Cali & Connan in a Toyota Camper

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

Cali in our colorful bed

Connan & Bali sleeping in

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.

Connan & Bali in Cataviña, Baja California

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.

We bought the camper the day we got to the States.

Redwoods National Park

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 later joined me so that we could have our first adventure experience as a couple.

Summit Cerro Catedral in Patagonia, Argentina

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).

Somewhere lost in Australia

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.

That’s where we are at now, and we’ve been on the road for eight months.

Mammoth Lakes

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.

Cali at Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park

How did you decide which places you wanted to visit?

When you live on the road, you edit as you go.

We pretty much picked a cool area, and went there to discover it.

Bryon Bay, Australia

In the States, we visited major cities, national parks, monuments and nature.

At a hot springs off U.S. Route 395 close to Mammoth Lakes

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.

Cali climbing Daff Dome, Toulomne Meadows in Yosemite National Park

What research did you do before you began?

We did some research, but doing it from Argentina was more difficult.

We had a good idea, but we ended up letting the road take us where we wanted to go.

On our first night after we left LA, we discovered that campsites were $35, so we decided to camp on BLM land instead.

With our first road friends Sean and Tyler in Sequoia National Park

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.

For us, plans are vague ideas of where we want to go.

About to hit the road for the first time in the states from LA to Isabella Lake in Sequoia National Forest

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.

Our road friends Kawika playing guitar, Vasko eating pizza and Sho hanging out in our camper one afternoon. We share our van a lot with other travelers, giving rides and serving food and beers. There was one week where we got caught in a heavy rain and had three friends camping with us. They ended up all sleeping, eating and doing everything in there since it was impossible to step outside.

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.

Bali at Richardson Grove State Park Campground (our first campsite during our first six months of traveling)

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.

You don’t know what might happen, and that adds excitement but also makes you plan constantly.

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.

We are quite good at avoiding unsafe situations.

November’s blood moon at a vista point

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.

We adopted a lifestyle that we love and encourage others to try.

Emily from Our Open Road hanging out with us

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.

Kings Canyon National Park

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.

Cali at El Socorro Beach in Baja California

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.

Don’t make plans with too many details.

Blue Mountains, Australia

Katoomba Falls, Australia

As we said, plans change all the time. And when you are on the road, they definitely will, whether you like it or not.

Stay open minded, adapt to changes and enjoy the ride.

Connan stretching his legs down a Baja California road.

Follow Cali & Connan of We Are Nomads

Produced by Kathleen Morton.
Edited by Kate MacDougall.
All photos credit to Connan Schilling.