Dream of hitting the road? Here’s what you should know about the overlanding trend

A man and a woman with a baby follow a little girl out of a heavy, truck-like vehicle with bicycles strapped on back.
The Standish family has been living in their overland adventure vehicle for months, making their way around the Southwest, Pacific Northwest and British Columbia.
(Meghan Standish)

By Rachel Schnalzer
Design and illustrations by Jade Cuevas

Good morning, fellow Escapists. A new L.A. museum, a not-so-new-but-finally-taking-off adventure trend and a summer super bloom — you’ll find all this and more in this edition of Escapes. I hope the ideas below inspire your fall travels.

Be sure to check fire precautions and COVID-19 restrictions before booking or taking a trip. And, as always, send me a note if you have recommendations or tips you’d like to share in Escapes.

🎥 Be a tourist in your own city

The much-anticipated Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, a celebration of moviemaking, opens in L.A. at the end of September.

My Times colleagues created an ultimate film lover’s guide to the museum to provide the back story and inside information on this splashy addition to L.A.

They also suggest making a day of your trip to the museum by exploring a number of other gems in Mid-Wilshire. Here are a few of their recommended destinations to add to your visit:

Japan Foundation: Exhibitions at the Japan Foundation have ranged from contemporary architecture and design to vintage movie posters to photography of bento, writes Craig Nakano, deputy arts and entertainment editor. The gallery will reopen this fall after a temporary closure.


Little Ethiopia: “Only a half-mile from the Academy Museum, platters of long-stewed doro wot, butter-fried tibs and fragrant lentils arrive on springy sheets of fresh injera,” writes Times food writer Stephanie Breijo, “making for some of the best and most interactive dining in the city.” Breijo recommends dining at Rosalind’s, Lalibela and Meals by Genet.

6150 Wilshire Blvd.: This complex, originally a clothing store built in the 1930s, was transformed into gallery space in 1998, reports Times art critic Christopher Knight. Gallery hop at 1301PE, Praz-Delavallade and Anat Ebgi while you’re in the neighborhood.

A GIF shows illustrations of L.A. attractions including the Tar Pits and LACMA.
Make the most of a trip to the new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures by visiting nearby Mid-Wilshire destinations.
(Mikki Paek / For The Times)

🌼 A rare desert bloom

California adventurers are often on the lookout for super blooms in March and April, but here’s a quick heads-up from Times Assistant Travel Editor Mary Forgione: A major bloom recently occurred in the Mojave Desert.

Thanks to monsoonal rains, “yellow carpets of native chinchweed” began appearing in parts of the Mojave Desert in late August, Forgione reported.

The chinchweed is now past its peak, Joshua Tree National Park spokesperson Hannah Schwalbe told Forgione, but visitors should be on the lookout for other flora.

“I haven’t seen other blooms, but this time of year, I keep my eye out for bladderpod, fringed amaranth, and ocotillo blooms,” she wrote in an email.

Get the full scoop on the summer super bloom here.

Joshua trees and yellow ground cover in the desert.
Chinchweed covers a patch of desert in late August in Joshua Tree National Park.
(Madena Asbell / Mojave Desert Land Trust)

🧚 A fairy-tale cottage in Carmel

This delightful, candy-pink cottage in Carmel is straight out of the Brothers Grimm — if the fairy-tale authors had lived along the Central California coast instead of in central Germany.


The Storybook Cottage sits just a block and a half from downtown Carmel, but its gardens, deck and views of Point Lobos may keep you from venturing off property.

The recently renovated home, created by local cottage builder Hugh Comstock, has earned a place on the Carmel Heritage House and Garden Tour and the Bach Festival Tour.

The home sleeps eight guests and rents for $600 a night. Reservations can be made on Vrbo.

BYO carriage and glass slippers, of course.

A cypress tree rises on a bluff overlooking the ocean.
Visitors on a storybook stay in Carmel can head north for a view of the Lone Cypress.
(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

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🚐 The wild world of ‘overlanding’

What is “overlanding,” you ask?

Well, it’s “not quite #vanlife (which is more bohemian) or glamping (rooted in opulence; no car needed) or touring in an RV (cushier and confined to paved roads),” Times business reporter Andrea Chang explains.

Rather, “overlanding is loosely defined as a self-reliant way to explore rugged terrain and undeveloped areas in a specialized vehicle for a sustained amount of time.”

She spoke to overlanding industry leaders and enthusiasts, including Tom Standish, who along with his wife, toddler and newborn hit the road several months ago in a luxury overland adventure vehicle.

In their EarthCruiser FX, the Standish family has so far explored the Southwest and the Pacific Northwest before crossing into British Columbia in Canada. Their next stop?

“They plan to take the EarthCruiser down the Baja California Peninsula in December and then ship the 6-ton rig by boat to Belgium so they can use it to traverse Northern Europe next year,” Chang reports.

“At this point, we’re in the vehicle full time. We’re going all in,” Standish told Chang.

Interested in giving it a try? You can rent an overland vehicle on Pacific Overlander and Cypress Overland.

A shirtless man carrying a baby walks, amid a Southwestern landscape, toward a large truck-like vehicle.
“The kids are young and they’re not in school yet, and we have this limited amount of time where we can do this and not be grounded,” said Tom Standish.
(Meghan Standish)

📰 What I’m reading

  • Did you know that Hotel Figueroa was once a retreat for women traveling solo to Los Angeles? Freda Moon describes her experience staying at this historic accommodation in SFGATE.
  • “It’s time to cancel campfires,” writes Heather Hansman in Outside. “We’re going to need to give up some of the things we love if we don’t want much more taken away.”
  • The world’s recently discovered northernmost island was found by accident, reports Sarah Durn in Atlas Obscura.
  • A new multisensory art exhibit from the minds behind Meow Wolf “will transport you to outer space,” Dobrina Zhekova writes in Travel + Leisure.
  • Eleanor Goldman Lurensky learned to love RV travel in her 90s. She explains her transformation into “RV Grandma, Queen of the Road” in the Washington Post.
People walk by the front of a multistory hotel.
L.A.’s Hotel Figueroa in the past was known as a refuge for female travelers.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

📸 Photo of the week

Grapevines, rolling green hillside and a large tree.
The rolling landscape along Trinity Road in Sonoma Valley.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

🎸 Road song

Song:Keep Lookin’ Up” by Kacey Musgraves

Favorite lyric: “You never know what you may find, I’ve seen strange things happen all the time. Keep lookin’ up.”

Best place to listen: In a Joshua tree campground, during a meteor show.

Illustrated Polaroid with a photo of a Joshua tree against the night sky.
A view of the Milky Way arching over Joshua trees and rocks at a park campground popular among stargazers in Joshua Tree National Park.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times; photo illustration by Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)