For our People of the World this week, meet Jared Reichbaum. Jared and I met in Cinque Terre, Italy when I was backpacking. He doesn’t know this story but on the day we met, I was flat broke! I had spent the last of my daily budget to book a train to Florence. I was sitting outside the trattoria where I ate the night before, leeching off their WiFi connection, broke and starving (although the later wasn’t that unusual as I am always hungry!!). Here comes Jared who sat down next to me, eating a box of pizza. After a few minutes of small talk, Jared, who was my savior that day kindly offered me a slice of pizza. Naturally, I politely refused, but due to his insistence, I soon gave in. We exchanged details and since then, I have been stalking my pizza-sharing-friend as he works and travels around the globe. This time, not only is he traveling and taking awesome photos, he is also doing it for a good cause. Please read on and get inspired!
- 1 So tell us a little bit about yourself
- 2 How did you first get into travel? How would you say you have grown as a traveler compared to your first trips?
- 3 What inspires you to travel? What do you love most about it?
- 4 You are currently walking across America. Why are you doing it and what is it for?
- 5 We know you just started but any good/funny experiences so far while doing the walk?
- 6 What is the most difficult/challenging travel experience that you have gone through?
- 7 What is the biggest lesson that traveling has taught you?
So tell us a little bit about yourself
I was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, although it’s hard to call anywhere home, as I have lived out of my backpack without fully unpacking for over three years. I am 28 years old with a degree in Corporate Communications and a double minor in Spanish and Psychology. I am a photographer, filmmaker, backpacker, and to fund my travels, I am a freelance deckhand in the yachting industry, but currently I’m’ walking across America to raise awareness for the need of bone marrow donors for BeTheMatch.org
How did you first get into travel? How would you say you have grown as a traveler compared to your first trips?
In Spring of 2007, I circumnavigated the globe on board the M/V Explorer as part of a study abroad program called Semester at Sea. This experience gave me the travel bug and enhanced my love of photography and filmmaking. Students on board SAS have about a week to explore each country, which gave me my first glimpse of how to best explore third world countries on my own. In 2012, I started volunteering for a charity called Global Grins, which delivers toothbrushes and teaches proper oral hygiene to the needy worldwide. I found this to be a great way to facilitate conversations with the local people, and as a photographer, it provided many opportunities to take portraits of the locals. I have delivered toothbrushes throughout Central and South America, Southeast Asia, as well as here in the USA. I think adding a meaningful dimension to your travel experience is a great way to leave your mark on the places and people you visit- as opposed to the rambunctious reputation Americans have made for themselves abroad. (Spring Break B*tches!)
What inspires you to travel? What do you love most about it?
I really love the feeling of being in a new place on my own, knowing that synchronicity will lead me to meeting like-minded travelers which end up becoming life-long friends. There is nothing better than a solo backpack adventure. The feeling when I’m on the plane on my way to a destination is almost as good as the trip itself. I love knowing that I don’t know what’s about to happen, but I know it’s going to be something I will remember forever, that I’m about to experience the energy of a new place, make new friends, snap some great photos, eat some delicious food, learn the history, experience the culture and most importantly, I know I’m about to have a great time!
You are currently walking across America. Why are you doing it and what is it for?
I am currently walking across America on a mission to register people to the world’s largest national bone marrow registry, BeTheMatch.org. Just over two months ago, I stepped out of the Atlantic Ocean in Atlantic City, NJ and I have walked over 800 miles, and will reach Chicago this weekend. I named my campaign “Walking Across Amarrowca.”
Many people don’t know how easy it is to potentially save the life of someone who is in need of a bone marrow transplant. With a simple Q-tip swab of the cheek, you can join the registry and will be notified if you are someone’s perfect match. If you are a match, you will be asked to donate your stem cells (75% of the time) which is like giving blood… or your bone marrow, which you will be put to sleep, and when you wake up you may be achy for a couple days, but you’ve probably had hangovers worse than the way you will feel. It is a very small price to pay to save someone’s life.
