Further Inspiration 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
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!
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!
Schutte’s Gone Walkabout: Alicia, Paul & their 3 kids
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.
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.
We are Out of the Office: Matt, Clo & Wilbur the Landcruiser
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!
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.
Phil & Nathalie from Canada: 25 years corporate life – at 45, nomad life
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.
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.
Oh la van! – On our way to unknown things
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.
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!
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.