So, you want to be an overlander, huh? Well, you’re about to take it to another level and hopefully never want to look back! One of the things that we had to focus on before starting was how to turn a dream into a reality. You can do it if you take realistic steps and actually commit to doing it. We’ve compiled a few of the steps we took to start our adventure. Hopefully these steps will help you plan your big overland trip!
1. Pick a Place
Canada/Alaska, Africa, Australia, Latin America, Europe? All are great places to travel. Consider which ones are more car friendly. For example, Asia may be better to backpack through whereas Australia could be comfortably traveled by car. What is your budget like? You might need more money for places like Alaska/Canada vs. Latin America. What cultures and activities interest you, pick accordingly. What is your timeline? Perhaps it is during the rainy season in Latin America or the freezing cold in Canada; maybe this will help you decide. In the end we chose Latin America for it’s culture, outdoor activities, beaches, diverse terrain, and drive-ability.
2. Determine Your Budget
Will you need to live off of your savings, or do you plan to work as you go? If you plan on living off your savings, how much do you plan to spend a day? For Latin America, most people spend between $60-$100/day plus travel insurance, border fees, car insurance, shipping costs, etc. Some couples estimate they spend $28,000 for the year and some spend roughly $50,000. The faster you drive, the more gas you use, therefore the more money you spend. For example, if you take two years to travel Latin America (rather than one year), it will likely be cheaper per year due to the costs of gas. Will you have bills “back home”, consider these.
3. Determine Your Timeline
How soon can you start travelling? Do you need a couple of years to save up, or do you plan on using your future house down payment like we did? Once you see how soon you can travel, pick a month that works well for your trip. For example, Mexico would be the first country of our trip and we wanted to be there for Day of the Dead, so we started our trip in October. It also turned out to be the dry season for Latin America which probably should have been our first consideration. How long do you have to travel? Or, how long will it take for you to comfortably see all of your destinations? We planned a year to get to Argentina which seems about average if not a little fast for most overlanders on the panam.
4. Pick Points of Interest
I started by searching places to go to on Google Maps and them saving them as “want to go”. For more ideas of where to go I turned to Pinterest and Google Search for Top Things to do in ______. After all of the points of interest were plotted, it was easier to visualize a route that would intersect all of the destinations. For us, I could see that we would be starting in Baja, ferry over to Mazatlan, cross over to the Yucatan, hug the Pacific of Central America, and finally travelling counter clockwise around South America. I didn’t have the specific roads laid out, but come to find I didn’t need to. We use Google Maps (though sometimes it leads us on rough roads) to get from one destination to the next.
5. Pick Your Car
How do you want to sleep at night? Inside your car, in a tent, in a tent on top of your car, in hostels? This will influence the size of your car. Do you plan on cooking inside or outside your car; another influence. Next, what capability do you need? 4WD? What can you afford, and do you plan on doing modifications yourself? If you are doing the panam, one of the options is buying a car in South America that is already built out. Check out Overland Sphere on Facebook or Panamerica Traveler’s Association on Facebook for cars that are being sold by travelers ending their panam trip.
Once you’ve completed these five steps, you have a good idea of the kind of trip you’re planning and an long to do list. Check here for a list of things to incorporate into your plan if you’re planning on overlanding the panam through Latin America! Good luck ya’ll, you’ll have the time of your life and is worth every penny!