Our Road Life

Welcome back!  This is our second installment of From the Driver’s Seat, our weekly series where we inspire you by introducing you to *real* overland travelers.

This week we meet an American family of four who have traveled overland from California to Chile.  It’s fun to read how their travels have positively improved their lives and their bonds as a family.

They offer some amazing insights.  Here’s just one of them:

“If you want it, go get it. The world is beautiful. The people too. Don’t let fear get in the way if this is your dream.”

So grab a mug 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?

We are Karie and Simon, and our kids are Ty and Jamie. We live in California and by all accounts were pretty “normal” before we left the trip – just working jobs that took up too much of our lives and living for the weekends. And then we quit our jobs and overlanded to South America over 18 months.

Ng family in Quilotoa, Ecuador


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

Looking back it was really a snap decision. We had always loved camping road trips, so one day I was at work and daydreaming about our next destination. I started looking into driving to Baja Mexico. Then I discovered there was a ferry that connected Baja to Mainland Mexico. The rest is history.

We started a savings plan right away and originally it was a 10 year plan. The 10 year changed to 7, 5, and then 3. It was so hard to wait when our minds were already made up. We did wait until after I was pregnant with Jamie and until he turned 9 months old.

What was your biggest obstacle (real or imagined) to embarking on your trip?  Did anyone try to talk you out of it?

One obstacle was money, obviously. Money turns out to be as important as I imagined it to be, but how much money is enough is completely relative.

The other was safety. And yes it was real in my opinion, but nothing that couldn’t be overcome. I mean we travelled with two kids so we were hyper-vigilant about safety and we still did it and were safe.

Yes, I would say half the people we knew tried to talk us out of it. Especially because we had kids, they thought we were just foolish to take on this trip. It was not easy to hear because it fed our own fear and doubt. But people meant well. They just didn’t understand and couldn’t relate, and that was ok.

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

2003 Ford E350 modified by Sportsmobile.

Things we loved: strong and reliable 7.3L PSD engine; small footprint for narrow streets. Things we disliked: the pop-top became a pain in the butt to set up, level, and undo, every time we wanted to move the vehicle; kind of small for a family of four plus eventually a dog that we adopted in Peru.

Ng Sportsmobile in Chacala, Mexico

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

We drove south from California and reached almost the end of the road in southern Chile, in Tierra del Fuego.


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

Our relationships with each other and with the kids became really tight. It’s hard to imagine that had we continued our corporate lives, then we wouldn’t have been as close? But it was definitely a process through ups and downs. Being with anyone 24/7 while facing the kind of challenges that one does on the road can bring out the best and the worst.

We became tougher, as in, we really don’t “need” as many conveniences as we thought we did anymore. We are back home in California living on a farm, and we are still washing our dishes outside using a bucket. We don’t have a stove either or laundry machines. And our “house” is smaller than the standard hotel room. Had we not gone on the trip, this lifestyle wouldn’t fly with us.

Ng Kids in bathtub

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

Being full-time parents is the toughest job in the world no matter where you are. But our babies grew from 9 months and 3 years old, to 2 years and 5 years old, on the road. I believe the experience has changed them fundamentally even though they may not remember the facts. As parents we gained so many memories and, as you know, memories are priceless. So yes, it is beyond amazing.

Baby in Backpack

How do you fund your travels?

Good old-fashioned savings. Yes, it is boring, but what else? We started living very lean and puting away every cent we could. We met some people on the road who had bigger budgets than us, and some with significantly smaller budgets, and yet we were all doing the same thing. Financially, overlanding is very reachable goal. But there are sacrifices, you can’t have it both ways.

Sitting on side of Rio Alumine, Argentina

What future overlanding plans do you have?

Since we have been back, we started a farm. Before the trip, we were already concerned with animal welfare and the environmental damage from industrialized meat production, but it was the trip that really gave us the courage to start a farm business. We will commit to this for 5 years and see where it takes us. When overlanding fits into our lives again, we dream about the circuit from Southeast Asia, to China, Mongolia, Eastern Europe, Europe. New Zealand and Australia would be beautiful and easier too.

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

How common it actually is! I mean, it is still a huge leap of faith. But once you take that leap and get on the road, you will discover so many like-minded people who have done it, are doing it, will be doing it forever. There is a big community of overlanders who will offer help and friendship. And these are not crazy people. They are teachers, graphic designers, bankers, engineers, auto mechanics….just ordinary people making extraordinary choices.

Cusco Campground

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


What piece of advice could you offer to aspiring adventurers?

If you want it, go get it. The world is beautiful. The people too. Don’t let fear get in the way if this is your dream.

Ng Sportsmobile in Atacama, Chile

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Karie, Simon and their kids are just getting settled back in after completing their travels.  They have bought some land in northern California and are starting up a pasture-based livestock farm.  You can read more in this blog post on their website about their plans and how their travels were instrumental in illuminating and solidifying their dream to own a farm.

Thanks so much for joining us today!

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!

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