Julie has been on the road with us since 2013 and is our Gold Medal winning Wanderlust Guide of the year for 2018!
We asked her a few probing questions about life on the road with Dragoman...
Why did you become a guide?
Growing up in our family bed and breakfast, we had a large map of the world on the wall; so our guests could place a pin from their country and town of origin. When I turned 19, I set off to explore some of these pins myself. After years of travel experience, I realised that this knowledge could be shared and this led me to becoming a leader with Dragoman. I have to say that I think I have found my calling!
What’s your favourite guiding moment?
I love it when people I am guiding go out of their comfort zone and embrace the whole experience. This can be anything from having their first bush wee to rafting down the Zambezi River, anything that they thought they might never be able to do.
And what about a funniest moment?
So many funny moments but first thing that comes to mind most recently during a Kilimanjaro climb when I really bonded with our group of Tanzanian porters. Ten of them lifted me into the air and bounced me up and down whilst everyone else sang and clapped! It was so unexpected that I couldn't stop laughing.
Do you have any interesting stories about any border crossings?
Whilst crossing the border into Turkmenistan, a group of customs official climbed aboard to inspect my truck. One of the young trainee officials picked up a tampon from a storage box and asked what this is, I very tactfully explained, he left the truck a little flustered.
You’re a mechanic as well as a guide – what’s that like on the road?
It is certainly a surprise to local communities when they see a girl putting on overalls and servicing the truck that we travel in. Whilst in India a colleague and myself weere lifting off the engine cylinder head which is really heavy. We started to struggle with the weight but, before we knew it, there were 20 indians there to help us finish the heavy lifting. I have made so many new friendships when people come over to have a nosey at what I'm doing, and I often find that people want to check if I'm ok or need help, or feed me or give me cups of chai.
You drive people through some tiny places that don’t have the greatest road systems – how exactly do you get the Dragoman truck through those?
Sometimes it is as simple as pulling your mirrors in and lining yourself up right to get through a tight space.
To navigate a route we use a mixture of resources to find out about road conditions and potential routes but I find the most accurate source is to speak to anyone local enroute, especially truck drivers who also drive large vehicles. Sometimes the only route is a dirt track through the jungle and these roads less travelled are some of my fondest driving memories. I have certainly taken some interesting diversions in my time, most recently through a sugar cane plantation.
The overlanding trips you guide are typically epic – how do you bond together the various cultures you have for this length of time? Do you mean the group diversity??
Anyone that likes to travel abroad is generally open minded. This brings together a diverse mix of ages and nationalities, especially on an overland adventure. As our trips are group participation, we all get stuck in together with setting up camps and cooking meals, and as the leader It’s up to me to set an example so I am always on hand to cook up a stew or help peg a tent. There is something special about sitting around a campfire, under a sky full of stars, sharing stories and experiences.
What has been your most memorable occasion from the road?
Wow, this is a massive question. With each new group of overlanders, a new family is born and new amazing memories created. My most recent memorable occasions are summitting Kilimanjaro, meeting the mountain Gorillas and canoeing down the Zambezi River, making wild camps enroute We could even hear lions roaring through the night, it was just magical.
Where’s your favourite destination (and why)?
Again a tough question as each continent I have worked on has a place in my heart for different reasons. Sorry, as I can't choose here’s a few highlights....
India for the shere sensory overload of smells, sounds and sights. You can see every aspect of life on the streets on India in one day.
Patagonia has a massive place in my heart, as I love being in the Mountains; so Nepal and Kyrgyzstan fall into this group as well.
Uganda blew me away, stunning views and warm smiles at every turn; I can totally understand why Churchill called it the Pearl of Africa.
Ngorongoro crater reserve in Tanzania is like stepping into Jurassic Park but with all the beautiful animals of Africa.
I could seriously keep going as each country I lead in offers me something really special.
Where in the world would you love to guide/visit?
Please don’t think I am crazy, but I would love to go out to space and see the whole world from above, so if Richard Branson is reading this sign me up as your guide please!
What do you like to do away from guiding?
I love hiking and camping. So although my job involves camping and sleeping in a tent I usually head out on a hike with family or friends, I just love camping.
Any tips for people considering taking up guiding?
Guiding is such a rewarding job, and every guide has their own style and way of interacting with their clients. You need to enjoy interacting with people from all walks of life, and you can also learn so much from the people you guide. In this job you never stop learning.
Why should people consider an overlanding trip?
I think everyone should try overlanding at least once and you find that it’s a bit addictive. So I guess that's why so many people come on more than one trip. Dragoman take you across continents, crossing borders in our specially built overland truck. Our trucks are designed to allow us to be self sufficient so we can make camp anywhere. You get to experience countries at ground level, and share this experience with like minded new friends. Along the way you will form everlasting friendship with your co travellers and I think this is one thing that really sets overlanding apart. I myself have made everlasting friendships with people I have guided.
Is it for anyone?
Absolutely, if you have an open mind, love to travel and have a sense of adventure then come on board, everyone is welcome.
Is it for any age?
Our groups are generally very diverse in age and nationality. The one thing our Dragoman travellers have in common is the thirst for adventure and exploration, so age is really irrelevant.
Who shouldn’t do an overlanding trip..?
Anyone who doesn’t like to travel, otherwise all aboard for the next adventure
Are all overlanding trips long?
No - we have trips that start at 2 weeks and then trips that go up to six months.
What’s day to day life like on an overlanding trip?
That’s the great thing about overlanding as every day is different. You could spend a morning enjoying the views and waving to locals as we head to our next awesome destination. in the afternoon you could be riding a horse on the shores of lake Malawi or walking along the Great Wall of China. Our place of rest could be a local guesthouse, a hotel,a Yurt camp, a camp site or a wild camp on the Mongolian plains, so you get to experience many aspects of the countries we visit.
Why do you enjoy overlanding trip?
I don’t just enjoy overlanding I love it!. As anyone who travels knows, travel is addictive but what makes overlanding special to me is that I get to share the adventure with like minded people and get to the grass roots of the countries we visit.
Has this got you tempted to join us as crew? Apply here!