We all have the same dream, it’s why we are here.
Sure it may look a little different for each of us, but the essence of it remains the same.
For overlanders, we dream of taking our vehicle, be it truck, car, unimog, bike, or skateboard, and traveling to distant locales. Having our vehicle symbolizes independence, the ability to go where we want to go, on our own schedule, and to try whatever we like. It also gives us a feeling of empowerment, to talk to local people not as tourists, but as travelers.
Alas, not all travel is overland travel. For many of us, much of our travel is work travel.
Usually work travel means you fly into a foreign city, get to meet the friendly local immigration officials, compare how efficient the baggage-claim is to other airports, find a car/bus/cab to the city, check into a hotel, and spend a few days in business meetings. Then you reverse the process, and find yourself back at home.
Of course, most of the time the local people you are meeting with will want to treat you to lunch and dinner and show you a few sights, but often you see the sights that they think you should see, not the places they would hang out at if they didn’t have you along; and you eat at the fancy restaurants, not the places where your local hosts would go for a quick lunch or a cheap dinner.
So you end up having the business-class-version of a package tour. And that is what overlanders usually try to avoid. We want to see the real country, not the one that is packaged for international consumption.
So how can we travel with the spirit of a overlander, when we are not overlanding? First of all, don’t be afraid to get a little bit lost, to ask directions, and to try things.
It is easy to rely on a host to take care of us. But if we say “that’s ok, I think I’d like to walk around tonight and try some food on my own” – suddenly the entire experience changes.
Walking into a corner market, trying to order dinner with hand-signals when nothing on the menu looks familiar, and then trying to pay for it and figure out the local currency will often give you a better feel of the local culture and connection to the local people than a night looking at the local famous landmarks.
Leaving early for a meeting, and figuring out how to take a city bus or train (or tri-shaw, or water-taxi) from your hotel to the office, rather than a cab, will suddenly give you a sense of connection to many of the people you are meeting with in the local office. And when the locals hear that you took a bus to work, or went to â€œthatâ€ market for dinner, suddenly they will look at you a little differently, and maybe they will decide to take you somewhere else, somewhere a little more local, for dinner that night.
This is how connections are started, and how we can start to see the real city, not the prepackaged one, even when we don’t have our vehicle along.
Note – Images via creative-commons-licence.