book, get the DVD. Listen to a three or four times it's heavy. Absolutely true. Oh, that's great. It's amazing. That was that was the one book that I would say people first if you have a dream that will push you into it.
Scott Brady 29:57 That's great advice. And you find that now that you've done on all of this travel that you found have found out who you are.
Monika Wescott 30:03 Life is a learning process. No matter how old you are. And it's good because if you stay put you get stuck, so you evolve, hopefully for the better.
Gary Wescott 30:16 Once you lose your health, you'll never appreciate it until it's gone. Staying healthy is really important. But I love the saying I've just recently learned somewhere in a book or something. He didn't know what they did not know. How would you be 38 Okay. You can choose it. I love it. He was just a number on the calendar, you know, how you feel in your heart? You know, I'm still looking at pretty gross all the time.
Scott Brady 30:41 On the books object other than The Secret, what are some other volumes that have inspired you? Can be on any subject, things that- this is a selfish question that I always ask cause I love to read. So what books would you recommend to the audience?
Monika Wescott 30:55 You should have told us or asked us before. I think I started getting hooked on traveling as a teenager, one of the most inspiring books was Afghanistan by John Michell, that's the one that sticks out in my mind. And there are other German books that I read that by a famous writer who you can't get into the state so but it's it seems like I have always tended towards traveling adventure traveling. So other than that...
Scott Brady 31:22 That's a good one. So The Secret (inaudible). And of course, you have two have written several books so make sure you guys look up the-
Monika Wescott 31:31 He co-authored.
Scott, Monika, and Gary together 31:42 (Inaudible).
Scott Brady 31:45 I'm gonna open it up to some questions in a few minutes but is there a book you want to share?
Gary Wescott 31:49 Certainly the Jack Lemmon books inspired me a little bit about writing and traveling. Certainly I just reread old man and to see again, Steinbeck and fellow with Charlie and certainly gave me but it's been absolutely one book that probably changed my attitude. Now I'm not a religious person, I don't go to church. My mother was a Christian, she raised me they believe in doing unto others as you would have them do unto you. Because by the time I read a book by Nicholas Carr decides to have a degree. And he recorded his whole life.
Monika Wescott 32:20 Well, it was the book was called Report to (inaudible).
Gary Wescott 32:23 About his life. And he spent his entire life he was a teacher or philosopher or writer, a priest, he was a Buddhist, he was everything. He spent his whole life looking to God, whenever you discover who he is, and finally sitting in his yard, I believe, and the flowers were blooming on Crete, when he was born, he found out that God is everywhere. And that was just such a relief to me to find out that I was part of me was, that's what he found out, he found out.
Monika Wescott 32:49 And yeah, that was a very important time in your life when you were traveling and coming back from Nepal.
Scott Brady 32:56 Yeah. And you guys have seen so much so you've been able to experience all of that magnificence of the world around us. I want to open it up to some questions. But before we do that, how do people find out more about you? What's your social media stuff and your website? And how do they find out more about the turtle expedition and Gary and Monica?
Monika Wescott 33:15 Well, we've had a website for a long time. It's turtleexpedition.com. They are not as active on social media as you should. But you'll find this on Facebook on the turtle expedition or name's Gary and Monica Wescott. Same on Instagram and Twitter. I promised myself I'll post a little more, or maybe not I talked about right. I want to hear about and if you go on our website, and you have personal questions, there's a Contact button you can write to us. And we will always write back.
Gary Wescott 33:45 When we do have blogs, there's a section on our homepage that says sign up for the news, right? (inaudible) subscribe to news. Every time there's a new blog, no matter whether it's about the engine that I just posted or whether it's about something else.
Monika Wescott 33:57 Traveling.
Gary Wescott 33:57 Travel, you'll get a notice that there's a new, there's a new blog, you can look at it, or you can delete it.
Scott Brady 34:03 Alright, any questions from the audience for Gary and Monica, if you'd like to ask the OGs, right here in front of you.
Questioner #1 34:09 How do you finance insurance?
Gary Wescott 34:11 Well, we're not rich for sure if we have a lot of sponsors on our big journeys like driving around South America and driving around Siberia, across Siberia, and we had board was a sponsor, they supplied our crops BF Goodrich supplied our tires to ammo supply in our oil. Range X was a big sponsor. When your shoe covers a lot of little sponsors like that made us a little bit keep their logos on a chalkboard sort of like a race car. You see pens while I'm in front of a Formula One car they don't use Pennzoil they use some special formula that's developed just for that age and the rear will be entered after every race anyway doesn't matter. But people see that exposure name exposure of a major product and we gave companies a major amount of exposure and magazines were full covers and inside double pages and magazines a lot about what hardware used and what glitches we use the what lights really using them that has not paid off in between We would get some financial sponsors, you have to do some of these extensive travels because in a race car, when you get exposures, you win or you crash and you get exposure. We never crashed, we always won because there was nobody else use RAC. We created the race and I covered it.
Monika Wescott 35:15 But that was not in the beginning. In the beginning, Gary wrote an article he stamped it in regard to checks we move to the next place. So it was definitely hand to mouth or operation we just stay put longer in one place to feel is the most expensive part. And so for years, and you only work for for for magazine for years, but about nine years, four wheeler as as we got into as we started having the exposure and people started taking notice and company started taking notice how much we were in the magazine. That's when we got approached by Ford offered us a truck. And eventually during the nine years when everything was flushed, we did turn into financial sponsorship, which in 2000 stopped then we did add some trips for a while in the early 2000s. And then Gary started writing for many different magazines that as printed out a lot but we are you know retirement age so you still write he was still writes every once in a while, so...
Gary Wescott 36:15 We found out that magazine just like for Weaver practically every country so I started contacting those magazines, we would send the exact same story of Japan to Australia to England to France to Martina the same selection of slides. There's no cross reading, same people in Japan would read the story. And they would put a picture of the landlord bones in the mascot lines, or we would put a little picture like that nasty. Japan did a full sprint that was different than how many of us manually but it was. Yeah, with that picture.
Monika Wescott 36:47 You're hearing that he's talking about slides, okay? This is a totally different era now. We came back from Russia with 365 (inaudible) That's like 10,000 slides. So they're still in boxes. So now with the media aND many more people doing the same thing, it's just a different ballgame.
Scott Brady 37:10 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 37:58 Thank you so much for sitting and participating in the Overland Journal podcast. All of you listening makes such a difference for us and it's an honor to share all this with you as well. We'll all stay around after if you've got any questions for Gary and Monica or myself and look forward to chatting with you.