Natasha Scheuerman | Here Until There
Natasha is a temporarily retired RN from Tennessee on a slow but steady roadtrip to Argentina, practicing the art of deliberate long-term travel, and documenting the journey in photography and writing at Here Until There.
She’s traveling with her husband of almost 8 years, Pete, and their furry child, Malta. They’re driving a truck down the Pan American Highway, spending most of their days outside and their nights tucked away in a cozy camper truck that they now consider home. Interview below!
After you left the states for the first time 18 years ago, the trajectory of your life changed to a goal of perpetual long-term travel. Where did you travel then?
While I was in college, a friend asked me if I wanted to travel to India and Nepal. We spent two months in northern India and a month trekking in the Himalayas. I’d traveled a good bit around the states, but had never left (except for Canada), and it was a complete culture shock. It was the most visually stunning, terrifying, heartbreaking, lovely place I’d ever experienced. It completely changed me and my perspective on the world. After that I was hopelessly and completely addicted to travel and have based some of my biggest life decisions around making extended travel a main priority. I chose a career in nursing that would give me the flexibility to wander for long periods and I chose to be with a partner that wants to travel as much as I do.
What drew you to Argentina via the Pan American Highway this time?
Several years ago we backpacked around Southeast Asia. During that trip we rented a motorcycle for a month and drove around Laos. That’s when we saw the benefits of traveling with our own vehicle, and the world of overloading (a word we’d never even heard before) opened up to us. Driving south from the States seemed like a logical first trip because it’s close, more affordable than other destinations, and the idea of learning one language and potentially being able to have real conversations with people was appealing.
In a world of sprinter vans and RVs, how did you choose a truck camper? What do you like about it?
For us, the whole point of having our own vehicle was to get off the well trodden tourist trail and into the less-traveled areas. We also wanted a comfortable indoor living space we could make feel like home. This led us to our 4WD truck, that could easily take us wherever we needed, and a pop-up camper comb.
I love everything about our Four Wheel Camper! The frame is light and durable. When the weather’s bad we have a comfy place to hang out. Since the kitchen is inside, we never have to worry that wind or rain will affect meal preparation. Our two fans helped tremendously with the stifling heat we experienced in Belize and Mexico, and the heater will eventually help us keep warm in South America. The awning gives us an outdoor living space so we can get some solitude when one of us needs it. We’ve decked it out with new curtains, maybe a few too many pillows for such a small space, and hand woven rugs we bought in Mexico, which make it feel homey. Our solar panels, dual battery system, 20 gallon water tank and large propane tank allow us to stay off the grid for at least a week or longer. Also, Four Wheel Camper is a great company and one we’re happy to support.
What resources did you draw upon in planning your travels?
The Pan Am Route seems to be quite popular, so there’s tons of information about it. I looked at a lot of personal blogs, and I began learning the value of sites like Instagram where other people’s photos gave me ideas for possible future destinations. I also joined the Facebook groups Overland Sphere, PanAmerican Travelers Association, and Animal Travelers, who are all supportive online communities. iOverlander has also been an invaluable resource to help us find good camping spots. Now we seem to do very little planning before we enter a new country except to ask the people traveling ahead of us for suggestions.
You are making a point to travel slowly, and after seven months on the road you were still in Mexico. How do you set your pace? When do you know it’s time to move on?
Slowly is an understatement! We thought for sure we’d be well into South America by now and have begun to call ourselves sloverlanders. Our pace setting strategy, or lack thereof, is simple. When we find a spot we love we usually stop for about a week and sometimes longer. When one of us gets antsy, we move on. There have been so many incredible spots that the weeks have started to add up. During the times that we’ve had to speed up, we find ourselves becoming grouchy and worried that we’re missing things.
Take a photo of your five must-have items for life on the road.
Thetford cassette toilet – This little contraption is so handy for obvious reasons, especially when one of us has an unruly tummy; which has been more common on this trip than we’d like.
Camera gear – I have a Canon 6D, three prime lenses and one telephoto. Of the four, I use mySigma 35mm the most. I also have a lightweight, compact Velbon tripod for night photos, which makes it easier to take on hiking trips.
