Julian Sayarer: "Interstate: Hitchhiking Through the State of a Nation" | Talks at Google
Thanks. Very much guys thanks so much the introduction, and, yes. Yes. I am, coming. From a background in political, science but, a, young, age really started, cycling essentially, I grew up in the Midlands, of the, UK and a quite a sort of post-industrial, slightly. Depressed town with not a lot going on, had. My bicycle and loved, the way that it could take me out of that town and after. University, I cycled, to Istanbul, and fell. In love with the fact I could cross a continent, in a month with only my legs and my bicycle. In. Istanbul, I discovered, that the world record for a circumnavigation by, bicycle, was being broken in this very kind of corporate. Back corporate. Backed attempt, that was sort of odds with all that I'd found, travelled. By bicycle, to be and. So I set out to break that record and, and this sort of led me to the genre. If you like of, politics. At roadsides basically. As. John, says the book that I'm talking about today is is interstate, from the United States, which. Is actually more of a hitchhiking book, there. Are some kind of correlations. Or contrasts. Between travel, by bike and hitchhiking. In the US which I'll come on to and they're, having cycled, 6,000, miles across the US and then hitchhiked, maybe 4,000, miles it's, kind of different perspectives, on that country and that. You find again at the roadsides, and and the title of Interstate was kind of no coincidence, in that respect. Starting. Out then at the beginning of the trip, which. Began in New York City as we can see an image we're all pretty familiar with, and. I. Had gone there to work on a documentary, project but that year failed to materialize. Interestingly. Enough, that was taking a boat down, the Hudson River from the Adirondack, Mountains, to. The Manhattan. Boat was made from rubbish. That was found on the streets of the city and the idea was to take, it to the source of the river in nature and return it to the metropolis and so. That's another kind of interesting, element okay into my relationship, with the US and with New York State and that, diversity that, you see in a population, as as soon as you kind of leave, the hubs of airport. Terminal, to airport terminal, or office to office when you go through the sort of space between those places whether. That's on a road or whether that's off the road or at the roadside hitchhiking. Or on the river and that, doesn't have the same the, geographies, that don't have the same kind of regard for place as the. Very kind of charted existences that we as humans, often sort, of lead, in our in our ways of going between countries, around the country and between cities. The. Book. Begins. In. In New York and actually oddly, enough with today, being local, elections in London I was out. Canvassing. With a friend for the de Blasio campaign, of. Bill de Blasio who I think got elected in 2013. With. A majority. Of about 70%, on a very low voter, turnout, and in some ways that kind of frames the start of the book because you see this kind of metropolitan elite. Or. Elite, question, mark and this, bubble existence, of Brooklyn with the sourdough, bread and, the spinach and salmon and coffee, and all of the things that we know and love and like. Electing. This apparently, progressive. Politician. In the same way that London would have elected, Sadiq Khan or, we see the rising popularity of Jeremy Corbyn and you see this optimism, for the future and progressive ideals and then crossing.
Over The. Brook the, Brooklyn. Bridge into, Manhattan, and then the George Washington, Bridge out of, out of Manhattan into. New Jersey I don't, mean hopefully, there's no one from New Jersey here but I don't want to sort of do, that thing of presenting, you a new jersey it's the frontiers, of the Badlands I really, like New Jersey some of my best friends are from New Jersey and. Taking. This shot on the way out and and then you're kind of you land on the other side, into. This less, controlled, existence, where you're not, sure exactly where, you're going and what's happening next. Hitchhiking. The. Sign. As you. Can imagine is quite, when, when you're hitchhiking I. Headed. Into towards. Ohio. My. First destination that I had vaguely in mind was Columbus so for that I needed to go through New. Jersey, Pennsylvania and. Discovered, at, the time I didn't know that Pennsylvania, was called the wide state but it certainly made sense after a while and I ended, up cheating a little bit on the hitchhiking, that was the only time and I got a greyhound for a couple of hundred miles to get to Columbus, just to to get me moving. The. Sign and nature of standing at the roadsides in the US is kind of a particular. Thing, I think, the first sign that I had and I held up just, said West the. Project in in the u.s. in in New York had fallen through for that year so I was there in New York with no real plans having. Rented out my room in, Dalston, and, so thinking well I should really go to California, and