Further Inspiration to Travel the Pan-American Highway

The final in our 4 part series, sharing international overlander stories in answer to our question: What inspired you to travel the Pan-American Highway?

The final in our 4 part series, sharing international overlander stories in answer to our question: What inspired you to travel the Pan-American Highway?

Every year more people are setting out to overland the Americas; to travel the Pan-American Highway. Here is our 4th and final post in the series of Overlander stories, where they answer the question:

What inspired you to travel the Pan-American Highway?

Our final five include a Brazilian couple who decided life is too short to put your dreams on hold; a couple who met travelling and decided to travel the Pan-American Highway with their 3 kids; a travelling couple, who found the experience of overlanding together strengthened their relationship; a Canadian couple who gave up successful corporate careers to follow their dreams; and a young couple, who took off together, barely a year after they met.

We hope you will find inspiration to travel in their stories.


Our good friends, Bia & Paolo – Asfalto, Terra e Mar

Paulo & Bia - On a sunny day on the Oregon coast, we met another couple of overlanders heading south. We exchanged contacts, lots of information, and they took a picture of us.

Paulo & Bia – On a sunny day on the Oregon coast, we met another couple of overlanders heading south. We exchanged contacts, lots of information, and they took a picture of us.

Who are we? An aquarian and a gemini, a designer and an economist, Bia (42) and Paulo (46) from Brazil…we’re just two regular people, who dream about traveling the world. In fact, we’ve always been curious to know what’s around the corner, to discover what’s next and to surf the perfect wave. We used to work hard to travel for the few weeks we could, and then work even harder to save money for the next trip.

When we lived in Australia, back in 2002, we had our first overlander experience. At that time we rented a Wicked van and traveled 5000 km in only 2 months, but it was enough to infect us.

Back home, we planned to have a vehicle one day that could be our home, taking us everywhere we wanted to travel, without a schedule, stopping wherever we liked, staying as long as we wanted.

These plans were waiting for retirement, but life has its own time, and showed us that living today is the most important thing. At only 40 years old, Paulo experienced a type of melanoma common to people over 70, and that made us reconsider our plans for the future.

We moved to a smaller town, and started a business. For a couple of years we had this perfect, simple life until we had an offer to sell our restaurant…it was a sign! We sold it, and after long research, put the money into a reliable truck and a camper made in Brazil. Then we were free to go!

We started with a short 80 day trip to Patagonia Argentina, Ushuaia and the Carretera Austral in Chile. Since it was just a test drive, we went back home to make some adjustments to the camper, and to plan a little bit more.

Planning is never easy; it takes effort and time, but making changes is sometimes even harder when you have to rely on other people to do the job. While we were waiting, the POS (Parked Overlander Syndrome, the best way we could define our bored mood) hit us hard! We even thought we would never accomplish this dream. But, when we met other experienced overlanders, we realized that even when you think you have everything planned there’s always something missing, there are always things to be done, so better hit the road soon and everything will be easier to figure out on the way. One thing is certain: WE LEARNED A LOT! And now we can make a lot of improvements and repairs with confidence!

Somewhere in Baja - Wild camping in Baja is just perfect, warm waters, good waves and everyday a beautiful sunset

Somewhere in Baja – Wild camping in Baja is just perfect, warm waters, good waves and everyday a beautiful sunset

Snowing in Alaska - For tropical people like us, watching the snow in Alaska was just magical

Snowing in Alaska – For tropical people like us, watching the snow in Alaska was just magical

We launched ourselves into the long journey in September 2016. As surfers, we drove along the coast exploring the Pacific Ocean all the way from Chiloe Island in Chile to the frozen waters of Seward in Alaska. When there are no waves or it’s impossible to follow the coast, we adventure into the mountains, lakes, rivers and national parks. We love being outdoors, but we also love new cultures, art, food and animals, so we try to balance doing a little bit of everything (just avoiding big cities!).

Having a new landscape every day, discovering new places, and surfing the best waves of our lives, is all amazing, but meeting people has been the best experience by far! It’s amazing how they open their houses and their hearts and receive us with open arms. Every time we had any kind of problem, in the end we felt blessed by meeting good people! All these experiences we’ve been living just show us that essentially humankind is good, and it gives us hope for the future.

