Want to learn how to stitch the punctured sidewall of a tire, in case you're traveling through the Australian Outback and AAA isn't answering your call? Try your hand at motoring a Land Rover vehicle over a course of off-road obstacles, with an expert instructor on-board to guide you, before heading to the Chilean Desert on your own? Have a hankering to see the latest in adventure vehicles, gear, and goods, and meet up with a renowned collective of trans-America and around-the-world travelers? More than 6000 would-be adventurers and enthusiasts gathered for the fifth-annual three-day-long Overland Expo, held in Flagstaff, Arizona, to check out more than 170 exhibitors, including noted authors, instructors, filmmakers, and VIP travelers. A few thousand camped at the event location on the grounds of Mormon Lake Lodge, gateway to the Grand Canyon and the Four Corners backcountry.
"This was really our bellwether year," said Roseann Hanson, co-owner and co-founder of Overland Expo. The international event educates and inspires everyday adventurers as well as hard-core vagabonds to get out and explore the world in four-wheeled or two-wheeled vehicles. "The growth curve for the overland industry is now on a sharp turn upwards, with no end in sight. The biggest growth areas are in adventure motorcycles and in truck campers. The latter is exciting, as this is a whole new demographic to our overland industry -- baby boomers who are getting out exploring the world, but who don't want to do it via the traditional RVs and campgrounds, but instead want to get off the beaten track. Next year, we plan to expand our instructional offerings for the larger truck campers, with special classes in recovery and driving just for these larger rigs."
When Roseann and her husband Jonathan Hanson started this event in 2009, they had no idea it would grow to become the top overland adventure event in the U.S. within five years, attracting an ever-growing fan base, plus become the place that the "recurring community of global adventurers" would designate as their annual meeting location. The first year, the Hansons drew 900 participants, with 50 vendors and experts in the field. Jonathan had also co-founded Overland Journal in 2007, a quarterly publication geared to motorized adventure journeys. (Overland Journal was sold to co-owner Scott Brady in 2011 who, along with his family, are now the sole proprietors today.) "At the time, there was no place for people with similar, do-it-yourself travel interests to get together," said Roseann, who will soon begin to work on the 2014 event, happening next May.
Roseann says the U.S. was late to come to overlanding, following popularity in Europe, South Africa, and Australia, in particular; she attributes the event's success to the fact that there is nothing else like it in the U.S. "Off-road expos are great -- they have vendors, businesses, and tradesmen, but they don't have the classes, films, authors, and VIPs that Overland Expo has attracted.
"We have also learned that when some round-the-world adventurers now meet up somewhere out in the world -- say someplace like Ushia, Argentina -- when they part, they plan a reunion at our event," said Hanson. "This is inspiring, but Expo is not just about do-it-yourselfers on long journeys -- it's also about anyone and everyone just getting out and exploring, whether it's 100 miles or 10,000."
Hanson pointed out that the majority of this year's attendees were from the U.S., but "we had people from as far away as Australia, Peru, and China, as well as Europe and the U.K. We were up 25 percent in attendance [day passes and Overland Experience student packages], as well as exhibitors.
"The overlanding community has grown exponentially in the past decade," said Chris Collard, Editor-in-Chief of Overland Journal. "It's comprised of a wide demographic of people from all walks of life who never considered themselves four-wheel-drive enthusiasts, but love the idea of vehicle-dependent adventure travel. Although Overland Expo started as a small, grass-roots endeavor, it has grown into the premier adventure travel event in North America."
"Roseann and Jonathan really pulled off an exceptional event this year," said Collard, "attracting travelers and manufacturers from around the globe, as well as some of the most experienced travel writers, instructors and adventure lecturers in the field."
The 2103 Overland Expo fielded a top number of exhibitors and offered 85 classes, workshops, roundtable discussions, programs, films, and demos from 65 presenters, instructors, and VIPs. Highlights included the largest driving course yet; floating a Land Rover across a pond; 4WD and adventure motorcycles, accessories, camping gear. Next year's event will be held for the third time at on the grounds of Mormon Lake Lodge, where there is on-site and nearby camping.
Quotes from 2013 participants:
This was the 3rd year for my son (32 years old) and I to attend and the first year as full paid experience attendees. We both had a great time, acquired new information, learned new techniques, and reconnected with friends we have made by camping on site for the lasts several years. -- Donald B., Texas
I just wanted to send a quick email to let you know I had an exceptional time at my first Overland Expo. The only bad thing about the experience was that I began meeting so many people that I missed half the classes I had signed up for! -- Dale A., Washington
Once again, you've organized an incredible event and brought together an amazing group of people. A fantastic experience for all. -- Jeff S., Iowa
Overland Expo was founded in 2009 by Roseann Hanson, whose husband Jonathan Hanson co-founded and was executive editor of Overland Journal from 2007 to 2011. Jonathan left the magazine and is now full-time with Overland Expo; Jonathan was executive editor of Overland Journal from 2007 to 2011. Proceeds from Overland Expo help support ConserVentures Charitable Organization, a 501(c)3 non-profit whose mission is promoting exploration of our planet and conservation of its cultural and natural heritage. For more information, see ConserVentures.org