You overland around the word for a number of years, you observe and learn, and then decide something to do good, that’s what Try to Give Back is about – a better world.
This, in short is what Aldo and Vera’s overland journey is about. As many of us they set out with a simple idea: to get out there and see something of the world in the most independent way possible, by car.
The world is a wondrous, marvelous place in many ways, but has some serious issues, pollution and poverty among them. Aldo and Vera decided to do their share in making our planet a little bit better and started Try to Give Back.
No need to repeat here what they’ll be telling you themselves in this extensive, inspiring interview. Check them out, get caught by their enthusiasm and join the cause.
Tell us a bit about yourselves and how you got to live a life on the road
It all started with a simple question:
“What’s your dream?” I asked Vera on one of our first dates.
She replied, “I love to travel and I would like to go one day to explore Asia, backpacking for about 6 months but in a very simple way and on budget, not as tourist but as traveller, going off-the-beaten path, learning about new cultures and traditions, trying the local cuisine and meeting with the locals. Would you like to do it with me?”
My answer was straight forward, “Off course, no problem”.
Vera thought I was joking but the following week I took her to the bank where we opened a joint bank account. We agreed to put money aside directly from our salaries on a monthly basis and started saving for our future adventure trip.
Few years passed, we got married and life went on but the small account continued to grow and we started to seriously think of leaving everything behind and to chase our dreams. From a backpacking trip to Asia it became an overland journey around the world.
At first we thought of a camper, spacious and comfortable, but we quickly gave up on this idea, as we wanted to get to remote places, which would mean a lot of off-road. After reading about a famous German Overlander, Gunther Holtorf, we got inspired with the idea to buy a 4×4 vehicle and to transform it into a mini home on wheels.
We choose a Toyota Land Cruiser for its legendary durability and its off-road capabilities. Also we thought that at some point we would have to ship our car to a next country or continent and the safest way to do this is via cargo container and our Land Cruise Prado would fit perfectly in a standard 20 ft container.
In addition, we travel on a budget with minimal expenses so we needed a low-consumption engine, preferably diesel, strong and reliable. And beyond that, when you are many years on the road around the world, you will inevitably need some repairs and a Toyota Land Cruiser has the advantage of being a global model, with spare parts that can be found almost everywhere in the world.
We used to live in England and in 2016, in part due to Brexit, we decided it was time to make the big change and embark on the craziest adventure of our life. We sold out everything we had, from our beloved motorbike a Suzuki Bandit 1250 down to all our household items, and off we went without looking back but only forward, one mile at the time.
Did you plan from the beginning to make it a full time existence, or did it start e.g. as a 1 or 2-year plan? What has your route been so far? And what’s next?
Initially we thought that we would travel around the world for up to 2 years. Later we understood that we didn’t take into consideration many important factors like: the best time and season to be in each country, container shipping times and the complications it may involve, the visa process, documents for the car and the requirements to enter in each country and so on. So we knew that if we really want to visit each country at its best we would have need much longer than 2 years.
During the past 5 years we drove across 5 continents and visited 55 countries, totaling around 200,000 km. We are planning to cross all 6 drivable continents and visit between 80 to 100 countries. We started our trip in England making our way through Europe and eventually we crossed the whole of Russia from West to East as we always wanted to drive the Trans-Siberian Highway.
In 2016, more Asian countries followed: South Korea, China with the famous Great Wall, India visiting the Golden triangle route and Taj Mahal, Nepal – trekking to the Everest Base Camp – Thailand with beautiful islands, old Buddhist temples and exquisite tropical fruits, Malaysia with the orang-utans, Cambodia with Angkor Wat, Indonesia with the Komodo Dragon, Bali and the volcanic Java Island.
In 2017 we reached Australia, which we explored for a few months. The trip was followed by the longest shipment for Toto: 60 days in a container from Australia to South America. While our Toto’ was inside a container we took the opportunity to visit New Zealand.
Upon arriving in Uruguay we drove south to Ushuaia, the most southernmost driveable point on earth, made a U-turn and drove all the Way up to the Arctic Ocean in North America, passing through Argentina and Chile exploring Patagonia and visiting some of the most incredible landscapes in the Andes: Torres del Paine, El Chalten and Perito Moreno.
Many countries further, Canada marked the end of the Pan-American adventure when we reached the Canadian northernmost drivable point at the end of the Dempster Higway in Tuktoyaktuk. Here we soaked our feet in the icy cold waters of the Arctic Ocean.
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By the end of 2019 we were back to the USA and crossed 28 of its states, which was a huge achievement for all three of us.
