A group of 20-somethings from Juneau set out on the trip of a lifetime last week. They’ll be kayaking through Southeast Alaska and British Columbia, then hopping on bikes and riding through the rest of the Americas. Their final destination is Tierra del Fuego at the southern tip of Argentina.
About hundred friends, family and well-wishers gathered at Sandy Beach in South Douglas on Friday to wish the group good luck on their epic adventure. Organizer Chris Hinkley said the idea behind the trip is to see what the rest of the world has to offer at a leisurely pace.
“We don’t want to put a time limit on anything,” Hinkley says. “It could be a year, it could be three years, kind of when the money runs out. But we’re going to stop where we want to stop, and move how fast we want to move, and no time to be anywhere.”
Hinkley, Kanaan Bausler, Andrew Flansaas, Colin Flynn, and Max Stanley plan to do the entire trip. About a dozen friends will join for different legs of the journey — most of them recent college graduates; all under the age of 25.
Hinkley says they chose Tierra del Fuego as a stopping point, partly because it seemed like as far as they could go without needing to hop in a car or on a plane.
“Just kind of the longest line you could possibly draw on the map from Juneau, you know?,” he says. “So it was always something that intrigued us, like, ‘Wow, everything connects man. You can go all the way through there and make it all the way.’ So we’re gonna go for it.”
They’ll be shooting video of the people and places they encounter along the way. Bausler hopes to make a documentary about the trip when they get back.
“When we find unique communities that we feel really represent elements of sustainability or happiness, or just like unique characteristics that really are like contributing well to living a good life in connection with your surroundings, we want to document that and share it with everyone,” he says.
Bausler says they don’t have a budget, but some expenses have already been covered through fundraisers and gear donations. That includes a Kickstarter campaign that raised more than $5-thousand dollars for video equipment, and their kayaks, which are on loan from Seaward Kayaks of British Columbia.
“We had a lot of support from local businesses that really changed the game for us,” Bausler says. “And allowed us to really turn this thing from a vision or a dream into a real reality that’s actually happening.”
They’re also getting plenty of support from their families. Bausler’s dad, Carl, says he did a similar trip when he was 19, hitchhiking and hopping freight trains to Alaska. With advances in communications since then, the elder Bausler says he’s more excited than nervous for his son.
“You know when I came up here, I’d call my folks maybe once a month from a pay phone and it would be a collect call and they had no idea where I was,” says Carl Bausler. “And with today’s technology, you get an email and it’s got the GPS coordinates, and you can do the Google map and you put the satellite portion on, and you can almost see where they’re getting their fresh water from, where the streams are coming down.”
Hinkley says they’d all eventually like to return to Juneau. But for now, they’re just going to enjoy the journey.
“I always envisioned myself coming back here and raising kids,” says Hinkley. “But who knows. There’s an adventure ahead of us, so we’ll see where it takes us.”
As they set out in their kayaks Friday afternoon, with the wind at their backs, the group raised their paddles in the air and saluted their friends and family cheering from shore.
You can track the group’s adventure at www.atripsouth.com.