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Van Life Africa - Driving 20,000km Solo in her 60s | Meet Dot Bekker

Updated: May 18, 2023

A Journey of Self-Discovery with Dot Bekker

 

Dot Bekker Drove 20,000km Solo in her 60's

In early March 2023, we had the pleasure of sitting down and speaking to Dot Bekker for the 40th episode of the Adventure Mindset Podcast.


Dot, a 60+ no-nonsense van enthusiast, decided it was time for an adventure. Between November 2018 and August 2019, Dot traveled from Spain to her hometown in Zimbabwe in an old, self-converted campervan; a 1998 Blue Ford Transit, lovingly named BlueBelle, who also happened to be a 2WD. Dot shared some brilliant stories from the road as well as some pearls of wisdom for anyone considering a similar African adventure. Our conversation was truly inspiring and Dot has motivated us to push ourselves out of our comfort zone and we hope she does the same for you. You can listen to the full episode here, and a sneak peek at her story is below!



“Ditch the stuff in your life and the nonsense

that you're putting up with, and go do it.

Because I tell you what, life is short”


Dot Bekker on her vanlife trip though Africa
Dot Bekker, during her van life trip through Africa

In less than a year Dot Beckett, a van lifer and author, drove 20,000 kilometers through 18 West African countries over eight and a half months, alone. Her journey was one of self-discovery, courage, and resilience. In this blog post, we will take a closer look at her journey and the lessons she learned along the way and you can listen to the podcast episode to hear the story in full!

Where it all began “My message to most people is, it's never too late to get a hold of your life, and I certainly absolutely do not regret having done it.”


After turning 50, Dot describes feeling invisible in Europe and noticed how sedentary lifestyles were affecting people's health “People just don't do things. The sedentary lifestyle is killing us.”

She didn't want to end up limited in what she could do in her old age, nor did she want to regret not fulfilling her potential on her deathbed. Realising that she needed something radically different, she started planning her “homecoming”.


Dot’s journey started with a decision to leave her 22-year marriage, “I said, I'm taking three months to pack up my stuff and then I'm leaving” and embark on a trip to return home to Zimbabwe, her home country. Despite having lived outside of Africa for over 20 years, she felt it was time for a homecoming, not only to her country but to the continent as a whole. With no money and a desire for adventure, Dot decided to take on a massive expedition of driving through Africa, which she believed would help her to discover herself once more.


“I really needed to find out who I was

and I thought, doing a long journey like that will do that.”


Preparing for the Journey

Unbelievably, Dot traversed West Africa in a 1998 Ford Transit van, which she lovingly named BlueBelle. She explains that she chose this van because she couldn't afford a 4x4 and wanted the strongest possible van that wouldn't give her problems.




“I was looking for a unicorn when I started out and I ended up with a donkey,

but she's the best donkey I've ever had.”


BlueBelle, a self-built conversion, has a diesel engine and is slightly raised which she felt would be essential on the tough African roads. BlueBelle also has a toilet (“You need to have a toilet [...] There were instances when I had eaten salad in places where I shouldn't have eaten salad and, in the middle of the night, I'm telling you that toilet was the best thing on earth”), a 150-watt solar panel and a 150-amp hour gel battery.


Safety When Traveling

Despite the general perception of Africa being dangerous, Dot felt safe and secure throughout her journey. She attributes this to trusting her instincts and the immense friendliness and helpfulness of the African people. “People are people all over the world. It doesn't matter where you are. There are nice people, there are idiots and there are nasty people. And what you need to do is just treat them well.“


Dot also took precautions to ensure her safety. She had an alarm system installed on her van and always drove with her doors locked. She did do some wild camping, but only in places where she felt safe and would drive away in the night if things didn’t feel right. “You learn to trust your instincts, number one. I would just get in my pyjamas, get in the front seat and just drive until I found a place that I felt was right.”


Locals in Africa helping Dot push her transit van, BlueBelle out of the sand.
Locals helping Dot push BlueBelle out of the sand.

Although official campsites were rare, she used an app called iOverlander to locate all sorts of places, from hotel/motel parking lots to church missions, and sometimes even just on the side of the road. She also encountered some wild animals along the way!



“This is not the M6 or the M25, you know, this is Africa.

Let the elephant do its thing at its own pace and wait until it's off the road and then you can pass it safely.”




Lessons Learned

Dot Bekker's journey through West Africa is truly inspiring. Her story shows that it's never too late to make a change and embark on a new adventure. She teaches us to let go of our fears, trust our instincts, and embrace the unknown. Dot's journey also highlights the kindness and generosity of the African people, who welcomed her with open arms and helped her throughout her travels.



"If you give yourself the opportunity to,

you can transform your life.

You just have to be bold enough

to let go of what you've got right now.”



Her book "Going Home to Africa" is a must-read for anyone who wants to be inspired by an incredible journey of self-discovery and adventure. Dot's journey reminds us that sometimes the greatest adventures are the ones that take us outside of our comfort zones and into the unknown.

Listen to the full episode here


Dot’s Book “Going Home to Africa” is available here:

Learn more about how you can connect with & support Dot’s charity work here: www.goinghometoafrica.com


 

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