Dimas Gabriel is an iOS engineer at X-Team. Before he joined X-Team, he and his wife spent two years traveling South America in a big RV. In this interview, Dimas talks about why he chose to do this, what his favorite experiences were, and how the two cats traveling with him dealt with the ever-changing environment.
Why did you decide to travel around South America for two years? Was there a specific event that made you decide to just go for it?
My wife and I had been thinking of changing our lifestyle for a while before we started traveling. We wanted to be closer to nature and have more adventures in our daily lives.
The turning point was the book
Into the Wild, which tells the story of Christopher McCandless leaving everything behind to travel to Alaska. After reading the book, I convinced my wife to sell our car and buy an RV. Half a year later, we were on the road.
Fun side note: I had never driven anything bigger than a conventional car up until that point. The RV we bought is eight meters longer than a car. So that was a challenge at first.
Tell me about your RV. It looks comfortable!
It's big and comfortable. This meant we couldn't get to some places, but at least it was comfortable enough to live there full-time.
I initially bought it for sporadic traveling and not as a full-time home. So when we decided to hit the road full-time, I equipped it with solar panels and a battery bank that provided us with electricity wherever we went. This was fundamental to the success of the trip, because we wanted to keep working while traveling.
Other than that, the RV has a potable water tank of 600 liters. This allowed us to stay in the places we liked for much longer. It also showed us that you can live a good life consuming only a small amount of water every day. Now that we live in a 'normal' house again, it's much easier to consume more water than we actually need.
How did you manage to drive an RV that was eight meters longer than your car? It must have been difficult to drive.
When I first got the RV, I took a few practice turns and drove home, which wasn't a good idea. It's not an easy vehicle to drive without training. So I took driving lessons for large vehicles. Not easy at the beginning, but you learn eventually. Now I prefer driving the RV over a small car. It feels great driving a big vehicle.
Which countries did you travel to? Any you liked most?
We traveled to Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, Peru, and Colombia. We liked Chile the most. The country has so many beautiful nature spots to visit and camp at. We spent a lot of time completely alone in nature there. Plus, almost the entire country has cellphone signal. We could use the internet pretty much everywhere (very important for remote workers).
You traveled with two cats. Did they stay inside the whole time? How did they manage the trip?
That was fun. Initially, the cats stayed inside most of the time. Eventually, they started to jump outside when we camped, especially in quiet places. Eventually, we let them out wherever we stopped. They just learned how to go outside, take a walk, and come back to the RV all by themselves 😅
The only thing that became more difficult was crossing borders. Animals require more paperwork than humans do. Every time we wanted to cross a border, we had to see a vet and gather lots of papers.
What about the social side? Did you meet any interesting people?
We met many inspiring people. We spent a lot of time at regular campgrounds and even did some boondocking (camping on public land) in cities. That's where we met other people living like we did. They came from all kinds of countries and drove different types of RVs or, sometimes, just traveled on a bicycle.
The route we took, especially the part in Argentina, is part of a bigger route that travelers around the world take. It starts in Alaska and goes all the way down to Ushuaia. We met many people from Europe, especially from Germany, who were taking this route. Sometimes, we even saw the same people on another part of the route. I'm still in touch with some of them today.
What was the scariest thing that happened to you during the trip?
I don't know if scary is the right word for this, but we had a terrible experience in the middle of Patagonia, Argentina. We were in the middle of nowhere. The closest city was over 300 kilometers away, and it was a city with only five hundred people living there and virtually no infrastructure.
We had a mechanical issue and had to spend a night on the road. Cars and trucks passed right by our side. The next day, we managed to get to the city, but we got stuck for over two weeks waiting for the right part to arrive. Not fun at the time, but today we just laugh about it.
What do you mean when you say you had to spend a night on the road? Do you mean you were stuck in the middle of the road?
The roads in some parts of Patagonia, particularly the most deserted ones, are very narrow. There isn't much space to park on the side of the road. Our brakes had stopped working because the brake air hose of our RV was leaking. This doesn't mean you can no longer brake (thankfully). It means that the RV brakes until you can no longer move.
This happened on one of those tight roads. In the middle of the night, a truck driver stopped and asked if we needed help. We tried fixing the problem, but it didn't work. So he left and talked to the police in the nearest city. The next morning, a tow truck pulled us to the city.
But situations like this happen. It's part of the trip and it's scary, but when you camp in a beautiful place a few days later, you thank yourself for not giving up.
That's a good way of looking at it. Let me flip the question around. What was your favorite experience?
We spent two weeks living at the base of a volcano in Chile in the middle of nowhere. We didn't see a single person during our time there. A lot of time to think about life. It was amazing to work, cook, Netflix, cycle, and go for a walk next to volcanic lava stones. A normal life in the middle of paradise.
Was it hard adjusting back to stationary life when you returned home?
Definitely! But we still have the RV and we have a tiny house in the middle of a beautiful place in Brazil, so we're still living the way we want. We now have a little daughter too, and we're just waiting for her to hit the right age before we hit the road again.
Sounds like you've caught the van life bug. Thank you so much for the interview and best of luck with your future travels.