How Overlanders Expedition Rove Afford A Life Of Travel – And How You Can Too

After a recent conversation I had with Mary Hannah Hardcastle, better known as MH, and Andy Ellis, the duo behind Expedition Rove, where we chatted about the ultimate European road trip they just returned from, I couldn’t help but feel inspired by the couple.

They live a life that many people dream of, traveling the world together in a custom-built overlanding rig that would make anyone’s jaw drop, and they do it with such genuine joy and enthusiasm. It’s hard not to fall in love with them, and the adventurous lives they lead.

But, like everyone else, they had to start somewhere.

For them, what started off as a long-distance relationship turned into road-trips across the US at every chance they had, blossomed into something neither of them could have imagined.

Their first road trip – and one of their first dates – took them through the Smokey Mountains on a two week adventure in a Jeep Liberty. Their next road trip took them from Salt Lake City, Utah, to Lake Tahoe, Yosemite, Sequoia, Las Vegas, Zion National Park, and back up to Salt Lake City. Before they knew it, they moved to California together and their sporadic road trips turned into excursions every weekend: Joshua Tree, Yosemite, Mojave Desert, Pismo, Utah, and more. They were always on the road, even putting their apartment on AirBnb for weekends, which helped pay for all the trips they were embarking on.

After two years in California together, they decided to up the adventure, setting their sights on the Pan-American highway. Leaving a flourishing career behind, MH was fully on board, quitting her 9 to 5 and starting a freelance photography and videography business so that she could continue to work in some capacity from the road and live a life of travel instead. Since then, they’ve never looked back.

Quickly upgrading from MH’s Jeep Liberty, and with Andy determined to cling to his British roots, their first overlanding vehicle was a $1,500 2003 Land Rover Discovery 2. From there, they upgraded to a $3,000 2005 Land Rover Discovery 3 (known as an LR3 in America). And, after a bit of work, this was the vehicle that would drive them to “The Bottom of the World” as part of the Pan-American adventure.

Today, the duo travels in a 2010 Land Rover Defender 110 named “Tango,” for its orange color, that they’ve transformed from a stock Land Rover to an expedition-ready vehicle complete with an internal camper conversion. Here’s how they did it – and how you can do it too.

Read: 17 Countries, 114 Days On The Road: Expedition Rove Shares The Ultimate European Road Trip

MEET EXPEDITION ROVE

Breanna Wilson (BW): You just rebuilt the interior of Tango, your 2010 Land Rover Defender 110 to add a few new essentials – what is the upgrade you’re happiest with?

MH Hardcastle and Andy Ellis from Expedition Rove (ER): The Alu-Cab roof conversion has completely transformed the livability of the space, but I think it’s the combination of the pop-top roof and the actual camper conversion with all the comforts of home: a fridge, a sink with filtered running water, a shower, built-in induction cooking, that’s made this build finally feel like home. We spent 100 consecutive nights in this setup on the UK to Turkey trip and didn’t spend a dime on hotels on the entire journey. This is in drastic comparison to our Pan-American trip where we spent close to $4,000 on hotels alone over the nine months (averaging $445 per month). It’s hard to attribute this to one singular piece of equipment, since this setup is so drastically different to what we had on our previous trips, but having an on-board shower played a massive role in us no longer needing to hunt down campsites/hotels to freshen up.

BW: What advice do you have for someone starting their own build and overlanding journey?

ER: Don’t over complicate it! There are countless magazines, channels, websites, all explaining the must-have gear lists for overlanding. Ultimately though, it’s not about what you have, it’s about getting out there. We started “overlanding” in California with a ground tent and a few small boxes of simple gear all piled into the back, and we slowly built out our setup over the next seven years into what we have today. No one’s gear list or setup is going to fit your travel style perfectly, so it’s best to head out on shorter trips and get a real feel for what you need/want before investing loads of money. Every trip you go on will teach you something different, so it’ll be a never ending journey of dialing things in and making a setup that fits your own style.

BW: One thing that people don’t realize is that overlanding trips quickly become expensive. How do you afford (or budget for) these kinds of adventures?

ER: This is definitely the question we’ve been asked the most the last few months. It’s become increasingly apparent that lots of people think you have to be unimaginably wealthy to travel like this, but that’s not the case.

Here’s what’s worked for us:

Work/Saving: Prior to our Pan-American trip even being a thought, we were both working full time jobs and were both really good about saving our money and budgeting, rather than going out and spending frivolously. That meant that when we decided to make the trip happen (October 2018) it wasn’t that far-fetched for us to achieve, and with a bit of a final push and some creativity over the coming months we were able to hit the road within a few short months (December 2018) without any financial concerns.

