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Our Road Trip Through Central America

We closed on a house here in El Salvador in June and we went back to Texas to prep our house there for rental and prepare for our move to El Salvador.

After calling several airlines to inquire about bringing our 3 dogs on their planes, we realized that driving - despite our fear - was going to be our best option.

Here's the behind-the-scenes story of our trip - the good, the bad, and the ugly.


On the morning of Tuesday, November 8, we pulled out of our Austin, Texas driveway at 3 am during a total lunar eclipse.

Driving south down the dark highway headed for the Mexico border with our 3 dogs and a trailer full of our belongings felt intimidating, but something about beginning our journey under that specific moon felt like a sign that this was the right path.

We made it to the Piedras Negras border right around sunrise, which was our goal because everything we read online said not to drive on Mexican roads at night due to no streetlights, large potholes, and wandering livestock.

Unfortunately, this is where our first bout of trouble began.

We successfully 'checked out' of the United States, crossed the Rio Grande, and parked at customs to begin working through the requirements to legally enter Mexico.

Cory grabbed one of the folders that contained 100 copies of every important document you could possibly imagine and headed into the building (my job was to wait in the car with the dogs and watch our stuff... I definitely got the better end of that deal and now, especially in hindsight, feeling super grateful for this).

The short story of our time at the Piedras Negras border goes like this:

  1. The agents told us that we were not allowed to pass into Mexico with 3 vehicles and only 2 drivers (our Suburban + towing 2 motorcycles)

  2. We couldn't understand why this was an issue since we had proof of ownership of everything but the agent wouldn't budge

  3. The whole thing took roughly 4 hours

We called our friend who regularly drives from California to El Salvador and he told us he has a buddy who works at the Texas/Mexico border called "Los Indios" and, if we'd drive over there, he could help us.

Unfortunately, when we GPS'ed Los Indios, we learned it was 5 HOURS away from where we were.

Frustrated and defeated, we found a cafe in Piedras Negras to grab lunch and regroup. It seemed like we had 3 options:

  1. Go home

  2. Go to Laredo, which was closer than Los Indios, but of which we'd been warned by many who have made the drive that that's a very dangerous border

  3. Drive the 5 hours to Los Indios

We ultimately decided to drive to Los Indios because we figured there was someone there who could help us and, at the very least, could speak Spanish.

We drove the 5 hours to the Los Indios area, arriving after dark, picked up some takeout, and found a pet-friendly AirBnb in Harlingen with the sweetest-ever owners where we spent our first night.


Leaving at dawn, we arrived at the agreed-upon location just as our friend-of-a-friend's office was opening... which is the exact moment we realized this person was actually some kind of immigration lawyer.

Cory went inside (again, I stayed with the dogs; you'll start to notice a theme here) and came back out, frustrated. The lawyer friend said he could help us get all our paperwork to cross the border, but he wanted $400 and it would take him 3 days.

That didn't work for us.

Again, we were feeling defeated, but we were literally 10 minutes from the border so we figured, what the hell, let's try it again on our own.

We 'checked out' of the USA, crossed the river, and began our process of 'checking in' to Mexico at Los Indios.

The entire vibe of this customs office was so different than Piedras Negras. It was smaller, cleaner, and more intimate. And, most importantly, they said nothing about the fact that we had 3 vehicles and only 2 people.

Cory ran the show here again (bless him), handled all the details inside, and brought the agent out to inspect our things. They had us randomly open some of the boxes on our trailer, put the gas we had in our extra gas can into our vehicles (random), and pay all the fees.

It took another 4 hours, but we successfully passed the border and we were officially in Mexico!

The rest of this day was mostly super smooth, except the time we went over a speedbump and lost our Electric Smoker in front of a dude with a giant rifle or AK or something strapped across his chest (lol, yes, the most Texas shit ever, we brought our smoker to El Salvador so we can smoke meat). The military dude ended up being super nice and helped us re-load the smoker onto the trailer and strap it down better.

Overall, the drive was BEAUTIFUL (one of my favorite parts was passing through Monterrey; the mountains were INCREDIBLE).

We stayed on the toll roads, which were of equal standards to that of the US which was lucky for us because we ended up having to drive after dark to make it to our hotel.

