Jun 2012

Blog, Central America

DISCUSSION 15 Comments

Monthly Summary – May 2012

A note before the blog:  Yesterday our transmission failed.  It’s just the next occurrence in a long string of mechanical failures, but we’re trying to roll with the punches and keep a good attitude.  We’ve had a lot on our plate and haven’t posted to our blog as often as we’d like.  We’ll try to do better, but in the meantime, if you’d like to keep up with us on a more daily basis, go to our Facebook page and click the “like” button.  This will allow you to stay up to date with the things that happen on a daily basis.  Like mechanical issues with Nacho…

In May we spent money like it was going out of style.  Nacho underwent what was supposed to be a thorough maintenance routine to get us ready for South America (although this plan backfired on us).  We also paid for the Panama side of shipping our van from Panama to Colombia, which ended up being very time consuming and very costly.  We also bought a second laptop and finally caved in and bought a GPS unit for driving directions.  This all added up to our most expensive month.  In fact, it was 2.13 times greater than our previous most expensive month.

For the sake of information, here’s roughly what it cost us to ship Nacho from Panama to Colombia, a distance of 250 miles.  Note that some of this goes into next month’s report, as it was spent on the Colombian side:

Shipping container:  $1,050

Port fees: $243

Flights:  $656

Hotels for 14 nights (yes, it took THAT long!):  $523

Buses, taxis, miscellaneous:  ~$60

`              TOTAL:  $2,532

There was supposed to be a new ferry service that would connect the two countries by now, but we are in Latin America, and so things happen at a different pace down here.  The original startup date was May 10, which would have allowed us to make the crossing for about $1,000.  As of now they’ve pushed the date back to July 2nd, but I suspect it’ll be the end of this year or the beginning of next before it actually starts running.

Fortunately we budgeted for this month’s shipping expenses.  However, we still managed to go over our budget by $1,358, largely due to the money we spent on Nacho, the GPS unit, and the new computer.  We’re not too sad about this though, because after five months of travel we’re still under budget.

Countries driven: Costa Rica, Panama

Miles driven: 926 (Trip Total = 8,000; odometer reads 284,500)

Total Spent: $5,399 ($174.17/day)

Notes on our spending:

Gas – This was our cheapest gas month so far, as most of our time was spent idle, trying to get Nacho on a dang ship.

VW Expenses – We spent around $800 on preventative maintenance while we were in Costa Rica.  In hindsight this was almost a total waste of money.  Almost everything the mechanic touched has since failed, and our engine leaks more oil now than it did before we replaced all of the oil seals.  The transmission has also started leaking from a new location.

We did find a nice Volkswagen parts house in Panama City – actually the first one we’ve seen since we left home.  We took advantage of this gold mine and bought a new clutch, clutch plate, transmission axle seals, brake caliper rebuild kits, and a few air filters.  Unfortunately they didn’t have any rear wheel bearing housings, so we probably have some more wheel bearing failures to look forward to.

 Camping/Hotels – The first 13 days of the month were free, as we were still in our friends’ house in Costa Rica waiting for Nacho to be finished.  The hotel bills really racked up later on though once we started the whole shipping ordeal.  In all our shipping process took 14 days, and we stayed in hotels the whole time.

 Food – Our food spending finally bucked its upward trend.  We’ve started eating out at local joints a little more than we have been over the last couple of months, which is usually far cheaper than cooking for ourselves.

 Borders/Visas/Permits  – Getting into Panama from Costa Rica was free.  The only expense incurred here was the obligatory car insurance at the border.

 Other – Almost a grand for “other”!?  It happens.  We’ve been sharing a laptop up until now, which has been a constant struggle.  Between web surfing, Skype, blog writing, Facebooking, Kindle syncing, and other computer-based activities, one computer just wasn’t enough.  We went to Valdemart and bought a small second computer for around $400.

Everyone we’ve met on the road so far has used a Garmin GPS unit to tell them where they’re going.  We decided before we started this trip not to use a GPS, because it would require us to interact more with “la raza”.  If we didn’t know the way, we would simply stop and ask directions.  This has served us up until now, but it has been a constant struggle.  Most of the time the people we ask either have no car of their own, or simply don’t know the correct directions, so they just make stuff up.  I’m not kidding.  It’s like they’re ashamed to admit that they don’t know, so they just make up directions.  It’s nothing malicious, it’s just the way it is.  The other issue is that the streets down here typically don’t have names, and it’s very hard to navigate.  We finally caved in and bought a Garmin Nuvi 50 for about $150 at a mall in Panama City.

