Overlanding With Purpose

When you first start overlanding, the journey itself is the goal, but we have found that having a purpose behind your travels can enhance the experience even more. Your hobbies reflect who you are, so weaving those passions and interests into your journey will ensure that you enrich your life and take your skills to the next level. The following are a few pursuits which perfectly compliment vehicular travel, though they aren’t the only ones by any means.


Surfers rule, don’t they? Cool and tanned, laid back and fit. Overlanding and surfing are great friends and surfers were overlanders long before the term was coined. For some surfers, the wave is so important that everything else in life takes a back seat. What could be better than cruising down a deserted coastline, searching for waves, your best girl or guy by your side, and a quiver of boards strapped to the roof of the van or truck?

We have encountered many surfers as we travel but the ultimate surf mobile is not a VW Kombi hippie bus. A true surfer needs a good 4WD with large tires, good ground clearance, and sand recovery gear. Too often we have seen the hippie surfer vans stuck on the hard surface while we cruise down the beach in our Land Rover. Stand up paddleboarding (SUP) is growing in popularity and is a great alternative to surfing when the summer flat water takes all the joy out of life.

Rock Climbing

Like surfing, overlanding and climbing have gone together like strong ropes and sinuous muscle. There are rocks almost everywhere on this planet which need to be conquered and there is no better way to get there than in an overland vehicle equipped for camping and with space to carry the mountaineering gear you need.


Hiking is a perfect sport. You need very little to get started and you can either go for short hikes or week-long circular expeditions, carrying camping gear and a large bottle of whiskey. Hiking, surfing, and rock climbing often go hand in hand and it is a great idea to have an alternative interest if the sea or land is too flat for fun. Hiking is also a great family activity that everyone can join in, while surfing, rock climbing, etcetera can often be individual pursuits, as adults have achieved levels of performance which isolates them.

Kayaking or Canoeing

In Canada, you could spend months exploring by water. And in Argentina the lakes area is sublime. Some kayaks can be used in the ocean and some are great for fishing, some are great for expeditions and some are inflatable. You could also Ray Mears and carve your own canoe out of a hand-picked tree and go searching for salmon to grill over an expertly made fire.


Speaking of Ray Mears, why would anyone kit a truck with $20,000 USD worth of gear and accessories to go park in a formal campsite? They shouldn’t, and neither should you. Bushcraft remind us how life used to be, and with the correct use of skill you can survive comfortably where others would perish (I am talking to you, Mr. McCandless). There are still many places on this planet where you can escape the crowds and World Wide Web, where you can live off the land and find peace. How remote you wander should depend on your skill set and a good, well-prepared vehicle can take you as far as you need to go.

Four-wheel driving and exploration

I am serious, dammit. Many overlanders drive 2WD vehicles or heavy trucks, and while there is much of the world to be enjoyed on hard, flat surfaces, there are those who believe that life begins in low range. Some of the most amazing places are far from the beaten path and getting there and back is half the fun. You will need a standard Land Rover Defender or another make of 4WD with the following improvements:

– Raised suspension

– Front, middle, and rear diff locks

– Large diameter, off-road tires

– Recovery gear

– Air compressor

– Bull bar, recovery bumper, and underbody protection

A rooftop tent is a good option for serious 4WD exploration as a live-in camper can be less flexible and secure on the trail.


A great excuse to drink beer. And catching your own dinner is intensely satisfying. While waiting for the ferry around the Darien Gap back in 2015 we met an American fly fisherman who was driving back to the states from Patagonia where he travelled to for the sole purpose of catching a few salmon. The upside of fishing as a hobby is that your gear is relatively light, easy to transport, and can put a meal on the table almost every day. Unless you are a cursed fisherman like I am. I couldn’t catch a dead fish on the beach.


Hunters tend to be passionate conservationists, people who love the land and the great outdoors. Whether armed with a hunting rifle or a bow, the hunter of small or large game will find that overlanding is a natural extension of their favorite pastime.

Outdoor Cooking

Cooking in the great outdoors is relaxing and rewarding. Hunters and fishermen can prepare their own fresh meals or you can grill that steak purchased from your favorite butcher. But, you do not have to be a carnivore to enjoy cooking surrounded by nature. Grilling vegetables over an open fire is perfectly acceptable cuisine, and scavenging for wild mushrooms, berries, and herbs (and manioca in South America) is not only good for the palate but also for the waistline and budget. I recommend the book Cooked in Africa for the outdoor foodies: all the recipes are based on outdoor cooking using fire, a Dutch oven, a skottle, etcetera.


Either road cycling or trail riding or both. You will be able to find the best roads and trails the further you explore, and you have not lived until you have ridden a bike along the Tour de France route in Europe. There is also bikepacking which combines hiking, cycling, and camping which can take you to new and remote places. Cycling is another great family activity—the only setback is that bikes are a pain to transport on a vehicle; the genius who invents the inflatable bicycle will be a gazillionaire. Oh, wait, Ford has a patent pending? https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4436156/A-blow-bike-Yes-wheely.html


Heritage Tourism

Popular among retirees and the well read or well educated. The National Trust for Historic Preservation in the United States defines heritage tourism as “traveling to experience the places, artifacts, and activities that authentically represent the stories and people of the past,” and “heritage tourism can include cultural, historic, and natural resources.” I like to think of this as time travel. Other honorable mentions include:

  • Paragliding/base jumping/parachuting
  • Scuba diving, snorkelling
  • Geocaching
  • Skiing/snowboarding.

A combination of any of the above pursuits will only improve your overlanding experience and add meaning to your adventures and ultimately, your life.

And let us know which pursuits we have neglected to add to this list; there are many, I am sure!

Please take the time to reward yourself by following our photography contributors on social media. They are on Instagram:

@Travel Into the Blue, Lukas Kozminski and Eva Besani

@GrizzlyNbear, Leigh and Stephanie Dearle

@DunkShaw, Duncan Shaw

All other images by @Graeme.R.Bell

Graeme Bell was born in Johannesburg, South Africa. Together with his wife and two children he has spent much of his adult life chasing momentous experiences and campfire smoke across five continents. He has traveled overland to Kilimanjaro from Cape Town, circumnavigated South America, explored from Argentina to Alaska, Europe to Asia, and across the entirety of coastal Western Africa, all in a trusty Land Rover. Graeme and the family are now encouraging their self-built Defender live-in camper (and permanent home since 2012) to find a way from Cape Town to Vladivostok. Graeme is a member of The Explorers Club, the author of five excellent books, and an Overland Journal contributor since 2015.