It’s been over 6 months since we left the US for our adventure south through Mexico, Central America, and South America. We just left Guatemala and are writing you from the 43rd country that our family has driven to overland… BELIZE! We’ve never seen the Caribbean Sea before so it’s been a real treat to get to experience this beautiful tropical country.
But wait a second!?! Didn’t we say a few months back that we were going to skip Belize and the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico because of the extreme heat and humidity this time of year? Yeah about that… we decided to take a “summer vacation”.
When we were abroad in Europe for almost 4 years, we didn’t fly back to the US at all. But this leg of our journey will be a bit different. We knew we had to fly back to the US to celebrate my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary in the summer and our initial plan was to drive to Costa Rica or Panama and fly from there. But when we started to look into the details of leaving the van, the cost of airfare, dealing with non-direct flights, suspending temporary import permits, dealing with tourist visas, finding a cat sitter (for two cats that are terrified of other people, not to mention the cost of that)… it was getting very complex and costly for us. And then while talking to other travelers (mostly Europeans) who are also leaving for the summer, they mentioned that they were leaving their rigs in Cancun and flying “home” from there.
A quick search online made our decision clear as day. It was easier to leave from Cancun on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. The flights are direct and more affordable, and van storage is cheap and easy. And as US tourists, we get to stay in Mexico for 6 months and so does our vehicle. And no rushing around a new country to figure this all out. Mexico is familiar to us.
And on top of it all, we decided to bring the cats with us. I think overall the cats will less stressed and happier with a 5-hour flight versus 3 weeks with strangers. And leaving Mexico requires no extra paperwork or approvals for them to fly. Just have to add on an extra fee of $500 roundtrip for them to sit near our feet. Ouch.
So our plan is to fly to the States in mid-June and stay for just under 3 months, skipping all of the extreme summer heat that Central America brings and enjoying the extreme summer heat in the western US instead.
Since we are not on a trip with a start and end date, we have the flexibility to pivot when needed. Instead of dealing with the stress of flying out of Costa Rica/Panama, we are driving north back to Mexico. The girls are really excited about this pivot as well. They are really into K-Pop music for the past few years and have been watching tour dates that never seem to line up with the areas we are traveling in. It’s been hard for them to see their friends enjoy concerts so as soon as they heard us talking about flying back for the summer, they had a tour page up and were ready to spend their saved-up “fun” money on their very first concert. And for the icing on the cake, their best friend is flying to California to go with them. I think that all happened hours after booking our flights. They are very excited to not miss out on something very important to them. And I’m so happy we have found a way to incorporate everyone’s needs into our adventurous lifestyle.
Our Summer Rig
Three months away from our home on wheels is a long time. Living stationary during that time is not an ideal option for our wandering family. We thought long and hard about what the ideal set-up would be for our summer stint stateside and our very first choice was to reach out to the team at Four Wheel Campers.
For those of new-ish around here, our family of five started living on the road in an Airstream back in 2008. After a life-changing summer of 2015 to visit our 49th continental state of Alaska, we took that trailer where we really shouldn’t have and realized that our home on wheels was holding us back. To push further, we needed a smaller and more capable set-up. So in that October, we ordered our FWC Grandby camper and moved in 2 months later to begin our international adventures. That truck took us all over Mexico and through the Canadian Maritimes as well as Newfoundland and Labrador.
A lot of people doubted our decision to fit our family of five in such a small space but it was the right decision for us. I remember being at our first beachfront spot in Baja with our new camper and how we all immediately felt at home in it. It surprised us all how quickly we adapted.
And now we have come full circle and are excited once again to share that the kind folks at Four Wheel Campers are letting us borrow a FWC Grandby flatbed for our summer back in the US. WOOHOO! Forever grateful to a company that supports families who travel! Can’t wait to explore again with a more off-road capable truck.
Overland Expo PNW and FWC Owners’ Rally
While in the US, we will take our loaner camper on adventures around the western US. We don’t have an exact route planned yet but I’m guessing we will be around California and Oregon for a large chunk of that time. If any of you are in those areas and want to camp together, let us know. We love meeting up with new and old friends.
After we pick up the FWC, we will be attending the FWC Owners’ Rally and Campout on June 23-25 in Grass Valley, California. Hope to see some of there.
And… we will be teaching and attending Overland Expo PNW on July 7-9, 2023 in Redmond, Oregon. Dan and I will be teaching a few classes on DIY Solar and Batteries and How to Overland Europe, Overlanding with Kids, on top of sitting on a few panels too. And as a bonus, the kids will be sharing their own stories about growing up on the road! I’m so excited to see them work together on a presentation. It will be a first for them!
In Other News
Besides all the fun and exciting things over the summer, we are working on keeping our Mali Mish vlog up to date. Dan has been working hard on making our travel videos on YouTube and would appreciate some love over there.
We are also ramping up our educational content again on FreelyRoaming. Over on the blog, you can read posts on border crossings, vanlife with cats, exploring Europe with a US-plated vehicle, etc. Over on YouTube, you can find all sorts of videos on DIY lithium batteries, solar and battery banks. We are working on more travel-related content right now as well so expect things about overlanding Baja very soon.
And that’s all for today’s newsletter. Hope you enjoyed the update on what’s been going on and the peek at what’s next. Once we are back from our summer trip, we will continue our way south to Guatemala once again and beyond.
Thanks for reading,
Marlene (and the rest of the Mali Mish crew)
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