Some people buy a motorcycle or a sports car when they have a mid-life crisis.
Others, like Luigi Zanasi, jump into a beat-up 1990 Chevy pick up and drive to the southernmost tip of South America.
Call it male menopause, said Zanasi.
“A number of my friends got motorcycles, others dumped their long-term spouse for young bimbos,” wrote Zanasi in the first entry of his travel blog.
“But I am not suicidal, so I decided to drive to Chile and Argentina from Whitehorse, Yukon.”
When Zanasi had a heart attack a year and a half ago, he decided he needed to do what he had been dreaming about for years.
A phone call from a friend, who wanted to meet in Patagonia last New Year’s Eve, sealed the deal.
In a nod to Che Guevara, Zanasi titled his blog the Pick-up Truck Diaries after Guevara’s well-known travel diary, the Motorcycle Diaries.
But the Yukon economist didn’t want readers confused about his political leanings.
“Not that Che is a hero of mine: he was a murderous bastard who rather than help build Cuba got himself stupidly killed in Bolivia,” wrote Zanasi.
He doesn’t like to mince his words.
Zanasi’s travel blog, animated and uncensored, includes musings on the food he eats and the changing scenery to the corrupt government officials and the terrible drivers he encounters.
The trip, which was initially supposed to take only two months, has now grown to a five-month trek. And it’s expected to get longer since Zanasi has only gotten as far as Guatemala – halfway to his end destination.
But he’s still planning to make it all the way to the tip of Chile.
Beginning in November, Zanasi travelled through BC and down the coast of the United States visiting friends along the way in Vancouver, Oregon and California.
In mid January, he ditched his truck in Antigua, Guatemala to fly to Whitehorse to finish up some contract work.
The truck and its attached camper sat for a month and a half under a smoking volcano in an organic coffee plantation.
But the thought of his vehicle smouldering under molten lava didn’t faze him.
“The truck isn’t worth all that much, if it goes, it goes,” he said from Whitehorse shortly before he flew back to Antigua.
Zanasi is known for his carefree attitude.
A month into his trip, 1,300 kilometres outside of Cancun, Mexico, Zanasi got hit with a streak of bad luck.
He woke up at a hotel with a queasy stomach only to discover that he had diarrhea,
which travelers there jokingly refer to as ‘turista.’
Zanasi was supposed to meet his spouse in Cancun that day but knew there was no way he could drive the distance in one go.
He jumped in his truck, drove through Guadalajara and set his sights on Toluca, south of Mexico City.
But just before he reached Toluca, he ran out of gas.
After discovering his insurance policy didn’t cover roadside assistance (even though he was led to believe it did) he called himself a tow truck.
While waiting several hours for the tow truck, a strong gust of wind blew hundreds of dollars worth of pesos out of Zanasi’s pocket.
After chasing after the money through a grassy field in the dark, he was able to find 3,000 pesos ($250).
More than half of that money, $150, was used to pay off the tow truck.
After Zanasi was towed to a gas station in Morelia, he grabbed some money from an ATM and decided to spend the night at a Holiday Inn 20 minutes away.
But when he tried to pay for a night at the hotel his credit card wouldn’t work and realized he had left his bank card at the gas station.
Zanasi doubled back to the gas station only to find that no one had seen his card. Thankfully for him, he had traveller’s cheques.
That blog entry, written a day later, was aptly called “shit happens.”
Bad luck aside, Zanasi has been fascinated by the places he’s visited, including the Mayan ruins in the Yucatan, Mexico and Guatemala.
“To me it’s an absolutely fascinating culture,” he said.
“It’s been amazing that they’ve been able to evolve and change with the times.”
Communicating with the locals has been easy for Zanasi, who is French-Canadian and Italian.
“In my opinion, Spanish is just Italian that has been badly mispronounced,” he said with a laugh.
Before this adventure, Zanasi had never been further south than Cuba, and this is the first long trip he’s done.
It helps to have his spouse joining him for parts of the trip, he said.
“I’ve never been around the world before so it’s sort of like I’m doing my 20s-something trip.
“And I’m really getting into it. It’s definitely not about the destination – it’s about the journey.”