|"Don't cross the border. It's not safe over there. My sister-in-law's
uncle was just minding his own business and they stripped him
naked and tied him to a flag pole." We heard stories like this before
crossing nearly every border.
We discovered that people are afraid of the unfamiliar. Those who
live close to a border look toward the other side as the great
unknown, full of goblins and corrupt officials.
Having lived in San Diego, virtually on the border between Mexico
and the U.S. for many years, we have heard every imaginable story
about bandits, corruption and horrible situations in Latin America.
We found that one of two conditions always applies to these stories
(1) The person telling the story was far removed from the victim
(uncle's- brother's-wife) and/or (2) the victim was doing something
we wouldn't do like driving at late at night or walking down a dark
street at two in the morning in an inebriated state.
Clear heads and common sense helped us to avoid trouble most of
the time. It's not as scary over there as it may seem.
|What did you do when
the van broke down?
No, we did not win the lottery. We are not
internet millionaires. Our parents are not
overly indulgent, super-rich oil tycoons and
our stock portfolio is not in the six digits.
And, yes, we earned every single penny we
spent. How can two regular people, with
run-of-the-mill jobs, and the real life
expenses save enough cash to buy
themselves some freedom? read on>>
|How could you afford a
trip like this?
|How can you stand one another?
A friend once told us "Those little
endearing qualities that you love about
one another will become more prominent
once you are married for five, ten or twenty
years." "But", he continued with a warning
glance, "those nagging, annoying
characteristics that drive you crazy about
one another will also become more
prominent. Either get used to them or get
We got used to
Married for twelve
years now, we've
spent nearly half
that time on the
road. We are
together 24 hours
a day almost every
For many this is a
formula for disaster.
For us, it works.
Of course, we have
our arguments but
we blurt out the
little things that
bother us right away
rather than bottling
them up for later explosion.
But we somehow figured it out. We were torn from our comfort
zone, away from the safety net, and we had to find a solution.
When we left home we knew nothing about the internal workings of
the Volkswagen. Today we have an extremely thorough
knowledge of a few specific ailments that tend to plague the
vehicle. The rest remains a mystery until it needs fixing.
We discovered that mechanics are not geniuses. They are good
at dissecting a problem and finding a solution. We learned to do
just that. We would chop up a problem into it's most minute bits,
and figure out a way to get it solved, often through trial and error.
The van was very forgiving.
In the end we had some of our most interesting encounters when
trying to solve a mechanical problem.
The van broke often. There was no
AAA to call. The parts shops did not
always have what we needed. The
mechanics did not have the correct
tools and even if they did, they could
not be trusted. Worst of all, we didn't
know the first thing about how to fix it.
After talking with us for a while a reporter
with the San Diego Union Tribune
admitted that she expected us to be
stinky homeless types.
In reality we've
every day we've
been on the road.
has some sort of
shower. In the event
that we camp
campgrounds for a
long period of time,
we have a solar
shower we use by
flipping the back door of the van and clipping
a shower curtain. If all else fails, we will break
down and pay for a hotel room.
|What if you get sick or injured?
Before leaving on our journey we began to feel like something was missing. Our world was
guaranteed, insured, and sealed for our own protection. Risk of every sort was inspected,
roped off, and guarded to keep us safe. When the van broke down we could take it to a
reliable mechanic and if we got sick we marched off to the respectable doctor. We simply
handed the problems over to the professionals and let fate run it's course.
Well, not long after crossing that first border we were instantly transported to a world where
we were almost completely responsible for every aspect of our own health. In most places
there was no doctor to fix things up, and where there was they were downright scary. We
had no choice but to solve our own problems
Fortunately we found the book Where There Is No Doctor, published by the non-profit Hesperian Foundation. It's
the only book out there willing to do the unthinkable, to tell the reader how to get their hands bloody stitching
themselves up and how to self-medicate with locally available drugs. While this may sound barbaric, it is common
practice for most people in the developing world.
Once responsible for ourselves we paid more attention to the little details of our health. Brushing our teeth like
fiends we gave one another monkey-like inspections for cuts and bruises and though twice about drinking from the
stagnant green pool. When we did experience health problems (which we often did!) we faced them immediately,
rather than letting them linger. In the end it didn't kill us, so it must have made us stronger.
Click here to see the contents of our first-aid kit