Tom Sawyer in Cartagena!


We’ve taken 2 trips to the SA Naves office, where we should be given our papers and invoices in order to get our beloved van (to be named at the equator) out of the port.  Nothing yet.  The ship with our van arrived this morning but all offices are closed on Sundays.  We’re very much hoping that tomorrow will be our lucky day, the very nice woman we’re working with made some promises that I hope she can keep.

In the meantime, Cartagena is our home and an excellent one at that.


Darin and I surfed the west jetty a few days ago. The water is so very warm here, it makes surfing in Oregon seem like much more work.  As Darin surfed and the kids built sand castles, I was repeatedly given sample massages from women walking the beach with buckets of massage oil in small ketchup like bottles.  They’d rub it on some body part despite the “no gracias”, convinced that the quality of their oil and skill can’t be refused.  It was actually very hard to pass up.


On Friday, we took a local city bus to the town of Pascaballos where a ferry would take us across the canal Del Dique.


Getting onto the ferry was full of chaotic bargaining banter with guys on motorcycles insisting that the only way to get to the beach once across the river was by motorcycle.


Once we got across and spent a good ten minutes negotiating a price, we found a taxi with broken seats to take us to the beach.  We enjoyed a day filled with relaxation and swimming in warm, beautifully blue water.  Marco allowed himself to bob up and down in the calm waves, the look on his face was priceless and one I won’t forget.

Playa Blanca

Playa Blanca


The return trip was on a boat filled with Columbians who were ready to party.  The dancing and signing that went on for the entire 2 hour trip would have made my french Canadian family feel right at home.

Marco seems to get a lot of attention here.  They all say he looks like Tom Sawyer with his freckles…”Es Tom Sawyer con los pecas!!”  Apparently they’ve all seen the same movie because in addition to the comments, Marco gets second glances every time we venture out.

We’ve spent the past 2 days mostly loafing around.  We swim, read, and take walks through the city. We’ve met several other people, including “overlanders” who have been traveling through Columbia and South America.   Our discussions have made us very eager to pick up our van and start our journey out of Cartagena.


People are much less inhibited than we are here.  Jesus, the spanish teacher that we took spanish speaking lessons from, tells us that Columbians have a strong love for their country.  He also tells us that the bad reputation Columbia gets comes down to a group of about 1000 bad asses that set the image for the other 48 million inhabitants.

The honesty and love of life that emanates from this place is humbling to say the least.


Story Cubes. By: Simon

Instead of writing my part of the blog today, I decided to publish a few of our story cubes stories.  We met a nice french lady, who started an overland trip with her husband 6 months ago.  They  started driving their Fiat from Halifax, Nova Scotia 6 months ago.  She let us play with her story cube set.  There are 9 cubes with pictures on each side.  You roll the cubes and create an on the spot story based on how they land.  The story is told right away without time to think it over.

Marco told some great stories but didn’t want to be published.  My mom typed them up as we told them.  I’ve decided to publish a few of mine and my dad’s stories.  I hope you like them.

Story cube   By: Simon


Once there was an alien, and he stared up at the moon and then he saw a flower, lifting a question of arrows.  He scanned his credit card to a really freaky kid with a flashlight.

story cube  by: Darin


Once upon a time I lived in a castle far far away.  I was sitting down in a poker room and then I realized I was just in a casino that looked like a castle.  I looked up at the clock and it said 4 o clock.  I thought I’d only been there for 2 hours but saw a shooting star and realized I’d been there 14 hours.  I pulled an apple out of my pocket because I was hungry and I had missed lunch.  I looked up at the sky and saw the moon shining down over the silhouette of the castle and I felt like I was in Europe.  I went to my car door but I forgot my key and had to go back inside to pay the man in weights and balances.  I gave him all of my winnings and he came out not with a jimmy stick but with a magnet and unlocked my car door by breaking the window.

story cube by Simon


Once I was reading a book about a fish in a rainbow.  Then I realized it sadly had a cane.  The die of the cane was a question to the foot about the happiness of talking.

