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Meet the couple who drove to South America and back

May 10, 2017

Desk To Glory Richard and Ashley
Any vehicle still on the road after 20 years will have some stories. Few trucks will have travelled the range of routes driven by one 1990 Toyota Pickup.

Back in 2014, Vancouverites Richard and Ashley decided to quit their jobs, sell their belongings, and go on a trans-hemisphere road trip.

The epic journey, documented on DeskToGlory.com, began in BC and didn’t halt its southward trajectory until reaching South America.

Given the reputation for reliability, Richard and Ashley chose a Toyota as the vehicle to enable their trip of a lifetime. Little Red - as Richard and Ashley named their truck - was with them every mile.

Toyota Canada recently caught up with Richard and Ashley to talk about what inspired them to take such a bold step, and, what it was like to live in a Toyota truck for over two years.

Desk to Glory Toyota Truck Driving in Desert

What inspired you to take on this adventure?

With a simple text message conversation our short-term life plans changed.

Ashley: We need to have a life chat today.

Richard: Do you want a divorce? ;)

Ashley: Haha, NO I don’t lol

Richard: Do you want a baby?

Ashley: Um, No.

We met for a “life chat” at Trees Organic Coffee in Vancouver, BC on April 13, 2013. Our full-time day jobs combined with our part-time evening/weekend jobs became a little too much for us that afternoon.  It was time for a change and time to ask ourselves the question, “What are we going to do about it?”

The first plan included a backpacking trip through India and Nepal.  We thought this would be the best bang for the buck and offer some great hiking opportunities.  Very quickly we realized that we craved something different, but still very simple.  Ashley said that she wanted to relax on a beach and not have to worry about hauling around a backpack so we quickly had this vision in our heads of parking on a beach in Baja, setting up camp for a week at a time, and just soaking up the sun until we were recharged and ready for adventure.

Once we told them it was an old Toyota Pickup they gave a nod of approval.  Apparently that was enough to inspire confidence in our decision.

We had been following a few blogs from Overlanders who had done similar trips, but had never really thought we would be able to pull it off. Seriously, who can just pack up and leave their jobs for a year at a time? It seemed like such a pipe dream until we made the decision to go and we set our plan into action.  Once we made the actual decision to leave it really was all about making a list and checking off the tasks one by one.  We honestly didn’t think too much about the trip we were about to set off on.

How did you prepare for your journey?

We had 5 months to pay off our debts, sell our junk, save some money, build a truck, rent out our condo, and quit our jobs.  Our preparation for the journey was essentially tying up loose ends at home and making sure we had a reliable vehicle to drive/camp in.

Desk to Glory Salt Flats

How did you decide on the vehicle you used for your journey?

There were two factors here.  One, we chose an older Toyota because we wanted reliability, parts availability, and something that was familiar with Latin American mechanics.  We had been looking for a venerable Land Cruiser, but this Pickup was in Richard’s dad’s backyard and we knew we could resurrect it into our “adventuremobile”.

What role did your truck play in facilitating your adventures?

It was our transportation, home, and base camp.

How did your friends and family respond to your plan?

Mainly they asked what vehicle we were taking.  Once we told them it was an old Toyota Pickup they gave a nod of approval.  Apparently that was enough to inspire confidence in our decision.  Other questions included: What about your jobs?  What are you going to do when you get back? What about Mexico, Honduras, and Colombia?

What was one of the biggest surprises you encountered on your adventure?

Location: Cotopaxi National Park, Ecuador

At 6:00 a.m. we awoke to the sound of a horn honking, and someone yelling outside of our tent, “Hello!? Hello? Spanish or English? Do you speak Spanish or English?”  We unzipped our tent and poked our heads out to find agitated climbing guide standing at the base of our tent ladder.  “We were on the mountain this morning and there was an eruption.  The park is closed and we are evacuating now.  It is not safe to be here.”  We jumped out of the tent and saw a big billowing cloud where Cotopaxi Volcano was.  There was ash covering the truck and the tent, and the air smelled like sulphur.  The guides, hotel staff and other guests were outside packing up, jumping into the back of trucks, and running around in a hurry directing people.  We rubbed the sleep out of our eyes, jumped into the truck and got the heck out of there.

Desk to Glory El Chalten

What was one of your greatest challenges?

Leaving in the first place.  It felt like there were more things preventing us from quitting our jobs and leaving our home than there were challenges once we actually left.  Once our notice was given, our condo rented, and our bills cancelled, we were able to deal with each day as it came, whether it was a sunny day on the beach or an erupting volcano.

What advice would you give others who want to follow in your footsteps?  

Give it a test run before committing... or don’t.  We left without thinking about it and never really considered that we were going to live in our vehicle.  It felt more like we were preparing to go car camping for a year.  The first night that we spent in our roof top tent was the first night of our trip and we didn’t look back.

Where are you heading to next?

To the mountains, always...