We never originally planned to pass through Chaco, Argentina and Borja, Paraguay on our overland trip from Buenos Aires to Montana, but after spending a month in the altiplano at 10,000 feet above sea level waiting for our truck to be repaired we did a lot of soul searching about our trip and decided to a) get rid of the camper trailer so we could have more freedom and flexibility in our explorations, and b) take it a little slower and visit friends along the way. Up until that point we were pretty much rushing through Argentina and Chile, spending 1-3 days in each location and were feeling really road-worn.
It was actually Lorraine Chittock – a fellow former and future overland traveler who we visited on the Chilean coast – who made us realize we were going too fast. We connected with Lorraine via some Facebook traveler groups we are in, and she graciously invited us to her home overlooking the sea. Lorraine is someone I would consider to be a true explorer, having lived and traveled throughout Africa as well as North and South America, doing it all solo – well, not exactly. She never seems to be without a trusty canine friend or two! We had a lovely afternoon sipping fine American brew (Budweiser) and sharing our rare culinary finds (Tostitos salsa in a jar, oh god yeah) and chatting about life on the road. When Lorraine asked us how long we had been travelling and how far we had come, she seemed surprised that we had come so far in so little time. “How long do you normally stay in a particular place?” I asked. “At least a week – maybe a month!” she responded. “It’s not a race!”
Her words really stuck with me, and as we reimagined our trip we decided to act less like tourists – targeting the popular destinations like Salar de Uyuni and Maccu Pichu where we would be lost in a sea of backpackers and off-the-beaten path vacationers – and more like explorers. Since then some of our best times have been spent in small towns that see little to no tourism, where we have had the opportunity to live and learn from locals. A large part of this has to do with the fact that we are travelling with our two little ones, which inherently makes our trip different from the typical overlander’s adventure. Rather than scaling mountains and descending into mine shafts, we are learning new ways to cook, to conserve water, to recycle and use everything that is available in a place, to eat local. We are learning new games and songs and stories and how to be a family and to slow down and to breathe.
The hardest part though is when it comes time to say goodbye, because we know we may never be able to return to the wonderful people and places we are visiting again. It’s especially hard to explain to Eva, with her big innocent eyes, that we are leaving and we won’t be coming back for a long time. “Why?” she always says. “Because we are traveling. Isn’t it fun to see new places and meet even more wonderful people?” I always respond. “But I want to see my friends.” And so it is with a heavy heart that we always leave a place; but as the road opens up before us the adventure begins again, and our hearts are made bigger as we hold the love in our hearts for all the amazing people and places we have been blessed to know on our journey.