Travel is a tricky mistress. You can lose sleep planning for an upcoming dance with her, but all of that tossing and turning does you no favors. You can prepare and prepare and prepare, but at some point you just have to walk blindly into the unknown, hoping for the best.
For vagabonds Selima (more commonly known by her stage name, Mogli) and Felix preparation means literally bringing everything and the kitchen sink. The couple is driving the length of the Pan-American highway, from Alaska to Argentina, in a converted school bus. Before setting off, two German natives worked tirelessly to turn the bus into an Etsy-fied, Pintrest-lover’s dream. It’s built out with a full master bedroom, working kitchen, toilet, and fully-tiled, fully-operational shower.
The two knew exactly what they wanted and made it happen. But that doesn’t mean they won’t have to adapt along the way as life throws curves at them. As Mogli and Felix continue along the long journey south, we spoke with them about “Expedition Happiness,” the pitfalls of long-term travel, and how it feels to travel in a bus that looks more like a dope-ass loft.
So, who are you guys?
Mogli: We’re a couple from Germany. Felix is a filmmaker and I’m a singer-songwriter. Together we film documentaries and produce motion pictures. Felix does the marketing and I am in charge of the soundtracks. Our latest project takes us and our Bernese mountain dog puppy, Rudi, along the Pan-American Highway in an old school bus that we converted to a loft on wheels.
As Europeans, what drew you to the Pan-American trail (Alaska to Argentina)?
The Pan-American Highway is the longest road in the world. But for us it’s not about getting to the destination — we don’t even know if we wanna go all the way to Argentina yet. It is all about the journey! Along the way there are so many different things to see like glaciers and deserts, grizzly bears and alpacas. We’ve been to the highest mountain (Denali) and to the lowest point (Badwater in Death valley) in North America!
Why choose the bus?
The bus gave us the freedom to custom-build everything. We have everything we need and nothing we don’t, and most of all, it looks like we want it to. It feels like home.
With comfort and materials comes a worry of things malfunctioning or going wrong. Are you prepared for tricky repairs in a pinch if need be?
We learned so much when we converted the bus! We didn’t know what we were doing at all but we figured it out along the way, so I think we would be able to fix most of the things in the bus because we were the ones that built everything. However, if we’d smell propane or something with the electric seemed off we’d always rather get a professional repair. Unfortunately, we don’t know anything about engines but that’s why we chose an old bus — everyone can repair them, even the mechanics in the middle of nowhere — whereas newer models use a lot of complicated electronic mechanisms and require modern knowledge/technology. So far, the length is not a problem at all because Felix is a really good driver.
We have definitely missed a few cool spots because of length restrictions and we might face some more trouble on South American roads.
How are you bankrolling this adventure?
Felix’s last documentary “Pedal The World” was a huge success, so we used the money to go on this adventure.
Do you have any worries? Break-ins? Break downs? Getting stuck? Bureaucratic hold-ups?
We constantly have ups and downs; it honestly feels like a rollercoaster ride. Our plumbing was leaking, Rudi had to have surgery, the US. Embassy declined our visa application first and when we finally got it, the U.S. Customs agents gave us a really hard time. We try not to let it get to us, because for every low we have many highs. We got to see a wild grizzly a few feet from our bus. We enjoyed complete solitude in Denali National Park and in Death Valley. We’ve also met wonderful people who invited us to their home.
We’re not the type to worry about anything, we take it as it comes. We believe if you trust people and are open-minded, nothing bad will happen to you.
How do you plan to cross the Darian gap?
The Darien gap is a huge obstacle for us. It costs nearly $10,000 to ship the bus — more than we paid for it. We would have to catch a plane and that means another flight in cargo for Rudi. We definitely wanna see South America but we’re contemplating if the Bus is the right vehicle to do so because of the mountains and narrow roads.
Traveling as a couple can be really tough. What have you learned thus far and how do you plan to approach traveling as a couple moving forward?
For us traveling together is not very different from life at home. We never really fight because we know we’re not perfect and love each other the way we are. You can’t always be nice to each other, especially in stressful situations, so usually one of us sucks it up and stays calm and three minutes later everything is fine again. We get to experience so many things every day that we’d rather be happy together.
Do you guys have a plan for the super hot and super cold days and nights? Between Alaska to Argentina there are going to be some crazy temperature swings.
Super cold is not a problem, we have an electric heater that works on our solar system. For cloudy and rough days we have a propane heater that keeps it really cozy. Hot days are much worse than we thought they would be. The bus heats up like a metal box and even if it’s still doable for us, our dog goes crazy. We knew it would be a challenge to take a mountain dog to warm countries but we didn’t think he would collapse on the first really warm day. I had to sit by his side and cool him down with cool packs while we were driving through the desert. We have AC but it only runs on our generator so we usually try to find campgrounds when it is warm to cool the bus down for Rudi.
Do you follow anyone who’s done this trip before that you’re getting advice from?
We follow a few travelers but only for the pictures, to be honest. We’re not huge fans of too much advice cause we believe you have to make your own mistakes and that every trip is different.
The Mad Ones is a reference to a famous quote from Jack Kerouac’s On the Road: “…the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars, and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes ‘Awww!’ ”
Watch this series for interviews and profiles with people doing big, wild, bold, creative things with their lives. #TheMadOnes