Brendan and Tina
Asheville, North Carolina
Reason for taking this trip
We had a series of dreams about this trip, and were looking forward to learning to surf, scuba dive, see other cultures and exotic animals
Why did you decide to drive?
We have two dogs that we couldn’t leave them behind, so driving was the only option
Are you also taking along pets?
Two wonderful dogs, Bud and Monucka
What type of car are you driving?
1995 Chevy 1500 4WD
Did you make any modifications to your car for this trip?
Tina’s father is a mechanic, so he replaced many of the older engine parts. We also installed a rear sliding windshield for better access to the cab, a foam bed for sleeping, AC adapters so we can plug appliances in such as a fan, and installed a better stereo system.
How did you save up or finance your trip?
We worked hard and saved for the trip, and were also helped out by an insurance settlement when our other car was totaled.
How long do you plan on traveling?
1 year, more if possible
Where do you plan on driving?
We are driving to Panama where we will sell the car before flying back to the US with our dogs.
What were your family’s and friends’ reactions when you told them about your trip before you left?
They thought we were crazy, that it was too dangerous, that we would be kidnapped, robbed, the cops were crooked…
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 spoke very little Spanish when we left the US, so we took 2 weeks of Spanish lessons and volunteered for another 5 weeks in San Cristobal, Mexico. We also took another week of classes in San Pedro, on Lago Atitlan in Guatemala.
Do you have a favorite place or country that you have visited during your trip?
Overall we liked Guatemala the best, although it’s hard to decide. There was such rich cultural and ecological diversity, with beautiful countryside and friendly people.
What was the weirdest thing you experienced on your trip?
While driving between towns around Lago Atitlan, the police insisted on escorting us as there had been problems with robberies on the road. While following the police, the police car ran out of gas, and we had to siphon gas out of our car so the police could keep going.
What was the worst border crossing?
Entering Honduras from El Salvador. In Honduras, we were pulled over 6 times and had to pay bribes 3 times as the police claimed we needed a fire extinguisher, and Brendan’s US license had expired.
Do you have any advice for others who may be considering driving the Americas?
Anyone considering the trip should carefully weigh the fuel efficiency of their car against the size of the car. While some roads have required 4WD, the poor gas mileage of our car is really putting a damper on our budget. We brought a water filter but haven’t used it yet, although we think it could be useful in an emergency. Tina also wishes she had brought more sports bras. Bringing a shovel and a tow strip could also be useful on some of the funkier roads. Learning more Spanish before leaving the US can also be helpful.
Would you do it again?
Extra advice for people driving with dogs:
We have a USDA APHIS certificate of good health for their dogs. However, we haven’t needed this document yet and it was quite difficult to procure, requiring lots of paperwork. They also have paperwork proving vaccinations and health of their dogs from their veterinarian. We have needed this paperwork to get our dog’s import papers, much as we have needed similar paperwork to get our car import papers. When we sell our car in Panama, we are not sure about the requirements for bringing the dogs back into the US, but believe that we will have to have the dog’s health certified by a veterinarian in Panama within 10 days of returning to the US.