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Smashed my PT Cruiser with a Tank


We all make mistakes.  In 2003, I purchased a PT Cruiser.  It is completely reasonable for you to ask: “John, you don’t look mentally ill… why would you do this?!”.  The best case I can come up with is that I wanted a stick shift (pop quiz, hotshot, how many Lamborghini’s today are made stick?  Zero), I wanted something a little “different”, and I wanted it not to suck gas (remember this is in 2003, when average MPG was going down for the first time in 20 years).  But seriously, I have no defense.  The only thing working in my favor is that I corrected the mistake… a decade later.  I’m a slow learner.


The PT Cruiser in its’ natural state: with tires deflated.

No one know the issues with this car better than I.  Here is the list of what I had to put up with since buying it:

  • Tire deflation – the tires wouldn’t hold to the rims due to the type of metal, so they kept deflating.  Eventually, I had an air compressor that I plugged into the car to blow up the tires before going anywhere.  Before I got that air compressor, the tires would all be of a different pressure and the car would be quite skittish (the back end would “swim” down the highway, or strongly pull to one side).  Sometimes the tires would just pop because they were never at the pressure they were designed for.
  • No air conditioning – The compressor went out around 30K miles, and ever since I’ve spent the summer months sweating away.
  • Electrical problems – The engineers knew that they underside of the car would be vulnerable to the salt us northerners have to put on the roads in the winter.  I knew they were planning for this because they encased some things in rubber.  What they didn’t put in rubber: the connection from the battery to the alternator.  So the car would randomly die because the battery wasn’t getting charged.
  • Spare tire cage noise – The spare tire housing underneath the car was also housed in rubber, but the bolt holding it on was not rust-proof.  It snapped like a twig one day around 50K miles when I needed the spare, and the cage rattled around for another 50K miles until the good guys at Midas offered to just take the useless thing off for me.  Why didn’t I get it fixed?  Chrysler wouldn’t sell me the $10 bolt I needed.  They wanted $350 to replace the entire case (plus labor, of course).
  • Road noise – Talking on the phone while in the PT was impossible as the cabin noise was ungodly.
  • Wouldn’t start in sub-zero weather without a jump – This is a mild problem because I live in Minnesota.  The car was nearly unusable for several months out of the year, right from the start.  Yes I had synthetic oil.
  • Cost – I spent roughly $10K in maintenance from the time I bought the car until its’ demise at 107K miles.  The car had 8 sets of tires because they kept popping and going flat.  Now you can see why I didn’t just get the AC fixed: I wasn’t really optimistic the problem would stay fixed.
Both the engine and oil light have been on since 10K miles. I think they mean: Yes, you have an engine and oil. Thanks PT!

I’ve been stranded a dozen times by this car, and I wanted nothing more in the world than to send it to hell.  The most memorable time I’ve been screwed by the PT was driving back from the family cabin, a 4 hour drive from northern Wisconsin to west Minneapolis.  It was a Sunday, July 4th, and the tire blew out when I was miles from nowhere.  To make matters worse, I somehow manage to lock myself out of the car.  When it rains, it pours.  Or in this case, I’m sweating balls as I trek for miles to the nearest town.  I find a guy hanging around a marina who is a “locksmith”, which basically means he has a hangar he can bend in funny ways.  To his credit, my amazement, and another knock against Chryslers’ ability to provide theft-proof machines, he’s able to get the door open with his “tools”.  I give him $50 and he’s overjoyed.  Hey man, without you I’d still be trekking across the land of beer and cheese.



  • Air compressor (that plugs into the car) – The tires will go flat, constantly.  Keeping the pressure roughly correct reduces blowouts.
  • Jumper Cables – The electrical system is trash, and the battery is strained from pumping up the tires.  Or maybe it’s just too cold and the car refuses to start.  There’s a ton of reasons you need these.
  • Spare Tire – I’ve put more than 1K miles on my spare tire, when they are supposed to be used for less than 100 miles.  Very little tread left by the time I destroyed the PT.


Actual quote from my wife while we were dating:

Let’s take my car.  I’d like to find you sexually attractive.

Her car was a Jetta.  Yes, my car was less manly than a Jetta, the quintessential aught’s girl conveyance.  We’ve been married for 5 years and together for 7, and she’s been in that car less than 10 times.  She wasn’t even in it when we drove it down to destroy it.  And she wasn’t the first woman to suggest driving her car, either.

Over the years, I’ve been laughed at while driving the car.  Literally, a car of women next to me at a stoplight would start laughing hysterically and pointing at me, just like in a movie.  I had a woman who was interested in me do a double-take upon seeing the car and had a very pointed question: “Are you gay?”.  Again, I have no defense.


