OVERLAND THE AMERICAS: ENJOYING THE ADVENTURE
By Paul Strubell of Dirt Orcas – 11/28/16
For the ninth installment for the ongoing interview series here at Dirt Orcas, we are extremely grateful to have the opportunity to speak with Taisa and Ernesto. Together they form Overland the Americas. A highly admirable duo, who made their dreams a reality.
In July 2015, they quit their desk jobs in Seattle and hit the road with the intention of exploring North, Central, and South America all while living out of their trusty Toyota 4Runner.
Taisa and Ernesto’s journey is not only enviable, it is also a terrific model for how to turn your own ambitions into a reality. All it takes is a desire, some planning, being committed to reaching your goals, and making it work when things get challenging.
They are the ones experiencing the trenches and mountain tops, but they do a wonderful job of making you feel like you are part of it as well, though their photography and story telling.
I have included just a small sample of their amazing journey here, but you can view additional photos and really dig into the spirit of their trip and the many amazing places they have passed though with social media. I highly recommend following their travels on Instagram and Facebook.
One of the best parts about following their trip is that they seem to really know how to soak up the culture and take the road less traveled. They take the time to explore individual places and it never feels like they are in a rush to get to the next destination.
They are a great reminder that life is truly meant to be lived to the fullest.
What do you consider to be your place of work? [Ernesto]
Any place with a reliable internet connection but I can do some of my work remotely and offline. We’re very lucky to have free international data with our mobile carrier which helps with staying in touch with clients.
Year, Make, Model of your vehicle?
Our truck Sooty is a 2012 Toyota 4Runner Trail Edition.
Did you name your vehicle? What do you call it?
Yes, we named it Sooty after the Sooty Shearwater bird known to migrate up to 40,000 miles a year. This incredible bird flies across the Pacific Ocean from New Zealand to the coasts of Chile and even as far north as Alaska.
When and how did you get it?
We got it in January 2012. A shipment of new 4Runners was coming from Japan. After much research we knew exactly what we were looking for, so we visited every Toyota dealership in the greater Seattle Metropolitan area, shopping for a good deal. Once we found a dealership willing to meet our offer, we put a down payment on it and a month later Sooty arrived on a shipment from Japan.
What other vehicles did you consider and what made you ultimately pull the trigger on the one you bought?
Initially we wanted to get a Westy but we couldn’t convince ourselves to pay the average asking price for a vehicle 30+ years old, nor did we want to deal with or have the knowledge to fix the mechanical issues that could arise. Other vehicles we looked at were Eurovans, 60 and 80 Series LandCruisers and Landrovers. But after lots of research, we decided to go with the Toyota 4Runner. We were looking for manufacturers with good presence across the Americas so sourcing parts would be easier. Toyotas are also very well known for their reliability. We considered a new 4Runner because of its resale value if we wanted to sell it after completing our trip.
Have you made any upgrades or changes to it?
Definitely. We upgraded Sooty’s suspension system with Old Man Emu shocks, a 3” OME coil springs lift plus an additional 1″ lift using OME spacers all around. AT tires BFG KO2s, Odyssey Marine dual batteries / BlueSeaS solenoid system. Auxiliary/Offroad lights. Front and rear bumpers. Roof rack. Hard shell RTT, Internal drawer system. Fridge/freezer, winch and a many more accessories for recovery, camping, medical emergency kit, etc.
What is your favorite part about living/working out of your vehicle?
We love waking up to something different and unknown every day. The sense of freedom. We love not having to spend a big chuck of our lives in a cubicle as we both did for many years. Being able to see the world, learn new things every day. Learn about ourselves. Being genuinely happy and hopefully becoming better people.
What is your least favorite part about it?
Mosquitoes and unbearably hot/humid climates.
How many miles have you put on your truck?
Since we departed Seattle in July of 2015, we have driven 28,000 miles. And another estimated 10,000 in the PNW during our weekend adventures and work commutes.
What is the best place you have taken it? Is there just one?
There isn’t just one best place. There are dozens of spectacular places we’ve had the opportunity to experience. But, one our faves, that comes to mind, is driving Sooty 4,260 m /13,976 ft to the base camp of Pico de Orizaba in Mexico, the third tallest mountain in North America at 5636 m / 18490 ft.
Favorite road you’ve driven?
That’s a hard one. There’re so many of them. Ria Lagartos to El Cuyo in the Yucatan Peninsula, Coyote Flats in the Sierra Nevada, CA. But in terms of technical difficulty, probably Cerro de Las Minas in Guatemala. A thick jungle drive!
In one word, what describes your approach to life?
If you could give a person one piece of advice when thinking about living and working out of a vehicle what would you tell them?
Switching to that lifestyle is not always easy or as romantic as it seems. Ease into it slowly if possible. Make a few extended trips of two weeks or more and try to be as self reliable as possible. Don’t rush to your next destination. Soak it all in. Your chances of falling in love with this lifestyle will be greater that way.
It takes a special kind of person to recognize that the journey, not the destination, is the point of life. Travelers know this. Was there a point in your life where you became conscious that you were one of those people?
[Ernesto] For me, I think it was while getting ready to go on our trip. Our overland trip through the Canadian Rockies and our weekly escapades to explore our Pacific Northwest made it clear to me that it was about finding myself in the moment, being happy with what I was doing.
[Taisa] Nature and my years of yoga practice teach me this lesson.
You have found a strong place in the community of travel. What values do you think your home instilled in you, that you take on the road?
[Ernesto] Definitely! It’s an amazing community. We’re always welcomed, inspired and encouraged by fellow travelers. We feel that we’re all part of a big family.
We try our best to be fair and respectful of other people’s cultures. We try to have a positive impact on the places and people we meet and try to pay forward all the kindness shown to us.
[Taisa] It truly is an excellent community. Learn from and expect the best in people. Be kind and patient.
I admire your outside the box approach to career and home. Do you see yourself as somebody who took a leap of faith to live in an unconventional way or do you think it kind of just happened?
Thank you so much Paul! – We have definitely eased into this lifestyle although we’re still trying to figure out how we can continue to travel 100% sustainably. We’re not there yet. But, we certainly hope to find a way to keep doing what we love.
Where do you want to go next? (Geographically and career wise)
[Ernesto] After South America we want to travel the US and Canada a little more. We definitely want to keep traveling the world but we have another couple of years left on our current overland trip before we start thinking about other continents. Career wise I hope to continue working remotely designing mobile and web app interfaces.
[Taisa] It would be super fun to end this particular trip in Alaska! In terms of career, I hope to develop a business (possibly in yoga instruction and/or environmental consulting) that would allow for 6 months of travel per year.