Alex Chacon was ready to pursue a career in medicine before he discovered the joy of motorcycling around the world. With his skills in motorcycling, photography, and videography, he has completed a number of expeditions—the most famous of these was a 500 day solo round trip from Alaska to Argentina. His success has led to a videographer’s dream: a video with over ten million views. Emaho caught up with Chacon to discuss his life-changing experiences.
Emaho : In one of your videos, you dance on your motorcycle! How did you get so skilled at riding and what inspired you to pick up motorcycling?
AC: I picked up motorcycle riding because I wanted to have a vehicle to drive around as soon as possible when I was a teenager. Where I lived you could get a license to ride a motorcycle at age 15, while you had to wait until age 16 to get your car driving permit, so my choice was obvious. I also always liked motorcycles for the free spirit nature they encompassed and ability to go where most vehicles don’t go; it was part of my creation of self-sustainability as a young male in a sort of rebellious way, too.
Riding motorcycles is now like riding a bike to me. Driving around the world I’ve been able to harness experiences and skills over the years that have allowed me to dance on the motorcycle, do handstands, and even go miles without ever touching the handlebars.
Emaho : Your video, “The Modern Motorcycle Diaries: 500 Days from Alaska to Argentina”, shows you driving on many different types of terrain, such as salt flats, dirt, and streams. How did you maintain your motorcycle through it all?
AC: When I first started this trip, I had no idea how to maintain a motorcycle, or what to do, but I didn’t let that stop me. I learned along the way how to change tires, spark plugs, oil, and even pull apart the entire engine and put it back together. When I was put in a life or death situation I was amazed at the effort and ingenuity that coursed my veins in the mechanical sense to persevere through the unknown mechanical issues and learn how to use what I already knew to get through what I didn’t.
Emaho : You sold many of your belongings before changing your lifestyle. With your motorcycle as one of your only possessions, did you feel any sort of attachment to it? Do you have a name for your motorcycle?
AC: I sold everything I owned to fund my travels around the world including my car, TV, clothes and gaming consoles. My entire life was on the bike with me, but as I traversed this earth I realized that I could live without anything I had with me, I didn’t really need it, not even the motorcycle itself. This is why it was just a machine to me, a method of getting from point A to B, helping fuel a greater need and objective overall. This is why I later on sold it in order to have money to continue traveling. As the monks in the Himalayas once told me, “the more stuff you have in life, the more you will suffer”.
Emaho : During your journeys you made many interesting videos, including a 360-degree video selfie. Tell us about the process of making that video.
AC: When I first started traveling I had no idea what I was doing, the hardest part was leaving my home. Once on the road I started to understand my huge undertaking of this adventure. As a photographer, I was always finding ways to capture places in a unique way. It wasn’t until 2 months into my trip around the world that I came up with my Epic Selfie concept and video. When I arrived to my destinations I would find the best spot, wait for the best light, and perform several various weird, unique and crazy acts and methods of filming in each of these places. It wasn’t until weeks later, after a long creative process of seeing what worked and what didn’t, that I decided to “stick” with my 360 Degree Spin and Epic Selfie concept—which has swept the internet and world, with over 10.5 million views, and has appeared on most every major news network in the USA and abroad.
Emaho : You actually have a lot of videos that demonstrate your skills in videography. How do you come up with so many different ways to document your journeys?
AC: I believe that the way we do one thing in life is the way we do many other things. That’s to say the same creative approach I have for unique adventures, interesting photography, my spontaneous nature for ridiculous and fun ideas in my everyday life, also applies to my videography. I’m always thinking of what to do that’s never been done before and how to be that much more special and unique to capture people’s eyes, heart and mind through the power of video and social media. Always thinking about the next big thing!
Emaho : After three days of being stranded in Patagonia you survived! With no food and a broken motorcycle, how did you emotionally cope with this situation?
AC: There’s was a point where I thought I wasn’t going to make it out alive, but by then I had already traveled 19,000 miles in 300 days, and was only 900 miles from my goal of the tip of South America, so I was already deliriously happy that I had gotten that far and achieved my dream and goal, more than I ever thought possible. So I actually enjoyed the feeling of disparity and loneliness of that experience; it taught me who I really was, what was really important in my life, and how everything else after that was so wonderful and beautiful. I now enjoy the ups and downs in life equally.
Emaho : You completed your degree in Biomedical Sciences and decided to live adventurously before beginning your doctoral studies. How have your motorcycle journeys affected this plan? Do you still have the same goals as before?
AC: It is true, I was going to be a doctor, and I quit medical school to follow my passion and dreams of adventure and traveling. I initially wanted to help people on a person to person basis, helping change, inspire and improve the quality of life of others. Because of my viral success and social prescience I have experienced lately, I’ve seen that I have inspired and motivated people in the masses, improving their quality of life and spirit in a different way than I initially wanted to as a doctor. Now I can help orphanages in Guatemala in person, be eco-friendly by planting trees in Belize, and teach English to children abroad, all of which inspire others to do the same back home or abroad. It’s the gift and idea that keeps on giving, and can grow exponentially, changing lives on a massive scale. This all has a global presence and influence in the millions that is wonderful enough to keep me doing what I am currently doing. How cool to inspire the Millennial generation!
Art & Culture Interviewed by Connie Lee
Photos by Alex Chacon