In the second installment of Music+Moxie’s 2012 Culture Cred series, Your Girl In Music spoke to author, world traveler and adventurer Glen Heggstad. Glen is a man with a history who never let that interfere with his ambitions. His unique worldview and defiantly optimistic outlook is one we maintain would change the lives of everyone, if they’d only adopt it.
Tell me about the adventures behind your latest book “One More Day Everywhere: Crossing 50 Borders on the Road to Global Understanding.”
This is actually the sequel to my first book, “Two Wheels Through Terror,” which is about being taken prisoner by Marxist rebels in Colombia on the first leg of my motorcycle trip to Argentina. Surviving five brutal weeks in the mountainous jungle, once freed through delegates of the International Red Cross and turned over to the FBI Hostage Release Team, everyone was shocked by what they considered was a strange decision. I refused hospitalization and opted to continue my ride to the tip of South America.
That action struck a chord as my story was plastered on the front page of every newspaper from Cairo to Beijing with people from around the world writing essays to me about how what I was doing gave them strength. From desperate cancer patients to waffling drug addicts, fifteen thousand strangers described their particular battles and how my story gave them a second wind and fresh hope.
That also made me want to press on, creating a cycle of positive energy that led to a loftier goal of not just reaching Argentina, but subsequently circumventing the earth on my motorcycle. Upon my release from the ELN, in an effort to recover from starvation and torture, this became the ultimate act of defiance to my former tormentors.
Continuing my journey around the world was not only a personal catharsis, but also a collective middle-finger to terrorist armies everywhere. Terrorists strive to strike fear, and they need to know that the free people of the world will not be intimidated.
If terrorists can scare us enough to hide under the bed, or to hate one another, or to pass ridiculous laws restricting the freedoms so many have died preserving, they win. As everyday people around the world, if we refuse to hate and refuse to be afraid, we win. That is not to say, “Turn the other cheek,” because we have very sophisticated militaries with very capable warriors and spies constantly tracking down those who seek to destroy us.
That’s what my story is about, wandering the earth alone on a motorcycle on the plan-of-no-plan, out to meet the other-half face to face, shake their hand and see what happens.
From lopsided Middle East horror stories to rumors of ruthless Russians, one by one, foolishly concocted myths are dispelled as poverty-stricken strangers invite this wandering motorcyclist into their wooden shacks offering their last crumbs of bread. But riding the earth alone wasn’t easy and plenty went wrong contending with daily challenges of harsh weather, difficult terrain and explosive geopolitical events. Despite a year of planning, at times, during the steady variation in circumstance and necessity to take chances, I was nearly sucked over the edge.
Enduring hypothermia while riding mud roads through Siberian tornados led to the blissful solitude of the Mongolian Plains with an electrifying jolt into adventure and humanity. In a Munich hospital, with congested kidneys nearing failure, I wondered, isn’t there a safer way for a man to restore himself? Later, a reckless mid-winter crossing of Eastern Turkey’s frozen Anatolian Plateau nearly disrupted the journey until spring.
Sitting cross-legged in a Syrian Bedouin’s tent silently sipping tea while American fighter jets patrolled skies over nearby Iraq, I pondered–Who would have thought the odyssey would lead to this? While traveling Egypt, in spite of eluding mandatory military escorts, my journey through the ancient Nile Valley was peaceful with throngs of young Arabs gathering to shake my hand. A sunrise climb of Mount Sinai took my breath the same as it did for Moses when he accepted the Ten Commandments. And later that night, with distant gazes into his dancing campfire, a nomadic Bedouin chieftain described life under Israeli occupation—“Paradise.”
After granted a special-entry permit from the commander of Israeli Defense Forces, on Election Day in Gaza, I was cornered by Palestinian thugs from Hammas and the question arose—are my feet too close to the flames? Stranded in the Sadar District of Karachi while terrorists blew up mosques and hunted Westerners, fate was taunted once more by flipping a coin for the next destination—India or Afghanistan?
On the Nepali border, coughing up black soot in a dollar-a-night flophouse, I was anxious to ride into the sporadic violence of civil disorder to escape the madness of Indian roadways. Yanked to my knees while visiting the Killing Fields of Cambodia, it took the innocent smiles of bashful natives to eventually revive my faltering faith in humanity.
Weary from a year of tumultuous travel, the cultural marvels of Bangkok provided a welcome mid-journey relief before heading south to Indonesia. The wilds of Borneo set my imagination ablaze while establishing a world’s record as the first person to circle the island on two wheels. But while touring Sumatra I found that nothing could prepare me for the horrors of Tsunami ravaged Banda Aceh.
Saving the best for last, it was the soft humility and alien ferocity of Africa that fulfilled a dream that began during a turbulent youth. From growing up in San Francisco during sixties bouncing between foster homes, juvenile hall and eventually as the Sergeant at of Arms of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club, (Berdoo) to international martial arts champion, I ultimately culminated a lifelong journey on the Ethiopian plains sipping cow’s blood mixed with honey.
