North & Central America

North & Central America 8 months with Mercedes Sprinter and Toyota 4runner See more

We’re doing it again

English only article – Slovak version coming soon | Článok je iba v angličtine, preklad pribudne čoskoro.

Yes, one more time we’ve decided to fly, buy and drive a car across the “America”, but this time the other part of it. During our previous South American expedition, we’ve decided that it would be too complicated and expensive to ship our Chilean car from Panama to Colombia (there is no road connecting these two countries) – but mostly that we needed a break.

Some people call this “vacation from a vacation”. I know how this sounds – like a first world problem (and it is), but when you’re on the road for 18 months, you just don’t have the same appreciation and excitement that you had when you began the journey, not mentioning that you really miss spending some time with your friends and family. You’ve seen so many beautiful and interesting places, that you slowly grow accustomed to it and take it for granted – when you see that this travel fatigue is happening to you, I believe it’s time to go home, or to take a long break. And so we did.

After spending half year working, eating ourselves to death and spending as much time as we can with our friends and family, we were ready to continue our journey around the Americas.

USA – Backpacking, Wedding and a Sprinter

First, we weren’t sure where we should begin – USA, Panama, Mexico? I generally suck at decision making, especially when there are multiple plausible options, so I was glad when we’ve had an opportunity that made the decision easier.

When we were travelling in Bolivia, we met Jessica & Mike, and since we liked spending time and playing Exploding Kittens with them a lot, we travelled together for a few weeks, until they had to speed up since they didn’t have as much time as we did. Anyway, during this time, I mentioned that I work as a wedding photographer in Bratislava, but I also do destination weddings – and since they were engaged, I told them I would be happy to shoot their wedding in USA, whenever it would happen.

Well, long story short – during that summer back home they wrote me, asking if we would still want to do that – and that the wedding will be in Tennessee. We did, so we bought the flight tickets and that was it 🙂

We flew to Boston, Massachusetts – visiting an old good friend of mine that lives in Cambridge. We decided that it wouldn’t make sense to buy the car on the east coast of the US, since prices are higher and we would be going to Oregon after the wedding, where Jess & Mike live – and the state of Oregon has no sales tax, which makes everything a bit cheaper.

So we became “backpackers” for a week, and did a short tour of the east coast – Boston, New York, Washington and Philadelphia, before taking the flight to Nashville, Tennessee.

After the awesome wedding in Camp Nakanawa, Tennessee, we flew together with Jess & Mike to Tualatin, Oregon and spent some time occupying their couch (thank you thank you again), while editing the photos from their wedding and looking for a car to buy.

Now, Jess and Mike had a sprinter completed their Sprinter camper van, working on it every day for 3 months after they finished their own South American journey. While we were home in Slovakia, they offered to lend us their stunning Sprinter for our travels in the US – as a thank you for the wedding photoshoot. And so we did. 🙂

We’ve spent about 5 weeks in their beautiful, beautiful van touring various National Parks around the west coast, doing a loop from Seattle to San Diego and back to Tualatin, Oregon. Again, thank you so, so much guys – it really made the USA part of our journey so much easier and comfortable and we’re forever grateful.

During that journey, I was constantly looking for a van for sale – ideally a 4wd/awd Chevrolet Astro or some similar van – since I’d promised Janka next time we’ll do this it will be in a van.

Yeah, right.

After a sour taste left by seemingly perfect AWD Van on Craiglist in San Francisco turned out to be in a bad shape, another good and cheap Astro was sold before we could get there and yet another non-awd-but-already-camperized van in Canada sale failed due to the owners unwilling to wait for one day, I found it. I was sure.

It was just the evening before we arrived and returned the Sprinter – we “camped at the Walmart parking lot, as is common in the US. I promised Janka that I will just go to the bathroom and I won’t be long – and instead, I came back 30 minutes later saying I found us a car.

Not a van, but a 4×4 Toyota 4runner.

This time, she said why not – namely for 2 reasons.

  1. We were going to spend a lot of time on the beach, since we were going to the Caribbean. Warm climate, lot of time outside – no need for cooking inside the car or spending a lot of time inside of it.
  2. I promised her we’ll have a proper fridge this time. 🙂

Fortunately, this time the Toyota turned out to be exactly as advertised – and it was partially converted for travelling, with a bed inside and a roof rack. We did have some issues with buying as the original of the title was missing, we weren’t sure if we’ll be allowed to buy it since we didn’t have residency in Oregon, but it all ended well and we’ve bought the car two days later. Afterwards, we stopped by in Everett, Washington to see now famous Alex Smith, spent some quality time with the three of them, did some work on the car with him, made a simple, no-nonsense overlanding dual battery setup for the fridge and accessories and off we go to Mexico. 🙂

I will add more detailed information about how to buy a car in USA, but for now you can look at the Buy & Sell section in my Useful links article to find out more. Or just write directly to Alex Smith and he’ll help you out, like he did to so many other overlanders already. 🙂

USA to Panama & back to Honduras

And so we left. In a 4×4 again, but free, happy and full of energy to see new things once again – but this time a lot more relaxed, since this time, we knew what we were doing and that everything will sort itself out.

Selling the car? Yeah, we have 8 months for that. Either we’ll sell to a traveller, or we’ll just drive 6000km back to the US from Panama, we can do that in a week. What if we get robbed? Doesn’t matter, unless we won’t get hurt – we don’t have expensive things with us anyway, and things can be always replaced. Getting around, borders, documentation? We speak fluent (B2/C1) Spanish now. With this attitude, we marched on 🙂

And so we continued for half a year driving south. This time, we covered around 27000km (together with the US part with Sprinter), hitting every country on the way from USA to Panama – Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama.

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We’ve had many adventures, challenges and good/bad moments on the way – you can read more about these in the blog articles, that will be slowly rolling out over time.

After roughly 6 months, we were at the end of our journey – in Panama city.

It was now time to sell the car – once again, it was quite a long process including being stuck at Guatemala-Honduras border with evil&corrupt border officials refusing to allow me to exit the country – without the car, with just a mobile phone and some money and in the evening.

It will be all written in detail in a separate article, but in the end we managed to make quite an international sale: Slovak owners of a Oregon plated car, selling to an Australian guy in Honduras. 🙂

Afterwards, we spent 10 days in a beautiful ex-murder capital of the world (until 2016) San Pedro Sula in Honduras, waiting for our flight back home. All went well, we got our money and returned home – once again, without any robbery, break-in or other misfortune.

The end 🙂

(for now… I promised Janka we’ll stay home for some years now. Although buying a 4×4 Van in Japan, shipping it to Vladivostok and driving home seems like a good idea…)