Educate, Encourage, and Inspire

Piggybacking off last week’s post exploring the budget minded aspect of the ECOA mission statement, this week I want to unpack the phrase, “To Educate, Encourage, and Inspire.” since it is the main part of the mission.

The mission of East Coast Overland Adventures is to:
Educate, encourage, and inspire other adventurers in the overlanding community.

What does that even mean?

Just like building a fire with fuel, air, and spark I’ll explain how my goals to educate, encourage, and inspire work together to ignite a fire of exploration and adventure in other overlanders.


educate / ˈejəˌkāt / [verb]: give intellectual, moral, and social instruction to someone typically at a school or university; give someone training in or information on a particular field

Round table facilitation.
Part of the ECOA mission to educate
[Overland Expo West, Flagstaff, AZ 2016]

When most people think “education” they think of a formal setting like a school.  Kids sitting in desks filed into neat little rows with a teaching standing in front of them imparting them with knowledge.  This usually involves reading, studying, tests, and all manner of less than pleasurable tasks like homework.  However, not all education is formal education.  I spent a lot of time in the education field before embracing this lifestyle full-time.  I specialized in an hands-on approach to learning that was rooted in experiences rather than books.  I still valued many aspects of traditional learning, but I felt there was a better way and doing so experientially was a lot more interesting, a lot more engaging, as well as a lot more rewarding.

When I was forced to reinvent myself professionally back in 2014 I knew no matter what I did I knew education would still play a big roll in who I was, what I did, how I did it, and why I was doing it.  By combining my past as an outdoor educator, my passion for photography and writing, with my love of travel it seemed the perfect intersection for all that was the overland adventure lifestyle.  I also saw a real need for quality education within the community helping prepare people for their next adventure.  My background of skills, experiences, and talents lends itself to being a teacher.  I, to toot my own horn for a second, also happen to be damn good at it too.
As such, when I started writing out a formal mission statement I knew that education would be the most important guiding principle.  From this foundation let’s move to the next two aspects of my mission.


encourage / enˈkərij / [verb]: give support, confidence, or hope to someone; give support and advice to someone so that they will do or continue to do something; help or stimulate an activity, state, or view to develop

After watching him struggle on the hill and fail three time I offered him a little advice.
He offered to let me show him by driving his rig.  I told him I had already made it and now it was his turn.
Education + Encouragement = Success
The broad smile on his face after he made it was priceless.
[Disconnected Offroad’s Rock the Clock II, Rausch Creek Offroad Park, PA 2016]

Encouraging someone is a little more abstract than educating them.  It can take on a few different looks depending on the situation.  Ultimately my goal is to encourage people they can go on adventures even if they are on a limited budget.  For a while the expedition community was pretty harsh to new enthusiasts.  It wasn’t till recent years when the term “overland” became the rally cry of a new subset of vehicle based travel enthusiasts.  In many ways expeditions were seen as an unobtainable fantasy by average everyday people. The term “overland” had always been out there but was abstractly defined.  In many ways it still is but it has been adopted by recreational explorers and vehicle based campers as a way to separate themselves from hard-core international expeditions, and equally so from trail riders and rock crawlers.  In many ways overlanding has become a blended term that’s part road-trip, part car-camping, part exploration, and usually entails multiple days in remote locations.  Along with this is the desire for many people to enjoy the overland lifestyle buy may feel threatened, ill-equipped, or ill-prepared.  Part of my goal, my mission, is to encourage these people that they can do it.


inspire / inˈspīr / [verb]: fill someone with the urge or ability to do or feel something, especially to do something creative

“Camp Humble”
By traveling modestly on a limited budget I hope to inspire others to use what they have to get out there and explore.
[American Adventurist Appalachian Rendezvous, Uwharrie, NC 2015]

Inspiration is the other side of the coin from encouragement.  By definition the two are very similar.  In some respects though it is probably the easiest thing for me to do since all I have to do is keep doing what I’m doing the way I’m doing it.  They way I see it, encouragement is an action I do toward other people.  So where as encouragement is direct, inspiration is a little more indirect.  Inspiration is something they take from me just from me doing what I’m doing.  This is why I pay particular attention to the DIY projects and plan both my builds and my trips on a more modest budget.  I want to inspire people through what I’m doing that you don’t need deep pockets to get out there and see the world.  With that in mind it’s also the hardest part of my mission to wrap my head around.  The way I look at it is there are people who inspire me.  People I enjoy watching on video or reading articles they wrote.  I see what they are doing, how they are doing it, and I want to do it.  I won’t say who, but there are a small handful of people who inspired me to just get out there and do it.  That’s what I’m trying to do now.


Since I’m big on analogies I break it down this way.  Inspiration is the spark, encouragement is the fan, and education is the fuel.  Those three work together to ignite and maintain the fire of exploration and adventure.  The other two aren’t very useful without the third.  I not only want to see more people out there, but I want to show them they can do it, and if they need a little help I’ll be there to teach them what they need to know.
Fuel + Air + Spark = Fire
Education + Encouragement + Inspiration = The ECOA Mission
But Dean,” you ask, “what about entertainment?
Entertainment is not part of my mission.  There are plenty of YouTube celebrities out there doing a very good job of entertaining the overland community.  In many ways their videos are inspirational and some of them have similar goals to encourage and educate through what they are doing.  But that’s not me.  That said, I do hope in some way or another people are entertained along the way.  I’ve been told a time or two I am a great instructor because I can get people to laugh.  I often poke fun at myself through lessons I’ve learned the hard way to illustrate to others the importance of good preparation.  I find levity a good way to break the ice and get people to relax and not approach things too seriously while at the same time maintaining a focus on the importance of the situation.  Therefore entertainment, for me at least, is an ancillary thing that happens naturally and organically.  I don’t factor it into my plans.  It’s not part of my mission.  There’s no script for me to follow with the expectation of applause.  I’m not here to become the next big YouTube celebrity.  First and foremost I’m an educator and that will never change.
I hope you have enjoyed these last two posts as I unpack, unravel, and explore the ECOA Mission.  I hope that you will continue to feel inspired and encouraged through this blog and what I’m doing with the No Highways Tour book series.  I hope that you’re also learning things here and in the workshops I facilitate at events like Overland Expo and the Mid-Atlantic Overland Festival.