Three and a half years. Thirty thousand miles. #Travelogue Monkeys On The Road by @HollendonerMary #VanLife #TuesdayBookBlog

Monkeys on the Road: One family's vanlife adventure south in search of a simpler lifeMonkeys on the Road: One family’s vanlife adventure south in search of a simpler life by Mary Hollendoner

5 stars

Monkeys On The Road is a travelogue about a family of three: John, Mary and six-year-old Lilly, who travel thirty thousand miles from California to Argentina in a 20-year-old Ford E350 diesel van.

Initially it was to be a one year trip which turned into three and a half years. They were hoping to find a new place that they might be able to settle in and call home, away from the pressures of Silicon Valley and high-pressure living in their part of California. They also wanted more family time with Lilly before she grew up.

Mary spent a long time planning the trip and had past experience camping and travelling in various places around the world. John was an ex-firefighter and was used to wild camping so they did have some travel experience backing them up.

First stop was Mexico which had recently suffered a large earthquake and more worryingly violence against tourists. However, they headed to the Baja California Peninsula and wild camped on beaches and visited a turtle sanctuary. When they crossed to mainland Mexico, it was here that they saw the shocking results of the earthquake. They went to Belize then into Guatemala. Ever since they saw the post-earthquake distress in Mexico, Mary wanted to do some volunteer work to help the local people and in Guatemala they were able to spend some time teaching English classes during their eight weeks in the country.

They spent four months in Costa Rica enjoying the wildlife. It has more wild animals than the other Central American countries because the government sets aside protected land for them and it is illegal to keep a wild animal as a pet. Many American ex-pats have made their homes in Costa Rica and there was more wealth and higher living expenses than many of the other countries in Central America.

In other parts of the book, I really enjoyed their three week trip to the Galapagos Islands and how they did it on a budget. I was also interested in their time in Peru where they enjoyed ancient ruins and the Andean mountains. Bolivia was frightening when they were stuck during a revolution, while Argentina was so different after their worries in Bolivia, but then Covid struck the world. They were able to reach Patagonia but their journey ended when they were forced to leave Argentina. Finally Mary describes their re-entry into America during the pandemic and where they have settled for the moment, although she already has one eye on their next adventure.

This book was a delight to read, it flowed smoothly and I was interested in every detail of their trip. I didn’t want the book or their journey to end. They’ve gone to places that have been a joy to read about as an armchair traveller. If you love travelogues, then I thoroughly recommend it.

View all my reviews on Goodreads


Desc 1

A family road trip adventure from California to Argentina, finishing up just a few months ago in mid-2021!

“Monkeys on the Road is primarily a heart-warming family travel memoir full of nail-biting adventures, but also weaves in educational snippets about local history and exotic animal encounters, commentary on cultural differences, and realizations about happiness and gratefulness.”

After a decade in the corporate rat race, Mary was ready for a change. Too much stress and not enough time with her family left her feeling that her priorities were all wrong. So she and her husband quit their jobs, pulled their six-year-old daughter out of school, and moved into an old camper van.

They planned to take a year off to drive south in search of a simpler life. What followed were three and a half years of heart-warming personal encounters, breath-taking wilderness campsites, and occasionally terrifying situations…

…In Mexico, an angry mob surrounded them on a remote road and threatened them with rocks, but just a few hours later, a local family welcomed them into their home, sharing everything they had.

…While barreling down the highway in Colombia, their van’s battery exploded, filling their home-on-wheels with noxious fumes. Then the engine died entirely while parked in no-man’s-land between Ecuador and Peru, leaving them stranded for a month in a tiny border town.

…They learned first-hand about South American politics when they got caught among thousands of Venezuelan refugees trying to cross the Colombian border, and again when a revolution erupted around them in Bolivia and trapped them in the capital city among protests and road blocks.

…And they got caught in one of the world’s strictest COVID quarantines in Argentina, living for over a year in a small mountain town there.

Join them on these and other adventures in this feel-good read about a family trying to find their place in the world.

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