Alive & Unedited: Chet Ridenour
In January, Chet Ridenour flew from Columbus to Buenos Aires, Argentina. He didn't want to fly back. Instead, he backpacked through 14 countries in eight months, arriving home at the end of September. He shared more about his amazing endeavor.
My official excuse to go on the trip was a wedding. My sister had studied in San Juan, Argentina, when she was in high school about eight or nine years ago. The host family invited us down for their oldest son's wedding. It was the perfect timing for me.
Flying back was an option. I had the roundtrip ticket to go back a month later. I felt the adventure was something I couldn't pass up. It was a whole continent and a half of country, culture, music and food that I wanted to see, experience, live, eat and drink.
I didn't have a route. I was going north. Everyone would say, "Where you going?" I was like, "Well, I'm going home. I'm just going the long way."
The trip was basically all buses, except one train from San Antonio to Chicago and a boat from Columbia to Panama. I was going to hitchhike more, but the reality is that the buses are so cheap. It'd be $5 for a 10- or 12-hour bus ride.
Everything was new and exciting and fresh. With everyone you met, you had the honeymoon phase. You didn't really get to find out why you wouldn't like them. You're the best of friends for three days, you connect on Facebook, but you'll probably never see each other again.
One of the craziest things I did was roast marshmallows on a Pacaya volcano. It's just south of Antigua, Guatemala. You climb up this active volcano with live lava streams running down. You get as close as you wanted. It burned hairs on the back of my leg.
My best memory was volunteering with Pisco Sin Fronteras to help victims of an earthquake in August 2007 that just destroyed the town of Pisco, Peru. I built a bamboo house. We laid concrete footers. I made them business cards. I was going to be there three days - I stayed for two weeks.
The most important thing I learned is that the world isn't as big as you think.
If I could do it over, I wouldn't have rushed. I had a deadline I had to be back for. It was a lot of ground to cover. I only spent two or three days in a spot, and I wish I could've really gotten to know the people along the way.
My furthest end date was Oct. 10. That was the national championships for Aussie rules football. That's why I came back. We lost every game, but that doesn't tell the story.
I actually got homesick in Columbia. I almost called it off, almost flew home. My old man was like, "Hey, stick it out. You're doing something we all dream we could be doing. No regrets."
My next big trip is Cape Town to Cairo after the World Cup.
Know someone doing cool things around Columbus? E-mail John Ross at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Day job: Unemployed
Favorite TV show: Seinfeld
Favorite movie: Braveheart
Favorite band: Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band
Favorite book: How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
Favorite song: "Reason to Believe" by Bruce Springsteen
Favorite food: Mom's veggie tacos
Favorite drink: Stouts and porters
Favorite color: Blue