I enjoyed a game at the time called World of Tanks, and did a Google search on if I could drive an actual real life WWII tank.  Turns out that there was a place just an hour south of me that did just that!  Plus, they had a package where you could smash cars with a tank.  What if I supplied the car?  Would that be possible?  Turns out that it was possible!

Before we continue, I did have a good experience sending this car to hell.  However, if you think that I’m pimping the place I did it with, let me tell you that they are woefully incompetent.  I spent 3 months emailing and on the phone with them, and each and every time I talked to someone new who had no clue what it was I wanted.  Even the day I showed up to deliver the car so they could prepare it for smashing, the guy I left the car with had no idea what was going on.

The day before we were going to smash it, they told me other legal things they needed that they couldn’t remember to tell me in the previous 3 months of emails and phone calls.  Seriously, they are morons and it’s miraculous that this thing got done.  Correction, they are morons with heavy weaponry.  Severely terrifying.  If you are going to do an event with them, use small words, write in crayon, and confirm everything 10 times over.

As part of the package, I got to drive other tanks as well and even shoot a couple of guns.  It’s a real redneck operation they have here.  And I mean that in a good way.

Shooting a fully automatic M4. God bless America.


First we spend an hour listening to the tank company complain about how people come into their operation and claim they know everything about tanks because they’ve played Battlefield 1942 or World of Tanks.  Seriously, I agree with these guys: how they hell people claim they know about WWII equipment from video games is mind-boggling, and I enjoy every second of their griping.  It gets me a lot less upset over their incompetence to know they have to suffer armchair generals every day.

FV433 Abbott SPG

I am driving three vehicles today:

  • FV433 Abbott SPG (above)
  • FV432 APC (below)
  • Chieftain for the car crush

FV 432 APC

These are all British vehicles.  Why no American tanks?  Because the US chooses not to sell their military equipment to other countries/civilians.  It’s incredibly hard to get parts for American equipment because it’s so rare.  For example, to drive an M4 Sherman for 10 minutes will run you $3,500!  Tanks were actually meant to be disposable.  The average lifespan of a tank in combat in WWII was 42 minutes.  They were never meant to travel more than 400 miles in their life, and the odometer on some of these tanks is over 1,000 miles.  Just keeping them running is a big expense.


But I can’t really complain about how much it costs.  The tank package along with destroying a “working” vehicle will total more than a few thousand dollars out of my pocket.  Why didn’t I donate the car instead?  Simple: it’s garbage and on the verge of collapse.  It would take a few thousand dollars just to keep running.  I drove it once a week and my wife would make sure she was awake until I got home in case it stranded me yet again.  If I donated it, there’s a large chance they would have just sold it for scrap.  Might as well junk it myself.  It was a great catharsis.

This is actually one of the things that I didn’t expect: no one really understands why I did it.  Sure, some kids at the tank place [immediately upon seeing the PT sitting outside] exclaimed: “I want to crush the PT Cruiser with a tank!”.  So, I mean, the kids understood.  Everyone over the age of 12 seems to give me a confused look when I show them this.  The truth is that I just wanted to do something fun and unique.  It’s been a great story to tell and I’ve never once regretted doing it.


First, these vehicles were made with a shorter person in mind.  All of them expect a 5’8″ guy rather than someone over 6 foot.  So everything is a bit cramped.  I can’t imagine sitting in one for hours on end.  Second, they are HOT and LOUD.  You’re sitting right next to the engine.  It’s kind of like riding a motorcycle, where it’s possible to touch your leg on a piece of metal that will burn you.

Driving a tank is just like driving a forklift/skid-loader.  There are two levers: pushing the left one forward will turn the tank to the right, pushing the right one forward turns to the left, pushing both forward makes the tank go forward, etc.  All of the tanks are pretty responsive in their controls.

This is how you’d drive in combat. There’s 15 tons of tank on your left, it’s a million degrees in there, and you have to drive 30 MPH over rugged terrain while bouncing like ball and looking through a tiny window. Good luck with that!

The visibility while driving “buttoned-up” is terrible.  There’s no peripheral vision and the driver is sitting off to one side of the tank, so much of it is educated guesswork.  The tank bounces up and down like a spastic child, and “comfort” is just not a word that comes to mind while driving any of these things.


Driving a tank is fun, but destroying a soul-killing, money-draining, cock-blocking conveyance is the real goal of this day.

Our tool for this task is the British-made Chieftain.  Clocking in at 62 tons, 35 feet long, and 12 feet wide, it seems capable for this job.  The tank is a decade newer than the previous versions I’ve driven, but the inside feels exactly the same.  It drives the same as well.

