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Overlanding – the end of the road is just the start

What does the word ‘overlanding’ mean nowadays? It has become almost ubiquitous whenever I mention ‘4×4’ or ‘off roading.’ For me, overlanding should be differentiated from off roading, muddin’ or wheelin,’ not because it necessarily involves a different set of skills, rather it is a different approach and state of mind.

I guess overlanding has evolved in a sort of┬átravel philosophy where there is more emphasis on the journey rather than the destination. Exploration is the big selling point ÔÇô the people youÔÇÖll meet, the places youÔÇÖll explore, the food youÔÇÖll eat, the cultures youÔÇÖll encounter full of random moments that youÔÇÖll leave thinking if that really just happened. It is truly stepping out of your comfort zone and tackling things you never thought you would. Here, youÔÇÖll forge memories and friendships through experiences. Yes, I do realise I sound like a holiday brochure.

But why would we choose a gruelling, tiring and demanding excursion that requires constant work over a laid-back, relaxing, everything-is-on-plate-for-you holiday? YouÔÇÖll inevitably spend more money and will come away with a lot less (the last trip gifted me with a beaten up truck). Regardless, all logic seems to be tossed aside and almost everyone I meet dreams of hitting the road and seeing where they end up. And here I have answered my own question ÔÇô overlanding recreates those feelings of getting your first car. The entire world is open and ready for business. The attraction is all of these things ÔÇô you wonÔÇÖt be tied to a tour guide or stuck in a group, you wonÔÇÖt be surrounded by schedules or having to work around uncomfortable public transport ÔÇô it is what you make it and I guess we have all realised that you get out what you put in. I love how this re-buffs the ÔÇÿnext day deliveryÔÇÖ culture of today ÔÇô these trips really demand work, planning, negotiation and thought. For me this provides most of the fun and enjoyment because even though youÔÇÖll be pushed to the limit, oh boy the rewards are priceless. The sense of achievement and success can come from the smallest of victories and once youÔÇÖve returned home from the road, youÔÇÖll be counting the days until you venture out again.

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Overlanding is much more than just driving dirt roads. At face value it seems simple ÔÇô drive off the beaten track, surely it canÔÇÖt be that different?! Realistically, overlanding in its purest form is more than this. It is a long-term self-sufficient vehicle based venture ÔÇô the long-haul of off road driving. Basic off road driver skills will give you a good start but youÔÇÖll have to delve a little deeper into your toolbox to successfully overland as you’ll be taking a longer trip off the grid. It all depends on your own goals – for some a trip could be driving for the afternoon on a greenlane, whereas others like to go all in and disappear for months at a time. Now you donÔÇÖt need to be able to drive any vehicle, on any terrain, under any circumstance but youÔÇÖll need some knowledge to cope with the infinite variety of the real world.

Roads and streets nowadays are full of 4×4ÔÇÖs, SUVÔÇÖs, hybrids and off roaders, so it seems a shame that these incredibly capable machines that have such potential are rarely harnessed for anything more than regular driving. IÔÇÖve seen it many times before ÔÇô that glimpse of excitement when you mention off roading to a 4×4 owner. Everyone has that devil inside which whispers ÔÇÿyesÔÇÖ when youÔÇÖre asked if youÔÇÖd like to take your car in that field or up that muddy bank. The spark is short-lived though when reality strikes back and common sense takes hold again. Why on earth would I risk my car on that? I have to take it to work tomorrow and I canÔÇÖt afford unnecessary repairs. Seconded. Nonetheless, we all have that urge (however small), or call from the wild to utilise the latent capability of the 4×4 for more adventurous pursuits. Ditch the Monday morning commute of heavy traffic, herds of pedestrians, speed bumps and traffic lights for that constantly changing horizon. There is nothing like escaping to the worldÔÇÖs wilder places, especially when youÔÇÖre well trained and equipped. Breathe in that natural beauty and feeling of being self-sufficient. There are over 15 million miles of road apparently. Life is short ÔÇô drive off roadÔǪ

Along with the pleasures of such a trip comes the work and risks. Adverts depict 4x4s and trucks as indestructible machines so you can be lured into a false sense of security. This is rarely the case. Your vehicle is no longer your toy, it is your home. There is no AA to call or a trailer behind that can pick you up. Off road driving is no longer about turning a dial, or moving a lever and blazing ahead, but now it requires skill, judgement and a familiarity with the attributes of the vehicle’s features. This is sympathetic, defensive driving which means protecting you and your passengers from damage and prolonging the life of the vehicle and itÔÇÖs components. This is where off road training can sometimes be detrimental. You will rarely encounter the stunt-like tracks observed on off road sites when overlanding and drivers can be tempted to take on more than necessary. Make sure your training is relevant. Take care of your car and it will take care of you.

So I understand when we decide to pack it up and take off for days, weeks or even months across Asia, Africa, America or beyond. Remember there is a daunting amount of research and preparation to match. True Grip offer a tailor made overland course to suit any trip (however small). Training can help prepare for all aspects of a trip; from the moment you start to consider going overlanding, vehicle selection, driver training, route and destination planning, arranging insurance/visas through to the practicalities of life on the road. As the days roll by, the passport fills up, the tyres wear and anything can happen! Spontaneity is a wonderful thing, but it can be difficult to solve dramas without adequate knowledge or planning.

Courses can include recovery and winching to help you during those tricky moments. Rather than going through the motions with generic scenarios, youÔÇÖll be guided through realistic situations. The business of winching whilst overlanding can be difficult, messy and sometimes dangerous when youÔÇÖre attempting to extract yourself from awkward positions. Rather than learning on the job, youÔÇÖll be more confident gaining experience beforehand in a safe and controlled environment.

You may have the advantage of reading and watching youtube to gain information, but it is essential to feel and experience before going out.

Alas, thereÔÇÖs jungles to mountains, glaciers to grasslands and wildlife to wild parties out there waiting for you. Not to mention different cultures and adventure activities ÔÇô I must say that overlanding has something for everyone. Even IÔÇÖm convinced.

Enjoy the ride and remember to drive slow, homie.