Taking A Sabbatical
An Epic Overland adventure is not your standard piece of travel - it is a little bit longer than your standard two weeks in the sun and, more pertinently, longer than the annual holiday allowance from work.
Finding three months to travel from London to Sydney or London to New York is not easy - but we think it is worth it.
Most travellers on these trips are on a gap year before or after university, taking a break from work - be it a sabbatical or just time off, enforced or voluntary, from a career - or with time on their hands after the kids have left home or following retirement.
But is taking a sabbatical or quitting work right for you?
TheGrownUpGapYear website asked that very question with Epic Overland client director Rob Freeman among those offering an opinion after facing a similar decision a few years ago.
Why Overland? London to New York, no flying
IN the second of a series giving an inside view on overland travel from the people who have experienced it first hand, Nick Machin guides us through his London to New York adventure.
“Over 90 days, I experienced so many wonderful things and saw so many amazing places which I will never forget - making it the best decision I had ever made.”
AFTER working as a journalist for 20 years and edging the wrong side of 40, I decided time was too precious and life too short not to at least try something a little risky.
And I wanted to do something big. Really big.
Which is why I got on a bus in London and, three months and several thousand miles later, got off a small passenger ferry in Manhattan with a lifetime of memories.
Making the decision to give up work was the biggest decision I had made, but once it was done, nervousness and utter excitement kicked in.
And over those 90 days, I experienced so many wonderful things and saw so many amazing places which I will never forget, making it the best decision I had ever made.
My life-changing journey began on a chilly mid-March morning when a small group of strangers met on the Embankment and climbed on board a bus which would take us through France, Belgium, Germany, the Czech Republic, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia before heading to Russia and St Petersburg and Moscow.
How wonderful it was to discover the joys of drinking a cold beer with new friends in the sunshine in a beautiful Brugges market square.
To drink in the stunning beauty of Prague’s majestic architecture. To get lost in the bizarre Thieves Market in Riga. To witness a Good Friday procession in the chocolate box city of Tallinn. To experience the simply amazing Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg.And to stroll through Moscow’s Red Square on a sunny April evening.
From Moscow, we left the bus behind and boarded the Trans-Siberian Express for a never-to-be-forgotten four-and-a-half day marathon journey of 5185km, taking us from Moscow to Irkutsk.
After walking across the frozen waters of Lake Baikal and driving on the ice in a former Russian ambulance, it was back on the train to Mongolia and two fantastic days in a ger community before heading back to Ulan Bator and the overnight train to Beijing.
For ten days, my senses were bombarded as we travelled around China – from the huge contrasts of Beijing to the gritty, sweaty Xi’an, to the lung-busting scale of the Great Wall and the jaw-dropping brilliance of the Birds Nest Stadium.
And after buses and trains, next it was the boat. And a big one at that.
We jumped on to the Diamond Princess cruise liner as it was passing Beijing and after two weeks of fine food and wine, dancing and karaoke, hopped off in Alaska for the last five weeks of our journey.
And what a fabulous five weeks it was – drinking and dancing in Chilkoot Charlie’s in Anchorage, hugging the Alaskan coastline in a kayak, hiking and camping in Denali National Park, taking a ferry back to the campsite at midnight in Dawson City, watching the sun set and rise from the back of a ferry gliding slowly along the
Inside Passage, enjoying a curry in Vancouver, baseball and the fabulous Pike Street Market in Seattle, yomping through Yellowstone, relaxing in the waters of Chena Hot Springs, the thrills and spills of white water rafting in Wyoming, enjoying some blues in Chicago and the bright lights of Times Square.
There were too many wow moments on my three month adventure to list here, but suffice to say, it was a journey that ticked pretty much every box I’ve ever had and one which I cannot recommend highly enough.
Check out the website, study the routes, contact us with any questions - there’s a lot we can tell you about overland travel.
But there are certain things you can only hear from the people who have been there, done that and got the T-shirt (normally quite a few T-shirts, their logos providing a walking map of the places you’ve visited).
To give you an inside view of life on the road, we are running a series of articles written by passengers who have completed either the London to Sydney or London to New York trips.
