AJ Leon and his wife, Melissa, continue to impress and inspire me through their work at the Pursuit of Everything and Misfit Inc. Currently, they are traveling the world together in 1,080 days. We first met in person at a breakfast organized by Jeff Pulver during SXSW. Jeff is a connector I hope to feature an interview with here one day soon.
D - What inspired the world travel?
AJ - Reading too much. I've always been a voracious reader, and reading tales of adventure from those who have sojourned this beautiful planet, incited me to do the same. I don't really enjoy holidays or vacations, what I do love is a good adventure. It colors your life in ways unimaginable at the onset. Four years ago when I quit a very successful and average existence as a finance executive in Manhattan, I vowed to spend my days being a nomad. I want to soak every last ray of light, every last scent, every last savory foreign dish, every last hug I can from this beautiful planet while I have the privilege to inhabit it.
D - What is the mission of Misfit, Inc?
AJ - To make a dent in the universe. At Misfit, we do many things, but whatever we do, our primary goal is to have a significant impact on the world. Sometimes that is through brand repositioning projects with clients, sometimes that is through initiating humanitarian projects in Africa, sometimes that is through partnering with change makers, sometimes that is through developing creative projects that facilitate more art on this beautiful planet and sometimes that is through publishing work that we feel will inspire people to change the world.
D - As you travel the world one has to rely on the kindness of strangers. How do you trust the new people you meet?
AJ - I certainly don't trust everyone. There are some crazy bastards out there. However, in my experience, most humans are good and giving and when given the opportunity to help others, will take it. I remember once I was in Zimbabwe and my one and only ATM card was eaten by a bank machine. The bank was closed, and I had no way of getting money. A random cab driver saw me and offered to drive me back to my hotel (which was very far) and use his phone to call my bank , all this without any hope whatsoever of getting compensated. In Mexico city, I once had a driver, Alejandro, invite Melissa and I to dinner with his family. On a muddy road in Namibia, where I had no cell signal and was miles from anything resembling a city, I had a random stranger get off his bike and without my asking, spend 45 minutes helping me get my car out of the pothole it was stuck in. I'd probably still be out there if it wasn't for him.
D - You have built a tribe of misfits who have joined you both in real life and virtually. What is the best thing that has come from this?
Most humans are good and giving and when given the opportunity to help others, will take it.
AJ - The stories I receive of those who are inspired by what we do, and go make something happen. I see my most important job as a writer. I write for a community of misfits, and I do so to inspire them to live with intention, do work that matters and change the world. It all comes back to making a dent in the universe. I don't want to watch my adventures and work idly, I want them to use it as fuel to start their own. If I succeed in that, then I feel as though my life is counted. Like maybe the world will be just a little different because I was here.
D - Which social networks have you found to be most effective in building your network? How have you used them to do so?
AJ - Surprisingly to me, Reddit has been a huge factor in the misfit nation. Someone posted my manuscript The Life and Times of a Remarkable Misfit in a subreddit a few months back, and every since then I have connected with hundreds of Redditors who are passionate tribe members, many of which are developing ways in which they are changing the world now too.
D - You are meeting hundreds of people along your travels. How are you keeping them organized, so you remember who they are and how to keep in touch?
AJ - Facebook, in it's monolithic glory, has certainly helped with that. Last year in Isiolo, Kenya, I hanging in the mud hut of a great dude whom I have remained friends with to this day, his second questions to me (after "What is your name?"), was "Hey AJ, can we be friends on Facebook?". Same thing happened to me in Malawi this last summer.
However, I will say, as a nomad, sometimes you recognize that not every relationship is meant to last a lifetime. Some are just for that moment. And that's okay. Poetic in some ways. Last year, while taking a train trip around America, I met a guy named Al on an Amtrak train rolling through the Midwest. We happened to sit across each other for lunch, and he just told stories. Stories that, to this day, have had a profound impact on me. As I said goodbye to Al, two things occurred to me, I would need forget him and I would never see him for the rest of my days.
D - Your world travel continues for 1,080 days. What happens on day 1,081?
AJ - I've always quite fancied the idea of going to the Moon. ;)
Photos by AJ Leon.