For many of us, planning our overland adventures is just as exciting as actually sliding behind the wheel and hitting the dirt. For me this starts with maps – paper maps.
A paper map allows you to see scale, context, and detail all at the same time, something Google Maps or GPS data just can’t do. Bring the map close to your face, and you make out the fine-grained details of a particular location; tack it up on the wall and step back, and those details remain in context with all the others. Roads, place names, terrain features, and communities do not disappear as you move up and down in scale.
An expertly drawn map is a thing of beauty, and a tool unlike any other.
So I spread out my maps on the table, or fix them to the wall and let them reveal routes, locations, landforms – all of the possibilities. I spend a lot of time just simply staring at maps. I often leave them folded on the headboard in the bedroom, or in the living room or kitchen, any place I can casually pick them up and reconsider my options.
Only after a I develop a route in my imagination with the help of the cartographers do I dive into the details. This usually involves sketching out possible stopovers, camping options, and adventures between home base, the anchor destination, and back. I do this with pencil, paper, and eraser.
These little scraps of paper lead me to that most modern of tool for the overlander – the Internet.
I harbor no small amount of ambivalence toward the increasing mountain of data collected and shared by overland travelers in remote places. I relish the detail, the images, the narratives, and the peek behind the curtain. Heck, we are doing it on this very blog. It is part of what keeps us engaged and exploring. It keeps us inspired.
The rub is that all that information obscures some of the discovery. One reason my wife Julie leaves this planning process to me is simply so she can see the new world unfold before her without prejudice and without bias. (She often ignores the links I send her regarding our future trips: “Does this look good?", I say. “I don’t care, if we can get there, it will be good”, she says.) We make a good team.
More information refines the process. A blueprint takes shape – driven by the organic and random study of maps and formed by the focused research into the particulars that make a journey like this logistically possible. The inspiration and the planning go hand-in-glove.
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We don’t like to get too hung up on labels here at Overlander, but, well… it’s in our name so we thought we’d take some time to think about what overland travel means to us and for you.