Adventures of Justin, The Most Interesting Man on Instagram
I’m on the phone with Justin Alexander. He’s calling from the roof of a Mexican restaurant where he’s bivouacking (sleeping under the stars) somewhere in the American Southwest. He explains that rooftops are ideal for urban camping. They provide safety and concealment and tend to pick up free wifi–tonight he’s getting his from the chain hotel next door.
This rooftop is as much Justin’s home as anywhere. He prefers ‘home free’ to ‘homeless.’ He’s not mentally ill or a junky, but rather clean cut and Facebook friends with his mom. Justin is a nomad, adventurer, survivalist, and self described ‘modern day ninja.’ He gets my vote for the most interesting person on Instagram.
Tech to Tribal
Justin got his first taste of world travel doing sales and product development for a tech company. He stayed in luxury hotels wherever he went.
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In Beijing, I had tea with the head of Louis Vuitton China. You can’t do that sort of thing living out of a backpack. I had itineraries; I knew where I was sleeping every night. So I saw a lot of places, but I didn’t really see them. Something had to change. I wanted to live in a way that was aligned with my values. If you just keep going along and doing what you’re told and what’s expected of you there comes a time when you wake up like ‘what the fuck happened?’
He got out while he still could and retired at 32 . Within a few weeks of shedding the suit, he was living with Mentawai hunter gatherers in Indonesia.
“I TOOK A LEAP FROM SECURITY TO FREEDOM.”
HOW DID YOU GET INTO WILDERNESS SURVIVAL?
Nowdays it’s a long conversation when you ask me what I do. I’ve always had a passion for wilderness survival and native peoples. On a trip to New York, I drew native tools from an exhibit in the Museum of Natural History and built my own tools based on the drawings. I spent my youth studying the Apache scouts, who moved undetected through the desert and lived off the land, and I’ve taught their techniques to others.
“WITH A LITTLE BAMBOO AND A MACHETE YOU CAN HAVE A FIRE GOING IN 20 MINUTES IF YOU KNOW WHAT YOU’RE DOING.”
It’s always cool when I take friends camping, they can’t believe how little gear we pack. They say ‘where’s the tent? What about bugs?’ You don’t need much to survive out there. I want to be just another mammal on this earth. Living that way means I try to follow summer around the world. It’s much harder to be a minimalist in northern Latitudes.
Last year, Justin put his minimalism to an extreme test, trekking across the Himalaya in Tibet with little more than sandals and a knife.
You call yourself a ninja, a big part of that is climbing stuff that’s not meant to be climbed. What’s your most memorable climb?
He laughs. I can’t tell you about the best ones…
On Facebook you go by Justin Alexander Supertramp…
Christopher McCandless, he says before I can get the words out, yeah, I get that comparison a lot, or rather his alter-ego ‘Alexander Supertramp.’ Eventually I just tacked it onto my Facebook name. But I love people, I love New York City, and I love bars. Vagabonding and living in the backcountry is a way to make social life feel fresh. I’m not trying to cut myself off from society like he was. I do have a lot of respect for the guy. That said, I think it’s too bad we don’t look at the many examples of people who went ‘into the wild’ and lived to tell a great story.
What about settling down? I’m sure you get that a lot too.
Believe it or not, this life is all about balance. I don’t like over-scheduling or, the other extreme, over-drifting. I like having plans. It’s hard to say what my plans are because I do what I want when I want. That means I don’t always know what I’m going to do next. Usually I base my plans on the seasons.
How does someone start living their own adventure?
This is not for everyone. I read something the other day about how scientists think adventurousness is related to the structure of your brain. Basically you’re either an explorer or you’re not.
But you don’t have to do what I do. You don’t have to do it the way I do it. I purposely devote my mental energy to the basic necessities. Living this way is exhausting and that’s the whole point.
It’s okay to sleep in a tent or bring along expensive camera gear. There’s nothing wrong with having weekend escapes while you work a full time job. Do what you can. Do what interests you.
There are so many ways to have adventures. You don’t have to leave the U.S and you probably don’t have to leave your hometown. It’s about developing ‘travel eyes’ and looking for new ways to experience your environment. Walk, take buses, hitchhike, if you feel safe doing that. (Check out Broke Ass Stuart’s own Rae Bathgate on hitchhiking to learn more.)
Read Vagabonding by Rolf Potts, I got so much out of that book in my early travels, and I still read it constantly.
People have been nomadic for centuries, but now is the most convenient time. You can use the internet to find adventures and travel companions. Whatever you do, don’t sit around moaning that the age of explorers is long gone. There’s still so much out there to explore.
Images: Justin Alexander