Overland Expo 2012: Have Truck, Will Travel
We wander through the aisles of tents, campers, fuel cans, cook sets, camp chairs, jacks, winches, and every imaginable type of equipment one might need for overland travel, where people outfit their vehicles for long journeys into remote parts of the world. The outfield behind the Mormon Lake Lodge and campground a few miles south of Flagstaff, Arizona, looks like a high-tech refugee camp for the 2012 Overland Expo.
Besides a display of all the latest gear, the Expo also is a learning experience. Classes and seminars include everything from how to travel with kids and dogs to how to pack a motorcycle to how to repair a ripped sidewall on a tire when the only other option is to walk 20 miles.
It's also a gathering of like minds, folks sharing experiences and ideas about overland travel. For the newcomers and the dreamers, the Expo served as inspiration. For those of us already addicted to overland travel, it was reinforcement that we're not alone in taking the road less traveled.
But as much as anything, the Expo is about vehicles, most of which are trucks. Without a truck (or a motorcycle, if you prefer), overland travel becomes backpacking. Looking at the options, what occurred to us was that the purpose of owning a truck had come full circle, back to what it might have been 30 years ago -- before toy haulers, rock crawlers, and vehicles you had to haul on a trailer to the trail head, back when a truck was ideal for going camping and getting away from the crowds.
As the world has become ever smaller and interconnected, what was once considered nearly impossible, like driving to the tip of South America or across Africa, has become commonplace. Guidebooks cover every road and beach, and GPS maps reduce the entire globe to chips the size of a postage stamp. Internet and satellite phones bring us together at the push of a button.
This is not to say you need to buy a $300,000 German Unicat or fully outfitted Range Rover to travel overland. Many enthusiasts use whatever vehicle they own, and slowly outfit it to meet their needs and comfort levels. Rooftop tents on any type of truck or SUV are an affordable alternative. Nor do you need to drive around the world. A week in the mountains or the desert is a good starting place.
As you read this and think about the many possibilities of overland travel, our own project, the Turtle Expedition (turtleexpedition.com), has started on the Trans-Eurasian Odyssey. We're driving from Lisbon, Portugal, to Shanghai, China, through 26 countries and following the legendary Silk Road, an adventure we expect will take at least three years.
We saw a lot of really cool things at this year's Expo. If you go next year, you might be inspired to take your own overland journey.