If you've ever dreamed about travelling around the world, you will love this video by Alex Chacon, a 25-year-old from El Paso Texas.
Chacon made a 500-day motorbike journey on his own, from Alaska, to the southern tip of Argentina, and filmed much of it by placing GoPro cameras on his helmet and on the side of his bike.
The 10-minute video that sums up the trip, has gone viral on youtube. It has been posted on several websites, including Chacon's own blog, and gives us some awesome views of the Patagonia, the deserts of the American west, snowy Andean mountain passes and muddy Amazonian roads. The shots just make you want to go to these places yourself. But the story behind this video and this trip, is also quite inspiring.
Chacon, a dual citizen of Mexico and the U.S, left his hometown in January of 2011, shortly after he had finished a degree in BioMedical Sciences at the University of Texas. He had little money, and only enough funds to travel for 6 months. But that stretched to almost two years of traveling, as the El Paso native found numerous to ways to get by.
First Chacon learnt to live cheaply, camping out in parking lots and eating canned foods. He used social networks like Couchsurfing to get free accommodation with locals through the journey, and as he made his way down Central America, people who became fans of his "mission," started to help him out, by giving him food, money and free gas. Chacon documented it all in a blog called Expedition South, through which he updated a growing number of online fans about his travels . This exposure eventually helped him to secure small donations from Kawasaki, -which gave him $1,000 for a new bike- and GoPro a camera company.
The view from Alex's helmet cam, as he braves the La Paz to Coroico road in Bolivia.
Now that he has ridden his bike, all they way back to El Paso, Chacon works as a travel consultant for people who are interested in taking similar trips on landrovers and motorbikes around the Americas. Chacon helps his clients with info on which routes to take, and tips on how to negotiate bureaucratic border crossings with their vehicles. We wanted to know more about this life-changing trip, so we called up Chacon at his El Paso home.
Fusion: Some people might think this is strange to go off on your own on a bike, for 500 days. Others will think it is the coolest thing ever. What inspired you to do this?
Alex Chacon: "When I was a little kid in elementary school I'd always look at the world globe an realized how small we were, and the different places there were. So over the years I kept figuring out how I was going to go all around the world, and get to know the world before I got to know myself. I did my very frist roadtrop at 15 when I drove from Mexico to Canada twice. I went from El Paso to California, to Vancouver, back down to Texas, then to Florida, then to Nova Scotia, through Michigan, and I did that in 32 days. It was the most amazing experience in my life, and because it was so profound, and it changed me in so many ways at such a young age, I realized that a much greater journey like [riding across] Latin America was in my blood."
While in Peru, Alex accidentally ran into an airbase testing ground where the Peruvian air force tested live bombs and rockets.
Fusion: So you weren't having an existential crisis or something of that sort?
AC: (laughs) There's a good book about a drummer from Russia, who did a similar motorbike journey after he lost most of his family to diseases and stuff, so he went kind of crazy. But I'm happy to say that I just knew the amazing epic journey that my small trip [in North America] was like and I just knew that if I could share such a huge amazing epic journey through Latin America, what great it would do me and how great it would be for everyone who was following me on the website.
Fusion: How could you afford this trip?
AC: "I first thought I was going to travel from three to six months, and I saved up all the money I could by selling everything I had. I worked for two months [at a physical therapy unit of a local clinic] after graduating college, I sold my car, I sold my clothes, I gave blood, I did everything possible to save the most money cause I didn't think I was going to make it to South America, I really just thought I was going to go from the US to Panama and that's about it."
"But it was amazing because [during the trip] everybody had this feeling of what I needed to accomplish, my goal my dream. Through the journey I got Kawasaki international involved they helped me towards the purchase of a bike. Then I got Go-Pro involved I did videos for them in Costa Rica, and they gave me some cameras. And then people on the road would give me money. And they said this is great what you're doing. "
"I got random people giving me $500 on the street to people letting me sleep in their house, to people inviting me to their weddings, just crazy stuff, people giving me food. It became this super amazing adventure."
Alex makes his way through southern Mexico. In this portion of the trip he traveled with a couple friends that he met in Oaxaca.
Fusion: You went to a lot of remote places. What was the scariest road?
AC: I can't tell you. It's like choosing which of the 23 countries I visited was the most amazing. However, I would say that the most dangerous places I encountered were the remote expanses of the Patagonia, and the Bolivian Altiplano.
In the Patagonia you have ferries that go once or twice a day, so you're sometimes stranded on an island on your own for a day. If something happens to you then, you get no help for 24 hours. The other dangerous places were probably in Honduras, cause when you go to gas stations in Honduras everyone has guns, even in the coffee shops, the stores, so when everyone else has a gun and you don't you feel kind of uncomfortable. So there was a little bit of human, and a little bit of natural danger in each place.
Fusion: What was your favorite place?
AC: Can I give you three?