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Jacqui Furneaux's Overlanding Royal Enfield
Jacqui Furneaux's legendary Royal Enfield at Ecosse Motorcycles, Dundee.

Is Overlanding Over?

It’s the question on every adventure rider’s lips. When the dust settles, and the world goes back to “normal”, is overlanding over?

The books are piled up beside my desk. The DVDs are stacked on the corner shelf. The Youtube channels are scattered through my bookmarks.

I know all about Ted, about Elspeth, about Mondo Enduro, about Ewan and Charley. I know what RTW stands for. Jacqui Furneaux has slept on my sofa.

In other words, as armchair overlanders go, I’m pretty enthusiastic. I was even starting to hatch vague aspirations for my own first Proper Big Trip, a kind of “macro Cloverleaf” loop starting here in Crieff and heading out through Western Europe, up via the Baltic states into the Western corner of Russia, then back via Scandinavia.

Then guess what? Just as I was starting to browbeat my inner worry-wart into submission (so that my inner over-planner could take over, which, trust me, represents significant progress), Covid-19 happened. What does it all mean for overland adventuring?

There’s lots of speculation going on about the reduced role of cheap air travel in the future – which you’d think might bode well for “slow travel” such as two-wheeled overlanding. However, whatever happens a decade or two from now, it’s pretty clear that the “Round The World” adventure is going to be stymied for the next few years.

Even before Covid-19, getting visas could be a pain, and getting through border crossings a drawn-out nightmare (at least for the worry-warty. “Be patient”, advised some experienced souls. “Stay very polite”, advised others. “Show them your silly squeaky toy”, said one – but you can probably only pull that off if you’re Austin Vince).

It’s possible that for a long while to come, would-be overlanders are simply not going to get that visa, not going to get through that border. Even long-term traveller Itchy Boots has had to admit defeat, abandoning her RTW nomadism (and her stranded Enfield Himalayan) and choosing a more static life in South Africa.

Of course, not being able to go long-term, long-distance adventuring because of a global pandemic is definitely a First World Problem. Nonetheless, that shrinking of possibility does provoke a sense of loss, even (or perhaps especially) for those of us who hadn’t quite got our Adventure Travel act together yet.

Not for the first time since Covid-19 happened, I’m grateful to be living in a place that most people think of as a holiday destination. I’m happier than ever to be a motorcycle rider, able to get out and have microadventures within the spacious bounds of my own beautiful country.

Will I ever make it to Tallinn or Turku on a motorbike? I don’t know, but right now, I can’t wait to be able to ride to Talla, Tyndrum or Taynuilt again. I hope that, one day soon, you too can enjoy some Scottish adventures on the Crieff Cloverleaf. RTC, if not RTW!

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