In a world full of selfish, loud, bragging, self-important, self-indulgent persons it is an absolute delight to come across someone like Jason Lewis. Known as an avid explorer, award winning author and sustainability advocate, Jason is the first human to circumnavigate the globe by the power of his own self. He hiked, biked, roller-bladed and kayaked across the oceans and lands in his “Expedition 360” which he turned into a three novel trilogy.
Every journalist wishes and prays for an interview with a subject like Jason Lewis. He is the ultimate high quality dream. Everything about him is amazing, interesting and intelligent. He doesn’t care about what he looks like after he has been kayaking 1000 miles through the breathtaking Indian Ocean. He cares about important things, like teaching kids about global sustainability and traveling without using fossil fuels or sails. He teaches kids how to pack enough food to exist comfortably on a boat to survive for more than 100 days at sea. That these things are a possibility and being dependent on gasoline is a choice you make, that governments manipulate people into thinking they cannot survive without a car all in the name of money.
He begins his expedition across the world in 1992 in the UK where he is originally from. He has visited 900 schools in 37 different countries in which he has been able to interact with kids and learn from them about what issues plague them such as global warming or pollution and what kind of problem solving and inclusive networking we can do as a united power to solve these issues.
This is a man who spent thirteen years circumnavigating the globe without a motor or a sail to be included in the Guinness Book of World Records. He had to design a customized pedal boat to travel across the ocean waters, which would operate on his human energy only. He roller-bladed, biked, hiked and kayaked his way across 40,000 plus miles of the globe and five of the seven continents. He had to reach his goals by crossing the equator a certain amount of times and at specific points and a few other designated programs that one must use as a guide post in order to be a candidate for the Guinness World record of achieving those goals.
He also had no choice but to teach us how to find the courage to get back on your feet when you have been hit by a drunk driver. He taught us and himself how to survive inevitable and unplanned situations, like being told that your left leg was possibly going to be amputated.
I have had the incredible opportunity to watch several people cross the United States on foot with a back pack or another person driving by their side. Jason Lewis has had to head into the virtual unknown sections of the world without guidance and without the luxury of depending on someone else for every available comfort. He did mention that he enjoys the aspect of simple interaction that helped make his project more worthwhile by including other people in achieving his goals. When he needed help moving a boat from Miami to San Francisco he was forced to reach out to the community and find help through interacting and asking strangers. He learned about generosity and kindness and that kind of interaction helps keep someone inspired to keep traveling forward, through the kindness of others.
At one point in Sudan he was arrested on suspicion of being a spy simply for traveling with a GPS, a computer and a camera which included photos of the government to prove he was doing his expedition correctly and in adherence to the rules of the Guinness book of records. In order to get through the country of Sudan without a motor, as part of his compliance to circumnavigating the world he had to kayak through Sudan. He managed to complete the 180 mile journey through this country without doing serious prison time because his expired visa information came through by fax at the last minute.
In addition to foreign policies there are elements of nature that one must overcome to reach your destination goals. Deadly snakes, and bugs and visas that do not expire when you need them to are some of the hazards of globe trekking with the likes of Jason Lewis. There are always weather concerns and gear concerns and making sure your equipment doesn’t fail or brake because of maintenance issues. When you travel across an ocean in a pedal boat you have to properly pack enough food rations and have a device to desalinate ocean water to drink. Jason was using dehydrated rations from the British army for his ocean voyages and peanut butter, rice and noodles. He mentioned when he was traveling through China he occasionally had to walk into restaurant kitchens and cook meals for himself due to his vegetarianism. Apparently, if you are an American or English you can get away with this behavior since most people just assume you are crazy anyhow.
At an early point in his travels, 1995 to 1996, while rollerblading across the United States Jason was hit by a drunk driver in Colorado and he had to take an unplanned vacation in a rehabilitation hospital for six weeks and then spend another seven and a half months recuperating in a Doctor’s 400 acre ranch as a guest until he was ready to continue his travel through the United States. At one point, Jason thought he wouldn’t be able to continue the journey because they were thinking about amputating his left leg. They managed to save his leg and Dr. Danylchuk was kind enough to invite Jason to stay in his family home so Jason could save money for the rest of his trip.
Through the first eleven years of Jason’s Expedition he was unfunded and had no corporate sponsorship. He had to learn to do things to make money while he was traveling. He sold merchandise about his expedition (like t-shirts and hats and those sorts of items) he put business logos on his gear to help market other peoples businesses while being paid. He gave lectures and speeches for money. He has also helped design a curriculum for schools to teach the sustainability model and all the infinite possibilities of traveling the globe without use of a motor or sails.
There are many unplanned adventures that occasionally happen when you are busy making other plans. Anything can happen when you are taking these risks. But you have to learn to go with the flow and do the best you can. It is quite a commitment to dedicate thirteen years of your life to traveling the world mostly by foot or bicycle. You get to experience things that no one else could ever prepare you for and you get to be a part of a unique and original kind of life that makes you very special.