We slept at the cutest little place in Matehuala that was one of my favorites; it had a 1960s US vibe, was pet friendly, and had a diner onsite.

I'm grateful for this peaceful night because the next day was one of the most difficult.


Day 3 rocked us pretty hard.

It started with a phone call from our US bank saying that Cory's identity had been stolen (in Texas + we still don't know how this happened). So we spent 3 precious hours of daylight on the phone with the bank canceling all the cards and coming up with a plan of how we were going to get the new ones to us in El Salvador.

Once we survived that phone call, we went outside to load up and check the vehicle, which is something we did before each day of driving. That's when hit #2 came - which is that we had nails in our tires (multiple tires).

Luckily there was a mechanic right across the street who was happy to help us on the spot and fixed everything for $8 (God bless Mexico).

So we were finally on our way, but essentially 4 hours behind schedule so we already knew we'd be driving after dark, which we really didn't want to do this day because we were sleeping near Mexico City (read: towing a trailer in tons of traffic after dark).

As we got closer and closer to Mexico City, we couldn't believe the climate; we had to stop and dig through our suitcases for sweatshirts!

Over the last 2 days, we had gotten pretty used to the process at each toll booth, getting pulled over by the police to show them our documents, and navigating the driving system that most Mexican drivers use (the left lane really is for passing only... and it's BRILLIANT; we should all adopt this).

So when we approached one of the final toll booths of the day, we didn't think anything of it when, after we paid the toll, we were pulled over by 2 police officers. But this time was different.

As always, we handed them the exact same documents all the other police wanted to see, and expected them to check all the VINs, nod at us, and let us go on our way. But this time, there was hesitation. There were Spanish words we'd never heard before and lots of finger-pointing back toward the trailer.

Cory got out of the truck with his phone and used Google Translate to better understand the issue.

From what we could gather, they were telling us:

  1. There's some kind of schedule where certain trailers with certain license plates can only use this road on certain days

  2. Because it's November 12th and our trailer's license plate ends with an M, we're not allowed to drive on this toll road today

  3. If we want to just pay the fine of $300 right now, then we can be on our way (RED FLAG!!)

(Another red flag was that the date this day was November 10th, not the 12th, and our trailer's license plate does not end with an M...)

We'd watched enough YouTube videos to know that if anyone puts you in a difficult situation then says the words 'but we can make this easy if you just want to handle it right now' - you're being extorted.

And Cory isn't one to let people push him around. So, in his words, he 'put on his biggest gringo smile' and handed them every single piece of paper and important document that we had (and, trust me, there were A LOT).

After asking: "Is this what you need? What about this? What about this one?" 568426 times and asking the officers for the name of the law we were breaking by trying to drive on this road, he finally broke them.

When one of them said 'Necesito un cafe' (I need a coffee), Cory replied, "Me too, this is exhausting!" The officer responded, "No, just buy me a coffee, and you can go." Cory said, "I'll buy you a coffee AND a beer!" - then gave them $10, and we were on our way.

Having lost another 45 minutes to this experience, we zoned in on the last hour of our drive. We drove and drove and... then we missed our exit.

This wouldn't have been a big deal, except the NEXT exit turned into this weird, curly-q confusing highway road situation where we ended up getting lost (the GPS was not helpful) and we went back and forth through the same toll booths 4 times (and, yes, they made us pay each time).

The first time we went through and realized we were going the wrong way, we took the exit for the turnaround, and this is where we were hit with the other kind of 'tax' Mexico is known for...

Out of nowhere: BOOM! We hit the BIGGEST (unmarked) speedbump you've ever seen and, I'm not kidding, both the Suburban and the trailer caught air - which wouldn't have been a huge issue, except a ton of our stuff shot off the trailer (including the poor Electric Smoker again for its second beating).

I honestly feel like this was sketchier than the extortion thing because where this happened was this little secluded turnaround alley area where there weren't many people and we had to exit the car to pick up all our stuff, reload it, strap it down, all while dodging other cars zooming around the turnaround lane.

The third time we'd gone around this circle, we showed the people at the toll booth our GPS and asked them if they could understand what we were supposed to do and why it kept bringing us in a circle.