hitchhike there and it. Seemed like a sensible, enough thing to do and. I started with my very enigmatic, evocative. West sign and then realized that nobody was picking me up so. Then I started, adding more, more, words to it and a high. Or then, pleased and. Suddenly you realize that you're very simple-looking sign that you really want to catch the driver's attention is, suddenly looking quite cluttered, so. You get a new bit of cardboard and start again and, it's kind of an iteration of that again and again until you, find something that seems to work I remember, this sign with. Ohio a guy who picked me up and gave me a ride said. Where. You were going to Ohio and I'm going there next week so I thought I'd pick you up and after, that I thought ok I'm always going to put a place name on it and. It was interesting that in. The United States you have so many people just standing at roadsides, just moving. And. You, have so many people in you it's very migratory. Culture I think the states as a strong kind of notion, of traveling, within your country seeing your country and. There. Are a lot of people at those roadsides, that I think, were, they in Europe, possibly, wouldn't have fallen, so far out at the bottom of society some. Of them I think might be getting professional help I spoke to a guy in New Mexico, who was he'd, lost the front of his teeth to presumably, Class A drugs and smoking them. He, told me that he'd just buried his mother in Texas, and. This was all within the first two minutes of meeting him and so you kind of get to understand, why people are driving straight by you at the roadside and not, picking you up so, actually writing a destination, on, your, sign came. To feel like a statement. Of intention in a statement of purpose, and. I found it found that it got me more lift there's also things about how I would stand at. The roadside. Sometimes. It just sort of lazily be there like that with your thumb out and then realize, you're not getting any lift so, you think maybe I should put some more effort into this and be a bit more upright sometimes. I'd kind of be zipped right up because it was cold and I thought well maybe that looks a little bit robotic, and and in humans, unzip. And relax a little bit and again. With these hours and hours at the roadside you, just kind. Of slowly trying, to figure out actually what is gonna work what, is going to get one of these cars to stop and. Pick, me up. When. You're actually in the car. It's. An interesting experience. There's. Only one hit right there before I.
Call. That's a really great percentage, normally. When I do a talk about it's probably about one or two hands at most. But. Yeah. Did. It work yeah. In. Texas. Is a great place to talk in fact Texas isn't necessarily the best place to dry in cycle, because every time you stop at the roadside with your map in the day foam that's made of paper and, someone. Pulls in with a pickup saying, we can put your bike in the back of you like now I'm doing this for fun you're. Sure. So. Yeah. But. Yeah the experience. Of, it where you're kind of strangers. Complete, strangers, and then, placed into this automobile. Confessional. Booth almost, because you've got to keep one another's company for. Whatever amount of time you will, and. That's a finite amount of time and, you don't know the person but at the same time you need to talk about something and so the tendency is to talk about the, things that actually matter you talk about what, why are you doing this like well there's a project that has fallen through and, I thought I'd go to California, where are you driving well I'm driving home to visit my kids me. My work me and the wife separated, or. I'm driving home from work I don't much like it so in this sort of automotive, 21st, century environment of, the car or 20th, century I'd say more the car you, end up talking quite quickly, about. The things actually matter and, in a world where increasingly. Communication. Pathways, and and the objects the people that we are actually communicating, with are ever more controlled, and and perhaps we become ever, more, wary. Of leaving leaving those controlled, pathways, the. Random encounter of I've got the trust to be standing at a roadside and requesting. A lift and you've got the random trust to, pull in and say yeah I'm going to give you one gives, you that sort of connection just for a short time. And. It, kind of yeah. It kind of brings out a certain bond between people who actually might be very different they might be Republican, voters they might be Democrat, voters. They. Might be immigrants, they they might identify, as, being, settlers. From you, know the, first, Scots that went over to the US but they've all got the idea to pick, up this stranger, at the roadside and. This. Is an older photo actually and goes back to the point, I'd. Touched on earlier of, the, differences, between cycling. And hitchhiking, in the United States. This. Guy was super Dave as. He as he went known as from. 2009. When I was cycling the west coast, of.
