If reading about the glorious expeditions of yesteryear such as the famous Oxford and Cambridge Far Eastern Expedition has you yearning for a serious overland trip, don't worry, it's actually one of the few fun and adventurous things that hasn't been outlawed in the last 30 years. Not only that, but overlanding is one of the few things in my opinion that is actually better today than it was 20, 30, 40, or 50 years ago. Sure, you might not be the first person to drive across (insert iconic overland route here) but it doesn't mean you can't have a good time and enjoy yourself. Whether it's the modern advancements in technology and infrastructure or the availability of affordable, reliable vehicles that can take you to virtually wherever you'd like to go and then some, the time is now to get out and explore.
Fifty years ago if you wanted to navigate your way around the world it would require weeks, if not months of prior research on which roads would get the job done. For professional round-the-world expeditions, this usually meant a visit to the famous Map Room of the Royal Geographical Society.
In modern day, it's possible to plan your route in minutes, or not even plan at all. The availability of accurate digital online maps improves every day. Want to drive from Prudhoe Bay to Panama with intentions of continuing to Ushuaia? It takes about half a second to get a base route, and only seconds to modify it. Don't believe me? Check it out. [link]
It's now possible to drive from London to Cape Town completely on pavement, and it's only going to get worse...or better I suppose if you're a developing nation on the receiving end of those improvements. With every passing year roads and infrastructure continue to develop in the third world—a good sign of global prosperity as well. Sure, it means a little less adventure, but the point being that there's actually roads to places there never was before. It's also always nice to have the option of pavement after a few days on dirt tracks.
Shipping and transporting a vehicle has likely never been as easy as it is today—gone are the days of bartering and shady ferries. Simply arrange a freight broker online, drop the keys to your truck, and pick it up from the next port. Need to get a ferry to North Africa from Europe? Just wait in line. Granted, this is the more expensive way of doing it, but the more affordable options aren't much more work.
"But I don't have the money to drive around the world"
Then work from the road—it's totally possible if you approach it realistically. With the arrival of the internet there are thousands of jobs available that allow you to work remotely, some have restrictions, others don't. If you're an entrepreneur the sky is the limit. The internet doesn't care if you're working from Botswana or Cleveland as long as you're connected. Start a business selling stuffed teddy bears, or goods you find in local markets as you drive around the world—it doesn't matter. Contract out the shipping—sure it cuts into your profits but it keeps you mobile.
Have a house? Rent it on craigslist and it becomes instant income.
It's possible to buy a round-the-world capable vehicle nearly anywhere in the world for under $10,000 U.S. Don't believe me? Check out ebay.co.uk and see what a 10-20 year old Land Rover Defender or Nissan Patrol sells for. If you're planing on starting your adventure in the United States you have access to a huge number of capable vehicles. Just to name a few, the 60 and 80 series Toyota Land Cruiser, Land Rover Discovery, and Subaru Forester all can be had for well under $5,000. Don't forget you can now import vehicles over 25 years old. Hello U.S. legal 70 series and Defender.
I don't think there's ever been a time when more people are traveling around the world in their vehicle, and that is a fantastic thing. Just because you're broken down in Bogota, Colombia doesn't mean you're alone. You might end up running into another vehicle doing a very similar trip that's practically a neighbor of yours from back home. Judging from my experiences they would more than likely jump head-over-heels to help you—even if they didn't really know you. The image above was taken at a hostel in Panama City, Panama, and guess what, everyone on that trip was either driving around the world, or half-way through completing the Pan-American highway.
Communities such as Expedition Portal, ADVRider, and The HUBB are also connecting world-travelers in ways never done before. Don't have anyone to travel with? Just go. You'll likely pick up a few friends along the way.
I'm not even going to get into the hundreds of different manufacturers that create overland-specific parts to make your journey more comfortable. Do you think people had that luxury 50 years ago? No, they were driving slow, uncomfortable vehicles fitted with thousands upon thousands of dollars in bespoke accessories. We have it so easy...
Remember, it's as simple as just deciding you're going to leave.