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New Year’s Resolution: Drive to Argentina

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Gregor and I left Calgary on New Year’s Eve day to begin the road trip of a lifetime. Our goal is to drive our 1987 Volkswagon camper van to the southern tip of Argentina and back. We’re giving ourselves a year or so to get to Ushuaia (the farthest south you can drive in the Americas), visiting every Latin American country and camping in the van for most of the way.

In the last three months, we have been selling, donating, or trashing anything we felt we didn’t need.

A month ago, we sold our 3-year-old Mitsubishi RVR on Kijiji.

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Two weeks ago we sold our 1000-square-foot bungalow.

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Three days ago we finished loading all our household belongings in a shipping container, which is now in a storage yard in Calgary.

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Our home (and office) is now an 80-square-foot VW Westfalia camper van named “Lucky”. Gregor will work remotely at his software development job (at reduced hours and pay) and will also be principal driver. I will take a sabbatical from my work as contract technical writer, and will be chief navigator, DJ, blogger, cook, cleaner, planner, document administrator, and negotiator of police bribes.

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We’ve been carefully planning this trip for about 8 months, becoming more excited with each passing week. Our bucket-list dream was coming true! And there was nothing holding us back – no property to worry about, no debt to work off, no tedious office commute.

But if you asked us two weeks ago whether we thought we had made the right choices – selling our home, leaving creature comforts behind, and stepping down the corporate ladder to roam the Americas – we would have said: “I’m not sure any more”.

We started to get panic attacks, sleepless nights, scatterbrained-ness, and this weird desire to eat low-nutrition comfort food (for us, this means perogies, breaded/fried meats, and Vietnamese noodle soup). I was feeling particularly anxious and drove my poor suffering husband bonkers with endless “what if?” and “what for?” questions. It was awful.

And then my friend, Gill, helped me to discover why we were feeling such anxiety. Despite our travel history and passion for this type of adventure, she observed that we were having trouble with the idea of uprooting. Little by little, we had removed all our physical anchors to Calgary, so there was nothing to keep us “grounded”. Like trees trying to branch out into the great big world with no roots. We needed to do something to feel grounded again.

So we decided to spend our final days in Calgary to do some landscaping. We collected light and nutrients from friends and family – sharing our hopes and fears over a casual meal, having a laugh over coffee or at the bar, catching up with relatives across Canada over Skype/Facetime/text/phone/email. Then we drove to viewpoints around Calgary to see the rugged mountains, modern cityscape, and quaint neighbourhoods that drew us to this place. With each visit, we started to feel a stronger sense of “home”.

In our last four days in Calgary…

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Our homies, Gill and Sasa, ordered in our all-time favourite “cheat day” meal: pizza with beer and wine. And they sent us on our journey with Gill’s heavenly homemade cocoa Larabars.

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Monty had a goodbye beer with Gregor at their favourite watering hole, James Joyce on 4th St. Monty has a way of keeping us grounded by reminding us to savour simple moments.

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James and Christine made us our last homemade dinner in Calgary. We couldn’t have made it through the months leading up to our trip without their help and companionship.

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Dawn and Lisa bid us bon voyage by making us a final cup of Nespresso coffee, the beloved nectar that always started our morning ritual at home.

We spent our last night in Calgary at Jeff’s place. Jeff’s family always makes us feel at home. They are the link to our Winnipeg climbing friends and our anchor here in Calgary. He packed some Christmas baking for us to take on the road.
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We spent our last night in the city at Jeff’s place. Jeff’s family always makes us feel at home. They are the link to our Winnipeg climbing friends and our anchor here in Calgary. He packed some Christmas baking for us to take on the road.

Calgary skyline from a viewpoint in the neighbourhood of Ramsay.
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We enjoyed the Calgary skyline from the neighbourhood of Ramsay.

As we drove away from the city, we realized that all those material things we worked so hard for were really not that important to us. Our most prized possessions are the love and support of our friends and family.

Roots intact. Latin America, here we come!

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18 thoughts on “New Year’s Resolution: Drive to Argentina

  1. Sarah and mike

    Janice and Gregor! We found your website! It was such a pleasure getting to know you over the last week, as well as Gill and Sasa. You are such incredible and inspiring individuals that we are so glad to have met! We can’t wait to follow your journey, and live vicariously through your exciting experiences. We will chat soon! Xoxo

  2. Melvin

    You guys are awesome! No matter where you travel you will have roots with family and friends. The trip to Ushuaia is #1 on my bucket list…for the time being I’ll gladly live vicariously through you guys.

    1. Janice Post author

      Hey Mel, you should know that you, Jan, and Alex, have been part of this journey all along – our 2011 van trip from California to Newfoundland gave us the confidence to pursue this dream.

  3. brydanger

    Enjoy every second guys!
    Not scarier than mountaineering…only from the angle youre viewing it. 😉

    Once you’re on the other side for a while, it seems as normal as getting up and going to work every day. Actually…no. That seems almost absurd now (and really bad for your health).

    We will look for you on the road as our paths cross!
    Enjoy the ride!!

    1. Janice Post author

      Hi Bryan, thanks for the encouragement. We love the ‘simple living’ philosophy that you talked about on your blog. It really feels like the right path. We’d love to connect on the road with you some time. In the meantime – happy travels!

  4. Laurie Aitchison

    Hey guys..can’t believe you have started your adventure already! Enjoy every moment. We will live vicariously through your blog. Travel safely.
    Love (and hugs) Laurie

    1. Janice Post author

      Hugs back to you, Jeff, Ryan, and Jessica. Hope you’re having fun in the sun right now!

  5. claire dionne

    Keep the stories and photos coming! We will follow your adventures. I wish I had your courage!
    Claire and Annick

    1. Janice Post author

      No courage here, just a bit of “crazy” 🙂 Thanks for following along and sharing your support. Allons-y!

    1. Janice Post author

      Love and hugs to you, too. Gregor recently remembered your advice about removing wallets from back pockets when seated, to protect your back from twisting. With hours of driving ahead of us, we’ll make sure he stays aligned!

    1. Janice Post author

      Thanks, Garth! Every time I hear the words “catalytic converter” I think of you and Kathy driving with us to Devil’s Tower in the green Westy. Good times!

  6. Cidallia and Tim

    Happy New Year to both of you, and good luck ,
    you guys are great and everyone of us wish we had the guts to do that , may-be you going to be our inspiration and sometime soon we will be in your shoes.
    we love you .

    1. Janice Post author

      Love you guys! Hey, you think we’re gutsy…you fly all over the world on “stand-by” ALL THE TIME. That’s pretty adventurous if you ask me. Not sure I have the skills to cope with THAT kind of uncertainty!

  7. Samantha Page

    Have a wonderfully exciting and safe adventure. I will live vicariously through you both over the next year.
    Looking forward to seeing updates of your journey.

    1. Janice Post author

      Thanks Samantha! This is scarier than mountaineering, so we appreciate your support!