Motoring

Yes, we can!

Living the dream doesn’t come without its sacrifices, but Alex Chacon wouldn’t have it any other way

We caught up with Alex Chacon, inveterate motorcycle adventure rider, before he left for the traditional India biker pilgrimage: Ladakh. He’s the guy that did the ‘epic selfie’ video with a home-made selfie stick and racked up 200 million views worldwide! He’s also the guy who sold all his belongings to travel the world, doing most of his journeys on a motorbike. For any horrified parents among our readers, we should remind you that he did complete his studies in medicine too.

You’re from Mexico, which like us, has strong familial bonds. How did you work it out with your family?

I was born in the US, but my entire family is from Mexico, so I had the very unique privilege of being Mexican, but working within an American mindset. Nobody wants to disappoint their parents. And you know, Mexican and Indian parents are the same. If they’re mad at you, they throw a sandal at you. They want you to be a doctor, lawyer, have kids.

For the first two-three months, they were my biggest obstacle. Starting what I do now was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, but two-four months in, they became my biggest fans. When they saw that I was succeeding, took care of myself and would message them every night, they were ok with it. But basically, I never asked if I could do it. That was the secret. And of course, it came at a sacrifice.

You sold everything you had and used this corpus to fund your travels. Did you have a plan to support yourself when the money ran out?

I first did an international trip when I was 23, and I drove a motorcycle from the US to South America — the very tip — and all the way back up to Alaska. And that trip took 500 days. I originally only had a budget for 4-5 months, and I was able to stretch for a year-and-a-half. When I first left, I had no plan. I basically said, ‘I will spend the money, I will get my dream, I will get the adventure I want, I will go back home, I will finish being a doctor and I will go to work.’ But I had no idea that what I was doing — how I was filming and recording it — would in the future provide me a means of financial sustainability.

…And we will!
  • Aditya Kumar, a Bengalurean motorcyclist, plans to take to the road away from home. He calls himself ‘the other guy’ at the Motorcycle Travellers Meet that’s all about meeting with and learning from people who travel on a bike. Ten years ago, he graduated as an engineer and decided to become an auto mechanic, much to the confusion of his family. He’s had a motorcycle trip across South America on his bucket list for a while, and kept putting it off. “I couldn’t wrap my head around spending ₹10 lakh on myself,” he explains, likely reflecting the thoughts of many who want to, but won’t. Yet.
  • Next month, he makes his way to the faraway continent to start anepic adventure that will take him through Bolivia, Argentina, Colombia and through many natural wonders that many of us have only seen in documentaries. And it didn’t take a giant leap or miracle to do all this.Basically, he just saved up for seven years.Having met great Indian and international travellers through the MTM organisation kept him inspired.

So how do you sustain yourself now, as a professional traveller?

During the trips, I realised that people were following my blog (www.modernmotodiaries.com) and would send me amounts of money. Also, I wouldn’t spend money when I travelled, except on petrol and food. I would camp out everywhere, I would eat canned beans, I would make my own food. I’d sleep in parks and leave before anybody showed up to charge me. I put some ads in the blog, made a little bit of money. After that, I started doing videos. Then I released one — my first — video, which went viral with millions of views. It’s called ‘Alaska – Argentina in 500 days’. That made me a little bit of money. I was like, ‘Wow, I didn’t know I could make money on YouTube; let’s try again!’ I made another video that got 14 million views on YouTube alone; 200 million worldwide on other media. I made a lot of money off that one and I said, ‘Wow! This might be a way to make money!’ so I pursued that. Eventually, that became branded content, which is what I do now. That and selling of licences of videos and pictures for commercials and brands and so forth.

Any advice for folks planning a riding adventure in South America?

I’ve driven South America three times now. I’m pretty much a professional at it. Recommendations: learn a bit of Spanish; it will help you in every single country, and border crossings are very simple. Have fun! It’s not terribly difficult to travel through.

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Printable version | Apr 8, 2020 12:00:51 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/motoring/yes-we-can/article24503169.ece

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