September 5, 2019
It’s been eight months since our family uprooted and left home, twelve months since I received a steady paycheck and eighteen months from the birth of our second child.
Driving the Pan-American highway sat somewhere between the depths of my mind and loins as an odyssey worth living – a journey I deeply desired after watching the empty line ups peel across films like Endless Summer. At eighteen I spent a night curled up on the beach somewhere between Tijuana and Rosarito on one of those life altering coast to coast American journeys that ought to be mandatory curriculum for every American high schooler. Another trip ten years later led me deeper down the Baja, but time limitations ensured I couldn’t stray too far from the trodden tracks and surf spots, however one officer ensure we spent a night in the clink for not paying his bribe. It wasn’t until 2009 when a group of four of us selected a $600 ex convict van as our chariot and made a go of the trip. I meandered as far as Panama over four months, yet pulled the ripcord, cashing in the barrels of Bocas del Toro to fulfill the dreams of riding full time in Jackson Hole.
Since then my Pan-American story was left as a cliffhanger in my mind. Untold. Unfinished. That is until I met Sofi, my now wife and mother of our two young boys, Alfonso (4.5) and Camilo (1.5). Originally from Buenos Aires, Sofi not only brightened my life, but being from South America, she gifted me another reason to bring this project into focus at some point in some distant future. Together, we had spent five years in New Zealand, road tripped most of the continental US and a handful of territories in Argentina. Independent of each other, we spent our time and funds discovering other parts of the world deepening both our experiences and desire to ensure this lifestyle would be firmly planted in our family coat of arms.
But like most laid plans, this didn’t initially come to fruition. By the time Alfonso, our oldest, was born, I was merging out of an adventurous globetrotting career on the Freeride World Tour and as an expat to fulfill my duty to chase the American Dream. As a young man in my late twenties – I was in my prime – seeking self assurance through status, career, a home and all those things that we think we need to feel fulfillment. I sharpened my blades, chopping through anything standing in my way to achieving success, yet with each level of perceived progression within this lifestyle, I felt the true part of myself shrinking, my insecurities increasing and the one thing I cared the most about, my relationship, crumbling before my eyes. Just like any other problem I’d faced before, I pulled out a larger spade, digging deeper into the life I thought I was supposed to create and chase, spiraling into a state of confusion I had never known.
My one saving grace was a promise we made to each other prior to the birth of our oldest son; we agreed we would leave prior to his fourth birthday to do something different. With our second child just weeks away, and Alfonso approaching age three, this covenant was reintroduced like a sledge hammer. And while I’ll admit it took time to understand, it was the elixir I needed to alter my focus and create an alternative route for our family.
The agent of change appeared before us – I think I may have even sub-consciously proposed it – the Pan American highway. Maine to Argentina. This dreamy substance was chocked full of cultural meaning, connection to our adventurous past, the space to learn the rhythm of our family unit, an escape from mundanity and a chance to re-establish the lives we wanted before settling into the quicksand around us. In short, for us this odyssey represented the ideal anecdote to the turmoil of young parenthood swirling around us.
Fortunately, we had been working our asses off to establish a financial position that would allow us to take this dream on – and after little debate, we were soon searching forums, craigslist and facebook marketplace for a chariot to whisk our family out of the American Dream and into the unknown. We searched for months, our meager budget unable to acquire an appropriate overlanding rig for four people and a dog over the course of a couple years and tens of thousands of miles. To be honest, we had no idea what we needed or the extent of what we were taking on. But eventually I found it, glowing in my driver side window, it’s lusty orange sides causing a sudden stop to my entire life circumstances. Entranced, I walked across the road, up to the strangest van I had ever laid eyes on. Inside it’s gigantic windscreen I could see the four of us smiling wide on it’s bench seat, careening down those Bolivian mountain top roads – all of us a few years older, wiser and content with how this very moment played out. The van was not for sale, but long story short, we were soon the proud new owners of a 1978 Mercedes 508D originally outfitted as a German Fire Command and Control Center.
The day we closed the sale, we moved into the van within hours. I arrived at 10:30 AM, Sofi left at 12:00 PM to shoot a wedding and I was in charge of completing the move in / move out for our first Airbnb guests at 2:00 PM. We had two months of bookings to offset the costs of our new purchase. We couldn’t afford to buy an adventure rig and continue life as usual, as soon as the van entered our lives, the suffering and self sacrifice was the spice to our life. We downsized, sold off the second car, scoured craigslist and FB marketplace for gear to outfit the rig all to ensure we could save as much as possible and have no debt on the rig by the time we left. The plan worked and by the end of another incredibly stressful summer, I was able to walk away from my career and the runway to departure finally had a firm timeline. We’d rent our house, continue to downsize our lives, build out our van, launch our adventure family content business to earn some cash from the road and we’d be off. Little did we know the herculean effort required to detach ourselves from the comforts of security and depart.
Which brings us here to today, eight months later, on the other end of the country, a van full of experiences, new found energy, strength and sense of purpose and at just the beginning of the next phase of our journey – crossing our southern border. An Odyssey Worth Living is an exploration of self discovery, an inquiry into creating family values, a path to establish familial cultural roots inside our multicultural family, an adventurous travel log, how to guide, and intimate view of our families willingness to create bold, dramatic change in the face of societal pressures to conform. Through monthly reports I will reference stories of the past and present to make sense of the struggle and joy we confront and create on the journey from North to South America. My intent is to honestly show what is required, what is possible and what the reality of a full time family is through the unknown path unfolding before us by the day. Through this I hope to establish the required commitment level to be a player in this game.
See you on the road.