My instructions on how to do this are clear, and take all of a few seconds to be explained to me:

  • Don’t turn at all – the tank and car are perfectly lined up as-is.  Just go forward.
  • Don’t stop on the way up
  • Pause on the way down when told for photos

It might seem less than exciting after driving tanks off-road that there isn’t much interaction with the machine.  However, there are good reasons why they do it this way that will become clear shortly.

Delivering the PT to where it’ll meet its’ maker…

You may have figured it out already, but in case you haven’t: I’m not good with money.  What’s even more ridiculous than smashing a car with a tank?  Filming it from the air with a drone!


My brother-in-law Kelvin is at the controls of the drone.  If we were thinking, we’d have handed off our phones to someone to get the side-view footage as well.  Hey, back off!  This was my first time doing this!


Take a look at the GIF to to see it in action (video coming soon, promise).  Also in the video is another car crush with both the aerial and side views.

What was it like in the tank?  It seems stupid to say, but wasn’t completely obvious to me beforehand, but a 60 ton war machine doesn’t really give a fuck that the PT Cruiser is in the way.  While the tank pitches up a bit in the video, it was actually really hard to tell when I had actually driven over it.  Couldn’t feel a thing.


What happened next was very fitting for a car that would never work properly yet refused to outright die: it was caught in the treads of the tank and took 15 minutes for a forklift to pry it off.



This happened with the other car as well, and is the reason why there are very strict driving instructions.  Traveling on rough terrain is one thing, and going over metal that wraps around into the tracks is a very different problem.  Eventually they manage to get the ugly carcass of the fail-machine off of the tank.

After the crush and random pictures of the wreckage, we’re pretty wiped out.  It has been a long and hot day.  The ride home in my wife’s BMW x5 is everything the PT was not: quiet, smooth, cool, and comfortable.  And the best part is that no one laughed at me or made judgments on my sexuality on the ride home.  Not owning a PT Cruiser is great.

Typical cheesy photo-op material. Eh, why not.
John’s PT Cruiser: 2003 – 2014. Rest in pieces.

Cusco, Peru: Incredibly Touristy


Cusco, Peru is the second stop in our destination.  Our stay in Lima was to get our feet wet in a big, foreign city before heading out to where there would be less English spoken and things would get more “authentic”.

Well, that place has to be further down the line, because it’s not Cusco.  Cusco is a cute little town that is currently used as a stopover on the way to Macchu Pichu.  Historically it actually used to be the capital of Peru when the Inca’s were in charge.  Today it houses a shockingly large collection of college student / backpacker types on an assembly line churning towards Macchu Pichu.


Don’t get me wrong: Cusco is a beautiful city with a lot of charm and things to do.  I guess I had just pictured it to be a little more… traditional?  Isolated?  That probably shows the naivete on my part.  But, back home, people aren’t really talking about trips to Peru.  They are typically talking about European or South East Asian vacations.  I think I have a cousin or two that have been to Peru, but literally don’t know of anyone else.  Anyway, there’s a lot of gringos here and we felt like we should all get together and play Ultimate Frisbee or something.

The foundations of these buildings are made from the foundations of old Inca buildings. People take pictures of themselves with the rocks.

Here we learn a few things about Peruvian towns that seem to be common themes.

1. There’s always a plaza.  Think of it like a central town square.  People meet there to celebrate, talk, or just hang around.  We saw things every evening, ranging from graduations, weddings, protests, and one evening a bunch of students organized a “flash mob” in the streets (basically did a spontaneous and coordinated dance number between the 50 of them).

2. The Inca love aqueducts – little gutters lining the streets and houses used to transport water.  These act as primitive plumbing and rely solely on gravity.  The Inca built near hills to facilitate this building style.  To be clear, I’m talking about the Inca empire that was in the 15th and 16th centuries: many of the foundations and building layouts are still intact!  Yes there have been some maintenance, but it’s still interesting to see cities that are older than everything in the US.

3. Adobe brick and clay shingles are used everywhere.  Adobe is just mud and straw, just like the Inca used.  Still in use today as building material.

4. Inca?  Inca.  Inca everything.

Walking up the alley, I can’t help but think this would be terrible to drive up in Minnesota in the winter. Yes, that’s what I think about.

The streets and buildings in Cusco have a more European feel to them.  Everything is tiny and obviously built pre-automobile.  There’s parking exactly nowhere in the city and it seems that owning a car is more trouble than it’s worth.  The cobblestone streets and stairs can be painful on the joints since the town is on a constant slope, and it’s during those times where it’s best to pop into a coffee shop or restaurant to relax.

Touts are everywhere trying to get the tourists to part with their money.  It can be tiring to constantly fend off the barrage of people offering their services.  The cuisine in Cusco ranges from authentic Peruvian to modern cross-culture fusion.  There’s even a little Irish Pub right on the plaza that’s very popular at all hours of the day.