California. And. He, had two trailers, here he. Had a dog that ran along with him. He. Had a story, as. Everyone. Traveling, the u.s. has a story his. His. Destination, on the roadside was basically to get down to Santa Barbara he. Was from Washington, and Washington State of course as a very cold winter so, he was moving south to, get warm for winter which is a fairly timeless. And. Distressingly. Common, migration. Within within, the US and another guy on that, same trip. Who. Was from Montana, which is of course also bitterly, winters, and he was cycling down into, New Mexico for. Winter just. To stay warm so again. You, have this, hard. Reality, of, life. For. Tens, or hundreds of thousands, or millions of people in the richest country in the world but. Nevertheless at, all times kind of connected, to this, eternally. Optimistic spirit. These. Guys living by bicycle, I remember, Mike the guy from Montana telling. Me that, he. He, was alright on the bike because he could see the stars at night and if he could see the stars at night he knew that Jesus was watching out for him and that, same, sort of good feeling that the guys on bikes have out and. Have out there seems. To get reflected back at it by the US population and, the. The, amount of money for example that I was given, having. Never once asked for it while cycling across the u.s.. Was. Unfathomable. To me it, had bicycle. Repairs that needed doing. And strangers, fronting. Up $100, because they wanted to pay for them I, had. A family from, South Carolina who took me in and paid for another set of repairs and wanted to set me off of a hundred dollars to put me on my way. I rode. 300. Miles in a in, one, long stretch to, get to. New York in time for a friend, and. Crossing. Into IND Delaware, had. A woman wind down the car window, and say you're doing something amazing. Here and just class out ten dollars for me I think. And. The contrast between that and hitchhiking. Was was actually really difficult because, I'd gone there and in the pasta and had this sense of being kind. Of welcomed, and supported at. The roadside because, I think something about the bicycle, appeals to that us spirit, of. Bootstrapping. You know they assume you're homeless it doesn't matter that your bicycle, is made in a artisan. Bike factory, in the, south of Germany or that your pannier bags and, your brooks saddle were made by you. Know craftsmen, in the Midlands or elsewhere in Germany and it's collectively worth a thousand or so pounds there's, an assumption if you're traveling the estates on a bicycle you're a homeless person but they think you're a really good homeless person you know you're, actually trying, and. It's, kind of ironic because one of the things I love about travel, by bike is you're. You're, really independent and some machine keeps. Going it's. Rare. That it would have a mechanical, that would stop you from going and even if it was a minor mechanical you can generally keep going so, you can be independent. Whereas. When you're actually, standing. At the roadside waiting. For a ride needing, a ride you are entirely, reliant, and dependent.
Upon The people passing you and whereas. I'd had the ability to keep going on a bicycle myself. And nevertheless, been met with all of this help as. A hitchhiker. Stuck. In the middle of a desert waiting for someone to pick you up and being. Met with this constant mistrust, and fear. It. Was a kind, of war of attrition a little bit and the determination, required to sort of not be kind of worn down by this constant, rejection that's going on it. Was actually one of the most difficult things about the journey all right I kind, of will definitely cut some slack to the u.s. population and the driver, population. Of the u.s. I, mean. Hunter s Thompson called the u.s. the kingdom of fear and. Much as I think that there's an awful lot of unjustified, fear in American, society American, popular culture American, news, stroke, entertainment. I. Do. Think as I say there are a lot of people on this on the interstates. And highways of, the u.s. who. In Europe would be either getting professional help or would simply, not be there because migrating. South for winter is something, that doesn't really belong in the 21st century, wealthy. Nations. But. I I sympathize. With, the. American population because it's yeah it's a hard place out there and. The. Interstate, is. Is. In itself its, own kind of place, this. Was just a photo. That I found while I was pulling out the other ones but this was -. In. America they air up your tires which was an interesting phraseology, for me the first time they asked on a bicycle can I bump up my tires and the guy said you want to rev up your tires you. That makes sense as well, but. Yeah putting a dollar in into, it to help, feed. Children elsewhere in the states and. Then. These. Kind. Of thousands. Of miles of empty. Highways. And. As, I say it's kind of a culture, all. Of its own really. With. The, highways the, truck stops, and. Again, the space in between and not a whole lot happening because people are going between rest, areas, and you, just see these these desert, stretches. In. The, meantime, and. With truck drivers who are counting not in miles but in hours because they say that if they were counting, miles they'd go crazy and they'd never get anywhere. And. I kind of think, of that as. The. Interstate, is a little bit like a mono crop in some ways and in the way that with mass a great culture you have a field, where, they're growing the crop and nothing else grows within it because, it's all about the crop likewise, on the interstates, it's, a car saturated. Culture. Where. It's sort of not, not, many signs of human life and especially, as a hitchhiker, and, occasionally. As a pedestrian walking. Down the highways you really, feel that sense. Of deviance. I. Would, have been picked off the highways many times by, state, troopers saying. That is illegal, illegal. To hitchhike in the United States and. Other variants, of that saying it's illegal to hike in this state and variants. Again saying you can't hitchhike here but if you cross the county line and you can hitchhike all right it's not my turf. So. That. Kind of process always interrupting. You, and. Interstate. One it won an award for, a travel, book of the year last year I, gave. Half of the prize money to that to the ACLU, a time. When the Muslim ban was just coming in in the US but, largely more, than anything, because. The book was I. Was. Very conscious in the number of times I was pulled off of highways by state troopers or cops. That. Although the experience, of it was very aggressive, it was very forthright. I'd be standing there and a car would pull in I'd. Sort of roll my eyes knowing what was about to happen and then you'd get the microphone, on the roof the loudspeaker on the roof would shriek at me to get go over to the crash barrier so, I'd go lazily over to the crash barrier, and. Then, lean on the crash barrier and start unhooking. My, bag straps, from my shoulders, and then it shrieks again don't. Move stay there, leave your pack on at. Which point okay and then he comes out and sort, of comes. Up to me and asked if I'm armed which was a European it's an absolutely crazy question ever to be asked anyway and. Then, he Pat's me down and you. Know we've seen you. Know we've all now seen many images of, black. Men, generally. Men black, men and black people shot, dead by state troopers in situations, that I can really relate to having.
