Overlanding vs offroading – different concepts

Written by Aleksandar Veljković
Written by Aleksandar Veljković

Although I spend most of my time exploring the world in a 4×4 vehicle, I drifted away from the mainstream offroading community long ago. Every invitation to a local 4×4 offroading event was a big bore to me, and over time the guys in the community started regarding me as some sort of an arogant asshole, who thinks is “above” them and something special. But the truth is that, for some reason, what they were doing was unbearably boring to me. Pushing the pedal to the metal, inventing artificial obstacles to master and competing against each other, simply didn’t light my fire.

Adrenaline rush?

At first it was kind of unclear what exactly is causing the conflict. But then as I thought about it, it became perfectly clear. Although we share the same tool – the 4×4 vehicle – we’re into entirely different activities. With a completely different philosophy and approach, different motives and goals. Trying to force us together would simply be an unnatural bond.DSC_6704-EditWhat they were after was an encounter with the machine and it’s capabilities in difficult terrain. In their approach, the nature and the landscape is just a playground offering attractive geometrical obstacles to demonstrate their skills. It was purely technical, and the vehicle was some kind of a fetish to them. They were able to discuss the aspects of it’s modifications among themselves all day long. And, of course, ever striving for more and more extreme modifications, turning the vehicles into something like little tanks for storming over anything.

…or exploring the unknown?

What I was after is exploring the unknown, getting to places I haven’t been to before. Difficult to reach places far off in the wilderness. Geography was always my fetish, not the vehicle. The nature was my temple, and the vehicle was there just as a tool that can enable me to move faster and carry more in that quest for the wonders of this world. I’ve never dealt with the vehicle more than to enable it to meet the necessary standards to be capable enough to master any naturally existing terrain that needs to be mastered on my explorations.DSC_5241-PanoWe all use winches and other technical equipment, but we use them in an entirely different manner. For them, it’s a normal part of their everyday competitions and training, ever improving the time needed to cross artificially prepared obstacles. For me, it’s just a tool to overcome the difficulties that cannot be overcome by normal driving. When I explore different possibilities to reach a place, I always choose the easiest and safest one, that would present minimum risk for damaging the vehicle. Because I don’t pull my vehicle on a trailer, ready to take it directly to a repair shop afterwards.

For me it’s a long range expedition vehicle, my home on wheels, which should endure a long journey without being rendered undrivable. It’s a matter of priorities and common sense, not being “chicken”, as they view it. When you travel long distance in a 4×4 vehicle, you need to take any precaution possible so that your journey doesn’t ubruptly end, as the risk is very high.

Specifics of the overlanding concept

So that is the main distinction between offroading and overlanding. When you bring a group of offroaders to some place with potential technical obstacles, they act like pets taken off a leash – they simply can’t wait to get some “quality time” on the “playground”, not thinking much what the “playground” will look like after they leave.DSC_0015-EditOn the other hand, when overlanders stop in a beautiful place, they will turn off their engines and enjoy the landscape they’ve reached, being grateful for it’s gifts, and caring towards it. Spending time with their photographic equipment sneaking up to wildlife, walking around to catch the perfect panoramas, maybe making a campfire and preparing a tasty meal, thankful to their dependable vehicle for bringing them to such a wonderful place to enjoy the sights and sounds of nature.

Overlanders usually have a deeper understanding of ecological issues, trying to preserve the nature as they’ve encountered it and drive with minimum environmental impact. They use detailed topo maps, and prepare very carefully for their journeys, gathering information about national parks and reservations, and the points of interest on the terrain. They simply want to be fully aware of the specifics of the landscape they’re travelling through. And they usually travel in much smaller groups, often entirely alone.DSC_0041-EditWhich is something that offroaders find as rather pointless, always trying to gather in as large numbers as they possibly can, following the principle “the more, the merrier”. Offroading is, in fact, a dominantly social activity, while overlanding is in it’s essence an individual activity.

Overlanders do not regard driving a motorized vehicle as the only way to enjoy their passion. They often also hike or bike, expanding the ways to experience the surrounding. Simply because their interest is not centered on the vehicle, but on the nature instead.

It’s ok to be different

If you’re surrounded by an offroading community of friends, but you harbour an overlanding philosophy in your mind and soul, you’re not a “black sheep”. You’re just different. It’s ok to be different, and it shouldn’t be a reason for conflicts. Being conscious of the differences is the first step in realising that you don’t have to change, that you don’t have to adapt to the crowd. You don’t have to like the things that you see no reason to like. Just glide away peacefully, and find the people who share your interests. There are many of them somewhere out there. And don’t worry about being misunderstood or alone in your community – it takes a broad spirit, with many more interests and a truly sophisticated mind, to be an overlander.DSC_9683-Edit

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