We are the ‘Barnsleys’ - a British family of four and proud Bearmach supporters. After 9 years of living in the Middle East, we decided to follow our dream, whip the kids out of school for a couple of years and take an overland adventure through the Americas.
In 2016, after much research and deliberation, we decided that the base vehicle for our overland moving home would be a 2010 Land Rover Defender 130 TDCi 2.4 and once procured in the Netherlands, we set about the design process for the rear ‘living unit’. With neither the skill nor time to carry out the purist method of self-building an overland vehicle (Check out fellow Bearmach supporters and overland royalty, the Bell family and their ‘A2A expedition’ for the ultimate way to go!), we went with a Dutch, family-owned manufacturer of overland vehicles called Twiga Travelcars. This vehicle was going to get pushed to the limits on all sorts of fronts, so it needed to be designed correctly and built professionally.
With a few visits to Holland, some basic hand sketches, loads more research and finally millimeter-perfect computer-generated 3D design drawings, we were very happy and ready to start construction. On day one, after much measuring and re-measuring, the pick-up bed was removed and the roof & back of the 130 were cut off. Now there was no turning back!
Whilst we sold our cars and furniture, shipped our most precious belongings back to the UK and got to grips with home-schooling, we made more visits to Holland to see various stages of the construction, all with ridiculous excitement and awe at how the process was going. The basics of the living unit were to be:-
• The aluminum frame and sandwich panels (incl. an alcove or overhang to act as the kids’ bedroom)
• Pop Top on hydraulics with canvas and mosquito net windows
• Pass through from front cab to rear living unit
• Domestic Fridge, 2x burner cooker and sink
• Webasto Air Top Heating
• 80l water tank with filtration system and pump
• Chemical Toilet
• Dining area with 4 cushions for seating and mattress
• All interior cupboards, shelves, drawers with marine fittings
The ‘essentials’ and final touches were where Bearmach stepped in! We knew that urgent ad-hoc parts could be provided by Bearmach to essentially anywhere we were visiting in the next 2 years but we obviously needed some vital spares and maybe the odd gratuitous ‘toy’ before we set off. On the list were service kits, brake pads, headlight guards, a light bar and tools. One of the key items was the Bearmach Hawkeye diagnostics tools which would give us a fighting chance, in the absence of decent Landrover mechanics, of knowing what was wrong with the overly-electronic Puma engine (at least for an overland trip through the jungles and deserts of the Americas).
With the truck finished and looking spectacular, Bearmach spares onboard and the whole family chomping at the bit, we were off! A ‘shakedown’ tester run down through Europe and around Morocco was how it all started; but that was just the ‘appetiser’ to the Americas ‘main-course’.
Fast forward fifteen months to tonight, as I write this from the dining table in the truck in the middle of a Colombian jungle. What a journey it has been so far! A few technical difficulties have occurred along the way (including the need for a new engine!) but they have all been part of the adventure. In fact, these were moments when the family had to dig in, grit our teeth and lean into the adventure a little bit more… and the fact we had Bearmach acting as guardian angel also clearly helped enormously.
It can’t all be Instagram-perfect ‘van-life’! The fact is, it never is. The photos you see of that super-model blond lying down, looking out of her picture-perfect campervan over a mountain vista with her perfect boyfriend, surfboard, golden retriever and fairy lights around the door just isn’t how it is… well not for us anyway! The important part is following your dreams, whatever they may be, and living the best life you can in that moment. Having the dream is the easy bit, following through with conviction seems to be the unnecessarily hard bit. Having travelled in our vehicle for 15 months now, we wouldn’t change anything about ‘him’ (now named ‘Albus’ after Professor Dumbledore of Harry Potter fame and assigned male gender).
Yes, we (I) probably got a bit excited and added a few luxuries to the basic camper we initially designed (overhanging roof rack, external storage boxes, 220v power system, USB charging points, solar power system etc) and yes, we (I) ended up spending more than we initially budgeted but this is our home and you can’t help but add little comforts and luxuries!
To find out much more about our overland vehicle, our route, our adventure and our story up to this point, you can find us on Facebook and Instagram under @thebarnsleysbigadventure. Through these platforms, please feel free to give us feedback, ask us questions or generally just chat all things Land Rover and overlanding… And if you’re thinking of ‘overlanding’, our advice? Do it!
All the best,
Jamie & family.