What I’ve Learned in 120 Days on the Road

Time, that most fairydust of qualities, tends to fly or drag; all dependent, upon your inner happiness. I remember with startling vividness the endless, mind-numbing hours spent watching the clock from the inside of my cubicle. Willing those last hours and minutes to go faster. Just as I have tried to slow down time throughout my life; on vacations, amazing nights out, those great moments in time you never wanted to end. What I’ve learned in 120+ days on the road is that time, once the enemy, now a friend, still can fly by in an instant.

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Now stationary for several months, we’ve had time to reflect on our first few months on the road.

First, the good. Which, honestly, is almost everything. Having camped often, and planned for this epic road trip for years, had us honing in on what we knew we would find important, not just days or weeks in, but months into the trip. If we learned one thing from our RTW backpacking trip, it was that if something is a minor irritant in the beginning it it sure to become unacceptable months in. For this reason we put in a lot of effort to have a place for everything, and making sure each item we traveled with was actually essential.

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In the camper, we have been thrilled with many of our decisions such as upgrading the foam in the camper cushions, adding a memory foam mattress to the bed, installing 12-volt fans, and upgrading our Fantastic Fan to the two-way model. All fantastic additions that have made our life so much more pleasant.

Small additions have added ease and a taste of home; artwork from travels around the world, a magnetic knife holder, pictures of friends and family.

The Tundra has handled all we’ve thrown at her so far with ease and, with many overlander friends recently dealing with border issues due to truck weight, light enough to guarantee we will sail through with no problems. Or, at least, not due to weight.

But the most important lessons learned are how skewed reality can be from pre-conceived expectations. If you asked us, even now, we would say we were definitely outdoor people. We spent hours each week gardening, hiking, camping… really almost anything that involved getting out in nature. Now, 5 months into our trip, we realize that when given the option, we really are a mix. We still love the outdoors, and spend the majority of our time there, but readily admit to occasionally ignoring a magnificent evening to hunker down in the camper(or now the apartment) with a movie and a glass of wine. Certainly, the fact that we CAN be outside whenever we desire makes these decisions easier. But we have, more often than we would have thought, chosen to be inside.

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We had read dozens of tales of the bloggers who had done the PanAm before us. We saw endless photos of tantilizing free beach camps, dreamed of boondocking for days and weeks away from it all. We envisioned being them. The reality is, that while we have enjoyed many a fantastic free camp, we only found ourselves happy in the middle of nowhere for 3-4 days at a time. We marveled over how some fellow camp friends spent weeks on empty beaches with not even a pit toilet for company. We fully embraced the peace and tranquility too… until we didn’t. We found ourselves drawn back to those small towns where we could walk to restaurants. Where we could get supplies or, gasp, even an occasional shower. While we still certainly don’t consider ourselves “city” people, we have come to realize, much to our own surprise, that we enjoy being near the conveniences a village offers.

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With irony, we have realized that in spite of taking this epic road trip, we don’t actually like to drive that much. We love the freedom that life on the road gives us. We love having our home available at all times. We have itchy feet and love meeting new people, eating new foods, exploring new sites. And we even love meandering the backroads and crossing endless topes, always interested in what the locals might be selling at each “bump” in the road. But we truly like to travel at tortuga pace. We had resolved to keep driving to 6hours a day or less but in reality have found that once we reach 4 hours, or maybe 5, we start to get restless and cranky. It may take us a very long time to reach Patagonia!

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A final thought is that it truly is important to acknowledge that everyone’s trip is uniquely their own. Many an evening over drinks with other travelers taught us that, while they have all had their doubts, and critics, on if they were doing it “right”, the point of a journey such as this is to not follow the road well traveled. Whatever each travelers individual road looks like, it is still far more adventurous than anything 99% of the population will most likely ever undertake. With this note we have resolved in a rule ofย no judgement. Every single person we have met, whether they be on the road, an ex-pat, or simply another camper at the campground, has a fascinating story all their own on how they ended up in that place and time.

