Ever since I was a small child, I've been imagining what I'd would buy if I found a million dollars just laying on the ground. It was a game of sorts, and one my friends and I played often. I'd imagine at around 8 years of age, I'd likely have bought a multitude of Pokemon cards, around 13 though—it started changing into motorcycles, cars, and trucks. The older I became, and the more involved I became in the real world, it started changing from what I would buy, into where I would go, what I'd do, and how I'd get there. The game was slowly becoming an escape from every day life, one that was solidly planted in those warm, gushy childhood memories, it was an escape from a world that, with every passing day, turned more and more serious.
Throughout high school, it was this continuous mind-game of travel planning that ensured I was consistently skipping class, whether I was spending the day skiing, mountain biking, or even driving across the state to attempt to rock climb—it didn't really matter. The "game" provided me with an escape from reality that started to become more and more real as I grew. I soon learned that I didn't have to imagine that I wanted to travel and do things with my life anymore, I was coming into an age that allowed me to simply go out and do them. The end of high school, and a last-minute choice to graduate a semester early freed me from the only thing in my mind that held me back—school. I wasn't even 18, and between the combination of an over-inflated ego, lots of ideas, relative freedom, and a Land Rover—I thought I was unstoppable.
But I was stoppable, gasoline was over $4.00 a gallon, and my allowance and part time job at a bicycle shop wasn't going to pay for the visions I had of expeditions to Baja California, Deadhorse, and Tierra del Fuego. For a period of time, I gave up on my dreams, I finally listened to my peers who told me I was stupid for thinking I could travel the world. Clearly they were right, I should just go to school, stay in the cornfields of Illinois, and become a "normal" person. It's what I ended up doing, and I was positive I had beat the game, realizing it seemed more like an addiction to travel than anything else. (For the record, I'm using the term "addiction" incredibly lightly.)
A few years of University later, addiction started to find its way back into my daily life, except this time, I was a little bit wiser, and a good deal more educated. The problem was my location, no offense to any enthusiasts of Peoria, Illinois, but for someone with a self-proclaimed addiction to traveling the world, it's either a great place to be in rehab, or an even more fantastic place to go completely insane. I spent countless hours (that should have been spent studying) looking at maps, researching cities, spending significant time on this very site, Expedition Portal, which turned those dreams of travel, into dreams of vehicle-based travel (funny is it not how things often come full circle.) The addiction to travel began to consume me—eating away at the inside of me so much that I left my University.
Long story short, after a few months spent at home doing weekend trips in my Land Cruiser while going to a local University, I hit the road again, I needed more. It was December, and I was off to London and Paris for fourteen days by-way of two first-class tickets (buddy pass ftw!) for myself, and my at the time girlfriend. Looking back, it's probably the first time this addiction of mine hurt someone I cared about—but I was way too self-absorbed to even notice it. I was dragging a cute, shy, and most importantly, incredibly nervous girl to nearly the other side of the world, days before Christmas, and it didn't even come across my mind what I was doing. To make it even worse, I paraded her around London and Paris, keeping her constantly on the move, getting frustrated when she lagged behind, and when she didn't want to go out drinking after being out all day, I left her at the hotel, alone. Proof that this self-proclaimed travel addiction does in fact have it's ups and downs—I'm surprised she put up with my bullshit for years to come.
However the trip successfully opened my eyes and I went back to school the next semester determined to succeed. I attempted to fill my time with things other than travel, so I started getting back into motorcycles, cars, and trucks, just like I was 13 again and playing "the game". Within a month, my Land Cruiser, was traded for a Kawasaki ZX-6R, and my custom built old-school bobber after some very successful and lucrative craigslist buying and selling turned into an Harley-Davidson. It was clear once again that "the game" had potential to be real. Pardon my French, but with a self-imposed travel embargo on myself, I was turning into a douche. What is the logical thing to do in that case? Keep the Harley, Sell the Ninja, and buy my friend's immaculate Dakar Yellow BMW M3. The addiction was dormant, and it's not like it was four-wheel drive, so I wouldn't have any problems flying to pick it up in North Carolina anyway, would I? Two months later I learned the hard lesson that you can still have plenty of vehicle-based adventures from a lowered, modified European sports car. In the same way I'd seek out more remote and difficult trails in a four-wheel drive vehicle, I ended up finding more exotic, and challenging roads for the M3—race tracks turned into a replacement for four wheeling parks I used to frequent. When that wasn't enough, I'd look at a map, find a twisty road, and go. I probably spent a total of three or four weeks exploring just Eastern Tennessee and Western North Carolina alone, how I avoided a single speeding ticket...or death... nobody knows. All I can say is the "Tail of the Dragon" is highly overrated.
Unfortunately, the M3 didn't last long, aside from being a complete bum and driving around, and dressing up like a pirate to ride my Harley—I seriously had nothing going on in my home of Suburban Chicago. I had applied for a few good jobs, but with the state of the economy at the time, there's no way I'd hear back from anyone. Logically, a few months later I decided I was going to move to Hawaii. I think that I subconsciously thought moving there would mean I'd be happy, and never have to travel away from the beauty of the Islands. With no job lined up once I got there, and only the memory of my visit when I was 8 years old, I bought a one-way ticket to paradise. After the fire-sale of all of my valuable possessions was completed, naturally, I heard back on a job I applied for, a seriously cool one—assisting with the launch of the Range Rover Evoque, it was a no brainier, grow up and take the job.
It left me with the one-way, non-refundable ticket I had bought to Maui, I used the credit, and some cash from my fire-sale, and booked a ticket to London leaving a week later, with no real plans.
Let's backtrack a year to the last time I was in London—remember when I said I'd go out at night, leaving my then girlfriend at the hotel? There was actually some method to that madness. By chance I happened to read on Expedition Portal that one of the members was going to be in the area at the same time. A few messages ensued, and before I knew it I was sitting in a bar with Christian Pelletier, one of the owners of this site. Anyway, a casual friendship ensued, and we continued to talk afterwards. Getting back to the latest travel plans, we found out that we'd happen to be in Europe at the same time again. He mentioned going to the Allrad und Abenteuer show in Bad Kissengen together, I could get the VIP treatment at the world's largest overland show—as long as I could be his photographer, and I could get myself to the small Bavarian village between Munich and Frankfurt, I had nothing else to do, so I booked a ticket to Frankfurt by way of Geneva, and took a chance. The event was great, and I ended up publishing my first images in Overland Journal.
It was either beginning to talk to a crazy French-Canadian more, or the complete randomness of my trip to Europe, and the inspiration of talking to hundreds of overlanders that were drastically different than the ones I'd talked to in the United States that had a profound impact on my life from here on out. Since I boarded that plane bound for London with no idea what I was going to do over a year ago I haven't been in one place for more than a few weeks. My job working with Land Rover shuffled me, once again, throughout the Southeast, but this time in an unreleased Land Rover, with plenty of free sushi and parties. Sometime in the middle of my tenure with the Evoque Launch, about a year ago this week, Christian asked me if I'd like to start writing for Expedition Portal, with the stipulation that you'll never know where it would go if things worked out. I ended up enjoying it—and doing so well at it that I was offered a job with the company.
Do I still have an addiction to traveling? Yes. I've just now learned how to embrace it—I stopped treating a gift like a hindrance and did something with it. If you love to travel, and you can't get "the game" out of your mind, do your self a favor, just go, you'll never know where you'll end up. No matter if it's via Honda Civic, Airbus A380, or Defender 110, just remember to have fun, and always put the travel first.
- Safe Travels,