Been In and actually my situation, being that bit more deviant I wasn't even sat at the wheel of my own car. But. There's this sense of the. Armor, of a, white, skin the, sort, of the, lack of prejudice, that came from nor enforcement, although they were suspicious of what I was doing they were sort of nonetheless. Willing. To tolerate some of them even given me a lift to the edge of the county line and taking me along a little bit on my way and by the time I got out of the car us having, some you know some kind of conversation and, forming, a bit of a relationship and and, similarly although. Hitchhiking. In the States was often a case of counting, cars and sometimes, you'd count ten, you get really lucky and, and. You get another ride after ten sometimes you'd still be counting, after 200 but. I have no doubt whatsoever that, those, numbers would be a lot higher especially. In certain parts of the country where, I know why so, there's. An interesting, sort, of intersection, with, race at, the roadsides in that, way and. The. Truck stop is, another kind of insight on the, u.s. in, itself. And. I spent a lot of my time in truck stops going. Round the rigs that were parked in occasionally. Taking a break and sitting down and getting myself a coffee in the canteen and then these places are generally, what. Is known in the US as a. Desert, which is a concept that I think might be coming to parts of Europe as well which isn't isn't a great thing but, places where there's no fresh produce there's, no fresh vegetables, and everything that you can buy to eat is. Packaged, is. Made from refined flour refined, sugar which kind of slowly has a sort of gently. Debilitating. Effect on your sort of sense, of kind of will to go on I think when you can't look forward to your next meal any point. The. Other thing about the truck stops was how how. Marshal the culture was I remember, being, conscious, of this very sort of military, edge to. This. The stenciled, images that drivers, had put on their cabs I remember. Going down the highway and one of them next to me with, a silhouetted. Man with a rifle. Kneeling. Over a fallen comrade and, it says we will honor their sacrifice, I, remember. Walking into a shop and there's a big American flag on there on. The side of it and in, a truck stop and saying, the American flag does not flutter. With the wind but the last breaths of all who died for it which is a really intense thing when you're just looking for some orange juice or something. But. You kind of see this massive sort. Of sentimentality. And emotional, investment, placed. Into. The area. Of the truck stop, because. You have guys here, that are, driving. Well, as the adverts on the back of some of the rigs will attest for, a cent a mile which. Is. Evidence. I think of both howl crazily. Enormous, the u.s. is but also how incredibly, poorly paid truck drivers, are I. Remember. As well the truck stop shops. Often. Had toys in which was unusual for this population. Of slightly, surly, adult, men but they, are of course often if, not always absent. Fathers you know you sometimes you'll see a trucker with, his with, his dog sometimes, a trucker with his dog and his wife maybe sometimes his wife has also got a trucker license, and they share their share that will and go back and forth across country and, but.
Often They are just absent fathers away from their families so you'd see the toys there, as, soon as you walk into the truck stop and. Again there's very martial, culture. You know toy. Tanks, toy soldiers. Again. Because I feel, that on the, roads with. This fairly. Sort of modern, surf existence. Of driving, someone else's rig just, to stay afloat in America, you need to feel that you're part of something bigger that the. Cargo you're moving, corresponds. Somehow, in a small way to the, American dream that you're possibly getting short, sold on but. Nevertheless have, to believe in because if not why would you carry on. There. Are also the kind, of more interesting. Characters, of the truck stops and. And. And a lot of humanity, in, amongst it as well my. Ride after Columbus, Ohio I would, have hitchhiked, down towards, Cincinnati, where. I got a really nice ride with. It. Was a retired. Well. Reluctantly. Retired, local. Radio, DJ had. Been put out of work by by. Automation essentially. Which is a theme of the book, because. In the old days he would have gone into the studio for five days of the week and spun records, now, he only needs to go in for sort of two hours on a Monday morning to say next. Up is Casey in the waves and it's a good morning here in Cincinnati, because. The rest of it can all be put into a playlist say you've got this guy who would have been he, said you know I used to be able to be able to sleep at night I was so excited about my job and. I met him on a Sunday and he was just going out for a drive for something to do, he. He took me down to. A truck stop outside of Cincinnati and. There. Eventually. I met I, invested. At that truck stop about a day of time, just walking between rigs, got. Offered a ride by, by. A Bosnian, Bosnian. Migrant. Trucker. Who had a vehicle. Recovery big vehicle recovery rig and he was driving down to, Mississippi. Which, wasn't quite on my route for California, but it would have taken me a few hundred miles I thought, I could get a bit bigger than that and