I texted my husband Richard one afternoon two years ago indicating a need to have a “life chat.” He met me at a nearby coffee shop wondering whether I wanted a divorce or to start a family. I think my response may have surprised him slightly. I sat with him teary eyed and explained, “I need to leave. I can’t do this anymore. I think we need to quit our jobs and go.” This didn’t seem to be a problem for him, as we had always dreamed of long-term travel. That afternoon a plan was made. Little did I know that Richard had been reading blogs by overland travelers following the Pan American Highway that runs from Alaska to Argentina. He bought tires that were on sale about a month previously, for a truck that was on flat tires, full of mould, and with more kilometers anyone would ever want. We joked that maybe in two or three years we would drive to Panama. Four months later we departed from Vancouver, BC, Canada and set our sights south, for what would turn out to be a 7-month journey to Costa Rica.
Photo op with our truck amid the palm trees of Honduras.
Richard and I had always done what we were ‘supposed’ to do. We went to school, graduated, and started working right away. My career as a Paralegal was unsatisfying and I searched to upgrade to something I cared about. I started on the path to law school, abandoned it, went to nutrition school, started my own nutrition business, and then burned myself out by attempting to start a business while working as a Paralegal full time. I was stressed out, tired, bored, and needed a change. A massive change.
Our truck/living quarters consisted of a rooftop tent, fridge powered by a solar panel on top of the cab, an awning that stretched from the side of the truck outwards, and the back of the pickup truck was filled with our stuff. Kitchen gear, toiletries, camp chairs, a table, a water jug, a gas can. We slept in our rooftop tent mostly every night at campsites, in parking lots, and even at a gas station once in Mexico. Our journey took us south through Washington, Oregon, California, the Baja Penninsula, on a ship to mainland Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica.
Sorting laundry at Pismo Beach, California.
While living on the road I felt a sense of peace, finally. I didn’t need to search for happiness because it was everywhere. We had little money, hardly any belongings, we camped almost every night, had cold showers, and hardly ever watched television. Despite this, I was the happiest I had ever been. We ate lobster tacos, drank horchata, micheladas, tasted mysterious soups, spicy salsa, ceviche, rice and beans, and ice cream. My ever-present eczema miraculously disappeared. The Mexican and Latin American people are some of the friendliest and generous you will ever meet. There seems to be an inherent optimism in their faces, a genuine smile, and a twinkle in their eye. They make eye contact, say hello and good morning, which we can be hard pressed to find at home.
Feeling the wind in my hair on the El Salvadorian coast.
Hiking to waterfalls in Boquete, Panama
Exploring the old town, Panama City.
After spending 7 months on the road, we knew we had to continue our trip to Ushuaia, Argentina. We parked our truck in Costa Rica, flew home, and went back to our previous jobs in order to fund the second half of our adventure. We spent a year working very hard, but made it a priority to explore our own backyard in the mountains surrounding Vancouver. Now we’re back on the road again after shipping our truck from Panama to Colombia.
Cabo de la Vela, Northern Colombia.
About the Dame Traveler: Ash tries to get out of the city as often as possible. Hiking, snowshoeing, running… it doesn’t matter what the activity is as long as it’s near the water or in the forest.