Recent Developments

In the last couple of months I have been giving several talks and presentations. I received very positive and useful feedback, which allowed me to further refine my materials. I have put together a page with more information about the digital audio-visual media materials as well as the presentation here:

Digital Media and Inspirational Presentations

If you’re interested to hire me for a presentation, feel free to contact me by sending email to tlausser@hotmail.com.

My recumbent finally has a proud new owner: Sean Beresford from California bought this Seiran (manufacturer: Challengebikes.com) and is now the third rider of this particular bike. Each of the previous two owners rode it from Alaska to Patagonia. So it’s up to Sean to perhaps complete the hat-trick! That would make this bike the first recumbent to ride the Panamerican Highway not just twice but three times!

I am continuing with the book project. I had written several chapters and obtained feedback from a few editors. That feedback made me change my approach a bit and I rewrote quite a few chapters. Each time after the presentations I got additional feedback and felt a renewed sense of wonder and excitement about this journey. It is now time to wrap it up and complete the book. Look out for some announcements here in the near future.

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Some Frequently Asked Questions

When people learn about my project, they inevitably ask questions involving superlatives: Where was the most beautiful place? What was the hardest part? What was the most dangerous part? etc. I find it hard to pick just one place or experience, so I usually offer a small number of them to chose from. I put together answers to several commonly asked questions such as:

  • What was the hardest part of your trip?
  • Which part of the bike ride did you enjoy the most?
  • How do you prepare for such a trip?
  • Have you ever been in a dangerous situation or felt unsafe?
  • What did you learn from this project or how did it change you?
  • The big question: What’s next?
  • Check out the answers on my FAQ page.

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    Presentations in California

    Later this April I will be conducting 3 presentations at REI stores in California as follows:

  • Tue, Apr-19: Santa Monica
  • Wed, Apr-20: San Francisco
  • Thu, Apr-21: MountainView
  • Presentations will be from 7-8pm, followed by some Q&A.

    The presentations are advertised on the REI websites as follows:

    In May 2009, independent traveler Thomas Laussermair set off on an adventure of a lifetime-to pedal the length of the Panamerican Highway (Alaska to Patagonia) and climb the highest mountain of every country along the way. Tonight, Thomas will give a digital presentation of some of the most exhilarating segments of his 14-month journey. Join Thomas as he ropes up for glacier travel on Canada’s wild and remote Mount Logan (19,551 feet), braves the high heat of Baja California, cycles across the stunning Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia, and makes an unguided climb of Argentina’s Aconcagua (22,841 feet). Thomas will show you what it takes to plan an adventure of this magnitude, and discuss what he learned along the way. For more information, visit www.panamericanpeaks.com.

    For directions to the stores and to reserve your seat, please go to
    www.rei.com/santamonica
    www.rei.com/sanfrancisco
    www.rei.com/mountainview

    Looking forward to seeing you there!

    May 1st, update: The 3 presentations went well and the content was very well received. Polly Bolling, Bay Area REI Outreach Specialist and Event Coordinator had this to say after the presentations: (highlights added)

    Hi Thomas:

    My belated thanks for all you did to put on a fantastic show at each of our stores! Will and Martin were wowed by your program. The customer evals from SF are exceptional. I’m still waiting for those from Mountain View, and have no doubt they are similar. … “very informational and inspiring”, “fascinating stories, lively presentation”, and “stunning adventure!” are a few of the many superlatives. …

    I wish I could have seen your show, and hope we can interest you in coming again when your book is out. I’d love to schedule you in Berkeley, Saratoga and one of our other Bay Area stores.

    Best,

    Polly

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    Is adventure one way of being a kid again?

    In today’s Wall Street Journal’s article “In Defense of Being a Kid”, James Bernard Murphy (professor of government at Dartmouth College) looks at the recent debate around childhood discipline and preparation for adulthood. As a father of two teenage children I have followed this debate with interest for some time. It struck me that what he lists as blessings of childhood also come close to describing many of the joys of adventure. Below I intersperse some of my thoughts on those in between parts quoted from this article.

      Amy Chua, the “tiger mother,” is clearly hitting a nerve—especially among the anxious class (it used to be called the upper class), which understands how much skill and discipline are necessary for success in the new economy.

      What Ms. Chua and her critics agree on is that childhood is all about preparation for adulthood. Ms. Chua claims that her parenting methods will produce ambitious, successful and happy adults—while her critics argue that her methods will produce neurotic, self- absorbed and unhappy ones.

      It took economist Larry Summers, in a debate with Ms. Chua at the World Economic Forum in Davos, to point out that part of the point of childhood is childhood itself. Childhood takes up a quarter of one’s life, Mr. Summers observed, and it would be nice if children enjoyed it.

      Children are not merely adults in training. They are also people with distinctive powers and joys. A happy childhood is measured not only by the standards of adult success, but also by the enjoyment of the gifts given to children alone.