so I kept walking and eventually I met Paula, who. Is kind. Of the hero of the book in loads of ways because we spent five days together and we, would have driven from. From there in Cincinnati, back, north towards, Lexington Ohio, to, pick up. 30,000. Kilograms of laminate, wrapped plastic, that. Was then going to be driven down to Yuma Arizona on. The Mexico border where, it would be wrapping. Up courgettes, or zucchinis coming over from Mexico as produce so, it was my sort of 3,000, mile ride that was going to get me most of the way to California and, Sao Paulo, was my man sort of thing and. We spent five days or so together and. Those. Five days were probably. Certainly the easiest in, terms of moving miles but also in terms of actually having a kind of human encounter with definitely, the easiest and the best. Period. Within, within the entire trip. Paulo. Is from the Punjab in in north of India he's he's, been ten years in. The United States approximately. He. Kind of has to pay rent to the bank on on. His cab on the cab of his truck. But. He nevertheless is in the position where one day he will own it. Which. Is unusual and very fortunate, he's very grateful for that position, and the fact that he is in that position is an, evidence, of the diaspora Punjabi, community, in the u.s. he had a cousin who was an architect in San Francisco, who makes good enough money that he could sign to, be the guarantor, on the debt for his cab which means that Paulo can one day make his own money rather. Than just being a servant of a trucking company.
Nevertheless. There are still these sort, of. Interesting. And intricate ways by, which he, goes. About making, a living in the US and staying, healthy in particular. He's. A Sikh, and. Thus, a vegetarian. Which, in the u.s. is probably not a bad way of saying that bit healthier, especially at truckstops and. It. Was an, incredible, experience for me to be in, the sort of back waters, of Missouri. Or Oklahoma eating, paratus, because, pala would have been well in touch with the Punjabi trucking, community that. Is dotted across the roadsides, of the US would. Have spoken spoken. With a kind of grudging, respect for. The Gujarati trucking, community, which he says works that little bit harder and that little bit smarter, so now they, now own all of the truck stops and the. Punjabis, just drive the trucks but. We would have been there eating apparatus, eating our doll and Italian, New Mexico, in Indiana, and. And. Just having. This this. Fascinating. Insight on it on a different part, of us culture and especially us, Road culture, which is often. Very. Kind. Of forceful. And, and inhuman, and you're shut off from a community, there because. Everyone's living this isolated, existence where, they're just trying to get from A to B and everything, that happens in between is almost like an inconvenience and so for me and Paulo to spend those five days hanging out was. Was. Really really. Valuable, and. I. Mean, some of the things that, he would have talked about the, one that always stays with me or a couple that stays with me most of all he, remembered, that he'd voted for Obama, in, in. 2012. But. He wasn't sure if he'd voted, for the Republicans, or the Democrats which, was I felt a really kind of nice insight, on what. People say about polarization which, is certainly an issue in in modern modern. Politics modern communications. I found it really striking, that, more. Than the Polaroid Polaroid in, there what you saw was just a disconnect, disconnection. And apathy, in a political. System that was completely irrelevant from, his daily life on the roads. The. Most endearing thing of pallor was his love of field hockey. And. He, would have talked about as a child in the Punjab his mum having to ground. Him or tell him off because she found him practising his field hockey strokes later night in his bedroom and the. Best part of it was that in modern America. His. Survival. Regime. Involved. Partly, going back to the Punjab for two months of every year so he could play field hockey, and. Therefore. Stay healthy because he couldn't afford health insurance so he would get another cousin to, drive his rig on his behalf for those two months he went home and played field hockey to stay healthy. There. Was one time when, I I asked, him I said to him as we were by a tornado shelter which. They have that the, interstate, Road sighs but when tornadoes come, through, it. Was a shelter in Texas Paul I wanted to stop at and show me because he loved it because it was so quiet and, as we were walking back to the cabin doing our stretches, having had a sore five days of vegetarian, food in Oklahoma, and Texas pala, we must be the healthiest, guys in any truck in in, the United States no. No my cousin is a trucker, he. Does 45 minutes yoga in his cab every day. And. Again I think, that's the sort of theme of the book that I'd hope comes, true I think it has for. Some this. Kind of this human this human humanity, this human spirit that's kind of wrapped, inside, the metal capsule, of a car or of a truck or of, the industrial. Economy of, a modern modern, nation. Somewhere. On the highways of the US there's a Punjabi, trucker doing yoga stretches, behind those curtains, and. I always found that an incredibly heartening, thing. That's. Sort of migratory thing as well however it's from.
