Monkeys on the Road by Mary Hollendoner

After a decade in the corporate rat race, Mary was ready for a change. Too much stress and not enough time with her family left her feeling that her priorities were all wrong.

So she and her husband quit their jobs, pulled their six-year-old daughter out of school, and moved into an old camper van.

They planned to take a year off to drive from California to Argentina. What followed were three and a half years of heartwarming personal encounters, breathtaking wilderness campsites, and occasionally terrifying situations…

…In Mexico, an angry mob surrounded them on a remote road and started shaking the van, threatening to smash the windshield with rocks. But later that day, a local family welcomed them into their earthquake-damaged home, insisting they stay the night and sharing everything they had.

…While barreling down the highway in northern Colombia, their van’s battery exploded, filling their home-on-wheels with noxious fumes. The engine died entirely while parked in no-man’s-land between Ecuador and Peru, leaving them stranded for a month in a tiny border town.

…They learned first-hand about the crisis in Venezuela when they got caught among thousands of refugees trying to cross the Colombian border. And they drove into Bolivia the day before the country erupted into a revolution, leaving them trapped for weeks in the capital city.

… And they lived through one of the world’s strictest COVID quarantines in Argentina, staying for over a year in a small mountain town there.

Join Mary, John, and 6-year-old Lilly on these and other adventures in this feel-good read about a family trying to find their place in the world.

Amazon UK | Amazon US | goodreads


My Review

Monkeys on the Road is the amazing story of one family’s journey from California, USA down through Mexico and into Central America, then South America in a van, which they use to live in as well as travel. They set off in 2017 and complete their travels due to Covid in 2021. There are three of them, Lilly, their daughter, is elementary school aged, and I couldn’t help wondering how my own family would have managed living in such a small space and deal with homeschooling. They have some fantastic adventures along the way, swimming with whale sharks (wow – I would love to do that!) visiting a turtle sanctuary, occasionally teaching local children, being eaten alive by bugs and trying all kinds of local foods and drinks. The maps and photos included in this book really bring the journey to life and give it an extra special feel and there are many fabulous photographs included on the accompanying website. I applaud people who take on daunting, yet exciting travel plans with young children – I used to worry about simple journeys such as travelling back to England on a plane when my two were young! Lilly is an adaptable and resourceful child and befriends many children and animals along the way including a donkey and a chicken named Jonathan. Mary’s book is very well written, with a warm and welcoming style. Her tongue-in-cheek, light-hearted approach to such tedious necessities as border crossings had me chuckling, and I am still cringing from the episode with the ant river. They overcame many scary situations, including earthquakes, evacuation due to fire, a political revolution and a Covid lockdown in Argentina. There are also plenty of exciting cliffhangers which entice you to keep on reading and I found it a very difficult book to put down! This part had me sitting on the edge of my seat:

Crack! I fall to the ground and roll around in the dirt on my back, clutching my hands tight to my head as if trying to hold the skull together. I hear John’s voice calling urgently as if from a distance, “Where are you?” and then the sound of running feet coming closer. I peer through my tightly clasped fingers to see two men rushing toward me out of the darkness, each carrying a long, shiny gun. This is not how I envisioned our first night in El Salvador.

I would urge anyone who loves travel memoirs, or just feels like a change of scene, to read Monkeys on the Road. I guarantee you will enjoy your journey with this family and might even learn something about the cultures and history of the locations along the way!


About the Author

Mary is passionate about travel and the outdoors. Originally from England, she moved to California for its rock climbing and sunshine, worked a season on the Yosemite Search and Rescue team, but then ended up climbing the corporate ladder at Google for a decade to fund her travel obsession.

She has bicycled across Central America, motorcycled across Mexico, driven the length of Australia, and backpacked around Europe, S.E. Asia, and Africa – all as a prelude to the epic drive through the Americas that is the subject of this book.

She’s written for travel, climbing, and retirement magazines, and this is her first foray into a full-length book.

Facebook | Amazon Author page | Twitter | Instagram

3 thoughts on “Monkeys on the Road by Mary Hollendoner

  1. Pingback: Indie Spotlight – Mary Hollendoner | Sue's Musings

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