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John and Mandi

us --> van --> overland
7 yrs and 6 days - end of the road

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Turning the Page After 7 Years

May 10, 2022
by John

Rather, seven years after starting a four year trip we are parking the van to become respectable contributing citizens again...or something to that accord. Just like with our extended period of saving before starting our Pan-American drive, our ending has been a long time coming. Our travels can easily be broken into the four years we spent driving to the southern tip of South America and the three tooling around the US and Mexico while dodging pandemic restrictions and closures. While we still have a lust for the road, we also yearn for a bit of traditional normalcy. It probably seems ridiculous for us to write a blog entry after we abruptly stopped posting when we first entered Chile in late 2018 but, oddly, it is something we are compelled to do. Will we ever go back and complete the documentation of at least the Pan-American portion of our travels? Maybe, possibly more so if there is any interest from anyone out in the ether. At the least we should post the remainder of our expense reports to assist those that use them in their own planning, something we have been discussing since retrieving the van from the Port of Jacksonville on May 10th, 2019. Our reluctance being more of a symptom than a desire. Before we drivel on, let us back up a bit.

What We Did

It would take an inordinate amount of time to cover the last three years in our traditional boring rigamarole way of blogging so instead we'll summarize. We crisscrossed Chile (one of our favorites) and Argentina until reaching Ushuaia (where we got to see pretty much everyone we had been traveling with one last time), visited Tierra Del Fuego, started north (yes, it was weird after going south for so long), drove back to Chile, cut across Argentina to Uruguay, then shipped the van along with Kirsi and Jack's FJ from Montevideo to Jacksonville spending our final days in South America with our dear friends Sandra and Thomas. It took two months for the van to arrive, we then suffered through the bureaucratic mess to eventually retrieve it, dropped it off at Ford to have many outstanding things repaired, and eventually headed up to the Appalachian mountains. We visited Ujoint Offroad to get a few things checked and repaired, visited Brenton and Shannon and Pete and Natasha, attended the Asheville Van Life Rally and then Overland Expo East where we sat on several round tables to answer questions but more importantly we met up with other travelers such as Dan GrecJames and Lauren, and Candice and Jordan while also getting to see Kirsi and Jack, Sunny and Karin, and Benjy Davenport again, the bulk of our time in the Appalachians was spent along the Blue Ridge Parkway and we finally visited Shenandoah National Park.

Fitz Roy, Argentina

High on life not the devil's lettuce

Tierra Del Fuego, Argentina

See, we did make it

We had been kicking around the idea of visiting Mexico again, our original plan was to ship there from South America, so that's what we did mid November 2019. The majority of our time was spent just outside Oaxaca (where we met many Pan-Amers including Denise and Karen who had followed our blog) with stints in San Miguel de Allende and at a beautiful Pacific beach in San Agustin (Don Taco) before an epic 33 day breakdown on our way back to San Miguel with the intention to ferry over to Baja. That crappy dusty lot is where we were when the global pandemic was declared. The van was finally repaired and we drove from just outside Mexico City to Jacksonville in three days. We then hopped between family and friends before heading back to the Appalachians in September of 2020, having all of our batteries (van and house) fail during the first decent freeze in Tennessee. Eventually we made our way back to Florida, switched our house battery to lithium, and spent the winter down in South Florida visiting the beaches with breaks bothering family and friends.

