From Here to Nowhere

Trav­el­ling light, fol­low­ing the tracks and see­ing which way the wind will blow you.

YEN - - CONTENTS - WORDS JANA ROOSE PHOTOS KEVIN RUSS See more of Russ’ work on In­sta­gram @kev­in­russ or at so­ci­­in­russ.

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.”

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