Question A for the traveler: “Where do I want to go?”
Question B (which requires less daydreaming & more planning): “How do I get there?”
Now I’m not talking about the vacationer. Those who have 2-3 weeks/year away from work, that represent that majority of people. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking the working class and their travel patterns, they make the world go round (and who doesn’t like to go to a resort?). But their traveling transport problems are usually solved with a roundtrip flight & guided tours/excursions.
I’m referring to people who travel more long-term, and those who may not use travel agencies to plan their trips. Those with tighter budgets. Those who have maybe chosen travel as a lifestyle. For us, answering Question B can be, how do I say it…..a little more creative?
Besides the planes, trains, & buses, I’ve taken almost every method of transport imaginable. From a 2-day slow boat down the Mekong and racing tuk-tuks, to hitchhiking & catching Soviet passenger trucks loaded WAY over capacity in Cuba, I’ve done everything I could to get from point A to point B.
It’s been plenty of fun & I’ve gotten where I need to go, but you know what? I’m tired of depending on other peoples’ schedules, time-tables, & defined routes.
So what ya gonna do about it, buster?
When I moved to Costa Rica 2 years ago, I sold my car back in the States. I didn’t miss it because I didn’t need it. I was too busy trying to learn Spanish and adapt to life in a new country. I didn’t have time to drive. Shoot, I could barely catch the bus!
But after living & backpacking around Central & South America for over a year, my girlfriend & I had a realization on the beaches of Oaxaca, Mexico one day. We decided that we wanted full control over where we go, when we go, and what we do when we get there. We want to be able to truly get off the beaten “gringo” path. We want the ability to find those communities & individuals in need that may not be on the internet or the church sponsorship list.
So I bought another car. And we’re going to drive the Pan-American Highway with it.
The Pan-American What?
The Pan-American Highway. The ultimate road trip. Driving the Americas. Driving to the end of the world.
The Pan-American Highway is a series of highway systems that stretches the entire length of the Western Hemisphere – from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska all the way down to Ushuaia, Argentina – the southernmost city in the world.
All 30,000 miles (48,000km) of the Pan-American highway, EXCEPT the 60 mile (100km) Darien Gap stretch connecting Panama to Colombia (and North and South America) are traversable in a vehicle. We went with Toccoa, Georgia for our starting point instead of Alaska, but we’ll be detouring around plenty of side, dirt roads to more than make up the mileage.
Who is doing this?
My girlfriend Giovanna and I, my brother from time to time, and as many of our friends who can muster up the courage to come join us for a week or 2 (I’m looking at you).
Where are we doing this?
When are we doing this?
Below is the rough Itinerary. You’ll notice only the shorter-term plans are specific. The rest of the details will materialize the farther we travel down the road, and we’re keeping all our options open.
October 22nd – Cross border into Mexico via Laredo/Nuevo Laredo, drive to Monterrey & stay for 2 days.
October 24th-28th – Driving south to explore the Mexican state of San Luis Potosi (I dare you to Google image Huasteca Potosina)
October 29 – Drive to Mexico City in time for Día de Los Muertos
November/December – Central Mexico (missions work in Mexico City, Valle de Bravo, Christmas vacation in Guanajuato & Acapulco)
January 9th – Picking up my buddy from the Mexico City airport and then driving to Oaxaca.
January 10th-23rd – Road trip through the states of Oaxaca & Chiapas with Will Oliver of BBB Paddling fame. (hopefully the first of many friends to come meet up with us along the way)
March/Early April – Temporary work in Playa del Carmen, road tripping Yucatán & Quintana Roo in our time off.
Mid April – Driving across the border into Belize
End of 2016/Start of 2017 – Transporting the 4Runner in a cargo container on a ship from Panama to Colombia
End of 2017 – Trip ends where the world ends – Ushuaia, Argentina. A massive cherry-on-the-top, celebratory trip to Patagonia with all the best outdoor activities & all the coolest people involved.
Why are we doing this?
How are we doing this?
- Online resources like Couchsurfing for local interaction & accommodation
- iOverlander and Drive the Americas for community connections & trip resources
- Workaway volunteer projects provide free accommodation & food as part of their model. Actually, most places are open to some sort of work-exchange agreement, even if they aren’t publicly advertising it.
- BlaBlaCar for ridesharing. Rather than modifying my 4Runner by taking out the back seat & building a permanent sleeping platform, we’ve figured out a solution to have enough sleeping space by laying the backseats down. This way we can prop the seats back up to carry 3 more passengers & offset gas expenses, whether they be locals, other travelers, or friends who want to come meet up with us on the road from time to time.