We don’t drive as slowly as others travellers, but we live one day at a time and still have all the way back to Brazil. So much more is to come!

You can follow Bia and Paulo on Facebook and Instagram “Asfalto Terra e Mar”


Schutte’s Gone Walkabout: Alicia, Paul & their 3 kids

Enjoying Perito Merino Glacier. (dare2go: this was the view from our camper window when we spent the night next to the glacier, back in 2009.)

Enjoying Perito Merino Glacier. (dare2go: this was the view from our camper window when we spent the night next to the glacier, back in 2009.)

We’re Schutte’s Gone Walkabout, an Australian/Canadian family of 5: Alicia (40), Paul (42), Zaire (8), Adelina (6) and Nyssa (3). Paul is a mechanical fitter and I’m a home/world schooling mom.

Paul and I met overlanding through Africa in 2004 on a TransAfrica trip from England to South Africa. Paul was driving overland trucks and I was a passenger. Paul also drove from England to Kazakhstan in a Toyota Corolla. Both Paul and I separately overlanded through America & Canada in our early 20’s.

For us the question was never, would we overland with our children? The question was, when and where would we overland.

We love that with overlanding, the kids have a place to call home; this has proven to be very comforting for them in the past year. A space they feel completely ‘at home’. We all enjoy the freedom to explore in our own time, at our own pace.

We have spent a lot of time exploring Western Australia with our camper trailer. We also travelled around New Zealand’s North & South Island for a month in a bus converted into a camper in 2015.

Most recently, we spent 2017 travelling from Vancouver, Canada to the bottom of South America in our F350 and truck camper. One of the most challenging parts of our trip was sticking to a schedule. Paul had 13 months off work, so we had to work to an end date. Paul’s work offered 4 years at 80% of his pay with the 5th year off getting paid the 80% they had withheld, which allowed us to finance the trip as well as provide the security of returning home to employment. Next time we would prefer to work it, without the end date.

Lots of people comment on the fact we are travelling with children. Travelling with small children isn’t always easy, but life isn’t always easy. We hope that showing the children around world will influence them in a positive way as they get older. We may not all look the same or speak the same languages, but we’re all people. We’ve met so many friendly and helpful people along the way, both locals and other travellers. Children seem to open a lot of doors as well, interactions that we may not have had without them. They bring smiles to a lot of people’s faces.

Paul and the kids servicing the truck. (dare2go: These kids are amazing! We met them for just a few hours one day and were impressed by their enthusiasm for everything around them.)

Paul and the kids servicing the truck. (dare2go: These kids are amazing! We met them for just a few hours one day and were impressed by their enthusiasm for everything around them.)

Meditating on the roof. I loved escaping the morning chaos for a few minutes to just breath.

Meditating on the roof. I loved escaping the morning chaos for a few minutes to just breath.

A few family favorites along the way were the Monarch butterflies in Mexico, peering into an active volcano in Nicaragua, driving into the Amazon in Ecuador, Ibera in Argentina , and all of the amazing people along the way.

As we make our way home, we’re already planning the next adventures.

Schutte’s Gone Walkabout on Facebook


We are Out of the Office: Matt, Clo & Wilbur the Landcruiser

This picture was taken at the beginning of the trip in the USA as we began our 14 hour long hike in the Grand Tetons. Matt was trying out the beard style!

This picture was taken at the beginning of the trip in the USA as we began our 14 hour long hike in the Grand Tetons. Matt was trying out the beard style!

Clo was born in the south of France and spent most of her life in Paris and a few other cities in Europe before moving to Singapore in 2013. Matt was born in Germany but grew up in the US (Washington state), and for the last fifteen years he’s been mostly living abroad in different countries.

What previous overland experiences had we had? None at all!
Matt had taken family road trips since he was a kid and traveled quite a lot as an adult, but wasn’t even aware of overlanding until recently. Clo only became aware of what overlanding was when we started talking about traveling through the Americas.

Matt was unhappy with his job and career, and wanted to take a break. He talked about it with Clo, a lot, and the mode of travel we decided to follow turns out to be called overlanding. Clo had already left her regular professional routine behind in Paris when she moved to Singapore, so this seemed like an awesome way to keep on exploring. We were married a few years ago in Singapore as well, so why not take a multi-year honeymoon?

