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Two Argentineans, One Van and the Trip of a Life Time.

Have you ever dreamed of taking a long vacation and just keep traveling?  Well, that is just what Ariel Mancuso and Soledad Oviedo are doing since May 02, 2015. Ariel and Soledad are two Argentineans who got tired of living in the hustle of a big city like Buenos Aires, and decided that having only 15 days off work were not enough. They also realized that the best memories in life are made during trips and vacations so they decided to leave everything and travel by car from Argentina to Alaska.

Ariel and Soledad left Buenos Aires and they have been traveling for three years now. They travel in their  Volkswagen van named “Cachi”. For three years now Cachi has been their transportation, home and loyal companion through this journey. They have adapted their Volkswagen to make it their little home, currently it has 2 couches, a removable table, a small kitchen, a water bomb and a solar panel that provides them with electricity and makes their life on the road easier. Cachi obtained her name after being bought and having to visit several times the mechanic;  “cachi llegamos” “cachi arranca”. Cachi is a funny way of saying almost in Spanish so “almost there” “almost starts”.

Ariel and Soledad met since they were teens as their parents worked in the same fabric, they made a stronger bond when re-encountered later in life. Right now they’ve been together for 6 years now, and three of those have been of non-stop coexistence or as they said in Spanish “kombi-vencia”.  Ariel before embarking on this journey worked for 8 years in an aeronautic  fabric and Soledad studied chemistry and spent most of her time in the lab so they started their trip with the money they had saved from their previous jobs, but when they reached Patagonia, in Argentina they started to be low on funds and decided to sell some handmade notebooks. When they reached the north of Argentina someone asked them for a ride and in exchange showed them how to make bracelets with thread, so they started making those and selling them as well. In every place they stop they learn something new so they are always making things and selling them to support their journey. Below is a picture of some of the bracelets that they make.​

So far they have visited 15 countries which include:

  • Argentina (5 months)
  • Chile (1 month and a half)
  • Bolivia (1 month)
  • Peru (3 months)
  • Ecuador (3 months)
  • Colombia (5 months)
  • Panama (2 months)
  • Costa Rica (3 months)
  • Nicaragua (3 weeks)
  • Honduras (1 month and a half)
  • El Salvador (10 days)
  • Guatemala ( 3 weeks)
  • Belize (1 day)
  • Cuba (three weeks)
  • Mexico (8 months so far)

They are currently still traveling through the center states of Mexico and they still have a long way before reaching the U.S., but they are planning on crossing the border in Laredo, TX, cross Texas and travel through New Mexico, Arizona, California, Oregon and Washington and then cross to Canada and travel through British Colombia, Yukon and enter Alaska. So if your state was mentioned in this list make sure to be on the lookout to greet these wonderful travelers!!

When asked what their favorite place has been so far they answered the following: “Impossible to know. There are sites of all kinds that have fascinated us. Unique and emblematic places. Natural and not so much. Maybe a little town without a lot of tourist attraction to offer can mark you for the nice people you met there and the experience you lived; and maybe a postcard landscape, however beautiful, ends up being just that, a postcard, given that it passed without pain or glory for your life. But among the most beautiful natural places have been Patagonia, the Bolivian altiplano, Nasca or Machu Picchu. The volcanoes of Ecuador, the Colombian coffee axis, the Caribbean of Panama, the living and free nature of Costa Rica, the island of Ometepe in Nicaragua.The warmth of the catrachos in Honduras, with its paradisiacal island of Utila; the resistance of Salvadorans, a small country with a big heart; the Mayan heritage of Guatemala, with the ruins of Tikal as its epicenter; The recent history of Cuba, touring the streets of Old Havana is something unforgettable. And what about Mexico, as beautiful as it is infinite, with its Mayan Riviera, its chile and its Day of the Dead, to name but a few. Again, impossible to choose a single place. Impossible to know. There are sites of all kinds that have fascinated us.”

During their trip they have tried all kinds of food such as lizards, stingrays, lobster, worms, ants and crickets, but they admitted that the best food they’ve had in their 30 years of life is the one their grandmothers make, because after all there is no place like home!

One of the things that I was intrigued by the most was if they had felt at risk or danger at some points of their trip, considering how many incidents happen to travelers, but when asked this they answered: “Not really. Never in the entire trip have we felt threatened or intimidated. And take in account that we have slept in some of the cities listed as the most dangerous in America. We believe that if one goes with good energy, it attracts the same. Obviously, you do not have to be naive and sleep in a dark alley or in places that give you a bad vibe, always look for the main square of the town, or even gas stations, firemen or police stations, or at the door of a friendly neighbor's house are places always recommended.”.

Every time they visit a new place the people always receive them wonderfully and they said that this is the biggest surprise of their whole trip, people always stop by because they are curious of them but after talking to them they form short but beautiful relations with people from these towns and they are often invited to their homes meeting their family and sharing the food. Since they don't have a shower or washing machine they also invite them to wash their clothes or take a shower in their homes. Recently in my home state they were invited to a wedding and their van Cachi was the star of the wedding!

After three years of non-stop traveling they have made lots of memories, and the majority of them are positive. They mentioned that between some of the best memories they have of the trip “is the contact and friendship left with the people. That is what enriches us the most; to share at least a bit of the life of a person, who opens his home and many times his heart to receive you and make you feel good.”, and between their bad memories is the homesickness feeling.  They miss their home from time to time specially the things that may look simple like Sunday lunch with their family or hanging out in the town with their friends. After all that is your home “you get along with the people, you share the same customs and passions. You have the same story”.

To finish their interview I asked them what it felt like to travel for three years and their answer was perfect in every way “The feeling is very varied, difficult to write. There are stages where one can not believe what one is living, where one is or with whom. The trip hasn't stopped surprising us. But there are also hard stages, of melancholy, and problems that cost a lot to face. But we remain convinced that this life is to live to the fullest, that what we are doing is something unique and unrepeatable, and that the friends and experiences that the road gives us are not to be changed by anything, much less by an office or a boring routine . In summary, it feels very good to travel”.

They are planning to arrive to Alaska in summer 2019 and once they arrive they plan on returning the same way they got there, but of course visiting different places! If you are interested in following their adventures make sure to follow them on their Facebook page “Persiguiendo al Conejo Blanco”. And if you are curious why the named their page this here is the answer: “Its the classic story of "Alice in Wonderland", which tells the story of Alicia, who pressured by the social mandate, decides to chase a rabbit with a clock that tells him that it is late. Then you go through the burrow and there you find a completely new world, the land of wonders. To us it represents us in the same sense, tired of doing what one is told (studying a fence, having a formal job, getting married, buying a house, having children, etc.) we decided that life is too short to not be oneself. And here we are, chasing an elusive rabbit all over America”.

Lastly they shared this wise advice. “We always like in some way to inspire and encourage people to pursue their dreams. Whether its traveling, being an artist or whatever, do it. Sooner or later there is reward, and we are convinced that with effort, dedication and time everything is achieved. There really is nothing impossible. Just live now,  do what you want and be happy. As simple as that”.  

Thank you Ariel and Soledad for the time you took answering these questions and the beautiful and inspiring answers that you gave us, they showed your amazing and free spirit. From all of us at Her Campus at NMSU we can only wish just safe travels!! 

 

All pictures taken from: Persiguiendo al Conejo Blanco

Student at NMSU, Im an anthropology major. Learning about different cultures, immersing in their traditions and learning new languages fascinates me. Im a food enthusiast, I love to travel and have an intense passion for corgis.
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