Joining the Overland Adventure Crew is the most challenging and rewarding job experience I have ever had. It has allowed me to travel to countries and experience activities that would have taken me a lifetime to save for in my previous jobs. It has also challenged me to work long hours in tough conditions, taking me very much out of my comfort zone. Working in this role is far from the holiday some of my friends seem to think it is, but if you’re willing to put the work in, the rewards are most definitely worth it.
Requirements to work as a travel guide:
- A coach (PCV) or truck (LGV) driving license
- Fluent in English. Basic Spanish, French or Portuguese
- Computer literacy
- Some relevant travel experience
- A resourceful attitude and able to take initiative
- Be able to attend a training course in the UK
- Aged over 25 ( for insurance purposes)
What are Overland Adventure Tours?
Overland adventure tours are expeditions to off the beaten path destinations. The tours are run on overland expedition vehicles that usually hold around 20 passengers. The vehicles are self-sustainable so they carry tents, food, water and a kitchen set-up. A lot of the trips are camping oriented but will also use hostels, hotels, homestays and yurts.
I started my overland career with Dragoman Overland Adventures in 2013 and have run trips for them ever since. The work is allocated in contracts of varying lengths from a few months to over a year. When you finish a contract you are then technically unemployed and receive no income. You must plan for this accordingly.
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All overland companies work in this way, so you are not tied to any one company. I have also led several trips for Oasis Overland. Both companies are based in the UK.
Dragoman runs trips in North, Central and South America, Africa, The Silk Road, Mongolia, South East Asia and India.
Oasis is a smaller company and runs trips in South America, Africa, the Silk Road and South East Asia.
On an overland trip there are usually two crew members - a driver/mechanic and a tour leader.
Driver/mechanic or tour leader?
Most overland companies split these roles into two separate jobs. As the driver/mechanic you will drive the tour group in the overland expedition vehicle (we call them trucks) between the various destinations. You will also be responsible for taking care of the truck and ensuring it runs smoothly. If there are any mechanical issues with the truck, it your job to get it fixed.
As the tour leader it is your job to look after the group and ensure the smooth running of the trip. You plan and organize all parts of the trip which includes making hotel reservations, booking local guides, arranging/preparing meals and organizing and booking activities. You will also run the finances for the trips, so you must budget accordingly and keep accountancy records.
With Dragoman both crews will share the driving. Crew members are trained to do both roles but from trip to trip, one person will be the mechanic, and the other will be the leader. It’s natural that you will be more suited to one role or the other.
Requirements for specific roles:
- A coach driving license or truck driving license and some mechanical experience or qualifications
- Good interpersonal skills to interact with the group and support the tour leader in the running of a trip
- Previous experience of leading groups is preferred, but if not, experience in customer service is a must
- You should be able to quickly adapt to changing conditions and have a strong sense of initiative
- Being organized is key, along with patience and level headedness
Dragoman specific requirements
- Since you are required to do both roles with Dragoman, all crew are required to have a coach or truck driving license
- Mechanical experience is beneficial but not required
- All tour leader requirements as above
If you do not have the skills or desire to drive the bus and work as a mechanic but are looking for a job that will get you immersed in a country and off the tourist trail, read our article about volunteering with the Peace Corps. Although it is a volunteer role, you will make a monthly stipend to cover living expenses and get a bonus pay at the end of your 27 month commitment.
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How to Apply
Most overland companies will have their own websites through which you can apply. They usually involve an application form and cover letter in the first instance. This is followed up with an interview. The interview can take place in person or via Skype if you are not in the UK.
With Dragoman if you are successful in the interview, you are then required to take part in a one-week trial at their base in the UK. In this trial you will be put through your paces in the workshop, must design and cook a meal for 15-10 people and complete a 15 minute presentation. This trial is designed to see how you cope in environments and situations that you will encounter on the road.
Dragoman training consists of an intensive 6 week training program in the UK.
During this time there are classroom and workshop based lessons. In the workshop the focus is on basic mechanics and truck servicing. The classroom sessions cover a whole range of topics including leaderships styles, accountancy, crisis management, first aid and trip planning. Once this training is complete, you will head out on the road, usually as third crew, to continue your training.
Once you are deemed ready, you will then be paired off with another crew member to run your own trips.
For Oasis training, it is undertaken on the road. Once you have been accepted, you will join a trip as third crew. You will work with the crew, learning how to do the role, while at the same time learning about the route.
Life on the road
The great thing about working as overland crew is that no two days are the same. You will be running trips that can last anything from 1 week to 6 months, covering several countries at a time. Challenges come from all angles and are seemingly infinite. They range from coping with changing political situations, managing complicated border crossings, fixing truck break-downs, solving visa issues and dealing with passengers on a day to day basis.
Whilst running a trip you are on call 24/7 so might work several months without an official day off.
The pay varies from company to company but you certainly won’t get rich from being overland crew. The pay is very basic. However, whilst on the road most of your expenses are covered by the company, such as accommodation and (most) food. You will often get activities for free or at a discounted rate so most of the money you earn you are able to save for the times when you aren’t working.
The benefits are that you will travel to places you have previously only dreamed about. Once you have completed your first overland contract - usually over a year - you will be able to choose which continent you would like to work in.
Want to hike with gorillas? Then take a contract in Africa.
Want to ice climb on glaciers? Then take a contract in Patagonia.
Once you have proven yourself as a solid overland crew member you can decide when, where and how often you would like work. There are not many jobs that can offer you that luxury.