Lindsey’s Reflections (in sound bites)

((270 days. 9 months. 15 countries. Drove down the Pan-America highway from our doorstep in Ohio to the southern most tip of Patagonia. ))

Lindsey’s Reflections 

((in sound bites))

WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE COUNTRY?

  • My favorite country for food: Mexico. Like, wow.
  • My favorite country for the people: Colombia. That country is painted with brighter colors I swear.
  • My favorite country for its beauty: Patagonia. Technically, it’s not a country because you have to jump back and forth between Chile and Argentina to see it all, but this part of the world is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before: white capped mountains, bright blue lakes, wild animals running free, more trails than roads… basically where all nature freaks die and go to heaven.

WHAT SURPRISED YOU?

  • I read more books than I thought I would; journaled less than I thought I would.
  • I weigh exactly the same when I left for the trip to now. Before I left, I was exercising regularly and during the trip, we were penny-pinching so I ate & drank less 😉
  • That in Latin America, the things that SHOULD be cheap, were cheap: like fresh fruit, quinoa, and coconut oil. And the things that were expensive, should be expensive: like gasoline, packaged foods, and clothes.
  • Something you can’t tell from just a photo is how we got there. There were certain views that were very touristy, surrounded by people with their phones. But there were other views that took a full day of hiking to arrive. When I look back at the photos, the image of beautiful scenery that took blood/sweat/tears to arrive are the moments I appreciate most.

HOW DID YOU FEEL PHYSICALLY?

  • I never got sick. Not even once. A little dirt in your life keeps a good digestive system alive.
  • I went around 4-5 days without showering. But we took advantage of every body of water around us. If there was a lake nearby, grab the soap.
  • I discovered that pooping in the wilderness is a lot more peaceful and cleaner than many city toilets.
  • The cold was the hardest physical feeling. When camping in Patagonia, I wore 2 base layers, 2 socks, 2 pants, 3 sweaters, my buff, gloves, hat, and winter coat then climbed into my sleeping back with all of those layers still on. A bit dramatic, I know, but I slept snug as a bug.
  • The other hard part was showering in so many different types of showers. You bring your plastic trash bag of clothes and shower toiletries in the shower with you. Sometimes there was no place to put your clothes, so you are balancing your dry clothes in one hand and rinsing the shampoo out of your hair with another hand. Muti-tasking skills at its finest.

HOW DID YOU FEEL EMOTIONALLY?

  • I often felt happy, curious, alive, adventurous, and healthy. I lacked a sense of purpose and missed the rewarding feeling of working hard and contributing to a community or society. 
  • I loved feeling light and clutter free. In the next stage of life, I hope to stay light, minimalist and clean. 
  • I did less work on myself, less ‘self-discovery’ and accomplished more external work, relationship and ’team-work’ with Jose. (9 months in a car together? you bet we did ‘relationship work’)
  • Since I didn’t have my girl friends and happy hours, I became more introverted and found that fulfillment in nature, music, and learning new things.
  • I felt absolutely amazed at this world’s beauty and very sad about the amount of trash we’ve dumped on it.
  • Dealing with Latin American’s chauvinist culture was hard. There were many days in the mechanic where I would look a man straight in the face and he would always look at Jose when responding to my questions. I also got grabbed a couple times. Nothing too crazy, but still such an awful feeling.

DID YOU PACK THE RIGHT THINGS?

  • I brought 4 packing cubes of clothes, and it was too much. Turns out the wilderness doesn’t mind when you wear the same thing every day.
  • I only straightened my hair a handful of times, embraced the curls and braid.
  • If you aren’t picky about brands, you can find nearly anything in latin america. I used very minimal toiletries: a bar of soap, left conditioner in my hair, and bug spray as perfume.

HOW DID YOU DO FINANCIALLY?

  • Even with the purchase of that expensive new engine on our first week, we actually spent less than budgeted. We made choices all day, every day to stick to our budget. It was difficult at times, but it mostly felt freeing to stick to the basics, find local hole in the wall restaurants, and camp a lot.
  • We tracked every penny… and I mean every penny. Jose is working on a full spreadsheet with all the details of our expenses, and it’s so interesting. We spent a lot less on food than expected and a lot more on car expenses. Details to come!

HOW HAVE YOU CHANGED?

