We’re Sebastian & Diamond and we are currently driving the Panamerican highway from our home in San Francisco to Argentina. We’ve been dreaming about visiting Argentina for years now. In April of 2020 we bought our plane tickets to Argentina for a two-week vacation. But, of course, the pandemic lasted for much longer than we had expected and our plans had to be rescheduled again and again.
As we were sitting at home throughout 2020 and 2021, we grew desperate to get out and see the world again. The following year, in 2022 (when it was finally possible), we decided to take the long way down to Argentina and make it a drive on the Pan-American Highway instead – seeing as much as we possibly could along the way. We left our jobs behind, packed the car and got out on the road.
Our Journey on the Pan-American Highway So Far
We left our home in California in November of 2022 and made our way to Mexico. We had initially hoped to reach Argentina within a year but there’s just been too much to see and by the end of the year we had only made it to Peru. Our new goal now is to finish up the trip in May of 2024.
Our route took us from Mexico all the way down Central America to Panama. While Panama connects the North and South American continents on land, the road does not continue into Colombia. The deep rain forest of the Darien Gap is not safe for crossing and we had to ship the car around it in a container. In the meantime, we got on a sailboat to sail through the San Blas Islands to Cartagena, where we picked up the car again. From there, we visited the northernmost point in South America (Punta Gallinas) and since then spent almost the entire time driving down the length of the Andes. Our goal is to make it to Patagonia for their fall season and trek around the amazing Torres del Paine National Park before the snow sets in.
After the pandemic years felt like they had flown by in an instant with few memorable moments along the way, the past year on the road was just the opposite. We wanted time to slow down a bit, and this engaging lifestyle has enabled it. We often look back just a few weeks and it feels like a lifetime ago, due to the sheer volume of people met, challenges overcome, and memories made. It’s not a lifestyle we could imagine forever, but a much needed break from our routine.
Favorite Places on Our Trip: Guatemala, Peru & Colombia
Every country has brought a different dimension to our journey and it’s impossible to pick just one favorite. Culturally we were amazed with Guatemala where the Mayan culture still runs deep. We visited some villages where the population was only speaking in the indigenous languages. We then spent Semana Santa in Antigua – a wonderful experience where the locals hold processions and build beautiful flower carpets all week.
The landscapes of Peru blew us away as well. We trekked in the Cordillera Huayhuash for 11 days – some of the most majestic mountains we’ve ever seen. We also drove across the sand dunes of Paracas and crossed 5,000 meter mountain passes. The people of Colombia were the most welcoming, inviting us into their homes and welcoming us to local celebrations. Bogota was perhaps the city we felt most at home in.
Conditions, Views & Safety on the Pan-American Highway
We’ve tried to avoid the main highways and have chosen backroads. While the road conditions are worse, we find the scenery is worth it and we’re happy to have a vehicle that can handle the terrain. The most beautiful areas we’ve driven across were far from pavement: Southwestern Bolivia (Salar de Uyuni as well as striking lakes), the Cordillera Blanca in Peru and the sand dunes of the Guajira peninsula.
While we often get asked about our personal safety, we didn’t have too many dangerous encounters on the Pan-American Highway. But of course a year on the road in places we don’t know well will lead to a few stories. In Colombia we learned that we needed to be careful in venturing into certain areas. Driving a backroad in Norte de Santander we came across a patrol of soldiers. Chatting to them, they advised that they don’t have full control of the area and that rebels could pose a danger to us, so we had to turn around and take the highway instead. Our drive through the Sinaloa region of Mexico got a bit more exciting than expected when cartel violence broke out after the arrest of drug lord El Chapo’s son. Smoldering trucks were lining the road as we made our way out of the state. But these experiences were a small part of the journey and we never felt threatened.
Traveling Down the Americas in a 4×4 Mercedes G-Class
We drive a 4×4 Mercedes G-Class that we bought as a stock vehicle. In fact, it hadn’t been taken off-road in the 15 years before we bought it. We converted it to a camper with a pop top that has our bed in it, as well as plenty of storage and a kitchen. It’s an incredibly compact and capable vehicle, although we don’t have much inside living space.
This has meant that in the hot days of Central America or the cold ones in the Andes, we had to layer up without a comfortable interior space. But we love the small footprint and off-road capability of this rig. It lets us go anywhere, from the busiest cities to the roughest desert roads. We spend about two thirds of our nights in the car. When we’re in the countryside, we sleep in the car almost exclusively. But when we reach cities, we typically park the car and get comfortable in an Airbnb. It allows us to participate in city-life and get the comforts of a real home.
Tips for Traveling Down the Pan-American Highway
- Stay Flexible: Allow yourself to spend extra time in the places that you’re currently enjoying, even if that means not being able to visit all of the places further down the road on the Pan-American Highway.
- Don’t Be Afraid of Doing Things Differently: Find your own path down without falling into the travelers’ group think. Some of our favorite memories were made in places that most travelers don’t venture to.
- Take Breaks Along the Way: Being on the move constantly can be exhausting and lead to sensory overload. Give yourself some days to relax and do nothing, or just catch up on the duties of everyday life.
- If You’re Thinking About It, Just Go for It: This trip is an incredibly rewarding and engaging experience. While there are challenging days along the way, locals or fellow travelers are there to help and working through these times is among the most rewarding parts of the trip.
Next Country on our Pan-American Highway Trip: Argentina
We’re about to reach Argentina, the place we came to see in the first place. It’s the eighth biggest country on earth and we still have months of exploring ahead of us. The desert landscape in northern Argentina is something we’ve been looking forward to since the day we left. And, of course, Patagonia is our dream finale. We love trekking and are planning to hike the O-Circuit around Torres del Paine as our southernmost point. Buenos Aires is the city we’ve been looking forward to the most and it’s where we plan to end.
Throughout the journey, we’ve been trying to de-emphasize the final destination and make the trip more about the journey. Nevertheless, we’re starting to feel a sense of pride for having made it this far and getting close to Argentina. Everything along the way has blown away our expectations and the final highlights now just feel like a bonus for us!
We hope our journey inspires you to take on the Pan-American Highway, from America to Argentina, one day. Besides the epic adventure, the deep immersion in new cultures has helped us develop new perspectives that we’ll benefit from for years to come. If you would like to see how our adventure ends, be sure to follow us on Instagram (@hakuna.asada) for updates.