Driving the Americas is a once in lifetime adventure for most who undertake the epic journey from the southern tip of south American to Alaska’s North Slope, but for one couple, who recently completed the trip in a Volkswagen van, travel is a way of life.
Ben Jamin left behind an IT career to work and travel around the world, but when he decided to drive from southern Chile to Alaska, he wasn’t expecting a multi-year journey. The now 34 year old native of the British Isle of Jersey, speaks fondly of the VW bus that’s changed his life.
“This is our 1992 Volkswagen Kombi. Made in Brazil. We picked it up in Chile and it’s been our home for the past four-and-a-half years.”
Jamin met his partner Leah Airey along the way. One of many who have shared and supported the 50 thousand mile Pan American road trip.
“Actually, that’s part of the project of this Hasta Alaska journey, which means ‘Until Alaska’ in Spanish,” Jamin said. “To try to do it on a budget, so we shared the vehicle with over 100 people since we left Chile. And that way we all chip in for the gas and we all chip in for the food.”
“So we can live really really cheaply in the van and we don’t really spend that much at all,” Airey said. “Maybe just on food and maintenance.”
“Yeah, most of our money goes on maintenance. People wouldn’t believe that you can actually travel that cheaply. And it makes it affordable,” Jamin said. You can actually afford to visit these places and have these experiences of a lifetime.”
The journey has included surfing and other fun hogging played out in laptop produced “Kombi Life” videos on You Tube.
Jamin and Airey have honed the art of roadside video production, weaving together images, narration and music into an engaging adventure tale that mixes road life ups and downs.
The couple said their You Tube channel generates about 10 to 15 dollars a day, not enough to fund things like rebuilding a fried out kombi, or taking their dog to the vet, but supporters have stepped up in a big way with cash and other assistance, including Alaskans who helped Jamin secure a new visa.
“We wrote to the Governor and to the Senator. Everyone was appealing on our behalf,” Jamin said. “And eventually when we went to apply for a visa again, they said that they’d heard about our situation and they gave us one. And that’s really with help from the Alaskan people, that’s why we’re here today, exploring this amazing state.”
Being on the receiving end of so much good will, The Kombi crew also gives back, from raising money for a cancer patient, to teaching kids to slackline, and sharing their travel skills.
“We try to inspire people to, not so much follow in our footsteps, but just open up their mind into what’s possible in their environment,” Jamin said. “Not everyone’s in a position to take off across a continent in a Volkswagen van, and I honestly wouldn’t recommend it.”
That sentiment reflects the ten engine rebuilds their bus has had. Jamin and Airey plan to tour Alaska for the rest of the summer, and then randomly select one of their supporters give their now famous Kombi to. The couple says their next adventure may be sailing.