MEET SCOTT BRADY
At the heart of overland adventure is the gravitational pull of the unknown. Those who feel it, thrive in the bumpy, dusty pursuit of one unexplored route that leads to another, and another.
His impressive 4×4 resume of conquered continents, polar extremes, and circumnavigations would suggest that Scott Brady has done it all; seen it all. But he’d swiftly disagree.
“There is always more to discover. Traveling with the intention of learning changes us in unexpected ways.”
This is a story of evolutionary exploration.
Describing what he deems the most dangerous of his endeavors, the Overland Journal and Expedition Portal founder recounts falling into a crevasse while crossing the Greenland ice sheet. To put that story in context though, you’ll need to know how a guy from sunny Los Angeles finds himself dangling from a vehicle near the arctic.
Scott’s first of many adventure-geared life choices was joining the Air Force after high school.
“I was stationed in Italy for six months for the Bosnian conflict, and by the time I left, I realized that travel needed to become a cornerstone of my life. I didn’t know how to get there, but I knew deep down in my core that that’s what I wanted my life to be.”
It would take two vastly different career paths for Scott to find his current trade; collecting elements of adventure along the way. The former city kid first connects with nature while working at a cattle ranch and attending business school, then discovers a passion for mechanical systems while working in manufacturing, next, software consulting allows him a few months off each year for extended trips.
It was then overlanding took hold. Adding Air Lockers® to his CJ in the late 90s would be his first interaction with a certain Australian 4×4 accessories manufacturer, followed by a Land Rover fitted with Old Man Emu suspension.
“ARB was always very aspirational to me. I remember when I was living in Idaho while in the military, around 1994, I found myself on a 4×4 run and there was a brand-new Wrangler with basically the whole ARB catalog on it.
“I remember admiring how it all worked and looked together – and appreciating its purposeful design. It was an elegant execution. From that point forward, I recognized that ARB was one of the high watermarks of how I wanted my vehicles to look and the type of products I wanted to buy.”
A higher education consultant gig first offered the time to explore and then, with the success of a few applications, it allowed Scott the means for a bold decision. He cashed out of the software world and started Expedition Portal – melding his passions for exploration, vehicles, and technology into an online community that aimed to connect overland enthusiasts.
A CHALLENGE, NEW COURSE
A sister event of Australia’s famed 4×4 race, the Outback Challenge was held in Morocco in 2006. It was a six-day, 1200-mile traverse of the Atlas Mountains from Tangier to M’hamid. A French sponsor put Scott behind the wheel of a Land Cruiser for the occasion. Fitted with an ARB bumper, Old Man Emu suspension and few other components, the first-timer hoped to complete the route – place at best.
“When we won that race, everything changed for me. We weren’t expected to win and we did so by such a margin that it gave us a lot of attention from sponsors and the media. That was the springboard that I used to launch Expedition Portal and develop supporting relationships.”
One of those relationships was with ARB, and Scott soon found himself in Washington state for a site visit.
“It felt to me like I won the lottery. It really did. To be able to go to ARB headquarters and meet people that I admired… It felt like the first step in being able to do what I love.
“They took the time to talk through Old Man Emu suspension with me; the purpose of the different load ratings, how the shocks are made, and why they’re tuned the way that they are. They even handed me the keys to a built-out 4Runner to drive back to Arizona and try out. That was my first opportunity to use a fully-outfitted ARB vehicle, which was crucial to my efforts as a new business.”
That fall, Scott launched Overland Journal out-of-pocket – long before overlanding was mainstream. It was unimaginable that in just a few years overlanding would grow tenfold to be featured in TV shows and dedicated events, and even grab the attention of manufacturers.
“I put the business plan together and decided to go all-in. ARB was one of our charter advertisers. They believed that overland had as much potential in America as it did in Australia. If it wasn’t for their faith in the effort, we probably wouldn’t have made it.”
Presses ran on the first Overland Journal in 2007 with a Defender in the African Sahara gracing the cover. At that time, overlanding was a niche activity, and one that appeared out-of-reach for the masses.
“We worked very hard to build the idea of overlanding in the US; a lot of energy went into marketing the concept itself.”
To most, overlanding (if they’d even heard of the term) was synonymous with a completely built-out G Class or Defender. The notion that overland travel was attainable with a daily driver SUV hadn’t been circulated.
“I really believed that overlanding could appeal to families in a way that rock crawling wasn’t able to. There was a lower cost-to-entry than people realized, and I saw so much opportunity.”