  • I’ve learned to live with less… less money, less stuff, less clutter, less words, less worries. And I’ve discovered more… more time in nature, more peace, more books, more insight, more hiking, more bonfires, and more days without showering;)
  • I don’t think I could ever open my cabinet and think, “We don’t have any food”. I could find probably 20 meals in an ‘empty’ cabinet.
  • We were surrounded by the most beautiful scenery, but saw so much trash. I hope I will continue to care for the earth and teach the next generation to care as well.
  • This journey took over 2 yrs of planning, saving, dreaming, selling our belongings, and uprooting our lives. Then, 9 months of driving to reach the southern most tip, our ultimate goal. I was born in the ‘give it to me now‘ generation, and this journey taught me that is well worth it to put in the work and the time to make big things happen.
  • But we are YET to find out how it has changed us…

ANYTHING YOU WOULD DO DIFFERENTLY?

  • I would go on this adventure again in a HEARTbeat. I absolutely loved it. I really enjoyed this type of travel as well. When you fly, sometimes you can get stuck in the hostel and sign up for over priced tours, but overloading is a cheaper, more adventurous way to see things on your own and on a flexible schedule.
  • I would’ve extended the trip to at least a full year. In 9 months, we had to stick to a “keep moving” schedule in order to get to Patagonia before winter hit, If we had left a few months earlier, that would have given us a bit more of a relaxed schedule.

HOW DO YOU HOPE IT CHANGES YOU MOVING FORWARD IN OTHER LIFE STAGES?

  • I hope I can maintain a minimalist lifestyle. I can’t stress enough how free, light, and good it feels to live with less stuff. It’s still hard though. I came home to a huge closet, and I want to keep it all! But I know it feels better when I simplify life. I don’t even wear that shirt anymore.
  • I want to be more aware of people who are ‘displaced’ from their normal habitat. It feels so awkward in a foreign country, even when you speak the language. I want to keep my eyes peeled and do small gestures to make others feel comfortable in a new place.
  • I hope to cook more, reduce waste, and do my part to take care of this beautiful earth.
  • I want to find friends/community who want to live like this. And find friends to camp with! (Hit me UP)
  • I hope to slow life down. Chew slower. Spend more time outside. Less screen time. Work hard. Be passionate. Be grateful. Just kinda live like an old lady 😉
  • I’m ready to lean in with the next chapter of my life: professional growth, grad school, hopefully have babies, and be the best I can be in the next stage. But tonight, I’m reflecting, letting it sink in, appreciating it, capturing it. It was a fantastic ride. 

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Awkward things that happen to you while living on the road… brought to you from first hand experience.

Although we have those magical moments when we are gazing at the mountainous landscape contemplating our lives, we also have awkward ridiculous moments pretty much all the time. Below is a list of funny/awkward things that happen while living on the road… brought to you from first hand experience.