Matt: For me, the unquestionably best part is the travel itself. Exploring new places, meeting new people, solving problems. And all of that with my wife, has been, and continues to be, amazing.
Clo: The best part has been how surprised I’ve been at how easy it is. My fears (not getting along with my husband, feeling threatened on the road, having unfixable car problems, etc.) have not been nearly as serious as I expected. In fact, there are other things that have been even more enjoyable than I expected. I should have done this ages ago!

This picture was take on the amazing road to go to Urique!! This is the craziest and most beautiful road we have been on (for hours). The cold beer at the bottom of the canyon was well deserved!!

This picture was take on the amazing road to go to Urique!! This is the craziest and most beautiful road we have been on (for hours). The cold beer at the bottom of the canyon was well deserved!!

This picture was taken on the road in Mexico. Living in your truck and driving a little bit every day you have to go through all kind of weather and road condition. And you start loving that view from your seat.

This picture was taken on the road in Mexico. Living in your truck and driving a little bit every day you have to go through all kind of weather and road condition. And you start loving that view from your seat.

For Matt it has been both exciting and relaxing. The biggest impact on my life has been helping me to be more understanding and patient as a husband.

Clo has also found her relationship with her husband to have improved significantly. I’ve learned to give importance only to the things that are actually important. I’ve also realized it’s easier in many ways, when we are traveling: there’s always something new to see, something to do, a place to go. The travel itself helps to prevent us from creating big problems from small ones.

Our house was paid off, so we rent it out to finance our month to month expenses. In addition, we have our savings from the couple of years prior to the trip. Clo also works at a few festivals as a photographer throughout the year, and occasionally sells photographs.

Visit the blog of we are out of the office or their Instagram page


Phil & Nathalie from Canada: 25 years corporate life – at 45, nomad life

Nathalie & Phil: Getting our groove on the Atlantic Coast of Argentina near Camarones

Nathalie & Phil: Getting our groove on the Atlantic Coast of Argentina near Camarones

Hi we’re Marquestra, a mid-life couple’s quest for travel.

After 25 years of corporate life and too many responsibilities, we both knew it was time for a change. We’d recently attended funerals for friends and family members who hadn’t reached 50 or barely passed it. In 2013, we’d been leading a privileged life; we travelled luxuriously and managed to amass a comfy cushion of assets. Although Phil was the principal of his advertising agency, the local economy was in a downturn; the globalization of design was rising and the bottom line was getting quite thin. Times were changing and we needed to do so too.

For many years, we’d repeated to ourselves a typical phrase we’d heard oh so often… “when we retire we’ll travel more” or “when we have the money, we’ll do this or that…” The day Phil’s office lease was up, we came to a crossroad: renew the lease and carry on or not? One night, Nathalie said: “WHY DON’T WE JUST SELL EVERYTHING AND DRIVE TO THE END OF THE WORLD?”

A few months later, we’d sold almost everything we owned, outfitted our Jeep Wrangler into an overlanding rig, pulled the plug on conventions, and didn’t look back. We were headed on a voyage from Montreal to the tip of South America and back, driving through the Americas!

We decided to drive to Miami and have our Wrangler aka Redbird shipped to Montevideo, Uruguay in a maritime container. It ended up being a great idea. By starting our adventure in a 1st world region, we had time to adjust to living on the road without too much of the culture shock that goes with it. Once fully immersed, we knew we’d be ready to handle whatever Central America and Mexico threw at us.

We picked up Redbird in the port of Montevideo in Uruguay and went south, all the way to Ushuaia, Patagonia. Once we’d reached the end of the world, we started back up towards Chile, Bolivia and Peru. When we reached Ecuador, our confidence and comfort level was now pretty high; enough that we decided to venture through Colombia, a country we had initially elected to opt out of, simply prompted by fear! After meeting many overlanders who had just been through Colombia safely, we got sold on the idea. We learned that travel advice should only be taken from people who have actually BEEN THERE. By the time we got to Central America, our Spanish was efficient, our travel skills were well perfected and our street smarts were sharply honed.

