This sort of travel is easy. It really is. Additionally, as more people do it and share their experiences online, it only gets easier. One of the primary reasons we keep an internet presence is to help inspire those of you out there who might have an interest in a similar adventure.
We try our best to show how a couple regular people from small towns and the suburbs can drop everything and live life on the road long-term. The most difficult part by far is really just making the conscious decision to give up your comfortable day to day and start taking steps toward whatever inspires you.
As I mentioned before, the internet and social media have helped to create a huge surge in people who are interested in long term travel. The term “Overlanding”, once a fairly specific and little-known concept primarily referring to vehicle supported expeditionary travel has now been wholly adopted by everyone from weekend-warriors in Jeeps, surfers in vans, and families in RV’s.
Like most things, values in Western society seem to slowly undulate in waves. Our tendency to place importance on exploration and freedom over social and financial stability (or vice-versa) appears to mirror the business cycle. Typically, there is a great focus on financial gain and stability during an economic expansion which inevitably ends in an (always surprising, somehow never expected) economic downturn. Initially, society as a whole digs in even deeper- working hard to regain their financial footing. After recovery, however, many peoples’ values and goals have shifted.
We’re seeing a huge uptick of interest in international travel, smaller homes, simpler living, and life on the road. The number of passport holders in the US has more than doubled since the year 2000, the rate of homeownership is lower than at any point since 1967, and millennials are pumping new vigor into a once-dying industry; RV’s.
The simple truth is, Taylor and I just aren’t that special. We’ve met dozens of people our age from developed countries doing just what we are; trading a successful, traditional life for one aimed at adventure and freedom. Like us, most are educated couples who found at least moderate success in traditional careers before painstakingly planning and saving to buy themselves a few years (or decades) of travel and exploration. We all read the blogs of those who went before. Each of us has a modern-day hero whose account of their travels inspired us to take the plunge. (For us, Drive Nacho Drive)
Of course, the great marketing machine has taken hold of this new paradigm of adventure travel. While, like technology in general, this isn’t a bad thing- there are a few aspects of the newfound popularity that wrankle me a bit. Like I said, I want to make sure that our life looks accessible to anyone willing to make the necessary sacrifices.
Check out the wildly popular #vanlife on Instagram and you’ll get the feeling that living free on the road is only for beautiful, mostly naked surfers in dubiously reliable VW’s. The term “Overlanding” has begun to incite images of immaculate, snorkel equipped, late model Toyotas with roof-top tents and $5000 suspensions. I’ve found myself in multiple online arguments with “overlanding” experts who swear I’ll never be able to get my Chevrolet to Central America, despite having already done it.
Prices on used Toyota 4-Runners and Tacomas can easily approach those for new vehicles. Their reputation for reliable capability has been inflated to the point of the ridiculous. Of course they’re great rigs, but no 9 year old Toyota truck with over 100k miles should be worth $20k.
You can find facebook pages and youtube series that make what we’re doing look like a military expedition. The reality is all you need to drive to Costa Rica from Oregon is a little money and a semi-reliable car. What we do is really much more long term road trip than it is expeditionary. What most people call “overlanding” these days we just called “camping” ten years ago.
Admittedly, even we are far over-equipped for the trip we’ve experienced so far. Our abundance of clearance, large tires, and super low gearing are nice but a long way from necessary. We’ve used our four wheel drive plenty, but most times we had to seek out the opportunity.
Of course, all of the beautiful people and tacti-cool rigs you see online serve to inspire many people into undertaking similar adventures. I just want to be sure that, as a group, we do our part to make what we do look accessible to ordinary people. I want to make sure the dreamers out there realize that they don’t need to be underwear models or have a purpose built $100k rig to enjoy the magic of exploring the American West, camping on remote Mexican beaches, or grazing their way through Nicaraguan street food.
As Americans especially, we tend to get caught up in the trappings that surround an experience; easily losing sight of the simple enjoyment to be had from the experience itself. It’s easy to start believing you simply must have certain gear or a particular type of vehicle. In justifying the ridiculous amounts of money they’ve spent, other people will confirm your fears, telling you whatever you want to do is just impossible without all the stuff.
If you’re longing to get out on the road pull up google maps and craigslist. Plan out a route that excites you and snag a used conversion van with a good set of tires.
For some longer, much better written thoughts on the commodification of adventure, check out the two articles below. They’re really great and help lend a little more insight into what I’m talking about.