Before we drove from Canada to Argentina, we moved almost yearly. My husband, Richard, and I lived in three different apartments in North Vancouver, moved to Vancouver Island, back to Vancouver’s West End near Stanley Park, and eventually settled in downtown Vancouver. And by settled, I mean we spent two years there. We’ve always had a desire to explore, experience, and appreciate new things. We embrace change enthusiastically. But neither of us anticipated the decision to pack up all of our belongings, move into a 1990 Toyota pickup truck with a rooftop tent, and drive to the southernmost tip of South America.
In 2013, Richard and I were both working in Vancouver. I was a paralegal (side hustle: holistic nutritionist) and Richard was a mechanical engineering technologist (side hustle: wedding photographer). We were burning out and getting restless at the same time; something didn’t feel right. There was a sense of stagnancy and despite all of the small changes we made, nothing seemed to really shift.
In the Spring of that year, I sent Richard a text message, “We need to have a life chat.” Once assured that I didn’t want a divorce or a baby, we met at a coffee shop in Vancouver’s Kitsilano neighbourhood to discuss our future. I laid it out on the table. We were both incredibly grateful for our jobs, our apartment, our friends, and our family, but this didn’t equal happiness. It was ingrained in us that life was supposed to play out in a certain way: graduate from high school, attend college or university, start a career, buy a house, and have kids. We knew we wanted something else, but thinking outside of North American social and cultural norms isn’t easy. Regardless, we started planning our road trip to Panama. That would be the best decision we ever made.
We planned our trip and prepped our vehicle (fondly nicknamed “Little Red”) on evenings and weekends. Several months later we started our journey south. It was incredibly freeing to drive away from everything as we knew it. After a few weeks, we settled into new routines. We lived simply and we were content. Six months later we arrived in Costa Rica, where we decided to extend our trip down the Pan-American Highway to Ushuaia, Argentina. Though to continue our travels, we would need to replenish our funds. We parked Little Red in a storage facility in Costa Rica and returned to our jobs in Vancouver for a year. After saving the money we needed, we returned to the road and the long drives, and made our way through Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina, finally arriving in Ushuaia in May 2016.
Our overland journey changed us in many ways. The way we make decisions in our lives is very different. The trip also opened opportunities for us (combined with a lot of hard work, of course). Upon our return to Canada, Richard decided to take a leap and leave his stable desk job and branch out on his own as a professional photographer. Now, he has had the opportunity to work throughout North America with Toyota Canada, Dometic, and BFGoodrich. He has also focused on photography and storytelling within the realm of international off-road and rally-raid desert racing. For me, the trip provided an incredible opportunity to connect with other women in the overland community as a co-founder of Women Overlanding the World and Women Overlanding the World Retreats, where we provide guided 10-day overland adventure trips in Costa Rica. Our aim is to provide women with the chance to experience overland travel in a foreign country without having to quit their jobs and leave for months at a time. Richard and I also moved again, from the drizzly Pacific Northwest to the rocky mountains in Canmore, Alberta, where we’ve embraced the mountain town culture and jaw-dropping views.
Through my study of holistic medicine, I’ve learned about the concept of energy needing to flow freely. The belief is that when it does not, stagnation can lead to disease. Stagnancy demands change and change demands movement. Change isn’t easy or comfortable, even when you’re used to it. But it can lead to extraordinary and unexpected experiences, not to mention opportunities that you would never dream of.
Ashley Giordano grew up in Kelowna, Canada, and spent most of her time training as a competitive figure skater. She worked in Vancouver as a Paralegal for eight years while completing a Diploma in Holistic Nutrition. She is currently studying herbal medicine with a focus on women’s health.
Richard Giordano is a Canadian photographer and videographer. His talent for film and his passion for traveling on the road has led to work with companies such as Toyota Canada and BFGoodrich Tires.