Desk To Glory

Ashley and Richard set off in their 1989 Toyota pickup in October 2013 and spent 6+ months driving South from Vancouver.  They made it to Costa Rica, where they’ve stored the Toyota until the next leg of their journey down to Argentina.

All photos by Richard Giordano – Desk to Glory

Catch up with Ashley – read the interview below:

Tell me how your trip came to be.

One morning I went to an appointment with a Naturopath as part of a Mentorship Program for healers and healthcare practitioners that I had signed up for.  We discussed a few items and then I brought up something that had been bothering me and looming in the background for quite some time.

I wasn’t happy.

My mentor looked me in the eye and told me what I both needed to hear and didn’t want to.  It was time to go, fly free and take a break from my crazy over-scheduled life that I had been striving, pushing, and forcing to change in the attempt to achieve happiness and contentment.  I remember just sitting in her office crying with piles of tissues in my hands because I realized it was time to do something I knew I had to do: leave my safe, predictable and stable life for freedom and adventure.  After the session I texted Richard and we met up in a coffee shop nearby for a “life chat.”  While still fighting my emotional floodgates I reassured him that no, I didn’t want a divorce or babies, but to leave our jobs, our condo, and our home for a well-needed and extensive change.  Richard had been perusing blogs for more than a year outlining the Pan-American road trip from North America to Argentina.  We made the decision that day and the wheels were set in motion.

How long had you and Richard been together when you hit the road?

Richard and I had been together for 8 years at that time, and had been married for three.

Why the Toyota? Did the ability to move quickly and through various terrains outweigh the smaller living space?

Well, the Toyota was free so that made the decision pretty easy!  Richard rescued it from a life of stock suspension, flat tires, and a moldy interior and transformed it into our overlanding vehicle/home.  Toyotas are notoriously reliable, so that was also a plus.

Your husband is a photographer and you are a nutritionist. Who did most of the writing for “desk to glory”? Did you ever pick up the camera?

We actually write the blog posts together.  One of us will write the first draft, and then the other will proofread and edit.  I take the role of the grammar police most of the time, but our sense of humor is very similar and so is our writing style so it seems to work well!  I did shoot some photos, mostly while Richard was driving.  Richard did take most of the photos that you see on the blog though.

Did travelling change your palette?  Did your palette influence your travel?

Richard and I have always enjoyed different types of food from many different cultures.  We loved Mexico for the amazing Baja style fish tacos, fresh ingredients, and unbelievable street food.  I think our palette stayed the same, but this trip definitely changed my diet.  As a holistic nutritionist and due to my past history with eczema I have been on quite a restricted diet for many years.  The last of my eczema disappeared one week after we left Vancouver, so during the trip I threw caution to the wind and ate everything.  We both really just enjoyed what we were eating, whether it was a casado dish with fish in Costa Rica, pozole in Mazatlan, Belizean fried chicken, or empanadas and coffee in Patzcuaro.

What piece of gear/equipment did you not know you would need?

We left in a little bit of a hurry and hadn’t planned very well to start out, and so we were very unprepared in terms of cold weather gear.  We just thought, “We’re going to Mexico!  It is hot and has beaches!”  In reality, there were some very cold nights in central Mexico when we were camping at elevations above 6000ft, and at the beginning of our trip through Oregon and Northern California that we didn’t dress properly for.  Luckily we just piled on as many layers as we could and resolved to buy down jackets and proper long underwear for the next section of the trip.

We also started the trip with paper maps, no GPS.  I have no idea why we didn’t have a proper GPS, but we found an iphone app called GPS Nav by Skobbler that was inexpensive and very accurate.  That revolutionized the way we traveled.

LED light strips also made camping a lot easier.  We stuck them to the underside of the rear hatch of the truck canopy so we could cook with more light, and I also really appreciated them at night when I washed my face and brushed my teeth.

Snap a shot of your 5 must take items for the road.

  • Camera
  • Music
  • 12 volt fridge
  • GPS app
  • Kindle – we put a ton of books on ours before we left, which definitely saved on space and kept us busy for hours!

Any “oh crap” moments?

I’m assuming you don’t mean literal “oh crap” moments having to do with Montezuma’s revenge!

Oh yeah! There were quite a few actually. Our truck got broken into twice in Mexico (luckily we got our stuff back the first time!).  There was a notoriously bad section of road in Mexico (to Palenque) that you shouldn’t drive at night (apparently), and we were stopped at a student road block for several hours resulting in…. driving in the dark to Palenque.  We drove in the dark during our first day in Honduras.  At the Nicaraguan border the fumigation tech wanted to spray inside the cab of our truck, which we spent an hour arguing about.  Oddly enough these situations weren’t as stressful as they sounded, and we tried to handle them with a sense of humor.

You’re back home now. How have you adjusted to life not on the road?

For the first couple of weeks I think we were just in a daze.  We’ve rented an apartment, are back at our old jobs, and are spending time with family and friends.  I think we just kind of threw ourselves back into the regular 9-5 workday.  We find we need a lot of sleep.  We need to get outside into nature regularly.  But we can still capture the essence of how we felt on the road by taking mini-road trips.  Last weekend we went to Mt. Baker and it felt just like our life on the road. We really reveled in driving the highways, stopping for gas and food, and deciding what we were going to do and where we were going to camp.  I think you can recreate that feeling of freedom in different ways.