BY: LAURA ROJAS
26 year old Julian Rojas was born and raised in Colombia. He graduated from Industrial Engineering three years ago after studying at the Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá. Having always been an avid biker and life explorer, Julian set out on a biking trip across the United States, traveling from the eastern bits of NYC to sunny California, planning to end on the west coast in San Francisco.
Julian rode out from Brooklyn with Pablo Airaldi, a friend who offered his place for three weeks so Julian could prepare himself and his equipment. While on the road though, his sleeping arrangements have been a bit unconventional. A smartphone app called Warmshowers connects bike tourists like Julian with friendly hosts who offer their homes as safe places to stay for a night in between the pedaling. When there are no Warmshowers nearby, Julian uses his gear and finds a place to camp instead. Just to prove how broad his definition of “place” is , Julian told me about his second night riding.
“It had been raining and I asked a man at a store if he knew a place where I could camp or pass the night. He pointed to a broken down, abandoned house next to the highway behind his store. So I stayed there.”
An important thing is to let instinct decide whether or not a situation is good for you, a thought that Julian says has helped him a lot during this trip. “Everything is part of the adventure. You need to let things come.”
When I asked him about the events that had inspired him to head out in the first place, he mentioned the Warmshowers network being a huge part of it. Not too far back, Julian hosted Marina, a Swiss girl who had accumulated a lot of experience touring. “I also got to meet a friend of hers,” he said, “Alvaro, also known as “The Biciclown”, a guy who has been travelling the world for over 9 years.” Julian spoke fondly of these two very influential people, stating that he had been lucky enough to receive two of Alvaro’s panniers for his bike, items that hold heavy sentimental value for a world traveller.
On top of those encounters, Julian had begun to ride his bike religiously for over two years back in Colombia. After hearing from a friend that someone had biked to Argentina, his plan had begun to take shape. It originally consisted of biking south to Ushuaia by the Patagonia, the most southern part of South America. As time went on and he heard more and more collective stories about bike touring, he knew it could be done. Julian wanted to experience the American summer and found a deal on a cheap flight to New York City. He was sold.
When I last spoke with him, Julian was traveling through Cleveland. The distance from Brooklyn to San Francisco is roughly 2,913 miles, which means Julian still has a lot of terrain to cover. Expecting to be on the road until October 2014, he’s in no rush to be done. That being said, he does try to ride between 50 and 62 miles per day. “The only two things keeping me from staying longer are my Visa in the States, which will run out on December 11th, and money. I’m trying to spend only about $20 each day.”
It’s easy to see the appeal of biking across the country as opposed to hopping on a different mode of transport. “You get to see everything at a different speed”, says Julian, emphasizing the satisfaction it brings him to realize, at the end of the day, how far he’s travelled with his own physical effort. Julian considers the most striking moment of his trip to have been biking by Niagara Falls. “There’s this Spanish song called ‘El Niagara en Bicicleta’, (Niagara on a Bicycle) which is exactly what I did. It really made me feel so good about the whole trip.”
After leaving hometown Colombia for the chance to experience everything in a seriously different way, I was curious as to how Julian saw the entire thing shaping his life and perspective. “It’s certainly opening a wider range of thoughts and ideas about the world and about what I want to do in life”, he said. It’s the age-old binary between sitting at a desk, collecting salary and driving back and forth from point A to B, or experiencing life, movement and adventure without the security blanket. “We can only take memories from our experiences, not material things,” he said, “so the only thing that makes sense is to live for more of the intrinsic.”
So what will happen post October?
“I think the trip will never finish. I think this trip is just the beginning of a new me, a new way of looking at and experiencing things. I really want to inspire others to do the same thing. I can’t stand the fact that people are born and die all within a few blocks of their houses. I want to send out a message to others: Life is about sharing and genuine living.”
All photos courtesy of Julian’s Instagram @jurolmos