There are many types of four-wheeling, but one that is less common is overland travel. Lots of people think overlanding is just buying a bunch of neat bolt-on widgets for their 4x4, but we describe this trend as getting away from home for multiple days and exploring and living out of your 4x4. It may be a long weekend in your local woods or a trip to the farthest reaches of the world. You may be going overlanding when you’re camping or exploring for a holiday vacation. Or you may be selling the house, packing the family in your 4x4, and taking them all on the adventure of a lifetime.
Where rockcrawling is more about surmounting a boulder-strewn trail and mud bogging is playing in a muddy field, overland travel is often less extreme on the trail obstacles but more extreme in the distance from home and civilization. In fact, you may need to mud bog or rockcrawl to finish your overland trip.
In Alaska you may go overlanding (and call it camping or moose hunting) and never leave the state. In the lower 48 maybe you could be overlanding if you’re taking dirt roads from Mexico to Canada, or as many logging roads as you can from Lake Superior to the Pacific Ocean.
The idea is actually pretty simple—it’s an adventure—but defining it will be different for everyone. We know people who have gone on these trips in old Jeeps, cars, motorcycles, and built-to-the-hilt 4x4 or 6x6 campers. It doesn’t really matter what you take or how you outfit it; you can still have an adventure. You just have to go.
Set a Departure Date
If you don’t set a date to leave you may never leave. It’s easy to say you will, but easier still to find excuses not to. Set a date and work toward it. Then on that date, leave.
Tell your friends that you’re going to drive around the world in the ’50 Dodge Power Wagon you just drug home from a junkyard, and some of them will tell you you’re crazy, you’re going to die, and you’ll never make it out of the county. They may be right, but negative people will not help you get through your trip. You need a can-do attitude to accomplish stuff that hasn’t been done before. If people tell you it can’t be done, ask if they have actually tried. They may just be scared and figure you should be scared too. You shouldn’t be scared; you should be smart.
Meet With Likeminded People
There are forums online all about world travel and expedition adventures, such as www.expeditionportal.com. The Overland Expo (“Wanderer’s Weekend,” page 30) is a great meeting of adventurous folks. Plus, if you look around you may find individuals in your hometown who have gone on wild and crazy trips. Experienced people will help feed the fire and can give you realistic advice. Is Mexico really a dangerous place to visit? We know people who go there all the time, while others will tell you you’re going to be shot just crossing the border by gun-toting drug smugglers, but they’ve never actually been there.
Don’t Read the Newspaper or Watch TV
A lot of the daily news is about looking for a sensational story to gain viewers. The news media can make you want to crawl under your bed in fear of serial killers, blood-thirsty terrorists, and evil border guards. The facts are simple: Millions of people die every year, and millions of people travel every year, but that doesn’t mean traveling will kill you. Ignore the hype. Plus, TV can be a huge time sink when you could be in the garage, shop, or barn fixing up your travel truck.
Do a Test Run With Your Packed Vehicle
No matter what you are taking on your adventure—car, truck, bike, horse—it’s a good idea to go for a test run, maybe around the neighborhood, maybe across town, maybe across the state. If you have too much stuff and can’t travel safely, you’ll figure it out quick. The vehicle may sway and drive poorly from items packed too high on a roof rack or from overloaded brakes and frame.
Also spend time learning your equipment. Do you know how to use your winch and other recovery gear if need be? Can you dig out your spare tire? What if you’re stuck in the mud and need to change a tire? Do you know how to start your camp stove or use your water filter or set up your tent? Get to know your vehicle and gear at least a little before you head off.
Read Books & Watch Movies That Inspire You
Lois Pryce is an Englishwoman who has traveled much of the world on a motorcycle, and many of these tips and pointers come from her. Check out her book Lois on the Loose about how she bought a motorcycle, quit her job, flew to Alaska, and drove the length of North and South America by herself much of the way. She lived to tell the tale and has since traveled across Africa and many other places. Find adventure travel books and get excited about your trip, wherever it may go.
Prepare but Don’t Overprepare
There is lots of stuff you can buy to take on your trip: fancy tents, amazing electronic widgets to keep you from getting lost or starving, waterproof clothes, and high-zoot recovery gear. But everything you buy is money you could spend on fuel to be out there exploring. Plus, a wise man once said that the less prepared you are the more of an adventure you’ll have. You can be ready for anything by taking way too much stuff and tools and parts and so on, or you can wing it and just take your sense of adventure. You’ll likely figure out any problems you come across.
Don’t Be Scared of People
People all over the world are not really that different from those in your hometown. They’re usually willing to help you or point you the direction you want to go. Plus, a friendly attitude goes further than a scared, skeptical, or nervous nature. Yes, there are evil people out there, but there are also grizzly bears, rattlesnakes, lightning, killer whales, wild albino zebras, and falling trees. If you’re petrified to leave your house because of what might get you, then you’ll likely have no adventures in your lifetime. That’s sad. No adventures means lousy stories to tell your grandkids someday. Everyone has a comfort zone, but how do you know where yours ends if you don’t go to its edge?
Don’t Worry About Any of This Stuff—Just Go!
Who’s going to water the flowers while I’m away? If I quit my job to go see the world, will I ever get another one? Do I have enough money? Did I pack enough suntan lotion, toilet paper, and gear oil? Is my 4x4 going to get stuck, break down, roll over, crash, burn, and explode? What if I’m asleep in my rooftop tent in the bush country of eastern Russia and I hear a funny noise in the woods? Where am I going to poop? What if an asteroid crashes into the planet while I’m away from home and I don’t get to watch the complete season of American Idol because I was out exploring?
At some point you have to just assume you’ve done what you need to do, pack the stuff you need, and that the rest of the world will be fine without you while you’re doing something fun. At that point you’ll shift your rig into gear, back out of the driveway, and go start your adventure.