Reflections: One year on the road, a new continent, an ever changing outlook

End of July 2014, Jenine and I left San Francisco in a rental camper van (we wouldn’t get Titus until September) heading north to Canada to start our Pan American adventure together.

It felt like an easy decision to do this at the time. We were ready to try something new. Life was moving quickly, and it felt like if we didn’t take a step back to explore what’s outside of SF and inside ourselves, life was going to keep rushing us forward in a path that we’ve never really questioned. Everything probably would have been great. We both had good jobs, amazing friends and a comfortable life in one of the best cities in the world. But we wanted a family soon and if we didn’t take some time to reflect on what else we wanted in life long term, we would have followed the logical next steps: buying a house, focusing on getting more responsibility in our careers and figuring out how to raise a family in the one of the most expensive cities in the world.

Instead, we sold everything and left in a van. One year later we’ve driven nearly 20K miles through Canada, Mexico and Central America, and today we are in Colombia, our favorite country of our trip. That’s not to say we haven’t made a big sacrifice and added a huge degree of uncertainty to our lives. We’ve set ourselves back in lost wages, savings and expenses like our fancy van. We are unsure what our career prospects be like once we return to work; will a company like Google be keen to hire me again? Or maybe it’s time we start our own business. We don’t know where we are going to live next year and housing prices in San Francisco increased 30% last year. But even with all this uncertainty, we are happy today, we trust in our abilities (a confidence that has grown on the road), and know that everything will work itself out.

IMG_1137.jpg

Enjoying another sunset together in Colombia

Over the past year we’ve gotten to know 7 new countries. We’ve faced our fears about travel to unknown places and really learned how cool it is to thrive in uncertainty (like where are we gonna sleep tonight?).

We’ve done some cool things along the way. Jenine is now a certified Yoga instructor, I’ve gone from a fairly novice surfer, to someone who has fun in overhead waves and most importantly I hope I’ll be surfing until the day I die (logged hundreds of hours so far at over 45 different breaks from Canada to Colombia – data thanks to my surfing journal). We’ve done over 200 hours of Spanish lessons and we can speak reasonably well. We’ve done stunning hikes and seen more beaches that look like postcards than we can count. We’ve kept up this blog, and Jenine is getting better at photography.

IMG_1119.JPG

One of the main swimming beaches in Tayrona national park

IMG_4715.JPG

Yoga time?

We feel healthier than ever. We consume and spend WAY less (our budget is 15% of what we spent living in SF and we rarely buy new things – we found that we don’t need much “stuff” to be happy). We sleep well and meditate every morning. Jenine makes sure we eat better in the van than any restaurant I’ve been too. I drink a fraction of the alcohol I used to and we go to bed almost every night before 11pm. Jenine and I are closer than ever, and we discuss things that we’ve never talked about in the 8+ years we’ve been together. We still have our fights and annoy each other at times, but we have learned more about each other and we appreciate each other’s strengths more than ever. I’m the hyper, plan-changing dreamer, Jenine gets the details right to make sure we make it:)

We have a lot of time to reflect and consider what’s next for us. And for right now, what’s next is exploring South America which we already know we are going to love. In 6-8 months maybe we’ll be back in SF looking for work and a new house, but by then we’ll have accomplished things that we might never have taken time to do. Or maybe we’ll find a place where we can carve out a life for ourselves here in South America. Either way, we are very grateful we get to be on this journey together.

———–

Back to Colombia, the country we already love so much! After getting our truck out of shipping, we headed north along the Caribbean coast to find some excellent beach camping and chill surfing. We had a week to kill before our friend Johnny came to visit us (next post), and we found the perfect place to call home; CasaGrande Surf camp outside of Santa Marta.

IMG_1093.JPG

Our perfect beach campsite for the week @ CasaGrande Surf near Santa Marta

IMG_1094.JPG

Beach camping Caribbean coast

The camp is run by another George, who’s son is a promising young Colombian surfer, and he found us a wonderful camp site on the beach. Additionally, we got our first experience of how amazing the people of Colombia are. All day people would come over to talk to us, to welcome us to their country, and to ask us questions and to give us advice. We’ve never experienced hospitality like that anywhere, and it would continue throughout our trip.

