Get Going! 5 Steps to Go From Dream to Reality

The moment has finally come. You step out your door for the last time. The planning is done.  The preparation is as complete as you can make it. You’re free. The adventure has begun!

Getting to that point can seem impossible at times. The dream seems distant and tenuous. How do we handle the job, the mortgage, the kids’ school, the responsibilities?  The needs of daily life press in from all sides, leaving precious little time to dream of big adventures in faraway places, much less to take the steps to make the dreams a reality.

Set A Date

For both of our overland trips, we found that the first and most important step required to actually make the trip a reality was to set a date. Even if that date is two or more years in the future, a concrete date changes your mindset. Suddenly all of things that you knew you needed to do to get ready turn into important tasks, not just things that should get done someday.

Put a “countdown clock” somewhere in your house where you’ll see it every day. “434 days till departure.” Your trip suddenly becomes real. You’re going to do it. It’s going to happen!

Save, Save, Save!!

Once you have a date set, you should also have in mind how much money you want to have in the bank before you leave. This number might be the main driver for your departure date. Don’t forget to include trip-related expenses — for example, new tires for the car you’ll be taking, or maybe a rooftop tent.

Figure out how much money you can save each month and do the math to determine how long it will take to save up that much. Once you have a date set evaluate your purchases with the trip in mind. That Indian place down the street is really good and you’ve been jonsing for a vindaloo, but maybe the long term goal is more important.

Make a To-Do List

Every time you think of something you’ll need to do before you can leave, put it on the list. You might categorize the list based on how much lead time it requires. Here’s a sample of just a few of the things on our pre-departure list:

  • Talk with a property manager about renting out our house (a few months prior to departure)
  • Renew passports
  • Research travel medical insurance
  • Find a storage locker for our stuff

Be sure to include on your lists things you can do now. Setting up a website for your blog or designing a storage and sleeping system for the inside of the family minivan are two examples of things that can be done way in advance.

Once you start accomplishing things and checking them off the list, you’ll feel like you’re taking concrete steps toward your goal, and the trip will become more and more real with each passing day.

Keep Tabs on the Overlanding Community

Join overland Facebook groups, such as Overland Sphere, International Overland Families, online forums like Horizons Unlimited, and subscribe to travel newsletters, like The Practical Overlander.

Watching others as they plan, prepare and ultimately depart on their trips will give you the sense that what you’re doing is within reach.

Learning from those with actual overlanding experience can save you a lot of time and energy.

Ask your questions and engage in discussions. There are a number of topics that you can watch:

  • Destination specific topics will have discussions on where to go and what to see and do along your route. You’ll also find information about the current political situation and learn about issues involving borders and officials.
  • If you’re preparing or building a vehicle or camper, you can get lots of ideas for modifications and layouts from people who have tested various approaches.
  • Bringing the kids? Connect with other families on the road and learn about approaches and challenges to keeping kids entertained and educated while traveling.

Prepare the Vehicle

Purchasing your trip vehicle (if you don’t already own it) and getting it ready can be an enjoyable part of the preparation.

Purchasing the van we took on our most recent trip was a big step toward making the trip a reality. A one-ton diesel van was a completely impractical vehicle for our urban lives. Seeing it sit in the driveway as we left for work each day, it seemed to call out to us to get going, get on the road, and to not look back.

our van build

If like us you’re bringing a vehicle that isn’t your daily driver, start designing and building the interior. Jennifer and I were each working full time jobs up to our trip (see the section above on Save Save Save), so we worked with a local company, Colorado Camper Van, to implement our design for our home on wheels.

Keep the Momentum

Once you get started taking concrete actions to make your trip a reality you’ll find that it takes on a life of its own. You’ll check something off your list, but think of three other things to take its place. But that’s okay, you still have 434 days till departure. Oops. Make that 433 days.

Van driving in Chile


Are you itching to get out on your own overland adventure?  What is your biggest challenge?  Leave us a comment below and tell about us your travel dreams!  Subscribe to our newsletter and receive our best content in your inbox.

4 Responses to 'Get Going! 5 Steps to Go From Dream to Reality'


  2. Debbie Slobe says:

    Great advice, Sparks family! I remember when we were planning for our big adventure and we had an entire wall of our office dedicated to giant, poster-sized sticky notes, each filled to the brim with “to do” things. We organized them by things to do at the house (we are renting our house out while we are away), things to research/figure out about our journey through Mexico, things to buy for the trip, and things we needed to do personally, like get health check ups, find health insurance, etc. We called it our “serial killer wall” because it looked like one of those walls on crime shows that is filled with notes, maps, photos, etc. Not in good taste, I know, but that’s what we called it. 🙂 It was so satisfying when we got to cross things off the list. Of course, every day we were adding more things, but eventually 4 poster-sized notes were condensed to 3, to 2, to 1 and then one page of a 8×11 notebook. Our list got down to the notebook sized page when we were about 2 weeks away from departure.

  3. We talked to you and read your blog when we were planning our big trip 3 years ago, which we are still on now (just got to Argentina!!) Thanks for the help.
    I had a huge to do list and made a slimmed down version to share with others, feel free to reference if useful!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *