New user - Van lifer travelling North America in 76 VW

Hey folks,

New to the site.

Since September 2019, I have been travelling with my girlfriend and our rescue cat around North America in my 1976 VW which we imported with us from the UK.

Currently, we are in Mexico. We crossed into Baja from the US last February. Initially, our visit was to last no more than 5 weeks and then Covid happened.

We spent the next 8 months in Baja. We had hoped to cross to the mainland sooner but suffered a serious engine problem. After ordering a replacement engine block from Canada, we got Ruby (Our VW) back on the road and caught the ferry over to the mainland.

After a great start, we noticed signs that our second-hand replacement engine block was worn. A steep drive up to a camp spot on a 12000ft volcano killed our ‘new’ engine after just a month.

After waiting for parts, we got the engine back in on the 23rd of December and we’re able to catch up with our fellow European travelling friends who had crossed with us from Baja.

Since then, we have been going strong around Mexico.

We would love to chat to fellow enthusiasts and share tips/experiences/ plan future meets.

We started a YouTube channel to document our travels. We were both teachers in England and wanted to share our journey with students, friends and family. We don’t have fancy cameras and you won’t find us half naked talking about the joys of a cold camper shower, but hopefully we share inspiring locations and stories.

Please say hello. Check out our Youtube channel ‘The Kombi Chronicles’ and subscribe of it’s something you’re interested in and hopefully one day we can get together and share stories under the stars sat around a camp fire.


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Welcome to the forum. I’m looking forward to checking out your videos.

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Greetings & Welcome!

Sorry to hear of your trouble, but sounds like you’re making the best of things. I’m curious how you’re supporting your travels financially?


"God bless the nomads, all of us!" ~ Nature Lover

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You guys are brave and hardy! My husband wants to head to Mexico someday and I am just too scared. Tell me more about it and the people you’re meeting, good times, etc. I’ll check out your page too! Thanks

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Welcome! VW buses are awesome! I love those things, someday I’ll own one. I’ll definitely be checking out your channel to see your travels through Mexico! I was thinking of heading down there towards the end of this year or maybe next in my van.

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Whhhhaaaattttt?!?!? Are y’all still in the Mainland? My husband and I got here last month after spending a month in Baja. We took the Baja Ferries over to Mazatlán, which was a mistake. Shouldve done the other ferry.

Anyway, we’ve been… okay, I’ve been searching for fellow vanlifers since making it to the Mainland. We don’t know Spanish very well, so we haven’t had many conversations with other people which is pretty isolating. But at least we have one another.

Anyway, sorry about the engine problem. It seems in Mexico that they only temporarily fix your problem like three times before you can find a mechanic who knows how to fix it right. :sweat_smile:

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The breakdowns were tough, but it helps that my partner Willow is a trained mechanic.

We rent two properties out in the UK, which brings in most of our income. Have also just started matched betting which brings in a little extra spending money.

Mexico has been amazing.

We heard so many horror stories before leaving the US, but over all we have rarely had any trouble.

The people have been so welcoming.

We have had the occasional trouble with corrupt police, mainly near Mexico City. But we have learnt to plan dumb and pretend that we don’t speak Spanish and so don’t understand. They always get frustrated and let us drive off.

You should definitely buy a VW. The VW community is something else.

Mexico is great. We feel very fortunate to be here during these testing times. We’ve still been able to keep moving fairly easily. Finding isolated spots to chill out

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Yeah, we’re still in mainland. Travelling g with two other European campers. Currently just north of Escondido. Whereabouts are you guys now? Maybe we could meet up at some point.

We got the other ferry. Got to sleep in our camper and was a lot cheaper.

Our Spanish isn’t great. It’s improving a lot quicker on main land. In Baja, so many people preferred to speak to is in English, which was mildly annoying.

I’ve done that a few times - worked like a charm. Once in Italy for speeding, and once in the Czech Republic for not paying the road tax.

It really is the best way. As our Spanish improves, its even better because we can actually understand whatu they are trying a lot more.

The real talent lies not in understanding what is being said in Spanish but in keeping a straight face when you understand they are talking about you while believing that you don’t understand what is being said!

I always found that folks in Mexico speak faster the further south one is in the country.

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Yes. Even harder now with face masks as well.

Although it does help keep a straight face!

Great point there, Lee.

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Lee and all of y’all down in Mexico be careful. I can tell a horror story about Juarez; but I’d rather share the tactic of using limited Spanish when dealing with authorities.

By using very limited, basic Spanish, conversing poorly, not totally understanding what they’re saying, making them speak very slowly, asking them for help understanding has, for me, generally yielded positive results. I think they like you attempting to speak in their language and it seems to earn their respect.

Just show them 200 pesos and move on. Usually works and 100% legal. You haven’t been to Mexico if you haven’t bribed a federale.

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Depends on the police and the situation.

We are fortunate to be travelling with two other campers, so we are less intimidated.

Around Mexico City, we encountered a few police who had removed the plates from their cars. We have found these to be the worst.