Customer Adventure Series
Rhino-Rack catches up with solo adventurer Monique Song from Overland Lady
13 May 2021
13 May 2021
We caught up with one of our favourite overlanders, Monique Song. As someone who we admire for her incredible solo adventures – both in North America and Australia, Monique fearlessly challenges social, racial and gender norms, leaving her old city life to pursue the overlanding and adventure lifestyle she now loves. With her trusty LandCruiser ‘Altar’, she spent a year in the Land Down Under (see the video here) which inspired her to start her inspirational blog “Overland Lady” and continue to share her adventure stories. Monique graces our social media feeds with incredible photos from her solo trips, along with walkthroughs of her gear and tips on how to brave the elements in the sometimes-subzero British Columbia temperatures. Find out below what she’s been up to during COVID-19 lockdown, what inspired the incredible solo journey around Australia plus more!
How far do I want to date back? When COVID-19 just started, I was actually in China. I had planned a good portion of my 2020 to explore China. Although I wasn't in the dead center of Wuhan, the entire country shut down within a snap of a finger. Soon, North American countries cue down direct flights to and from China. When the Canadian government sent out a notice, calling traveling Canadians to come home, I knew I had to go. The irony is, the flight that took me back to Canada wasn't a full-on escape route. It only delayed it.
The first few weeks of Canadian lockdown was quite a sight. Empty roads and grocery stores. I was actually quite grateful for this forced downtime. Instead of being on the move traveling in China as originally planned, I had the time to slow down and unpack the memories from my Australia Lap in 2019. I spent a good amount of the initial lockdown indoor: going through photos and videos, journaling, blogging, and reading.
As the temperature started to rise, British Columbia slowly opened up stage by stage around summer. People have been suppressed by the lockdown all of a sudden put a huge emphasis on outdoor activities. I got to know a number of local 4WD communities during this period, some old, some new. I joined several trips with different off-road groups. And I was able to squeeze in two trips through the Canadian Rockies, one of which was solo, before the province border closed again. So far, I have been able to manage some small trips here and there. Keeping myself active during the winter with snowsports. Fast forward to now. It's been a year since COVID hit Canada and BC is in its 3rd wave of lockdown. Many cross-province trips are put aside. Let alone traveling south of the border.
Reading. Journaling. Going to the gym. Yoga. And I recently started to do some woodworking.
If picking from places I have been to, Western Australia coastline. The scenery can change so drastically from red dirt desert to white sand beach. If picking from places I haven't visited but most anticipated, Tuktoyaktuk or Alaska. If the province border opens after this summer, I may be looking at a trip up North into the Arctic Circle. All the way exploring Northern BC and Yukon. Expected to see lots of wild animals and amazing fall colors.
This date back to 2018, I was working in a corporate job in downtown Vancouver. The suited-up culture made me look like Somebody but internally I felt really fake. The shiny outer appearance couldn't hide my deteriorating mental health. Before COVID, Vancouver had always had a lot of young Australians on their Working Holiday VISA (WHV). One day I looked into it and found that I am still within the age range to apply for WHV to Australia. To my understanding, it's a program developed for young people to "soul search" before settling down for anything. And that's exactly what I needed - to explore what's out there since I had the privilege of not being tied down by a family (not a young mom).
At the time, I was already into offroading - it was my weekend escape from the financial district air. But nowhere near fully self-sufficient Overlanding. Australia opened my eyes. There are 4WDs in each corner of the street and a plethora of guides and maps to explore the backroads. I've also learned how to equip the vehicle with proper gear. The strict ADR set a strong foundation for trusted products. It changed my whole outlook towards modifying a car with untested products just based on looks and price. Before I realized, my day trips turned into weekend trips, then turned into weeks-long Overlanding trip.
The majority of my journey in Australia was actually not solo. After I had applied for my WHV in 2018, I met my then-boyfriend through weekend off-roading. I mentioned this VISA and a brief travel idea to him. On that same night, he applied for the VISA as well. We had a long period of separation while working in different cities. And during this time we each had our own separate trip to the red center as well as some short trips in Victoria. Eventually, I met him in Brisbane before heading to Fraser Island and continue the journey together. Being in a foreign land force you to learn to rely on yourself. It's especially easy for girls to slip into the comfort of relying on a man. I guess I was "lucky" to have had the chance to live on my own when the boyfriend was away. So when we each equip ourselves with essential kills, coming together later on formed an even stronger team.
Portable shower! In my past trips, I usually stop at a motel every 3 days to freshen up. I only tried showering once in the wild on a wide-open beach with no one around. Using a black gravity shower bag. But now with better electrical power and a fully enclosed Rhino-Rack awning system, I can shower with privacy in check.
I have a full mod list tracking here: https://moniquesong.com/altar/ Everything should remain the same, other than suspension soon to be changed to Terrain Tamer Pro Shocks, heavy-duty springs and torsion bar.
Monique is running the following Rhino-Rack gear on her LandCruiser 100 Series:
With respect to the local restrictions and laws, any place less traveled would be a good choice. We are now seeing more people opting for the bush over cities and towns for the very same reason - if it's untouched by humans, it's untouched by COVID. Of course, the safety precaution for natural disasters should still be on the top of the list - fire, avalanche, wild animals, etc. I would add one point. Even in the bush, try not to gather with too many people who hang out in different circles. This way we can minimize the COVID transmission through our outdoor trips. It has happened to one of my friends who got COVID and gave it to 6 other people on their offroad trip the Sunday before he was diagnosed. Luckily, they have all recovered. I am not trying to promote solo traveling. But keeping your circle small is key in these situations.
For me, it comes down to two main scenarios: space for storage and space for camp. A drawer system is almost a must-have. I am also planning on removing the second-row seats and make some shelvings to use that dead space. Items that get dirty or bulky are kept on top of my Rhino-Rack. Things like swag, Maxtrax, and jerry cans before I got the Longranger fuel tank. My roof tray also helped my mate who's got a smaller vehicle. At one point I was carrying his spare tyre and a sub-tank from a wrecker because he punctured his in the bush. We were able to find a shopping mall parking lot to swap the tank and continue our adventure. As for making space at camp, the Rhino-Rack Batwing 270 degree awning makes a great shelter. With the optional tapered walls, I can close up a large area of space around my vehicle - basically making a cozy cabin out of the canvas. It keeps me out of the elements (rain) and provides privacy.
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