When preparing for a trip, whether it be a few days vacation to a nearby city, or a more extensive adventure to another country, it’s never easy to know what to bring along. As we spent the last two months planning our three month, 17,000 KM, ten country road trip, being stressed when it came to the preparation list was an understatement. Now that the stress of pre-trip is over, I hope to use this blog post to explain how we prepared and what we learned in the process.
Step 1: Do not panic
I’m a pro when it comes to immediately going to the negative place, but thankfully Joaquín is the calm water in my storm. When thinking about all of the details it is easy to feel overwhelmed, but I recommend taking a deep breath before making a plan (which for me included a lot of lists), and remembering that flexibility is key going forward.
Step 2: Propose a schedule
Time is always of the essence. And it is especially the case when you are planning for a trip. I suggest leaving as much time for yourself as possible so that you don’t add extra stress with having to complete tasks last minute. Write down the list of all of the things you need to do before you leave, whether they be big or small (such as applying for a visa or reminding yourself to pack your camera charger) and then put them in a calendar that suits the time frame you have. Leave yourself some wiggle room so that when things don’t go as planned you have time to figure out your plan B.
Step 3: Execute
Take your plan and run with it. Do all that you can to achieve your pre-determined goals, fight for it, but also find the balance to knowing when to take a different route. Flexibility is crucial and without it, you’ll find yourself devastated and/or frustrated. Remember that there are several solutions to a problem and you have to be creative when finding those solutions.
Now, these three steps can apply to any trip, but I want to take it a step further and explain more specifically what it looked like for us when purchasing a combi and outfitting it for a long trip:
Step 1: Making the decision
After a trip to Brazil we started playing around with the idea of returning to Guatemala on land instead of taking a flight. Joaquín even made a route that we could take, trying to show me that it was possible. In casual conversation we talked about returning on bike, hitchhiking, busing it, and buying a car. It seemed to be a very frequent topic of conversation as we discovered that other travelers have done something similar with a Volkswagen van: the combi. We started searching different vendors who were selling the “vintage van.” We would pass along ads we liked to one another and we even went to look at one we thought was in our price range. Although we had this idea for over a year, we finally committed to it two months before our departure date. We went to look at another combi, made a budget, and determined it was possible. For us the first real step was saying, “yes we are going to do this” instead of “it may be something that we could do.” When we fully committed to the adventure and told the owner that we were interested, that’s when I had to take my deep breath and not panic at all of the preparing to do.
Step 2: Fit everything into a two month time frame
We decided to wait until two months before our departure to buy the combi because we wouldn’t have a place to store the vehicle while we worked on it. Although it would have been nice to have had more time to work on the project, it ended up working out well because we proposed a schedule and left wiggle room. Our list of things to do looked something like this:
– Buy combi
– Transfer vehicle
– Determine how to take it out of the country
– Sand and paint combi
– Mechanic revision
– Buy spare parts
– Buy accessories
– Energy (solar panel & second car battery)
– new tires
– storage grill & bag
– rope & bungees
– tank for water
– tank for gas
– portable stove
– mini fridge
– Make cabinets
– Make curtains and seat covers
– Insulation and wood covering
– Install bed
– Create social media campaign and launch video
– Apply for Bolivian and Peruvian visas
– Etc, etc, etc
I’m certain you can imagine that looking at this list and trying to determine a way to fit it into two months was a bit overwhelming. But we decided that we would fully dedicate these two months to preparing the combi, working on it physically during the day, and doing paperwork type items in the evening. We found a way to make it work and definitely learned about patience and flexibility.
Step 3: Execute
Although at times it felt like we still had a million things to do and the timer was running out, we committed every day to making sure we progressed on our project. Some days it seemed as though we weren’t moving anywhere, but as long as we did the best we could to move ahead, at the end of the day we felt that we had accomplished our task. We hit several bumps along the way, some regarding health and others regarding bureaucracy that wanted to prevent us from taking our planned route, but we adjusted our schedule, leaving a few days after the projected launch with certainty that we were well prepared, healthy, and ready for the adventure ahead.
Here are some photos of the project, step by step, as well as the final results.
If this planning process has taught us anything, it is that we need to be patient with one another and ready to fight whatever battle life may throw your way. Whether you’re planning to take a trip or make a big life change, I hope this post will inspire you to take the leap of faith and trust that God will guide your path. If you would like to support our journey by sponsoring kilometres, please visit our Crowdrise page. We are so grateful for all of the encouragement!