Punjabis. Coming. From the Punjab to work the US or, and speaking, of the fact that the Gujaratis have a head start on them because every every cousin. Of a newcomer from from, Gujarat, who's, already in the US will put forward $10,000. So that the next, person in in it in has like a $50,000. Pot to, start from all. Of these kind of moments. Of globalization, which. Is actually much as it shouldn't be as low pay as it is and it should be with more rights and protections. Is. Globalization. Working, in the way that it should and also. With, the. The trail. Of. Plastic. From the hiyo recycled. Plastics going from Ohio down. To, Arizona, to rapcore jets that have been grown in in. Mexico, this, sort of almost. Invisible, commerce. That underpins, the, lunches, that we eat in a city, and. A, global supply chain that we rely on and can, take for granted in our daily lives you kind of see that out on the roads and in all my books nor my journeys that's kind of been a theme as a result of going to sort of less. Seen places. From. Arizona. Paulo. And I we would have gone. Sinara down. Into. Mississippi. My. Geography of this journey is faded a little down, into Mississippi. Along. And across to. Towards. Texas via. Oklahoma, top, of Texas, New, Mexico Arizona, I, got out of the cat Grand Canyon Flagstaff, walked. And hitchhiked a little bit further and then came to San Francisco, and returning. Essentially, to that. You. Know the bubble if you like, from. From New York City and Brooklyn back, to the mission of San Francisco, although again, I'd sort of question to what extent in these places are. Bubbles, certainly, walking, through the Mission District anytime after 8 o'clock. On. An evening doesn't feel much like a bubble, and, the. Scenes, there are any every bit similar, to having. Visited refugee camps in Calais or in in grace people. That have kind of been washed up destitute. From, a society. That doesn't take them or doesn't have space for them. So. Yeah. I think, that's kind of a key thing much, as we we think of ourselves as, disconnected. In cities the sort of victims, or the hardships of the modern say the modern economy are of course all around us I. Think. I, just. Wanted to close really. On a note, of what the book is and what the journey was in. Terms of, optimism. Or pessimism essentially. And I think optimism, is an eternal, us trait which. Is, potentially. The one thing that can save the country from itself in some ways the fact that there's always hope that we. Can improve this we can make it better we can fix this. And. I the tone, of the book is very much one. Of America, is a hard place and, it is because you'll, meet a guy at a roadside who told who's obviously got substance, abuse problems and has just told you that he's gone and buried his mum. Within. Minutes of meeting, you'll. Pass signs near. Prison saying do not pick up hitchhikers because, you know 1% of the United, States population is, in, jail and there's a kind of prison industry, industry economy, attached to that, and. So. It is a very stark place I find it redesigning in lots of ways but there, are the moments, within the journey and. Within culture. And society, the meeting of Paula and there's a guy who's just working, for his ten years before he can start making his own money but, has hope for the future who, has a feeling that actually, I don't understand, why people in this world fight I just want to I just want to work I just want to make away for myself there, is also that threaded. Through threaded, through the book and threaded, through the journey. And. I think the value of the journey is. Something. Else that I always like to draw, attention to. It's. I. Kind. Of see the world currently. Is dividing, very much between kind of flows and accounts. And. Flows might be flows of capital or, flows of transit, flows of people, and. The account sort of sort of pocketed. Versions, of that that we make for ourselves that we take security in, and in the internet we have the social media account in amongst the flow of information, on the, highways you have the the automobile, account where, you're you're safe and it's, your place in amongst, the movement, and all of the life that swarms around it. And. Even in the cities I mean I don't normally I, used to be a cycle courier and, so. All of the cities and, spent. A lot of time just on the streets looking what, was going on around me and I think increasingly in, a modern development such, as this one even you, see the the architecture, is very much done. As if an account it's it's. A controlled, localized, place that's designed to make one feel at home but, often at the expense of, that random act of life or, moment, or chance that you encounter. As an as a matter of course when cycling between places, or when hitchhiking, and sort of opening yourself to that sense of possibility and, obviously, being. At Google and, working in search.