San Agustin, Oaxaca, Mexico

Finally found that perfect Pacific beach, company wasn't bad neither

San Agustin, Oaxaca, Mexico

Gonna miss days like this

Late May 2021, we must have a thing with starting trips in May, we began a big loop that would take us back out west. First, we went north to visit Mike and Tiff who had moved to Tennessee, before setting foot in Kentucky for the first time. The rest is a trip all its own that should be blogged about but essentially it was the reverse of the loop we were planning to complete in 2020 when we were supposed to be leaving Baja. We visited almost all of the national parks we skipped in 2015 during the start of our travels such as Mammoth Cave, Ozark Scenic Riverway, Sandhills Scenic Byway, Devil's Tower, Bighorn National Forest, Wind Cave, Craters of the Moon, Moab, Canyonlands, White Sands, Guadeloupe Mountains and we spent a month in Grand Teton and Yellowstone combined as well as revisited Glacier, Grand Canyon, Bryce, and Zion to name just a few. We also visited many archeological sites along the way. Out of the blue we texted Mike and Geneva just to see where they were, finding out we were only 30 miles from one another, so we converted another online acquaintance into an actual friendship. Eventually we reached Texas and decided it was no longer going to be a state we just drove through, spending almost two months kicking around with the bulk of our time along the coast. Dennis and Karen were leaving Baja to make a loop through Florida but we did our best to slow them down, celebrating Thanksgiving 2021 on Mustang Island together. While this is a condensed version, it must be pointed out that when we last saw them in Mexico it was early 2020, 21 months prior.

Sky Bridge, Red River Gorge, Kentucky

Ok Kentucky, we're listening

Red River Gorge, Kentucky

Look ma, a proper camping site

Taggart Lake, Grand Teton NP, Wyoming

Startin' to look a little old there bubba

With our list of places throughly checked we made our way back to Florida to spend time with dear friends in Panama City before we joined all of the snow birds further south for the winter. We were in a stall, knowing our time on the road was coming to an end but with no real direction as to where we want to make the next chapter. All along we figured we would fall in love with a particular place and that would be it, sell the van and grow roots. Unfortunately we are still a bit dense and apparently overly romantic, for us there will never be just one place...except for being together. 

What Now

Who knows, but we can officially claim an end to our travels since Mandi started a new job yesterday. Fortunately, it is a remote position and we have family we can crash with while we decide on where we want to settle down. Also, we have family that needs help getting through surgeries, we have helped with one already, so our flexibility is proving to still be an asset at this time. We have rented a condo near the beach for two weeks, spending last week as a sort of vacation and now Mandi's first week at her new job to help ease her in. We are sitting on the screened porch, Mandi working and me writing this blog entry, stealing glances of the Gulf of Mexico from time to time. The last 7 years are, at moments, inconceivable and easily the best 7 of our lives. While we are ready to have a bit more consistency there is an ever present sadness to what we are now leaving behind. Usually I have no difficulty in capturing what we are experiencing, in this moment I am struggling. 

Yesterday I spent the majority of the day visiting Pan-American blogs, re-kindling a bit of wanderlust. It was definitely not the best idea but, for me, necessary. We spent the first four years of our travels overlanding and part of the last three vanlifing. There is a difference and the latter is not our preference. So while we will miss the challenges of the road unknown we are definitely ecstatic about getting out of the van for a while to build a newish mundane.

Looking back, this moment has been 14 years in the making. We saved for 7 years then walked away from everything we had known to spend the next 7 years experiencing the unknown. It isn't just a bit of irony that we find ourselves inverted, slightly apprehensive of reacquainting ourselves with the old known while leaving the comforts of our new normal. More than the lost desire of those unexplored places, we are desperate to not lose what has changed within ourselves over the entire journey. Once again, we find ourselves standing at the edge of our comfort zone.

Life Begins at the End of Your Comfort Zone

Why must it always begin with the uncomfortable?

Say what? (12)
Da Frenchman
May 10, 2022 at 06:57 PM
With my business as a guide at the end of the adventures It would make me sad for a while, what picked me up was when I said"Hello" to the first of the next set of clients going out with me. It has been 11 years since my retirement started. I filled the void by doing what I did when I was paid to do it. Now at 73 years young, but getting older. I have started lowing down. After getting back fro Mexico 2 days ago I am still tired and the unpacking is taking longer. I am off to work at the Overland Expo West, then to Oregon, home in New Mexico, back to Washington, home then a Desert Expedition 9.5 in Montana, Dakota's and Wyoming.

I feel that you maid the correct choice of doing the traveling when you younger. As we age the bumps are bigger and the bruises hurt more. Keep reading your blog post and the adventure will never end. You may need a brake in the adventures but there are a thousand people who would love to have been on your adventure.

