Overland Travel…Is it for you (an opinion piece)

Tuesday 15th November

What is overlanding?

Simply put Overlanding is self-reliant overland travel to generally off the beaten track destinations where the journey is the principal goal and as important as the destination. Typically, but not exclusively, it is often off-road capable transport where the main form of accommodation is camping and often lasts for extended periods of time and can span international boundaries.

The late 1960s saw the start of commercial overland travel.  Companies offered overland tours to groups in large, specially equipped trucks mostly in Africa.  These trips could last for months and relied on the participation of the paying passengers for food preparation, food purchasing and setting up camp.  The ultimate of these adventures has always the epic journey Europe to Cape Town.  Commercial overlanding has since expanded to all the continents of the world over the past 20 years. so is it for you?

Frequent stops along the way………..traveling overland in Namibia

Romantic versus Reality………..

The idea that with a group of like minded people you forge into uncharted territory, experiencing life off the beaten track, being away from civilization for days on end whilst having life changing epiphany  moments is a notion that many have aspired to, ourselves included.  Traveling like this will make us better rounded individuals who use that experience to go forth and make change in ours and others lives.

To be fair apart from being a great book plot it still rings true and judging by the number of overland companies operating especially in the African region that romantic notion is alive and well.

Going off the beaten track……..

Now all of our travel to date has been independent,  we have never been on a group tour before ( well I did do a 5 day London to Edinburgh for Hogmanay with 30 other backpackers on a bus but that’s another adventure ) but we had heard the stories from others about how structured a tour was, the schedule you were on and how the enjoyment factor can reduce especially if the mix of personalities is flawed so it was with some trepidation that we considered an overland trip for our recent African travel. Our decision making did have to take some factors into account such as traveling with children, knowledge of the area and the scope of what we wanted to achieve and with that in mind it seemed the easiest, safest and most cost effective way was to do it through an overland company.

Yes this was a family overland trip with a couple of adjustments from what you would find on your usual overland trips ( no kitty  – this was included in the price and the intrepid scale was slightly reduced ) but all the elements of overlanding you would expect to find were on hand to experience.

They provided the tent…….we had to erect it. The first time took the longest – Chobe National Park, Botswana

On an overland trip you are more than just a passenger being ferried around, you and your fellow overlanders are involved with the daily and day to day tasks to make it all work.  They may supply the tent but it’s up to you to pitch it, they supply the food ( well actually you help purchase it ) but it’s up to you to help cook it, they supply the kitchen but it’s up to you to clean it and do the dishes.  Each person is also assigned a truck job which is their responsibility to ensure it is carried out…it may be cleaning, it may be security, it may be keeping the icebox tidy and so on.  Many hands make light work and it brings everyone together to work and enjoy the travel as a cohesive group. ( most of the time according to our guides ).

The staples of overland traveling…..a truck, a tent and willing participants – Victoria Falls

Of course like most things today there are varying degrees of intrepidness and comfort and the less intrepid but the more comfortable correlates to the increased costs but the one thing that had us excited about it was that it fit with our travel values (and budget). As a family we have a love for the outdoors and we are no strangers to tents, sleeping bags or traveling over varied terrain.

Like life the philosophy of the more you put in , the more you’ll get out applies so we threw ourselves into it and you know what……..it was awesome!

Everyone pitches in to help…Victoria Falls campsite, Zimbabwe

With four other families (10 kids and 10 adults) we made our way from Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, across Botswana and through Namibia.  There were some long travel days (6-7 hours) but most days the travel was relaxed and interspersed with stops along the way.  With a football and a few days under their belts the kids looked after themselves to a degree ( well Andy our guide with a teaching background kept them entertained and out of trouble ).

So in answer to the title of this piece “Is it for you?” I guess that can only be decided by each individual.  You are with a group of similar minded people, you can be as connected or as isolated to them as you want but remember you will be with them for weeks so if your comfortable with that we say go for it.  If your ok with having daily chores and being part of the crew then go for it.

Shopping for supplies in Grootfontein, Namibia

 

 

Although any itinerary may not always perfectly match your requirements I guess this is the one downside to traveling as a group. The itinerary will generally appeal to most and although there were a couple parts of our African itinerary that we felt could have been adjusted overall we were very happy with trip and the itinerary.

Overland travel as a family we loved it!  The kids embraced it ( not some of the early starts ) and for us ( Mum and Dad ) we were thankful we had four other fantastic families to travel with.

To Dragoman who we traveled with  – Thank you for the great adventures, your staff  ( Charles & TK especially ) were just the best and we are already planning for our next family overland trip in Eastern Africa circa 2018.

There is no better way to show your children the wildlife, culture and history of a country than by immersing yourself on an overland expedition.  It’s unforgettable …

 

 

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