2020 Brought a sudden change in the whole world for all the travellers. The global pandemic instantly imposed major restrictions, which got us caught us in Miami, Florida. In March 2020 we the plan was to ship our vehicle to South Africa and finish our journey driving back to Europe crossing the African continent and passing through Middle East but due to the coronavirus we found ourselves stuck in Florida for 3 months.
When the borders re-opened we shipped our Toto back to Europe and spent about a year in Italy, doing some repairs and a total maintenance of our vehicle. A few months ago we entered Greece, passed through Bulgaria and entered Turkey a couple of days ago, which we are planning to see for the next month and a half.
Our future plans are visiting Iran, Middle East and eventually enter Africa, driving it from North East to South and West.
What makes you home on wheels Toto special for you?
During all those years of traveling Toto proved to be the best choice of the vehicle we made for this trip. It has been our little home on wheels for the past 5 years and together we travelled in snow and ice in temperatures as low as -27 °C (-17F) in Canada to as high as + 50 °C (+ 122 ° F) in Australia.
We drove through deserts, mud, rain, across sand and gravel, and crossed rivers. This included driving from -86 meters below sea level in the Death Valley in California and over 4900 meters above sea level in the Andes in South America. It is not just a vehicle for us, but a loyal companion that took us all around the world and to some very remote places.
Car Specifics – Toto, a RHD Toyota Land cruiser KDJ120 Prado from 2004
- mileage: 200.000 miles
- fuel consumption: 25miles x gallon avg.
- preference of tires: Coopertires, 3 set of tires to date: 1) Mud terrain Discoverer STT Pro 2) All terrain-snow Discoverer AT3 4s 3) currently All terrain ST Maxx
- Self made bed frame 6ft x 4ft
- Leisure Battery 120amp
- 50 lt Fresh water tank with 12V hot water system
- Bluetti Poweroak AC50s Powerbank + SP120W solar panel
- 100W dokio Solar Panel
- 26 lt Dometic Fridge
- Coleman Dual fuel Stove
- Jetboil minimo
- 1.5 in lift kit Ironman 4×4
- Custom-built Roof rack with 420W led light
- 30lt Jerry Can
- Custom-built 8mm Aluminium Skid Plates
- 13.500lb Rhino Winch on hidden mount
- Racor fuel prefilter 10micron with water separator
- APS Transmission cooler
- Custom-built Breathers Extension kit
What’s the best thing you packed and what’s the stupidest thing you brought (and ditched)?
The best thing we brought with us is our Jet Boil, Coleman Cooker, and a warm sleeping bag.
The stupidest, I guess, were lots of unnecessary and useless clothes that we donated or sent home.
Our home is not just the walls that surround us, the whole planet Earth is our home” is the quote on your homepage. How did this conviction come to existence? Did you ‘always’ feel this was the case, or was it something your learned during your journey?
This is what we understood to be true since we started traveling around the world. Everything in the natural world is interconnected and every action has a consequence. Before our journey we were living in our small world and didn’t know what was happening outside of it, caring only for ourselves.
Traveling around the world opened our eyes to so many things we didn’t think about or knew. We started appreciating even the little things that before we had taken for granted. We have seen so many miracles of nature and realize how fortunate ‘we’ (all human beings) are to call this marvelous planet our home. There is no other planet similar to Earth for thousands of light years away.
The saddest thing we witnessed, is how people are intentionally destroying the most precious thing we have: our life and future on this planet. If mankind does not realize very soon what we are doing and where we are heading to, the human race doesn’t have hope to survive on this planet.
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We will eventually contaminate all the potable water, the breathable air, our land, will end up having more plastic in the oceans than fish, wild animals will be extinct and exterminated, our ecosystems destroyed and all of these will trigger the severe consequences of a climate change on us.
It’s already in front of everyone’s eyes: natural disasters happening more often and always worse than the previous year. That’s why we decided to open our own charity organization and do anything possible to make a change.
Through our videos on YouTube we show how beautiful but at the same time how fragile our world is, trying to raise awareness about environmental concerns. With the revenue generated from our videos we do charitable actions like:
- plant trees
- help animal sanctuaries and marine conservation projects
- bring aid to poor communities in need.
We are still a small community and charity, but we are hoping to grow in the next few years during our trip to Africa and participate in bigger projects.
Let’s talk about your initiative Try to Give Back. How did it start? What is it about? What are your goals and how to achieve them?
Some of the highlights of our time in Mexico was swimming with whale sharks while wild camping on a beach in Baja California.
Here, we got extremely sensible of the waste and pollution problems when seeing people throwing their garbage bags out the windows of the car while driving (which we also found to be common throughout the whole of South-America). We were so devastated and angry, but soon we realized that feeling this way wouldn’t help in sorting out this problem.