Kicking things off is Rick Davey, who headed out on a London to Sydney adventure two years ago and hasn’t finished travelling since.
“What if you could turn getting to the place you were visiting into part of the adventure?”
BUSES aren’t my favourite way to travel. Noisy, uncomfortable, and full of strangers who ignore you, push past and just want to get home after a hard day’s shopping.
But I have a bus challenge for you: next time you have a spare hour or two - go out, get on the next bus that passes and just look around you.
Smile at another passenger, speak to them and say hello. Put down your phone and take off your headphones - look out of the window and actually take notice of your own city or town.
I promise you will see things you never noticed before. You live in a great and interesting place, no matter where it is.
Now take it a stage further. Pack a backpack, jump on a bus in London and travel halfway around the world to Australia or New York. Think of the things you will see as you pass through Eastern Europe, Turkey, India, Malaysia, Australia and more.
Then combine those sights with the people travelling alongside you, who started as strangers but transform into friends along the way as you experience the journey of a lifetime together.
Imagine yourself getting on a bus with people you didn’t know and setting off together. Not for an hour or a day, but for weeks or months.
Imagine the friendships I built as I flew in a hot air balloon, climbed volcanoes and held on tight as our tuk-tuks zipped through the traffic in India.
We swam with elephants and got chased by a rhino in Nepal. We visited the stunning Taj Mahal, saw majestic Mount Everest and we slept under the stars in the Australian Outback.
We met locals who greeted us like a long lost brother and fed us amazing food and drink. Every day was an adventure and everyone in my bus family remains a close friend.
Thats why I love overlanding – how often have you heard that phrase ‘It’s the journey, not the destination’?
What if you could turn getting to the place you were visiting into part of the adventure?
With overlanding, every day is a journey and every night is an exciting new destination. Travel is not about arriving – it’s about the trip you take to get there.
With overlanding, the journey is the destination, and your fellow passengers are there to share it with you.
It’s one of the biggest decisions I ever made, but I would do it again tomorrow.
- You can read all about Rick’s adventures on his blog
Mother of All Adventures
“Being able to catch a bus to Sydney or New York was such a wonderfully bonkers idea; somehow the world seemed a slightly worse place without it.”
Those are the words of Jo Thompson, explaining what drove her to get involved in the creation of Epic Overland.
Jo’s love for these amazing adventures stems from her three-month trip as a passenger on a London to Sydney trip in 2009.
She chronicled her experiences in a weekly column in the Daily Telegraph entitled “The Mother of All Adventures”, which followed her through the entire journey - from the first decision go to journey’s end on the other side of the world.
The series proved extremely popular and prompted a remarkable response from readers throughout the journey.
And now she has returned to The Daily Telegraph with an article entitled “To New York By Bus: Another Mother of All Adventures” which explains just why she had to help keep these amazing trips alive.
Welcome to Epic Overland
If you’ve got this far, chances are you are considering setting out on an unforgettable overland adventure. Welcome - we think you’ve come to the right place.
This website will provide you with plenty of details about our three-month trips from London to Sydney and London to New York - plus the shorter sections from London to Kathmandu, Bangkok to Sydney and London to Beijing - and the answers to many of the questions we get asked about them.
But in this blog, we aim to bring you more.
Great travel experiences don’t start the moment you sling the backpack over your shoulder and head off. Nor do they end when you get home, close the door and start shifting through the contents of that backpack.
The adventure starts the moment you start planning and ends… well, it never truly does. The best journeys live with you forever, in photographs, memories, stories and the friends.
And this blog aims to guide you through that journey, offering guides to preparing for your big trip - be it packing, obtaining those magical visas (don’t leave home without them), information about the places you’ll be visiting and useful advice from those who have gone before.
We’ll also bring you the pick of the relevant travel articles from around the web and blogs, articles and pictures from our passengers while they are out on the road.
And when you are home, add your tales and advice, share the pick of your photographs and read entries from the people you met on your journey.
A lot of what makes Epic Overland special is all the people you meet along the way and we want this blog to reflect that - get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org and get involved.
- You can also follow all the latest news from Epic Overland and join the Epic Community at our Facebook page and Twitter feed (@epicoverland). Just click on the links on this site.