Although we’ve been traveling on and off for the last four years, we still work as hard and as often as we can. While Andy was a Land Rover Technician in California, he is an electrician by trade and in between every trip we go on he works like an absolute madman from Sunday through Thursday, working nights, to try and save as much as he can in between trips. I previously worked in Marketing/Media Sales for a large Magazine Corporation in the US, and when we decided to hit the road, I transitioned into the world of freelancing and have been fortunate enough to work with some of our favorite brands over the years shooting videography and photography for them, as well as writing where I can, to help subsidize our trips.

Paying off our debt. We ensured all student debt, car payments, etc., were all paid off before we hit the road. We knew that having monthly payments once we were on the road would add unneeded pressure, so we worked hard to pay off all of this prior to our Pan-American trip. That then meant any income could be saved, rather than spent.

Minimizing our outgoings. We do regular checks on what our outgoings are and do our best to minimize wherever we can. I find it’s much easier to do this when we have a tangible goal in mind, because every purchase and decision is weighed up against how it will affect us getting to our goal of our next trip. We didn’t buy a house when we got stuck in England during Covid, or rent an apartment, instead we built a 10 ft container house that we lived in for two years. We don’t eat out regularly, instead we cook at home. We don’t buy brand new cars; we buy older vehicles that we can afford with cash. We don’t go shopping every weekend, we buy gear that is going to last for years. But I don’t just mean the big outgoings, I mean going through everything with a fine tooth comb and seeing where we’re spending. To give an example, I even canceled our Amazon Prime membership, my Spotify premium, our gym memberships, and our phone plans for the four months of our Europe trip. This may seem excessive to some, but between those four subscriptions/memberships alone the total was $420. That’s free money considering we didn’t use any of those subscriptions while on the road.

Selling off everything: After the Pan-American trip we decided it was time to downsize and sold off nearly all our belongings – from our furniture, our Discovery 2, my Jeep Liberty, clothes, TV’s, everything. We decided it wasn’t worth paying for storage in the long term for items that were replaceable.

Partnerships: Over the last four years we’ve built partnerships with brands across the outdoor and automotive industry. From Dometic, to Front Runner, to WARN, and BFGoodrich, working with these brands has allowed us to afford the build of our dreams. Each of these relationships is different but based on what their team’s needs are we work together to put a plan in place that will give them value – for some brands this is promotion, for some this is content, even events in some cases. I should also add here, sometimes I think people get fixated on a social media following, but we started working with brands when we had 100 “followers” on social media – there’s always value to be added, sometimes you just have to get creative.

BW: What tips do you have for people to save money while on the road?

ER:

Cook instead of eating out. 90% of the time we cook rather than eating out and do our best only to indulge in meals that we’re really looking forward to where we’re experiencing the local cuisine. The same goes for beer/drinks. We’ll stop occasionally at a brewery or bar but 9/10 times we’ll just grab drinks at a local grocery store if we fancy one and have it around the campfire.

Go into the trip with an “expedition” mindset. Everyone travels differently, but when we go on these types of journeys, we go into it with a different mindset than we would if we were headed out on “holiday/vacation.” On a two-week holiday/vacation it’s a short term escape and we can spend more freely since we’ll be headed back to work to replenish our funds shortly after. But on our trips, we’re not splurging on excursions, or dining, and so on since we’re in it for the long haul. For example, when we got to Greece, I had my eyes on Santorini. After doing a bit of research and cost analysis we realized for a 2-3 day trip to Santorini we’d be spending around $2,000+ if we were to experience it how I’ve always imagined, including ferries, hotels, food etc. Instead, we opted for a $40 roundtrip ferry to a smaller Greek island and used that $2,000 to experience a completely different side of Greece and traveled to Turkey instead. Santorini will be there in a few years.

Wild camping: Wild camping is one of the easiest ways to stretch your dollar when you’re on the road. Rather than getting campsites or hotels, you’ll end up saving a lot of money in the long run if you’re not paying for a place to sleep on a nightly basis. We spent 100 consecutive nights camping on our UK to Turkey trip, spending $0 on hotels. A stark contrast compared to our Pan-American trip where we spent around $4,000 on hotels and campgrounds alone, since our setup at the time wasn’t as dialed in for long-term travel.

Learn more about your vehicle. With any long term vehicle-based trip there will be breakdowns or maintenance requirements. When you’re in a pinch you don’t have much negotiating power and will have to pay whatever the going rate is for the service, but there’s a lot of money to be saved if you can work on your vehicle yourself.

BW: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced on the road – personal, vehicle, or other?

ER: The biggest challenge is always actually hitting the road. From there, every trip is a series of countless obstacles that come in differing forms – vehicle breakdowns, language barriers, financial obstacles, navigating different cultural differences, border crossings, shipping, and logistics, etc. There are so many external factors at work for a long term trip, so having a bit of grit, determination, and a whole lot of patience will go a long way.

Follow MH and Andy as they embark on their next expedition across Africa in 2023 on Instagram.

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