Instructor Spotlight: The Mali Mish Family

Photo By: The Mali Mish

Overlanding can be an amazing adventure for the entire family. And one of Overland Expo’s favorite traveling families will join us at Overland Expo PNW 2023 to tell us all about how they make their way around the world as a family. The Lin Family (a.k.a. “The Mali Mish Family” – more on that nickname later) will teach and give presentations about “DIY Solar and Lithium Power For Your Vehicle,” “All You Need to Know About Using Starlink Around the World,” and they will share the “Best Overlanding Routes in Europe.” Two of the younger members of the Mali Mish Family, Ava and Mila, will give a presentation called “Overlanding the World: A Kid’s Perspective.” They are certainly experts on the topic: Ava is in her 14th year of overland travel, and Mila has traveled through 43 countries. And yes, to achieve these impressive numbers, Dan, Marlene, and their three children have been living on the road, working remotely, and exploring the world via their home on wheels since 2008.  

Photo by the Mali Mish Family

Unlike today, where overlanders new to this way of life have social media networks, 4G LTE, and events for overlanders like Overland Expo, the Lin Family had to learn everything for themselves. There were no shortcuts for figuring out “how to overland.” No how-to video tutorials, no downloadable e-books or courses, just a handful of other full-time traveling families posting their travels here and there on their hand-coded websites. So Dan and Marlene say, “They did what they had to do, figured out what worked best for their family, and did it.”  

READ MORE: New Overland Experience Driving Course Upgrade at PNW

In the first ten years, they zigzagged across North America for a quarter-million miles and visited all 49 continental U.S. states, most of Mexico, and all Canadian provinces. In 2018, they shipped their self-built Sprinter 4×4 across the Atlantic to Europe to explore countries in Europe, Africa, and Asia.  

A total of 15 years and 43 countries later, the Mali Mish family is still hungry for adventure and exploration, but they have graciously taken a break from their travels through Central America to share their hard-earned knowledge and teach the following classes at Overland Expo PNW.  

Photo by the Mali Mish Family

To learn more about this fascinating family, please continue reading below.

First, how did you become known as the “Mali Mish Family”? 

The name Mali Mish (pronounced ‘Mah-Lee Mish’) is Croatian for ‘Little Mouse.’ It’s a name bestowed on Marlene by her grandmother, and we chose it to be our blog name. Little did we know that the age of social media was on its way and that we would be known as the Mali Mish Family to all who follow our adventures. 

Tell us about your rig.

We have traveled in five different rigs. For the first seven years, we lived in a 2007 25-foot Airstream trailer as we explored North America. In 2015, we downsized to a Ford F-250 Crew Cab Long Bed Super Duty 4×4 with a Four Wheel Pop-Up Camper Grandby Silver Spur with a front dinette. We explored most of Mexico and the rest of the Canadian provinces to the east that we had not yet visited. Since 2018, we have been traveling the world in a 2017 Mercedes Sprinter crew van 4×4 with a 170-inch wheelbase. It is a DIY build to accommodate our family of five. 

Photo by the Mali Mish Family

What is your all-time favorite campsite? 

Shadow Mountain in the Teton National Forest has been our favorite for a long time. It has gotten a lot more popular lately, and it’s hard to have the place to yourself anymore, but it holds a great spot in our memory. Playa La Pastora in Baja California Sur is another favorite of ours. Camping right on the beach with good surf and good friends is a tough combination to beat. 

What’s your go-to overlanding meal? 

We make a lot of food wrapped inside a tortilla. Obviously, quesadillas, tacos, and fajitas are some of our favorite go-to meals. However, we love making what we lovingly refer to as ‘egg-adillas.’ It is just an egg cracked in a pan with some cheese and tortilla slapped right on top. Give it about 30 seconds and flip it around to toast the other side. In less than a minute, we have a delicious breakfast with minimal dishes to clean. We also enjoy making stews and chowders since they are hearty, one-pot meals that don’t require a lot of dirty dishes. Perhaps there is a theme here somewhere.

Best silver-lining story? 

Our visit to Alaska in 2015, the last of our continental state trip, was a life-changing one. We had a lot of breakdowns that required welding, late-night parking lot wrenching, and parts to be shipped in from the lower 48. But our time there was so inspiring it made us realize that we wanted to downsize to a smaller and more capable vehicle and travel to even farther away places. 

Photo by the Mali Mish Family

What is an area of overland travel that you think you have nailed? And what is an area of overland travel that you feel you could use some improvement in? 

We have been living minimally as a family for 14 years, so our comfort zone and strength on the road is adapting to all types of environments. We can make small spaces very comfortable for a family of five, and our resources stretch a long way. We do, however, need to still get better at slowing down our pace to enjoy more of our current surroundings. We are so used to being on the move that we often can’t stay for more than two or three days before we get the itch. 

What do your kids think about traveling around the world? Since they have been overlanding since birth and don’t know really anything different, do you think they would experience reverse culture shock if you were to settle back into a stationary life in Ventura, CA? 

We meet as a family each year to make sure that everyone is still on board with our nomadic lifestyle. Since the kids have been living this way since they were born, we always have a consensus to continue exploring as long as there are more exciting places to visit. As they get older, we are more aware of their desire for external interactions and educational needs. Fortunately for us, modern technology has made a lot of these available from anywhere. We have just been stationary for a few weeks in southern California since returning from Europe back in May 2022. We have definitely experienced some reverse culture shock. It feels good to be back on the road again this summer. 

What does your “division” of labor look like while traveling? 

I (Dan) do pretty much all of the driving, most of the cooking, and all of the vehicle maintenance. We usually grocery shop together because it is often a break from a long drive to stretch our legs a bit. We both update our social media channels, but Marlene is more involved with Instagram, while I am responsible for making all of the videos for our two primary YouTube channels. The kids help with keeping the van tidy and getting it ready for driving. They are also responsible for setting up and breaking down camp when we arrive and depart from a new location. 

You can learn more about and follow the Mali Mish Family via the following links:

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