Yesterday someone commented on a blog post I did, telling me, in effect, that I was a whiner. I spammed his comment, not even bothering to engage in any sort of dialogue with such nonsense, but it was actually a perfect setup for this post, which I’ve had in mind for sometime. The fact of the matter is, life on the road is just that. LIFE. There are good days and bad days and cranky days and ecstatic days. As we have gone along we have shared so many stories of wonderful times and pictures of magical beaches and exciting adventures. While all we’ve shared is absolutely accurate, there is another side to overlanding…. the other reality.
From the beginning I will say we love our life. In no way am I attempting to convince anyone that we have it rough. That said, in addition to the normal issues of missing family and friends, etc etc… there is a reality to ANY long term travel, whether it be backpacking around the world as we did in 2007-2008, or overlanding the PanAmerican Highway. It is a very real and often challenging reality that is as much a part of the journey as the amazing sunsets and fascinating sights.
Just as a typical day back in our 9-5 life had pros and cons, ups and downs, as does our life now. Now we just face different challenges. Travel days are exhausting. The reality is that travel days consist of fully packing up camp, spending a minimum of four-five hours on the road, getting lost, arguing over who put the wrong GPS coordinates in, searching out gas, lunch and other services, choosing a place for the night, getting lost again, and finally setting up in a new spot. If that spot is wonderful and you’re staying for a few days this is when you shoot some tequila, pop open a beer, let out a sigh of relief, and let the bliss of it all sink in. If you are merely in transit for several days, as we have just been, you still shoot some tequila and pop open a beer, but set up the bare minimum to make camp for the night, research the next days potential route, and prepare to do it all over again tomorrow.
The reality is that we are often found crouched over our trusty Home Depot bucket, handwashing our personals to be hung up to dry in the breeze.
The reality is that, while free camping, dishes are done in that same Home Depot bucket with water drawn from the sea.
The reality is having to, nearly every day, find potable water, figure out a new city, attempt to communicate in a language we are still learning and not get too lost.
One big reality is that visiting the banos requires putting on not just clothes but shoes as well, generally walking some distance from the camper, and often using pit toilets that, shall we say wouldn’t be considered overly sanitary.
The reality is bugs and weather and sand in your bed no matter how careful you are.
And the reality is we are absolutely in love with this life and we wouldn’t trade it. During our short stint in the rented apartment in San Diego, conversation often turned to how much we missed our tiny house. We have itchy feet and this life allows us to see something new out our window on most days. It allows us to immerse in other cultures, experience new things, and see the world. It allows us to see just how remarkable this world is.
It also allows us to meet amazing, fascinating people. Just last night we spent a couple of hours chatting with Winston and Tiffany who, along with their two dogs and two cats are moving back to Puerto Vallarta. They, too, are living the dream. Not of the road, so much, but of a life less ordinary. They started out with a plan to drive the PanAmerican a couple of years ago and instead settled in Puerto Vallarta. They work online, they live life on their terms, they are inspiring and we are hoping to be able to spend more time with them when we get into PV in a week or so.
Also now at camp are several Swiss couples who did a caravan around Europe, then did Southern Africa, and shipped to Buenos Aires, working their way North. They figure they have another year or so before they’re done with Mexico, the US and Canada. The colorful map on one of the groups rigs says it all; it’s a big world out there to explore.
We have met SO many families on the road who are, perhaps, the most inspiring of all. We occasionally find it challenging just dealing with a black dog along for the ride but these families are also having and raising kids on the road! What an amazing life these children will lead; learning new languages and other ways of doing things at such a young age.
We are fully aware that we chose this life. We are aware that any complaints we have our 1st world issues and basically our life challenges are more relateable to a large majority of the developing world, but in a much more comfortable manner. We have a multitude of people around us facing far greater challenges. We are also keenly aware that we are living out our dream while so many out there are unable, for a multitude of reasons, to do the same. But we also feel that we need to share the FULL story. This is not an extended vacation. This is simply our life. And yes, sometimes we are whiny. Sometimes we are sick. Sometimes we are simply hot and tired and quite frankly fed up with the unique challenges that life on the road brings. And that is okay.
Many travelers are hesitant to post the not so great days for just this reason. But for the critics out there, don’t expect me to sugarcoat the day to day and for sure don’t expect me to apologize. This is, in fact, MY blog and MY reflections on our life. Road life, just like home life, is a series of contradictions and we all experience a wide range of feelings, not all of them pleasant.
For now, I’m going to open a beer and gaze out into the azure blue sea off the coast of Mazatlan, and reflect on how we are the lucky ones. We have the freedom to choose how we wish to live our lives. Take that armchair critics.