Crossing Americas – starting from Canada and going through North, Central and South Americas, that’s the adventure of Latvians Peter and Dace, and… Astrid, their minivan. Started in summer of 2014 this adventure has no certain destination and timeframe. Months have passed, but from updates on their social media accounts it’s clear, that it’s just a beginning.
How it is to travel for such a long distance on a minivan? What to take in mind, when planning similar adventure? Is it very expensive? Answers on these and other questions you will find out in this interview I made just a few days ago.
– Where Are You Now? How Do You Like It There?
Baja Peninsula, Mexico. So far we love it. Friendly people, fresh food, juices and great baked goods, what to not love about that?! Of course it’s hard to be in Mexico without knowing Spanish, but we are learning and hopefully by the end of the trip we can have meaningful conversation in Spanish. :)
– How Long Did It Take for You to Fulfill This Dream?
It’s not fulfilled yet, we are only at the beginning of our adventure. :) However to get to the point where we felt comfortable about leaving our jobs and selling most of our stuff took about two years.
– Were You Thinking About Different Kind of Transportation?
We looked at SUV, and briefly talked about riding a bike, but none of those were good options for us. SUV is too small for us to sleep in and we didn’t wanted to go with roof top tent option as it wouldn’t have provide level of weather protection and security that we wanted for this trip.
Bike… well, I (Peter) have never had one and don’t have license to ride on, and again it wouldn’t provide us with all the things we wanted.
– Please, Shortly Describe Your Vehicle – Home!
I love that people always look at it as a van. For us it’s the van and our home, we call it Astrid. It’s 2004 Chevrolet Astro, All wheel drive. It has gone through quite a few upgrades, so it’s not exactly stock. These vans are known to have very reliable engine and are capable off the beaten path, exactly what we were looking for going on a trip like this.
It can take us to places where other vehicles/campers/RVs don’t even dare to go. We also bought our “to be” home more than year before departure which allowed us to put it through numerous tests and go on several mini-adventures.
Our home is equipped with a very comfortable queen size bed, double sized sleeping bag, awning that protects us from sun and rain. We also carry portable table, portable shower, stove, 11lb propane tank, heater, 40L of water, camping chairs, “kitchen in the box” with enough things to open restaurant, most of the tools for fixing our home and many, many items that you can and can’t imagine mobile house would have. :)
– How Much Does It Cost to Travel with a Minivan in the USA?
Taking all things into account, like cheap gas, cheap food (if you cook your meals) and lots of free camping options (depending where you go…) US is a country that can be traveled on budget. However most of the costs will vary from region to region and way you want to travel.
If you want to stay in hotels and eat out all the time, it will not be cheap. Being able to sleep in vehicle saves fair bit of money. Walmart’s and other big box stores do provide free overnight stay in a lot of their locations. If you want to camp, most National Forests and BLM lands in US have free dispersed camping options.
But there are regions that are expensive and not budget friendly, like California coast where they have laws that forbid sleeping in cars out of campsites etc., and yes, campsites are very expensive there. Sometimes it’s reasonable to sleep in hotel.
If you are OK with Couchsurfing that could save some money in places where camping is expensive. Regions that are more remote, like Alaska will provide lots of free camping options, but will be more expensive in terms of food and gas.
US is massive country and there are too many variables to classify it as cheap or expensive. It will depend on a route you wish to take and sacrifices you are ready to make. ;)
– What Are the Pros and Cons of Traveling by Van?
- Don’t have to get out of the vehicle to go to sleep,
- Protection from weather elements (rain, wind, snow etc.),
- Amount of storage space is unmatched by any other form of transportation.
- In our case there is no kitchen inside the van, which means we still have to get out to cook. When it’s just above freezing its quite hard… :)
- No fridge (can and possibly will be solved in near future).
– If Starting This Adventure Over Again, What Would You Change?
Add a fridge.
– Describe Your Everyday Life!
There are no ordinary days while you are on the road. Every day is different and there is not much routine really. Generally we get up, we plan the day, we adjust the plan as we go and try to enjoy every moment that is given to us.
– Are There Any Places You Certainly Want to Visit?
We would love to visit North Americas Northern Regions (Alaska, Yukon, NWT etc.), New Zealand and Eastern Russia + Mongolia is also on the list. These destinations however are not for this trip, but for the next one maybe.
– What You Would Suggest to People Currently Dreaming About Similar Adventure?
You don’t need much really, you just have to be comfortable with what you are doing and have fun. People have driven from Alaska to Argentina in 90’s VW Golf.
Go out and explore, you don’t need latest vehicle, gadget or any other thing to do it. It’s not going to be sunshine all the time, but you have to remember, enjoy every moment!
Read also: Latvian adventurers you need to know
Author: Kaspars Misins
Kaspars is a long term traveler and a travel blogger from Latvia. He loves going on long walks, reading non fiction books and spending time outdoors. Together with his girlfriend Una they have been traveling – volunteering – working abroad since 2013. On We Are From Latvia they share their experience and things learned along the way.