May 3, 2013 @ 10:33 pm - posted by Robert

Ex Overlander and founder of adventure travel company with a difference ‘Tour de Force Adventure Logistics, Duncan Milligan talks about the stupid rule plus Guns and Uniforms & Common Sense when travelling

The Stupid Rule, avoid doing anything you’d feel really stupid explaining to someone afterwards. Remember this and it will serve you well.

Guns and uniforms, don’t forget, it’s just a game, especially when dealing with officialdom and police.  Borders are weird places, like bus stations and airports.  There are dodgy guys looking for the numpty who doesn’t know what they are doing.

Common sense is the most important skill you have.  Trust it! Use it!

More videos of ex overlander Duncan Milligan & his unusual adventure travel company ‘Tour de Force Adventure Logistics’

#01 Round the World Travel Tips for the Adventure traveller with Duncan Milligan : Tour de Force - Filmed at the London Adventure Travel Show 2013

#02 Round the World Travel Tips for the Adventure traveller with Duncan Milligan : Tour de Force – Filmed at the London Adventure Travel Show 2013

#03 Adventure Travel: Round the World Travel Tips for the Adventurous Traveller -Filmed at the London Adventure Travel Show 2013

#04 Adventure Travel: Round the World Travel Tips for the Adventurous Traveller -Filmed at the London Adventure Travel Show 2013

#05 Adventure Travel: Round the World Travel Tips for the Adventurous Traveller -Filmed at the London Adventure Travel Show 2013

Transcript of ex overlander Duncan Milligan from Tour De Force Adventure Logistics, talking at the Adventure Travel Show 2013, part 4


The stupid rule.  The stupid rule has stood me in very very good stead.  This is the minefield between Morocco and Mauritania.  It’s unmarked and you stick to the tracks for obvious reasons.  The stupid rule I came up with when I travelled through Cambodia in 1996.  [Cambodia was ] amazing, just as it was opening up, we back packed through, and we tried to go to Angkor Wat and in those days there was no infrastructure, there was no-where you could buy tickets, there were just basically some dodgy guards on the road to try and stop you going through and then they would try and fleece you for loads and loads of money, and there was about 10 of us and we hired mopeds and we shot out there and half of the group got through and we got stopped by these guards.  Now you know I am all for making sure that you pay to go into places if you pay the right people and you know that money is going to go towards the upkeep of Angkor Wat or wherever it is.  But at this stage there was none of that and they were just trying to fleece us.  So we regrouped back and I was sent forward to negotiate and they wanted $100 each or something like that, and I negotiated, I got it down to like $15 or something like that.  Went back and told the group “OK we can go in for $15”.  Now a couple in the group said “no no no, a guy at the hostel was saying if you take that track off there and go around the side you can bypass it and you can get in for free and that will work”.  And we were like “OK, that will be brilliant, let’s do that”.  And then he goes “ah, but they did say something about a minefield I think”.  And I had this moment of “what am I going to do” and I fast forwarded to imagine myself in hospital with no legs and some friends, family coming round and going “my god what happened?” and me going “well I drove through a minefield to save myself $15” and thinking actually when I say that, that sounds a bit stupid.  So the stupid rule for me is don’t do anything that if it goes wrong you’re going to feel really stupid explaining to someone afterwards. And that has stood me in very good stead whenever I have to make a decision.

And this is a classic [points at picture of minefield] “well I went for a pee, yes I walked off the track and went behind the car for a wee”.


Now you know the stupid rule, common sense is the most important skill, thing, attribute that you have.  Use it, trust it.  You’re never going to know what the right thing is to do.  You will always going to be in situations where “shall I do this this this this and this” there is no right or wrong, you just have to go with your gut instinct.  And we try and plan everything to the eighth degree, I know I do this, I try and plan it and think if I do this I’ll do that and I’ll do that and….  Sometimes just go with your gut instinct.  With people it’s exactly the same as well.  Go with your gut instinct when you meet people.  At borders, normally ignore the first person who comes up to you wanting to be your friend “hello my friend, I’ll help you…”. Have a look round.  You have these skills already there and if it doesn’t feel quite right, if your bush camping, you’ve camped up somewhere, the locals invariably will come over and they’ll be really nice and friendly…if it just doesn’t feel quite right pack up and move, use that, listen to that, it’s really really important.