Here we have me posing with a baby alpaca with a group of locals.  The locals sit around the town in traditional garb and wait for idiots like me to want a picture.  Because I was tired, I forgot to ask how much beforehand.  Always ask how much beforehand when dealing with people in other countries, lest they just make up a number at the end.  Which is exactly what they did here: they wanted $20 USD for this picture, which they weren’t going to get.  They also wanted $5 per person, which still comes out to $20.  I suppose if you’re dumb enough to want a picture like this, you might not know math very well.  However, I’m not about to screw someone totally so we gave them $7 and I made a mental note to always ask how much prior.

Why did I start talking about food but showed this picture?  Because later that evening we had alpaca for dinner.  It has the texture of tough beef and tastes similarly but less robust/flavorful.

We stayed in a little B&B style house roughly 10 minutes’ walk from the Plaza which mostly dictated how our days went (hint: we did everything to get away from there).    During the day we tried various activities, walked, took tours, and tried to sample as many local places as we could in our time there. Oh, and dodged tourists.  Dodged so many tourists.

Airbnb pros and cons


Airbnb has a bunch of pros and cons, most of which we figured out quite quickly in our travels.  As we get better at picking out places to stay, our experiences get better too.  But at the start we didn’t really know some of the downfalls to Airbnb over a hotel or hostel type of option.  The idea of Airbnb is to try and get the best of both worlds: the community atmosphere and price of a hostel with the convenience and comfort of a hotel.  Usually it works out and it’s great: here we talk about how Airbnb has replaced hotels for us.  Sometimes it is hell…

Special thanks to Bill and Nic’s House, City Center Cusco for inspiring this article

First, the major pros that we’ve come acro…


Lima: I pay $7 for a man to risk his life


Alicia and I consider ourselves “foodies”.  We’re always on the prowl for a good meal.  Lima didn’t disappoint, with a unique cuisine and dishes to try while taking in some scenic views.  Before we get to the evening and dining, here’s a few more scenes we took in while walking and biking around Lima.


We are on a bus tour where we are on top of the open-top bus.  This paraglider is maybe 20 meters from us (when you leave the US you are required to talk only in meters.  Gotta sign a form and everything).  Yes there are two people on that paraglider.  For the low, low price for $40 USD you can risk your life!  I looked up the statistics on this and found that it’s merely 3x more dangerous than cars.  The accident rate worldwide for cars is 1.8 deaths per 10,000 while for paragliding it’s close to 7.  They take off from land very easily as they ride the air currents coming up the cliff.  Alicia said I couldn’t do it. =(

There are usually 5-10 paragliders over the Lima coast at any given time.  It rarely rains in Lima, and the wind and current is always persistent making it a great location for something like this.


Mountain of the Monk(?) Riding out of the Barranco neighborhood, we encounter a seaside outcropping of rock with many locals congregating to watch the ocean crashing into the rocks. On top of the rocks over a ~70 foot drop into the water stands a man in white robes who dives for the crowd. There’s a story behind his jump, and per usual it’s one of forbidden love. The story goes that some time hundreds of years ago there was a servant boy in love with a noble girl. The father catches wind of this and forces the boy into the monastery at the tender age of 15. They continue their love in secret until the father decides to move the family away. The young monk, stricken with grief, flings himself from the mountaintop nearby. The diver’s monologue gives homage to the tragedy. That’s a great story and all, but then I enter and screw it all up. I missed the first jump of the “monk”, so I give him 20 soles (~$7 USD) to do it again. He’s very happy to do it again as that’s generally how much he’ll make during a full day or two of dives. Then it occurred to me that I gave a dude 7 dollars to risk his life because I can’t work my fancy first-world-overpriced iPhone. Then I felt dumb.

One of the things we learned in Lima was that prices didn’t quite conform to the quality of the food.  For the most part, the mid range and high priced restaurants severed similarly tasty food according to our palettes.  The expensive restaurants we went to were priced more for the view than the food.


The best food we’ve had in Lima (and perhaps all of Peru) was at a little place called Mama Olla’s.   Alicia has some mystery steak that she loved, and I had thin beef done “tacu-tacu”: it comes with a fried banana, fried egg, and formed rice.  We were in Lima the night before the elections. There is a required 24 hour ban on alcohol before and after the election process, presumably because it’s a very serious matter. Our biking guide explained it best: it’s the only weekend everyone gets completely drunk, as there are discounts on liquor since they can’t sell for a few days. So all the locals have parties with cheap booze on election day while the tourists are the ones who are punished.  The system works!