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Our current lives have taken on a familiar note with work most days of the week. But now we are working on what interesting projects will fund us going forward. We are working when we want. We are going to sleep and waking with our natural body clocks, rather than an alarm clock. We are altering our daily life to adjust to the heat and humidity of the tropics. Each evening we head out to join the ever-decreasing crowd on the malecon to take a seat and watch the sunset. While ever step on this road is not exactly as envisioned, there is no doubt it was the right path to take. We can not wait to see how this path winds and flows going forward. Thanks for coming along for the ride.

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18 thoughts on “What I’ve Learned in 120 Days on the Road

  1. Love this!!! We too consider ourselves super outdoorsy but when we were on the GOM tour there was nothing I loved more than our hotel nights. It’s all about balance!

    • oh Kim.. the elusive BALANCE… but you are correct. And it’s about acknowledging that either choice is okay in that moment!

  2. I love your pictures and can’t wait to see Patagonia – hope it doesn’t take you too long to get there ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Thanks Donna…. lol.. never fear, we’ll get there but no guarantees when. In the meantime, lots of amazing places in between to enjoy.

  3. On the road for approximately 120 days, solo in the southwest USA. I am equally surprised at some of the similiar discoveries about myself that you share about your personal preferences. Everyday is an adventure this I know for sure, thanks for your sharing.

    • Good for you Kathy! Travel is ever about discovering not just the world, but yourself as well. Enjoy your travels. So much to see just in the USA.

  4. I can’t believe it has been already 120 days…seriously? I am travelling with you…so I am happy to follow whatever pace you choose. Keep going????

    • Crazy, isn’t it. I suspect it’s partly because we, as are you, are not 20’somethings but instead 40 or 50’somethings and perhaps more in tune with where our true happiness comes from. Happy travels and slow down so we may meet up one day!!

  5. “We had resolved to keep driving to 6hours a day or less but in reality have found that once we reach 4 hours, or maybe 5, we start to get restless and cranky. ”

    This made me laugh. We’ve always been able power through 8, 9, 10 hours on the road and not think twice about it. Tired, yes, but we could do it. I think part of it was we’ve always been on some kind of schedule and pushing through long drives gave us more time at the destinations.

    But, that seems to be changing. We just spent 5 nights on the road, drove north to Toronto and Niagara Falls. We decided this time instead of being in the car for 9 hours and being exhausted, we cut the time in half and spent a night on the road in each direction. What a difference! Maybe it comes with age (ours, not yours) or maybe because now that we’re fully retired we don’t “have” to push through those long drives anymore. Road trips are my all time favorite method of travel, but I think now we’ve earned the right to slow down a bit.

    There’s a lot to be said when it comes to slowing down.

    • Oh Patti that made me laugh. I suspect part of my phobia of driving longer hours stems from all of the endless road trips with my family across the US when I was young. My dad used to drive long distance trucks and we’d have to leave at 4am to “get ahead of the traffic” and would only stop to make a quick sandwich out of the cooler or to have him read aloud the historical marker signs before then lecturing us on the history for hours (he also used to be an American history teacher). NOT my idea of a good time. Luckily, Jim and I are on the same page and, like you, used to feel the need to power through a drive to get to our destination… we are really focusing now on enjoying the journey as much as the destination and it’s all good ๐Ÿ™‚
      Glad you enjoyed your road trip!

  6. I love your No Judgment rule, it’s a great mindset for a traveler to have. I can see why you prefer to spend only a few hours a day driving, Andrew and I also tend to dread bus, plane or train journeys of more than 4 hours these days, even though we used to tolerate them quite well in the early parts of our trip. It’s fascinating following your camping journey, this is a style of travel we’ve yet to try!

    • Thanks Amy! Travel days are always challenging…. more so using public transportation as we did the first time around since you just have no control over schedules, etc. But, we are certainly trying to appreciate them more since they’re such a big part of the whole experience! With you off to SE Asia again soon you probably won’t experience camping anytime soon but it’s a great way to travel.

  7. Great write up! My wife and I are really looking forward to setting out and getting away from the rat race. We have the rig…just need the finances to adjust accordingly. Thank you for the photos and the inspiration.

    Safe travels.

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