Overland Travelers on the PanAmericana 2023-24
About a decade ago you could probably count the number of travelers you’d meet while Overlanding the Americas on two hands. In fact, a friend recently told me that he didn’t cross paths with a single overlander until they reached South America - well over a year into their trip. Well, that’s certainly not the case today. In any given year there are well over 100 travelers driving south from somewhere in North America with the hope that they arrive in Ushuaia before returning home… or moving on to another adventure. That requires a lot more than a couple hands to keep track of…
Realizing that our memories are crap and that its going to be difficult to keep track of everyone we meet*, we thought it might be beneficial to keep a log of Pan American travelers we meet as we travel south. And, then we decided to put it up for the world to see… just in case some one is looking for a bit of inspiration before they begin their own journey.
*We obviously can’t list everyone we meet along the way so I will limit the following list to those who travel to both continents during our trip(s). Also… I’m sure I’ll forget some awesome people here and there because; well, it happens. If I do please send me a reminder.
Pan American Highway 2022-?
We’ve known these two (plus Grainger and Walker) for a while now… but first reconnected on our PanAmerican trip while in Canada’s Yukon Territory. We shared a campfire, beers, and future plans while in Whitehorse then parted ways as we drove north to Alaska and they continued south toward the Lower 48.
Fast forward a few months and we reconnected on Mexico’s Baja Peninsula. We hung out on the beach, had more beers, and some great meals. We spent quite a lot of time together (to include Christmas 2022) in Baja California Sur.
Dani and Mike are traveling in a newer Ram 3500 with a Scout Campers Kenai sitting on a well made Bowens Customs tray.
Next Meridian Expedition
We started following Nick and Mathilde’s journey pretty much as soon as they drove Albo (Their Defender 110) out of the port in Halifax, but crossed paths with them at a gas station by Walmart in Whitehorse (YT). We had just said good bye to The Mortells and were fueling up for our trip to Alaska and they’d just started their journey south from Artic.
We met up again in the Alvord Desert (Oregon) then again on a fairly remote beach in Baja. From there they really picked up the pace and left us in the dust. Which makes sense because they have a looooong way to go in just a few short years.
We’ve been following the travels of Dan, Marlene, and the kids for years… I believe since their Airstream days (or maybe when they were in the 4Wheel Camper). We finally met up in Arizona at Overland Expo and camped with them a bit in the US and in Baja California.
They’re traveling in a Mercedes Sprinter with three kids and two cats. They have a boatload of travel experience in the US and Canada, spent most of of the pandemic in a beautiful Croatian village then toured Europe before returning to the USA to prepare for an attempt at the PanAmerican Highway. They also popped over to Morocco for a bit before they got caught up in the Pandemic lockdowns… and have also visited Turkey in their 4x4 van.
We first met Alex, Ana, and Paco at Campo Archelon in Bahía De los Ángeles in Baja then camped on and off with them throughout Baja. We learned a lot about Brazil, Coffee, and watched them hit similar spots throughout Mexico and Central America at a slightly slower pace than ours.
We crossed paths with Andy and Julia in Baja, but caught up with one another in Guanajuato, Mexico. They’re traveling in an awesome Defender at a pace that pretty much left us in the dust.
Road Trippin Jimmy
We started following Sonja and Yanick’s adventure not too long after they arrived in Canada. We passed them in Baja about a half dozen times, unknowingly camped in the same campground outside of Guadalajara on the same night, and then finally met in person while visiting San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. From that point forward it feels like we bumped into them in every few weeks all the way down to Colombia.
We’ve eaten countless meals with them, saw our first sloth together in Nicaragua, and learned more than we care to know about German bread… good tea… and some excellent German slang.
They’re continuing their trip south with their adopted adventure pup Lima and should be on their way back to Germany by early 2024. And if all goes as planned we’ll probably see them yet once again as we’re touring Europe so we can try some proper German bread.
It took us a looooong time to learn how to kind of pronounce Adi and Maya’s IG handle. A really long time. Now that I type this in Colombia - I think I’m actually pretty close to nailing it every, single, time. We first met them outside of Todos Santos, Baja California Sur, Mexico a few days before Christmas 2022. Then happened to be in the same place at the same time here as we traveled through Mexico. They’re continuing south in their awesome Orange 70 Series Land Cruiser with their super sweet adopted dog Cita.
Opus on the Move
Travis and Leah are some of the most laid back, determined, and adventurous overlanders we encountered on the PanAmerican highway. Border crossings, illness, altitude, heat and humidity have little no no impact on their ability to sit back and enjoy the journey.
They’re heading south in a 4 cylinder Tacoma thats built out like the couple have been driving around the world for years. It has everything one would need… except maybe a bit more power for the steep and twisty roads common throughout Latin America.