La Rosa Nautica is a cute little restaurant that sits on a pier extending from Miraflores.  It’s a very classy place that requires a reservation and has some pretty solid food.  But for a cab ride there and back along with the upcharge for having an exclusive location doesn’t make it a great value.  Going for drinks out there is a definite “must”, however.


Inca meets McDonalds: Huaca Pucallana is an Inca ruin site in Lima that’s made of adobe bricks (baked straw and mud). The kicker to this ancient city is that on top of it now resides a high class restaurant. In the picture here, that is a centuries old mud oven just a few feet from the modern kitchen that serves hundred of guests each night.  Having a centuries old ruins as a backdrop to a good meal is pretty neat.  I can’t say I’ve ever done it before.

Exploring Lima, Peru


While in Lima, we stayed in the Miraflores district.  It’s a listed as a touristy place to stay that is well maintained with lots of security guards and police around.  This part of town is also one of the cleaner areas you’ll visit in South America.  The interesting part is that I felt this city was more authentic than other places in Peru that we’ve traveled.  We were often the only tourists around [that we saw], but the signs and menus in English suggested otherwise.  In other areas of Peru there are busloads of tourists swarming a tiny area, but not here.  In Lima it was great to see the local population as they enjoyed the parks, surfing, and general living.

Tourists are often advised to skip Lima on their way to Cusco and Machu Picchu, but I wish we would have stayed more than a week in Lima.  Heck, even the taxi driver taking us to our hotel in Lima told us in his limited English that 6 days was too long.

We did manage to do some fun things and not work all the time:

  • Tried a new restaurant every lunch/dinner
  • Bike Tour
  • Bus Tour
  • Enjoyed both the Kennedy Park and Coastal Parks
  • Walked around and explored

Kennedy Park is a cute little park by our hotel in Miraflores where a lot of locals come to hang out.  It’s kind of a central entry point into the trendy district where someone can sit down and relax.  The weird part about the park: cats.  Cats everywhere.  They are wild cats and live in the park.  People pet them and hold them.  They seem to be in OK shape for wild cats, which isn’t always the case.  There are a lot of stray animals in Peru, and some of them look pretty beaten up.  These cats look they are doing just fine.

The other weird thing is the cat shrine: there’s a church near Kennedy park that has a small shrine to the Virgin Mary that is fence-enclosed.  When the cats have had enough human interaction, they escape into this tiny kitten zoo.  At any time, there are 10+ cats hanging out with Mary.  Bike/Running tours are great things to do on vacation as they take you around the city where you get to learn a lot of the history.  They trump a bus tour because you get personal time with a local, and it’s here where you learn the best stuff.  For example…  These iron blue poles are everywhere in Chorillos, another district of Lima.  Our guide tells us that they were placed there by a previous mayor of Barrano in an effort to brighten up the city.  He also tells us there’s more iron in these poles than in the Eiffel Tower, and it’s not hard to believe that if you see how many of these darn things there are in the neighborhood.  There’s one problem: the mayor who had these put in also owned the company which sold the materials.  It’s disappointing to hear about that kind of corruption, because Chorillos is a mostly cute neighborhood which could have used actual help instead of this visual white noise.  Here’s why I say it’s a “mostly” cute neighborhood: this is our guide for the bike tour, and he’s holding a can of mace.  Finger on the trigger and everything.  Later when I ask him about it, he remarks that it’s mostly for dogs and that he’s never had to use it on people.  But that the area has a lot of poverty and crime recently as the mayor, currently on his 5th term, caters to impoverished people to stay in office.  As our guide put it: it’s easier to please someone who has almost nothing, rather than try to compete with Miraflores, but now you have a lot of people in one area who are all fighting just to survive.

propane tanks on a bike

What’s more dangerous than a motorcycle?  A motorcycle with three propane tanks strapped onto it.  Gas doesn’t flow to each persons’ home via underground pipe: instead they buy a standard tank and hook it up to their home.  Run out?  Guys like these deliver them right to your front door.

Inca Cola is a popular soft drink in Peru that I see absolutely no one drinking, ever.  Fun fact that you probably already know: it wasn’t the official drink of the Inca.  That went to chicha, a semi-sweet drink made from purple corn (morada) that could be alcoholic or not.  Anyway, I had to get one just to try it.  Inca Cola tastes like melting candy on a sidewalk strong cream soda.  I couldn’t finish it.

Street art is common in Lima. Some of it is more professional than others, but there are many areas brightened by murals on the sides of walls and buildings.

