ByUnsealed 4X4July 31, 2014

Kirsty Hobbs is our resident Unsealed 4X4 female columnist. She has no fixed address, just finished a big adventure around Australia and is currently driving the back roads up through eastern Africa in her trusty old LandCruiser.

About a decade ago the idea of being a writer for a hot new 4X4 magazine would have been laughable.

I was the chick who hadn’t serviced her little Holden Astra for “Oh, six-or-so-years”. A puddle of oil would form under it and I would dodge letters from my building’s strata manager telling me to clean up the mess. I purchased that poor car for $10,000 and sold it for $500 10 years later to a scrap dealer.

It’s true – I have never loved cars. But damn I have always loved travel.

Like many others out there, I don’t feel like travel is an option; it’s an essential. It isn’t a ‘bug’ we have caught. And it’s not something we can shake. It’s far more reaching than that. The best way I can describe it, in others and myself, is this: travel is lifeblood.

And when the desire to move and shift and shape is that entrenched we find new ways to see the world.

So how does the 4X4 thing fit in? Well, my story goes like this: When I was 23 years old pottering around Africa, I made a friend who was travelling around in a Land Rover Defender and I jumped in. The idea of travelling like a turtle with all your belongings on your back was appealing. I’d tolerated grubby backpacker joints – but this thing of having your bed, bag and kitchen sink with you wherever you went? To not be restrained by train timetables or tourist routes? Well holy-fr!ggen-sh!t-balls-Batman, the entire world opened up as a new adventure.

As a traveller, I love that we can reach places in a 4X4 that are unachievable to most. We become explorers, cloud watchers, cooks, photographers, daydreamers, figure-outers. We watch sunsets from places where it feels as if no-one else has ever sat.

Being able to park your “house on wheels” wherever you go it is a pretty incredible thing, too. I’ve woken up lakeside, beachside and mountainside. I’ve slept under millions of stars, and through thunderstorms and lightning strikes. I have also come to believe that it is the best way to travel the world, especially because it gets you away from the tourist traps and into local communities where you can witness the way things really are in a country.

For example, just last week my fiancé Gareth and I were parked in a local fishing village and we walked down to the lake to watch the sun set. It was a relatively cool afternoon in Malawi and the paths had a vibrant feel. We were joined on the beach by group of young boys keen to know everything about us mzungus (the local word for white people).

Soon enough the lake shore became a classroom and the sand a chalkboard. Sitting on the sand we had about 10 little bodies pushed up against us and they were craning their necks to see what we were drawing. A little fellow slung his arm around my partner Gareth in the most honest show of affection and I could immediately see the smile spread across both their faces.

It’s these little experiences that don’t necessarily make the big headlines when you report back to family about a trip, but they are the little day-to-day happenings that really make travel for me. And we would have never got there if it weren’t for the 4X4.