What if you took a road trip and never come back?
Two couples called the road home for years and traveled hundreds of thousands of adventurous miles. Your havens? For a couple, a Mitsubishi Delica all-wheel-drive van, small compared to a motorhome or even other vans, let alone a fancy little house. On the other hand, a Ford Festiva, small compared to almost anything on four wheels.
The coronavirus pandemic has kept both couples and their vehicles idling for the time being as they all await their next chapters.
The 1988 two-door Festiva became known as the Peace Love Car. It was Sam Salweis’ home for eight years and Raquel Hernández-Cruz joined him four years later. After meeting up by chance and traveling together for a month in 2012, they got together again in 2013 – and have been together ever since.
“While I was working on my bachelor’s degree, a friend gave me the car as a gift,” said Mr. Salwei, a 39-year-old Crystal, ND, who graduated from the University of North Dakota with a degree in social entrepreneurship. “A free car that was also gas efficient was a dream. I really didn’t need anything else. “
He started with short road trips and then thought he could stay longer if he didn’t have to return home. “Little by little, I began to adapt the car so that I could sleep in it,” he said, pointing to “a slow change of five years”.
When the car is parked at Mr. Salweis’s mother’s home in North Dakota, the couple resumed their journey. They spent the past winters in Thailand, but after the coronavirus outbreak earlier this year, they left to try to get out of the pandemic with Ms. Hernández-Cruz’s family in Puerto Rico. In September they traveled to California, where they also bought and furnished a delica while living a hermit lifestyle in Long Beach.
For Ms. Hernández-Cruz, who is 40 and raised in rural Puerto Rico, “my life seemed pretty ordinary as I followed the path my parents had previously taken – school, college, marriage, graduate school, maybe Having children and working A job for the rest of your life. “
That wasn’t her way. She started practicing yoga and wanted something different. She met Mr. Salwei and they soon traveled around the world as a yoga slacker, teaching slackline yoga on a tightrope walk.
Your car was of course very much adapted to nomadic life. It had over 10 USB charging ports, seven 12-volt power connections, and six 110-volt plug-ins. It took two RV batteries and 400 watts of solar panels to power the hatchback, a small refrigerator, various electronics, and a ceiling fan.
The windows had screens, the body panels were insulated, and the bed slept two adults (comfortably). It features a DIY tail lift kit with an improved suspension and steering system. Two roof boxes acted as an attic and contained adventure gear, backpacks, cameras and accessories.
The car’s kitchen consisted of a Craftsman tool bag and “a random combination of warehouse and household kitchen items,” said Ms. Hernández-Cruz, all as small and light as possible. When hunger arose, they stopped and cooked: free campsites, rest stops, gas stations or the roadside. The empty car weighed a little over 2,500 pounds, but when fully loaded it pushed over 3,700 pounds.
Everything in the car “has a place and you can usually get to it in less than three movements,” Salwei said. “Parking is a breeze, it’s easy to crowd into small campsites, and most importantly, you can pick it up and move it by hand when needed.”
The Festiva odometer reads 524,000 miles and has crossed the United States approximately 20 times since 2008. Since 2013, the couple toured and taught in three countries and 49 states (Hawaii the exception). The Festiva got a farewell tour in 2014 and since 2017 they have been trying to find a new home in search of “a worthy pilot who needs an adventure,” said Salwei.
In the slightly larger quarters of their Mitsubishi Delica Star Wagon from 1991, Pablo Rey and Anna Callau made their way through 60 countries.
Their vehicle also has a nickname: La Cucaracha, and it was the couple’s home for 16 years. It was even the guest of honor at their Las Vegas wedding – they made their vows in a drive through ceremony in 2011.
What began as a four-year excursion, one continent a year, has turned into a never-ending journey. “Life outside of our usual boundaries was much richer and more exciting,” said Rey, 54, who grew up in Buenos Aires.
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However, the couple’s travels in the van are interrupted and it stands near Reno, Nevada, waiting for the post-pandemic era. Mr. Rey and Mrs. Callau, 48, now live near their family home in Europe.
The couple paid around $ 10,500 for the van on Christmas Eve 1999 in Barcelona, Spain, with around 52,000 miles on the odometer. (They later suspected it was illegally and significantly reset.) They have made numerous adjustments over the years, including an additional 20 gallon fuel tank and a solar panel.
They encountered challenges and mishaps along their 245,000 miles. In Sudan, “we lost the air filter cover and half of the sand from the Sahara desert went into the engine,” Rey said. “We were in an area where nobody speaks English, only Arabic.”
The local mechanics only repaired tractors. The couple had no phone, embassy, or AAA to ask for help. Still, they made it.
Bandits attempted a robbery with AK-47 in Kenya. Mr Rey and Ms. Callau were attacked by thieves in Trinidad and Tobago, and Ebola was diagnosed in Kitum Cave, Kenya while traveling around town. The Andes in Chile posed another threat: the Delica’s engine stalled at 15,000 feet and needed to be replaced.
The Festiva also had some problems. In the more than 400,000 miles Mr. Salwei has traveled, bad transmissions have been eliminated from the roadside and grocery store parking lots. However, nothing was more challenging than being sick while living together in 28 square meters.
“Our body is the most intrinsic machine we have,” said Ms. Hernández-Cruz. “We have to do our best to keep it going for a long time.”
Adversity or challenge can lead to rewards and happiness. “Interesting stories usually come when you step out of your comfort zone,” said Ms. Callau, who is from Barcelona and identifies as a Catalan. The couple shares their travels online through Viajeros 4x4x4 and related social media channels.
“Living on the street means living with a lot more freedom,” added Ms. Callau. The couple worked as a piste police in a bar in Chile and a ski resort. They printed and sold t-shirts, postcards, and books they wrote about their trip to help fund their trips. They even developed a comic with a friend from Boston about life on the street.
One of the most rewarding parts was “being the owners / masters of our time,” said Ms. Callau. “The magic is now in the unexpected,” added Mr Rey.
For Kathryn Joyce, another YogaSlackers teacher and postdoctoral fellow at the Princeton University Center for Human Values, the Peace Love Car was “fun, inviting, apologetic.” It even symbolized freedom, she said: “Freedom from consumerism, social standards, burdensome obligations, but also freedom in the sense of independence.”
This festiva was loaded with over 2,000 stickers, which resulted in countless police stops and border controls, but relatively few tickets. It was “much more than a car or a house,” said Mr Salwei. “It’s the ultimate smile maker.” He added, “Anyone who sees the car responds, mostly with a bright smile.”