Brett Fox, 28, closed on the sale of his condo Tuesday. In the weeks leading up to the closing, he sold off his car, his spare motorcycle, and quit his job as a private cyber-security contractor. Freed from his possessions, save his Triumph Bonneville and its sidecar where his husky Kiti rides, Fox’s dream is to ride through every country in South America and Antarctica, setting out from his now old home by Eastern Market, where he’s lived since 2012.
Fox, a former Marine, anticipates trouble on the road ahead— “I expect to get robbed, I expect to get my bike stolen”—but his optimism is unrelenting. “Hardships make the best stories,” he says at least three times. He talks quickly, stringing together events from his life so far in an attempt to explain what’s made him divest his life for the road ahead.
Fox was shy and cautious as a kid. He went through a chubby phase and a band geek phase and a “gaming nerd” phase. He had a core group of friends growing up in Texas, but he was also standoffish and a little too susceptible to “going with the flow.” At high school graduation, he told people he would start college in the fall or join the military, without clear intentions of doing either. When that summer ended, Fox signed up for community college, because that’s what kids were doing. After a semester of “wasting money,” he quit and joined the Marines.
“There’s a lot of reasons to join” and most people, Fox believes, join for a couple of them. For him it was a love of WWII stories (nurtured by hundreds of hours playing Call of Duty), years spent paint-balling with his gamer friends, and, yeah, “to run away from some problems” he’d rather not get into. Fox spent five years overseas but never saw combat. Japan, Korea, Serbia, Israel, and Niger were among the countries he called home. But even within the Marines, it took a few years for Fox to get comfortable with himself. “I was always sad,” he recalls. “Now, I want to be happy.”
Fox isn’t exactly sure what happened to change him. He just finally tired of watching. He started going out with the guys, and, when he finally left service in 2011, got into motorcycles. To celebrate his new civilian life, he went skydiving over Orange County, a first for him. “My freedom dive,” Fox calls it. He wants to bungee jump when he rides through Monteverde, Costa Rica (the highest jump in Latin America at 470 feet), and he wants to get his pilot license when he returns to the States, hopefully about a year from now. “No pressure, though.”
Fox chose Patagonia for the beautiful pictures he had flicked through online, and the thrill of riding someplace other people spend thousands of dollars to reach by plane. He hopes to hit the region by New Year’s Day, and, before that, reach Brazil at the end of summer to avoid the crowds at the Rio Olympics. Fox is approaching the trip with a unique mix of careful planning and reckless bravado, like he learned in the Marines. “Improvise, adapt, and overcome,” he says, relying on a familiar mantra. “I’ll go until I’m broke.”
Fox plans to live off the money he made in the sale of his condo and take whatever odd jobs he can find along the way. He’ll camp as much as possible and purchased a $500 combination hammock-tent to make it bearable. He’s been to the Amazon once before and “you do not want to sleep on the ground,” he insists. For the nights he can’t camp, Fox prefers hostels and couch-surfing to hotels. He’s purchased the new Google Fi cell phone, with connectivity in over 120 countries, to help him find open beds. This is the tactical, Marine side of him: thinking through the things he’ll encounter, the things he’ll need. Researching the options and field-testing what he can. He’s started a website where he outlines the gear he is taking, but it’s not a plea for sponsorship. He wants to do this all on his own. No crowd-funding. No sponsors. No companionship.
This last point is a little trickier for Fox, who acknowledges the trip would be safer if he didn’t go it alone. His dog Kiti—”my only dependent,” he jokes—will stay with a brother in Texas for the year. His reasons for solitude are varied. “There are dangers on this trip,” he says. “I’d feel sick if something happened to someone else.” Fox also thinks he’d be sidestepping an important challenge. “When you have someone with you, you miss out on struggling to interact with the local culture.”
There’s not a lot of information out there for people who want to do what Brett Fox is doing, shedding life and hitting the road. His website is for keeping in touch and for helping other “adrenaline junkies” out there. “People shouldn’t need to reinvent the wheel. Like in the Marines, if someone dies, the mission has to be able to go on.”
You can follow Brett Fox’s journey at Asphalt & Beyond.