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Family Road Trip

Overlanding Terms for Adventurous Texans

Overlanding has become a polarizing concept among modern day outdoor enthusiasts.  When polled, a local business owner recently described the booming hobby as, “an expensive bro-club.” While this sport can utilize advanced gear or equipment, it is the simplified ethos of the movement that has led to its rapid adoption.

To paraphrase verbiage from a 2020 Overlanding Journal article, overlanding is, “self-sustained travel with an emphasis on the journey itself, and those who join you, rather than just reaching the desired destination. These types of trips can be brief or last for months at a time.  They are typically vehicle-based or utilize a tow-behind trailer. The distinctive trait of overlanding though is not the equipment, the duration, or the remoteness your final destination, it is the mindset.  

Overlanding is self-sustained travel with an emphasis on the journey itself, and those who join you, rather than just reaching the desired destination.

The outlook of the overland adventure seeker embraces every aspect of a journey. To the overlander, the ups and down, the obstacles, and the unforeseen interruptions to the original itinerary all have value, meaning, and purpose. This is because that person believes there are moments that are good, beautiful, and true in the midst of it all.  

At Adventure ATX, we believe overlanding can take one thousand forms. From backyard camping to wheeling in Big Bend, overland adventure is a broad target.  In either case the focus is the same – on enjoying the process, the people, and the priceless value of spending time together in beautiful places.  

TASA and Freespirit RTTs deployed during a recent scouting trip to East Austin

Three Off-Grid Travel Terms for 2023

To help inspire your next adventure, here are three terms that we think every Texan, overlander or not, should know:

      1. RTT – Rooftop tent technology has transformed the camping game forever.   Common annoyances with traditional tent camping such as uneven terrain, moisture, and ground insects are solved with these elevated habitats.  RTTs  come in two classes, soft shell or hardshell. Size, color, and geographic layout variation present a seemingly infinite number of exciting design combinations.  Most tent manufactures are similar in terms of material and build quietly.  We currently run tents made by TASA Outdoors and Free Spirit Recreation; we’ve been happy with both.  If you’re in the market for a tent, look for a tent built by a brand you trust, at a price  you like.  Then go use it like crazy!  Might be the best $1000 – $3000 you ever spend.

      2. WMA – Wildlife management areas represent a new frontier of wilderness exploration in Texas. As the state’s population balloons and sedentary culture continues to appreciate the incredible value of time outside, first-pass effect will keep Texas State Parks saturated for the foreseeable future.  In addition to the well known state park system, Texas Parks and Wildlife currently maintains fifty-two WMA’s across the state’s 7 regions.  Twenty-one locations offer off-grid camping through a simple reservation system.  The solar power system on the SO 5-10 Trailer is a perfect way to experience breathtaking landscapes without sacrificing the comforts of a fully-equipped basecamp. Overwhelmed with possibilities and not sure where to start?  Black Gap WMA near Big Bend and Matagorda Bay WMA on the coast should be at the top of your list.
      3. TURTLEBOX – From weddings to recitals, campfires to cookouts, music has a crazy way of bringing folks together. The Houston-based brand, Turtlebox Audio, deeply understands this concept and the importance of living life outside with a melody on your mind.  Their portable, rugged, waterproof, outdoor speaker makes life’s 4th dimension, music, a sweet reality in any and every location.  Since purchasing our speaker in spring of 2022, the music box has been dunked in countless rivers, lakes, creeks, and streams.  It has accompanied our family on many miles of road-tripping and countless other crazy adventures.  Music quality from the Turtlebox is loud, crisp, and clear.  We have found material construction to be durable and of lifetime quality.  If you are thinking of adding to your gear trunk for summer adventures ahead, put Turtlebox on the short list of items to consider.

Why We Wander

Just north of the Texas border, somewhere deep in dusty Oklahoma, our black minivan suddenly lurched on the southbound lane of I-44.  The seat belt crunched into my chest and the vehicle begin to strain.  

“That’s odd,” I thought, before applying pressure on the gas. Power output was minimal from the laboring V6.  I slowly looked to the right. 

My wife’s nervous gaze told the story entirely.   Next, our faithful, family, daily-driver began to shimmy and shake.  “Definitely not good,” I said, my words audible this time.

The seat belt crunched into my chest and the vehicle begin to strain.

A quick glance towards the dash showcased a bright display of multi-colored warning lights flashing around a speedometer approaching zero.  We pulled onto the shoulder just as the car shut off completely.  I turned the key. Nothing.  We were stuck.

A day that started with a wholesome, family hiking trip to the mountains ended in hours of unwelcome interruption.  We hassled with insurance and waited hours for a wrecker but made the most of it in the end.  Memories made that day will be treasured by our family forever.  I couldn’t tell you what trail we hiked earlier that morning but I’ll never forget shooting bow and arrows with my boys in the pasture, teaching my youngest how to pee out the van door, or getting the baseball mitts out for a game of catch to pass the time.

In the unexpected interruption, I realized my affinity for impatience, the beauty of unforeseen obstacles, and how it always pays to carry extra toys in the trunk.  Our rescue ride eventually showed up and the tow-truck was soon to follow.  The mini now sports a new alternator and we’ve been on countless family adventures since.

Training up the next generation of adventure seekers

Payoffs of Consistent Adventure 

Our 2019 breakdown in the Wichita Mountains serves as a constant reminder of three reasons why it’s truly worth it to take family trips, break down on occasion, and wander like we do.

    1. ADVENTURING BRINGS HEALTHY PERSPECTIVE – In 2020, Overland Journal defined overlanding as ”travel with an emphasis on the journey itself and those who join you, rather than merely reaching your desired destination.” Whether you prefer walking or hiking, camping or kayaking, birdwatching or going off-grid, time outside always comes with a plot twist.  While unwelcome interruptions often derail my “best laid plans,” they help me to better appreciate the beauty of the journey…in it’s entirety.  Sudden surprises also slow me down enough to fully enjoy the moment (both calm and chaotic) with the precious people right beside me in the midst of it.
    2. ADVENTURING BREEDS COMMUNITY  – Beautiful sunrises, vista views, and good fishing stories are always better when shared with another.  Catching redfish with my granddad on the Texas Coast, hiking Yosemite with my wife, and yes, breaking down in Oklahoma with five kids are among a growing catalog of great outdoor memories.  The common thread throughout is not the magnitude of the event or accomplishment, but the beauty of shared experience.  Togetherness is quite possibly the greatest building block for healthy families and friendships in the modern era and it is frequently fostered best by spending time outside with another person.
    3. ADVENTURING BUILDS RESOLVE IN THE NEXT GENERATION –  Our family chooses to rent camping gear to other families and groups of friends not because it makes camping simple and easy, but because we believe in the healthy growth outdoor adventure produces in ourselves and in our kids.  Every time I put myself in a position to attempt something difficult, I struggle, make mistakes, but get better in the end. Through the ups and down of trying, I get to model lifelong learning for my kids. As a family, we get to celebrate success and practice what it looks like to work through failure and disappointment.

The person I was in the beginning of the journey is distinctly different than the man I find myself becoming by the end.

Each time I wander, I watch myself grow as a husband and father.   Every time, I am pleasantly surprised that the person I was in the beginning of the journey is distinctly different than the man I find myself becoming by the end.  This is what I want for myself, for our five kids, and for the families of our local community.  

I’m here to tell you, the wandering is worth the risk.  So keep at it!  

Photo Credit: Ryan Hamilton & Drew Benac

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