Trips to Australia cemented this vision for Scott and a project documenting the Flinders Range in 2011 provided the opportunity to tour ARB headquarters in Melbourne. Their innovative design and quality-focused production processes only reinforced overland’s promising trajectory. Australia’s wide-spread 4×4 culture and deep history of overland travel was equally inspiring.
Okay, now we’re ready for the crevasse.
AN EVOLUTIONARY EXPEDITION
Expedition Portal and Overland Journal weren’t the biggest risks Scott would take. Not in the slightest.
“My mind works really well in chaos. A border crossing to me is like my birthday, it’s the most fun I can have because it’s total chaos.”
As one of the leaders of Expeditions 7, Scott would invest five years into crossing each of the seven continents in a 4×4 – a feat as grueling as inexplicably rewarding. The nature of risk is to expect the unexpected.
“These were very ambitious undertakings that had a high probability of failure; overall we were very lucky.”
Sometimes it worked out, as Antarctica did in 2013.
“We didn’t even know if we could make it as far as the South Pole. But the weather held, and we had enough time and fuel to actually traverse the continent. That’s how we ended up being the first Americans to do a double-crossing by vehicle.”
On the other side of the coin, the Greenland Expedition of 2018 aimed to traverse the continent South to North, ending at the Arctic Ocean. Due to extreme weather and fatigue, the group decided to cut the route just short of the North coast.
“It was one of the more dangerous things we’ve done. It was getting down to the wire, visibility was very low, and we were entering crevasse zones. I actually fell into a crevasse and it was very dangerous.”
Yet he recounts the circumstances with a lighthearted tone. Scott explains, “It ended up not being a big deal only because we had planned well. I had a harness on and I was roped to the vehicle. When I hopped out of the truck, I fell right into the crevasse but luckily, I had the right gear on and my harness caught me. I ascended the rope and got back to business.”
Scott’s fall was preceded by one of the vehicles breaking through a snow bridge, but victory was won despite the hardships. Firstly, in that the crew returned home safely, and secondly in that they were the first group ever to cross the long-axis of the Greenland ice sheet in a 4×4.
“Completing Expeditions 7 was very difficult. It honestly consumed my life for about five years, so finishing the trip was a big transition. I was a very different person at the end of that experience.”
OVERLOADED TO ULTRALIGHT
“Just last week I did El Camino del Diablo that runs along Southern Arizona. Twenty years ago (almost exactly) it was my first overland trip. Back then, I was towing a trailer with my Isuzu Trooper and loaded down with enough gasoline for a cross-country voyage. I was worried about not having everything I needed, so I carried everything I could.
“For the run last week, I borrowed a stock vehicle, threw in a bedroll, five gallons of extra gas, a toolbox and my camera. And that was it. Just me, and I went off and did it.”
The ways in which travel changes us mean so much more than the stamps in our passport. Equally as important as where we go, is how we interact with our surroundings. How vulnerable we allow ourselves to be.
The objective-based overland expeditions of Scott’s past understandably couldn’t afford vulnerability. But part of what makes travel a lifelong pursuit is the many different ways our journeys unfold. It’s interactions along the way that can break open our perspective.
While making his way along the ancient Silk Road from Uzbekistan into Tajikistan in a Suzuki Jimny (Stock, save Old Man Emu springs and shocks) a chance encounter inspired Scott.
“My travel partner and I picked up a hitchhiker. She was an English teacher from Russia who left her home with five dollars, a backpack, and a cell phone with a few SIM cards. She had not only the fortitude, but the desire to travel so much so that she was willing to just figure it out and teach English classes on the side when she ran out of money.
“She made it all the way to Mongolia on a fiver. After that I realized that it’s really just our insecurities that keep us from pursuing our dreams.”
While his races and Expeditions 7 required structure, Scott now takes time to indulge in the richness of cultures and people.
“After Expeditions 7, my journeys became much more about interacting with the local communities. I did a trip to Uganda and Kenya and spent a lot more time focused on people. These trips were less about the vehicle and the pace was much slower.
“I did some solo motorcycle trips in South America that were profoundly life-changing and wonderful. You quickly realize on a motorcycle how little you actually need.”
Scott’s is now a lifestyle devoted to exploration, external and internal.
“My travels and the places I visit have changed me in so many ways. I’m learning that the more we make a home within us, and the less we are attached to things, the more experiences we get to have.
“It’s the relationships we have, the people we love, our experiences that change us. I’m so grateful for all those lessons that I’ve learned from those unique places and people around the world.”
Disclaimer: Lexus GX platforms are not approved applications for ARB products. Installing vehicle-specific ARB products on applications other than those approved by ARB will void the warranty.