Nigel, Linda and Oliver (Itchy Feet Overland)

Today's Explorers

Nigel, Linda and Oliver (Itchy Feet Overland)

December 23, 2021
min read
Charles Forman

Where are you from?

UK, but lived for last 6 years in Italy

When did you start your interest in exploration?

As a child and young adult, Nigel read the books of Ranulph Fiennes (Transglobe particularly) and the TV shows of Michael Palin, Alan Whicker and Clive James.

What is a brief understanding of your background story up until you started seeking adventure?

Nigel has worked most of his life in Motorsport, initially Touring (Saloon) cars and then Formula One for the last 25 years - his last role was as a Purchasing manager for the Scuderia Ferrari Formula One team in Maranello, Italy. In 2019 Nigel read an article on the BBC news website about A2A Expedition and the Bell family who, at that time, had been travelling for 7 years. They visited us in our home in Italy and the seed was sown for our own overland adventures.

What special skills do you have to help with your explorations?

Nigel has spent the vast majority of my working life in high stress engineering environments. Good in a crisis, and excellent at planning and preparation, he brings a cool head to every situation and hopefully has something in the Defender to solve most problems, though his mechanical skills are in their infancy. Navigation is a strong point as he hates to be lost!

Where have you explored so far?

West Highlands of Scotland, Italy

What is a brief understanding of your adventures so far?

Due to Covid, our main projects have been on hold until borders are more open and travel can be achieved without excessive testing and quarantine requirements. We returned to Italy in August 2021 and will spend the rest of this year exploring Europe - our revised plan for the Pan American Highway, is to begin in Halifax, Canada in spring 2022.

What are the top three destinations you hope to explore next, and why?

Our main aim is the Pan American Highway in 2022, but before that we will explore southern Italy, including Sicily and spend the rest of the winter in warmer areas Spain, Greece etc. To be decided!

Where would you recommend others visit?

The West Highlands of Scotland are beautiful, but because of the explosion of UK tourists travelling to the area, particularly in motorhomes, I cannot encourage anyone to go. The disrespectful actions of some new visitors is causing severe friction with the locals and further expansion of visitors would make a bad situation worse. Italy is a much better prospect, having as it does, a broad range of territory - from the Alps to the Volcanoes in the south. It is more sparsely populated, particularly in the south, where there are huge areas of undeveloped countryside to explore.

How do you primarily travel on your adventures today?

1998 Land Rover Defender 130 equipped with 2 Darche roof tents and 270 degree awning. Other modifications include; auxiliary electrical system with lithium battery, with solar charging capability, powering a National Luna Fridge freezer and LED camp lighting; on board water tank with dispensing pump; twin hob gas stove; fully integrated Safety Devices roll over protection system; heavy duty front bumper with LED auxiliary lights and Terrafirma winch; uprated rear suspension springs, dampers and anti roll bars; twin spare wheel rear bumper assembly; internal storage drawers and bespoke shelving. Terrafirma underbody protection; full Exmoor trim interior.

What are five pieces of equipment you always travel with?

Tool kit, Head Torch, Leatherman, Medical kit, pee bottle.

What inspires you to explore more?

The Land Rover mantra 'One Life, Live it' sums it up for Nigel. “I spent too much time in the office, for way too many years. All to the detriment of my wellbeing and personal relationships.”

How do you engage with others?

Through instagram and facebook and the people we meet on the road.

Why is it important to embrace global cultures?

The sooner we all realise that we have much more in common with each other than what sets us apart, we can build trust, friendship and defuse tension around the world.

What are your goals when you explore?

To see the real culture. Not to be a tourist, but to be a visitor - understand and experience people's daily lives and maybe help a little where we can.

What are some challenges you have experienced?

The delays caused by covid have been very difficult to manage psychologically and trying to keep a positive mindset when everything is going wrong, was our biggest challenge. Our first extended period of overland travel in Scotland was characterised by the worst summer in many years - this affected our morale very badly to the point where we began to seriously question whether this was the life we wanted to lead. Our return to Italy from the UK was challenging for a number of reasons, some planned for, and some not. The bureaucracy and the target time of the covid testing is a stress in itself, but the failure of our rear differential in central France was the biggest challenge - driving at 70kph on 130kph roads to protect the diff, and adding oil every 2 hours made a 20 hour drive into a 32 hour drive - single man, no sleep!

What has been your most meaningful moment so far?

Arriving at our destination in Italy, after 32 hours driving and stinking of differential oil. We knew instinctively, we are now fully fledged overlanders. We pushed on, got the job done and made it through everything that was thrown at us.

How has exploration changed you?

“My brain has been slowing down. Working in high pressure environments causes over activity of the brain and it's very hard to switch off. After 6 months, I can feel the difference”, says Nigel.

What is the number one lesson that you have learnt through your exploration?

Never give up, no matter how tempting. Another corner, another day, will all make sense.

How do you explore locally?

We love exploring new cities on foot - looking for restaurants where the locals eat.

What does the explmore mantra mean to you?

Get out there - expand your mind. Explore new cultures with passion and humility.

What advice would you give to others who are seeking life changing adventure?

It's not for everyone. Think about it deeply, and discuss it thoroughly before you decide it's for you. Try not to plan too much (my weakness) and never turn down an opportunity to get help and advice, it's saved us many times. If it's for you? Go for it!

What are some comparisons you can make between exploration today, compared to what you know of exploration in the past?

Despite all the great technology for navigation and exploration, I think it's so much harder to explore today. Principally for geopolitical reasons. Great swathes of the world are very hard to explore (or impossible). Also very few real exploration challenges are left.

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