They told us that the problem was:

  1. This is a 7-lane highway

  2. The right 5 lanes have toll booths and put you onto one highway and, when you do the turnaround we kept doing, it spits you back into the right-most lane

  3. The left-most 2 lanes WITHOUT the toll booths put you on a DIFFERENT highway - and that's the one we need to get on

In other words, you need to pay the toll again (yay), do the turnaround with the big ass speedbump again (double yay), then CROSS 7 LANES OF TRAFFIC WITH YOUR TRAILER and take the free highway all the way over there to the left.

Silly gringos 😉

So we paid the toll, did the scary turnaround again, and essentially shut our eyes and gunned it across 7 lanes of traffic to the free highway.

We got to our hotel at like 10 pm. It was such a cool place, which we wouldn't even realize until the next morning since it was dark. But the owner was so kind and stayed up to visit with us after our stressful day.

When we told him we had to get up at 6 am to continue our journey, he asked, "Why are you in a rush?" and it really made us pause. We looked at each other in a moment of clarity and realized: he was right.

We needed a break from this stressful day AND it just so happened that the next day was our 5-year wedding anniversary, so it felt right to take the day to enjoy. So we went to bed and did NOT get up at 6 am ❤️


The morning of our 5-year wedding anniversary, we woke up in a cool, crisp climate, surrounded by mountains with 10+ hot air balloons bobbing just above our heads.

To say it was magical is an understatement.

We didn't realize it, but the place we were staying was only 5 minutes away from some of the biggest pre-Columbian pyramids in Mesoamerica. So we spent the morning exploring there and having lunch.

In the afternoon, we took our dogs to the vet to get their health certificates required for entry into Guatemala and El Salvador (luckily Mexico did not require this because to get this done in the US, the vet wanted $3K... in Mexico, we paid $140).

When we were driving back to the hotel, we saw people setting up for some kind of street festival so we decided to drop off the dogs and go back to check it out - and I'm so glad we did because this was one of my favorite memories.

Wandering around the vibrant streets of this little Mexican town with all the colors and sounds and laughter and food and animals - I felt SO alive. We'd been so focused on getting our house in Austin ready to rent, and planning our drive, and packing, and navigating all the details of this move - it had just been a minute since we really stopped to enjoy ourselves.

And there was no way you couldn't enjoy yourself at this festival. They had legit carnival rides smushed into the tiny town center - it made us laugh because the 'safety standards' were pretty much nonexistent, which was weirdly refreshing - it didn't matter that when this ride flew around, it almost knocked the tall people out, you kind of just know not to walk near it.

But the best part of all was the fireworks show - which was also hilariously unsafe. They had explosions going every which way, people were running, there was this HUGE tower thing that they eventually set on fire and, as it ignited, different parts of it would spin and whiz. It was almost like art, and it was super cool (you just kind of needed to be prepared and have an exit strategy!).

PS - I really want to plug this place because the owner, Omar, was SUCH a nice guy and it's truly a magical property. If you're ever in/near Mexico City, take a trip over to the Teotihuacan area and stay at Rancho Viejo Teotihuacan - there are 3 rooms you can rent, or plenty of space for tent or RV camping (+ they have HOT water which feels so nice!).


Day 5 started with a bang... not long after we woke up, we realized we were locked inside our hotel room (details inside the episode), but once we (literally) broke out, the rest of our drive that day wasn't super eventful (thankfully).

One thing that surprised us is how COLD it was in this area! We had packed small backpacks for the trip so we didn't have to bring in our big suitcases to each hotel, but we had to stop and dig through our big suitcases for pants and sweatshirts because we were both freezing!

By the end of the day, however, we were by the beach (on the east side of the country) so we had to shed our layers as we got closer.

The hotel in Coatzacolcos was the only hotel where we kind of had issues with our dogs... I had a really hard time finding a pet-friendly hotel in this area and the one I found (which is where we stayed) said on their website that they only allow 2 dogs per room. I called them in advance to ask about our 3rd dog, and they told me that we'd have to get 2 hotel rooms, so I told them never mind.

