Names: Liz and Raul
Hometown: Lecheria / Puerto La Cruz. Venezuela
When did you start your travels?
I guess we started 32 years ago when we decided to work overseas...it has taken us through some interesting places between the US, Central and South America, the Caribbean and presently Venezuela where we seem to end up every 10 years
Reason for taking this trip
We always wanted to take a road trip from California to Argentina/Ushuaia via the Pacific coast and come back through Brazil and Venezuela via the Atlantic coast. It seems that we'll get to do the reverse with the South America leg of the trip first.
Why did you decide to drive?
Because it is about the journey not the destination. The other options such as walking or biking are not for the faint of heart. After walking part of the Camino de Santiago in Spain, we now know for a fact that we could walk across Western Europe if we wanted to. But walking or biking South America takes the kind of man I was at 17 when I arrived in San Francisco, Calif. alone and armed only with a Spanish English dictionary donated to me by a motherly flight attendant on my very first Pan Am flight.
Are you also taking along pets?
We seriously considered taking Sofy, our petite canine daughter, but the image of a big Brazilian paramilitary cop in Rio saying, "Sorry, but your doggy can't come up and see the man on the hill" deterred us from this idea. So she will be taking a long vacation with her "cousins" in the beautiful town of Merida located in the Venezuelan Andes and it will be less stressful for all of us. I was truly hoping that she could get a taste of other cops all over South America....."So sorry officer, I told you not put your hand inside the car!" We will miss her, and her little teeth too.
Are you also taking along children?
Our youngest one is 23 and, although a world traveler and a citizen of the world as most expat children seem to grow up to be, she still asks...Are we there yet? So... sorry Nati.....good bye! see you in California next year
What type of car are you driving?
When we came back to Venezuela from Florida we brought our Chevy Suburban bought brand new in 1994 and which I knew could take us across South America and back to the US......of course that was 200,000 miles ago and gas was considerably cheaper at US$ 20 a barrel of oil. Now we will have to drive slower, safer and in straight lines to save gas and $$$....we are also taking our bikes and are planning to put them to good use in every town we stop at. It will be great exercise, save big money, and the coolest thing is that we can tell every one that we are reducing our carbon foot print !!!!
Did you make any modifications to your car for this trip?
Over the years we have only added a heavy duty suspension to the Suburban. The fact that the engine and the body are still in great shape attests to the durability of the made in the US vehicle. For this trip we had all the back seats taken out and an old friend built us a wood platform that we can use for our full-size mattress on top and bins underneath. We also bought an extension tent in the US that attaches to the open back of the truck adding a little more space for camping when possible.
How did you save up or finance your trip?
We'll be working for food, singing and dancing for coins etc. Hey...just kidding, Liz and I have raised 4 excellent, independent, world class citizens, and we have been saving over the years for this trip. We are also using Nati's college funds ... oops
How long do you plan on traveling?
We left Puerto La Cruz in Venezuela Sept. 9th and we are currently in Manaus Brazil waiting to transport ourselves and our vehicle down the Amazon to the city of Belem.
We are giving ourselves 6 months to do the whole Venezuela to Argentina via Atlantic coast and back via Pacific one...but we know well that only the Lord knows when we will be leaving and coming back and we are content to follow in His lead. See Psalm 118.8
What were your family’s and friends’ reactions when you told them about your trip before you left?
Over 30 years ago their reactions were......Did you say you are going to live in the jungles of South America? Are you on medication or something? Now it is....Can we meet with you in Rio, Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires, Lima etc? and we say no thanks, all great cities, ....but we'd rather meet you on any of the beautiful beaches of northeastern Brazil, or the Foz da Iguazu, or any of the national parks or estancias of Uruguay, or the glasiers and pampas of Argentina and Chile, in Cuzco or Baños, That is where you can feel and see the soul of these countries. You want to meet in a city?....no Thanks!
Did you speak Spanish before you left your home country?
I was born in Venezuela and Liz, although born in the US, has learned Spanish over the years. We are committed to learning proper Portugues / Brasileiro , although we can all get along in Portuñol, which is a mixing of Spanish and Portuguese. But nothing can replace the great feeling we get when we hear travelers trying to communicate in the language of the country they are visiting. Remember, by speaking louder in English, you will only succeed in locals believing that you are the one on medication or something!!! I am not trying to single US or Canadian people, I have seen Europeans using good English as weapons too....just don't do it.
Do you have any advice for others who may be considering driving the Americas?
Please learn as much Spanish or Portuguese as you can before leaving your country.......you will be surprised how many times you misunderstand the people, the events, the facts and actually completely miss a positive experience and make it into a negative one. Communicating does not require a huge vocabulary - please, thank you, hello, good bye, good morning......yes, no. In general the important words that your parents taught you as a baby and the attitude with the smile are a guaranty that you will travel safely through the Americas and back. Besides that, I would recommend as required reading the travel blogs www.whiteacorn.com and www.travelin-tortuga.com as examples of a traveler vs. a tourist. Both these couples are my personal heroes. For the younger perspective on Traveling the Americas you may want to follow the young couple at A Siena Down South (www.jimandji.blogspot.com) - I do....
Finally and not to sound preachy you should know that more and more countries in the Americas are becoming politically socialist/leftist. Nicaragua, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru as of this year's elections. Do not get drawn into a confrontation over who is an American. Please know that we Latin Americans are taught in School that America is one continent, from the most northern point of Canada to the most Southern point of Argentina. By that definition all of us, North, Central and South Americans are AMERICANS. Understanding this could literally save your life in a highly politically charged environment.
Would you do it again?
We are hoping that this drive through South America could lead eventually into a trip all the way to Alaska...so yes we would do it again!!
Do you have a blog or a website describing your trip? If so, what is its address?
Our blog is www.lizyraul.wordpress.com.