If you have been following us for a while, you know by now that we quit our jobs in corporate America and decided to pursue living in a camper for the foreseeable future. Our goal was not to be living in a camper to save money, but to explore areas of the world that we wouldn't be able to get to otherwise. How our journey came to be is a long story. Let me start from the very beginning.
If you're curious about how vanlife is treating us, you can catch up here:
- Month 1 on the Oregon Coast
- Month 2 - Best Slot Canyons of Utah
- Month 3 - Hidden Places in Utah
- Month 4 in the Canadian Rockies
It was almost a decade ago that it hit me. I’m not sure exactly when it was, or what the exact trigger was, but I had stumbled upon a blog of a couple that quit their jobs and were driving the Pan-American Highway. I instantly jumped headfirst down the proverbial rabbit hole and read every blog post they wrote along the way from Alaska to Patagonia. The weekly posts included my kind of exploration: remote mountain ranges, beautiful colonial towns, camping on secluded beaches, eating as many tacos as they could, and basically doing whatever they pleased.
Over the next year I poured over as many overlanding blogs and forums I could find. Everyone wrote about their experiences with such enthusiasm and zest for life, and not one person regretted their choice to hit the road. This is when I knew this was something that I wanted to do.
Having just started a career in accounting, and Bettina still studying for her Masters, it was not the ideal time to drop everything and travel the world. As we progressed in our careers and started to earn a living wage, we were soon able to start saving away for this future adventure. A move to Chicago brought enough new adventure opportunities that we decided to stay twice as long as we initially planned.
It is truly one of our favorite cities, and if you haven’t been, we can highly recommend it. These our our favorite things to do in Chicago, even if you're only there for a few days. Corporate America does have some perks, but after five years we were ready for a change.
With no new city calling our names, this was the perfect opportunity to live our dreams. Or perhaps live my dream. When I initially proposed this trip to Bettina years ago, it was absolutely out of the question for her. A few years of stressful work and a new passion for travel blogging quickly turned her around.
“Overlanding” is self-reliant overland travel to remote destinations where the journey is the principal goal. Overlanding typically involves off-road capable transportation and often lasts for extended periods of time (months to years). It is not an expedition, as an expedition is a defined journey with a purpose, whereas with overlanding the journey is the purpose.
We could certainly pack a few bags in a car and hit the road, and that is exactly what some others do. However, I have a yearning for exploring places off the beaten track and that generally requires a vehicle that is more capable and the ability to be self-sufficient while “off the grid” for days at a time. Our trip will have a diverse mixture of remote backcountry travel and stopping off in every major city along the way.
The Pan-American Highway
The Pan-American Highway is the longest motorable road in the world. It stretches from the very north at Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, and travels 19,000 miles (30,000 kilometers) to the very south in Ushuaia, Argentina. It is, in short, a very long way.
Our route, will loosely follow the Pan-American Highway, in our quest to reach Ushuaia. The first half of the route spans Canada, the United States, Mexico, Belize (not officially), Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. There are no roads between Panama and Colombia thanks to the infamously dangerous Darién Gap, which means you must organize your vehicle to be shipped via container ship to Colombia, one of the major hurdles of the Pan-American Highway. Once in Colombia, it is on to Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Argentina.
Planning for a trip such as this is daunting, even for self-proclaimed planners and list-makers like ourselves. We had an ongoing destinations list that we updated over the years, as we saw new “must-see” destinations. However, about a year and a half before our intended departure we got a little bit more serious. Meetings were had, lists were made, and a schedule was created.
Over the next few months, life took its own course and we fell seriously behind on our planning goals. Nevertheless, we tediously researched and acquired the gear we would need, and eventually came to the conclusion that no matter how much you prepare, you will never truly be “ready” to leave. We embraced that spirit, and hit the road on March 5, 2020.
Living in a Camper - Swifty
What we hit the road with was our Toyota Tacoma, sprouting a few more modifications than before, and our Four Wheel Pop-Up Camper Swift, affectionately known as “Swifty.” Swifty had been beautified by Bettina, to bring the interior aesthetics up to her standards. We also spent a large amount of time on camper organization so that every nook and cranny of the Tacoma and Swifty were filled with what we thought we might need over the next year or so for living in a camper.
We put together an in-depth explanation and tour of Tacoma and Swifty, in case you are curious to learn more about our home on wheels. We also included some before and after Swifty beautification photos - you can't miss out on those original seat cushion covers!
On the Road
The morning that we left, we still had a huge to-do list of things we wanted to complete, but that had no hope of being accomplished over the next few hours. Nevertheless, we packed up our remaining belongings and set-off from home, only a few hours behind schedule. Border crossings can be one of the main headaches when completing the Pan-American Highway, and as we were unemployed and living in a camper, we didn’t know what the border agent would think of us.
However, we are happy to report that the first border crossing, only 10 minutes into our journey, went off without a hitch. Hitting the road south, we didn’t really know how to feel or what to expect of this trip and living in a camper, but we knew that great adventures lie ahead. If you're curious to know how we are doing on the road so far, check out our post about our first month on the road.
Save this post to your road trip Pinterest boards for when the travel bug bites and you are looking to get away for a few months as well!
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