By KIM ESTES, Four Points News
Mike Stock’s family has a house in Steiner Ranch, but the road is now their home as they tour South America in a 1995 Toyota 4Runner. They left in February and are not coming back “until we are through,” he said.
For Mike and his wife, the open road soothes their restless spirits. Their daughters, Sierra, 9, and Zoe, 6, are enjoying the experience too.
“We love how our kids are learning about each other and the world in real time. It is such a joy to see the world through our daughters’ eyes, to see their amazement when they ask us a question and we don’t have the answers,” Mike said.
“For my wife,” he added, “I love seeing her excited about free mangoes, farmer’s markets or whatever. She is truly excited again, excited about life.”
Mike has wanted to travel to South America for a long time. “For some inexplicable reason, Central America has always called to Elise and South America has always called to me,” he said. He remembers wanting to do this when he was 19 and he tried getting some friends together for a motorcycle ride, but everyone backed out including him.
Years later, however, he met Elise, his “gypsy soul mate”, who happen to have a book about driving to South America. Over the years, the idea kept growing and would not go away. The more they tried to repress it, the more it consumed them, he said.
After committing to their aspiration, worries haunted them as they sold their pool cleaning and maintenance business and calmed concerns of loved ones. Mike reported dreams of losing his hair. Elise had dreams of losing teeth. Researching the meaning of their imaginings, Mike read his reflected a concern about aging, while Elise’s were symptomatic of stress and anxiety. Regardless, with only a college-level command of Spanish, Mike left by car on Valentine’s Day. Elise and their daughters, bypassing potential dangers of drug cartel violence in northern Mexico, soon followed by plane. They reunited a week and 1,200 miles later in Cancun.
To date, the family has added 10,000 miles to their car’s odometer and driven through Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. They are now in northern Colombia.
Highlights have been Nicaragua and Cartagena, Colombia. “We like areas with a good sense of culture and place and that are holding on to what makes them unique,” Mike said.
They were disappointed in Ometepe Island, Nicaragua and Bocas Del Toro, Panama. Both of these locations did not live up to their hype, he said, and added “Being that they are islands, we were stuck for three days on each waiting for the ferry ride back.”
“Seeing the happy children of the extreme poor is still the biggest surprise for all of us,” Mike added. “No toys or electronics needed for these kids to be happy, just another person to call a friend. They share what little they have and end up being more brothers and sisters than neighbors. If our kids only remember how these kids played, the whole trip will have been a success,” he commented.
In all, problems have been minimal, including a few border crossing issues that were fixed “with a small amount of money in the right hands”, Mike said.
Recently, the family took “inventory” on how each felt about continuing. All agreed to do so. They hope to drive to Tierra del Fuego, at the tip of the continent, and back up into Brazil. The exact timeline remains open-ended.
“Both of our kids are sporadically homesick and miss their friends and teachers at Steiner Ranch Elementary. We are so lucky that our girls are understanding about this trip and even say we need to finish this,” Mike said. In the meantime, Elise is “homeschooling” them while on a field trip like no other.
Elise often jokes about being a hippy stuck in a suburban housewife’s body and Mike said he feels similar at times.
“We realized we needed to do something different in our lives to feel more connected with each other,” Mike said. “We just knew deep down we needed to see and do more. All I can say is that we are in a happy place even though the place itself is constantly changing.”
Mike’s blog, 4souls1dream.blogspot.com, is a record of their adventure for those who want to follow along from the comfort zone of their living room.