We are just back from this year’s Overland Event over at Hill End in Oxfordshire, and I had such a good time that I thought it deserved a quick round-up here on Splodz Blogz. There are a huge number of these smaller and more specific festival gatherings here in the UK nowadays, and it’s difficult to decide whether to make the effort to go along. We saw this one advertised in Overland Magazine and, based on comments from last year’s event, thought it looked right up our street. You know how much I love a motorcycle road trip…
Camping at the Overland Event. The benefit of two bikes – space for a larger tent!
Organised by Paddy and the team from Overland Magazine, a publication we enjoy reading very much every couple of months, the event is a meetup for those interested in motorcycle travel – especially for those wanting to re-live their own and learn from other people’s overland adventures by motorbike. And that’s exactly why we went – having dabbled in motorcycle travel over the last few years (read about our Zartusacan trip), we have become hugely inspired by others who have gone off and done amazing trips on theirs, and this was an opportunity to go away for a couple of days and spend some time listening and learning and dreaming.
The Overland Event
We paid just shy of £110 for the two of us to attend (early bird rate), which included camping and free tea. Yes, an event where they provide free tea and coffee all weekend, providing you bring your own mug, of course. The organisers were very keen to discourage the use of single use plastic onsite, and I was hugely impressed by the lack of litter around, the recycling facilities provided, and the strong push towards reusables. You couldn’t even get a beer unless you had a reusable cup. Now home I’d say the cost felt very reasonable, and appreciated that there were no hidden extra costs for specific workshops or seminars – I really dislike it when events do that.
Hill End, Oxfordshire.
Hill End is an outdoor learning and forest school facility on 65 acres of Oxfordshire countryside, and it was a great place to host the Overland Event. There were two large camping fields (although I think we should have gone through to the second field as most people chose not to and so there was more space there), and a range of buildings that we could make use of. I’m not sure how many bikers were there, 500 maybe, but the site didn’t feel crowded and it certainly wasn’t too noisy – and as someone who needs her sleep I appreciated this very much! The site could probably have done with more toilets and showers, which I guess is always the case at a festival, but everything was kept clean and tidy as far as I could see.
There was a range of food outlets although, again, I’d say more were needed – the food itself was really very good (one place even offered apple crumble and custard, I mean, what more could you want?!), but there just wasn’t the choice or variety I’d expected. Only two places opened at lunch time, and three in the evenings, and on both evenings we heard that at least one vendor had run out. We chose to eat at our tent one evening, and next year we’ll take our own lunchtime provisions with us as there was nowhere to get a simple sandwich or similar.
The speakers’ bikes on display.
Listening and Learning
The main draw of the weekend was, of course, the talks. There was a huge variety of speakers on the line-up, covering topics related to adventure bike travel. The schedule wasn’t actually confirmed until we arrived, which made it difficult to plan which talks we wanted to attend ahead of time, so instead we sat in the café with our (free) tea and mulled things over on the Friday lunchtime once we’d set up camp (the site is open from Thursday evening but the event officially started on Friday afternoon). We then spent the next two days listening to adventurers and motorcyclists about their travels, tips, ideas and experiences.
“On the road” bike maintenance workshop.
The biggest problem with the talks on the schedule was that we just couldn’t see them all! There were at least a couple of people we missed because we had to toss a coin between them and someone else (sorry Kane and Ted, we’ll see you next time). I’m certainly not complaining, though, I’d much rather that than look at the line-up and think everything looked boring!
Honestly, the variety was incredible, and I was inspired by every single talk I went to. We heard from people who’ve done the “big” adventures around the world, people who’ve have been the first or the furthest, those who’ve sold everything to travel full time with no intention of stopping (Simon and Lisa are on 14 years and still going…), but also from those who spend a few weeks here and there visiting and exploring all corners of the globe. There were stories of finding love on the road, and of broken hearts. There were those who ride old bikes and new bikes and big bikes and (sometimes very) small bikes – even wholly inappropriate bikes (if there is such a thing). And then there were tales from those who make plans and those who really don’t, those who have been there and done that, and from those who are midway through theirs.
Writing countries on bikes seems the tradition…
I did wonder, having come across adventurers in the past who seem to have a bit of an attitude problem – you know, white privilege, flashing the cash, “my adventure is better than your adventure” type stuff – whether I would find the Overland Event tainted by people who felt they were better than me. I’m very glad to report that all the people I listened to had a brilliant attitude towards life and adventure, and I was able to relate to each and every one. Even if I wasn’t about to embark on an adventure just like theirs, there was always something to take away from those speaking – and primarily it was a love of life that came through. I nearly cheered when Spencer Conway said that you can have an adventure in one day or in a year, it doesn’t matter how long you have.
Listening to Spencer Conway speak.
I should also note how awesome it was to hear from fellow female bikers who’ve gone and done the big stuff – huge shout out to Elspeth Beard for her pioneering trip back in the 80’s, Steph Jeavons for riding her CRF250 in 54 countries and on all seven continents (yes, including Antarctica – just wow), and Rachel Lasham who just seems to have the best attitude possible towards adventure travel.
The inspiring Elspeth Beard spoke about her round-the-world ride.
Go. Just Go.
My main takeaway? When asked what advice he’d give to anyone currently planning an adventure, Ian Coates – who spent 14 years wandering the world with his Africa Twin (and I mean wandering… he left home to fetch a Land Rover for a job and returned 14 years later) – said, “Go. Just go. Sort the rest out when you get back.”. Okay so I’m not about to sell the house and live as a nomad for the rest of my life, but he did make a very good point about never actually being ready and just having to get on with it. And yes Ian, I’ve been singing “Ilkley Moor Baht ‘at” since Saturday afternoon!
Ian Coates’ Africa Twin. I need more stickers on my bike!
You can’t come home from a camping weekend or motorcycle meetup without adding to your gear wish list… simply from looking around at what other people were using. This weekend we confirmed we’d need a couple of the very lightweight but surprisingly comfortable Helinox One chairs, which we now regret not buying from Adventure Bike Shop on Saturday morning, but never mind. We also added Cool Covers for our bike seats to the list – said to keep your backside cool when riding by allowing air flow between you and your seat; a bit like the modern backs on decent hiking rucksacks. Oh, and a bit of a biggie, I’m hugely tempted to raid the savings and book on this amazing looking motorcycle trip to Everest Base Camp with Steph Jeavons and Nomadic Knights next year.
Adventures on a C90…
Laying in bed last night recalling all the stories I heard, I realised a few things. While I know my life is unlikely to involve a round-the-world motorcycle adventure taking years, I am massively inspired to make the time (and find the money) for a number of smaller adventures of my own. Iceland, we are coming for you – hopefully next year. New Zealand, you are on the hit list. Canada, we will be back. And you never know what else we might be able to do and see if we put our minds to it – our North Cape to South Cape overland trip could be achievable with the right time and resource, and that silly sounding set of North Pole and South Pole expeditions might actually be possible one day.
The wanderlust has definitely been topped up, my bucket list is even bigger than it was (which is saying something), and I’m feeling very inspired and full of adventure dreams. My only regret? That I was, as always, a little too shy to introduce myself to the amazing adventurers to chat about their and my travel ideas. I mean, they’ve all written books and made movies and everything!
Good advice. I concur.
We genuinely had a great time at this super relaxed and very inclusive biker meet and, date depending, will be booking to attend again next year. Thanks Overland Event!
For more information about the Overland Event, visit: https://overlandevent.com/