Backpacking South America

Backpacking vs. Campervan

For 2.5 years we wandered around Central and South America with a 40-liter backpack for me and a 50-liter backpack for Trin. After traveling all the way down to Antarctica we came “home” for a four-month visit.

It has been a wonderful and relaxing four months reuniting with friends and family. For the next leg of our journey we have twice the amount of luggage and we are changing up our mode of transportation. Here is why.

But first…

Why we chose backpacking to explore South America

In Central and South America we purposely traveled as light as possible to make it easy to move around utilizing public transportation. We decided against taking a vehicle for multiple reasons.

  • Safety: A vehicle would make us a target in many of the places we explored. It would not have been a good idea to drive a car into the Favela in Rio de Janeiro where we accidentally ended up in
  • Simplicity: We would have been limited to only lodging that offers parking, and most border crossings were quite simple when just walking across. We had no car for something to break on and moving from place to place with just a backpack was pretty easy in Latin America.
Walking to the Bolivia border, how to travel to Bolivia
Walking to the Bolivia border was simple with just a backpack each (and stopping at the consulate in Peru first for a visa)
  • Convenience: Public transportation in Central and South America is convenient. Just about anywhere we wanted to go had public transportation available. We never had to find parking or storage for our longer treks.
  • Expense: Public transportation in Central and South America is inexpensive. Usually the bus fare was cheaper than gasoline. Car expenses like repairs and insurance could also be avoided.

We are very happy with our choice to travel light on public transportation for the last few years. The chicken bus of Nicaragua and the ride on a truck bed in Colombia were an adventure for us. Further south we found the buses in Argentina to be luxurious and we never had to worry about directions or finding gasoline. But we are ready for a change.

We will be making a stop in the Philippines for a family reunion on Trin’s side then we head off directly to our planned next continent of Australia! Of course, since we are stopping in the Philippines we might as well explore it while we are there.

Walking the railroad to Machu Picchu, how to travel South America
Walking the railroad to Aguas Calientes at the base of Machu Picchu. No worries about finding a place to store the car or for its safety.

What stays the same

Slow travel has a sustainable cadence for us. We stop when we get exhausted and do house sits. We also stop in any town along the way that looks interesting and sometimes stay a while.

Slow travel is not like a vacation. When we were in the corporate world we would plan a two-week vacation and try to fit in everything we could. It was fun, but exhausting. Many people we talk to think of travel only with the frantic vacation style in mind. Slow travel is much more different and done as a simple lifestyle with all the frantic timelines left behind. This is the part we do not plan to change.

Copacabana Bolivia Tourism
Looking over Lake Titicaca into Peru from our first stop in Bolivia where we eventually toured the Bolivia Salt Flats

Stopping in many towns along the route to each destination gives us a good feel for each country.

Cha-Cha-Cha Changes

More luggage

We will be traveling the next few years a bit differently and it will “require” more toys. These toys include long swimming fins with a dry snorkel and an anti-splash tube, a 2-person sleeping bag, with Big Agnes Air Core Ultra Sleeping Pad (ours is a clear mattress blow up that rolls up to the size of a large burrito, but they don’t make them anymore), REI quarter dome tent, camping stove and other camping supplies.

Camper Van Life

The mode of transportation will be a huge change for us in Australia. We plan to purchase a 4WD camper van to explore the continent of Australia for a year.

Update: After arriving in Australia we decided to purchase a 1992 converted Toyota Coaster. We named her Lil’ Beaut and she has been a joy to live in while exploring the continent down under. AND might I add living in her during a pandemic!

Reasons for the change

  • Access – Public transportation in Australia will not take us deep into the Outback and allow us to explore it as we want.
  • Convenience – It will be nice to take a break from backpacking and carrying all our possessions everywhere on our backs.
  • Expense – The camper van will serve as lodging. Accommodation is expensive in Australia so this will be a huge cost savings. Having our own wheels will also in the long run be cheaper than taking public transportation everywhere.

We look forward to this next leg of our adventure. A huge thanks to our followers you are such an encouragement to us.

What changes have you considered that might free up a door of opportunity for you?

10 thoughts on “Backpacking vs. Campervan”

  1. So excited to see your next adventures. I feel like your followers are joining you vicariously as my anxiety wouldn’t allow me to be as relaxed to live a lifestyle like yourselves.

    I remember talking to a young child that was studying Antarctica and I said, “there are so many penguins there!” The child, a little perplexed asked how I knew. I showed this inquisitive boy (age 5) your blog. I think his eyeballs were going to fall out of his head.

    The cutest part asked when you’re going to visit Santa at the North Pole, and could I possibly email you his list as he’s been very good this year. LOL! So, your newest 5-year old fan wants you to visit Santa (of course, after this next stint). Just a friendly request…

    Safe travels and enjoy your next journey!

    1. That is the sweetest request. If I go I’ll definitely take his list for Santa.

      I was just thinking of you the other day. Years ago when planning an offsite for Sarah she asked me to order nice polo shirt for everyone. I anxiously called you for help because I haven’t a clue about where to get what she would consider nice polos. You calmly said, “Oh, I’ll take care of that.” I was so relived. It’s funny how we are all relaxed about totally different things 🙂 I’m still clueless in a mall, so I just avoid them.

  2. thedragonsonfire

    Safe journeys down to Australia. Looking forward to following your adventures more. We were down in Sydney and Tasmania back in February. We were only in Tasmania for 3 days but could have spent weeks there. There is so much packed into that small island.

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