The overlanding community is growing and those that sell to this community put on the Overland Expo - and that is awesome. Every May, thousands of like minded folks who like to be outside trekking around in every type of vehicle imaginable decend on Flagstaff and Mormon Lake. This is mecca for those who are setting out on any type of trip whether to the closest national forest or (literally) around the world. And it seems to be a bit of a homecoming and celebration for those that have been there and come back. For us, it felt like a much needed pilgrimage. We needed to get our truck out in the back country and put some miles in the log book and learn as much as possible about the trip we were soon to take.
The Expo can be overwhelming. There are so many vendors with gear, gadgets and vehicles to see. There are hands on classes and lectures all day every day on every topic imaginable taught by people with either real expertise or real experience and usually both. Then there are the participants, like us, who get to meet so many interesting people that all have their own story with the common thread of enjoying driving their rigs around and enjoying nature. It was really fantastic. We attended the Expo with Paula's parents, who have been camping and exploring since before we were born. It was great to have them there to see this community, the gear and drive the course in a brand new range rover!
We picked up a ton of very particular knowledge, we got to drive our truck on the obstacle course with a Camel Trophy winner, learned how to use the High Lift jack as a come-a-long, but, mostly we learned that we didn't know whole lot about what was to come. That fact freaked us out at times, but was also extremely liberating. I think its pretty natural that as we get older we don't learn new things as much as when we are younger. This trip will reverse that process for us, and in a big way.
I think one of the best things about the Expo is that virtually everyone we talked to about our trip was very supportive and excited for us. There was only one or two people that thought we were crazy at best and suicidal at worst. I think every blog we have read of people overlanding in other countries has referenced this dynamic of people just not understanding why anyone would do such a thing. And if you were to go, you must take an assortment of weaponry. Well, the bottom line is we may not be sane, but that has always been the case. This trip is something we want to experience, the good and the bad and if we don't go, we will regret it forever. So, we will be as prepared as possible and hope to come back to the expo with similar stories as what we have heard about - epic scenery, kind people and a shift in how we view the world.
Lastly, it was great to meet good people that have done Central and South America and others who are about to leave in a similar time frame as we are. They are all good people and we appreciate all of the knowledge and comraderie (and the beers) that were shared.