What is Overlanding?

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RescueRangers

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I have to sometimes wonder just how many people on here really want to know what Overlanding is. My wife and I became aware of Overlanding several years ago and wanted to learn more about it. We subscribed to Overland Journal and Outdoor4x (we have every issue), and joined Expedition Portal. Soon after this we ran across Overland Bound where we saw this same discussion. Back then people asked that question because they truly wanted to know what this thing is, and people responded with the intent of helping. People engaged in this subject because they honestly wanted to exchange information about the hobby, to learn and to teach. As the forum grew I noticed a change quickly taking over this question. It wasn’t long before it was about “ME”. I ask the question to impose my view on others or answer to show I am the one true expert of all things Overland. It is truly enjoyable to see that we are moving slowly back towards the exchange of information.

But, we still have the four classifications of thought here. The first is the guy who has an understanding of what Overlanding is and does not let his bias play a role in his response. Then there is the guy who understands Overlanding but can’t help letting his bias play a role in his response. Next is the guy whose bias controls his understanding of Overlanding and drives his response. Lastly is the guy who thinks his understanding of Overlanding is the only true version of Overlanding and all others who think they know are worthless scum. The first two are the guys who want to exchange information, to learn more about it themselves and to help teach others. The third guy has good intentions, I will give him credit for that, but can’t control his bias enough to be able to either learn or teach. And the last guy . . . you make your own determination.

So, who really wants to know what Overlanding really is? Let me ask this question. You go to Overland Expo (either one) and you see two tents, booths, or tables. At one is a couple that has been overlanding full time for 5, 10, 15, or more years, they have been to nearly every continent and most countries, they have no Youtube videos but have written at least one book. At the other table is a couple who got into Overlanding six months ago and have 27 Youtube videos of them in the United States. Which table are you going to visit?

I have several books from the people who would be sitting at the first table. From these books I have learned a lot about Overlanding and, although they each have their own style or interests, there are three basic things I have learn that are common to each of them.

The road one takes is the road that is required to get where you want to go. Rarely have I seen where they take a road or trail solely to be on that road or tail. They took a road or trail because it got them to some place they wanted to go. Often times it was the only way to get there but at other times there were reasons for taking a different way. One book I have is from a guy who traveled the length of Africa who, even though he could have run many dirt trails, he often preferred to run on asphalt roads instead because of the bike, or because of his skill level, or the simple fact he was traveling alone.

They stay at hotels and established campgrounds when the situation dictates. Sometimes people simply want to get a hot shower after a period of time in a hot, dusty, or muddy environment. But often times, they stay at hotels for security reasons. Many parts of the world are full of people you just don’t want to be near or authorities feel its best you aren’t near them. There are also situations where remote campsites are just not availability. Many times campsites aren’t available because too many people have come before them and abused the privilege resulting in the closure of camping areas.

And lastly, cultural stops, towns, villages, or historical sites, are an important part of Overlanding. Visiting historical sites is pretty self-explanatory. Visiting towns and villages is often time simply getting fuel and resupplying but all of the books I have read the people make a point of visiting market places to meet local people and eat at restaurants to learn about local foods. The basic ideal is how do you get to know an area without getting to know the people who live there.


After five years of being involved in Overlanding, what is Overlanding to us . . . Exploring . . . Learning
 

Chadlyb

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I have to sometimes wonder just how many people on here really want to know what Overlanding is. My wife and I became aware of Overlanding several years ago and wanted to learn more about it. We subscribed to Overland Journal and Outdoor4x (we have every issue), and joined Expedition Portal. Soon after this we ran across Overland Bound where we saw this same discussion. Back then people asked that question because they truly wanted to know what this thing is, and people responded with the intent of helping. People engaged in this subject because they honestly wanted to exchange information about the hobby, to learn and to teach. As the forum grew I noticed a change quickly taking over this question. It wasn’t long before it was about “ME”. I ask the question to impose my view on others or answer to show I am the one true expert of all things Overland. It is truly enjoyable to see that we are moving slowly back towards the exchange of information.

But, we still have the four classifications of thought here. The first is the guy who has an understanding of what Overlanding is and does not let his bias play a role in his response. Then there is the guy who understands Overlanding but can’t help letting his bias play a role in his response. Next is the guy whose bias controls his understanding of Overlanding and drives his response. Lastly is the guy who thinks his understanding of Overlanding is the only true version of Overlanding and all others who think they know are worthless scum. The first two are the guys who want to exchange information, to learn more about it themselves and to help teach others. The third guy has good intentions, I will give him credit for that, but can’t control his bias enough to be able to either learn or teach. And the last guy . . . you make your own determination.

So, who really wants to know what Overlanding really is? Let me ask this question. You go to Overland Expo (either one) and you see two tents, booths, or tables. At one is a couple that has been overlanding full time for 5, 10, 15, or more years, they have been to nearly every continent and most countries, they have no Youtube videos but have written at least one book. At the other table is a couple who got into Overlanding six months ago and have 27 Youtube videos of them in the United States. Which table are you going to visit?