We first met them in Oaxaca and assumed that our dissimilar timelines would mean that they would be well ahead of us before we crossed the Guatemala / Mexico border. Thankfully that wasn’t the case and we crossed paths over and over. And, actually ended up sharing a container when we shipped our vehicles to South America. We’re definitely looking forward to reconnecting once we return to the USA. Oh and they’re photos are pretty incredible! I highly recommend checking them out on IG.
Alex and Matilda
Another couple we met in Oaxaca hails from England and is traveling in a two wheel drive Toyota (they bought upon arrival in CA). Their living space is absolutely incredible. It’s a vintage Alaskan Campers pop up. Both the truck and its passengers are absolutely awesome.
They stick to the coast, surf often, and take some incredible photos. Oh and their incredible documentary style films are out of this world.
Travis and Linsay (Trav+Lin… get it) are taking it slow on the PanAmerican Highway. We met them in San Cristobal de las Casas (Chiapas, Mexico) and have kept up with their travels thanks to their growing YouTube channel.
And while most long travel, fiberglassed fendered Tacomas can be found #overlanding on the Mojave Trail, Alabama Hills, or Cars and Coffee events… this 4Wheel Campers topped Toyota is using all that travel to… well… travel, and soak up Mexico’s topes like a champ.
We first “met” Jon and Heather in Arizona east of Tucson. I say “met” because they weren’t “home” when we drove by their awesome DIY Mercedes 1120AF 4x4, but we did reach out on IG later that week. Fast forward a few years and they show up in the same Guatemalan Campsite as us… and proceed to share stories of the truck and more than two decades living aboard a sailboat.
They’ve seen a lot of the world and their stories will make you want to quit your job, buy a boat, sail around the world and DIY your own former European fire truck made expedition vehicle.
After seeing them in Guatemala we checked in to see where they were on the PanAmerican and to our surprise they took a non standard route and… according to their latest blog post they’re already in Argentina.
Hopefully we’ll cross paths with them again and catch up before we’re back in the US.
Abrace a Trip
This delightful duo from Brazil is traveling in the wrong direction. But we wont hold that against them. We met them in Antigua Guatemala and tried our best to communicate in mediocre Spanish (ours not theirs). They’re in a van heading north and everything they post on IG is in Portuguese… so just know that everything they’re saying is probably positive and happy because we’ve encountered very few people in our live that smile as much as these two.
Shelly and her awesome little pup Franklin are the first travelers we’ve seen on the trip in an Alu-Cab canopy camper like ours. We saw her in Guatemala but didn’t meet face-to-face until Costa Rica. She’s super friendly and is definitley an inspiration for anyone debating whether the trip can be completed solo.
He doesn’t have a website, a YouTube channel, or an Instagram but trust us… he should. We were continually entertained by his stories while we shipped our vehicles from Panama to Colombia. From being robbed at gunpoint in TJ, to stumbling into a Panamanian military training area, to the time a crazy guy saved the day on a 747 minutes away from takeoff. Peter’s outlook on life is pure gold. We hope to cross paths with him on the PanAmerican and back in Austria.
Thomas and Ursula
Peter’s mysterious container buddy who we didn’t meet until Colombia. They’re traveling in style. A basically new 4Runner that they bought sight unseen just before the pandemic ruined travel plans across the globe. The mod list to the 4Runner is short - a bit of essential gear and a fridge that had to be tall enough to store a bottle of Prosecco vertically. No roof tent… no traction boards… nothing that you’d see plastered to “overland” 4Runners back home. These two are driving from Alaska to Argentina staying in hotels, hostels, and AirBnBs. Every. Single. Night.
Sebastian and Diamond hopped on the Pan American in California and are driving south in their beautiful Mercedes. They crossed into mexico a couple weeks behind us but somehow managed to never be in the same place at the same time until we arrived in Panama.
Fortunately we got to spend a few days hanging out together in Barichara Colombia. They’re super nice and take some incredible photos. You should definitely have a look at their IG.
At various points on our trip people have been a little surprised that a family of three is crammed into our small Jeep / Canopy Camper. Throughout the trip we’d often follow it up with well… that’s nothing we know a family of five traveling in a Sprinter van. Which - usually surprised people and got them to move on from making subsequent comments about how tiny our home on wheels is.
Well, a few weeks after arriving in Colombia we met a family of six from the Seattle area in a 100 Series Land Cruiser. They have a nice teardrop trailer for their living space… but more than 4 humans in a 100 series over any distance is a feat that demands respect. I rode in the 3rd row of a LX470 once across town and it sucked.
They’re just starting their journey but I highly recommend that you take a look at their IG just to follow along with what might be the largest family to travel overland.