For four years, I worked at a five-stat hotel in New York city before I became a deckhand in the yachting industry. Both of these jobs were very fun and provided excellent networking and travel opportunities, but I quickly came to realize that the work I was doing was pretty meaningless. I wasn’t helping anyone, I definitely wasn’t helping the environment and I had no sense of fulfillment, except from getting likes on Instagram and Facebook. I was pretty much a slave to rich people and being treated like crap. I chose to walk from coast to coast to to do something more meaningful, to test myself mentally and physically while raising awareness and at the same time, knocking a few items off of my bucket list. My good friend, Joselyn Miller, who I met back on Semester at Sea, had a successful bone marrow transplant and with a second chance at life, she began to do things she’s never done before. For example, she organized a group of her friends to try the Olympic sport of curling. Upon a visit to see her and her husband Todd, she asked me to go skydiving with her. We formed a friendly competition to knock items off our respective lists and walking across America was on my list, so I can attribute my inspiration to Joselyn. In the past couple years, both of my grandparents passed away, my father was diagnosed with prostate cancer, his brother, my uncle had septuple bypass surgery and the loss of a couple friends led me to realize that life can be taken from any of us at anytime. We never know when it’s going to be too late, so we have to do what we want while we can. People always say they “do it while you can,” So basically instead of just talking the talk, I am walking the walk.
Walking across America is a lot different than a solo backpacking trip, and not nearly as fun. It is extremely lonely and will only get worse as the weeks continue. I am about to walk for three straight months through the farmlands of Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska before I get into the mountains of Colorado, and the deserts of Utah and Nevada before reaching California. There are no fun youth hostels along the way. I am pushing a cart, which is a jogging stroller for dogs. Inside the cart is enough food and water for about five days, clothing, first aid kits, a tent and sleeping bag and a few weapons.
We know you just started but any good/funny experiences so far while doing the walk?
Day 1: I had car support for the first couple days from my parents, who drove ahead to scope out the route. I got a call from my dad who said there was a toll bridge a couple miles ahead of me that did not allow pedestrians to cross and the drill sergeant toll booth guy said he would not allow a pedestrian to cross. The only other way across the river was a bridge six miles out of the way. My father offered to drive me across the bridge, which I politely declined. I crept up to the bridge, and while the tollbooth guy was distracted, I bolted across the bridge. He didn’t call the cops, and for all I know, he didn’t even see me. I haven’t cheated an inch yet and I don’t plan to!
What is the most difficult/challenging travel experience that you have gone through?
On this current journey: Walking over the Appalachians, pushing my 100lb. cart uphill all day for three days straight in 90 degrees into the sun wasn’t easy. I think Pennsylvania’s hills have prepared me for Colorado’s mountains.
What is the biggest lesson that traveling has taught you?
Through my experiences traveling, I can offer you the following advice: Do not get married before you’re 27, do not spend money on things you don’t need, and do not fall into the typical American dream routine, or else before you know it, you’ll have commitments that will prevent you from living the life you’ve always dreamed of living. You can always have a real job, a house, wife and kids when you’re 30, but until then, I’d recommend to go explore the entire planet.
Traveling has taught me that the most important thing in life is to choose a job that gives you the freedom to do the things you want to do. You should be doing what you’re passionate about for a living, but even if you are just working a job, you should make it one that has flexibility, benefits and time off. I love being a freelance deckhand on luxury yachts because I get paid to travel, don’t pay rent, don’t pay for food and only have to work for a month or two at a time before I have enough money saved for my next adventure. If you rush into your adult life too soon, you’ll be forced into working a job you don’t like and will be restricted my the commitments that you might regret later on. If you live until you are 90, don’t throw away your freedom in your early 20’s…There’s too many places to visit, cities to live in and girls to kiss.
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