Cali and Connan have been traveling separately since they were young. With a passion for photography and a thirst for travel, they bought a motorhome and have visited Australia, Argentina and Patagonia, and they are currently exploring Canada, the U.S. and Mexico.
They are inspiring others to explore the world and step outside their comfort zone. My interview with them focuses on what it's like to travel internationally and the differences between traveling in one country versus another.
Square Feet: 160
Make, Model, Year: 1987 Toyota Sea Breeze Camper
We live in a 20-foot camper, which is convenient for parking. We have a bathroom with a shower. We are a little bit bigger and bulkier than a typical van.
Where did you find it?
We found it right after we blew the second motor on our VW bus in Argentina during one of its test drives. I was about to torch the car when I called my brother who was in California at the time. He suggested to not burn the VW, but to sell it. He said I should fly to the U.S. to check out their van/RV market. While he said that, he sent me some photos of this RV parked on the street. "Do you see? You can find them everywhere!" he said. The owner of that RV, Dave, realized somebody was talking about his vehicle, so he approached my brother who told him our story. Dave instantly told my brother to call me and tell me that he was willing to sell his rig to us. It had 18,353 original miles and was in perfect shape. So we hopped on a plane and flew to California. We didn’t even look at any other vehicles.
How long have you been traveling?
That's a tricky question. I left Argentina when I was 6 and lived in Peru and Chile with my family until the age of 15. As I grew up, I learned to adapt to new environments. When I was 23, I traveled to Australia with my best friend, which was my first trip as an adult.
Connan left Argentina when he was 19. He was a snowboard instructor at Mammoth Mountain in California and in Cerro Bayo in Patagonia, Argentina. After a couple of years coming and going, he went for a year-long backpacking trip in Europe and another in Central America. We met when he came back to Argentina to study photography, and we took a three-month backpacking trip in Australia. That’s where we had our first "van/camper/living in a vehicle" experience (although we were living out of our tent).
During that trip, we saw people driving in converted vans and campers. In Argentina, the culture of campervans doesn't exist. So after we came back from Australia, we bought a VW bus and started to drive from Argentina to Canada. The van broke down too many times, so we decided to fly to the U.S. and travel through national parks instead.
Why did you decide to travel internationally?
Both of us traveled a lot when we were kids, so it wasn’t difficult to picture ourselves traveling abroad. We spent a lot of time in Argentina. So we wanted to use this time while we were young to go out and see the rest of the world before it becomes more challenging.
How did you decide which places you wanted to visit?
When you live on the road, you edit as you go.
In the States, we visited major cities, national parks, monuments and nature.
When we decided to sell the bus and fly to the States, we had to quickly plan something. We asked ourselves, "What can we do in the States?" And we came up with the idea of visiting national parks. We both love nature, so it wasn’t hard to make that decision.
What research did you do before you began?
We did some research, but doing it from Argentina was more difficult.
On our first night after we left LA, we discovered that campsites were $35, so we decided to camp on BLM land instead.
Sometimes over planning is detrimental. When you get to a destination, things might be different from what you read or see on a website or in a magazine. You might be able to plan a great vacation, but when you live a mobile lifestyle, planning is more challenging.
Did anything hold you back from visiting a certain place?
Weather held us back a lot. So we tried to be in places with temperatures between 60 and 90 degrees. When winter hit, we drove down to Mexico and waited until the spring before driving back north again.
What was the process like to visit each country? Any surprises at the border?
Every country has its things, especially first world countries. I went to Australia on a work and travel visa for a year, but when Connan was applying to do the same, we found out that our dog, Bali had to do a quarantine for 30 days and would cost us around 3,000 Australian dollars. We decided to go through with it. But when Connan was buying the ticket, he discovered that Australia doesn't allow certain breeds of dogs, and since Bali has some pit bull in her, she would have been denied to enter at the airport. We ended up going for three months but left Bali with my roommates back in Buenos Aires.
Also, visas are tricky. When we came into the States, we had a waiver visa that allowed us to be there for 90 days. We assumed that by crossing into Canada every month or so, we'd be able to come back the next 90 days to continue our trip. But when we went to Canada, the border officer gave us a hard time, and it happened again when we crossed back into the States. Our visas have this symbol (*) that requires you to go back to your home country for a certain amount of time before you can come back again. Fortunately, they let us back in. Now we're in Mexico sorting visa paperwork so that we can travel in the States without having to go back to Argentina every 90 days. Crossing borders is a thrill.
Were there any safety issues you had to consider?
We come from a dangerous country. We were raised with eyes on our back of our head and an extra sense for dangerous situations.
What was your favorite country to visit and why?
Every single place has its magic. Australia was life changing for both of us. We were introduced to vanlife.
Are there differences between traveling in the U.S. and other countries?
Yes! The states are so easy. Roads are in perfect condition, and things seem to work out as you plan them.
Right now, we are stuck in San José del Cabo in Baja California, waiting for the FedEx guy to decide if he is going to open the shop or not. He hasn’t been there all week and we have things in there. Latin countries are more laid back and things don’t always work perfectly, but they are still beautiful and have great vibes. Some countries are more traveler friendly than others and it's just knowing that beforehand—knowing that you might encounter some challenges on the road.
What advice would you give to others looking to travel internationally? Anything you wish you would have known?
We encourage everybody to travel—interstate, cross country, wherever. For us, adventuring is not measured in time or distance. We might be doing a world tour in a van, but for others, it might be a 1,000-mile trip to Baja California.
As we said, plans change all the time. And when you are on the road, they definitely will, whether you like it or not.
Follow Cali & Connan of We Are Nomads
Produced by Kathleen Morton.
Edited by Kate MacDougall.
All photos credit to Connan Schilling.