I typically say “Hello” to Peruvians when I first interact with them.  I’m not trying to be a douche that’s too good for their language, but my Spanish is beyond awful despite 5 years of study.  Even though I wanted to learn another language, my classmates in high school and college were terrible.  Every class I took we basically started from scratch even though it was “Spanish 4”.  No teacher wants to fail the entire class, so they re-taught Spanish 1 every single year.  Anyway, it turns out that the quickest way to tell a Spanish speaker that I don’t know the language is to actually try and speak Spanish.  It’s quite a blow to the old ego.  As noted before, Lima earns the nickname “the grey” by having constant cloud cover.  Being from Minnesota and a nerd to boot, I showed them just how fragile I am: I got sunburned through the clouds.

Outside of Miraflores, the sidestreets of Lima have their own special character to them. Most of the streets have seen better days, but there’s a quiet dignity and beauty to them that we enjoyed.

First stop, First Impressions: Lima, Peru


We finally arrived at our first destination: Lima, Peru!  This city has the nickname “la gris”, or “the grey” because of the constant fog conditions over the city.  It never really rains here, despite being overcast.  While the skyline can look pretty sad and depressing since it’s like this all the time, the cityscape is much more vibrant.

It gets prettier, I promise!  Upon arrival, we saw paragliders in the distance.  Paragliders are like hang gliders, except with a little seat that sits underneath the parachute.  There are no motors pushing it, they rely on the wind and warm air currents coming up off of the cliff.


This is mildly upsetting to me to see these basically flying over the city buildings, and here’s why: Below is a DJI Phantom 2.  It’s a “quadcopter” equipped with a GoPro.  Basically it’s a remote-controlled toy.  This device can fly a mile in any direction and take great aerial shots.  It can travel 50 mph and is completely amazing.  What I’m trying to say is that I would have literally murdered someone for this thing as a child.


Here is my specially purchased bag for carrying my Phantom 2:


Yep, my copter got confiscated by Peru customs.  I researched beforehand on countries that would allow them, and Peru was promised to be one of the most progressive countries in this regard.  There are videos of copters flying over Macchu Picchu and everything, so I was sure I was safe. Going through customs there were three guys barely paying attention to the X-ray screen for luggage.  They were mostly joking around in Spanish when I heard a word I know and hate: “DRONE!”.  Turns out that there was a law passed banning “drones” (I hate this term as people associate this RC toy with a military device that fires missiles) back in August.  Obviously the government’s website wasn’t updated and so I walked right into this.  They say that I’ll get it back when I leave the country, but I’m thinking of just sending it home if and when I do get it back.  If the so-called “drone friendly” country confiscates it immediately, where else could I even take it?  To add insult to injury, there was even an article on the plane ride into Lima on “dronies” becoming common – selfies taken with drones.

Looking down from the cliffs onto the beach, this cement soccer court has the city name on it.


We stayed in Miraflores.  This is the tourist district of Lima, and it’s very noticeably so.  There are cops literally on every street corner to encourage safety, and it’s not surprising that this is where most tourists choose to stay.  It’s an upscale district with a lot of trendy shops and food options.  And trendy pricing to go along with it.  But as we discovered, walking a few blocks outside of the trendy spots we were able to encounter more local flair.  And no English, which seems to be a recurring theme outside of the United States.  So we rely on the universal language of pointing at stuff we want, like any toddler.  It’s easy to see how the locals might think all tourists are dumb.

Everything is just harder when you’re on the road.  We have to wander around for nearly everything.  Lunch has gone from a 15 minute break to a several hour ordeal where we stumble around and try to find somewhere that sells simple sandwiches.  Sure we could visit the Subway or McDonalds that we saw, but where’s the fun in that?  Instead we at least visited the “Bembos”, which is a fast food chain local to Peru.  Though when I ate McDonald’s in Tahiti, it was completely different: deli style cold sandwiches and no french fries anywhere.


Here is Alicia holding a conference call from our hotel room slash new office.  Working on the road is now a big part of our life, typically taking up all Sunday through Tuesday – 14+ hours working those days.  Right now I’m typing this from the best American WiFi export product that sometimes sells coffee, Starbucks.

Leaving the country for a year!


The day finally came!  We got on that plane, and are currently writing from our first stop: Lima, Peru.  We will be traveling for an entire year and writing about the experience.  The goal is to show fun and unique experiences from around the world.

Leaving MSP airport

Here we are in Lima, Peru!  Obviously a trip can’t occur without a few hiccups, like getting stranded in Dallas and Miami due to a storm taking down the power to 140K in the Dallas area.

The terrifying thought that came to me while we were stranded: we’re basically homeless.  As we’re waiting in line after line trying to re-route our flights, it was apparent that we didn’t really have anywhere to “be”.  Welcome to life with your home on your back!

The airport is now our home, and the breakfast menu looks great!

It took a surprising amount of work to get here.  We had to sell or donate a lot of items including our car, rent our home, and pack the rest into a pod.

