And Off We Went

Welcome to From the Driver’s Seat!  It’s our new series where we are spotlighting *real* overland travelers who are either currently on the road or have just returned from an overland trip.  Our goals are to provide some differing perspectives on traveling overland and to showcase the variety of people who decide to do so.

Our first set of travelers has demonstrated fantastic resiliency as mechanical issues have thrown them multiple curve balls.  Through it all they are still loving their adventures and are quick to encourage others to do embark on their own.  We were fortunate to spend time with them in Arequipa, Peru, where we quickly bonded and we shared some fun adventures.  I know that you will find their story interesting too.

So grab a cup of your favorite beverage, sit back, relax and enjoy the ride…


Tell us about yourselves.  What are your names, backgrounds and where are you from?

Matt Tupy: Originally from Canada – Retired from Canadian Armed Forces, Hotel Manager, English Teacher – 59

Michelle Tupy: Originally from Australia – English Teacher, Ghost Writer and Content Writer – 44

Emilia Tupy: Originally from Australia – Enjoys singing, playing computer games – 11

Matthew Tupy: Originally from Australia – Loves Michael Jackson, zombies and computer games – 6

The Tupy Family

What inspired you to do an overlanding trip?  What are the steps that you took to turn the dream into reality?

When we managed a hostel in Cusco, we kept hearing stories of people traveling around South and North America so we decided to see if we could do it too. Once we sold everything from the hostel, we bought a Kombi and then took it from there. It was all somewhat fluid, but the easiest thing was just to take it one step at a time. I don’t plan any more than one or two countries ahead if I can help it.

We also asked one of our artist friends if she would mind painting some original designs on our van before we set off. This was a once in a lifetime, fun, adventurous kind of trip so we wanted our wheels to be representative of that.

Tupy Kombi as Clothesline

What was your biggest obstacle (real or imagined) to embarking on your trip?

Thankfully we have a very supportive group behind us – so everyone was pretty excited about the next leg of our travels. We had just spent two years in Peru before setting off, so our initial goal was to visit some of the areas we had been meaning to see in Peru such as Lake Titicaca, Arequipa, and Nazca first before heading up to Ecuador.

Any problems we faced were mainly due to vehicle repairs once we hit the road and we had to postpone our trip by six months due to these issues. That frustrated us to no end. We learned very early on that the vehicle had all kinds of problems, which unfortunately had been missed by our initial inspection. We spent way more than we had bargained for in repairs.

Mechanics working on Tupy's Kombi

What kind of rig do you have?  Does your rig have a name?  What do you like or dislike about your current setup?

We have a 1982 VW Kombi and so far she has no name. We tried, but the kids started disagreeing on the name, so we figured it was easier to ride around in the van with no name. It is not set up with beds or anything like that, so we don’t have the opportunity to sleep in it. Although saying that, we did spend one night in the van in the middle of nowhere on our way back from Puerto Maldonado to Cusco. We couldn’t have wished the sun to come up any quicker – we were cold and uncomfortable to say the least. A vehicle with beds would be a bonus and definitely cut down costs on the way.

Where have you traveled (so far) with your vehicle?

We purchased the van in Cusco and have driven through Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica and are preparing to head to Nicaragua. These are all stepping stones on the way back to Canada.

Tupy Family in Cusco

What have you learned from your travels?  Have you experienced any unexpected revelations along the way?

We have learned to take it slow and not rush. As we drive an older vehicle, it is better for us to break up a 500km into a couple of days than to try to do it all in one day. We are on our own schedule, so we just go at our own pace. The kids enjoy it when we travel slowly so we can get out and stretch our legs or grab a snack. We have learned that the kids really enjoy our travel days – they both get to sit back and relax and zone out for a while in anticipation of our next adventure.

How has traveling with kids been challenging?  How has it been amazing?

Our kids have quite an age gap – six years in fact – so they get on each other’s nerves, a lot! And then they have their moments when they are absolutely wonderful together. I love that our six-year-old son enjoys talking about the countries we have visited and that they both get to meet wonderful people along the way.

Emilia & Matt Tupy

Do you have a favorite travel experience that you can share?

So much of our trip has been fantastic – we have stayed by the beach in Ecuador, lived on a farm in Colombia, managed a hostel in Panama, and it’s not over yet. We do get really excited whenever we cross a country border. It just means any hassles that we might experience with border crossings or visas are over until we are ready to leave the country we are in. Then we forget about it for a while and relax until we prepare to visit the next destination.

Kombi in southern Peru

How do you fund your travels?

We work online as we travel. We did do a bit of a fundraiser to cross to Panama from Colombia as our money had disappeared on vehicle repairs but we are fortunate that I have good clients who don’t mind the fact that we work from abroad. As a ghostwriter and content writer for small businesses, I just need a good internet connection. Thankfully we have been able to get that in most countries we have visited. Coastal Ecuador was the worst as we kept on experiencing power outages.

Kombi in Shipping Container

What future overlanding plans do you have?

After we return to Canada, we have no plans. We might just do a Canadian trip or a US trip in the future; we haven’t really decided. But I think after traveling on the road for a year or two, we will definitely need some time to settle down and regroup. And I will need to finalize my travel notes and compile the book I have been promising everyone. Where in Canada we will settle though in the interim, we have no idea.

What was the biggest misconception about overlanding that you had before your travels?

I thought it would be easier to find good mechanics than it has been. We sometimes have to take our vehicle to 2 or 3 mechanics before we can find someone who can help us service or repair the vehicle. That is in itself frustrating. The gringo prices that some try to charge too are super frustrating as well.

Kombi being towed

What else would you like us to know about you and your travels?  Do you have a travel blog?

I have a much-ignored travel blog at present which can be found at as well as a Facebook page of the same name.

What piece of advice could you offer to aspiring adventurers?

The kindness of strangers is so evident on the road. We have broken down many times, and we have had people push the van, tow the van, look at the van and even get in the van to show us the way, just to try to get us to the next city or beyond. So if you are hesitant about overland travel, don’t be. For the most part, people are genuinely friendly and will be curious about your travels and open to chat.

Tupy Kombi with people

So there you have it: The Tupy Family driving back to Canada from South America.   Aren’t they inspiring?  We feel very fortunate to count them as our friends.

Michelle is also the author of two published books, Love Alters: A Love For All Seasons and An Unexpected Kindness.

You can follow their travels via their blog, And Off We Went, and via their Facebook page.

Bookmark this page or, better yet, join our email list so you’ll be sure to see our updates.  Also, please let us know in the comments if you would like to be featured in this series.

Stay tuned for our next installment of From the Driver’s Seat!


2 Responses to 'And Off We Went'

  1. Hope we can do this once children are old enough! Great job guys.

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