Wanderlust World Guide Award winner Julie Gabbott leads overlanding tours for Dragoman. She shares what she’s learned from her time out on the road…
World Guide Award winner Julie Gabbott’s tales from the road
I grew up in my family bed and breakfast in Preston, Lancashire.
Our guests would put pins on a map of the world, showing where they were from. When I turned 19, I set off to explore as many of those places as I could. That led to years of wandering and, eventually, to becoming an overlanding guide leader with Dragoman. I found my calling.
I think that everyone should try overlanding at least once in life.
I take travellers across continents in specially built overland trucks, which are designed so that we can camp anywhere. You really get to experience countries at the ground level, interacting with locals and sharing the experience with like-minded individuals. People often form everlasting friendships. I know I have.
On a trip, every day is different.
You could spend it riding a horse onto the shores of Lake Malawi or hiking along the Great Wall of China, and your place of rest could be a local guesthouse, a yurt or even a wild camp.
I can’t pick a favourite journey.
My most recent memorable moments have been in Africa: summiting Mount Kilimanjaro, meeting mountain gorillas in Uganda, canoeing the Zambezi and wild camping along on the way – we could hear lions roaring through the night.
Everyone gets stuck in together.
We all help with setting up camp and cooking the meal. As leader, it’s up to me to set an example, so I’m always on hand to lend a tent peg or cook up a stew. There’s something really special about sitting around a campfire, sharing stories and experiences under a sky full of stars.
I think people are surprised to see a girl servicing our trucks.
But it’s all part of the job. On a recent trip in India, a colleague and I were struggling with lifting a heavy engine cylinder head – but before we knew it, there were 20 locals helping us. When you’re on the road, there tend to be people ready to help, even if it’s with a smile or a cup of chai.
There are always surprises.
During a Kilimanjaro climb recently, the porters suddenly decided to lift me up in the air and bounce me up and down while everyone else sang and clapped. I couldn’t stop laughing.
There can be awkward moments.
While crossing the border into Turkmenistan, a group of customs officials inspected our truck. One of the trainee officials picked up a tampon and asked what it was. He left a little flustered.
To be a good guide, I think you need to enjoy meeting people.
I’ve learned so much from the people who’ve been on my trips. Part of what I love about the job is that you never stop learning.
For my next trip, I’d like to go into space.
Richard Branson, if you’re reading this and need an enthusiastic guide, I’m in!
When we wild camping along the Zambezi, we could hear lions roaring through the night
Overland girl ( left) Julie out on tour; ( this) being raised aloft by porters on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro