Mat and Ellen Wayte are recent additions to the EarthCruiser crew. They met while working as tour leaders for an overland travel company, and have a combined experience of over 20 years in the industry. Together they led expeditions through over 40 countries on four continents before moving to Central Oregon, where they live off-grid in a home they built together. Mat works in production, currently building Terranovas, and Ellen is in Sales and Marketing.
What do you love about overlanding?
Mat: Overlanding means you’re experiencing a different place every day. You’re in charge of your own tomorrow, and you’re constantly discovering new people and places.
Ellen: I did a lot of traditional traveling before I took my first overlanding trip through eastern Africa. I feel in love with the slower pace of travel, of seeing the world in a more authentic way rather than just popping into a crowded tourist locale by plane then leaving. With overlanding you see how people live – what they farm, where they buy their food, what their houses look like, how they celebrate. You become part of the places you are seeing.
What are some of your favorite overlanding destinations?
Mat: For scenery, lack of people, and ease of travel, definitely Namibia. I’m also going to have to say India for the absolute madness of it, plus its staggering diversity, history, culture, and food. On the adventure side, I’d have to go with the Democratic Republic of the Congo, merely for the fact that it took forever to cross, was difficult every day, and very few others have done it.
Ellen: I’m a bit of a wildlife nut, so most of my favorite places are where I could sit in nature and observe animals behaving as they have for thousands of years. I love the wildness of parks like Mana Pools in Zimbabwe and Moremi in Botswana, where prides of lions may stroll through your campsite at night, or you may find yourself in a traffic jam of elephants. Kyrgyzstan really knocked my socks off with jaw-dropping scenery and twisty gravel roads lined with nomad’s yurts. I’m also a diver and freediver, so places like the Red Sea, Colombia Caribbean, or Baja Peninsula, where you can hop out of your vehicle for a shore dive, are special.
What is your favorite feature of an EarthCruiser vehicle?
Mat: That it’s complete. You don’t need anything else. You don’t have to plug it in, find a tap for water, or connect in any way. It’s heated, it’s cooled, you can go just about anywhere.
Ellen: I love the cab-over chassis of EarthCruisers. That is the configuration we drove all over the world, and it gives you this incredible, panoramic view. You almost feel as though you are part of the environment, not just seeing it through a bubble.
What advice would you give someone looking to take their first international overlanding trip?
Mat: Decide what you want to get out of it. Are you looking for real adventure or for something a bit more laid back? What level of roughness of driving, food, and culture shock are you looking for? Even the easiest trips can be challenging if it’s your first. Do your homework. It will make your trip better, help you navigate local customs, and ensure you’re a good ambassador for your home country and future overlanders.
Ellen: That despite our outward appearances or what you may hear on the news, people the world over want the same basic things. We all want to provide for our families, enjoy a good meal with friends, to feel safe and at peace. Trust this, and don’t be afraid to talk to strangers, get a little lost, eat street food, or crash a festival. But most of all, just go for it.