Sand Castle By: Simon


It started off with my brother being sick.  It moved on to my mom and I catching a freaky cab plus the cabs have NO seat belts.  We got what we went for but had to walk back.  I almost died of heat but luckily there were bunnies and chocolate to sustain my mortal soul.  We got back my brother ate mac n cheese instant cure.  We went swimming for a bit. And then went to the beach and made the best sand castle EVER!!  All in all it has been a great, great day!!

P.S.  Im writing in the same hammock as before.

Cartagena: by Anik

IMG_0112As soon as we got off the plane, a wave of humid, beautiful heat hit us and we felt great.  Getting through customs proved that our “columbian” spanish leaves much to be desired.  Because of all of our gear, we had to break up into 2 groups.  The taxis took off and Simon and I immediately lost sight of Darin and Marco.  The driving around here makes New York drivers look like polite snails.

Casa Relax is treating us very well.  The kids have spent hours in the pool chasing a bouncy ball being used as a sink toy.  We’re very much observing Siesta times by not venturing out too much between 11am and 3pm.  A quick lunchtime stroll to spend 10,000 Columbian pesos (about $5.00) gets us some very good Empanadas and amazing chicken lasagna, a couple of cold beers, and some ice cream.

Last night, we walked down to Plaza del Trinidad.  Here, small cart vendors sell a mixture of delicious smelling food.  For a few dollars, a family of four gets fed, while sitting around the Iglesia de Trinidad.  People buy cheap Columbian beer at the corner store, and eat their food on their laps, all while sitting around the steps to the church.  Simon and Marco ate some sort of beef on a stick covered in ketchup and mayo.  Marco had a very hard time with this, even once we did our best to wipe it all off.  Poor kid, he was very upset but he eventually ate the whole thing with a begging dog sitting by his feet.  Darin and I had a dish (name unknown) made of a mixture of plantain, sausage, chicken, beef, lettuce, fried onions, mayo, and more mayo, all covered by a sheet of melted cheese.  It was very rich and tasty.

I’m noticing that Cartagena doesn’t seem to cater to the meat shy or vegetable lovers unless you’re willing to spend a lot of money in a restaurant made for tourists.

Cartagena gives us what we eagerly expected of Latin America, but with a European flare that makes the city even more stylish and warm.  Morning runs give us a feel for the hustle and bustle of people getting ready for the day.  Carts carrying deliciously fresh fruit (OMG!!  the Mango!) and garlic and onions are pushed with purpose along these small streets that feel like alleys.


Knowing that we have a lot of time ahead of us seems to afford us a “we’ll do it when we do it” attitude that isn’t usually in our nature (most of you know exactly what I’m talking about).   The kids spent about an hour this morning debating if BubbaLoo gum is better than M&M’s.  The conversation included much discussion on the interesting juice that comes out of the middle of the gum.  BubbaLoo is the winner.


Things feel easy here, at least for the moment.

Days 1,2,3 by: Simon


First, we took a 4 and a half hour flight to JFK International Airport in NYC.  3 Hours later, we got on a plane to S.A/South America and waited 3 hours to take off.  Guess what!  Our flight was cancelled because of a snow storm.  The next day, we caught a plane at 7:30am and I watched movies almost the entire time.  When we got off, it was humid and about 90 degrees F.  We got into two cabs.  Our driver was a maniac.  There were literally no lanes.  I am now writing from inside a hammock by a pool.

PS: I befriended a parrot named Picololo.

