Richard and Ashley Giordano spent 18 months traversing the U.S., Mexico, and Central and South America living out of their 1990 Toyota pickup. They started out with very little plan or preparation, but chased good weather wherever they went, in search of unbeatable landscapes. See more breathtaking images of their life on the road @desktoglory and hear more about their cross-country and cross-continental journey below.
Year, make, and model of your truck?
Richard: “1990 Toyota pickup. This was pre-Tacoma.”
How long were you on the road?
R: “We traveled throughout the U.S., Mexico, and Central and South America over 18 months total.”
When did you first become interested in traveling full time?
Ashley: “I was working as a paralegal and trying to start a nutrition business on the side. We were living in downtown Vancouver and both had full-time jobs. We got to the point where we thought, ‘This is enough.’ We were burnt out.
Richard had been following a few blogs that highlighted couples that had driven down to South America in [Toyota] 4Runners and Land Cruisers. We needed a big change– in our lives and needed to shake things up. The idea kind of just popped into his brain. We knew we wanted to travel, and this way, we could be independent, and it meant we didn’t have to fly anywhere.”
R: “We didn’t think too much about it. We didn’t dive into the details, we jumped into it with both feet. We took off about 4 months later.”
What did you do to modify it?
R: “The truck has been in the family business, and it was run into the ground. It was in my dad’s backyard with all flat tires. But it still ran. I was able to get it for next to nothing and spent the money on brakes and suspension, wheels and tires, and built it out with rooftop tent, basic solar panels, and a fridge.”
Why did you choose a truck as opposed to another setup?
R: “Everyone I followed was sleeping in the back of their 4Runner, so I didn’t know there was another way.”
What was it like traveling and living in a such small space?
R: “There were pros and cons, I guess. We chased the [good] weather down the entire way intentionally—I can’t think of a day we were stuck inside the truck.”
A: “We didn’t know any better, so we didn’t really know what we were missing. We didn’t stay in the tent the entire time; sometimes we stayed in hostels and took some breaks when we needed to.”
Did you have a well-defined plan?
R: “The original plan was to go to Panama and back, but at that time we didn’t know how to ship the vehicle. So we went to Mexico for about four months, and we kept talking to people going into and coming from South America. They said it was something we should look into, so we found a place in Costa Rica to store the truck, parked it there and flew home to Vancouver. We rented a 400-square-foot apartment, went back to our jobs, and saved money for a year. Then, we flew back down to do it.”
Were you able to work on the road?
R: “I didn’t work on the road. Now, all the work I do is remote or freelance. That’s something I learned from the road: The ability to have the freedom, to be able to work from home or the road and have the flexibility, is something I really cherished on the trip. I’ve brought that into my life now.”
A: “We put a good amount of work into our blog and Instagram. The landscapes made it easy, and it kept us feeling like we were contributing to society and not just wandering around.”
What’s the most scenic place you saw on your journey?
R: “I loved [the] Cordillera Blanca [range] in Peru. That whole mountain range has glacial blue waters, and it was scenic wherever we went. We also spent a lot of time near Huaraz, Peru. It was kind of neat with the little Peruvian towns and markets, and then you head to the mountains and there are so few people. There were epic landscapes every day. For diversity of landscapes, my favorite was Bolivia, which was mind-blowing. You have the crazy busy city of La Paz, and then you get down to the salt flats, and it’s just white everywhere.”
A: “It kind of looked like Mars almost, and then there are these red and turquoise lakes. It was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been.”
Biggest challenge you faced?
R: “There weren’t very many challenges that really affected us because we were always in an epic landscape. No matter where we were, there was a quirky issue. Like in Bolivia, it was much more expensive to buy fuel as a foreigner than as a local. Some places wouldn’t sell it to you at all. You just learn to roll with it.”
A: “It’s funny how it’s so different living on the road in terms of what you have to deal with. You have to figure out where you’re going to camp and get fuel and how you’re going to spend your days. At home, most of those things are laid out really easily for you. We just kind of melded into what we needed to do.”
Can you walk us through a typical day on the road?
R: “Because we were in a rooftop tent, it was a little bit of a longer start in the morning. We would wake up and set up camp (our stove), have breakfast, do dishes, put everything away, and hit the road. Ashley did a really great job of researching the next place we were going to be and planning what we would do 3 days or a week in advance. What was around [our next destination] determined how long we stayed and what we did.”
How do you afford to live on the road?
R: “Before we went on the trip, we would spend every dollar we made. We didn’t have any savings, but we would do things all the time. We went on our trip and didn’t have income for the first time, and had to write down every single thing we spent money on. Once we started doing that, it was really obvious what we spent our money on.”
A: “We’re the worst people to ask about that. We dug into our line of credit substantially for it, which was worth every penny. We saved a lot the year we came back home. You view money differently, and for us it was about experiences, and putting it toward experiences and not things.”
Any advice for someone interested in doing what you’ve done?
R: “The thing that worked for us was not thinking about it too much. We didn’t do too much research; we adapted along the way and it was great. We met other people who have tried out three different vehicles without going anywhere because they didn’t know if it was the perfect fit. We thought, ‘Let’s get what we can get and leave.’”
A: “It’s hard to say whether prepping in advance is going to benefit you. We had only camped [in the truck] for one week before we left on the trip, so we always tell people to go for a week, then two, then three. Then you’ll know if you’re comfortable. For us, it was nice to rip the Band-Aid off. Just go do it. It was the best thing we’ve ever done.”
Rapid Fire Q&A
R: “Guanajuato, Mexico”
A: “Buenos Aires, Argentina”
Best way to end the day?
R: “I’m excited for bed already!”
A: “A beautiful sunset.”
Podcasts or playlists?
Best way to de-stress?
R: “Run or hike”
A: “Read a book, or go for a run or hike”
Favorite genre of music?
R: “I really like Drake right now—he’s his own genre.”
A: “I don’t have a favorite; my music is all over the place.”
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