The Backpacker Interviews: Hitch The World

How to hitchhike in the rain

Today I want to introduce you  to a hero of mine. I first stumbled across the blog of Patrick Falterman about two years ago and instantly I was hooked. Pat has taken hitching to a whole new level and has been on the kind of expeditions which, until recently, I could only dream of. Though I have never met him, he has been the single biggest inspiration for me to get out there, hit the road and just see what the hell happens. Pat’s blog is unlike any other I have encountered, it betrays a raw talent for beautiful, often amusing, observations about the world and those who inhabit it. Pat’s writings are sporadic, for sometimes he is in the jungle for months at a time, but he never ceases to amaze me with the sheer scale of his adventures… Pat is something which I aspire to be, one of the last great adventurers, a true explorer. Recently, I have been haranguing him with questions…

 

1. So how long exactly have you been on the road and what first drew you to Hitchhiking

I first started in October 2009. A lack of money mostly drew me to hitching, and then the realization that it was kind of badass to go 3,000 miles with nothing but a sleeping bag and a hat.

 

2. Do you know how far you have hitched?

I find it’s too much work to keep track….but yeah, I’ve gone pretty far.

 

3. I read that you once got stuck in a desert and nearly died whilst hitching?

Oh yeah! Well once upon a time in 2010, I found myself in a bit of a situation in northern Chile. I went wandering along down a dirt road with no traffic and no people with just two bottles of water. Maybe didn’t think that one through. Of course, I thought there would be traffic. But I was 20, made from fire-hardened steel — you know what I mean. But anyways, luckily I found a little shack on the roadside filled with bottles of water. Roadside memorial, apparently, to a woman who died of thirst somewhere around there, according to local legend at least. I helped myself to a few. It turned out the Argentine checkpoint was just 15km further down the road. So I would have probably been fine. But still, I was pretty worried at the time.

 

4. Have you had any other close calls whilst hitching.

Nah. Mostly chill times. A few crazies here and there, but that’s business as usual.

 

5. How have you found hitching in South America in general? Are the locals friendly?

In most areas it’s easy as pie, though some parts of southern Brazil and Argentina can be tedious with those long waits. It helps vastly if you can speak either Spanish or Portuguese. And of course, the locals are very friendly. Without there help I would have never made it as far as Guatemala, let alone into the Amazon with my canoe.

 

6. How many days have you now spent canoeing in the Amazon and how do you survive?

By now it must be close to 300 days on the river. Paddling days, mind you. Not including rest days. I survive mostly by fishing and will shoot the occasional junglefowl or paca to supplement that. I also bring rice and farinha, along with other dry goods.

 

7. How exactly did you learn to hunt?

I’m from Texas. Any infants born without the innate ability to kill animals with firearms are immediately sacrificed to the Rodeo Gods. Failure to do so will cause the Dallas Cowboys to lose Monday Night Football for six hundred years and Hillary Clinton to be elected Queen. Book of Willie Nelson, verse three. Look it up.

Bush Hunting for Hitchhikers

In all seriousness I’ve been hunting since I was a boy. For me it was just another part of growing up in the Texas hill country. So why not do it down here? It’s worth noting that it is illegal here for everyone except for locals who were born on the riverside and rely on it for sustenance. Even though it’s technically illegal, I hunt responsibly and sustainably – meaning, I eat every edible bit of what I kill (including livers, hearts, and gizzards if there is one) and I only hunt abundant species which reproduce fairly quickly such as fowl, rodents, and certain species of caiman.

 

8. What are your thoughts on Pirannahs

I think piranhas are delicious. They’re meaty, abundant, and a mouth-watering delight when fried. They’re a schooling species and so you can catch large numbers of them easily with nets. I see them as toothy little Happy Meals.

