Q&A with Amtrekker

I recently had the good fortune of meeting Amtrekker (aka Brett Rounsaville). True to form, he was wearing a green hat, just like the iconic figure on his website.

That hat goes everywhere with him—and what a journey it’s had. Until just recently, he’s been on a road trip of a lifetime, criss-crossing the US over 479 days. All the while, he’s been completing 50 ‘not quite bucket list’ tasks—like riding an ostrich or wading through a cranberry bog—blogging and podcasting his experiences on his website along the way. I think that traveling the US for over a year without paying for lodging is impressive, but even more when it includes prioritizing 50 of your lifetime goals to make sure they happen today, rather than tomorrow.

I wondered what makes him tick. Thankfully, he was up for answering the questions that I had for him.

Was there a certain moment that threw you over the edge and made you up and hit the road?
The process leading up to the trip was pretty organic. My little sister and a co-worker both made ’50 lists’ of things they wanted to do in their lifetime around the same time, and I thought it would be a cool way to get focused. Unfortunately, as soon as I wrote down everything I wanted to do, the list just kept staring me in the face. All of a sudden I couldn’t justify NOT going out and doing everything I wanted to do. And since I was already scared that I was going to end up in the same job I was already in (which was an awesome job) 25 years from now without ever moving up the impossibly convoluted corporate ladder, I started thinking “No better time than the present.”

What surprised you the most about the experience?
I’ve always thought the best of people, but I was blown away by how universally kind people were throughout my travels. I was never short on people willing to lend a hand, whether it be getting directions across town or donations to the site that kept everything running. I now wholeheartedly believe that 99.9% of the time people as individuals are incredible and it’s not until we start forming groups that we turn into jackasses.

What was your favorite task?
There were so many that it’s tough to pick a favorite, but I LOVED hang gliding and milking a cow on an Amish farm. (For completely different reasons obviously.) Hang gliding was just such a thrill that it’s hard to top. It’s EXACTLY like those dreams of flying that everyone has…it’s so quiet and peaceful and yet, there you are, a MILE above the planet.

As for the Amish folk, they were just really great people who took me in and showed me so much of their lives. They seemed genuinely happy to sit and talk with me about anything and everything. (I’m also a little biased because this was the first item I crossed off my list.)

Also, the moment when I spotted the crop circle that I made with some newfound friends in Michigan was pretty exciting. We weren’t sure how it would look or even if you could tell we had made it, so I went up in a small plane from a local glider club.

Do you have any favorite shoestring budget travel tips?
I’m sure people know all about most of these by now, but (at least in the US) when you combine Craigslist.org for rideshares and Couchsurfing.com for a place to stay, it makes for a pretty unbeatable combination. I didn’t spend a single cent on lodging for over a year while I was traveling (granted that was partly because I was willing to sleep on the street if no other options presented themselves) and made some great, life-long friends along the way, and there was more than one instance where I used Craigslist to traverse the entire country for less than $20. In fact, one time, I was PAID to drive across the country by a couple of guys in San Francisco who had bought a hearse in Indiana and needed someone to drive it back for them. I found them via Craigslist, too.

What advice would you give to anybody else wanting to do something similar?
I would say: be prepared to be uncomforable. If you’re trying to do it cheap, expect long uncomfortable bus rides and the occasional night on a park bench. And if you’re trying to build an audience online, be prepared for a lot of work. I spent MUCH more time on Amtrekker.com than I ever did on any job while I was gainfully employed. Most importantly, if you’re the right kind of person, it is absolutely, totally, without a doubt, worth it.

What’s next? Can we expect to see tasks 51-100 soon?
I don’t think there will be any more of my own list items, but I’m actively trying to find a way to return some of the generosity I was granted in my travels to society at large. Right now I’m trying to get a new project rolling where I’ll still be traveling, but I’ll be helping other people cross one item off of THEIR lists! I’m super excited and hope I can find a way to make it work!

Posted by | Comments Off on Q&A with Amtrekker  | April 8, 2009
Category: General

Comments are closed.