The Ultimate Road Trip: Seattle to Patagonia

Story and Photos by Carson Bowlin

This journey from Seattle through Central and South America was an important experiment for us both. Our lives “Off-Belay” traversed almost half the globe with a stat line that clocked over 19,000 miles driven, 15 countries crossed, 2 continents explored and 1 new passport issued courtesy of Bolivian hospitality. Climbing and skiing provided structure for this odyssey, but key relationships and the gift of unobstructed views inward served to fill in lasting meaning.

For all our lives my brother Austin and I had committed ourselves to the idea of linear achievement. Practicing and competing to be the best across academics, sports, our jobs and so it goes. But what if we were to press pause on our established careers in Seattle and Manhattan that we had originally pursued with such vigor? What if the trajectory we both were on suddenly hit the brakes and took a sharp detour? We wanted to know if the lens through which we had learned to see the world could be tilted in a different way. We found it disappointing how at the time before we departed there were people who would instantly ask upon hearing about the trip what we planned to do when we returned. Those questions were irrelevant to our cause and only served to galvanize our conviction in the importance of our experiment. Our deep fear was institutionalization, predictable thinking and a linear existence from which many never break free. We aimed to set forth and take control of our own lives by stepping out from the societal stream. In a way we had to give up our past lives in order to save them. An author we brought along in the book bag put it this way, “…he must desire life like water and yet drink death like wine (Chesterton).”

After much mechanical, financial and logical planning we cut the mooring lines and pointed our 1987 Toyota Land Cruiser, affectionately named Beckey after our local climbing hero, southward. We had a year, more or less to take our Pacific Northwest sensibilities on the road to play out the adventure of our lives. Ahead of us we knew lie uncertainty, sickness, challenges and constant problem solving. Obstacles of a degree that we had never dealt with before but that we knew were surmountable because they stood between us and our ambitions.

In addition to our trip website (, we partnered with MSR to help share the stories of our epics, our insights and our adventures. The following posts were written from the front seat of Beckey and shared on The Summit Register as we continued to push south. The following pictures and commentary feature a number of the highlights and noteworthy adventures from our journey.

Brothers hailing from the Pacific Northwest, Carson and Austin Bowlin were on an adventure of a lifetime traveling overland from Seattle to Chile climbing, skiing and surfing along the way. Their trip partners included NuunMountain Safety ResearchTorFab, and KAVU.  Their trip south was documented at After returning from South America and receiving a huge hug from their Mother, they now reside in Seattle, Washington and spend significant time in their backyard range of the Central and North Cascades.