by Victor Wanchena
The Germans call it “overlanding”. Actually, they probably have a 28-letter long word that literally translates as “wanderer of the lands with wheels”, or something like that. But in English it comes out as overlanding. The concept is simple and has been around since the birth of the motorized vehicle; go out and take a drive. In a nutshell, that’s it. In Teutonic fashion, they have refined and taken the concept of “going for a drive” to a very high level.
Overlanders, as they’re known, often travel Africa and Asia, but can turn up anywhere. For them, the reward is in the journey. Anybody can buy a ticket from Munich to South Africa, hop on a flight, and be spirited there in a matter of hours in relative comfort; hardly an adventure. For an overlander, the real joy of the journey is driving a Land Rover or riding a BMW GS the whole way. It is not uncommon for them to take several months traveling across a continent. For them, the time, effort, and expense is a small price to pay for the reward to experience a journey like this. Some may grouse that overlanders plan the adventure right out of any trip. GPS’s, satellite phones, trip planning via internet boards, may remove some of the romantic adventure into the unknown, but they are out there soaking in the grandeur and beauty of our world.
The complete opposite of overlanding is airline travel. And despite recent fuel cost hikes, it continues to be the most popular way to cross our great nation. Air travel is wonderful because it has opened many far-flung corners of the globe that were all but inaccessible. But this freedom to move about so easily has also cost us our sense of travel. Do you fancy a trip to Alaska? Climb in the big airliner and you’ll be there in just a few short hours, sipping a complimentary beverage and watching an in-flight movie the whole way. You may have gained extra time on your vacation, but you’ve lost the accomplishment of making the journey. Our freedom to move about the world is faster, but have we lost a sense of the places in between?
This love of the journey is fortunately still alive and well in motorcyclists. We are intimately aware of the rigors and rewards of traveling by road. When we ride someplace we feel, and sense our passage through the landscape. We know when the temperature changes or sun shines brightest. We have a sense of space and grandeur. We come to have a better understanding of the rhythms of the places we’ve traveled. This intimate knowledge of the areas we’ve traveled and the sense of accomplishment for making the journey are lost on those who fly to their destination. The road trip is a wonderful thing. And we are doubly blessed that a road trip is even more rewarding on a motorcycle.
As the last bastions of the road trip we are rewarded with the beauty, adventure, and of traveling overland. We are not afraid to visit the places in between. I think it’s time to go for a ride.