Jason mentions that the reason the journey took him so long to complete was mostly due to financial reasons. He also hit South America during an El Nino year and had to reroute his entire trip due to those conditions. He also mentions that one must do three hours of fundraising for every hour of actual travel on your expedition.
Jason’s experience is documented in three books that are part of his trilogy called Expedition 360 and he has an amazing tale to tell of all his adventures that he got to experience along his journey. I am honored to be able to interview him and find out a little bit about this journey that seems so effortless and yet feels so exciting to someone like myself who has never really left the United States.
Book one tells about his initial plan and idea about how he had arranged the voyage with his school friend Steven Smith who is an Environmentalist Scientist. There are also a lot of exciting adventures in the first book like when Jason is attacked by a crocodile in Queensland Australia and in another incident where Jason contracts malaria. He also mentions that a bunch of Australian teenagers and a few teachers decide to join him on his bicycle journey through Australia which he completes in 88 days.
Steve Smith eventually has to drop out of the project once they landed in Hawaii for personal reasons. Jason has an extensive background In Geography and Biology. He is also becoming quite an expert in consulting others and giving advice in sustainability. He won the 2013 Benjamin Franklin award for his first book of the trilogy “Dark Waters” he took home that award on May 7, 2013. He is available and quite experienced as a consultant to other people who may need to inquire with him in regards to putting together similar traveling excursions with limited funding and how to travel with the least ecological impact.
“prompted by what scientists have dubbed the perfect storm as the global population soars to 8.3 Billion by 2030, adventurer Jason Lewis uses the expedition to reach out to thousands of school children calling attention to our interconnectedness and shared responsibility of an inhabitable Earth for future generations” www.billyfishbooks.com/Books.html
In a similar business model to Alexander Souri of Relief Riders International, Jason Lewis also attempts to travel with as small a global footprint as possible. I actually forgot to inquire with Jason about using horses in his travels as Souri claims they are wonderful travel companions and have very little impact on the environment. I believe Jason met Alexander in India in 2008, and was extremely impressed as most of us are, with the Relief Riders International business model and how environmentally sound it is and how much help it brings to impoverished people of those areas. I think if Jason had the time and the money he would undoubtedly be helping out with that organization if he could. However, Jason is attempting to finish his third and final book of his expedition first.
The Second book which is currently hitting the shelves right this very moment is what Jason is really committed to telling. It is called “The Seed Buried Deep” and this is the very challenging part of Jason’s life. He was minding his own business rollerblading across the United States and that is how the book opens, Jason being hit by the drunk driver and the time that he began his recovery and not knowing if he was going to continue on his journey, not knowing if he was going to lose his left leg. It is a very powerful and soul engaging story with a lot of “what if’s” and a lot of “I don’t knows” But Jason approaches these subjects with great honesty and integrity, he never complains or whines or in any manor gives any implications that he is not grateful for what he has accomplished so far. He never once asked “why me” or life is somehow unfair. He plays out the hand that he is given and without complaining or knowing what is going to happen to him, he simply picks up and very courageously goes through what he has to go through to get himself well. You cannot help but admire him and his vision and his purpose. He sets an amazing example as a courageous man who takes a set back and keeps moving forward anyhow. I don’t know Jason that well and I cannot help but feel so proud of him for all that courage he found within himself. What an amazing man.
I cannot wait to really become engaged in reading all three of his books which are available online and through Jason Lewis’s Facebook page and Good reads page.
The books are also available through billyfishbooks.homestead.com obviously you may of course google Jason Lewis to gather more information on his incredible history and story and amazing adventures on land and sea. I certainly do not wish to give away any of the endings, but there are so many incredible stories that he encounters on his thirteen year traveling odyssey.
When I asked him which was his favorite country to travel in he mentioned his love of Syria and the Middle East in general. He was not crazy about Egypt and being chased by beggars all the time, but he thought that Northern Sudan was absolutely breath taking and he loved India even though it was extremely hot and he was on a bicycle the entire time. With thirty-seven countries to choose from he had so much love for all of them it was really difficult to tell which his absolute favorite was. He mentioned how beautiful it was to bike through the Himalayas and Singapore and Laos. He also mentioned that Syria was a very hospitable country back in 2007 when he was traveling there.
He also mentioned China was not an easy place to communicate nutritional needs. He mentioned that the language is not easy to learn. He had a tough time ordering food in China at times.
We also talked about Burning Man festival when it was small and manageable back in 1998. How it also was built as part of a sustainable movement. Jason knew most of the early organizers back in those days before it became a huge franchise operation. How there were so few rules and regulations that followed Burning Man back in those early days. Jason felt it was more fun in the old days and it was a shame how things change and become so much bigger than one could possibly imagine. I believe that was how he felt about most things. He seemed to think since our world and our population has grown so quickly and all of us seemingly must also adapt as quickly as possible. Jason is a solution oriented thinker, and very analytical. I think his work is very valuable and can help many countries to simply adapt. As well as people and cultures, we are going to have to become less dependent on these resources and adapt or restructure transportation issues that will be human powered and not oil powered.