Members Trips

stories from the World


north to south america
the ultimate guide

by Kristin & Chris

july - september 2008 driving across the united states

Leaving our home in San Francisco, CA on July 4 marked a unique Independence Day for us. While we did plan on visiting some of the amazing natural wonders the US offers, our main goal for driving around the US was to visit as many friends and family as we could. We headed across the flat plains of Nevada to the amazing Rockies of Utah and Colorado before entering farm country in the midwest. After driving through the cornfields of Nebraska and South Dakota we spent time with our grandparents, siblings, nieces, nephews and cousins in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Missouri. We then headed for the East Coast, spending a couple of days as tourists in New York City before visiting more family in Boston. Finally we headed south to Florida for the last round of relatives and then into the great unknown of Mexico.

september - november 2008 mexico

While we were initially nervous about driving into the unknown of Mexico, we quickly fell in love with the beautiful Pacific beaches, amazing colonial towns and fantastic food. Highlights include visiting the re-awakening ghost town of Real de Catorce, beach-bumming down the Pacific Coast from Sayulita to Puerto Escondido, and seeing our first pre-Columbian ruins.

november - december 2008 guatemala

Again we felt the same fear of the unknown as we left what now felt like home to us, Mexico, and entered Guatemala. We spent an amazing three weeks living with a family and taking intensive Spanish lessons, shopping in the bustling market town of Chichicastenango, wandering the colonial streets of Antigua, visiting the amazing ruins of Tikal, and seeing the Caribbean garifuna culture in Rio Dulce and Livingston.

december 2008 - january 2009 el salvador & nicaragua

Some more beach bumming and surfing in El Salvador before meeting friends in Nicaragua. While we weren't too impressed with Grenada, we lived it up in San Juan del Sur, surfing, hanging, and developing our Drive the Americas website.

february - april 2009 costa rica & panama

We settled down to really get our surf on for a month on Costa Rica's Pacific coast, before exploring the jungles, volcanoes, and Caribbean coast. Panama continued in a similar fashion to Costa Rica - surfing, exploring a coffee plantation, and spending 2 weeks in Panama City to figure out how to ship our car to Colombia. Once that was settled, we boarded a yacht for a 5 day adventure. 3 days in the Caribbean paradise of the San Blas Islands was followed by 2 days of hellish ocean crossing to arrive in Cartagena Colombia. I have never been so happy to be on land!

may 2009 colombia

This one of the great surprises of our trip. Colombia was truly magical. Perfectly preserved mountainous colonial towns, gorgeous Caribbean beaches, great food and friends in Bogota, and the whole time we felt very SAFE.

june 2009 ecuador

Leaving behind the warm weather we entered the amazing landscape of huge Andes mountains and Inca culture. Llamas dotted the high altitude farms as volcanoes pierced the high clouds to amazing heights.

july - august 2009 peru

We headed in to the heart of the former Inca empire primed to explore its amazing cultural heritage. We got WAY off the gringo trail in northern Peru to visit pre-Inca ruins of Kuelap on an amazing week long trip through the Andes. Southern Peru didn't disappoint either - it packed the highest density of amazing Incan and pre-Incan culture between Colca Canyon, Lake Titicaca, and the ruins around Cusco.

september 2009 bolivia

We were getting a little beat up by the constant cold and high altitude of the Andes, but Bolivia continued to amaze. We got our car blessed by a shaman in Copacabana, biked the Death Road, and visited the amazing Atacama desert and salt flats of Uyuni.

october - november 2009 argentina & chile

After the cold and harsh conditions of Bolivia, we gratefully descended in to Argentina's wine country. We spent an amazing week in Mendoza eating unreal steaks and drinking lots of Merlot before checking out the beaches of Chile south of Santiago. We then crossed back in the Argentina, touring its gorgeous Lakes District before heading south to the end of the road in Ushuaia. While it was technically springtime, we got snowed on a lot during this part of our trip. The grueling drive through endless (and mainly boring) Patagonia was brightened by a couple of highlights - watching the Glacier Perito Moreno calve into its icy blue lake and spending some time with the 2nd largest penguin colony (outside of Antarctica). After reaching the end of the road we headed back North to Buenos Aires.

december 2009 uruguay and buenos aires

Before completing our trip we spent 3 wonderful wees in Uruguay. We relaxed at natural hot springs, and learned to ride horses, herd sheep and cattle on a working ranch. We then spent 2 weeks in Buenos Aires soaking up the culture, food and wine before handing over the keys to our car at the port and boarding a plane back to the US. Our car made it safely back to the US after a month-long boat ride from Argentina to Florida in the US.

We're currently spending time with our parents, working on our resumes, and trying to figure out what we want to do with our lives.

For a full accounting of our trip, see our blog at The Darien Plan - 

For those considering driving the Pan-American Highway, we have collected information on border crossings, car shipment, road conditions, gas prices, and everything else we found useful as road trippers during our travels at Drive the Americas -

Ranch - Uruguay Real de Catorce - Mexico Road from Bolivia to Argentina Rocky Mountain National Park
Sailing the San Blas - Panama Salar de Uyuni - Bolivia San Blas Islands - Panama Sayulita - Mexico
Kristin & Chris State fair - Nebraska Taxco - Mexico Tikal - Guatemala
Tortugeuro National Park - Costa Rica Ushuaia - Argentina Villa de Leyva - Colombia Wine tour - Chile

february 2010