Bolivia Snow : What a morning surprise? Bush Camping in the Riserva Eduardo Avaroa, Bolivia at 13,800 ft elevation, the rain had turned to snow during the night.

Bolivia Snow : What a morning surprise? Bush Camping in the Riserva Eduardo Avaroa, Bolivia at 13,800 ft elevation, the rain had turned to snow during the night.

Torres del Paine: One of the many highlights of our trip,Torres del Paine, Chile

Torres del Paine: One of the many highlights of our trip,Torres del Paine, Chile

This journey had affected our way of life in so many ways. We learned a lot from our overlanding journey; especially that we can adapt to ANYTHING. Nowadays, we choose to travel on a level that makes us connect more with the people and cultures of the countries we visit. Life on the road has taught us that together we can accomplish anything we set our minds to.

Looking back, who would have thought that two luxury travellers would survive a 10 month overlanding trip to South & Central America, while sleeping on their truck in an RTT (roof top tent), or even hostels! That surely couldn’t have been us?

Fast forward to 2017, we’ve recently retired Redbird, adapting once again to new opportunities… We’re now digital nomads, semi location independent, house-sitting around the world as we escape our crazy Canadian winters.

Carpe Diem and Safe Travels! Follow Marquestra’s journeys on their website and on Facebook


Oh la van! – On our way to unknown things

El Sunzal, El Salvador: Ekain posing with all his ladies.

El Sunzal, El Salvador: Ekain posing with all his ladies.

A little over a year ago, we (Melissa and Ekain) met for the first time in Panama City. Ekain, a 28-year-old from the Basque Country, had moved there three years before to start his career. I, Melissa, a 24-year-old from Haiti, was doing a six-month internship as part of my master’s degree in France.

On our first date, Ekain invited me to leave with him for a 4-day weekend to a secluded beach with no cell service, a six-hour car ride away from the city. I said yes. After all, if it turned out that there was no chemistry, I would still be able to enjoy one of my favorite beaches for a few days.

12 months later, here we are, traveling through Central America in a 12 m2 home on wheels. Ekain was up for a change in his life; I wanted to take advantage of the transition between school and the start of my professional career to do something that I had always wanted to do. I flew from Paris to Panama, where we found our 2003 Lance truck-camper. Our trip towards the United States started four months ago.

Prior to this, Eka owned a Volkswagen T4 back in the Basque Country that he would use on weekends or to go surfing. Other than that, we had no experience whatsoever in overlanding nor in mechanics; we’ve been learning heaps along the way!

Besides gaining in mechanical knowledge, we’ve also learned that a simple life is a better life. We have minimized our material possessions and have learned to appreciate the little things such as a cold outdoor shower from a bucket on a hot Central American day, or the arrival of the fruit and veggie truck on a secluded beach. We’ve learned that you can clean a lot of dishes or brush your teeth with small amount of water.

We have learned to give people and places the benefit of the doubt, and not let ourselves succumb to fear by listening to those who haven’t even left their own country. This was one of the best decisions we have ever taken. In El Salvador, we met the nicest families, surfed amazing waves and ate the yummiest local food. In Honduras, we swam with dolphins, learned about the ancient Maya civilization and interacted with blue and red Macaws.

Panajachel, Guatemala: We were planning to go to a different compground in Lake Atitlán, some road works forced us to change plans and ended up in this beautiful location with a unique view of the lake and volcanoes.

Panajachel, Guatemala: We were planning to go to a different compground in Lake Atitlán, some road works forced us to change plans and ended up in this beautiful location with a unique view of the lake and volcanoes.

Punta Mango, El Salvador: It took us more than 30 minutes and lots of patience to make the last 500m to get to this amazing camping spot, the best for us so far.

Punta Mango, El Salvador: It took us more than 30 minutes and lots of patience to make the last 500m to get to this amazing camping spot, the best for us so far.

But, most importantly, we have learned a lot about ourselves and about each other. If you want to get to know your partner, travel with them in a van or a camper! It is not always easy, but this kind of experience in a relationship is priceless. Like they say, if it doesn’t kill the love, it will make it stronger.