Fishing for pirranah

As to their notoriety as man-eaters, that’s mostly Hollywood bullshit. Swimming in piranha-infested rivers (and all of the rivers in the Amazon are piranha-infested) presents little real risk. They mostly prefer to attack other fish, including each other, and only then when the victim is dead or dying. The only situation when I could imagine piranhas tearing the flesh off of a perfectly healthy swimmer is if they were trapped in some isolated pool with no food for many months. Even then, it’s a bit of a long shot.

 

9. How do local people react to you paddling down the Amazon?

Incredulous looks, repeated queries as to why I don’t just buy a motor, and ultimately, respect and friendship. Fluent Portuguese helps immensely. The few kayakers who occasionally paddle down the Amazon River sometimes report hostility from locals but this is usually due to a failure to communicate. Some locals are a bit suspicious, but some fishing talk and half a bottle of cachaça is enough for you to make friends just about anywhere in the Amazon.

 

10. How much longer do you plan on canoeing, do you have more big expeditions planned for the future?

Hm, well I really don’t know. Maybe years more, maybe not. Hell, I could leave tomorrow or I could live here until I’m 90. But in all probability two-ish more years. I have several expeditions planned for 2015. One repeat to the Serra do Aracá and another up near São Gabriel da Cachoeira on the Rio Marié.

 

11. How do you support yourself financially? Have you gotten much work in South America?

Oh, I learned the ways of the road from the street hippies down here. Anyone who has travelled here knows the type. I can twist names out of wire and mend earrings and weave bracelets. I do that on the road, mostly for booze money. I’m also fluent in Portuguese and can hold my own in Spanish. Sometimes I’m a fishing guide. I translate people’s websites. I make and sell cocktails in backpacker towns. And then there’s those times when I just haul sacks of cement up stairways or unload semi truck trailers or scrub the toilets in restaurants. You can always find something to do – if you lower your standards enough.

 

12. What would you say to someone who wants to do a real adventure like this?

By all means, go. But you’ll have to give yourself some time for the lifestyle to sink in. After all, it’s not for everybody.

 

13. Whats the most important thing when planning an expedition?

Better to overestimate yourself than to underestimate. That way, even if you don’t reach that super distant waterfall, well hell, you still went pretty fucking far.

 

14. Have you had many other adventurers join you on your travels? Can I come?

Sure, plenty of buddies have joined me on the road and two or three on the river. I enjoy my solitude but also it’s fun to have others with you to laugh and shoot the shit with. You can come paddle with me, but only if you take off the marigold necklace. I’ll tolerate your hat. Bring alcohol.

About Hitch The World: Hi! I’m Pat; I was born and raised in the hills and forests of Texas. I’ve been on the road since 2009. When there’s no roads to hitch, I paddle my canoe along the Amazon…. Yeah Will I had just finished writing a cool bio about myself for your website but then the power went out before I could send it and then my friend Eduardo came by and we went to his house and burned one and then I went and ate a sandwich in the plaza and had two beers and smoked a cigarette and after I went on my bicycle to answer your email but then I remembered I had to go to the post office to see if any letters came while I was hitchhiking in Mato Grosso so I went to the post office but it was closed so I came back to the LAN house to answer your email but I got distracted by my unsent drafts from 2011 while looking for an automatically saved draft version of the first good bio I wrote but it wasn’t there for some reason and then I saw an email from 2011 in Spanish from when I lived in Santiago and I read it and I thought I sounded like such a douche how did I even manage to exist so anyways then I didn’t feel like writing about myself anymore so this is as good as you’re gonna get for now. Good luck on your travels in Guatemala, it’s a pretty cool place from what I remember. Lots of banana trucks.

As I said before, Pat is a bit of a hero of mine. Check out his site – for the budding adventurers there is so much useful information, including some really great kit lists, hitching tips etc which will help you plan your own expeditions. My great thanks for Pat to letting me interview him and I very much hope to write about Pat again soon – hopefully on some sort of Amazonian team up adventure!

You can follow Pat’s adventures at Hitch The World or on Facebook.

16 Comments

  • I think he just became a hero of mine too. He seems to know exactly who he is, what he wants (alcohol mostly it seems) and does it with a sense of humor. Really nice interview!

