Feature: Lilli of @lillitogo

Start where you are, use what you have and do what you can…

Hi, my name is Lilli, a 60+ from Germany and I’m overlanding Eastern and Southern Africa solo in my 30+ year old Toyota Landcruiser. I’m somehow hooked on Africa, although I also travelled backpacking in Asia and vehicle-bound extensively in Australia and Europa as well. But I lost my heart to Africa.

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On my first 3 years overlanding trip in Africa 1987-1990.

On my first 3 years overlanding trip in Africa 1987-1990.

My first journey on this wonderful continent was in 1979, the travelling bug must have bitten me here and turned into an incurable infection. I’ve been through 2 longterm relationships, with both of them I crossed Africa from North to South and back 3 times.

 2012 after the separation from my second husband, with whom I’ve been on the road for 10 years in various mobile homes I decided to go on with this kind of vanlife lifestyle, but on my own. I simply had to do it, couldn’t imagine going back to a regular work and wait until I get a meagre pension.

 It took me a while to find the trust and the confidence to do it on my own, I started small in a VW-Bus, than a bigger, but still small motorhome and travelled home turf in Europe. But then came the point when I had to jump into the deep end, revived my “divorce settlement”, a 30year old trusty Toyota Landcruiser stored in Tanzania and started conquering MY Africa.

Kidepo National Park. Northern Uganda near the border of South Sudan.

Kidepo National Park. Northern Uganda near the border of South Sudan.

The biggest challenge for me were not the African countries, not the people, not the camping lifestyle or wildlife encounters, not the daily chores of vanlife, no - I was familiar with all of that through the travels with my partners, whereas each of them enriched my base of travelling experiences.

Camping with elephants, that’s the Africa I love!

Camping with elephants, that’s the Africa I love!

It was the technical side of taking full responsibility of a vehicle and get it going and maintained as good as my second husband, who relieved me of these duties as a profound car mechanic.

My trusty companion with a major engine breakdown in Namibia.

My trusty companion with a major engine breakdown in Namibia.

This was my greatest fear, my biggest challenge and brought me most of my sleepless nights.

 But I wanted to live this kind of life, I love travelling in Africa and see all the places with new eyes as a solo traveller.

 My style of moving around changed, I’m older and need much more time for regeneration to gather the daily energy to go on, but I do have a personal freedom now, which is simply priceless.

Life can be quite simple on the road.

Life can be quite simple on the road.

I don’t regret one second of my stubborn decision to get going on my own and most of the time love every minute of it.

 My personal quest conquering MY Africa now is going on since November 2016, I will fly back to Germany in 2020 to renew my health insurance, but I’m pretty sure coming back to the continent of my heart.

Who or what inspired you to choose independent vehicle travel as your mode of transportation?

Happiest with my relaxed morning ritual - coffee in my cosy bed inside Toyo.

Happiest with my relaxed morning ritual - coffee in my cosy bed inside Toyo.

 I love the privacy of my own space around me and that can only be achieved with an own vehicle where I’m able to live in. I started this way of permanent vanlife twice, the first time in 1987 and the second time in 2001, both times I sold everything and moved out of a flat.

 I went camping with a small car and a ground tent in my teens and went backpacking in Asia in my 20ies, but I never really felt comfortable with it. So I always ended up making a kind of home out of a vehicle, a Landrover for 3 years, a big expedition truck and Toyota Landcruisers for 10 years on different continents and my own tiny bus and later my motorhome in Europe.

During my travels a lot of people offer me stays in their houses or holiday homes, which I decline most of the time, as I feel much more comfy in my own bed or car, even if small, it’s like a protective nutshell for me.

Everyone always asks a traveller what their favorite country is. Do you have a favorite country? If not, what is a place that is special to you?

 There is no favourite country, all of them have their own special beauty and attraction according to my needs at a specific moment.

I could easy spend month on a place like this…

I could easy spend month on a place like this…

 For example, when I’m tired of moving around I need a place where I just can relax in a beautiful natural environment for a while. This can be an ocean beach, a green pasture between mountains or a spot at a lake shore. I feel happy in the nature and don’t need loads of people around me. I love wild animals near to me, maybe that’s the reason for my happiness in Africa.

The special place for me is my mobile home, wherever I park it.

Travelling has taught me…

 … that there is always a way, a solution and life will go on, as long as you love what you are doing and make the best out of it.

Overlanding sucks sometimes because…

 … many times I just would like to stay longer than the normal visa permits me. My ideal world would be, where everyone could choose where to stay as long as one wishes and could make a living with the talents each of us has.

I am a badass woman because…

I had to look up the definition of badass:

Tough: I might be tough because I’m travelling solo in an old battered car in Africa, a continent which in many ways is regarded as dark, dangerous and unpredictable, but my way of life is the essence of all my experiences I was able to accumulate over the years.

Uncompromising: YES… I don’t want to make a lot of compromises about my way of living, I love what I do and I stick to it as long as it is possible.

Intimidating: NO… Everybody can choose their way of life, I’m not a missionary person, I rather would like to be an inspiration for people to get out of their rat race and pursue the same personal freedom I enjoy.

What is your favorite quote?

I had several guiding quotes in my life.

“Travelling is life, as life is a journey“

            -I really lead a travelling life-

“My home is in my heart“

            -it’s sometimes challenging being a vagabond and not having a real, secure home-

…and in my situation right now

“Start where you are, use what you have and do what you can …“

One of the most common questions we get is about finances. Do you have any tips, tricks or advice on this topic?

 I do live from savings, which will never be enough until the end of my life. So I have to make a plan for earning some money in the future. But for now I live my kind of life, simply because I’m older now and if I’m not doing it today, when will be the time for it.

 The less I think about the money I have to spend, the more freedom and less anxiety I experience. So let’s start with the fears and panic when the money is nearly finished. I’m sure there will be a solution, as I said earlier on under the topic what travelling has taught me.

How has this experience changed you?

 The biggest benefit is my personal freedom, which I regard as priceless. But I also got much more self confidence, stamina, gratitude and appreciation for the power I found within me.

I feel happiest amongst wild animals.

I feel happiest amongst wild animals.

What do you think is the biggest challenge for women overlanders?

 The general attitude in our society, which prevents by means of doctrines and dogmas the step to implement a different lifestyle. Women are generally more inclined to look after the needs and wishes of others as after their own basic intentions. To find out what one really loves and burns for is the biggest challenge in a patriarchal society.

What are your favorite overland resources (blogs, books, FB pages, etc.)?

 Facebook groups and Instagram.

 I’m a social media junkie and the contacts, help and advices I got from being active in social media is just unbelievable. This interview is just one example of being able to create awareness for us women out-there.

 I’m too busy at the moment with my travelling life and personal quest to start an own blog, but it is definitely a future project.

What is a simple life hack you’ve discovered while on the road?

 Always carry a pee container with you, so you don’t have to squat in disgusting toilets, a tick infected bush or during the night in your car or tent whilst surrounded by wild animals.

What advice would you give to someone with a dream to travel overland?

 Cut your overheads, commitments and responsibilities and then go out and just do it. The first step in a new lifestyle is the hardest, but once you’ve overcame it, it will develop into something new and exciting what you’ve never dreamt of.

You can find Lilli online on Instagram and Facebook.

For more daily inspiration, follow Women Overlanding the World on Instagram:

Richard Giordano