Robin and Raenelle

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Hometown

Victoria, BC, Canada

Reason for taking this trip

We like adventure.

Why did you decide to drive?

With a good vehicle you can get very far off the beaten track, very easily.

What type of car did you drive?

The New Cruiser. It's our aluminum Toyota Land Cruiser.

Did you make any modifications to your car for this trip?

We made modifications to the car for expedition travel many years ago. The truck is always ready for a good adventure. But specifically for this trip we upgraded the auxiliary power system, added a turbo charger, and kitted it out with a fridge.

Did you take along pets? If so, names.

No, but we picked up Loca in Ecuador. She is a golden retriever cross, and has returned with us back to Canada. She is still adjusting to the non-tropical weather.

How did you save up or finance your trip?

We have a 3 tiered approach:
1) Get out of debt, save, and plan. It takes a lot of discipline - we went through some months where we forced our expenses, excluding housing and utilities, to be under $500. It's possible, and actually pretty fun taking on that challenge!
2) Get jobs that allow banking overtime. Work a lot and accrue extra vacation over the years. Try to get paychecks while you're on the road.
3) Minimize at-home costs while away. We don't have a car payment, our belongings were stored in a friends basement for free, etc. We didn't have a mortgage, but if we did, we would have rented the house out to cover as much as possible.

How long did you plan on traveling?

We intended to take a 6 month trip, and that's what it was.

Every 5 years we intend on taking a trip longer than 4 months. For us the planning is only a financial exercise. The route and who knows what else is exactly that - who knows, just pack up and go. However, we chose South America 6 months prior to leaving and let our employers know.

Where did you plan on driving to?

Somewhere in South America, as far as could get in 6 months. We didn't know if we would drive home or ship the truck and fly.

What were your family’s and friends’ reactions when you told them about your trip before you left?

"Have fun, and be safe. Please update your website for us!"

Did you speak Spanish before you left your home country? How much Spanish? Are you taking more Spanish lessons as you travel? If so, where and for how long?

We took a trip 5 years ago to Central America and learned a bit on the road, then we brushed up 2 years ago on a 6 week trip to the Baja. We bought some CDs, but only listened to the first 3 out of 10. After 6 months our Spanish is ok, depending on the country since the accents change dialects can change so much.

Do you have a favorite place or country that you have visited during your trip?

Robin: Every country is special in it's own way, but for me, Argentina was really incredible. I think it had a lot to do with the timing. Argentina is the country most like Canada in many ways, and it was there near the end of our trip, probably when I was ready to be back home.

Raenelle: Loved the national parks in Columbia and the Amazon.

What was the weirdest thing you experienced on your trip?

Robin: Flying home and arriving at Lester Pearson airport in Toronto.

What was the worst border crossing?

Robin: Canada to the USA (still longs for the days when a drivers license was all that was required, and the border was basically open and fast).

Raenelle: Costa Rica side of the Nicaragua to Costa Rica border - the buildings are so far apart, and this time was slow and bureaucratic. It was an easier crossing 5 years ago. Most border crossings in the world change depending on the the staff at the time.

Look, everyone asks about border crossings and gets really fussed. Paperwork is a little different than at home, and there can be people who will try to steal from you. But generally there are no real problems, they just take longer.

Do you have any advice for others who may be considering driving the Americas?

Raenelle: Be patient, be open to new opportunities and different ways of life, and enjoy the adventure.

Robin: Sure. Take your time, and keep your patience hat on

Would you do it again?

It's a big world. We like South America, but I think we'll go to another continent next time.

Do you have a blog or a website describing your trip? If so, what is its address?

New Cruiser