    Now the author goes on to ask what the unique blessings of childhood are:

      First is the gift of moral innocence: Young children are liberated from the burdens of the knowledge of the full extent of human evil—a knowledge that casts a pall over adult life. Childhood innocence permits children to trust others fully. How wonderful to live (even briefly) with such confidence in human goodness. Childhood innocence teaches us what the world ought to be.

    When you are touring other countries by bicycle you do meet a lot of people along the road or in small towns. You experience basic joys – like the freedom of the road, discovery and wanderlust – and you have basic needs and desires – like finding food, shelter from the elements or a safe place to stay overnight. Other people recognize this intuitively and connect with that. Such basic motifs and needs unite people across different cultural, religious, economic and ethnic backgrounds. Many of the people you meet may give you directions, water and food – some may even invite you to stay at their place. They show human goodness and you trust them fully. I think such innocent connections remind us again of what the world ought to be.

      Second is the gift of openness to the future. We adults are hamstrung by our own plans and expectations. Children alone are free to welcome the most improbable new adventures.

    The most improbable new adventures – I felt free to welcome those during my journey, and while I did have some expectations, I never felt hamstrung by them. Not quite knowing what the new day will bring is part of the allure of heading out on the open road…

      Third, children are liberated from the grim economy of time. Children become so absorbed in fantasy play and projects that they lose all sense of time. For them, time is not scarce and thus cannot be wasted.

    Becoming absorbed in a project to the point where one loses all sense of time – that’s part of the experience of Flow, a concept in positive psychology I have written about previously. When you’re out in remote wilderness – such as the ice-fields around Mount Logan or the salt flats on the Bolivian altiplano – time takes on a different meaning. While the time of day still matters for practical reasons (daylight, temperature, etc.), the day of the week loses all importance, and one is indeed liberated from the grim economy of time.

      Finally, we parents are so focused on adult superiority that we forget that most of us produced our best art, asked our deepest philosophical questions, and most readily mastered new gadgets when we were mere children.

    Asking deep philosophical questions requires us to take time for introspection, step back from the routine of everyday tasks and schedules, focus on the big picture. More than at any other time I found myself contemplating the purpose and the intrinsic joys of my actions. On the recumbent bicycle the daily pursuit of the horizon seemed like a perfect metaphor for the ephemeral pursuit of happiness.

      Tragically, there is a real conflict within childhood between preparation for adulthood and the enjoyment of the gifts of youth. Preparation for adulthood requires the adoption of adult prudence, discipline and planning that undermine the spontaneous adventure of childhood.

    Here I’d prefer to use the word change over conflict. For example, even though I’m not young anymore – at least not by childhood standards – I enjoyed the gift of health, mobility and energy. I’m not so sure that prudence, discipline and planning necessarily always undermine adventure. It’s a balancing act: Venturing out into remote places is an adventure. At the same time, you want to be prudent and prepared enough that you don’t get yourself into serious trouble. I wouldn’t want to head out into the middle of the Salar de Uyuni without enough water or at least some tools to fix possible mechanical defects. But you also don’t want to plan ahead every detail of your journey either; many of the most wonderful meetings with local people resulted precisely from the need to improvise in unforeseen situations.

      Parents are deeply conflicted about how to balance these two basic demands: raising good little ladies and gentlemen, while also permitting children to escape into the irresponsible joys of Neverland.

      … But as parents we are stuck with trying to balance the paradoxical demands of both preparing our children for adulthood and protecting them from it.

      As the current dustup shows, many parents today would benefit hugely by taking a reflective time-out from teaching our children to discover how much we might learn from them.

    Well said. – While kids can’t stay young forever, adventure is a good way of staying fit, remaining young at heart and experiencing childlike joys transcending the many confines of adulthood.

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    Peaks and Rides

    After combing through all my daily notes I have finally edited all individual pages for the peaks and the country rides of this adventure.

    Index of Peaks:

    Denali (Mt. McKinley) Mount Logan Mount Whitney Pico Orizaba Volcan Tajumulco El Pital Las Minas Pico Mogoton Cerro Chirripo Vocan Baru Pico Cristobal Colon Volcan Chimborazo Huascaran Nevado Sajama Ojos del Salado Aconcagua
    Final Status of Peaks as of July 2010

    Final Status of Peaks as of July 2010 (S = Summit, A = Attempt)

    Index of Rides:

    Alaska Canada United States Mexico Guatemala El Salvador Honduras Nicaragua Costa Rica Panama Colombia Ecuador Peru Bolivia Chile Argentina
    Rides through the Countries of the Americas

    Rides through the Countries of the Americas

    You can also see these details from the two index pages Peaks and Rides.

    Furthermore, I have pinpointed all stations during my ride on Google Earth and put screen-shots into the pages for the respective country. This shows the route and daily distances at a high level.

    Google Earth is a fascinating tool which allowed me to retrace my own journey in often amazing detail. In particular in North America, where you have street-view with navigable photos and even 3D model displays of some areas (for instance buildings or bridges). This completes my set of pages and posts. Now on to continuing with work on the book about the adventure…

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