Erik, Joe, and Apollo

drive the americas image

Names

Erik and Joe (and Apollo the 4Runner)

Hometown

Saint Paul, Minnesota, U.S.A.

When did you start your travels?

We were "homeless" by mid-March of 2011, but we ultimately left the Twin Cities after moving from friend's place to friend's place and completing all work obligations on June 7, 2011

Reason for taking this trip

Honestly: just because.  After our beloved Sheltie died, we realized that we all only get one go-around on this planet.  We were afraid of life passing us by before we had a chance to really experience it.  The world is huge and we were living a very, very small part of it.  We both have some familiarity and background with Western Europe but feel very under-educated about anything south of the U.S.A.

Why did you decide to drive?

We hoped it will afford us more opportunities - not only the means to visit places that public transportation may not visit but also the chance to share places with fellow travelers (i.e. backseat passengers) should be circumstances arise.  We do not regret this decision one little bit; it really has provided us with opportunities that would not have been possible without Apollo.

What type of car are you driving?

We are driving a most awesome 2000 Toyota 4Runner, purchased in 2010 specifically for this trip.

Did you make any modifications to your car for this trip?

Oh, yes.  Thanks to our fellow travelers who have websites and/or have contributed to forums, we made plenty of modifications.  

Please visit our website for the list and pictures: http://apollosjourney.com/apollo/modifications-list/

How did you save up or finance your trip?

Erik has worked in a bank and has managed businesses, so he is very fluent in budgets.  The finances are part savings, part residual income (from renting our house) and part traveling very frugally.

How long do you plan on traveling?

As long as it takes.  We have no schedules or deadlines.  We anticipate the overall trip taking several years.  If this is the only opportunity we have to do something like this, we want to make sure it is worthwhile and not rushed.  We think it will be easier to do it right the first time rather than have regrets in the future.  Right now, in fact, our trip is on pause with Joe remaining in Mexico while Erik gets medical attention in the U.S.  But we are not letting this deter us.  Later this fall, Erik and Apollo will drive down to Oaxaca, pick Joe up, and we will all continue the journey.

Where do you plan on driving?  

We don't plan to skip any countries if it is feasible.  It's hard to cover it all, but we will do our best.

What were your family’s and friends’ reactions when you told them about your trip before you left?

It ranged from confusion (Why? and How?) to concern.  But in the end - after creating a website and teaching our parents how to Skype - everyone is supportive.

Did you speak Spanish before you left your home country?  How much Spanish?  Are you taking more Spanish lessons as you travel?  If so, where and for how long?

Our Spanish is minimal, which is why one of our top priorities was to attend immersion school in Guatemala for 10 weeks before really venturing through Central and South America.  We spent eight weeks at Corazon Maya in San Pedro La Laguna, Guatemala, which we would certainly recommend for many reasons.  After that, we did two more week at Sol Latino in Xela (Quetzaltenango), Guatemala, which we would also recommend.

Do you have a favorite place or country that you have visited during your trip?

So far, Newfoundland in Canada really blew our minds with its amazing scenery.  But we've tried to find reasons to enjoy almost every stop for what it is.  After spending a lot of time in Mexico and Guatemala, we are totally digging how different it is from what we were used to in Minnesota - the climate, the people, the attitude, the scenery, etc.

What was the weirdest thing you experienced on your trip?

It's not necessarily "weird," but we've been stunned at how frequently fellow campers have stopped by to inquire about our rooftop tent.  (More info can be found at http://apollosjourney.com/apollo/maggiolina/)

What was the worst border crossing?

We had a very stressful experience crossing the border from Mexico into Guatemala.  We decided to take our chances with a customs broker.  After a promise of one hour in-and-out, this was a three-hour ordeal in a foreign language on a day we hadn't originally planned that made us vow to never use another one again.  You can read all the gory details on our website (P.S.  If you meet a customs broker named Rigoberto, run the other way): http://apollosjourney.com/mexico/conclusion-of-first-leg-of-mexico-part-...

Do you have any advice for others who may be considering driving the Americas?

Just do it.  We spent a year-and-a-half actively planning and researching, but Erik spent more than 10 years dreaming about it.  On the other hand, many people just pick up and go and are very successful in their journey.  "What if?" is NOT a fun thing to live it.  Also, we feel that it is only fair and respectful to at least attempt to learn some of the native languages, which is why we are spending so much time in Spanish school.

Would you do it again?

Ask us again when it's over.  :)

Do you have a blog or a website describing your trip?  If so, what is its address?

http://apollosjourney.com