Here’s what it takes to get from Panama City, Panama to San Diego, California:
You have to cross through seven countries: Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, and the United States.
You have to cover 4,000 miles. By bus, it would take about 5 days. Walking, over 6 months.
And, if you’re Rob Greenfield, you have to do it with nothing but the clothes on your back, your passport, and the resources and people you meet along the way.
Share My Way Home is activist and entrepreneur Rob Greenfield’s latest eco-adventure; on Wednesday, January 15, he is going to leave his home in San Diego on a one-way ticket to Panama City. He will carry no luggage, no cell phone, no money, no toothbrush. Only a passport, and the clothes he wore onto the plane.
Once Rob arrives in Panama City, he has three travel goals:
First, Rob has to get home. He has to cross those 4,000 miles and six borders somehow, whether it is on his own two feet, as a hitchhiker, or with a bus ticket paid for by money he earns, barters for, or scrounges up along the way.
Second, Rob wants to inspire people to join the sharing economy, whether through online platforms like couchsurfing.org, where strangers open up their homes to give travelers free lodging, or yerdle.com, where people freely give and share items like camping gear, or by simple, real human interaction and compassion. Although the internet has helped organize the sharing economy, it’s an economy that has always been there — from the neighbor who gives you a ride to work, to the neighborhood that helps families in need. By asking people to help him share his way home, he’s hoping to inspire people to continue sharing even after his trip is done.
Last, Rob is going to ask the people he meets to create a crowdsourced documentary of their experiences and their lives. Rob isn’t traveling with a video camera or any equipment; instead, he is going to ask people to share their stories into their own cell phones or video recorders, and email those stories to Rob’s film collaborator, Sean Aranda, to piece together the documentary.
Understanding Rob Greenfield
This is not Rob Greenfield’s first trip into the unknown. In 2013, he biked across the United States — a journey only 700 miles longer than the one he is planning to take from Panama City to San Diego — on a trip called Off The Grid Across America. Off The Grid was all about sustainability; during the trip, Rob only created 2 pounds of trash and only used 160 gallons of water. He also relied on his social media followers and fans to help him find food, shelter, and water — he often couchsurfed, ate from dumpsters, or drank from leaky faucets.
In December, Rob spent a week creating gourmet meals from food found in dumpsters, as a way to raise awareness of how much food is thrown away in America on a regular basis — $165 billion dollars worth of food every year, to be precise.
Now, he’s taking it one step further.
Living Socially and Sustainably
Rob Greenfield believes that a lot of America’s social problems are caused by an emphasis on non-renewable resources. These types of resources drain our energy, as we work long hours to pay for them; they force us to compete with each other for jobs and status; they take from the earth without giving back.
Rob knows from his travels that there is an abundance of wealth — both socially and physically — that is sustainable, generative, and often free. This is the wealth created when you arrive in a new city and a stranger helps you find a place to sleep. The wealth created when you are hungry and take fresh, recently-discarded food from a dumpster, and then share it with a new friend. The wealth created by working together to use what is freely available, instead of working on your own to buy something only you can use.
This social, sustainable wealth is part of what Rob hopes to share during his travel. It’s why he’s calling the trip Share My Way Home.
Talking With Rob About His Journey
I had the opportunity to talk to Rob about this trip before he left for Panama City:
You’re expecting this journey to take about one month. That’s a month where you’re going to need to find food and shelter every night, often in a new city. How are you planning to meet these basic needs, especially if you aren’t taking any money with you?
By simplifying and reducing my basic needs to food, water, shelter, clothing, transportation and friendship, this journey will be much easier than meets the eye.
The world is more connected than most people realize and resources are available to people who believe in helping one another and community. Because of resource-sharing websites like couchsurfing.org, warmshowers.org, and wwoof.net, lodging will be easy.
I intend to eat off of a few dollars per day or less by eating as the locals eat, harvesting food, eating simply, and finding sources of food waste. It’s very important to me that I give more than I take, though, so I intend to help whoever helps me and if I can’t help them to pay it forward. I’ll probably have to make a few bucks here and there, and I’ll leave that up to general resourcefulness.
You can share my way home by giving me ideas, suggesting sharing platforms and communities, or helping me find places to stay.
You can help the world by sharing in your community and spreading the sharing economy. The Share My Way Home contest will reward ten people with $50 to share however they want. To enter simply tweet @RobJGreenfield #ShareMyWayHome or post on Facebook with #ShareMyWayHome and tell everyone how you share.
You’re asking friends and strangers to give of themselves to help you get across 4,000 miles. How are you giving back, as you travel?
We have a tendency in America to think you need money or possessions to give back. I see health, happiness, and knowledge as a viable form of currency just as money is and I think I can leave the places I visit with knowledge and inspiration to live healthier and happier. I’ve learned that the best way to give back is with true compassion, friendship, and knowledge. That’s what I’ll be spreading both to the people I meet and the people following the journey from their computer.
Are you worried that any part of the trip will be hard to complete?
What I’m worried about is border crossings. Often you are required to show proof of onward travel or proof of funds to enter the country. I’ll deal with that as it comes though. There will likely be sleepless nights, unprotected, and swarmed by mosquitoes. I’ll probably go really hungry a few times too. But I’m a human and I can handle those things. In the long run I know they’ll make me stronger anyway. Overall I think i’ll be pleasantly surprised with the generosity of humans to give me food, water, shelter, and friendship.
This article was commissioned by Rob Greenfield.