How did the idea for ‘One More Day’ come to you?
While riding around the earth from Siberia to Africa via the Middle East, I wanted to share that experience with people in real time so I created a website (www.strikingviking.net) in order to upload bi-weekly journals and photographs. Almost immediately, traffic went through the roof, but as I ran short of travel funds, I asked readers that if they really enjoyed my postings as much as my stats page indicated, would they please send five bucks to my PayPal account? During the last four months of my journey my account pumped up eight grand!
Upon returning, there was such overwhelming interest that I decided to write a second book on international motorcycle travel. ECW Press loved the manuscript and the whole concept of changing people’s minds about the world, that profit became secondary as they included sixteen pages of color glossies at no addition charge, making the ultimate travel book burst alive.
What were your goals in writing it?
- 1. To enlighten fellow Americans and Westerners in general, as to what was really happening in the developing world minus the media distortion.
- To raise money for international aid organizations promoting education. I figured if people were better informed they could decide for themselves which form of government was best for them without the “guiding hands” of self-serving foreigners. (100% of my royalties are donated to NGOs)
What single thing do you hope readers take away from it?
We the people, are being lied to by a sensationalizing media. Nearly every preconceived notion that we have about the world is diametrically opposed to what I discovered to be true.
If you ever want to restore your faith in humanity, take a trip through the developing world, alone. You’ll be amazed at the outpouring of love and generosity in the most amazing places. And that governments may not get along, but people do–as evidenced by experiencing that it was always those with the least who shared the most.
How did your multimedia live show “Earth Ride!” get started?
BMW initially provided the motorcycle with the understanding that when returning, I present four slideshows at Southern California dealerships. Audiences were expecting typical photos of the Alps or maybe Red Square. Instead, I brought them images of the faces of fellow earthlings like they’d never imagined would be sharing their lives. Audiences were blown away staring at brilliant pictures of indigenous peoples bursting onto 10×10 foot screens.
What does the “Earth Ride!” experience entail?
We begin with five minutes of various short video clips from my TV documentaries like National Geographic Channel and so forth, onto media interviews on Larry King Live, Montel Williams, CNN, CBS News and The Biography Channel.
The next ninety minutes is a spirited narration of dramatic photographs reflecting mostly tribal and nomadic peoples from the Mongolian Gobi desert, to Middle Eastern Bedouins, to cannibals of Borneo and finally hanging in the African savannah with naked, spear-toting natives.
How has “Earth Ride!” been received?
The public reaction was overwhelming with the first audiences making so much noise on the Internet that I wound up hired to perform twenty-six multimedia shows nationwide. Earth Ride! was even written up three times in national magazines.
What are some of your favorite responses to your books and live show?
Fifteen thousand emails ago I lost count of the responses but the general theme was the same. That people now see the world differently realizing that we are all cut from the same genetic cloth and basically, no matter how different we look, want the same things–peace, love, a family and enough to eat. And most of all, my readers claim that they are inspired enough to embark on their own journeys.
My books and Earth Ride! show are essentially opportunities for unique glimpses into exotic cultures through a design to marvel at our similarities while celebrating our differences.
What has been most rewarding for you about what you do?
The magic word is inspiration–and discovering that there was only one thing that every person in the world wants–and that’s respect.
Share some of your unique philosophy on life and worldview.
- Follow your passion. Find what you absolutely want to do, and do it–the money will follow.
- Always bite off more than you can chew–persevere and you will surely rise to the occasion. Success is all about struggling toward goals.
- Remember that an obstacle is only something that we see when we lose sight of our goals.
- No matter how painful, life’s disasters are merely springboards to the next level. If we just search hard enough and hang in there, we’ll find that silver lining.
- When disasters do strike, whatever supreme entity we believe in, or suspect exists, God, Allah or Thor, also provides us with the tools to survive. Look around when your world caves in and you’ll discover beneath the rubble a sword and shield–so that the choice is always ours–to lay down and die, or stand and fight.
- Whenever someone tells you that something is impossible, that just means impossible for them. (But not you) These people people hope for the bold to fail just so they can say “I told you so.” Avoid those naysayers at all costs.
- Surround yourself with noble people, that is who you want to lean on when your knees wobble, and learn from as you grow, the rest of your life.
- Disregard the odds, and know that no matter what, we learn more from defeat than victory.
- Keep your eyes on the road, not on the ditch.
- Living well is the best revenge.
What’s next for you?
We receive lots of enquiries regarding rights-to-life-story and reality TV show pitches but as motive trumps profit, we are waiting for the right deal to convey the right message.
You can learn more about Glen and his fantastic story on his Official website, www.strikingviking.net. Both books can be purchased on Amazon.com or signed copies of the last of the hardbacks are available at www.strikingviking.net.
Please direct all Booking Inquiries for Glen’s “Earth Ride!” show to: firstname.lastname@example.org