Welcome back! Your adventures are still going to happen just a different direction.

Frenchie (Da Frenchman)

May 10, 2022 at 07:22 PM
Thanks Frenchie!

We definitely see this as a pause and not a permanent end. That doesn’t automatically mean we will take another multiyear trip but it also doesn’t mean we won’t either. Soon we will have another groove and our feet firmly rushing us along whatever our future path becomes. Until then, we’ll get through the post travel blues the best we can.
James Poole
May 11, 2022 at 11:35 AM
Great to hear from you and know you are well and back in the USA. Missed your adventures and praying you were safe since it had been several,years sincwe heard from you.
We are Betty and Charlie Poole,KC,Mo 64151. We met you in Yellowstone several years ago abd shared our table with you near “old Faithful “
Thanks for allowing us to follow your adventures.
May 11, 2022 at 12:12 PM
Hey Betty and Charlie!

Thanks for following along, praying for us, and sharing your table in Yellowstone all those years ago. We loved that part of Wyoming so much we knew we had to go back before we parked the van. We may still finish the blog as we start to settle in, no promises, but we do feel we owe it to ourselves and everyone that enjoyed following along.
Sri Kanth Puchakayala
May 13, 2022 at 05:32 PM
Glad to hear from you!
very nicely summarized the past 7 years in one post. I thoroughly enjoyed following your journey on FB and in this blog. All best to both of you in getting back to "routine" :)


May 14, 2022 at 03:01 PM
Hey Sri!

We didn't make it to Austin so we may still have to make a trip there for the van. If we do, we'll be sure to let you know. We hope all is well with you and your family.
David Elliott
May 13, 2022 at 07:28 PM
We met you in Zion in early June 2015 when you were still shaking down your rig and planning big plans. My wife and I are so happy you are home safely with all your stories to tell.

We are currently outfitting a 2016 Sprinter, "The Hogan," but are not sure we are ready for a seven year four year trip.
May 14, 2022 at 03:07 PM
Hey David,

Zion is still one of our favorites and we had a great time with everyone there. Congrats on the van and you don't have to take a seven or four year trip...two years straight down to Argentina could be plenty of time 😜. Hopefully one day we'll come across each other again somewhere. Until then, happy travels!
Aug 6, 2022 at 09:55 PM
Omg you guys we were just talking about you two and looked at your blog for updates! Glad to hear you’re alive and well. We enjoyed your writing as always and just feel more drawn to get back on the road. Such fond memories of our time together out in the world. Big hugs and hope to meet in person again one of these days.
Aug 8, 2022 at 08:37 AM
Hey Jim and Rhonda!

We check into your blog from time to time to keep tabs on you two as well. We are back into the saving phase so it may be a while until we get back out there. We have moved up into the Appalachians, in Tennessee right now. Our current M.O. is to get short term rentals and move around every 2-3 months to keep things kind of fresh. We'll be south of Knoxville soon for a few months, after? It would be nice to spend a winter up here but it's really great to be out in the sun during winter down in Florida so we'll have to make up our minds in the next couple of months. If only work was flexible enough to let us be in Mexico or Guatemala, we'd be in San Miguel or at Lake Atitlan in a heartbeat. We hope all is well and our paths will definitely cross again someday.

Much love ❤️
Kirsi Uotila
Aug 10, 2022 at 03:40 PM
I was glad to see this summary because I wondered what had happened to you guys. Jack and I are still traveling. In a Roadtrek now, which is much more comfortable.

I would quit traveling and go back to work, but always, in the back of my mind, I knew a new travel would happen. My time is usually 5 years. Good luck and hope to see you in the future.
Aug 11, 2022 at 08:12 AM
Hey Kirsi!

Great to hear from you. We remember that you switched to a Roadtrek and are glad to hear it is working out so well. There's nothing like a van 😜. We doubt our travels are over, we just aren't sure which way we'll do it in the future. Joe and Josee are really enjoying the way they are hopping around the world these days so we might do something similar, not unlike the way you traveled in the past.

Keep on keepin on and give that boy a good belly rub for me.
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