  • Alex says:

    Such a fun interview to read! I can totally see why he’s one of your heroes. Pat seems like the type of guy who embodies adventure. I’ll definitely be following along on his blog.

  • Manuel says:

    Lovely interview. Short and sweet. Anyone who thought Pat as awesome, is completely right. In his website you’ll find many book-worthy adventures, a lot of humor, and a lot of information for the beginner hitch-hiker.

  • Pat says:

    Thanks for the interview Will. My site is getting some well-deserved love now. I should write more I guess. Abraços from Barcelos, Amazônia. It’s really really hot and muggy and the river is drying fast and there’s bronzed, bikini-clad girls sitting in the shallows of the town beachfront. Maybe I’ll try to impress them with this interview.

    Stop by someday

    -Pat

  • Pat Falterman (the original) says:

    Yep, I’m his dad and this is all true. I was there when he shot his first deer by himself on our place here in Texas when he was 12, and five shots later it actually died! For those of you who wonder what his parents think of course we worry, but we raised all our kids to be independent and comfortable in their own skin. There are enough doctors and lawyers in the world, and a few adventurers keep us all interested. We can live vicareaously through their lives if we don’t have the heart or maybe a pair of lower organs to do what they are doing. I have travelled with Patrick into the Amazon and I am proud of his independence and love for what he is doing. It’s a short life, love every minute and don’t waste time doing what you think you are supposed to do, do what makes you happy. I can honestly say while not all my kids are quite this extreme in their choice of lifestyle, they are all doing exactly what they want with their lives.

    • Will Hatton says:

      Hello Mr. Falterman! God damn it but you have hit the nail on the head – we sure as hell do have enough lawyers in the world and adventurers like Pat help shake it up a little and show people that there are alternatives lifestyles available.

  • casual tex says:

    Yeahhhh boyyyyy, power to people, from lone star to lone wolf! stay positive and increase the the peace Pat!!!

  • Hi Pat and Will,

    Absolutely freakin awesome! Never seen a dude travel like him; maybe not his style, but if this ain’t a TV series I’ve no clue in hell what is.

    Shooting your dinner, making money on the fly, hitching and just canoeing down the Amazon is not for me but darn I admire the guy. Many are angry when encountering an uncomfortable plane seat. This dude takes moving out of your comfort zone to the next level. Inspirational for me, for sure. I just love that he goes….you know what I mean? Boldly diving into travel and life.

    I hitched on the back of a Fijian truck a week ago. I was hanging from the front grate; huge lumber load, and during load shifts, well, I was happy to have big, strong arms because I was on my tippy toes.

    Nothing compared to Pat’s adventures but barrelling down 10% grades through the mountains of Vanua Levu, it was a thrilling experience. Of course story on my blog 😉

    I have a new found respect for hitchers and travelers in general. If you’ll just be open here and there you’ll love the journey so much more. Dive into freeing but uncomfortable places and you’ll never have more fun….and you’ll have some Pat-like stories to tell, maybe, too.

    Awesome guys!

    Thanks so much. Tweeting soon.

    Signing off from Savusavu, Fiji.

    Ryan

    • Will Hatton says:

      Hi Ryan! How you doing dude? Aww man, hitching is the way forward. I’ve done a fair bit myself throughout Africa and Asia but nowhere near as much as Pat obviously! I’ll check out your story dude, always enjoy reading your blog! 🙂

  • Scott says:

    Badass! As a past hitchhiker (in New Zealand) I’m very glad to have read of Patrick and sad to hear he’s not with us. Read a comment above or at another site from his dad, that there are enough lawyers and doctors in the world, but everyone loves to live vicariously through an adventurer. There’s a Youtube video of when the Amazon Source to Sea expedition ran into him on the Amazon in 2012. Worth checking out (maybe someone mentioned it already but I can’t read back through the comments due to exhaustion). Cheers

  • Scott says:

    The Amazon Express meets Patrick Falterman

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mj1xQ-qG7Jw

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