Seven tips for the Overland Traveler
by Jason Webb
Jason Webb of DigiDrift in search of adventure
1) Cross Remote Land Borders Early in the Morning
This tip may at first may seem a little odd, but there’s method to the madness. From my many encounters with the men who guard these posts, crossing remote land borders before lunch always seems to be the best time.
I say this because I have witnessed many border officials who seem to be less grumpy during the morning shift, and don’t come down to hard on you. You know what I mean, basically giving you the third degree and ripping you pack and possessions apart; sometimes out of curiosity, but mostly just to annoy you.
I’ve also come across a few remote land border posts (mostly on the continent of Africa) that see the guards drink a little during the day and by afternoon they can become quite difficult to deal with.
2) Throw Away Half of What You Think You May Need
This is a tip the overland traveler will continue to hear again and again. Sometimes it seems like it’s done to death, but I’ll say it again because it’s right on the money. When people pack for extended travel overseas, they sometimes pack way more than they will ever need. That’s fine for a city to city adventure, but when you have to carry that extra weight on your back for an overland adventure it can really grind you down.
This is something that tends to take people a little time to get right, but in the end you will find that sweet spot that is just right for you in what you actually need and, more importantly, prepared to carry. More often than not people work this out after they’ve already begun their travels, and you’ll see them jettison many of their possessions after a short period on the road. So do yourself a favor and make the decision before you leave!
3) Never Take the Same Road Twice
This is personal favourite of mine, and something I try and follow wherever possible. Whilst overlanding, most of the time your journey is always along a new path as you make your way across a country or continent. Sometimes, however, you will need to double back to a certain location. For instance, you may need to go back to a capital city for a visa or a border may be closed.
If you do need to return somewhere you’ve already been then try and go via a different route because it’s a great way to see new places. Although that secondary route at first glance may not seem to be as exciting as the original, it is often the one that will bring the greatest reward to the overland traveler because you generally go through places where few others have been.
4) Always Be Flexible With Your Plans
This is another tip that you will be confronted with time and time again, but it’s a necessity. Overland travel across a continent, or a number of countries, will see you ebb and flow through many political environments. Sometimes neighboring country’s won’t see eye to eye, and for no apparent reason they will shut a border on the spot without notice.
Another reason why you may need to change your route is due to certain weather conditions. Certain roads may be blocked or washed away, and you may not be able to get through. You just need to be flexible in these situations. Always have a plan B and in some cases a C & D as well. Again, this is more prevalent in the remote parts of the world, but it can happen anywhere, so don’t set your plans in stone or you may become disheartened when something like this happens.
5) Never Change Money at a Border Crossing
This is something that I have learned through experience. Having crossed many remote border crossings over the years, I will always try to find out what the going exchange rate is for hard currencies before I reach the border. I will then carry at least the bare minimum for a one days travel in the local currency of the country I am entering before I arrive.
There is nothing worse than being at the mercy of unscrupulous characters who will (given the chance) extort every last dollar, pound or euro from your pocket. Obviously, you will need to get what you can for any small denomination bills that you have left in your pocket for the country you are leaving, but leave the big stuff for until you reach a major city or town. 6) Always Carry a Good Quality Map
Even with the coming of the digital age and the mass roll-out of GPS technology and devices, I will always carry a good quality map with me. I love GPS, but having to be in constant range of a source of power to keep your batteries charged is not always going to happen on your overland journey.
It’s always nice to pull up a Google map of a certain region on your laptop or mobile phone and take a close look at where you’re going, but I still think you can’t beat a good quality map to study your route as well.
Always do your research on your brand of map as well. I’ve seen land borders that don’t exist on certain maps. Whether it be online maps, GPS, or the traditional paper maps, they’re not always perfect, and just because it’s digital doesn't mean it’s always going to be correct.7) Never Forget Your Sense of Humor
Last but not least, this tip could very well be the most important. You can live without many things whilst on the road, but If you leave your sense of humor at home you’re going to be in for a tough time. To me, overlanding is the greatest way to see a country, but it can be hard work and grind you down – especially when you’ve been at it for extended periods of time.
Having a great sense of humor is very important. When things get tough (and they will) you need to just sit back and reflect on where you are. If you still have your free will and your health then it pays to sit back and have a good old laugh at whatever situation you’re in. Sometimes having a good laugh at your troubles will be all you need to get back on that horse and keep on moving.
Jason has travelled the world extensively over the last 20 years, with overland journeys on six continents and across more than 90 countries. His travel blog DigiDrift.com
is full of great stories and photography from over the years and is well worth going over for a look. Jason can also be found on Twitter
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