I have several books from the people who would be sitting at the first table. From these books I have learned a lot about Overlanding and, although they each have their own style or interests, there are three basic things I have learn that are common to each of them.

The road one takes is the road that is required to get where you want to go. Rarely have I seen where they take a road or trail solely to be on that road or tail. They took a road or trail because it got them to some place they wanted to go. Often times it was the only way to get there but at other times there were reasons for taking a different way. One book I have is from a guy who traveled the length of Africa who, even though he could have run many dirt trails, he often preferred to run on asphalt roads instead because of the bike, or because of his skill level, or the simple fact he was traveling alone.

They stay at hotels and established campgrounds when the situation dictates. Sometimes people simply want to get a hot shower after a period of time in a hot, dusty, or muddy environment. But often times, they stay at hotels for security reasons. Many parts of the world are full of people you just don’t want to be near or authorities feel its best you aren’t near them. There are also situations where remote campsites are just not availability. Many times campsites aren’t available because too many people have come before them and abused the privilege resulting in the closure of camping areas.

And lastly, cultural stops, towns, villages, or historical sites, are an important part of Overlanding. Visiting historical sites is pretty self-explanatory. Visiting towns and villages is often time simply getting fuel and resupplying but all of the books I have read the people make a point of visiting market places to meet local people and eat at restaurants to learn about local foods. The basic ideal is how do you get to know an area without getting to know the people who live there.


After five years of being involved in Overlanding, what is Overlanding to us . . . Exploring . . . Learning
Love this...thank you for your thoughts.
 

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I definitely see the value of people who overland for years or even decades all over the far flung reaches of the world. I value their experience and the wisdom they've gained from it, because I can learn a ton from them that can apply to my experience.

What I don't like is the assertion that unless I do what they did, I'm not an overlander. Not that I especially care about that title anyway, but I won't be dissuaded from exploring by naysayers and elitists.

I don't go exploring the wild places to gain some kind of supposed prestige as an "Overlander." I will probably never set foot in Africa or spend years at a time overlanding because that's not my life. I'm a husband and father of five kids and the sole breadwinner, as well as a law enforcement officer, so ten year African expeditions aren't in the cards for me, and that's perfectly fine.

You can argue whether I'm an "Overlander" or not, but I'll just smile and plan my next sojourn in the amazing majesty of God's creation. Africa is grand, but BC alone has enough dirt roads and wilderness that one could spend a lifetime exploring and never see it all, nevermind the rest of Canada, the second biggest country on earth, or our friendly neighbors to the south.
 

RescueRangers

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Let’s say we have three couples in vans, each a Sprinter 4x4. The first was built by Roadtrek, the second was built by the owner, and the third by Sportsmobile. Each travels all year round going to National Parks and camping in National Forests. Which is the Overlander? Does who built the van determine who is the Overlander?

The term Overland is just a title, a way of describing what we do in the easiest way. It’s also a way of searching for information in the least amount of words, enter Overland in Youtube to view videos related to Overlanding. The people who own the first van call themselves Full Timers, the second Vanlifers, and the third Overlanders. If they are driving the same vehicle and doing the same thing, what is the difference? Mind set.

I use to think the vehicle’s capability, the ability to get to more remote sites, was what made the difference between the old couple in the Class B, the young couple in the homemade conversion, and the middle aged couple in the Sportsmobile. Over the years I have seen a number of people overlanding Africa, North and South America, and so on, in Porsches, Mercedes sedans, Minis, and the like. The ability of the vehicle to crawl rocks or take on swamps, even being a 4x4, has nothing to do with it. Most of the books I have read have not been by people traveling in 4x4 Land Rovers or Land Cruisers but motorcycles. So, if it’s not the vehicles capability, what is it? Mind set.

I’ve seen a number of people try to place set rules on Overlanding to lay down the lines as to what is and is not Overlanding. The first is its Overlanding only if you drive on dirt. Take a look at Expedition Overland, Central and South American series. I don’t think many on here would debate if they Overland or not but by this rule, they are not. In these two video series the overwhelming majority of miles traveled were on asphalt (only looking at the trip itself and not the travel to get to the trip). In everything I’ve read and videos I have watched concerning people doing travel just as Expedition Overland, asphalt miles far outweigh dirt miles. This would mean the dirt rule is false. I could go through each rule but they all fall apart when we look at the people who have been actively doing it for years. So again, what is Overlanding? Mind set.

I am told that Overlanding is about exploring. Go to any country in the world and you will likely see the Full Timers, Vanlifers, and Overlanders all parked right next to each other. Go to any National Park and you will likely see the same thing. Exploring is about seeing new places but, unless you are going to the bottom of the ocean, what you explore is only for your own self-knowledge. When it comes to exploring some differences do start to show. You are more likely to see more Full Timers and Vanlifers in places like Gatlinburg, Overlanders tend to want places that are more remote. (But remember, when the legends of Overlanding started to define the term they were thinking of Botswanna, Tanzania, the Outback, not some hidden corner of the Natahala National Forest. They weren’t thinking about getting away from people, they were thinking about getting away from people they see every day.) So, I have to ask the question again, what is the difference? Mind set.