Finally, many people ask us how we finance our trip. There are no secrets there for us: we saved. I worked part-time as a tutor while in university and Eka worked hard during three and a half years in Panama. We were both savers before we met and it allows us to live this amazing adventure in the present. For those of you, who have always wanted to live the #vanlife and have not done so, it is more accessible than you think. It’s only a matter of making your dreams a priority!

Links to Oh la van’s blog (in Spanish & English!) and their Instagram & Facebook pages.


We have given you 23 stories in all, from Overlanders of various ages, driving many different vehicles, for longer or shorter journeys. Some of their journeys are over – others have barely begun. Happily, we have met 8 of them on our travels.The one thing they all have in common is their desire to travel the Pan-American. We hope you are inspired by their stories.

Part 1 of this series: What inspired you to travel the Pan-American Highway?
Part 2 of this series: 6 More Overlanders Tell Us Their Pan-American Stories
Part 3 of this series: Inspiration for the New Year from PanAm Overlanders


Please note: all photos as part of the individual overlander portraits were submitted by these travellers and are the intellectual COPYRIGHT of these individuals. Please never copy without their permission!


In the meantime we sit in Mexico, taking a little holiday, before reuniting with Berta in Germany. After 4 years, our Pan-American journey is now over, but the memories will last a lifetime.

Are you on Pinterest?

We want to encourage you to travel more and longer! Have you ever considered “overlanding” in your own vehicle? Many people from different stages in their lives have dared to go on a Pan-Am trip. In this, the final of our 4 part series, they share their personal stories in answer to our question: What inspired you to travel the Pan-American Highway? Read their stories to see how easily it can be!

Enjoyed this? PIN this!


Yasha

dare2go's human navigator (we're not lost because there's nowhere particular we have to be) alongside our Nexus 7 tablet, writer and editor of our blog, first cook and loving wife. Teaching English as a second language when possible.

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22 Responses

  1. You’ve certainly met an interesting and adventurous bunch of people while travelling the Pan American highway. It’s especially inspiring to read of Phil & Nathalie – fellow Canadians!

    • Yasha says:

      We have – some of them in person and some just online. But the overlander community is strong and growing. We are all very supportive of each other’s journey.

  2. Tom Bartel says:

    About one minute into this, I started scheming in my own mind of how we could pull this off. I’d really like to hear from you or one of your friends how they got their vehicle through the Darian Gap.

    • Juergen says:

      Yep Tom, you have spotted straight away one of the things which make a Pan-American road-trip more expensive: the Darian Gap. The only option is to ship around it, usually from Colon in Panama to Cartagena in Colombia. I have outlined the main 3 shipping options in our old shipping post from 2008 – most of the information on page 1 is still current, although prices have changed a bit and many companies now only take private vehicles cleared through a customs agent (before you were able to do this yourself). You can expect to pay for a larger RV, which doesn’t fit into a container, around US$60 per cubic meter.

      One thing is clear: shipping around the Darian Gap is expensive! We just paid a little less to ship from Cartagena to Europe than we would have paid to ship from Cartagena to Panama… But with some planning you can take advantage of this situation. For example, if you want to drive to Tierra del Fuego (the most southerly point in South America) and back to the USA or Canada you could embark at different ports and roughly pay the same.

      Three popular options are:

      1. Ship from Galveston (near Houston) in Texas straight to Cartagena
      2. Ship from Veracruz in Mexico to South America (again either Cartagena or Montevideo)
      3. Ship return from Montevideo to Galveston (near Houston) in Texas

      Shipping is a topic, which is a great starter for many overlander discussions, both in person and on dedicated Facebook groups or forums.

  3. We did wait until retirement to do our overland and worldwide travel, but we retired young. It’s been 4 years since we started. I always loved to travel, and once my husband is in the experience, he likes it. Now we travel 4 months/year, and recently bought an RV so we are traveling 13 states in the US right now. It’s our first year not going out of the US. We’re having a great time as we always do when we travel; we’re seeing the beauty and diversity across the US, meeting people and having new experiences in our own country. Our relationship is always better while we travel and have to live in tight spaces; I see your interviewees have a similar experience – not what I would have predicted! I would like to try a year on the road but not sure my hubby would agree just yet since we live in a beautiful part of the US.

