When Overlanding, Everyone Needs a Backup Guy

Just because you’re hitting the road to be a full-time nomad and leaving normal life behind doesn’t necessarily mean that normal life is done with you. You still need to file tax returns, receive and dispose of mail, make financial transactions, and renew bureaucratic necessities such as vehicle registration, driver licenses, and passports. If you have the resources to fly home once every six months you may be able to take care of these matters with little assistance, but chances are you’re going to need someone “on the inside” to keep you from running afoul of the financial and governmental structures to which you are obligated. You’re going to need a backup guy.


Your backup guy needs to be intelligent, motivated, trustworthy, competent and, preferably, a blood relation. Remember, when you first tell people you’re heading off to travel the planet, most of your friends and family will be amazed and in awe. Then they will have some quiet time to think. They will wonder how you got so rich, they will wonder why you have not shared that wealth with them, they will ponder why you have not invited them along for the ride, and they will eventually decide that you are going on a silly, long-term vacation while they have to continue fighting the good fight.

Your backup guy needs to be someone who truly loves you, who has been with you through thick and thin, and who respects what you’re doing. You need to trust this person with your bank account, PIN, and password. Think about that for a moment–with internet banking, you’re able to manage your finances from anywhere in the world, but there are limitations to what can be done remotely for an extended period of time. With all the banking fraud going on, banks are particularly wary of suspect activities in far-flung corners of the globe.


Your trusty backup guy’s duties will include:

  • Sending and receiving mail on your behalf.
  • Purchasing products (i.e. car parts, electronic equipment, beloved snacks), packaging them, and sending them to whichever country you may be holed up in.
  • Applying for and receiving new credit and debit cards before your current ones expire, and shipping those securely to you.
  • Making inquiries and submissions on your behalf with the relevant tax authorities.
  • Managing and storing your few remaining worldly possessions.
  • Renewing your vehicle registration.
  • Storing back up documentation such as certified copies of birth and marriage certificates, passports, and national identification cards.
  • Creating a frantic “help find them” Facebook page when you have been off the grid for a week without telling anyone that you will be off the grid. Or in the case of an actual, legitimate disappearance.


The relationship with the backup guy must be carefully maintained. They have their own crap to deal with and may not fully comprehend the urgency of certain requests, particularly if they have never been overlanding or even to another country. The best practice is to invest in the backup guy relationship long before you actually leave on your journey. Take them along for a road trip or two to experience how you will be living once you’re out on the road permanently. If they understand how vulnerable you can be sometimes, they will be more urgently helpful when the proverbial hits the fan and you are very far away and in need. Once you’re on the road, have the backup guy fly in and join you for a week of “soft” overlanding–maybe rent a cabin in the hills and treat him or her to a slice of your new life. Once they are part of the journey, your needs will become their needs and you will both benefit from the relationship.

Or you could just hire an attorney.

Photos courtesy of Graeme Bell. This article is an excerpt from the upcoming book “Travel the Planet Overland” which can be pre-ordered by sending an email to [email protected]



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