What is overlanding?

One of the first things to happen when you mention you’re into overlanding is a bewildered look followed by the question, “What is overlanding?”

There’s been a lot of debate as to what is or is not overlanding.  While I can’t speak with any real authority on the subject, and I won’t bother trying to quote someone else who pretends to be an authority on the subject, I can only speak to what overlanding means to me.

First, let me throw out a few other common terms most of us are familiar with and define them.  Road trips, car camping, expeditions, and trail rides.  The first step is leaving home.
So what happens if we leave home behind?
Road Trips.  A road trip is a journey over a paved surface.  Usually to be considered a road trip it takes more than one day.  You don’t take a road trip across town to grab a bite to eat.  You take a road trip to the beach for a few days, or up to the mountains to ski, or across the state to visit friends or family.  The one identifying factor is the road. Pavement.  Also, taking a road trip usually involves staying in a hotel or at a friends house.
What happens if we leave hotels behind?
Car Camping.  If you decide to take a tent, but you’re still on pavement, you’re what is commonly called car camping.  There’s nothing wrong with car camping.  It’s popular, fun, but not exactly overlanding.  We still haven’t left the pavement.
So what happens if we leave hotels AND paved roads behind?
Trail Rides.  When you buck the formaltiy of state maintained roads and put some dirt and dust in your rearview mirror you’re now flirting with the overland lifestyle.  However, if it’s just for a day.  A quick jaunt to the local offroad park, or a quick run down the local forest fire road it’s just a trail ride. Even linking a few trail rides together back to back doesn’t mean much if you’re still in the shadow of civilization.
So what happens if we leave hotels AND paved road AND civilization behind?
Expeditions.  If you’ve bucked society and wandered off into the desert you’re probably thinking you’re on some kind of expedition.  Many a 4×4 enthusiast has slapped a few jerry cans of fuel, a shovel, a winch, and a snorkel on their rig and set off for the horizon thinking they were on a expedition.  Sometimes they’re right.  If they’re gone, not just for days but for weeks and sometimes months, on a self-sustaining trip through unfamiliar territory then yes, it’s an expedition. What makes expeditions unique is a certain degree of wilderness that not only has left behind civilization but outright ignored the possibility of refueling, resupplying, or getting outside help in any timely manner.  These are the icon trips where UniMogs traverse deserts, big-wheeled Toyotas cross ice sheets north of the Arctic Circle, or Land Rovers bucking their way down some jungle trail barely wide enough for a horse let alone a full-size 4×4.  But we can’t all be so lucky.
So where does that leave us?  How can be go on a journey that is more than just a road trip? How can we leave hotels behind, but do something more than car camping?  How can we kick our rigs into 4×4 but do something more than just a trail ride?  How can we put it all together but not throw ourselves headfirst into the deep end of a full blown expedition?
For me, that’s where the sweet-spot is for the overland adventure lifestyle.  I love the outdoors.  I love unplugging from the digital world, leaving the hustle and bustle of civilization behind, and getting in touch with a simpler more self-sustaining lifestyle.
I am, at my core nature, an explorer.  I wish I could have been born centuries ago and been part of the first people discovering the new world.  I think I would have been home on some westward bound wagon train.  Sadly there aren’t any new lands to discover.  The vast remotes deserts of the world are just too far way.
However, I can load up my Jeep, grab some camping gear, load up the cooler full of food, stock up on other provisions, and set out on a journey for a few days.  That my friends, is what overlanding is to me.  I want to get out, get away, and survive on my own for a few days.  Along the way I hope to see some cool new places, do some cool fun things, and make some new memories.
At times I will be barreling down some back country road, but it will be more than a road trip.
At times I will be eating and sleeping out of my Jeep for days, but it will be more than car camping.
At times I will be locked in four-wheel-drive crawling up some old dusty Jeep trail in search of some forgotten landmark, but it will be more than just a trail ride.
That said, I still have a life to live at home.  I still have a job to return to. I still have obligations come Monday morning.  I’m also not exactly ready to buck all that civilization has to offer and give up my running water, WiFi internet, cable TV, and delivery pizza.  So I guess I’m not really cut out for an expedition just yet.
So, in the future, you’ll be reading about my trips off the beaten path.  I’ll be traveling over land (see what I did there) and sometime over water in search of unique places, interesting people, and story-worthy things.
I’m not a tourist, I’m an overlander.
 ~ D.