For one Marfa couple, adventure begins

MARFA – Julian Walstrom was getting married. He dreamed of driving across Mexico and Central America to the cloud forests in Ecuador, where he lived until he was around five.

His fiancée and now-wife, Pennie Bumrungsiri, was skeptical. Why stop at Ecuador, she wondered? Why not continue south all the way to Patagonia, on the very southern tip of South America?

Just like that, an adventurous honeymoon was conceived. The couple spent around a year at Cochineal in Marfa, saving up funds. They redecorated their right-wheeled 1990 Toyota Townace to look something like an adobe home, replete with faux-tile flooring in vibrant colors. On Tuesday, they set off for the border.

The first stop, Walstrom said in an interview, is the Mexican city of Cuauhtémoc, a four-hour drive south from the Presidio-Ojinaga border crossing.

After that — who knows? Walstrom and Bumrungsiri got married in Hawaii and wanted to get to a beach as quickly as possible. But the Pacific Ocean spans for hundreds of miles along the western shores of Mexico, so that doesn’t narrow it down much.

Walstrom is a teacher and Bumrungsiri a midwife. They hope to put those skills to use on the road. “Education and maternity care are needed everywhere in the world,” Walstrom said.

Their safety plan is simple: Drive during the day, avoid regions that locals warn them about, and above all, treat people with respect.

The couple is cautious but not particularly worried. They think rhetoric around the borderlands has become too fearful and heated in recent years. Their personal philosophy, as Walstrom described, is that “dangerous things can happen anywhere, anytime” but that risks can be mitigated by “the energy you carry and the intention you have.”

“I think it’s quite dangerous to live a life of fear,” he said. “At the end of the day, we’re all humans.”

Walstrom’s father, David, is more circumspect. He hitchhiked across Mexico in the 1960s. Still, he said, “The level of violence in Mexico is the highest it has ever been, ever. And it’s not all cartels.”

“I was not exactly thrilled by this whole idea to begin with,” he said. “But, it’s going to be fun.”