  • When you’re camping on the beach and you’re brushing your teeth outside and the wind blows right as you go to spit and instead of landing in the dirt, your hair gets sprayed in toothpaste spit.
  • When you lay a shirt out in the bushes to dry and tell your significant other: “remind me to get the shirt” and then drive away without looking back. 200 miles later, “the shirt is probably dry by now”.
  • When instead of listening to music or a podcast, you drive for hours listening to the shaking, rattling, and crashing of everything in the back of your car creating a lovely musical harmony.
  • When you feel like a badass driving down to the end of the world in a Toyota 4Runner, then you pass a cyclist.
  • When you are cooking a lovely meal complete with rice, beans, cilantro, avocado and all the toppings and the wind blows and your entire pan flips right on to the sand (this one happened twice)
  • When you pull something out of a bag from the trunk of your car and one of your panties randomly falls out of that bag on to the sidewalk just as a little old man is passing and he giggles like a school boy and walks right over it.
  • When you’re doing your dishes outside of your car and someone comes up next to your car to tell you their life story and you just want to say, “Excuse me sir, you’re standing in my living room.”
  • When you drive over a speed bump and everything crashes and you both instantly look at each other: “The glass french press!”
  • When you do your dishes in the sink of the women’s restroom in the town’s Culture Center like a good hobo, and all of a sudden the opera show let’s out and in comes a flood of high class women in heels discussing the lovely performance and you’re elbow deep in soap and camping dishes.
  • When you have a trash bag going at your campsite and the wind catches it and you’re chasing every individual item like a mad man, even though there is trash everywhere from other people, its your karma and your trash so you pick up every single piece of tissue.
  • When you’re zipping around Ometepe Island on a scooter and you hear about a cool waterfall but you don’t really research it and end up walking 6 hrs round trip in flip flops to see a little drip of water fall from a cliff.
  • When you visit a friend and they want to show you their city, so they take you to the nicest, most expensive place in the city and orders a couple appetizers for the table, and you just want to say, dude, ‘I’m unemployed!’ (He ended up treat us though.. score!)
  • When you purchase all the flags for all the countries visited ahead of time, but you forgot a country. So you spend days looking for a sticker with the country’s flag, but it ends up being half the size as the rest of the other stickers and it looks so small in comparison, but you still have to use it. Sorry Bolivia, love ya.
  • When you go for a run outside and there are a million street dogs and all of a sudden you have 15 dogs running with you and barking at you for stealing something. You turn to them and tell them in Spanish that you are “just running for fun, I swear.”
  • When you ask for a menu and they laugh. ‘Here’s what we have.’ When you ask for a veggie option and they laugh. ‘Again, here’s what we have’ When you ask for the check and they laugh. ‘Here’s what you owe’
  • When the side review mirror is your bedroom vanity, the rooftop tent is your upstairs bedroom, that one pull out drawer is your kitchen, the water jug on the roof is your water source, and all the outside space around you is your house. Come on over!
  • When you need to trade resources with other travelers (I’ll give you water for your propane) and you feel like you are living a real live game of Settlers of Catan.
  • When you drop a 2 day old PB&J sandwich on the parking lot, but you are cheap and resourceful so you decide to still eat it and you get a sore throat for days.
  • When you refuse to pick up a couple of hitchhikers “Sorry, no room!”, then a few hours later they shows up at your same campsite and set up their tent right next to yours.
  • When everyone asks about your license plate. “Vuelta1? But what is your real license plate number? It should be a scramble of letters and numbers…”
  • When you bump into the hatchback door every day, all the time.
  • When you camp in the middle of a street in a big city, then get out of your tent in the morning just as people are walking past, headed to work. “I swear I have my life together too!”
  • When you are in Mexico for Dia de los Muertos and you order a Oxacan Mexican pizza called ‘Tlayudas’:  thin tortilla crust, black bean spread, guac, melted cheese, and pico de gallo topping. You just say “SI, POR FAVOR.” The cocinero asked us if you want ‘Chapulines’ on top. Again, “SI, POR,FAVOR.” because its the first international country of the trip and you just say yes to everything. Then you find out “Chapulines’ are crunchy grasshoppers. You should’ve known when he said it was “Proteina”
  • When you stayed at a hostel for a couple days and plan to meet travel friends at 6am to convoy together. Funny thing about hostels is they are fully of chill hippies who need jobs and end up working at said hostel so the employees are usually chill hippies trying to manage a space full of chill hippies who don’t usually leave at 5:30am. You are packed and all ready to go, but no one is at the front desk. The door is open and it’s so easy to just walk out, but ‘karma’ and ‘what goes around comes around’ and all those things stands between you and the door. You look around. No one. “Hola. Hola! Holaaaa?!?” You’re at it for 15 mins, pounding on the desk. Finally, a sleepy chill hippie zombie arrises from a couch apologizing and rubbing his eyes. You walk him through the check out process, reminded him how long you stayed, help him count the cash and figure out the change. Finally you pay and karma laughs at you on our way out.
  • When you are taking that epic photo in front of the huge glacier Perito Moreno, but the other person is doing it wrong and you decided to tell them that and you just end up with an awkward photo.

And the trip isn’t over yet! Cheers to many more awkward moments that await us along the way.

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Camping, life on the road

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We’re urban people. Since we started dating, Jose and I have shared a common bond over the energy and movement that an urban setting brings. Sure, we’ve camped, but spending a year on the road living out of our car is another level. When planing this USA to Argentina adventure, the language and the countries felt familiar and exciting, but it was the thought of randomly parking in the Andes Mountains and camping in the middle of no-where that would put us in uncomfortable territory.

Where will we camp? What will it be like? Do we just drive up to a beach and pitch our tent? How does this work?

Each day before hitting the road, we do a little planning. We pull up our ioverlander app which is an app created by other overlanders (travelers who travel via land) with information on campsites, hostels, road blocks, and mechanics. The info is crowd sourced and based entirely on reviews from other overlanders’ experiences. We pull up the map, plan how long we want to travel and see what campsites are in that area. The review might say: “Weak wifi, but clean toilets.” or “Cold showers, but nice shelter to sit and eat.”

As we’ve learned, there are certain things that we look for in a campsite. Although we have proudly done ‘wild camping’ with no toilet, shower, or remote sign of other human life, there are some amenities that we would perfer. When choosing a campsite, these are the most important factors IN ORDER of importance:

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#1) Toilet. I’m not referring to a white tile room with a burning sugar cookie candle and succulents in the window sill. Just a toilet. If it flushes, wonderful. If you have to pour water from a bucket into the bowl to flush it down, fine. But at least a toilet. Now if this toilet came equipped with toilet paper, soap, and a towel, you know you’ve officially arrived at ‘glamping’ level.