Hydroflask – Keeps my coffee or green tea warm every morning and the occasional fruity, alcohol spiked beverage cold in hot weather.
Macbook Air – Mainly used for editing photos in Lightroom and movie watching.
Malta – She’s so vocal and entertains us constantly with her Wookiee chatter. Watching her meet and interact with countless dogs never gets tiring. She’s my running and yoga partner; making the latter counterproductive, but adorable. We have a daily ritual where Pete gets up early and makes coffee, while Malta and I do some serious cuddling until we feel like climbing out of bed. It’s one of my favorite parts of the day and I can’t imagine the trip without her.
If you and Pete’s “camper roles” were a Venn diagram, how would they overlap and how would they differ?
Pete gets bored when he’s not driving so he does most of it. I’m happy to sit back and help him navigate the insanely busy, narrow streets we often encounter. He’s become a pro at avoiding the giant buses, tiny tuk-tuks, people, and dogs that are continuously weaving in and out of traffic. He’s an excellent chef and does the majority of the cooking. I’m always straightening up the camper because it’s such a small space and I can’t think clearly if it’s cluttered. We share the dish washing and other cleaning responsibilities.
I take 99% of all the photos and am constantly asking Pete and Malta to pose for me. Most of the time, they patiently comply. I also do all the photo editing and social media posting. Pete’s still not really sure how Instagram or Facebook work. We share in the writing of blog posts, although we’re perpetually behind. For the most part we’re a great team. Although this trip, more than any other part of our 10 years together, has put our relationship to the test. Sharing such a small space and traveling with all our worldly possessions on four wheels adds an extra bit of stress we weren’t prepared for.
How do you support your life on the road?
We worked overtime at both of our jobs for three years, paid off our debts, and sold our house so we could afford the trip and wouldn’t have any bills while traveling. Unfortunately we don’t have any income on the road, which means we’ve recently taken a serious look at our dwindling bank account, and are coming around to the fact that we may have to go home and work for a bit between Central and South America. Unless we can speed up significantly, which probably isn’t going to happen.
What has been a memorable high and low during your time on the road?
There have been so many amazing highs that I can’t pinpoint just one. We spent nine glorious days camping on a deserted beach in Baja, we went on a hiking trip with friends through several tiny villages in the mountains of Mexico, my mom (who I’d been missing terribly) and our cousin came to visit us and most recently we got the opportunity to drive and camp in a part of northern Guatemala that few other foreign overlanders have ventured to.
The low is much easier to identify. We lost Malta for about seven hours in Guatemala. She never leaves our side except when there are fireworks or other loud noises, which terrify her, and unfortunately we were camped next to a town during a festival. She was there one minute and gone the next. We looked for hours, made flyers, and looked some more. Late at night we searched one more time and found her next to a busy cantina, wet and covered in mud but happy as a lark and completely unaware that she’d caused us to have some of the most miserable hours of our lives. If only she could tell us what happened during her escapades on the streets of Guatemala. I bet it would be the most entertaining story of our trip.
What have you learned about yourself on this trip so far?
That I actually enjoy meeting people! Sounds terrible when I type it out, but working loads of overtime hours in a high stress job caused me to dread social interactions outside of work. On my days off I hibernated at home and would only spend time with a few close friends and family. Meeting new people wasn’t something I was interested in. At the beginning of our trip we stuck to ourselves, which gave me some time to decompress, and now 10 months later I can’t seem to get enough of new folks. I was quickly reminded how diverse, fascinating, and thoughtful the human race can be. Of course it helps that the people in the countries we’ve visited have been overwhelmingly friendly, and that the overlanding community is filled with open-minded, warm hearted, adventurous souls.
Where are you now? Where do you hope to be in one month?
Currently we’re on Lake Atitlan in Guatemala. We’ve stopped for a while to take some Spanish classes and (surprise! surprise!) we’ll still be somewhere in Guatemala a month from now. My parents are coming for a visit in November. As soon as they leave we’ll hopefully be headed towards El Salvador.
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