Overlanding: Life in a Roof Top Tent

Overlanding CVT Desk to Glory

“Overlanding is about exploration, rather than conquering obstacles. While the roads and trails we travel might be rough or technically challenging, they are the means to an end, not the goal itself. The goal is to see and learn about our world, whether on a weekend trip 100 miles from home or a 10,000-mile expedition across another continent… History, wildlife, culture, scenery, self-sufficiency - these are the rewards of overlanding.” -Overland Journal

With its prominence on social media these days, you’ve probably entertained the idea of “Van Life” or “Overlanding.” But what does it really take to quit your job and live life on the road? Richard and Ashley of Desk to Glory share their story.

The Beginning

With a simple text message conversation, our short-term life plans changed.

Ashley: We need to have a life chat today.

Richard: Do you want a divorce? ;)

Ashley: Haha, NO I don’t lol

Richard: Do you want a baby?

Ashley: Um, No.

We met for a “life chat” at Trees Organic Coffee in Vancouver, BC on April 13, 2013. Our full-time day jobs combined with our part-time evening/weekend jobs had become a little too much for us that afternoon. It was time for a change and time to ask ourselves the question, “What are we going to do about it?”

The first plan included a backpacking trip through India and Nepal. We thought this would be the best bang for the buck and offer some great hiking opportunities. Very quickly we realized that we craved something different, but still very simple. Ashley said that she wanted to relax on a beach and not have to worry about hauling around a backpack, so we quickly had this vision in our heads of parking on a beach in Baja, setting up camp for a week at a time, and just soaking up the sun until we were recharged and ready for adventure.

We had been following a few blogs from overlanders who had done similar trips, but had never really thought we would be able to pull it off. Seriously, who can just pack up and leave their jobs for a year at a time? Blasphemy. It seemed like such a pipe dream until we made the decision to go and set our plan into action. Once we made the actual decision to leave, it really was all about making a list and checking off the tasks one by one. We honestly didn’t think too much about the trip we were about to set off on.

Ecuador Cairn CVT Desk to Glory

Choosing a Roof Top Tent for “Little Red”

There were a few factors here. First of all, we had to find a vehicle to take on our drive from Vancouver, BC to South America. We chose an older Toyota because we wanted reliability, parts availability, and something that was familiar with Latin American mechanics. Originally, we had been looking for a venerable Land Cruiser, but this Pickup (we named “Little Red”) was in Richard’s dad’s backyard and we knew we could resurrect it into our adventuremobile.

Next, we had a couple of options based on our limited time and budget: A) put a bed platform in the bed of the truck to sleep on, or B) use a roof top tent. We wanted to have a comfortable and ventilated bedroom (for well over 400 nights on the road) and we wanted to keep the space in the back of the truck free for camping, hiking, and trekking gear. All of these factors pointed us towards a roof top tent, and after one discussion with Bobby Culpepper (the owner of Cascadia Vehicle Tents) we placed an order.

It’s comfortable (thick foam mattress), dry, off the ground (with a very flat sleeping surface and no pebbles in the back), and much larger than a typical ground tent. Opening up the large bug screens allows a nice breeze through when sleeping. Compared to a truck camper, it’s lightweight and much less expensive. It’s a great compromise when overlanding or car camping.

Colombia Cairn CVT Desk to Glory

Lessons Learned

The hardest part was making the decision to leave and sticking to a departure date. We gave ourselves 5 months to pay off our debts, sell our junk, save some money, build a truck, rent out our condo, and quit our jobs. Our preparation for the journey was essentially tying up loose ends at home and making sure we had a reliable vehicle to drive/camp in.

At times, the lack of income and savings was stressful, but every single dollar we spent was on something that we wanted. It’s a lot different when you’re filling up on fuel in the middle of Bolivia to drive out onto the salt flats, than when we’re at the Shell station every week at home to drive back and forth to work.

We have zero regrets. We wouldn’t do anything differently if we were to do it all over again.  A lot of our choices were based on budget and time availability, and we made the most out of both.

Words of Wisdom

Give it a test run before committing... or don’t. We left without thinking about it and never really considered that we were going to live in our vehicle. It felt more like we were preparing to go car camping for a year. The first night that we spent in our roof top tent was the first night of our trip and we didn’t look back.

What's next?

We’re heading to the mountains, always…

Thanks, Richard and Ashley!

Learn more:

Richard and Ashley Giordano


IG: @desktoglory

FB: facebook.com/desktoglory


About Cascadia Vehicle Tents

We’re stoked to be partnering with CVT for our May Adventure Upgrade! One lucky Cairn subscriber is going to win the ultimate upgrade to his or her car camping setup: a new Mt. Shasta Summit Series 2+ Person RoofTop Tent ($2,195+ value)!

CVT has changed the way roof top tents are bought and sold. A fellow local Bend, Oregon company, they’re family-owned and all about the customer and their positive experience; It’s a one-stop-shop for everything a customer might need, from tent, to rack, to installation. They’re always out pushing their tents to the limits in our varied Oregon landscapes to create the latest car camping innovations.