Today 2 years and 8 months ago we left the Netherlands to discover the world. We crossed borders, crossed deserts, slept next to crocodiles, been in a couple of road accidents, got stuck, recovered, got stuck again, solved breakdowns, drove through when police stopped us twice, got chased by police, sweet-talked officers for hours but never payed a bribe, made lots of friends, slept in dodgy hotels, camped in tremendous winds, got chased away, got sick, broke a foot, had to flee for ticks as big as nuts, got attacked by Australian bull ants, mosquitos, buffalos, bees, sandflies, bats and elephants, got harassed by kids, pushed donkeys and cows off the road and did not wash for weeks.
We just arrived in country number #26 on this amazing overland journey and decided to collect some travel advice for everyone who likes to go camping, is thinking about doing an overland journey, likes exploring, spend time in the bush or just likes a good read-up. Don’t see this as the holy grail of overlanding. Everyone needs to make his own journey. It’s just a short collection of tips we picked up having been on the road for so long.
One: Don’t plan too much in advance. Be flexible, everything changes so fast on earth. We experienced this traveling through Northern territory hitting the wet season; Roads turn into seasonable hazards, streams turn into rivers and being outdoors loses its fun. You’ll have to be flexible, adjust or wait. We also experienced this traveling the African continent; political situations, public tension, closed borders. You’ll just have to deal with it although this could mean having to adjust your travel itinerary. Plan a general route, be flexible and let the road and your experiences guide you. Take the advice of others, but bear your own abilities and desires in mind.
Two: Less is more….the urge to overpack is strong. Definitely take less than you think you’ll need, except wisely selected spare parts, tools, and (in certain parts) fuel + water. Always carry back-up food if you’re away from civilization but definitely don’t try to carry months of stuff…plan to use local sources to re-supply. We carry a week’s worth of non perishable, dry-freeze food, (light, small and lasting) which we keep separate for emergencies. A Water filtration system like MSR or an additive like Katadine helps with getting safe drinking water from local sources.
Three: Keep everything as simple as possible and don’t overcomplicated things. Packing, unpacking, setting up sometimes can be fun but also gets boring and a simple waste of precious travel, explore and relax time. Don’t bring anything that take too much time to set up as it will either stay in its permanent setup or you’ll never use it.
Four: It’s all about the people you meet. Often the country’s highlights are the people and their extreme generosity. Read up on the cultures you pass through. Don’t be afraid to stay with locals. Go to the museum. Talk to people. Don’t drive through in a bubble of your own culture. Have faith in the people you’ll meet along the way, it might by times be a little overwhelming (Pakistan, India, Africa) but the world is full of beautiful people who want to help you and share time with you. The interruptions ARE the journey!
Five: On an overland journey using a vehicle? Take care of your vehicle and it will take care of you. Take records of the distance you are traveling and the service history of the vehicle. Check or replace things at certain intervals. We are servicing our car every 5K. Being on the road: check for loose bolts on rough dirt tracks and walk around the car regularly to check its condition and your load. Keep weight down and low in the vehicle, this prevents you from rolling over. Take good (self) recovery gear, you can’t and sometimes just won’t rely on others to save you. But first prevention from getting stuck is not getting stuck, engage 4×4 on time, know the abilities of your vehicle and turn back when necessary. Especially if your trip is through Africa, plan your traveling days with short distances, which completely removes the stress of the drive. Travel slow, prevent accidents and see more!