Again. That sort of that's, a, model. That often, filters. Us towards, accounts, that we're comfortable with, and and, moves. Us away from anything that we think we might not like as a result of past performance. And. I think it's always important to question you know what are we losing to those moments what are we losing to, that reliance, on a sense of security. And. The desire for it and, to repeat, the, past in in the future that we build for ourselves, so. I think that's kind, of key to the. Journey hitchhiking, and certainly, all. That I write about and, my projects, and. Yeah. I hope, that that was an interesting reflection on, sort of 5,000. Miles across the United States in. The age of Donald, Trump. Very. Much and. We. Do have time for questions please wait for the microphone. First. One how, does it feel to be. On. This rod this, journey so, y'all-y'all you, are along, especially how. Did you keep yourself alive. Being. In this island like in the middle of deserts. Counting. Up to 200, cars. Yeah. Good. Question I mean in terms of being alone I think I've always just done alright, with that for me I don't know if I'm a natural owner or something but. Yeah. I mean I cycled, to Istanbul, I'm on my own for the first time when I was 20 and kind of you, know cycling through the Alps and having no one around was sort of the first time that I started fitting actually this is amazing and this is this is what I like I, think, writing has actually always been a great kind of companion to me because, much. As the books are. True. To life nevertheless, you're, kind of creating, a sort of slightly, external, view of what you're doing when you're writing it down when you're recording it so it's, not exactly a diary, but it gives you a sense of space to reflect and, to, converse with yourself, if you like via notepad. And. Then the, states and that sort of physical. Issues of, going. Between empty. Space and especially in. Cars. Or in a truck it's comparatively easy. Relative. To cycling, I mean going, through the deserts of Central Asia on a bicycle and on, 250. Miles to cycle between villages, and. Maybe you'll get to a, van pulled to the crossroads, in the middle of it where they'll be someone will be selling some grilled meat but maybe it won't. So yeah in the States it was comparatively simple, for that just having some water with me and. Yeah. The harder part was finding something that I wanted to actually eat to, take, for my packed lunch kind of thing, and. You also, said that. You're. Like, on, the road here with, drivers, who talk openly. So. It, was really easy to make, sincere. Conversation, how. Does it feel, been here when, most of, human. Encounters are, usually small, talk well, done thanks really care about each other yeah in the city. I. Yeah. It's really true. Yeah. Yeah. I think cities. Are interesting, environments, for me I mean or quite challenging in some ways especially a city has developed. And controlled as London essentially. You. Know everyone, there's, a lots of very high paid people here there's lots of companies making a lot of money and so everyone, has a very sort of predetermined. Agenda and. Route and, I think that kind of removes. A, lot of the opportunity, for chance encounter. But. They ask to learn I think you just have to appreciate them when they come and it's I mean riding a bicycle, is essential, to me in London and that small moment. Of agreeing with someone even about the weather at traffic lights is is great I had a brilliant moment a couple of weeks back having an electrical, device repaired, at a shop in a statement and, a guy who's been there forever, and. We. Were just making the small talk and. It. Was Wednesday, I was Prime Minister questions, questions. Time we had it on TV and Tory. Backbencher, had asked a question about, Christianity. And the importance, of protecting the world's Christians which of course I'm completely down with but. I you, know I said, yeah. I'd like if they talk more about persecution, of Muslims as well I'm half Turkish and it's an issue that, Islamophobia. In the Tory Party concerns, me. And. I said that and he said that and then he he, said, he's. Like paradise is a roundabout, and we all are going to the same roundabout just, on different roads this is Allah's world and the Christian Road and was they, go to the same place and we're there with like solder, around and wires hanging over the place in this basement on Church streets don't you eatin and the, man's just evangelizing.
To Me about the. Need for the world's religions to kind of come together and be as one and favor it does happen I think independent businesses, are really good for it as well as you know the way that we travel. Do. You have any photos of yourself of yourself. Because. They're, photos of places, yeah. Yeah. I. Have, a couple of selfies from that one I. Look. I look pretty grisly from. The round the cycling around the world I have a lot more because I broke a world record for it in Guinness wanted. Ratification. Stuff so they wanted to see that I was actually in those places and, yeah. They must exist somewhere on the Internet. Maybe. I missed this earlier but so. The, book is about MRA, is. That you as well yes, I'm Rose my middle name and it's just a way of. Creating. A slight, distance, between I, mean, it is it's what happened to Julian but is my written persona, in that book. Do. You find that that sort of helps you to, think. About it that parts a little bit more yes, lightly, and I. Think. When you're putting something out for public consumption its kind of just nice to you know when it is your life and there are elements in there that are personal, so it's just kind of yeah, wanting to create that sort of small. Buffer, but. Yeah. Definitely. A good, point my publisher had a couple of things to say about it, as well. How. Much of the book did you write when, you were on the road as opposed to later on and how how are you writing it like laptop. Yeah. I always, write in a notepad really. I don't think I've ever traveled with a laptop. And. I was just scribbling down in my notepad and generally, I must have written about half of it. Half. Of it while I was out on the road I mean occasionally with. Pallor in his truck talking about his life and, you. Know daily. Life in the. Truck of a trucker community, occasionally. I just starts dribbling. Down and you can, put this in a book. So. I'd make my nights there. Occasionally. I was just really i profoundly. Kind. Of impacted, by what would happen my penultimate, ride was a guy, in the Central Valley of California and. They're very sort of depressed. Agricultural. Communities, and he couldn't take, me as far as he wanted to because he was on parole and, it would violate the terms of his parole. You. Know he was a guy that told me that he doesn't keep many friends, because they get him into trouble which. Was just such, a profoundly, sad thing to be told by another human being.
