What is this journey you’re on?
It’s my lifelong dream. I’m going from the US to the end of the Amazon River in Brazil. My goal is to cover the entire distance powered only by my own body—no cars, planes, motors or even sails. This involves crossing almost all of Latin America, for a total of about 8,000 miles. So far I’ve bicycled 3,000 of them.
How long will that take?
Years! I travel slowly, because I like to learn from the places I go, and the people I meet, and their traditions and beliefs. I often spend a week or more in a single town, and have stayed up to 9 months in one place. I’m not in a hurry.
Why are you doing this?
I believe travel is a practice that changes you as a person. I believe “adventure” or seeking out challenge helps you find your purpose in life. I want to experience a great journey, with all its joys and challenges, like the heroes that inspired me growing up.
So are you rich as fuck?
Then how do you support yourself on the road?
I’m a writer, and make most of my income doing freelance writing for a variety of companies. I also write articles, columns and books. I can do this work anywhere that I have an internet connection, so it allows me a fair amount of freedom in my travels.
For most of my life I worked a “normal” job and was not able to do this. It took years of planning and learning new skills to start my new traveling lifestyle.
Do you travel alone?
So far I have mostly traveled alone, although I had a companion on the last leg of the Mississippi River, in Texas and in northern Mexico. I love having traveling companions. It makes everything about the road more fun. (So if you’re interested…)
Do you know that Mexico is dangerous? Colombia?
I do. Adventuring experience has taught me that there are good people who will help you even in the most dangerous places. I prepare as best I can for each leg of the journey, and I accept that I’m taking a risk, but I will not give up.
Can I send you an article about an American who disappeared or was killed in Mexico?
What do your parents think of all this?
They worry. Overall, they’ve both been very supportive. My sister and I were raised being told we can do anything we put our minds to, although I don’t think our long-suffering parents expected us to take them quite so seriously.
So do you NEVER use any vehicles?
Not to advance my journey, no. I’ve literally gone hundreds of miles out of my way to avoid taking a ferry, because it wouldn’t be powered by my own body.
However, I gladly use vehicles for other purposes: to jaunt back to New Orleans to see friends, to go off on side quests without advancing my journey, or to get around cities I’m staying in. The rule is that I always have to pick up where I left off vehicle-free. I have never broken this rule.
You say you’re a writer. Are you published?
I am! You can find my novella here.
But for many writers, this is our least favorite question. Writers today have a wide variety of ways to make a living, and get their work out, without going through a large publishing house (I didn’t). If you really want to get to know a writer, ask, “What are you working on right now?”
Can you teach me how to write/edit/market/publish my own book?
Honestly, I’m terrible at the business end of writing. I’m not the one to teach you. For the writing itself, I believe that anyone who can tell a story can write one. Just try writing down your best stories and don’t worry about grammar or spelling or any of that high school stuff. That’ll all get cleaned up in editing.
Like other arts, writing is a skill learned through practice. No one is “born” a writer. Write lots of bad stories and you’ll start to write good ones.
Are you really a priest?
Yes! I’m a polytheist priest. That means that I believe the divine appears in many faces and that it’s best to recognize all of them.
During my travels I try to learn from many different religious traditions. I try to go deeper than just a casual glance, and truly learn from each one. In New Orleans I initiated into Vodou, a beautiful tradition that has nothing to do with pins and dolls.
So what do you believe?
Well… I don’t know.
I don’t really have a lot of faith. I know I’ve had powerful spiritual experiences, but I have no idea whether that means gods and spirits are real or if this stuff is all in our heads. What I do know is that it’s meaningful to me and worth pursuing.
If the gods exist, I sure hope to find them on my travels. In fact, that’s kind of my goal: to meet the gods. Here’s the latest report on how that’s going, one of most popular articles ever.
Why Brazil? Don’t you think you could meet the gods somewhere else?
Absolutely. But to me, the journey is important. Travel changes you, opens you to new ways of thinking, and teaches you about humanity. And I’ve always been drawn to South America, so that’s where my adventure is headed.
If I was born in Brazil I’d almost certainly seek the gods somewhere else.
Oh, a priest, huh? Can I tell you why I think religion is bad?
You won’t be the first.
But really, it’s not necessary. Whatever your gripe is, it’s almost certainly a gripe against Christianity or monotheism or conversion-oriented religions. Polytheism does not try to convert people. There has never been a polytheist Crusade or jihad. We believe people should be free to believe whatever they want, even if it’s different from what we believe.
We also believe in science, and that religious belief should change and adapt as we discover new facts about our world.
Where are you right now? Where are you going next?
As of February 2015 I finished the bike ride across Mexico, meaning I’ve gone 4,000 miles so far. I’m currently in Valladolid, Yucatán, a quiet colonial town surrounded by jungles, pyramids and entrances to cenotes (underground lakes). I’m staying here for a few months catching up on my writing before I move on.
The next leg will be to bicycle Central America, but I don’t know yet when that section will start.
Can I join up with you?
I would love that! It can be for a day, a week or a set segment of the journey. So far I’ve mostly bicycled, although walking is very likely in the future. I am flexible and if you want to join me for a segment I will work with you to schedule it and make a firm plan. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You may also want to check out my book.