Q&A: “Panamericano” A Journey Through the Americas

Stefano is a travel blogger that I met in Bolivia in 2012. His trip was a marathon compared to my one month sprint. A lot has changed in the year since our meeting- including the start of this blog and the completion of his journey. While we wait patiently for the release of his book about this exact expedition, lets get a taste of what life on the road was like for Stef.

Tell us about your trip, in a nutshell…

A journey from Santiago, Chile to Vancouver, Canada. Along the Panamerican Highway, the longest road in the world.

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What inspired you to do this particular route?

My life had never been the same after I read ‘On the road’ by Jack Kerouac. I have read it many times and the first was long ago when I was 21 and about to fly to California. There is one particular bit that I am sure caught my eye from my first read and inspired me to do this trip.

“……..Think if you and I had a car like this what we could do. Do you know there’s a road that goes down Mexico and all the way to Panama? — and maybe all the way to the bottom of South America where the Indians are seven feet tall and eat cocaine on the mountainside? Yes! You and I, Sal, we’d dig the whole world with a car like this because, man, the road must eventually lead to the whole world. Ain’t nowhere else it can go — right?”

As a travel blogger you need to travel with certain technologies. what did you take with you? In an ideal world, what would you travel with to make your blogging along the way easier?

I bought an ipad right before leaving and I am stoked with it. I use it for writing, updating my blog, reading ebooks and communicating with family and friends. I think it is way more handy than a laptop and I bought a cover to disguise it as an old book for safety purposes. I own a reflex camera for my daily shots and a smaller digital camera I carry to the beach and out at night. Next thing on my wish-list is a Go-Pro!

What modes of transport did you use and why?

I always travelled by bus along the panamerican highway and spent roughly 20 days on board and almost 25 thousand kilometers. I wrote a lot, read a bunch of books and struggled sleeping for the best part of it. Bussing is eco-sustainable, economic and lets you blend in with the locals and savour some tasty food at every stop. The Darien Gap is the only part of the Panamerican Highway you cannot do on wheels and I crossed by a fisherman’s boat and that was the most adventurous, downright scary, part of the trip.

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How did you go about allocating time to each place?

Not having any schedule but only managing my bank account I could stay as long as I wanted in the places I liked most whether it was because of the waves, parties or because of the friends i was hanging out with at the time.

Any seriously bad luck along the way?

I think I was pretty lucky since I only had a couple of tricky situations on the road. I got threatened at machetepoint by a crooked guatemalan tour guide who really did not want to give me my change back (the equivalent of five dollars) while trekking in Lake Atitlan. Got pickpocketed in Montañita, Ecuador by an old local lady but managed to get my wallet back and the 11 dollars in it. I was very aware of my belongings during transfers and always locked all my stuff in the hostel locker when I was out.

South America has a reputation for being dangerous, especially by people who haven’t been. What’s your opinion on travelling around this continent? 

Some countries suffer from bad publicity and I found travelling through the continent much safer than advertised. I travelled through some countries that are known for being violent and dangerous like Mexico and Colombia but never found myself in any hairy situation. I even cruised through San Pedro Sula in Honduras, statistics in hand the most dangerous city in the world. The only time I got physically attacked was strangely enough during my first night in Vancouver that is definitely the safest spot of all. I was strolling down Granville st around 3am, lots of party goers still it sight and talking with my good friend Hezio by my side. A huge black guy came out of nowhere and charged me from the blindside and spread me on the curb. Then just proceeded walking like nothing happened. I got away with a sore back.

Would you do anything differently in hindsight?

I hope I won’t sound cliché by saying I wouldn’t change a thing.

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Stefano blogs at http://panamericano.it/, in both English and Italian. Keep an eye out for his soon to be released book.

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