- We got a tent.
- We also like sleeping in our ENO hammocks.
- We’ll be cooking with our propane stove as much as possible. The Yeti cooler will keep the veggies fresh.
- Speaking the local language changes everything. As Spanish speakers, cheaper prices, better advice, & more friendly opportunities are sure to come our way.
- Researching places before we go there & using guide books like Lonely Planet. We won’t get conned into paying too much for a tour.
- Wait a second, we’re researching beforehand AND we have our own car? Come to think of it, we’ll be our own tour company (and yours too if you’re smart).
- Working on the road. Gio is an amazing artist. She’ll be using her creativity to make pretty stuff that people want to buy. By the way, have you seen her new website she’s starting up – www.coloringtheglobe.com? I’ll be working odd jobs here & there (tour guide? translator?) and working on making this blog sustainable.
- Of course our savings (this is a pretty good thing to spend your savings on, right?)
- Last but not least, we have been fortunate enough to raise a little bit of support thus far. We won’t take this blessing for granted.
That all sounds great. But aren’t you going to die?
At least 99% of the people I talk with about this trip think that we’re out of our mind. They assure me that it’s far too dangerous to visit some of these places. They “inform” me of latest drug cartel massacre. They know someone who knows someone who had a friend who was kidnapped.
I’m not denying that various countries in Latin America have their problems with violence. But are you denying that the U.S. doesn’t? Sure some of the gang & drug cartel stats are brutally shocking, but entire countries shouldn’t be written off by a few sensationalist news stories. Oh yea, things like not wandering around looking for drugs & using common sense go a long way too (see this article for more on this issue). Despite what Donald Trump says, not all Latinos are murderers & rapists. Just like you wouldn’t walk around certain parts of New York City alone at night, we too will avoid the problem areas & bad situations.
And as crazy as this trip sounds, it’s really not. There are loads of people who have been taking this trip for many years. Check out online communities like Horizons Unlimited & the afore mentioned Drive the Americas which are dedicated to overland travel. These forums are made up of thousands of people who have traveled the Pan-Am highway, gone where others told them not to, and emerged on the other side with nothing but great stories & friendly memories.
Want to get involved? Here’s how you can
As I’ve made clear, we are VERY OPEN to ideas, suggestions, tips, and direction as this trip unfolds. We have made our fair share of connections already, but are always looking for more. We want to know:
Do you know anyone in these countries? Friends? Family? Friends of friends?
Do you have any missions work/volunteering/charity contacts or experience in these countries?
Have you visited any of these countries before? Any tips? Recommendations?
Do you know anyone who may want to sponsor or advertise with us?
Do you want to come meet up with us?
One of my main goals with this travel blog is to convince people that traveling is safe, affordable, and important to self-growth & perspective. Stepping outside of your comfort zone & traveling to a new country is an educational experience. Especially when you mix in helping others, you’re in for some real personal development & life-changing memories.
I plan to eventually incorporate full package tours through Where’s the Gringo?
If I’m going to convince some of you guys to come traveling with me, I’ll need to help take some of the guess work out of it, right? I’m planning my own trip in an affordable, yet fulfilling way, and can do the same for you if you give me the chance.
If you see a place you like and are interested to come traveling with us there, we can throw together packages that include all accommodation, food, transport and activities such as:
Getting your scuba diving certification
Volunteering, charity, or missions work
Salsa or other dance lessons
Hiking mountains, sand-boarding volcanoes, waterfall cliff jumping, any outdoor activity, etc.
Or some good, old-fashioned beach relax time
Keep in mind that both of us have already spent around 2 years traveling through Latin America, already have many friends & connections built up, and have experience in all of the activities listed above. Those places where we haven’t been yet….well, we’re going there, and plan on doing more of what we love. We’ll scoop you from the airport and be on our way!
As some of you may know, my brother, my girlfriend and I embarked on a massive wild west road trip across the USA this past summer, and it was every bit as wonderful as I hoped it would be. We’re excited to combine the best of both worlds – the dynamics of road trip life, and the unique experiences that only Latin America can offer.
Looking at a map of the world, this route instantly jumps out as the ultimate overland adventure. It’s going to be the trip of a lifetime, and if you’d like to be a part of it, please let me know in the comments below, or by sending me an email or a message. If not, please keep us in your prayers or your thoughts, and of course, stay tuned as the journey unravels on this blog and at www.coloringtheglobe.com!
EXPLORING AMERICA, NO IMPORTA THE BORDER