If you happen to look, there are several articles out there that attempt to define “overlanding” to the general public and explain how it is not just fancy car camping. Personally, I have little issue with car camping because it is damned convenient and easy, but most outdoorsy types think otherwise. Therefore, such definitions often stress that “true” overlanding involves some combination of 1) travelling for days or weeks at a time 2) on trails that are—at the least—seldom used 3) in an effort to be exposed to new and ideally foreign locales 4) all while being completely dependent upon your vehicle and the equipment it can carry as opposed to gas stations, hotels, and McDonald’s. Many day-dream about taking their rig through Iceland or Patagonia rather than filling out that TPS report.
Let’s be honest though, even for the well-equipped overlander this is not going to be a frequent thing. There is a distinct lack of wilderness in most of this country (especially on the East Coast), the closest foreign nation for most of the American public is Canada (not exactly the most alien culture, eh?), and few have the lifestyle flexibility to take off a month or six to go barreling through Baja or the Yukon. The kids have school, you have responsibilities, and that killer road trip through the Yucatan is not until next summer.
So you’re probably not textbook overlanding anytime soon. But so what? This will sound strange coming from a teacher, but who cares what the textbook says? Remember, you got into this hobby to get out of the house, have fun, and do something different. Do so. Even if it’s only for a few hours, be an overlander for a few hours.
For example, I try to take the Ginger Snaps (my daughters) out hiking at least one weekend a month. Living in the largely urban/suburban capital region of the North Carolina piedmont, we are not hitting John Muir, the Pacific Crest, the AT, or anything equivalent. But there are plenty of municipal and state parks and nature preserves to visit. We get to drive someplace new to us and get out into nature.
In a part of the state devoid of anything close to a legitimate mountain, we spent a Saturday hiking up a glorified hill that led to a rocky cliff with this pretty sweet view:
While hiking through an abandoned Boy Scout camp (one surrounded by neighborhoods and a large industrial park), my youngest and I saw this:
It’s not the Grand Tetons and we aren’t scoping out grizzlies, but the Gingers don’t care and we have fun doing it. I’d almost guarantee that there are places like that within an hour’s drive of where you live. Call it mini-landing if you like. You can get a fix for your outdoor Jones, see something new, and use some of that gear you’ve acquired.
And do make sure you gear up. To help reinforce the adventure aspect we wear packs and the girls bring along their hiking sticks. No, they’re not really necessary, but they add a lot to the experience and a bit of practice carrying a pack with some basic gear is never a bad thing. Look, you didn’t spend all that time, money, and effort to have a driveway queen, so use it. Take a day and drive to that OHV trail and get the wheels (and everything else) dirty. If you don’t know where one is, find the local 4×4 club and make friends. If they make snide remarks about overlanders, pull some beers out of the onboard fridge and win them over (just drink responsibly). Find a pond somewhere to drive to and fish. If there’s an overlanding meet-up in a nearby parking lot, go and hangout. Have the coolest set-up at the KOA some weekend. Find a friendly land-owner who will let you take the rig out to the middle of one of his open fields and do some star-gazing some night. Hell, invite the neighbors, pop the awning, throw out some chairs, make some grub on the pull-out kitchen, and chill-out in the yard tonight.
I’d bet it’s better than anything on TV.