Finally, we went to the Panamanian version of Home Depot and bought a bunch of tools, some new water filtration equipment (turns out you can’t buy the 3M water filters we need for our water sanitation system outside of the USA), and some various odds and ends.  This set us back a couple hundred dollars.

May: ouch.

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  1. Keep up your spirits, friends. Don’t forget that you’re living the dream! If (when) we catch up to you in America del Sur, we’ll buy you a beer. Safe travels!

    Comment by einnocent on June 18, 2012 at 7:42 pm

  2. Floyd

    Good luck with the repairs and “Happy Motoring”.

    Comment by Floyd on June 18, 2012 at 8:54 pm

  3. Riley Rice

    You actually bought a computer from Voldemort!? That would make it a Mac, then?

    Comment by Riley Rice on June 18, 2012 at 10:49 pm

  4. Doug

    Were the tools you bought for Nacho?

    Comment by Doug on June 19, 2012 at 5:12 am

  5. @Doug: Yes, we bought some bigger wrenches, a C-clamp for doing the brake caliper rebuild, and a few other odds and ends.

    Comment by Brad on June 19, 2012 at 7:26 am

  6. @Riley, we’re talking Valdemart, the evil store, not Voldemort, the evil dude. It was a Toshiba.

    Comment by Brad on June 19, 2012 at 7:28 am

  7. Mom

    Hang in there! I still see you are forever the optimist, even under adverse situations. You planned well, and it is clear you knew there would be unforeseeable events and expenses, so you planned for them. This is evident in the fact that you are, overall, still operating under budget.

    Carry on!


    Comment by Mom on June 19, 2012 at 9:09 am

  8. @Mom: yes, still under budget. However, our transmission failure will probably spring us right up to our budget line, or even a little beyond. Not too big a deal though, as we gave ourselves quite a safety buffer. In the end, being stuck at a sweet cabin in an awesome place surrounded by incredible people is not such a bad situation. Love ya!

    Comment by Brad on June 19, 2012 at 9:22 am

  9. Sorry about all the mechanical issues. It’s a struggle when it happens in your home country; it’s just downright no fun when pantomiming is involved. But it sounds like things are on the upswing. New countries, new food, new culture, new sites… cool.
    Looking forward to the next update, even though you just posted. Arm-chairing it sucks :(


    Comment by Todd on June 19, 2012 at 11:11 am

  10. @Todd: don’t worry, another blog post is forthcoming shortly, and we’ll reintroduce the humor. Despite the mechanical issues, life is good and we’re staying stoked. We’re in Colombia now, and have found it to be our favorite country by a long shot. Mexico still wins for food though.

    Comment by Brad on June 19, 2012 at 11:17 am

  11. Don J.

    Brad – I’m living vicariously and planning a retirement trip by reading of your adventures. I’ve got an ’87 Westy, so I’m tracking your mechanical issues with interest. Can you tell us yet, what failed on the transmission? Do you know if it’s an age related issue, such as the Sudden Death Syndrom? Thanks to you both, for sharing the adventure and keeping the rest of us dreaming!

    Comment by Don J. on July 6, 2012 at 1:32 pm

  12. Hadleigh

    Hey there, We’re also travelling down through the Americas and saw your comment:

    “We did find a nice Volkswagen parts house in Panama City”

    Do you happen to know the address or name of the company? We are here organizing shipping and I am looking for a few odds and ends for our Westfalia, cheers for your help!

    Comment by Hadleigh on September 8, 2012 at 8:29 am

  13. This cracks me up… We had similar months. Here was me at my worst: http://blog.closed-system.com/2010/10/26/gremlins/

    Comment by Carl Moczydlowsky on November 9, 2012 at 6:48 pm

  14. e

    How much did you spend on the whole trip?

    How old were you when you started?

    What was your day job??

    Your story has inspired me to want to do the same. Awesome.

    Comment by e on August 9, 2014 at 3:18 am

  15. E, I’ll be compiling the total trip cost in the near future. We were 27 and 28 when we started the trip. I was a mechanical engineer, Sheena worked in accounting. The cost wasn’t that high for the trip, around $2k per month after everything, and that’s for two people.

    Comment by Brad on August 16, 2014 at 10:03 pm

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