For some reason Rhuta and Zack flew under our radar for most of our time traveling the PanAmerican in North America. I blame the algorithms. They did finally catch up in Colombia and we were able to spend a few days sharing a camp outside of Barichara Colombia. They’re in a long travel tacoma with a wedge camper. Now that I think of it I need to stop joking about “overland” long travel Tacomas since I’ve now seen two of them outside the safe and calm waters of the US overland scene. Zack and Rhuta are putting a ton of time into growing a YouTube channel so if you’d be so kind please give them a like or two and hit that subscribe button.
The JS Adventures
Julie and Jeff pulled into “our” campground in Villa de Leyva, Colombia not too long they arrived in Bogota. We were pretty surprised to learn that they had flown themselves - and their DR650 motorcycles from Panama straight to Bogota instead of taking the more common Panama to Cartagena route like we did.
The Couple, a French-Canadian and an Australian, started their trip in Mexico and are riding all the way to the “end of the world.” But, this isn’t their first big road trip. Nearly a decade earlier they bought a van and spent about a year circumnavigating Australia before settling down for a bit, buying motorcycles, and learning to ride.
Ride to the Tide
We passed an incredible Green Defender 110 with an Azalai camper conversion outside of Barichara Colombia. Less than a week later while camping in Villa e Leyva with friends we heard a knock on the enormous wood gate that separated us from the gritty streets of the colonial city (just kidding… its as safe as it is touristy). Anyway, the knock at the gate continued for about 15 minutes. But we didn’t want to answer because the owner and his mother run a pretty tight ship, and we didn’t want to get in trouble for breaking some kind of security protocol. Which makes a lot more sense when you consider that every morning you’re greeted with a screen shot from the security cameras accompanied by a nice “good morning.”
Fortunately the problem resolved itself when the mother finally showed up to open the gates to, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, the green Defender 110. After a night or two in Villa de Leyva together we all made our way out to Florian to check out the well known cave / waterfall hike.
We’re definitley looking forward to visiting our new friends when we pass through Switzerland one of these days.
Before committing to the full Pan American Highway trip we spent four months traveling through Mexico in the Gladiator. Along the way we met some great people… some of which were heading all the way south. Which… probably pushed us to finally commit to the full trip.
Mako Venture Travels
We met Austin and Ashley in Colorado while they were touring the lower 48 before working their way south through Latin America. We saw them again when we traveled out to New England for some leaf peeping. And traveled off and on with them all the way from San Filipe Baja California down to Oaxaca before they continued on and we returned to the US to prepare for our trip the following year. When we arrived in Alaska in September of 2022 we reconnected in Fairbanks.
One Dog Two Wheels
Two motorcycles pulled into a windswept and dusty store on the Baja Peninsula as we were leaving (with Mako… above). “Did you see the husky on the back of that motorcycle!?!” A few days later we saw them again near Bahia de Los Angeles. Then finally met in person while in line to buy our Mexican TIPs in La Paz, BCS. From that point forward we followed their trip south on Instagram.
Mind Body Moto Girl
We met Tammy at the Baja Ferries ticket office in La Paz, gave her a spare strap for her motorcycle, and started following her slow journey south through the Americas. She really gets to a place before moving on to the next… so much so that we passed her in Panama when we shipped our Jeep to Colombia. We’re hoping to reconnect in South America when we take a page from Tammy’s playbook and slow waaaaaay down to enjoy the trip.
The Pan American Dream
We met Andy and Weedy while we were preparing to load our Jeep on to the TMC ferry that carried us from Baja to Mazatlan. We thought we had it bad breathing fumes for an evening, but these to had a far worse crossing. Parking on the boat (or lack thereof) prevented them from opening their roof tent, so they spent the night sleeping in the front seat of their 100 Series Land Cruiser - feet sticking out of the front windows. A couple days later we passed through the notorious Sinaloa checkpoint a couple hours apart (along with our other TMC buddies Mako Venture Travels and Faris and Lisa)
A Very Long Honey MoonAnouk and Raphi camped across from us at a campground in Oaxaca. They’re super nice and their Land Cruiser is super cool. Probably the thing that always comes to mind when they come up in conversation is watching them (on IG) trying to squeeze their super tall Toyota camper into a shipping container. It required custom made wooden wheels. Oh and the other one… they bought a huge piece of furniture toward the end of their trip and drove around a bit in South America with what appeared to be a full size wine barrel strapped to the back of thier rig.
Global Grey Nomads (Frank and Sharon)
We met Sharon and Frank in Baja as we were headed back to the US to get our Jeep ready for the PanAmerican Highway. We were both heading north but they were coming from South America… which was way more impressive than our quick trip down to Oaxaca and back. They have a super cool defender pop top that has hard sides. After seeing them in baja I happened to be at Overland Expo West and bumped into them again at a round table about traveling the Americas. Hopefully fate makes us cross paths again!