IMG_1495.jpg

All day long at our camp site, interested folks would come by to talk to us about our Rig and our trip. It was great for our Spanish

Besides the great beach camping. We did two awesome hikes into Tayrona National park and one up a beautiful waterfall behind our camp.

IMG_1101.JPG

Tayrona National park start of the hike

IMG_1122.jpg

The water was crystal clear in Tayrona park. Great for swimming and relaxing

IMG_1126.jpg

If you get here early enough, you can reserve on of these hammocks to stay the night in

IMG_1461.JPG

And this is the view from the hammocks

IMG_4703.JPG

Relaxing after hiking up the waterfalls in Colombia's Sierra Nevada

Here’s to another year, exploring South America. So far Colombia has energized us, and we are more excited than ever to keep on truckin!

IMG_1468.JPG

Tayrona park

IMG_1093.JPG

Our perfect beach campsite for the week @ CasaGrande Surf near Santa Marta

IMG_1094.JPG

Beach camping Caribbean coast

IMG_1096.JPG

After spending nearly 3 weeks shipping our rig, a week on the beach was the perfect reset

IMG_1099.JPG

CasaGrande Surf - one of our favorite places to camp and surf

IMG_1100.JPG

On the Caribbean coasts sits Tayrona National park, which is home to beautiful beaches

IMG_1101.JPG

Tayrona National park start of the hike

IMG_1107.JPG

Jenine heading across a long stretch of beach in Tayrona

IMG_1113.JPG
IMG_1114.JPG

Crystal clear water in Tayrona

IMG_1119.JPG

One of the main swimming beaches in Tayrona national park

IMG_1122.jpg

The water was crystal clear in Tayrona park. Great for swimming and relaxing

IMG_1123.JPG

View from above in-between the two most popular Tayrona beaches

IMG_1126.jpg

If you get here early enough, you can reserve on of these hammocks to stay the night in

IMG_1461.JPG

And this is the view from the hammocks

IMG_1464.JPG

View from the camping hammocks

IMG_1468.JPG

Tayrona park

IMG_4693.JPG

At our campsite, we could even order delicious meals delivered to the van. The coconut rice was one of the best things we've ever had

IMG_1470.JPG

Camping hammocks + view, Tayrona park

IMG_1137.jpg

Every night at sunset we pulled up chairs to the shore and enjoyed the dusk

IMG_1146.JPG

Dusk at CasaGrande Surf camp near Tayrona

IMG_4695.JPG

Start of the hike to the waterfall hike in Santa Marta

IMG_4696.jpg

Our map leading to the waterfall

IMG_4697.JPG

Hiking in Santa Marta

IMG_4700.JPG

When we found the waterfall, there was a group snorkeling here. Apparently, they were looking for some money that their tour had planted there

IMG_4701.JPG

Hiking through the waterfalls in Santa Marta

IMG_4702.JPG

Santa Marta

IMG_4703.JPG

Relaxing after hiking up the waterfalls in Santa Marta

IMG_4707.JPG

Jenine resting by the falls

IMG_4712.JPG

Jenine standing tall amongst the rocks in near Santa Marta

IMG_4713.JPG

Landscapes like this are found everywhere in Colombia

IMG_4715.JPG

Yoga time?

IMG_1495.jpg

All day long at our camp site, interested folks would come by to talk to us about our Rig and our trip. It was great for our Spanish

Posted in Colombia Tagged with: , , ,
16 comments on “Reflections: One year on the road, a new continent, an ever changing outlook
  1. jared zlotnick says:

    goosebumps reading this… and so in awe of you two.

  2. Cheers to one year, yay!!

    • George says:

      We are following the progress of the VW conversion. What an amazing project. We hope to see you on the road again!

  3. brendon kraham says:

    Amazing that you guys have been on the road for a year, time has flown from this perspective. Three things: 1) keep reporting, love all your updates, 2) George, you’ll always have a gig waiting for you at the Goog if you wanted it, 3) My aunt (Dad’s brothers wife) is Colombian and when I was a little baby, my whole family vacationed in Santa Marta, and have old school 8mm videos of their time there. Cool to see you guys there!

    And Allison says hi, and ditto to #1.