So Things like that I would have just been I would, have finished the ride and I'd just make time to write always really. Because, it's it's, the way it becomes a way of processing after. A while I. Have. A question, you mentioned that you world, cycle. Courier in London I guess. So. What kind of memorable, experiences, do you make and this, role. Rather, than like I guess it's very different yeah. I, mean as a similar kind of quality I sort, of. It's. Always the there's, some element. Of being a human cog, in and mechanical, machine when I think you're traveling in that way I think it's a big part on the bicycle, or hitchhiking. I mean, memorable, moments, as. A courier. 2008. And the financial, crisis, and you, know riding from, AC. To square mile at Canary, Wharf to Lehman Brothers to, deliver receivership, notices, worth thirty, three billion dollars, in getting paid to pound 50 for each delivery, was a very kind of interesting, perspective, on a collapse. Of the world economy, or. Equally, taking, bouquets. Of flowers from, hedge, funds in Mayfair to brothels. So. It's kind of yeah. The first book life cycles is sort of I saw, its globalization, at the roadsides, and then messengers, was a second book and that to me it was the globalised, city sort, of thing so there's. Always that yeah humans. Looking at modernity, kind of thing going on hopefully. Last. Question, as another cyclist and well do. You still cycle. Around London and. You. Know what what's your opinion of cycle, lanes. And facilities in London and if you could change one, thing there what would that be. Good. Question yeah I'm definitely still a cyclist in anywhere, I go really it's kind of just my way of travel including. In London, cycled. Down to Victoria, yesterday, and went along the embankment, which, is now as you've probably mostly, seen this nice wide segregated, cycle, path that only got put in a few years ago and I'm just yeah. It gives me a great optimism. There's, so many more people visibly, getting around on bikes and actually. The architecture, of the city is changing to reflect that. There. Was a great moment by, Waterloo Bridge a couple of years back when, that cycle. Route had first been put in and there's actually a wider pavement. Also, that sort of separates, that cycle, track from where, the road is and where the traffic is and, that, wider pavement, would have been a lane of traffic three years ago and I remember seeing, an old couple, and it's always nice thing old couples, being romantic, together anyway but they were like having a prolonged. Goodbye and a kiss goodbye on that bit of form. Of Road that is now a wide pavement, and it was just I remember looking at anything where two, years ago that space, exactly there was just a line of smoking. Gnarling, impatient, traffic and now it's actually a you, know a place that humans have you know humans can actually stand and me as humans and so I you, know I think that, is kind of increasingly, the culture of the modern city and cars, have less and less place in it which I think's a positive.
Trend, And. I hope that London can sort of carry on progressing. With any luck. So. At the start you mentioned. About. About your around, the world cycling, record, and you thought the the whole process of around the world cycling become very, commercialized. And sort of like been, sort of somewhat, devalued by all the sponsorship into it and I don't think that's kind of probably a trend that's continued since then as well, did. How did you feel. As, you went through that process and, and completed it like. The fact they were doing, the Guinness. Attributions. For getting. The the proof flat and, going through the guiness process did that feel quite commercialized, anyway or. Did. You feel like you've got you yeah achieved, what you wanted with that no, really, good, perceptive. Question and absolutely when I was things. Like making and notes on my daily log and stuff like that same fine you know my mild my start point my finish point all of that was was fine but yeah taking a, photo, of myself over a redwood and things. Like that and the redwoods in particular were quite an interesting place to ride for the redwood, forests in Northern California you're there with a tree. That, was started growing at the time of the Roman Empire and it's, still growing and you're on this silly, sort of six-month, quest to break a record when you're not really a competitive person so. Yeah. Apparently, not a competitive person. Yeah. So it was a bit strange. And, it's, kind of a mixture of sort of necessity, and, and. Just. Seeing it through really in the end I really hadn't liked the corporate approach I. Misrepresented. It in, terms of kind of the meaning of life on the open road as something that was for sale to banks and investment funds but also misrepresented. It as something, that was, you. Know this unpleasant, alpha male man. Against the world thing where time, and again it's the world that actually helps you along and. So. I kind of wanted, to show that it could be done differently and actually it was a lot of fun that it that. It wasn't as hard as it had been made to look arose and I'm unpleasant, at all as an experience. And. Then halfway through you know I've been a courier in London anyway so I was going off funds of that and so come the midpoint I kind of needed to finish because I was gonna run out of money anyway. There's always that kind of like wolf, at the door to make sure you keep K. Thank. You again Julian Saira. You.