You’ll have the best laid plans.  This is my favourite one.  So when we did the flying car, we got to Bamako, we were on the way back and some other part members of the team were flying out and so I’m in charge of logistics, I’ve got to organise this, and so I found this great taxi driver and I said to him “right can you go to the airport and pick these guys up”, and I had to do it on the phone in French and I speak French with a like an eight year old, it’s not very good French.  So what I said to him on the phone was “and can you make a sign that says SKYCAR EXPEDITON”.  And he said “yes yes yes no problem”.  This is what he came up with [sign saying SKAYE SPEDITION]  It was no quite what I meant and he was very proudly showing it and of course they guys came off and he was standing there with his sign and no-one knew what that meant.  It goes wrong.  That’s part of the fun and you’ll make those plans and they’ll fall apart and that’s really really important.


The whole guns and uniform thing, we here in Europe, especially in the UK, we’re not used to seeing people standing on the side of the road with guns, waving them around.  This is in Mali, we gave him a lift in the end, he wanted a lift somewhere else, really nice guy.  You will find them.  It’s a game.  You come to borders; you come to police checks think of this as a game.  And the game goes…you drive up, solider thinks here we go, I’m going to get some money out of you, we’ll demand something.  The best policy is always to play the dumb tourist, which I’m really really good at “I’m sorry, I don’t understand you, I can’t speak your language”.  I’m smiling a lot, I’m just a tourist and I’m trying to go here.  Solider/policeman tries again, doesn’t quite get through “I’d really like to help you; I’ve no idea what you’re asking me for”.  I’m still smiling a lot.  This is a game and one or other is going to get bored of that game quite quickly, normally them when they realise it’s not going to work, and they let you go.  So, don’t be to coward or nervous or paranoid about dealing with, especially officialdom and police.  Have a bit of confidence and just smile and think of it as a game.  Don’t just start chucking hundreds of dollar bills out the window which is what a lot of the people do, because of course the next car that comes along, the policeman’s going to go ‘alright, I know how this works’. So, the whole guns and uniform thing and the whole scary thing “Africa’s really scary” [remember] London can be really really scary if you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time.


Borders, act like you know what you’re doing.  When you go to a border; they’re weird places.  If your crossing borders, bus stations, airports, the most dodgy part of any trip is the journey from the airport to your first hotel, so I would always try and book that first night, try and find out which are the registered taxis to take because there are guys circling airports and borders looking for the numpty who doesn’t know what they’re doing.  So if you just have a few more skills then they are not going to go for you, they will try and find someone else.

The border is a classic one.  Get out and look like you’ve been here a million times before, even if you haven’t, even if your hearts pounding, you just play it very cool, you don’t go with the first person coming over and showing you what to do.  Your radars on, you’re looking, your listening, you’re seeing what other people are doing, there’s normally a kind of holy trinity of borders which is police, immigration and customs, and they’ll be this really weird system about how it works but you’ll figure it out.  But just act like you know what you’re doing because borders can be very unsettling places and you’ll feel yourself outside your comfort zone but again that’s perfectly normal and you shouldn’t worry about it.



About Robert

Robert was born with a Wonderlust and nothing excites him more than travel. He recently spent time living in Vietnam teaching English. Upon his return, he and Liz set up CareerBreak360 to help others achieve their Career Break goals.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Break out of your routine and do something sensational

Register and get exclusive content, from interviews with REAL career breakers and experts in HR, TEFL, volunteering and other career break advice.

* indicates required