To circumvent this, we did not make a reservation in advance, and I waited in the car with the dogs while Cory went in to book the room once we got there; he told them we just had 2 dogs.

So we leashed up our larger 2 dogs, put the chihuahua in my shoulder bag, and walked as quickly as we could past the front desk.

Once we unloaded we went for dinner to a nice steakhouse (we brought the dogs and left them in the car with the windows open, and picked a table near the window where we could watch the car).

After dinner we walked on the beach - we thought it was really cool that we were on the east coast touching the ocean and the next day we'd be on the west coach touching the ocean.


Day 6 we woke up to rain so we stopped by Home Depot to buy straps for our tarp. We covered what we could as best we could on the trailer and, luckily, we'd planned for this and only put items on the trailer that wouldn't be ruined if they got wet (anything electronic, for example, we made sure was inside the suburban) - but still, we wanted to keep things on the trailer as dry as possible.

The drive this day was not bad, nor was it long; we made it to our hotel in Pijijiapan before sunset (I think this was one of the only days we pulled that off) and decided to hurry to catch the sun setting over the Pacific Ocean.

We drove to what we thought was the beach, but it ended up being a lagoon where you had to take a boat across to get to the actual beach, so we loaded up the 3 dogs into a boat and drove across the lagoon - only later did we find out there were crocodiles!

We wandered the beach and touched the Pacific Ocean when a kid walked up to us and asked, in English, where we were from - turns out his family moved there from the States and opened a restaurant.

They were super nice people; they fed us dinner, would not let us pay, and gave us a ride back to our car on their boat since we missed the last boat taxi.


Day 7 we left our hotel at sunrise, arriving at the border around 10 am... We had no idea what was awaiting us there.

We had been so worried about Mexico and what kind of import taxes we'd face in El Salvador, that we hadn't given much thought to Guatemala.

Checking out of Mexico was a breeze. Once we were out of Mexico, we had to drive across a little bridge (which I like to call No Man's Land because it's technically between two countries) and pulled into a parking lot to begin the paperwork process.

As soon as we crossed the bridge, 15 guys ran at our car saying they could 'help'. Cory asked the one who spoke the best English how much he wanted to help us and he said $10; Cory agreed.

They went inside while I waited in the car to watch the dogs and our belongings, which proved to be a MUCH more difficult job at this border compared to Mexico because, at any given moment, there were 7-15 guys just sitting/leaning/posted up on our trailer. I am still not sure why, but I wasn't going to get out of the car to ask them.

Similar to both attempts to cross into Mexico, I was prepared to wait 3 hours, so when Cory started walking toward the car around the 3-hour mark, I was thinking we could proceed - until I saw his face.

He got in the car and he was more upset than I'd seen him in a long time... the reason: the border agents told him that to cross through Guatemala we would have to pay $8 THOUSAND US Dollars.

Yes, $8,000 USD.

After calming down, Cory went back in to try again; paying $8K was not an option for us, especially considering they wanted cash (red flag).

Hours passed and it started getting dark. There were still men sitting on the trailer, hovering around our stuff.

This is the only time I really felt afraid.

Then it started to rain. And then it started to pour.

Not long after, the parking lot owner started tapping on the window saying we needed to move the car because he was about to close.

I called Cory, and he came out and asked if I was okay, which sent me over the edge. This was the only time on our trip that I cried due to fear.

It was clear that we were going to have to spend the night in No Man's Land so Cory went to find a hotel and, when he came back, we put our things for the night into trash bags and ran with the dogs to the random hotel on the bridge between two countries.

I felt grateful to be in a room after being surrounded by so many people all day in a parking lot for nearly 12 hours. Cory left to get food, which unfortunately made me sick.

There's no getting around it: Day 7 sucked.


Day 8 had a silver lining, which was that we didn't have to get up until around 9 since the border offices didn't open until 10... which was important for me because I was still sick.

Today they said, "OK, you don't have to pay $8K, but a man from our office has to ride in your car to make sure you don't sell anything" (that's what the whole issue was about - they wanted tax money (apparently $8K in cash of tax money) because they thought we were going to sell the things we were towing through Guatemala).

Cory basically said there's no way in hell we're letting a stranger ride in the car with us through a country we've never been to.

