With no real plan to follow, they pointed their 1987 Toyota Land Cruiser southward with the intention of exploring the Americas. We’ve followed their progress over the last couple of years and have always felt they have an enviable travel style. They travel at a reasonable pace, taking time to soak in the experience. Their images from the road are stunning and their blog entries always entertaining. In the latest installment of our Adventure Interview series, I catch up with Luis to ask him about life on the road.
It’s not a very clever question, but it’s the question everyone wants to ask of any world traveler––what made you decide to load up your truck and drive for what has now become several years?
We think it is a good question, but in all honesty when we sold all our stuff and moved into the Land Cruiser, we had no intention to travel for several years. The plan was to travel for up to one year and return to our “normal” life. Truth is that at that time we thought it was a little insane to abandon jobs and careers for a whole year.
What made us decide to become “overlanders”? Well, it’s impossible to answer succinctly because there are so many reasons. The main reason is that we are both victims of wanderlust. We truly love traveling and all the experiences that come with traveling, but I’d say the genesis of this vehicle based trip occurred whilst backpacking through Guatemala and Honduras a few years before our America’s drive.
While on our backpacking trip we used public buses as our main transportation to move around and however quaint an experience that may have been, we found it frustrating to be tied to bus schedules and to not be able to stop at a beautiful spot on the road to take a photo or a much needed bathroom break. Then, after a particularly annoying bus ride we stopped at a place called Finca Ixobel in Guatemala. Ixobel is a sort of guest hotel/B&B that also allows overlanders to camp. During our stay there we met 3 overlanding couples, all in very different vehicles (moto with side car, VW bus and Toyota Tacoma with 4Wheel Camper), all traveling around the Americas for 6 months or more. It was one of those movie type epiphany moments, while sharing a few drinks with these overlanders Lacey and I looked at each other and knew: overlanding was our future. There you have it as succinctly as we can give it to you. At this point in time we continue to travel overland because we are addicted to it, our wanderlust is worse than ever and we have embraced a nomadic life and what comes along with it.
Every traveler I’ve interviewed has their own style and rhythm to their journeys. How would you describe your travel style? You appear to take it slow, soaking up the nuances of a place before moving on. I like the sound of that, wish I’d come up with it: “soaking up the nuances of a place.” I’d like to think it is true, we love to get to know the local attractions, people, food and their history as much as possible. When it comes to a rhythm or a speed of travel, we go through phases and it depends on our mood and/or how much we like the area we are visiting. Sadly, the cost of living in an area we are visiting also dictates how long before we need to move on (otherwise we may have stayed in Rio de Janeiro for months). For the most part we don’t like to stay anywhere for less than 3 or 4 days and if we like a location we try to stay for as long as we can. We believe that after 4 or more days you start getting a little more comfortable, relaxed and start seeing things you wouldn’t on a shorter visit, the nuances if you will. The longer the stay the better (though the law of diminishing returns does apply sometimes). For us it feels great to go to the town market and have the fruit guy or the butcher start recognizing us and recommending stuff like he would to a local. Like the TV show Cheers, we like people to know our name and maybe even accept us.
What’s your typical week look like, or is there even such a thing as a typical “Lost World Expedition” week? I really do not think there is a “typical” week for us because it all depends on where we are and what our mood is (starting to see a pattern with mood?)… Our only fixed item in the daily routine is the morning coffee and the ritual struggle to decide who gets up to make the coffee (this ritual can be particularly complicated and drawn out if the weather is very cold and neither of us wants to get out of the sleeping bag or the roof top tent). Like I said we really have no typical week other than for example on one of our visit to Buenos Aires, Argentina we just walked for hours everyday ate lots of beef, drank tons of wine and caught up on internet. City folk. On the Carretera Austral in Southern Chile we did tons of hiking, attempted to fish and camped for a month of amazing goodness.
Perpetual travel seems like an idillic lifestyle, albeit challenging. How do you keep the momentum and the desire to keep exploring? We actually do lose the desire to travel on occasion. Can I say it is influenced by mood again? It kind of is! You see at different times during the last 5 years we have each at one time or another felt kind of tired of travel and of living out of the Land Cruiser. Luckily never both at the same time, so one of us is always around to calm and encourage the other down. Sort of like talking the other off the ledge. It is true every now and again I’ve started to feel like I am taking things for granted or I am not amazed by my surroundings, but something or another always brings me back.
Is there a place along your travels you feel you’d like to return to someday? Anyplace you’d recommend to avoid? Yes. Truth is the list of places we’d like to revisit is very long. With fear of sounding a bit flag wavy we truly loved the U.S. portion of our trip particularly southern Utah. If I were pressed to name my top countries to revisit I’d say Mexico, and Brazil. But the list of specific areas or cites we’d revisit is south of the border is very long. Here are a few we can think of now: •Baja California, Mexico •The drive through the Cañon del Pato and the Cordillera Blanca in Peru •The drive from Chachapoyas to Cajamarca and to Trujillo in Peru •The Galapagos Islands of Ecuador •The entire length of the Carretera Austral in Chile •Venezuela’s Gran Sabana •The Amazon (Ecuador or Brazilian) •The northeast coast of Brazil •South eastern Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni and Parque Eduardo Avaroa •The Lakes District in Argentina There are so many, many more places to revisit that we just realized this list could simply go on…
How much longer do you think you’ll continue your travels, and where are you off to next? Technically we are not traveling at the moment. We shipped ourselves and the Land Cruiser from Argentina to the U.S. early in 2014. We are currently enjoying a more sedentary life in California and will be here for the greater part of 2014 preparing and deciding what to do next. Current tentative plans include a revisit of Baja California and some other spots in Mexico late this fall and we have fairly fixed plans to visit Europe for most of 2015, but our “fixed” plans tend to be quite flexible and unreliable. How much longer will we travel? ‘Till we can travel no more (or one of us gets sick of it).
If you could give a rookie traveler one bit of sage advice, what would it be? Two things. First thing: Smile. Smile all the time. Smiling is truly internationally understood and an amazing way to break the ice and calm yourself and others. You will be surprised in what situations it will help: a border crossing, a stubborn vendor charging you “tourist” prices for an item, etc. Secondly and as important: Trust your instincts. If you or your partner even has a hint of second thought or fear, avoid and move on. www.lostworldexpedition.com
It’s always a pleasure to get to speak with travelers with such a passion for adventure. We wish Lacey and Luis all the best and can’t wait to catch up with them again next year. From all of us at Expedition Portal, we wish them safe travels!