PACKING!!! by: Darin

photo 2

I never imaged that less than one week ago I would climb up to 9000’ and ski one of the most memorable runs of my life. The current time is 2:30 am PST and I’m writing the first of what I hope will be one of my many posts on our new blog. It’s been an emotional roller coast for me this past week. From the smile that I couldn’t wipe off my face skiing down the Nisqually chutes and the tears of saying goodbye to the wonderful people in my life, I sit here and it hits me that today, I worked for the last day in what we hope will be four months. There hasn’t been a period of time in my life that I’ve had such a large hiatus from “producing” (school and work). My parents have always taught me that when you work you give it 100%. Anyone who knows me can relate to the fact that I can’t do anything at less than 100% full throttle.

Just over one year ago I lost someone very special to me. This past year, I’ve given the purpose of life a lot of thought . My best friend Mark taught me so many lessons throughout his years of living and since his death in December 2012. The most recent being that life is short and we need to embrace everyday like it could be our last. I miss you my friend.

So after many countless hours of planning and preparation, Anik and I have begun our newest adventure to embrace life. Traveling to South America with our two children. When I mentioned our plans to my parents and family last Thanksgiving, they barely acknowledged it. Less than a month ago, I called my parents from the train heading back home from the Port of Tacoma. I said Mom, I just dropped our van off at the port of Tacoma and its headed to Cartagena Colombia. She was speechless. She stuttered and said “You did what!” I explained that the van was on its way to South America and that we’d be joining it for 4 month starting in the beginning of February. Although “our people” are being supportive, many are apprehensive.

I’m still preparing for the adventure. Gear is scattered throughout the garage. Sleeping bags, tent, tool kit, camp gear, cold weather gear, warm weather gear, gear, gear and more gear. Did I mention that the 4 of us will be living in our Eurovan camper? Where am I going to put all the gear? Packing for 4 months for 4 different climate zones for 4 people traveling through 4 countries has been one of the most difficult packing experiences I’ve had. And anyone that knows me can relate to my weekly packing in preparation for the upcoming weekends. Last night I told Anik that we can only take 1 surfboard. Its as if I’d told her we can’t take her left arm. We are seriously limited on space.

The purpose of our trip is to not have a plan. To break from our norm and experience life. My goal is to bond our family together forever. To create an experience that can’t be taken away. To Live Life.

In preparation by: Anik

Anik's iPhone 11_6_13 302Darin and I have been talking and dreaming of taking extended time off to travel for years.  Up until recently,  there always seemed to be multiple reasons as to why we couldn’t make it happen.  Over the years, we’ve taken many holidays and we’ve travelled to amazing places but never for more than 2 weeks at time.  These vacations, most of which we took with our kids just amplified our desire to have an adventure that would be impossible to plan and fully prepare for.  Over the past year or two, life has given us some less than subtle hints that this is no dress rehearsal, life is sailing on by and as much as we love the life we’re living, we’ve decided not to wish this wish of ours away.

Last week, we put our yet to be named Eurovan on a ship at the Port of Tacoma to be transported to Cartagena, Colombia.  We will arrive in Cartagena in less than three weeks to pick up our van and spend the next 4 months driving, surfing, hiking, and hammock(ing) our way south to Chile.  We’d love to make it to Tierra Del Fuego, but the plan is essentially to remain plan-less.  I’m not sure that we even have a goal other than to hang out with each other and allow for the experience to create itself.

Our boys, Simon (10) and Marco (8) don’t seem to have many expectations either.  They’re still trying to understand what missing 4 months of school looks like exactly.  Their homeschooling will consist of daily reading and journal writing, which will often be transcribed to posts on this blog.     We’ll throw in some math with money conversion, mileage calculations, altitude interpretation and wave related calculations.  Coming from a person who tends to thrive toward structure, this loose schedule and lack of specifics seems like it’ll be a healthy tangent to be on, though it may make me crazy.

Our spanish leaves much to be desired.  In fact, my husband Darin speaks none and neither do the kids.  I understand a fair amount but can speak very little.  We bought Rosetta Stone but haven’t used it once.  We keep telling ourselves we’ll take daily Rosetta Stone lessons once we’re in South America but that remains to be seen.