We spent months dealing with the “wonderful” people from Craigslist:

  • A lady fell into the water while trying to board our boat for a test drive.  No, they didn’t buy the boat.  Yes, we took an awkward test drive while she was soaking wet.
  • “Forgetting” to bring the full amount of money doesn’t work, people.  There’s an ATM right up the street.
  • No I will not drive to a terrible neighborhood at night to deliver something.  I got this request no less than a dozen times.
  • People wanting to rent our house who A) don’t have a boat, B) work 40+ minutes away, C) don’t like the location, and D) don’t like the outdoors.   Sometimes I wanted to ask: “Why are you even looking at this house”?

In short, we will not miss Craigslist.  We left our home on the lake and comfortable lives so we could find tired happiness in a tiny hotel room thousands of miles from home.  We want to show what life on the road is like as well as life in new and strange places.  We hope you’ll join us!

Obligatory selfie of us looking tired after 30 hours of travel
Obligatory selfie of us looking tired after 30 hours of travel

Packing List


What would you take with you when planning a year-long trip?  Here is our packing list.  We looked at other travelers to get ideas of what to take beforehand, and we had one very clear goal: to not check any baggage on airlines.  This would keep the amount we had to carry very low.  That becomes important as other countries don’t have the space or facilities to lug around huge suitcases.  Hotel rooms are typically tiny, and hauling a big roller bag through big cities is exhausting.


The above picture is what Alicia was considering on taking.  Everything must fit in that little red backpack!

The backpacks have to measure 22″ x 14″ x 9″ or smaller (under 45 linear inches) and hold less than 40 pounds.  If you travel a lot, you’ll notice that’s significantly under the 62 linear inches and 50 pound limit that most US airlines require.  International airlines have a smaller size bag that we need to allow for.  Plus, the bag can’t be over-full since it will break those requirements.  After a few long nights and a lot of hard decisions, here’s the finished product!  Our lives are now stored in backpacks.  What’s in these packs?  Here’s everything in our packing list in regards to clothes.  Each of us has packed roughly this in our pack.  We mostly plan on warm weather environments.

  1. 3 pairs of pants – 2 jeans, 1 lightweight hiking
  2. 6 shirts – 1 dress shirt, 4 T-shirts, 1 hoodie
  3. 6 pairs of underwear
  4. 2 pair shorts – workout and swim
  5. 6 pairs socks
  6. running shoes
  7. sandals
  8. pull-over
  9. windbreaker

Specialty items include:

  1. toiletries
  2. laptops
  3. Kindle paperwhite
  4. UV water purifier
  5. duct tape
  6. Ibuprofen
  7. sunscreen
  8. GoPro
  9. power adapters/chargers
  10. sunglasses
  11. A separate, specialty backpack to hold John’s DJI Phantom 2 with recording equipment

That’s it!  We were able to get all of our lives into carry-on backpacks!

About Alicia and John

Alicia & John - Great Barrier Reef - GoPro underwater Selfie

John and Alicia met the summer of 2006 in Minnesota and got married November 2009 in Aruba.  We discovered early on that we’re good travel companions and enjoy trying new things together. Trips to Las Vegas soon became trips to the Caribbean, which lead into crossing both oceans, and in Oct 2014 a year-long trip around the world! Following our RTW trip we sold our home and have continued traveling.

[rev_slider AboutUs]

Places we’ve visited:  Thailand, Bora Bora, Coasta Rica, Mexico, Jamaica, Aruba, Spain, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Ecuador (Galapagos Islands), New Zealand, Australia, Cambodia, Myanmar (Burma), Hong Kong, Japan, Turkey, France, Croatia, Germany, Austria, and multiple destinations within the US.

A few of our favorite activities:  trying new recipes, running, hiking, boating, canoe/kayaking, bonfires, taking cooking classes, scuba diving, snorkeling, wine tastings, beer tastings, reading, exploring new cities, reading, learning


John Kayaking in Bora

John was born and raised in Minnesota.  I continue to break my mothers’ heart by not having grandchildren.  My father died while I was young, and I was what you call an “oops” baby.  Since my father didn’t get to grow old and my mother had me in college, I guess I’m trying to have the pre-child fun my parents missed out on.

The traveling bug came about by accident.  I never had thought much about travel or decided it was something I enjoyed.  When I was playing poker professionally, Alicia and I would travel down to Las Vegas from time to time.  She’d go shopping or to the spa and I’d pay for the trip by sitting at the poker tables for a few hours a day.  Every time we came back, we’d stay at a new hotel and do new things while there.  Later I’d run a marathon in Disney world that we turned into a trip together.  Everything grew from there.

The office life isn’t for me.  I left a comfortable career in exchange for terrifying freedom.  While being self-employed is filled with challenges, it’s also very rewarding in the opportunities it provides.  I’ve made it a life goal never to go back to office jobs.  So far, so good!