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#2) Water spicket and sink. If Latin American families don’t have a washing machine at home, they often have a large stone sink with a water facet called a ‘pila’ where they can wash their clothes and dishes and their babies. If there is a pila at the campsite, thats a wonderful delight. We do have a bucket of water and collapsable tub we can use, but its great to have water to heat up soap and make our morning coffee. Also, if I don’t have to squat in the grass to clean our dishes, thats a plus.

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#3) Shower. Cold shower. I’ve only showered with hot water a handful of times so far, and it hasn’t been that bad! It definitely wakes you up and gets you ready for the day. We’ll see how I do in the Andes’s mountains with cold water. I will say, it does get old always carrying a plastic bag of clothes and soap into the shower with you, so if there’s a HOOK somewhere around this water source to hang this plastic bag and not get your clothes all wet from your shower, thats a win.

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#4) Common Area/Roof. This might sound obvious, but when you’re camping, you are always outside. No couch, no roof, no floor. Just the sky and the grass. Although sitting outside in our camping chairs and staring at the stairs is one of our favorite things, sometimes the weather isn’t feeling as romantic as we are. Especially when it rains, there is nothing better than some shelter and a hot cup of ramen to warm up your evening.

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#5) Kitchen. Our rig includes a fridge, stove, grill, and basic cooking items. But when a campsite has a kitchen, you can use brilliant things like toaster and blender and you’ve felt like you truly hit the jackpot. Having more than one burner to cook several items at a time and saving our propane gas for the Bolivian desert is very useful. I transform to wonder women when I have several things cooking on different burners, doing the dishes as I go, and all the while sipping wine like a pro.

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#6) Wi-Fi. (Weee- Feee). Although nature allows us to un-plug, when you have the goal of reaching Ushuaia, you have to plan as you go. Having access to maps to plan, internet to search sight-seeing attractions, and ability to connect with friends and family becomes very valuable.

In addition to these factors, we always take into consideration the price (range $0-$25, usually around $10-$15), the convienience (if it is in the area where we plan to drive) and the company (if there are other overlanders to share a beer and cook together).

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Fast forward 4 months on the road and not only do we enjoy camping, we prefer it. If most of these 6 things are provided, we prefer camping over a hostel. I assumed we would do 50% camping, 50% hostel, but so for our trip has been more like 80% camping. And we’ve loved it.

Camping has been transforming our habits. You can’t help picking up trash on the beach when you sleep on the beach. You can’t help saving your water when you only have a limited amount with you. You can’t help washing out your plastic bag and re-using it a million times. There have been days where you truly feel like nature is giving you what you need: shade when its hot, sun when your clothes need to dry, and sometimes the grass feels softer than a carpet. When she gives so much, you can’t help take care of her back. No wonder so many campers are tree huggers.

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I don’t have to tell you about the peace that nature brings, the natural gym/play ground it provides, or the clarity and healing of mind and soul that mountains or desert or cloud forest or beach can bring you. Just get out there. Asap.

Now can I say we’re ‘Camping People’?

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It’s hard to not burn the toast. Appreciate your toaster. Thats a pretty incredible invention.

ROLE play

Role Play

A theme that has risen to the surface during this trip is the concept of ‘roles’. In our life in Cincinnati, Jose and I both had our own jobs, income, cars, gym memberships, and circles of friends. We were independant in the same way most couples are when they meet as adults. Since the beginning, something important when establishing our relationship was a sense of equality. In our lil urban apartment, we both cooked, both cleaned, and both worked.

Now our life on the road has taken this concept of ‘roles’ to a whole new level.

On a daily basis, there are a million decisions to be made a double million task to be accomplished. (Double million). We noticed how much we had to rely on each other and how many tasks needed to be accomplished. Who does what? Should we focus on our strengths or practice improving our weaknesses? Should I trust that the other person can handle it if I think I can do it better? Should we do a task together or divide and conquer?

Believe me. There are tasks. Set up tent, make the fire, cook the food, find water, do the dishes, organize the car, drive long hours, navigate to next location, plan next leg of the trip, update family/friends, update our budget, talk to the police officers at the check points, etc.

