The knowl­edge

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…

Wanderlust Travel Magazine (UK) - - CONTENTS -

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

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