SO WHAT’S THIS WEBSITE ABOUT?

The short version: A series of blogs written for 4WD enthusiasts and overland travellers who are keen to learn, share and explore topics around camping and driving off-road.

The long version: Well, let me bore you with my background…

I’m not a writer. Nor am I a journalist or a photographer. I started my working career as an apprentice Fitter & Turner at a gear-cutting company.

“If a stray dog walks into this factory and suddenly sh-ts itself and dies, its corpse will be of more value to this business than you”

My first day on the job included a pep talk from the workshop foreman who pulled me aside and very seriously said, “Just so we’re clear, if a stray dog walks into this factory and suddenly sh-ts itself and dies, its corpse will be of more value to this business than you.”

LOL, talk about an inspiring speech.

During my eight years as a Fitter & Turner I did a wide range of jobs, including machinery repairs in abattoirs and mills, and night-shift work in the London Underground. I even shovelled coal for 12-hours a day in a 4-man boiler room while the original staff striked outside and threatened to lynch me.

But aside from the crappy pay, long hours and death threats, I loved working in blues. However, after standing behind a lathe for several years, I needed a change.

TRYING MY LUCK

And so, one evening – instead of watching MacGyver reruns –  I jumped on a recruitment website and came across an ad for a Travel Writer at South Africa’s oldest 4×4 travel magazine. I had never written a “professional” story in my life, and my high-school English grades were very average, but I enjoyed reading Wilbur Smith. So after some encouraging words from my wife, I figured, “Yeah, why not?”

The job application asked for previous work experience, or, “a story on your most recent holiday”. I wrote a quick feature about a Boerboel that ate fishing hooks in Vermaaklikheid and sent it to the Editor – not expecting a reply.

About a week or so later I got a call at work. The Editor was on the line and asking if I could come in for an interview. I thought it was a mate playing a joke, but a short while later I found myself in the publication’s offices answering questions about 4x4s. My technical background must’ve saved my bacon, but there was a tougher challenge ahead…

“Look out the window and write 500 words on what you see. You’ve got 30 minutes to complete this task.” The Editor closed the door of the coffin-sized office, but not before telling me that dozens of ‘qualified’ journalists had also applied for the job.

“Fok, the charade is over. I may as well get back to the factory.”

I remember turning my head, looking out of the window, and thinking to myself, “Fok, the charade is over. I may as well get back to the factory.”

Figuring I stood zero chance of pulling it off, I wrote a bizarre 450 words about how effectively a lathe, and a length of chain could pluck off a human head. I handed in my assignment, pulled on my overalls and returned to the workshop where my all-too-familiar lathe awaited. Just as I was about to put the whole experience behind me, I got a call: “You’ve got the job.”

I spent the next 7-years driving 4x4s off-road. Everything from recceing the Skeleton Coast, to hiking with gorillas in Uganda, exploring Egypt in an old Tdi Defender, camping in a muddy field in Germany, or passing out on a sandbank in the middle of the Zambezi River. I’d often get home, do my laundry (read: thank my wife for doing my laundry), quickly write a story, and then hit the road again. It was a glorious existence, and yes, my backside was squarely in the butter.

But then the worst thing happened…

I got promoted. By some unimaginable fluke, I managed to worm my way from first-time Travel Writer, to Editor of the magazine. I also went from being the guy who “lived on the road”, to being the office-bound “boss man” who tapped his watch every time a journo was late for work.

The position wasn’t for me. So I left the greatest job on earth and have since spent the last 8-years working as a freelance technical writer with some of the industry’s leading brands – testing tyres in Texas and the Aussie Outback, attending overland expos around the globe, and, one of my all-time highlights: Spending 13 months driving 4×4 trails across South Africa with my off-road bestie in a series of highly-modified 4x4s before the bastard emigrated to Australia. He’s dead to me now.

“I’m humbled that they think I have all the answers. I don’t.”

But despite having left the magazine several years ago, remarkably, I still get people contacting me with their off-road related questions. I’m humbled that they think I have all the answers. I don’t. Nobody does. And that’s because nobody can possibly know everything there is to know about suspension, tyres, trailers, towing, winches, fuel filtration, battery technology, charging technology, wheel alignment, engine mapping, 12V refrigeration, recovery gear… I mean, come on, really? This is why I don’t trust self-proclaimed “4WD gurus”.

However, the one thing I can unequivocally tell you is that the 4WD industry (worldwide) is chock full of specialists within their fields, and they all have invaluable information to share. My “skill set” isn’t that I know a lot about tyres, or dual-battery systems, it’s that I enjoy listening and learning from people who do know a lot about these things, and then sharing that information with others who also wish to learn.

On that note, you’ll see that much of the content on this website is supplied by industry specialists within their fields. The writing is often mine, but the knowledge and experience is theirs.

So I guess that’s what this website’s about: Finding relevant answers, to relevant questions, with the help of relevant experts. Plus, some story telling along the way.

“That’s okay, we don’t have to all be friends”

Aside from that, there is no master plan. But if you’d like to stay in touch, share some stories, and learn (or debate) with me as I go, then feel free to join the newsletter. Admittedly, it’s a bit directionless at the moment, but I’m sure things will evolve over time, and you can always unsubscribe if the content isn’t relevant to you. My writing style is often tongue-in-cheek, so it may not be for everyone. That’s okay, we don’t have to all be friends.

Lastly, there is no publishing team or IT division behind this site, it’s just me and my very limited web-building abilities. Let me know if you come across any mistakes or glitches and I’ll do my best to fix them. I can patch up content errors, but I can’t promise anything on the IT side – I’m what you would call: Digitally Dim.  

Aside from 4WDs, I can also talk for days about: guns, knives, power tools, off-grid water- and solar systems, fishing, prepping, DIY, and Bitcoin – yes, I’m one of those. But don’t worry, I’ll do my best to keep things 4WD related.

Thanks for visiting and don’t forget to join the newsletter for future blog posts.

Regards,

Grant Spolander

P.S. If you’re an industry specialist and would like to add your name to the contributors’ list, then please drop me an email here.