“Overlanding: self-reliant overland travel to remote destinations where the journey is the primary goal” Overland Journal
Standing in a damp field in Stratford-on-Avon as rain drips off the portaloos, the allure of overlanding is not immediately evident. Viewed from here – The Adventure Overland Show – it is a world of kagouls, camp chairs and cammo gear. There are many hats and much beard. Earnest conversations are peppered with talk of propane fittings, sand mats and air lockers. We are surrounded by knobbly-tyred vehicles; from much loved Land Rovers called Zebedee, to bespoke behemoths costing hundreds of thousands of pounds which look like they are geared up for an invasion of some kind.
It is in short, another world. But for all the Kit – the big tyres and the roof-top tents and the winches – what is really extraordinary about this overlanding world, is the people.
Here, there are people who look just like everyday folk, but can tell you about the intricacies of crossing a border into South Sudan, or how to find a place to camp while driving through the rainforest, or how to swap out an alternator using only a rubber band and some mushrooms. I may have made that last bit up, but they have an itch that a two week holiday somewhere hot doesn’t really satisfy. And they will go to extraordinary lengths to scratch it: driving around the world for years at a time. So how do they do it? Steve Snaith and his overlanding family spent four years driving around the world (we met them in Namibia).
He summed it up rather neatly at a briefing session. “There are three things required for overlanding” he said: “Time, money and skills. But you only really need any two of those things, because they will make up for the third”.
So yes, if you have the money and time, you can pay people to build your truck and help you along the way. If you have the money and skills, you can compress more travel into the time you have available. But if, (like most overlanders it seems) you lack a huge pile of cash but have the time and the skills to build and maintain your truck, catch a fish or find a place to free-camp, you need less money.
There is perhaps one other requirement for anyone considering the overland world. Gumption. It takes a certain nerve to give up the predictability and comfort of home life and drive off into the unknown. But what amazes me is how many otherwise unremarkable people, do exactly that.
To be sure, there is an element of gear-obsession. There are people for whom a big part of overlanding is The Kit – winches and lights and big wheels and gps.
And there are others who treat it as some kind of battle, “Man versus nature – The Road to Victory!” (In the public information film by The Simpson’s Troy McLure).
But for most, it’s simply that glorious, ever-present itch to see what’s out there and keep going.
It can be done with little more than a shed and an old lorry.
Others convert ex-military vehicles like this 1975 Swedish military ambulance.
Or, um, this…
Or they simply modify what they have and put a tent and a stove in the boot.
Some sell everything to fund their travels, others create online businesses they can maintain from the road. The internet has enabled a legion of travellers to share their experiences and prove time and again that on the whole people around the world tend to be generous and open-hearted rather than hostile and threatening. And if that isn’t a reason to go out and see the world, I don’t know what is.
Hmm, “What about the environmental impact?”, says the armchair critic from behind a copy of Homes and Gardens. Well over at Tuck’s truck (an essential overlanding resource) Marcus and Julie discovered they now have a smaller carbon footprint driving around the world, than they did just living at home.
So yes, we here at The Magic Bus are now soaking up all this experience and expertise with a view to finding our own overland vehicle in the not-all-that distant future.
While we try to establish two of Steve Snaith’s three overlanding essentials we will have to content ourselves with shorter adventures. But if there’s a way to really explore this amazing planet, why wouldn’t you?