That’s when we decided to found our Charity Association and contribute in giving something back to our planet. This is how we came up with the name TRY TO GIVE BACK.
We decided not to use/buy plastic bottles, plastic bags, straws, coffee stirrers, etc anymore, and to be careful with the consumption of water and energy. We adopted a flexitarian diet, which consists in drastically reducing our consumption of meat and fish while mainly eating fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains.
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We calculated the amount of carbon emissions that we produced during all those years of traveling and started to plant trees regularly. Additionally we decided to make videos on YouTube about our journey to show how beautiful our world is, but also how fragile it is. We send messages of sustainability and show the other side of the coin, and the true reality of what’s going on around the world.
Our main goals are to raise awareness about the environmental concerns, sustainability, pollution and animal welfare. We aim to inspire people to take action and care of the only house we have –our planet.
The entire world has to change, lead a more sustainable life style. Our governments need to adopt severe laws and regulation in protecting our ecosystems and environment. A lot of people are ignorant and many don’t care at all even though they are well aware about climate change and the natural catastrophes.
It will be very hard and difficult to achieve our goals. We know that we won’t save the world, but at least we will do our part and will try to leave this world a bit better than we found it. We will not give up and continue making videos on YouTube to raise funds to implement our charitable actions.
How do you find or select your charities and how do you go about having those trees planted?
We are not supporting big charity organizations unless we really know what goes on behind closed doors. Unfortunately, many big name organizations spend most of the donated money on wages, accountants and marketing. Furthermore we discovered that there is a lot of corruption and falsity, especially when we started to do deeper research about the charity organization when trying to found ourselves.
When we look for an organization we look at their accounts, how the money is distributed and what is the percentage of money donated that is actually used and invested to do charitable actions. We look into their past achievements, successfully completed projects, as well as scandals and the reason why they happened. We are trying to work with small organizations that we can visit personally. Us being a new small organization, we know very well the struggles and difficulties they are facing.
Other than monetary donations we prefer to act in person. Recently we brought dog food to a dog shelter in Greece, we bought the food and carried it there ourselves (rather than giving money to the shelter).
Regarding trees, we are working with Trillion tree campaign which is backed by the UN. It is the most ambitious project of reforestation in the world. They have many and different types of projects all around the world. Anyone can choose the organization he/she is willing to work with, the type of tree planted, the number of trees, and where to plant them.
Thanks to the donations and our YouTube revenue we planted 2175 trees in Africa in the past 6 months. We supported a couple of reforestation projects that are GPS tracked and that we are planning to visit in person upon reaching the African continent.
In addition, Vera owns several hectares of land and when back from our trip, we are planning to grow trees to cover all the surface of that land.
On our website: https://www.trytogiveback.org anyone can find detailed information about our projects and achievements.
How do you receive donations? Do you work with companies, sponsorship, or it is about individual donations?
We mainly rely on the revenue generated from our videos on YouTube, which is 100% for our charity.
Our community on YouTube is small and and doesn’t generate a lot of funds, but we are hoping to grow and reach a larger audience. As a consequence we will receive more visualizations and generate more funds to do charitable actions.
We also rely on direct donations through Patreon, Paypal, Liberapay and the donation page on our website.
We are very grateful to all the people who have already donated money, the positive feedback and trust we have been receiving on a daily basis. This is encouraging to keep working hard.
Accountability is always a big issue with charities. How can supporters see what you did with their donations?
We are very transparent with our followers and audience. Try to Give Back exists to Give Back – not to take from.
We don’t pay ourselves any wage or salary. On our website we have a page dedicated to our work and achievements and each time we are doing a new action, we make sure to update our website and share it through our videos on YouTube documenting it.
We have registered our charity in UK with HMRC, we have a Charity Bank account, a Charity Constitution and are in the process of registering our organization with the UK Charity Commission.
Furthermore we make our yearly accounts public for anyone to see.
Apart from contributing to your charity, what can Overlanders do on their travels to Give Back to the Planet?
Ghandi once said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
The change needs to start with you.
On our website you will find information regarding each environmental problem as well as the solution to solve it. No one is too small to take action and everyone’s action can influence others to change.
– Eat a diet with little or no meat or fish at all
– Don’t use single-use plastic
– Avoid buying unnecessary things
– Repair something when broken
We wish for the people to acknowledge the environmental problems in order to become part of the solution. Live the kind of life you want to live just avoid unnecessary waste in every aspect of life: water, food, electricity, things and so on.
We dedicated a full video about our change since we started traveling overland and on how we became more sustainable. Check it out here.
Where can people follow Alveto Expedition and Try to Give Back projects?
Try to Give Back :
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