Monkeys on the Road: 30,000 Miles, Countless Tests

Mary Hollendoner quit climbing the corporate ladder at Google in search of adventure and a simpler life.

Along with her husband John and six-year-old daughter Lilly, adventure was around every corner of a three-and-a-half-year van journey of 30,000 miles zig-zagging through Central and South America.

The simpler life often eluded her. In Monkeys on the Road, Hollendoner relates the stresses of her family’s vanlife, which include an angry mob in Mexico, visa and border red tape, mechanical breakdowns, illnesses, a nation’s revolution, and cultural misunderstandings. Just when I thought they had endured more than their share of strife, they were caught in a drawn-out Covid lockdown in Argentina.

In the end, it was the people who more than made up for the family’s challenges. Their generosity, warmth, and acceptance often made the Americans feel like they were with family. In her relaxed writing style, Hollendoner brings home the qualities of her hosts that made the three-and-a-half years with Vancito (their van’s nickname) so special.

Like many who experience long adventures, Hollendoner says she has learned the best things in life are sometimes the most difficult. And adventure calls her and her family back: Their latest plan is to bicycle across Europe.

Monkeys on the Road is an enthralling story about family life, vanlife, and the lives of peoples throughout Central and South America. It is also a story of a family’s incredible commitment to make the best of times that would send many back home.

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