From Here to Nowhere
Travelling light, following the tracks and seeing which way the wind will blow you.
Kevin Russ posts a picture of half a pizza on the footpath in Baltimore, Maryland with the caption ‘Free lunch’ and he’s only half joking. It’s been months since he ate scraps, but when he sees a good serving like this, part of him still thinks it’s Christmas – a relic mentality from the time he spent train-hopping across America’s south west with four newest way to test himself, to stretch his comfort zone out like a piece of dough and see when it would break. Russ working at a photo agency and living in the house he’d bought two years earlier. His spirit animal was becoming a white picket fence, and it dawned on him that he hadn’t left the house for two years. More than that, he’d lived in Portland, Oregon for eight years and had never seen the coast. He started there; drove out in the morning and came back at night the same day. Next he tried sleeping in his car for a long weekend in northwest Washington. It went well. Then he went to one of North America’s great national parks and didn’t come back for a week. Then it was two weeks, three weeks, four; out photographing what he saw with his iPhone, doing casually with one hand what most of us couldn’t with two. As the mail stacked up at his house and the door-to-door salespeople looked to the sky and asked ‘Dear god, why is he never home?’, Russ realised his house and into his SUV for good. By then his Instagram account had its own orbit of fans and his photographs were multiplying all over the web, so he gave up his job and relied on selling photo prints through Society6, which he uploads as he travels, editing with VSCO Cam or Afterglow,
Russ is now a rare species of American; no lawn, no zip code. No mortgage. A nomad, constantly looking for the next breathtaking scene. “I just get bored and uninspired by what I’m doing so I have to do something new to stay interested,” he says. Since starting out, he’s earned the trust of a herd of moose in the Rocky Mountains, stayed for a week with a homeless community in Colorado when his car broke down, staked out a three-legged coyote in Yosemite, found gold in Alaska, was blown off his feet and part way down a mountain by extremely strong winds in the Andes in Argentina. And sometime last year, he found himself in a holding cell in Butler County Jail for illegally riding a freight train in Whitewater, Kansas. “I started hopping trains comfortable, easy and predictable,” Russ says. “I became interested in alternative ways to travel and live because “normal” wasn’t holding my interest. I needed a challenge and met some kids willing to let me join them… I went to a place in Southern California where a lot of travellers go through and asked around about train riders and it led me to a certain city, then train yard, then Walmart, then a Jack in the Box that had an outlet in the front where they were all sitting so they could charge their phones and ask people for food.” He met a group of four people and three of puppies in Texas. Whatever Russ got to know about his friends he still keeps close: “Many had problems at home and enjoyed the freedom of travelling by train, some just wanted to see the country but didn’t have money. [There are] many different reasons.”
they needed. “I had no problems with it,” Russ says. “There was plenty of food all the time. The highlight was sushi from Whole Foods and the low lights were when I would be really and then someone would give us some hot, fresh food… What stood out to me was the generosity of people.”
Russ train-hopped on and off for four months, across California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Kansas, which is where he eventually hired a bail bondsman after hearing the Butler County and his friends’ sizes. One way to spend his hard-earned Society6 money, but not so bad once you consider he can hot springs in New Mexico. That he once found a gigantic garbage bag full of Dunkin’ Donuts. That he got to live and travel in a way that he never had before. “It was a huge learning experience that gave me a new type of freedom,” Russ says. So what next, for a guy who is upping the ante with every new adventure? “A man named Querevo,” he says. “I met him just before the train thing started and he rides mules, not trains, and we talked about a trip into Mexico. It’s been on my mind quite a lot and may be the most fascinating travel offer I’ve received.”