Plan an overland journey the right way

All good plans must change. That's a firm rule in overland travel. So how do you plan an overland journey?

As you can tell from my first attempt, I first choose to find an inspiring overland journey. From there, common sense takes hold.

After some research, I settled on an overland travel journey that could both deliver a potential home and give me one big last adventure before settling into my new home. This was my "dream" overland route. But we need to look at things a little closer to work out how such a plan unfolds.

Start with an overland map

After choosing an overland route, I printed the overland map you see above and began to draw ideal travel routes from starting points to end points.

This to me is one of the most enjoyable parts of planning an overland journey.

Here you get to realistically map out what countries you'll be passing through. Noting whether they inspire you, interest you, or don't interest you. And, as the case may be, you can then either draw around them, or let your pencil travel right through them!

Start making notes

As you trace your ideal route across several continents, you should now start making little side notes about each country.

Your primary question MUST be about visas. Visas are one of the biggest obstacles on any overland journey.

Check to make sure your nationality can easily obtain a visa for a country you are passing through and where you can get it. Sometimes you might have to apply in your home country; other times in a neighboring country.

It is essential you do as much visa research as possible. A good place to start is my travel visa page for some practical examples.

Other obstacles you should make notes about include: wars, political unrest, natural disasters, seasonal climate, and safety.

Examples: Are some countries difficult to travel at certain times of the year, e.g., flooding, snow, drought?

Are there some countries on your route that are politically unstable? (Check to see if there are any elections coming up.)

Create a timeline for each country you travel overland through

So your route is set. You should by now have a line drawn from destination A to destination Z, along with notes on visas, etc. The next thing you need to do is work out how long you want this overland journey to be and how long it really will take.

If you have a fixed amount of time you must adhere to, i.e., one year. Time is very important with overland travel in regards yet again to visas - they expire. Likewise if you are trying to avoid being in a specific country on certain dates, e.g., elections, monsoon, winter.

You'll need to write down next to your notes for each country how long you plan on spending in it.

Then, add them all up to see what you get. Now, you'll have a better idea of how long this journey will take. Don't forget to allow time for collecting visas en route.

Create back-up routes for your overland journey

Anything from politics, visas, wars, extreme weather, or personal changes of plan can set you off in a different direction. It's important to have some other routes to your end destination in mind.

Map them out as well.

For the above map, the long red line was my most important. But I also had backups just in case things didn't work out.

The blue line I could handle, and as it turned out, inspired me into some trouble.

The green one meant failure in the overland, but at least it was a backup to waiting out any potential visa issues. So I gave myself an option of going to the Middle East and taking in the culture there.

Keep in mind when planning your own journey that the COVID-19 pandemic means borders frequently open and close. So check with the nearest embassy before making your way to a border crossing!

So what happened to this plan?

Well, I set off from Sintra, Portugal, as planned and got as far as Spain overland. Then headed to Morocco by sea. As with anything in life, things changed, and six months later, I flew out to Nigeria... read more about living in West Africa.

After that, I made it to my overland journey and was glad I mapped things out like this! You can see my full overland map route from Portugal to China and beyond here.