Brett and Solene are a couple based in Western Australia with a dream to take a break from their normal lives, and tackle the world on four wheels. Read their story of how a simple idea, fuelled by some in-depth planning and vehicle preparation, saw them make their dream a reality and their Trepic adventure take off.
In June 2017, I came up with an idea. I would put my two businesses under management and take 2.5 years off to drive around the world. I had absolutely no idea how to do it, or if it was even possible. And then, to top it off, how to convince my girlfriend of only 2 months that it would be a good idea. To put it lightly, I became slightly obsessed. I stayed up past midnight most nights Googling everything I could possibly think of relating to the trip. Where to start, which route to take, what does it cost to ship a car, how to insure it, what car to take, where to sleep, cook, shower etc. It really is endless how much you can plan something like this. By November I’d become a bit sick of planning, so I bit the bullet and went out and bought the car. Solene started to take this idea a lot more seriously from that point on.
Together we finalised the route and the starting point. We hoped to drive our car across the furthest points of every continent, including Antarctica, and would start the trip in South America. Our starting date was set at approximately September 2018 and was based on the fact we have to do one winter in the Northern Hemisphere. We have chosen to spend that winter driving across Siberia. Our reasons are three-fold. Firstly, I googled “Lake Baikal” in winter (which I recommend). Secondly if we have to do a winter then we may as well do it in a place where winter is such a huge part of its identity. It will be unforgettable and completely different from anything we’ve ever experienced. Finally, if our plans come to fruition and we are lucky enough to make it to Antarctica, it will be a great test run.
With the easy part out of the way, we then had to build our home for the next 2-3 years. The vehicle of choice was a 2013 Toyota Land Cruiser, 79 Series ute (2 door) although it never really had much competition. We wanted something we could literally drive anywhere and it would make it without much hassle. It also is relatively easy to find Land Cruiser parts internationally and once the tray was removed, we had a nice big open space in which to build our home.
Designing the canopy
We started by setting a few criteria of how we wanted to live. Firstly, after seeing a few other setups we knew we didn’t want something that we’d be cooking and living inside of, as we’d get claustrophobic quite quickly. Secondly, we wanted something that could be set up and packed up quickly and we wanted to be completely self-sufficient (assuming we were close to a water source and had food). If we could meet the final 2 criteria, then our only fixed costs for the trip outside of shipping and visas would be groceries and fuel.
When we started designing the canopy we broke it down into the different rooms of our house. The kitchen, living room, bedroom, bathroom and the shed. We then wrote a wish list of everything we wanted from each room and went to work trying to practically fit in what we could.
As restaurateurs, we love our food so the majority of the design for the canopy was all based around the kitchen. Just because we are travelling for a few years doesn’t mean we have to give up the things we love. On the contrary we wanted to do more of what we love. In the end we were able to fit in all the essentials on the wish list and quite a bit more. These included a 40L fridge, 40L freezer, sink (hot/cold), 130L water tank with potable water filter, 2 burner gas cooker, coffee machine, coffee grinder, toaster, cutlery drawer, blender/food processor, pasta maker, pantry drawer and to top it all off a pizza oven. It’s a very workable kitchen with good prep space which means there’s really not much we can’t cook during our trip. To set up or pack up the whole kitchen takes less than two minutes.
Comfort is king
The bedroom was the other essential thing to get right. We wanted something we could leave all our bedding in and again something we could set up and pack up quickly. We ended up choosing the Backtrax Summit Pro. It only takes 30 seconds to open or close and it’s extremely comfortable.
The bathroom was pretty easy, we installed a gas hot water system so we can shower regularly and don’t need to pay for accommodation or camping. When it’s needed we have a pop up shower screen.
Finally the shed was included to fit in all of our gear, everything we’d normally put in our shed at home like a shovel, recovery gear, fishing rods etc as well as our bicycles (so we can leave the car set up and ride into town or to the shops). The rest of the canopy is made up of small compartments for clothes, tools, camera gear etc.
Finding the power
Hidden away under the shed is the most important part, the electrical system that makes all of this run. We installed a REDARC 30amp Battery management system which has been great in managing our batteries. It tells us how much power we are using, which some days is a lot. All of the appliances and equipment that we have fitted and brought requires quite a lot of electricity. We need it to open and close the tent, to charge our computers, cameras, to run our air compressor and of course to make our morning coffees so we don’t kill each other. We’ll even be relying on it to help keep us warm and run our electric blanket when it gets to -40 in Siberia. As much of this requires 240V we also added a 2000-watt pure sine wave inverter. It’s pretty amazing to be able to use all of our appliances perfectly out of the back of the car. When we are not driving, to charge our batteries we have a fixed 150W Solar panel which is sufficient for up to 4 days. If we are staying any longer we only have to fold out a 150W solar blanket and we can stay until we run out of food… or beer.
We set out on a 5-week test run across Australia to iron out and fix any issues we had before we shipped it to South America. All in all we couldn’t be happier with what we’ve built. The only hiccup we had was a broken coffee machine, with that fixed, we put it into a Chile-bound shipping container to start our Trepic.