  4. Karie says:

    It’s a great reflection on all that you accomplished in one year. We are meeting lots of Americans and Europeans settling in Ecuador for a new way of life. Young and old. Many families too. So there IS something to look forward to after the GREAT Colombia.

    • George says:

      Great to hear Karie! Colombia stole our hearts, but good to know there is still a lot to look forward too!

  5. Very well written George. It is so refreshing to read your reflection on your trip with Jenine. I’m glad to see both of you are finding out what is truly important in life and are getting the opportunity to experience it at your age. Most people either never take the opportunity or never decide to take the chance. You two have done both and are realizing the impact it makes on your outlook on life. Never stop pursuing your dreams. You both have so much to offer the world in ways you are now only realizing. I believe too many people get caught up in the hustle and bustle, materialistic world of always having to have the next thing, never thinking why. Continue to enjoy your journey. Patty and I can’t wait to sit down one day with both of you and discuss all you have learned!!

    • George says:

      Thanks Jim, we are looking forward to when we get to catch up with you and Patty too! Thanks for all the encouragement

      • Sylvia Loran says:

        So happy that you two are living your dream, and exploring the most important part of the world- insight into your souls. I’m so glad you can appreciate that what matters in life is not the job, the fancy home, or possessions. What matters is the connection between you, and the ability to really breathe and take life in in all its glory. Bravo to you for having the guts to embark on your journey.

        • Joe and Pam Lara says:

          George and Jenine what a wonderful appreciation of life you have shown us through all you blog’s. Truly you both took a leap of faith and are achieving your dreams. The world is like a book and your Meredith book is going have so many chapters on love, life challenges, and wonderful experiences. You and Jenine are going to have so many stories to tell your children, family, and friends. Once you have your family, I think traveling is in your DNA for you both  and you will be teaching them … this world, for the most part is BEAUTIFUL as you have shown us in the gorgeous pictures, and people can be kind and helpful. Keep up the great job of living your dreams and know you both are only getting stronger together!!!

  6. Hey George and Jenine,
    It’s Pat from Shipwrecks in Baja. The surf journal/Wavelog guy. I am so stoked for you. Like I told you before I did your whole trip,in thirty pieces and Wished to do it all again like you guys have done but I have watched the last 11 months with total envy. It is so true what you guys mentioned about your eating drinking and the need for “things”. Something else I will mention is the idea of learning more about where you are from from traveling. You barely get know the places you pass through. It truly takes living for years to understand a place and be fully accepted. But when you get back to where you are from you will really notice things good and bad and in way your trip will continue for long after. Two books I can suggest that deal with this crazy travel thing are “Barbarian Days” by William Finnegan,which follows the life of a committed surfer and debates how worth it I’ll is in the end. Also “The Saddest Pleasure” by Morris Thomz. As u make your way into Ecuador,Peru Chile and Argentina. I remind you at this time of year in Ecuador the Surf is better in the southern half. If you were in Ecuador for winter and NW swells you would want to visit mompiche and Mantta. Pure uncrowded paradise but dec-March. MomPiche is still super cool just without waves. Peru the food rocks. The left point breaks abound. It is the season too. Take your pick George. Pacasamayo is super serious pimentel is a little less serious. Chicama is mind blowing but I heard getting crowded. Chilean wine and the surf town of pichelemu. Argentinian night life and food. Lastly if I remember you will not make it to Brazil. It is truly another trip and so mind blowing and hard to explain. You should plan to go on your next trip because it is truly another form of Latin America. Any way be safe and I thank you again because each new post has allowed me to escape Los Angeles for a moment or two
    Pat

    • Jenine says:

      Thanks Pat! Your advice when we crossed the border on trusting people and that people are generally “good” has served us well, and we will definitely be adding those books to our reading list! Hope all is well in LA and at shipwrecks

  7. Jane Meredith says:

    Very nice piece. xo

  8. Rhonda says:

    Congrats to 1 year on the road! We depart in December for our own drive down the PanAm and are excited beyond words. Having previously taken a 14mth backpacking trip round the world, I wholeheartedly agree with all you said. Life on the road truly makes you understand what you really need, and what is truly important. Happy travels going forward and I will just say, whether you end up back in the 9-5 for good,or, like us, just save money to leave again, your life will be intrinsically changed by this adventure.