Taisa and Ernesto (Overland the Americas)

Today's Explorers

Taisa and Ernesto (Overland the Americas)

August 6, 2021
min read
Charles Forman

Where are you from?

Venezuela, United States

When did you start your interest in exploration?

Both as kids. Ernesto’s dad was a mountaineer who loved to travel, camp, backpack and introduced Ernesto to the outdoors when he was just a toddler. Taisa was also a young explorer having joined the Ukrainian Girl Scouts (PLAST) as a little girl.

What is a brief understanding of your background story up until you started seeking adventure?

Taisa is from Berkeley Heights, New Jersey and attended Penn State University where she majored in Geography. She later attended Middlebury in Monterey, CA where she attained a graduate degree in international environmental policy. She’s also a yoga instructor.

Ernesto studied architecture in Venezuela and moved to the US to study web, UX and graphic design at the Art Institute of Seattle. Ernesto is also a musician.

Upon completing our academic studies we both worked in our fields for several years, but always found time to travel and explore the outdoors.

What special skills do you have to help with your explorations?

We both have basic training in CPR and wilderness first aid that was required as part of our jobs and extra curricular activities. We also have some fundamental technical knowledge in navigation gained while in search and rescue, mountaineering and diving training.

Ernesto has honed his mechanical knowledge during the last 10 years while exploring by vehicle and building our adventure trucks.

Where have you explored so far?

United States, Canada, Mexico, Cuba, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil, French Guiana, Suriname, Guyana, Puerto Rico, Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Hungary, Czechia, Ukraine, Denmark, England, Scotland, United Arab Emirates.

What is a brief understanding of your adventures so far?

We simply love experiencing new cultures, being outside our comfort zone and being blown away by how diverse our natural world is. We find ourselves the happiest when learning about our global cultural richness and when being mantled, taught and challenged by/in nature.

What are the top three destinations you hope to explore next, and why?

That’s a difficult question to answer. There isn’t really a place we wouldn’t like to visit, travel or learn about. But we try to choose our destinations based on budget. We also consider visiting countries and regions that are changing the fastest. We want to try to experience the cultural authenticity of nations and natural places, with the least amount of outside influence and environmental impact as possible. It’s sad to admit, but things are changing much, much faster than what most of us realize. That said, we'd love to circumnavigate Africa, the Stans and South East Asia for the next several years.

Where would you recommend others visit?

Another difficult question to answer. There are so many incredible places we can think of. We’d probably suggest different places to different people depending on what we think someone in particular may enjoy. But we can definitely say that the mind bending landscapes of Patagonia will likely be enjoyed by most people.

How do you primarily travel on your adventures today?

We are just finishing our new adventure vehicle build. It’s a Toyota LandCruiser 78 Series (VDJ78) 2019. We top three modifications are:

  1. A pop-top roof/bed platform so we can stand and hang out inside the vehicle.
  2. Modular cabinetry with a sink, filter and purification water system, induction stove, toilet, storage and a really nice electrical power system.
  3. With all the added weight we had to upgrade our complete suspension system

What are five pieces of equipment you always travel with?

  1. First aid kit and satellite emergency beacon device.
  2. Hiking/backpacking gear with dried and canned food.
  3. Basic set mechanic tools.
  4. Camera and video equipment.
  5. Our phones are without a doubt the most used piece of equipment.

What inspires you to explore more?

Learning. Traveling is not only an incredible way to gain a more rounded knowledge about the world, but it also teaches us a lot about ourselves. It’s not only a journey across borders and roads but one about self discovery and growth. We crave that.

How do you engage with others?

We try to have a friendly and respectful attitude towards everyone and make a bigger effort to try to understand cultural differences, so we don’t come across as disrespectful. Smiling is part of a global physical language especially if we can speak the language. Although we always try to learn at least the most basic words and phrases so we can communicate with the locals to some level.

Why is it important to embrace global cultures?

As travelers and visitors in new places we are ambassadors of wherever we come from. It is important to open ourselves and try to objectively understand the local culture even if in some cases it is difficult to do so. It’s important to keep in mind that we would expect someone visiting us at home to also be respectful to us. The more we learn about ourselves and how diverse we are, the more likely we are to come together as humans.

What are your goals when you explore?

To learn something new every day. To spend time in nature and enjoy ourselves as much as we can.

What are some challenges you have experienced?

Being away from family members when they needed us or we needed them. As far as logistical challenges such as shipping our vehicles, getting stuck in a remote place or breaking down in a foreign country, we don’t really worry too much about. We have learned how to deal with some of these situations and we’re prepared. There’s always a solution even if we don’t see it right away.

What has been your most meaningful moment so far?

There are so many special moments we have had the fortune to experience during our travels. There are definitely a few highlights like summiting Mt. Pisco in Peru. Backpacking Patagonia and Venezuela. Experiencing an erupting volcano in Guatemala. Diving in the Galapagos, experiencing the friendliness of the locals everywhere we traveled to. We could go on and on.

How has exploration changed you?

Traveling and living on the road for 4 years changes you profoundly. It’s hard to see life with the same lens as we did prior to our trip. It brought up the best of us and made us feel hopeful about the things that we worry about. Yet it made it clear that we have a major responsibility regarding conservation and empathy as individuals and as a society. It made us become aware of what really is priority in our lives and what isn’t.

What is the number one lesson that you have learnt through your exploration?

There’s a universe of things we’ve learned and continue to learn with every trip and country visited.

How do you explore locally?

Scout routes on satellite maps, look for new hikes we haven’t done. Drive unmapped roads to see where they take us. Essentially our plans are always flexible and we move along depending on how we feel on the day, for the most part.

What does the explmore mantra mean to you?

To give yourself the opportunity to discover, learn and grow through travel and adventure regardless of where you are.

What advice would you give to others who are seeking life changing adventure?

Don’t over plan or overthink it. Travel slow. Find your rhythm and rediscover yourself and the things that you like. The hardest thing about embarking on a long adventure is making the leap and hitting the road. Go for it! We promise you that it’d be the best decision you could ever make. See you on the road!

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