16,000 Kilometres, 805 Days, 10 Countries, 3 Horses, 1 Crazy Adventure

At the age of 25, I undertook one of the longest horseback rides in history. Inspired by Aime Tschiffely’s 1925 long ride from Argentina to the United States, I rode from the Calgary Stampede to the rodeo capital of Latin America, Barretos, Brazil. With my three horses—Frenchie, Bruiser, and Dude—I trekked 16,000 kilometres through ten countries over 805 days.

I know what you’re thinking: “This guy is crazy.” I have heard this at least a thousand times, from the point I said I would do it until now, so no hard feelings. But to me, crazy is spending your time on this earth in a cubicle staring at a computer screen. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Everyone’s happiness comes from a different place. And mine happens to lie in the wide-open spaces.

During my long ride from Canada to Brazil, I saw the sun rise and set almost every single day. I spent 90 per cent of my time outdoors with my horses. Rivers, mountains, forests, deserts, ranches, cities . . . you name it, I rode through it. And along the way, I met thousands of kind people who offered me a helping hand. In Guatemala, a very simple family butchered the only chicken they had to feed me. In Colorado, a gentleman asked me to carry his sister’s ashes with me on my journey south. In New Mexico, the Taos Pueblo Aboriginal people gave me a Mustang horse as a gift. The generosity I encountered from my fellow humans left a deep impact on the person I am today. I may have received my bachelor’s degree in journalism from Ryerson University in Toronto, but I got my master’s in humanity in the saddle.

To travel is to learn—not only about new places and cultures, but also about yourself. That’s what makes me so drawn to life on the road. Crossing Yellowstone National Park, I found myself trekking up Specimen Ridge with my horses at more than 11,000 feet. The mountain was so rugged at times I felt like it was going to swallow me whole. But I made it to the summit and down the other side alive. And during that 16-hour struggle, I realized that my limit is much higher than I could ever have imagined.

While crossing the desolate mountains in Wyoming, I spent seven days alone, without seeing or speaking to another human being. For the first time in my life, I was able to have an internal conversation. To the rhythm of my horses’ hooves hitting the soft dirt, I spoke to Filipe and asked questions that weren’t easy: “Are you truly happy? Why did you decide to do this? Where do you hope to be in ten years?”

While crossing the Chihuahua desert, I felt thirst and hunger for the first time in my life. How many times in my life prior had I complained about not having a cold beer in the fridge, or having bad food at a restaurant? During that crossing I learned to value the little things in life and what really matters.

Before I embarked on my long ride from Canada to Brazil, everyone told me I would be killed in Mexico, slaughtered in Honduras, that my horses would not survive the heat of the Central American jungles. Truth is, danger was always inherent to my project. Every day I jumped in the saddle I was in some form of danger. But with planning and research, I reduced that danger as much as possible, and the rest I had to leave up to fate. I couldn’t let fear stop me from living out my life’s dream. I had to ride off into the unknown and at least try.

After two years and three months on the road, seeping with the smell of horse sweat, I arrived in Barretos stadium to the cheers of over 40,000 people. The rodeo built a statue of the horses and me standing at five metres tall. A book and reality series are set to be released later this year depicting my long ride.

Adventure is like a drug. When you finish one journey you immediately begin dreaming of your next expedition. Once you have tasted the adrenaline that comes with life on the road, you will never stop chasing that feeling. I’m hooked on travelling and I love it. Needless to say, I am now riding from Barretos to Tierra del Fuego, Argentina, the literal end of the world. In the next year I will trek 8,000 kilometres through southern Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, and Chile. I have done the planning. I have done the research. Now it’s up to destiny.

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