Some of the roles include:

Navigator

Trip Planner

Bureaucracy Manager

Driver

Cook

Organizer/Cleaner

Social Media/Blog/Update family Manager

Mechanic

Budget/Finance Manager

The first week on the road was nothing but easy. Not only did we bump horns with those double million decisions, but our engine blew and we slept in a junk yard for a week eating ramen noodles. I reached out to my girls for advice. There is a Facebook group called “Women Overlanding the World” and it is basically a virtual ‘girls happy hour’. Its our space to laugh, vent, ask questions, and provide advice for all women living on the road. The feedback I received was overwhelming. To compile their advice and add a bit of my own, I leave you with these things:

  1. Play to your strengths. Know how to do each task, but do what you’re good at. It’s important to know HOW to do each task but repetition makes you more efficient.
  2. Communicate. Talk everything out. And the hardest part of communicating is really listening in order to understand the other person.
  3. Company. Come on guys, you know your most fav person in the world can still drive you a little cray cray. We’ve been traveling with another couple for 2 weeks now. Being surrounded by like minded people and healthy friendships is so refreshing.
  4. Don’t force it. Our roles have naturally developed over time. He starts setting up the tent while I start arranging the kitchen. I start driving while he maps out our next destination. One month in and I’ve already seen this develop.
  5. Cross-train. Even if roles develop naturally, it is important to KNOW how to do each task. I can start a fire and check the fluids in the car, and Jose is a master at the grill.
  6. Space. Life on the road is living in tight quarters. Your living room, kitchen and bedroom is all within your car. It’s easy to step on each others toes when trying to complete a project. Jose is installing lights in the living room while I make guac in the kitchen. But really we are standing right next to each other. It’s okay to go for a walk, read a book, write, and do our own thing for a bit.
  7. Take care of each other. On the road, you rely on the other person a lot more. There are so many opportunities to make the other person’s job a little easier and it goes a long way. If I can tell he’s hangry.. I mean hungry, I start looking for a taco stand. He stops for all my baño breaks.
  8. Don’t give input. Honestly, we haven’t figured this one out yet lol. One of the seasoned overloading woman suggested to let each other do each others task or be in their role without the other person saying HOW they should do that task or what they should be doing differently. Jose has those full blooded puerto rican opinions and my red hair flare can burn. We are still very opinionated about whatever the other person is doing… but hoping that will work itself out.
  9. Slow down. Life in the states was always fast, efficient, and goal oriented. It’s good to focus on a goal together: make dinner. But once its accomplished, sip the wine and enjoy each others company.
  10. Light. Don’t take anything too personally. If there is tension or stress it is mostly likely not because of the other person but rather an external factor. Every day is so different. A brand new campsite, a brand new city, and a brand new set of challenges. If tension rises, keep it light. One moment can be stressful but the very next moment is exhilarating.

We are working out the kinks and settling into our roles. It’s very little about ‘gender’ roles and much more about finding the rhythm that makes sense with your partner. These roles are evolving naturally.

Put on a little Radiohead, relax, and just role with the punches.

Highs and lows… and lower

Reflections from the first week...

One week in. This morning I woke up to a gorgeous view of the sunrise on the surrounding mountains in Zion National Park and a deer eating grass and scratching his antlers after a perfect night sleep under the stars. Fast forward a couple hours and we’ve been stranded by the side of the highway in the Nevada desert in the middle of nowhere for 3 1/2 hrs waiting for a tow truck. Oh the highs and lows…

HIGHS: We climbed the most exhilarating hike of our lives (1,000 foot drop on both sides with just a chain to hold on to) on Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park and stayed with incredible friends drink/laughing/contemplating life late into the night. LOWS: slept in 11 degree weather in our tent, stranded on the side of the highway for 3 1/2 hrs, and camped in a junk yard with a broken down school bus and loud pleating goats on either side of us. Oh week one.

Today we discovered the lowest low yet… our engine died. Completely dead. Dust. Done. Game.Over. You know when you are sitting in the lobby of a mechanic shop, drinking bad coffee and waiting for bad news? Mechanic Mike turns the corner to announce our worst fear: ” you need a new engine”. And just like that: you hit your lowest.

There is something about the HIGHS and LOWS of this week that pull out your character. You can’t sleep through life because it demands all your attention. There is no space for the concept of procrastination or expressing your personality based on your comfort level. It doesn’t matter if you’re an introvert or extrovert, a 3 or a 2, a engineer or a manager, when there is steam coming out of the hood, you better think and act fast and smart.

We spent a full week at the mechanic as they repaired our vehicle. We slept in the junk yard, ate ramen soup and rode out the low. We pulled ourselves together and pulled out our budget spreadsheet and made a plan. We had to restructure the trip to account the the expense and keep our spirits up and count our blessings. We are together. We are safe. We are moving forward.

Maybe we won’t be waking up to a gorgeous sunrise in Zion tomorrow, but the thing about highs and lows is they always swing back. Things usually get really bad before they get better. Looking forward to the high around the bend..