About Us

Thanks for visiting our blogsite, our names are Chad and Ana Memmel. We left the USA in February of 2008, bound for adventures in far-away places! Since then, we’ve been driving around the back roads and cities of Mexico, Central and South America. Our home is a 1977 Volkswagen Type 2 bus named “Mango”. We eat, breathe, travel, and live inside her. Living in a VW bus may not always be comfortable, but it’s a great way to see the world. It also makes it easy to meet a TON of great people! We hope you can follow along with us on our adventures, and enjoy the ride as much as we do!

Overlanding through Peru in a 1977 Volkswagen bus


This website was started to help document our traveling experiences, and to share these experiences with family and friends. We hope that our encounters with people of other cultures, places, and experiences will be interesting and educational. We also hope to dismiss some notions that the world is an unsafe place outside a person’s own border. On the contrary, we now know the world is filled with great people as well as interesting places. The vast majority of people we’ve met on this trip are very similar to you and me in terms of what they want out of life. Most people are looking to earn a decent living, enjoy their lives, and have fun with those around them. We hope to spread his message, and do our part in marking the world a better, more understood place.

Trip Our trip began in Colorado Springs, CO where we’d been living very happily for the past 3 years. We purchased a VW bus about 6 months before leaving, and originally planned to spend 6-8 months driving it through Mexico, Central and South America. Once we reached the southern-most point of South America, we intended to ship home/sell/give away/drive off a cliff the VW and head out as backpackers to see other parts of the world. In total, the original plan was to travel for about 2 years. Guess what – the plan changed! Along the way we met a ton of great people and discovered an endless supply of beautiful and interesting places. We decided to slow our trip down to explore all the great places and people that we were meeting. The world is a big place, so right now we’re concentrating on the Americas and hope to visit “the rest of the world” on other trips and adventures. Below is a graphic we made for a sticker with a general map of where we’ve been living the last 22 months.

Map of our VW road trip through Central and South America

Financing We both come from backgrounds where our parents taught us to work hard towards our goals while saving some money along the way. Chad’s parents are both teachers and Ana’s parents are Romanian immigrant engineers. We’d like to thank them for teaching us from an early age about financial responsibility and making sound decisions in life. We had the idea of doing this world trip almost from the day we met, and consequently tried to save as much money as possible. Chad worked active duty in the Air Force for 9 years and Ana was employed as a biochemist for 6 years. After we moved in together, we found that we were able to live on one person’s salary while saving and investing the other person’s salary. We bought a house that we could afford, kept most of our college furniture, and always drove relatively reliable but used cars (“semi-new” as they’re called south of the border). Basically, through saving and investing from an early age, we were able to finance this trip by ourselves.

Our Bus Our house is a 1977 VW Type 2 bus. It is called many things to many people including Kombi, Westfalia, Hippie Van, Transporter, Type II, Microbus, VW bus. We used to just call it “The bus”. However, because we spend so much of our time in the bus, it has taken on an almost lifelike quality and we now call her “Mango”. Mango is predominantly orange and rust colored. The orange color was the first thing Ana loved about Mango when she saw her parked for sale in a neighbor’s driveway a few blocks from where we lived in Colorado. Mango has a 4 cylinder 2.0 liter fuel-injected, air-cooled engine with hydraulically adjusted valves (no valve adjustments every 3000 miles). We did some work on her both before and during the trip to make her more comfortable and hopefully a bit more reliable also. Below is a list of things we’ve modified or fixed so far:

• Replaced the orange pop-top roof with a white one that came with the bus from the previous owners, Jeff and Misti
• Replaced the pop-top canvas with a new one from BusDepot.com (thanks for the help TB, Al and Cathy!)
• Remodified the old faucet with a variable-flow pump and faucet from Shurflo (thanks TB!)
• Resurfaced the table with linoleum tiles (thanks Lindsay, our friend in Denver who donated the table!)
• Cut and re-upholstered the foam cushion and armrest on the back seat
• Replaced the turn signal switch
• Replaced the fuel pump relay
• Re-gutted (new tubing) on the entire window washing fluid system
• Replaced the windshield
• Replaced the passenger side door panel
• Replaced the stereo with one that has an MP3 player auxillary port
• Fixed the passenger side wiring for the right front speaker
• Added weatherstripping to the head lights, doors, and engine compartment seals
• Replaced foam engine seal with a new one and sealed off larger holes in engine compartment
• Mounted a fire extinguisher behind the passenger seat
• Installed an auxillary battery with charging mechanism via the alternator (thanks Kevin for the use of your garage!)
• Wired 2x 12 Volt male receptacles + a 1200 Watt inverter with 2x 110 Volt outlets
• Rewired interior lights to the auxillary battery
• Installed an electrical deactivation switch for when the bus is parked unattended
• Added locking lug nuts to all four tires plus a cable chain around the front spare tire (under cover)
• Modified some retractable seat belts from a VW bug to fit our bus (the old ones were not retractable)
• Placed padding on areas where our heads tends to hit a lot
• Added storage containers above the sink
• Bought felt fabric to create a drop down curtain behind the front seats
• Sewed a cover for the porta potty (now it looks like a storage bin!)
• Replaced the carpeting with more durable and easier to clean black plastic matting

Our Cats We had two cats, Spook and Hissy, who were temporarily adopted by our friends Emily and Hal for the duration of our trip. Unfortunately, against the best efforts of Hal and Emily, Hissy died of cancer while we were away. We miss both cats, but take comfort in knowing that Spook is very happy with his adopted family. In fact, there’s a good chance he’s better off with Hal and Emily than he was with us! Life (and death) doesn’t stop so you might as well make the most of each moment you have. As for our cats, we appreciate the efforts of Hal and Emily, and look forward to being reunited with Spook at the end of our trip. Thanks Emily and Hal!