Sardine Taco

Sara and Dean are two creatives who were looking for a change.  Sara is an art therapist; Dean a graphic designer.  In mid-2013 they set off on a pan-American adventure – New Jersey to Argentina.  They’ve made it to Argentina in their 2001 Toyota Tacoma.  Learn more from Sara about their trip, process, and what’s next.

All photos above and below (C) 2014 Dean Moran



Meet Sara – A Creative Woman With A Sense Of Humor

How did your Pan-American trip come to be?

Photo (C) 2014 Dean Moran
Photo (C) 2014 Dean Moran

It started as a little morsel of an idea that continued to evolve over time.  At some point, I just knew that I was supposed to go. It felt as though there was a reason (to go) that I would be unable to articulate until much later in time. I am now beginning to put my experience over the past 14 months into words.

Why the Toyota Tacoma for your overlanding vehicle?

Reliable, fit nicely into the budget.  It is not a vehicle that holds tremendous sentimental value for us. We love it (don’t get me wrong), but we will sell it at the completion of our trip.  It was more a mode of transportation and a temporary home.

How did your family and friends react to the trip?

You have to tell a lot of people ranging from your mom to the dude in Verizon. The responses range from “Are you bringing a gun?” to the more benign “Where will you go to the bathroom?” It was very interesting to me how people had such a high level of concern regarding the upkeep of our personal hygiene.

Photo (C) 2014 Dean Moran
Photo (C) 2014 Dean Moran

I imagine that amongst those close to us it sounded a bit crazy, but not out of character.  Dean and I got married in Las Vegas. Feelings amongst loved ones include; worry, concern, anxiety, confusion. Hey, I can see it from the other side. It is a very odd idea. “That doesn’t sound like fun, at all!” We really appreciate that those close to us have been so supportive of our dreams/life choices even though they fall outside the norm…way outside the norm.  [Editor note: not on She-Explores!]

What have you learned about Dean that you might not have without this excursion?

He is a real bossy pants. One has to learn to have comfort with conflict or else you might find yourself trying to figure out the bus system in Peru. Dean is really good at working things out and allowing situations to  “just be”. I have developed a deep appreciation, and respect, for his authenticity, honesty, and creativity.

There is also a depth of strange behavior that occurs on a journey of 30,000 miles. We are both strange individuals and I feel fortunate that our paths lead to one another.

What was your sketchiest moment traveling?  On the flip side, what was your most uplifting?

Train of thought on sketchy moments: Toilets with no tanks (or seats), beach combing drug cartel, no-tell motels, surfboard to the head, fly-infested beaches, drivers in Guatemala, dogs hit by cars, “There is dead body in the road”, machine gun drawn military approaching the truck in the middle of the night, an unstable man swinging a machete in the middle of the road, a dead dolphin washed ashore, a vicious street dog running right towards me….stuff like that.

Learning how to surf has been the most uplifting experience. I could go on and on about that one. The other day, in Uruguay, we were surfing with a whale.  Are you kidding me? So amazing.

You are an art therapist when you’re not en route – did you take any of your lessons/practices with you whilst on the road?

Photo (C) 2014 Dean Moran
Photo (C) 2014 Dean Moran

Absolutely.  As an art therapist, my training was deeply rooted in the idea of process- the process behind one’s creativity. I believe that creative expression can be defined in such a variety of ways, not only “making art”. It is a way of being.  For example, in our travels, I have seen surfers who are able to be so creative and playful in their style. The way they move their bodies in unison with the wave, they transform the act of surfing into art.

I often revisit the idea of “process”, in my travels.  When you are “in it” (the creative process, or any process for that matter) you do not always have a vision of the end result.  You might have moments where you step back and get a glimpse, but it is not until you are done (or sometimes years later and maybe even never) that you can fully appreciate and take-in what you have created. Or perhaps even understand why you felt the desire to create it in the first place. That is how I feel about my travels.

Take a photo of your 5 must-take items for overland travel.

Photo (C) 2014 Dean Moran
Photo (C) 2014 Dean Moran

I am approaching this from the lens of objects that I use on a daily basis. If you were to look through our pictures, anyone of these objects has a 75% chance of being in the photograph. These objects will, most likely, be of no assistance in an overlanding emergency.

sandal– I bought these bad boys for $3 in Nicaragua, after multiple flip flop blow outs.  My $50 recycled yoga mat flip flops- gone.  These are still going. I often think about how they will probably end up on the beach in Peru.  They look like something you would see washed up on a beach. Then I question if I will have to recycle them into a piece of art or something.

My hat– Again, refer to our pictures and you will see how much I love this hat.

Lupe – where would I be with out this girl? Anyone who has spent a small amount of time with us, on this journey, will be able to attest to my bond with Lupe. Don’t ask them, though. It is kind of embarrassing.

My multiple spiral notebooks- This is how I organize. My internal mess is contained to three spiral notebooks.

Those pants–  I have no idea what these are about.  I bought them along the way.  They receive a lot of commentary on our social media sites.

If possible, describe the most beautiful sight you saw driving South. 

The markets of Mexico and Peru: colors, textures, smells, tastes, indigenous women in their tall hats and brightly colored clothing, the Sea of Cortez- deep aqua water meets red rock, the Cordillera Blanca mountains- at sunrise watching the sun move across these giant masses of rock, the women of Colombia, Mexican tacos, mangos, monkeys, Lupe running up to me after a surf session, any night when Dean makes dinner.

Your website states that you hoped to “reconnect with a simpler life.”  Do you feel you were able to come close?

Photo (C) 2014 Dean Moran
Photo (C) 2014 Dean Moran

Yes, I do. I began to connect to simpler part of myself.  It is one that does not need much to be happy, has a deeper appreciation of life, and a greater connection to nature and the environment (and can go 10 days without showering).

You’re wrapping up your trip towards the end of 2014.  What’s next?

It changes with the day, but at this point it involves routine, in a more traditional sense of the word- things like morning runs and post offices.

“Next” is going to be good.