A 12,000 mile journey through Latin America strengthens father-son bond
Culture | Stephen Chang
Professor Jay Rasmussen and son Conor, currently a Freshman at Bethel, covered nearly 12,000 miles on their trip to Argentina. The duo is looking to complete another trip though the United States and Canada to Alaska.
After two years of planning, Professor of Education Jay Rasmussen and his son completed a 12,000 mile motorcycle journey. The duo began their trek on May 21 in Minnesota with their sights set on Argentina.
Inspiration for the trip came after watching the documentary, "The Long Way Around," which follows two motorcyclists around the world. Rasmussen and son Conor prepared by buying two Kawasaki KLR 650cc motorcycles, which they modified to accommodate their needs on the trip and planning their route far in advance.
The father-son duo left home and traveled south, moving through the United States fairly quickly and without a hitch before reaching Mexico. From Mexico, they biked through Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Honduras and Nicaragua before finally reaching Panama, where they loaded their motorcycles aboard a sailboat that took them to Columbia. From Columbia, the two continued through Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and finally Argentina, where they dropped off their motorcycles to be loaded and shipped back to Minnesota and headed home themselves.
Along the journey, Rasmussen and his son did all they could to take advantage of their time, visiting attractions, interacting with the locals, trying new food and drink, taking in nature and being in each other’s company.
The two stayed at hostels in addition to being hosted by family friends and associates, with whom Rasmussen had made plans with months in advance. To remain in touch with friends and family at home, they brought two laptops, which they used to regularily video chat and update a travel blog. Often the Internet was slow, and at one point, one of the laptops they brought on the trip was stolen.
Prior to the trip, the duo prepared for difficulties that might come their way. Often times, paved roads were non-existent, and they were forced to ride their bikes through mud. To prepare for conditions such as this, they rode on trail paths in Nemadji State Forest in Minnesota. It had conditions similar to those that they would be facing on their trip.
In addition to being difficult to navigate, roads were often closed, and they were forced to find another way around. Food poisoning, running out of gas, and even encountering corrupt police made for memorable moments as well.
"The trip really affirmed for me that what I’m doing makes a difference,” Rasmussen said.
After feeling the grief of seeing poverty first-hand, Rasmussen said he expects to take years unpacking and fully processing the trip.
Conor, who is attending Bethel this fall, said that the trip opened his eyes. Originally, Conor was interested in psychology and biblical and theological studies, but as a result of his experience, he has since decided to become a social studies and education major, specializing in Spanish.
“I want to teach history on the basis of the countries that were oppressed – to teach the history that isn’t taught, and to break down systems of oppression,” he said.
Both Rasmussen and Conor believe that the trip positively impacted their relationship as father and son. "Many people ask about the trip … fathers who have issues connecting with their sons,” Rassmuseen noted. He believes that their trip has “inspired other dads to find shared interests or passions with their kids.”
Conor believes that as a result of their trip their relationship developed into a friendship.
Looking at the trip in its entirety, Rasmussen estimates that the two covered nearly 12,000 miles and spent $10,000, with an average daily cost of $50, mostly spent on gas. The adventure-seeking duo started brainstorming plans for their next adventure on the plane ride home, saying that they would like to go on another trip, either through the States and Canada to Alaska, or in India, where they would like to fly, purchase motorcycles and make their way from there. While their next trip’s destination is currently a mystery, one thing is for certain – both father and son are ready for yet another adventure.
The Rasmussen duo will be talking about their journey at 10:20 a.m. in the library on Sept. 17.