Completos from Sibaritico in Vina Del MarI spent my childhood in Southern California, moved to Minnesota as a teenager, and then much to everyone’s surprise went to college on the east coast. It was assumed I’d go somewhere warm as the cold Minnesota winters never really grew on me. Each year John and I tried to take a warm beach vacation during the winter. Then we followed summer on our round the world trip. No snow or shoveling for a year!

The leap to being a digital nomad was “easy” in that I have over 7 years of digital marketing experience (search engine marketing, social media, display and affiliate marketing). Instead of doing online marketing for other companies, why not do it for myself? My family is very entrepreneurial, and I’m upholding the family tradition by going off to travel and working freelance.

I’m most excited to experience food and wine around the world, to learn about the places we’re visiting and more about myself. Learning how to live with only 3 pairs of shoes and one nail polish color (pink, of course) will be challenging.

Travel Gear


Here’s the stuff we’ve used to make our travels go smoothly.  Because we travel as light as possible, the things we do carry have to be exceptional.  These are those things.

Icebreaker clothing: These are made of Merino wool.  Why is this important?  Because they need to be washed less often and don’t smell!  John’s underwear and T-shirts are all Icebreaker, and it’s been fantastic.  Usually his shirts would smell after one day, and this would be a problem in most countries where water is a scarce resource (and dryers are non-existent).

Osprey Farpoint 40 Travel Backpacks: The rest of the world isn’t very accommodating towards huge suitcases.  Pull-behind suitcases are incredibly impractical in other countries.  Planes are downsizing their carry-on requirements (international requirements are smaller than US domestic), and international hotels don’t have any space.  Having a bag that allows you to carry-on rather than check (saving money!) as well as being easy to pack is important.  We tried out these Osprey bags and haven’t looked back.  They have several pouches to separate things like laptops and toiletries, and conform to international standards of carry-on luggage. Alicia is traveling with the small/medium in charcoal and John the medium/large in mud red.

GoPro Hero 3 Silver: Most of the pictures you see on this blog are taken by the GoPro Hero 3 Silver edition camera.  Fantastic for taking scenery shots with the wide angle lens.  Extraordinary for taking action video while underwater(!) or sliding down sand dunes on boogie boards.  Extremely resilient, versatile, and small, it can serve as your primary camera.  Poor in very low light conditions, but this is a relatively small example.  For example, in caves it won’t even register a photo while our iPhone 5S’s could capture some clear shots.

Mia 2 Clarisonic Face Cleanser: Traveling with creams and soaps is hard with the liquid restrictions.  Alicia swears by this device to keep her face clean and clear for all the travel selfies.

Travel Power Adapters: I don’t know why every country has to have its’ own plug-ins, but they do.  This has worked in all the countries we’ve come across, for less than $10!

Kindle Paperwhite: We’ve grown attached to our little “paperweight”, as we call it, for the very simple reason that it keeps its’ battery life forever and it’s easy to reach on the beach.  Phones and Kindle Fires are very hard to read in bright sun and often suffer from low battery.  It’s truly a “first world problem”: we spend so much time in the sun that we need a special e-reader!

DJI Phantom 2: This quadcopter is known as  “drone”.  It’s tremendous fun to fly and will go a mile in any direction while it sends live video back to you on its’ location.  The problem is that some countries don’t really appreciate them.  I got my quad confiscated in Peru, and while they did give it back to me I shipped it home before taking it to another country.  I highly recommend the DJI Phantom 2 for its’ ability, but you shouldn’t travel with one.


People often ask us: “What do you do?”.  Here are some the books that helped us break free from the 9-5 and tour the world while working only 1-2 days per week.  YES it’s possible, because we did it.  And so can you.

4-Hour Work Week: Tim Ferris explains how we conform to society even though we could have so much more.  Filled with practical advice about how to achieve your dreams and travel the world while making money.  I cannot, cannot, cannot recommend this book enough.  A month after Alicia quit her job, she was earning more while working far less.

4-Hour Body: Tim Ferris is a leader in “lifestyle design”, which is how to create the life you want.  We stay fit on our trip and even lose weight thanks to the advice in this book.

Choose Yourself: Similar to the 4 Hour Work Week, James Altucher preaches building the life you want rather than live the life you think you have to live.  While James does stray into odd territory at times, he’s very convincing to get you moving towards your own goals.


Who We Are and What We Do

About Alicia and John

John and Alicia met the summer of 2006 in Minnesota and got married November 2009 in Aruba.  We discovered early on that we're good...

What is a Digital Nomad?

I have never gotten more blank stares than when I tell people that I'm a digital nomad.  The questions answered in this FAQ-like article...

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