We went to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP) once and sat in the famous Cades Cove traffic jam behind all the Mercedes sedans, vans, Jeeps, Land Rovers and other vehicles. Wanting to escape the tourist mess, we ventured onto Rich Mountain Road. We were probably the first vehicle to travel this road in at least a week, if not more. It was a great adventure, it was a great road. This road is what opened our eyes to the possibility that there was more to life. The difference between us, soon to be Overlanders, and the rest of that mess was we had the willingness, the courage, and the capability to take that road. What makes the Overlander different from the Full Timers and Vanlifers is the desire to see what is down that road, trail, or path that the others are not willing to take. It’s the ability to see Rich Mountain Road not as a way out of a mess but as a great adventure and enjoy what it has to offer. It’s the eagerness to head off into the unknown and to appreciate that we were seeing something very few people will ever see. Yes, we stopped to smell the roses and they were fantastic.

I have heard a number of people say they have been Overlanders for years, justifying it by saying they go to a particular National Forest several times a year and camp in the same spot each time. Personally, I see that as just camping and not Overlanding, you don’t have the exploration or require any courage because there is no adventure in the unknown, but that is just my opinion. If this is the most adventure the person can muster, then I say that is cool. Everyone has their own situation, money, time, capability, skills, courage that determines their limitations to Overland. As long as the person has the desire to be an Overlander, to take at least a small step forward each time, then cool, I fully support you. But keep in mind that we all have our own situation and we need to respect that. Accept your limitations and be proud of your accomplishments. One of the couples I have the most respect for is traveling the world in an ’87 Land Cruser they paid a couple thousand for, and have to repair almost every town they stop in. Just remember, don’t try to drag others down by making up rules that will only fit you, it only tells people you are not proud of what you have and what you have accomplished.
 
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Well said. I would generally agree with that.

The couple you mentioned reminds me of a couple I know - they went from London to Singapore in a $500 series Land Rover. Pretty amazing.
 

Correus

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Well said. I would generally agree with that.

The couple you mentioned reminds me of a couple I know - they went from London to Singapore in a $500 series Land Rover. Pretty amazing.
London to Singapore? How long ago was that!?!?

Last I heard an attempt was going to be made to duplicate the "First Overland" trip but all the red tape and political issues wouldn't allow it. That couple must of taken a much different route...
 

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London to Singapore? How long ago was that!?!?

Last I heard an attempt was going to be made to duplicate the "First Overland" trip but all the red tape and political issues wouldn't allow it. That couple must of taken a much different route...
It wasn't all that long ago, a few years now maybe? There's a YouTube video about it:
 

Correus

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It wasn't all that long ago, a few years now maybe? There's a YouTube video about it:
Here's a full write up:

https://gearjunkie.com/london-singapore-family-road-trip-old-land-rover-hyland

To me, THIS is overlanding. I really like the fact that they didn't feel the need to have to have all the fancy extras people seem to need. Just look at what all they took and compare that with other set ups - KISS in all its glory!

Yes, I know, what I just said will upset a few people out there, and it's just my opinion. Yet there it is, proof that ya don't need all the fancy bells-n-whistles.

Dang...just did some additional research. Ray Hyland is an actual member of "The Explorers Club", a "Fellow of the RCGS", the COO for the 'Overland Journal' as well as a contributing editor for it and the 'Expedition Portal' website.
 
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Here's a full write up:

https://gearjunkie.com/london-singapore-family-road-trip-old-land-rover-hyland

To me, THIS is overlanding. I really like the fact that they didn't feel the need to have to have all the fancy extras people seem to need. Just look at what all they took and compare that with other set ups - KISS in all its glory!

Yes, I know, what I just said will upset a few people out there, and it's just my opinion. Yet there it is, proof that ya don't need all the fancy bells-n-whistles.

Dang...just did some additional research. Ray Hyland is an actual member of "The Explorers Club", a "Fellow of the RCGS", the COO for the 'Overland Journal' as well as a contributing editor for it and the 'Expedition Portal' website.
He and Mary Anne also run the BC Overland Rally, which is an outstanding event. I attended this year (2018) and it was phenomenal. Plus they're just absolutely lovely people. :)
 
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Anak

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You need to fix the verb tense in your very first sentence on your graphic: The term "overlanding" originated in Australia.
 

Billiebob

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It wasn't all that long ago, a few years now maybe? There's a YouTube video about it:
Yes, this is overlanding. It is not just travel over land. It is the social, cultural experience of "camping" "exploring" areas with people, culture, food, languages that are new to you. Otherwise you are just on an expedition where you are comfortable already. The challenges of overlanding are not necessarily physical obstacles but likely cultural challenges where you learn to be an ambassador for the society you come from and figure out how to interact with people you are unfamiliar with.

Most of us are just camping.
 
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RoarinRow

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Overlanding is a new term to me. For my family of 5 in a full size rig, we are ok with taking highways to get to our campsite. To me, the sooner we get there, the sooner we could relax and enjoy 'camping'. I do outfit my rig to take on bumpy roads, etc. but not rock crawling. Not my thing. I'm always in the mind set of 'what if'...