The Ultimate Resource for Overlanding – Part 2: What is overlanding like?

First read:

The Ultimate Resource for Overlanding: Introduction

The Ultimate Resource for Overlanding: Part 1: What is overlanding?

The second question we are usually asked is, ‘What is overlanding like?’

Above all else, overlanding is fun! It is a unique way to see and experience the world around you. It helps that it is also a cost-effective way to travel. But be warned, it can be addictive.

As mentioned in Part 1: What is overlanding?, an overland experience can be very different depending on where you are overlanding, the company you are overlanding with and what type of overland trip you are on.

However, there are fundamentals that remain the same…

A typical ‘drive’ day when camping

0600: Wake up/ get up

0615: Breakfast – typically fruit, cereal, toast or porridge

0645: Put down tent and pack away in vehicle

0700: On the road… driving

0900: Loo break – could in the bush or at a service station/café etc.

1100: Loo break/Stretch legs

1300: Lunch – could be a road side stop with cook group preparing the ingredients for self-serve sandwiches, small café/restaurant, or even a packed lunch on a long drive day

1345: Back on the road

1500: Stop for shopping – cook group/s shop for the next couple of days’ meals if camping

1600: Back on the road

1700-1800: Arrive at bush camp/campsite & set up camp

1930: Dinner – prepared by the cook group

2000: Dishes, pack up kitchen and sit around the campfire with a cold beer

A typical ‘drive’ day when staying in a hostel/hotel

0630: Wake up/ get up

0700: Pack your bags, vacate dorm/room

0730: Breakfast – usually in hostel/hotel restaurant

0800: On the road… driving

0930: Loo break – could in the bush or at a service station/café etc.

1100: Loo break/Stretch legs

1300: Lunch – could be a road side stop with cook group preparing the ingredients for self-serve sandwiches, small café/restaurant, or even a packed lunch on a long drive day

1345: Back on the road

1500: Loo break/Stretch legs

1700-1800: Arrive at hostel/hotel, check-in, shower

1930: Go out for dinner – either a group meal or on your own

2100: Meet up at a bar after dinner, go wild in a nightclub, or do your own thing

In reality these are just the bare bones of a typical day. Other activities that commonly occur on drive days can range from chatting away with your fellow passengers, reading, playing cards, admiring the scenery out of the window, taking photos, impromptu stops at interesting places and just watching the world go by.

In fact, some of our fondest memories of overlanding are the random things you see out the window – the Zambian woman balancing a wheelbarrow with a goat inside, on her head; a Chinese tipper truck doing the school run with 60 kids in the back; the ornately decorated Pakistani trucks and buses; ridiculously overloaded trucks anywhere in the developing world; an Indian family of six riding on one motorbike; the smiling and waving children…

A typical ‘non-drive’ day (when camping or staying in hostel/hotel)

There is no typical ‘non-drive’ day when overlanding… You could be doing any one or more of the following activities on any given day:

city tour (guided or self-guided), wildlife safari, visit a museum/church/mosque, hiking, hot air balloon ride, kayaking, horse riding, hanging around the pool, chilling at the beach, snorkelling, scuba diving, writing in your journal, having a chill out day doing laundry and reading, elephant ride/washing, bicycle wine tour, gorilla trekking, volunteer at a local school, visit the local village, wander around ancient ruins, jungle excursion, white water rafting, volcano climbing, walking with lions, boat cruise, shark diving, desert tour, local market shopping, paragliding, ice/glacier climbing, zip-lining, bungee jumping, sand boarding, jungle trek, quad-biking, local family home stay, spending all day sampling the local beers…

As you can see, the list is endless. Those ‘non-drive’ days can be action-packed. What you do is very much up to you. Sometimes you need those drive days just to recover from all the activities.

What is overlanding like?

Overlanding is a fun and safe way to really explore and experience the region you are travelling through. As you will be driving from A to B (rather than going by plane, train or night bus), you will be travelling through small villages and towns giving you a real sense of how people live and go about their daily lives. It also enables you to get to places that would be difficult, if not impossible to get to on your own.

Being on an overland trip does not mean being led around by the nose by a guide. There are usually two crew – a driver and a tour leader. The tour leader does not act as a guide – they manage the logistics of the trip and offer their experience and expertise to help you get the best out of your trip. They will make suggestions on what can be done in an area, best places to visit, best times to go etc.

You will find that your group, whilst generally like-minded (i.e. adventure-seeking), will have a wide range of interests. Overlanding is like having an extended family to play with. Some may be interested in visiting all the churches and museums in a city whereas others may be more interested in doing all the adrenalin activities available. The real attraction of overlanding lies in this variety. One day you may fancy taking off with the keen wildlife photographers, the next you may browse the local markets with another group, or you may even feel like a relaxing day at a beach bar with the beer connoisseurs of the group.

Overland travel requires a level of participation from you – you get out what you get in. There are jobs that need to be done to ensure the smooth running of the trip. The group is generally divided into groups of 3 or 4 people with each group having a different job each day. The jobs can include: cooking, washing up & packing away kitchen, collecting water, collecting firewood, truck cleaning (inside). Each company and indeed each overland crew have their own way of doing things and dividing the workload amongst the group. However they do it, the key is to get stuck in and do your fair share and everyone will benefit.

Overlanding, like any other type of group travel can be very rewarding. Travelling closely with other people can be an eye-opener. It can expose you to new things that you might not have tried if travelling on your own. Other members of the group may offer different ways to look at things or at life in general.  On the other hand, travelling with a group of people can sometimes be testing. Just like in any family, it is important to be flexible and act in the best interests of the group at times and not always just think about yourself. Like all families, there can be times when they annoy you but they will always be there for you.

But at least your overlanding family is big enough that you can escape that pesky little brother…

So, what is overlanding like?

It is an adventure, it is challenging and it is fun. No two days are ever the same. There will be highs, there will be lows. It will be a trip of a lifetime. And just remember, those times when things don’t go to plan or just go tits up, are the times you will reminisce and talk about the most when you go home. The best thing about overlanding memories is making them!

Next article in ‘The Ultimate Resource for Overlanding’ series, Part 3: Should I go on an overland trip?

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