Journal

The Nikon Kidd Interviews

Between 2014 and 2016 I travelled some 20,000 miles by train, thumb, and van, documenting the vagabonds, travelers, trainhoppers, and tramps of the United States. I have collected 50+ interviews, which have been collected here. When I started this project, I had no idea where it would lead me. I had no idea the impact these people would have on me, nor the wise words they had.

These people are often looked down upon. They’re outcasts, but part of a tight-knit community of travelers. Every one of them travels for a different reason and in a different way, but they all have one thing in common: They’re keeping the vagabond spirit of America alive.

Port Townsend, Washington

Do you have any lessons from the road?

“I’m so acutely aware of the time I waste on small decisions that don’t really matter. Because I’m traveling so aimlessly it’s decisions like “Should I go this way or should I go that way?”

I’ve learned that it’s best to get on my bike and start pedaling.”

 

 

Boulder, Colorado

“At the end of the day, we only have what we do right now…It doesn’t matter if you live the American Dream or you hitchhike for the rest of your life. At the end of the day, it’s just the experiences you have that are worth anything.”

 

Oregon Coast, Northbound

“The less stuff you have, the more freedom you have…There’s less to tie you down, less to get in your way. In our case, we measure weight in pounds, not tons. If we drop 50 pounds, our van will drive better”

 

 

Port Townsend, Washington

What’s something you learned while traveling?

“I just realized that all this shit that we have, we don’t need. All of the urban places were sucking my soul, because everything was asking for money. If you want to see a movie you’ve got to pay $10. You want a nice dinner? You’ve got to pay $20. If you want a cup of coffee you’ve got to pay $3….It was all just there for money.

It felt so good just to get out and go to some wild area and bathe in the river instead of pay for a day pass at the YMCA or something.

I just fell in love with nature and traveling because it doesn’t have a price.”

 

 

National Hitchgathering: Nevada City, California

“I always wanted to travel, ever since I was young, but I never imagined that I’d be traveling like this. I always had it in my mind that I needed money and a nice job. Asian parents, you know. I heard of people hopping trains, and I started looking it up. I became obsessed with it and then one day, I just left.

There were a lot of things I wanted to leave behind. In some ways, I feel like traveling saved my life”

 

 

2015 National Rainbow Gathering, South Dakota

How’d you get on a cargo ship?

“Well, I was very determined to cross into Colombia from Panama without a plane ticket, but you can’t. There’s no road.”

The Darién Gap?

“Yeah, and there’s a lot of drug war going from one side in the south. That’s the side I started out on. I saw a couple dead bodies before I turned around to try the other edge.”

That’s pretty scary.

“Yeah, but it was so beautiful.”

 

 

 

Boulder, Colorado

“I was on a train. It was one of the ones with the three big holes on the bottom. I asked my buddy for rolling papers to roll a cigarette. He leaned back and went through the hole. He was gone, just like that.

One night I was on a ride with 20 kids, all on top of a boxcar drinking, having fun and singing. In the morning four of them were gone. We lost four kids that night out there in Arizona. That’s why I got this (pointing to the four dots tattooed above his right cheek).

It really does change your mentality. You start to think about how dangerous it is. People think we get by for free, but honesty we pay dearly for this. We pay with our lives.

That’s why now I won’t travel with anyone who doesn’t know what they’re doing. Because now I’m responsible for that person’s life. What if something happens?”

 

 

 

2015 National Rainbow Gathering, South Dakota

What’s something you’ve learned since you started traveling?

“People are kind of the same everywhere. There are different accents and more of certain kinds of people, but for the most part the world is occupied by really nice people.”

 

 

 

Asheville, North Carolina

Can I take your picture?

Do you have a dollar?

Nope

Well, do you need one?

 

 

Boulder, Colorado

“Give as much as possible, all the time. Kindness. Pay it forward. If you make some money. Toss it to someone who looks like they don’t have a skill. We’re pretty chatty musical people, but we see people who aren’t. We have very little, but we give a large portion of it.”

 

 

Boulder, Colorado

“I’m pretty much a professional hitchhiker. I do it efficiently and fast.

If you’re smart about it, you make a good sign, you look clean, you get there early in the morning, you get your thumbs up proudly up in the air, and you wave at people who drive by. Smile at them, and look them in the eyes. You need a great place for cars to stop, so have a good pull out.

If you want, you can make colorful signs. Seriously, if you invest in your sign, people will say ‘Those people have colored pens. They don’t have drugs; they’re having fun.’ If you do all that, you should get picked up. My girlfriend and I get picked up all the time by people picking up their first hitchhikers.”

 

 

One of my campsites in Forks, Washington

 

 

2015 Wakarusa Music Festival: Ozark, Arkansas

“Do what makes you happy.”

 

 

Northbound on the “Juice Train” in Ft. Lauderdale

 

 

Asheville, North Carolina

“If you think chasing your dream is going to take too much time, that time is going to pass anyway”

 

Asheville, North Carolina

What’s something you’ve learned in your years traveling?

“It’s not as hard as you think it is”

Camping under a rail underpass in the middle of nowhere, Kansas

 

 

Knoxville, Tennessee

Why do you pick up hitchhikers?

“I like to help others. Plus, it’s like putting help in the bank…It’s not going be from you, but it may be from people like you”

 

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