“25,000 miles . . . That’s not so far, certainly we could make it to Ushuaia in five months, nine months at a leisurely pace.” This is what we told ourselves back home, staring at the maps laid out on the kitchen table. Maps should have a warning like side view mirrors, this country is larger than it appears.
Realizing this didn’t take long. We spent hours ogling the trip reports of past PanAm journeys. We craved the surf in central America, offroading in Bolivia, and mountain climbing in Peru. We recognized the necessity of driving to a place, rather than through it. Before even shifting the truck out of park we decided nine months wasn’t going to cut it. We were still in the process of saving money and dug deeper shooting for 12 months.
We hit Mexico at our planned 12 month pace. Driving aggressively, averaging too many hours in the truck each day, we watched the country fly past. We spent over a month in Mexico and while we look back fondly on it, we know we missed damn near all of it with our exhaustive schedule. After Mexico, we seemed to downshift a little bit more with each country, lingering longer, absorbing more, and living better.
We maxed out our three month visas in Peru and had to admit it was a major part of the reason this country topped the list of our favorites. Peru had become familiar, a culture we could grasp, foreign not at all. It was here we made yet another extension to the journey. The logistics behind the decision were still forthcoming. Financially we were in the same spot as our previous January end date. We didn’t have the money but we had a plan. Living slowly makes life more affordable. Rather than arriving in town after an eight hour drive and embarking upon the executive two day see-it-all affair, you can spend a week or two wandering around soaking it all in. With less driving the gas costs diminish and the need for luxury and convenience become unnecessary.
We have found a happy middle ground in between the overstuffed tour bus takers and the long term apartment leasers (SprinterLife we’re looking at you). We stick around long enough to meet folks, hear the local gossip, and engage in arguments over the best brand of mate (without a doubt, it’s Amanda).
There seems to be a growing popularity of speedy efficiency among travelers, especially Americans. If I have a week I can see a country, if I have a month I can see a continent, if I have three months, I can see the world!
Driving the PanAm is a malleable journey, it can be whatever you want it to be. Whether you’re seeking immersion, volunteering to better other lives, or just looking for a period of introspective extroversion, there’s just nothing fast about it.