Here's what ended up happening: Our friend grew up with the boss of the El Salvador/Guatemala border... the boss called up to the Guatemala/Mexico border and essentially vouched for us. The final agreement was that he would 'receive' us on the other end of Guatemala and make sure we didn't sell anything.

We also had to have a huge GPS unit padlocked to the inside of our car to make sure we didn't deter from the single road that runs from border to border.

We finally pulled into Guatemala at 3 pm - nearly 30 hours later. so I sat on the ground with the dogs (still sick) for probably 1-2 hours, but these sweet people kept loving on the dogs and giving them food and water which restored my faith in humanity.

We finally pulled into Guatemala at 3 pm - nearly 30 hours later.

Exhausted and still sick, we decided we had to stop at a hotel for the night (even though we were told we had to drive straight through and couldn't stop) because the roads weren't safe, nor was our physical and mental state to be driving.

We stayed at this adorable little hotel, where I had soup and started feeling better... until the next morning when we realized the Guatemala border people had called us 13 times in the night because someone was watching our GPS and saw that we'd stopped.


We left our Guatemala hotel at sunrise; we only had 24 hours to make it out of Guatemala, per our agreement upon entry, and the El Salvador border was about 4 hours away

There were no toll roads on our drive in Guatemala and the roads were in much worse shape than what we'd experienced in Mexico, so I'm very grateful we decided to stop for the night at a hotel and not continue driving.

Besides that, the drive was mostly uneventful until we got closer to the border where a trucker strike was happening so for probably 5-10 miles from the border there was just a standstill line of 18-wheelers with dudes strung up in hammocks beneath their rigs sleeping, or playing cards or whatever; just not driving.

That was crazy to see; we had to drive in the oncoming traffic lane and squeeze past cars coming our direction to make it to the gas station near the border where we were meeting our friends (who came to Guatemala to help us navigate the El Salvador border).

After everything that had happened on our journey, especially in the last 48 hours, it felt emotional to pull into the gas station and see our 3 friends waiting for us. They helped us check out of Guatemala and get the GPS unit out and then helped us check into El Salvador and get all the searches, paperwork, inspections, etc. completed.

It took the better part of the afternoon, but we didn't have to do much because they handled all of it. We also got a good laugh because our nasty beat-up smoker ended up saving us money on taxes (check out the episode to hear how!).

Once we made it officially into El Salvador, we began the 2-hour drive to our house. We figured we'd just go to bed and deal with unpacking the next day, however, when we showed up at our house with our 3 friends, there were 3-4 MORE of our friends waiting at our house to help us unload our things.

They brought food and drinks and everyone helped us unload all of our belongings with a smile on their face.

Cory and I talked about it later, but we both stepped away separately during that experience because we felt overwhelmed by emotion at the sheer kindness and selflessness of our friends and community here in El Salvador - which is the perfect example of the culture here and the primary reason we wanted to move here.


The trip was enlightening on so many levels, and it's become very clear that one of the themes of this chapter of life will be *patience*.

  • Patience in getting to where we're going

  • Patience with ourselves as we learn new languages, new sports, new approaches to the world

  • Patience as we try to get our footing and our new routine

  • Patience with this slower way of life that we sought

It's easy to revert to our normal state of go-go-go and hurry-hurry-hurry, but every time I catch myself doing it, I now ask: "Why?" And there's typically no good reason.

Learning patience and how to slow down has been and will be such a valuable gift.

Every month now I watch for the full moon and I remember the fear I felt when we pulled out of our hometown under that very same moon. But more importantly, I'm reminded that life is what we make it, and without risk, without adventure, and without traversing into the unknown, there cannot be growth.

Here's to a year full of going for it - a year of taking chances, venturing out of our comfort zones, and experiencing LIFE.

Here's to a year of growth for you, for me, and for all of us.


If any of this resonates with you and you're wondering how you can create more freedom in your own life, let me tell you that it all starts with your relationship with money. Nail that, and nail the financial basics, and the rest is a piece of cake.

If you're vibing with this, check out one of the FREE resources below, learn more about my course, Investor Prep School, or request info about our 1:1 private client programs.




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