Planning for any trip can be a daunting task. Planning for a trip of indeterminite length and unknown starting and ending points is a whole other monster entirely. At the same time it’s exciting and fresh. I think back to the first trip I made outside of the U.S. as an independent traveler. I planned obsessively – down to every last detail. Now, if I’m going somewhere about the only planning that is put in to it is the purchase of airline or bus tickets and possibly making a reservation for some sort of accommodation. I miss those early days when everything was exciting and new. That’s what it was really all about, the newness, the uncertainty and figuring out how to deal with it. A huge part of why I want to take this trip on is to get back to the elated feeling – to make travel exciting again. It has become so easy to just settle in to the same old routines now and I’m ready to, in fact I yearn to, have more uncertainty – to “figure it out” as I go.
When Reality and Fantasy Collide
We spent last week on the beach, doing nothing except watching sunsets. It’s impossible for me to be in a situation like that and not imagine every day of our overland trip to be a day of lazing around the beach, watching life go by and waiting for the sunset. I’ve done a fair bit of travel in South America and I can tell you that there are thousands of miles of isolated coastline that would be perfect places to do nothing but watch sunsets.
This trip is going to cost money. We both need to be connected on a near constant basis in order to earn money to help finance this trip. There doesn’t tend to be a fast wifi connection on these isolated beaches where, in my mind, we are spending all of our time.
In my mind I have a rather romantic notion of what spending endless hours in a vehicle will be like. Driving about aimlessly, moving on our own schedule on the open road. Campfires, starry skies, camping in unspoilt wilderness.
Mosquitoes, rain, breakdowns, traffic, getting lost, cramped living space, cold, hot. The list could go on. We both really enjoy having our own personal space. We don’t have to think a whole lot about organizing anything when there’s plenty of room. I certainly enjoy conveniences and comfort. We’re going to have to give that up if this trip is to be a reality. At least we do have experience with driving across several countries in a tiny vehicle – we even camped out while on one of those trips. I have fond memories of both of our European road trips. Our overland trip through the Americas will really just be a larger version of that. We can do this!
It Starts With a Waypoint
There’s a lot more clashes of fantasy vs. reality in my mind, but this post is supposed to be about how to plan for this trip, so I’m going to get back to that. At this time, the only thing we have is a waypoint. One single spot on a map. We can’t even say with any certainty if that will be the first place we visit, the last, or something in between. There are so many decisions to make about how to get to and from that spot on the map. At the same time planning can really be broken down in to the simplest bits by realizing that this trip is just about getting from point A to point B. Simple, right?
Up first is the vehicle. We’ve actually had discussions around this ever since the idea first came up. The original plan from way back when was to drive the Nissan Patrol that we owned at that time. It would need some modifications so that we could live in it but it seemed feasible. At the time it was an easy choice because that’s what we owned. Now we do not own a vehicle so we need to make a choice. Broadly, here’s what we have given consideration to:
- SUV – roomy and enclosed. We’re not going to be living in our vehicle full-time so just throwing a bed in the back and a bit of camping gear could probably work. Still great for getting off the beaten path when we can.
- Van – similar to an SUV with the main advantage being that it’s much easier to make customizations since you could start with more or less a clean slate.
- Motorhome – has the advantage of being purpose built for living in. Has the disadvantage of being too large to fit in a shipping container if we are to go from North America to South America. There are shipping options for larger vehicles, but those options don’t really appeal to me. Also, a motorhome is nowhere near as nimble if we want to get in to the mountains or even on the beach.
- Pickup truck with a camper – in my mind this option combines the advantages of all the above options.
No decision on our vehicle will be final until there has actually been money spent, but I’m leaning very heavily towards the pickup truck with camper option. I’m a sucker for things that I think are “slick” and as I was researching various solutions I came across something called a FlipPac. For now, this is the decision and the vision:
So there it is – a place to go and a way to get there. The who, what and how have been broadly defined. The “why” can be summed up by saying that I feel a bit stagnate and my own personal experience with stagnation dictates that I need to do something about that before it does something to me. The “when” isn’t terribly important so let’s call it sometime between now and June 2017. I guess all that’s left are the thousands of small details to be worked out. Simple, right?