    • Yasha says:

      This life is not for everybody, but those who take to it, really do love it. The USA certainly has their fare share of beautiful places. We travelled there extensively in 2006 – also in a motorhome. The national parks are just amazing.

  4. It is so nice to read about so many people following their dreams; just like you! I love road trips, but I have never taken on one as extensive as you. I really enjoyed this post!

  5. Carol Colborn says:

    I don’t know if our RVing through 49 American states, 10 Canadian provinces and territories and 7 Mexican states can be considered overlanding but we even published a book about it!

  6. These are such inspiring stories. I’m a big fan of road trips and embracing new travel opportunities, but haven’t done such extensive overland travel. Perhaps a Pan-American Highway adventure is in my future. Kudos to all these travelers for following their dreams.

    • Yasha says:

      We love this way of travelling – we’ve been overlanding this time for 4 years and plan to continue for a few more yet. We certainly recommend giving it a try if you think it might appeal.

  7. Sue Reddel says:

    Phil and Nathalie’s story is very similar to my wife’s and mine. I gave up my corporate advertising job and have not looked back. While we don’t travel for extended periods of time we do travel about once a month. One thing all of your travelers have in common is the understanding that life in short. We all have the ability to choose our own path it’s strange how few people really do.

    • Yasha says:

      I agree with you that it’s strange how few people can decide to follow their dreams. That’s one of the reasons we loved sharing all of these stories.

  8. Donna Janke says:

    I enjoyed reading these stories about overlanders on the Pan-American Highway. Their stories are inspiring. I’ve not done it yet, but I love the idea of travelling for a while with a vehicle that is our home.

    • Yasha says:

      It’s truly a wonderful experience, having your home with you wherever you go: need a bathroom – it’s right there in the back; time for lunch – just pull over and put something together; too tired to go any farther – find a safe spot to park and spend the night.
      It’s a great life!

  9. Tobias says:

    Hi Yasha, I just discovered your blog and I have to say I am really enjoying it so far. What inspirational stories. I’ve always dreamed of traveling the Pan American Highway.

    My girlfriend, Niecie, and I are just getting our feet wet with Overlanding. We’ve got a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, some experience driving off-road and a few plans in the works, but stories like these are exactly what we need until our first trip to the Upper Penninsula of Michigan this summer. It’s always great to find other bloggers in your niche, especially ones that have great experiences to share.

    Can’t wait for your next post! – Tobias

    • Yasha says:

      Welcome Tobias (& Niecie) – we are happy you enjoy our posts. Our aim is to inspire others to dare2go. You seem to be well on the way. Thanks for your lovely comment.

  10. Thanks for this insightful post, Yasha. I could particularly relate to Nathalie & Phil’s story, as I am a fellow Canadian who also gave up corporate life to be free. I travel as a sponsored travel writer most of the time, but could relate to their desire to enjoy life to the fullest before your number is up!

    • Yasha says:

      Thank you Doreen. There are constant reminders of the fragility of this life. We really want to inspire people to follow their dreams and make the most of the life they have.

  11. Mark Masters says:

    Hi, We travelled from the bottom of Sth Africa to England in 2008 in my wifes’ 1952 Series MM Morris Minor convertible named Alice camping much of the way.
    In 2011 we journeyed from England to Beijing via St Petersburg and Mongolia in my 1947 MGTC named Tilly and camping most of the way. We shipped bothbnAlice and Tilly back home to New Zealand.
    In 2016 we travelled from Santiago Chile to Ushuaia and then up through Argentina finishing in Montreal Canada. This time luxury! a 1984 VW Vanagon Westy named Hugo. Had intended to ship to Europe however sold him in the USA.
    Just about to leave for Europe and take delivery of our brand new LHD VW California in which we plan to live and travel on and off for the foreseeable future when our two daughters and families are not using it.

    • Yasha says:

      Hi Mark, lovely to hear from you. You’ve had quite the adventures in very interesting vehicles.
      We’ve just finished our South American travels and are on our way to begin travelling in Europe as well.
      Would love to meet up with some Kiwis if we are in the same place some time. Please keep in touch.

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