What is Overlanding?

What does ‘Overlanding’ mean?

Overlanding is the act of travelling, self-reliantly, and generally off the beaten path. The focus is on the journey, not just the destination, and trips often last for months or even years.

Historically people have always moved from place to place for resources, commerce and exploration. One of the most notable periods of travel history was the Era of Exploration, when Europeans set off around the globe in search of new discoveries.

Growing up I always imagined wandering across the African plains with Livingstone or crossing the Antarctic with Shackleton. I would spend hours lost in books of new lands, strange creatures and epic journeys, wishing I could travel alongside them.

While those days of exploration and discovery are long passed the drive to travel and explore is still strong in many of us. We may have seen hundreds of photographs of World Wonders in magazines and across the internet but instead of normalising and downplaying those sites it just makes us want to see them for ourselves so much more.

In an effort to meet those travel desires some choose to visit a new city and check out the sites over a long weekend, while others opt for a backpacking adventure through Europe for six months using trains, planes and buses to get around.

Another slightly less common option is Overlanding.

Are there different types of Overlanding?

Overlanding comes in a few different forms – some people travel by motorbike with the very basics, tent included, strapped on the back. We actually gave this a go back in 2019. We had a two week trip through France and Spain and really enjoyed it!

Some opt for a basic campervan conversion. Personally, we decided to convert an old army truck into a beast of an off-road travelling home to take around the world.

To find out how we chose our Overlander click here

A quick stop on an impromptu offroad detour to avoid a 60km road diversion

What’s so great about Overlanding?

When you’re travelling overland you can really appreciate the journey, instead of just hopping from one destination to the next.

Having previously done a lot of backpacking it was always exciting to step off the bus, dump the rucksack and check out another new location. And while you could watch the landscape pass by the window, or chat to your fellow passengers, the 12+ hour ride generally feels more like a means to an end than a real adventure.

With overlanding you can pull over to check out those weird looking rocks on the side of the road or grab something to eat from a welcoming roadside café, instead of looking longingly out of the window while cuddling the soggy sandwich you made in the hostel the day before.

There’s also way less chance of rocking up in a new town at 5am and spending the next four hours sitting in a cold, sketchy transport station waiting for your next connection. Meanwhile the overlanders get to call it a day, find somewhere suitable (and preferably pretty) to park up or pitch up for the evening and carry on the next morning.

Parked up along a quiet forestry road near Oban, Scotland

Are there any downsides?

With all this freedom and flexibility comes one key side-effect: self-reliance.  It’s not as simple as just hoping on a train and being taken where you want to go. And you can’t just arrive at your next hotel to a hot shower and a map with the nearest restaurants.

When you’re on an overland adventure you have a lot of logistics to work out. Where do you top up your freshwater tank? Do you need to cut back on your electricity use for the week as bad weather has cut back on your solar power accumulation? These trips also tend to take you to more remote and rural areas where communication isn’t so easy, and supplies are harder to come by.

All of these complications might seem off-putting or overwhelming. But I think they’re all massively outweighed by the fact your self-reliance could see you spending a week parked up at a picture-perfect lake in the mountains, completely immersed in nature with no distractions or disruptions from the outside world.

Alternatively, when you do want to get out amongst people again the draw of your rugged off-road truck, or loaded up motorbikes will certainly be a great conversation starter with locals and fellow travellers alike.

Final thoughts

No matter which Overland transport you choose it really gives you the opportunity to appreciate the journey between the destinations. And as a form of travel Overlanding offers a true sense of adventure.

Whether you choose Overlanding, backpacking or any other form of travel the important thing is to go, to appreciate the journey and enjoy the experience.


  • Martin Chambers

    That has really whetted my appetite. Drove overland to South Iran back in 1976. Don’t know whether I’d have the bottle to do another major trip like that. The older i get the less confident I get.

    • Charlotte and Stuart

      Glad you like the post – hopefully we’ll have more for you soon!
      Overland to South Iran sounds like an amazing journey! We’d love to here more about it 😁
      And you’re still living a pretty adventurous life by most people’s standards!!

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