A few weeks ago at the San Diego Travel Festival, I had the opportunity to meet a bunch of great people, but one person in particular stood out for his awesome tales of adventure, entrepreneurism, and frankly he's just a cool fellow blogger. Allan Karl - better known as WorldRider set off on a journey around the world ... inspired by Marco Polo, Ferdinand Magellan and Phileas Fogg but he did so on the back of his motorcycle - a single cylinder BMW F650GS Dakar.
Over the course of a 3 year journey, he visited more than 35 countries. During this time, he documented the journey through photography and writing - ultimately ending up being compiled into his book FORKS. The book is an adventure story that explores the connections between people that are made through Culture and Cuisine, with more than 700 photographs (some of which are provided below) and includes more than 35 recipes from around the world that he collected while on his journey.
What inspired you to create the book?
The experience of traveling the world overland is incredible. I could not keep this to myself. I knew that one day I'd write a book, but it occurred to me one night after I cooked one of the most memorable dishes of my entire journey, a moqueca from Brazil, it occurred to me that I had to share it through pictures, stories and food—readers could experience the world by seeing it through my photography, feeling it through my stories of connection and culture and taste it through the local food.
I never set out to write about food or a cookbook. Yet, when I returned home, I struggled to find the best way to share my journey with others. It finally hit me over that dinner with friends: I remembered the connections I had made with new friends over the meals and stories we had shared—together.
As I traveled, it occurred to me how important the ritual of sharing food is and how much we learn when we take the time to connect and share a meal with strangers or good friends.
This book brings the world to our tables. This is the best way to share and experience the world—as I did again and again during my journey—spending moments and making memories with good friends over real food and conversation.
How long did your trip take and how many countries did you visit?
My journey lasted more than 3 years. In total, I visited 35 countries. I visited most all of Latin America including central and south and the countries of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. I could go on, but Colombia, Bolivia, Malawi, Sudan, Syria and Turkey were also along my route.
Do you have any regrets - did you take a left when you should have taken a right and missed seeing something awesome?
I live by the golden rule that the only things you truly regret in life are those things you didn't do or take advantage of — for the most part, my journey was full of experiences that could fill a dozen books—many stories only shared over the dinner table and good wine. So it's hard to think and search my memory for something I might have missed.
In Alaska, I remember riding below bronze tinted skies created by raging wildfires and in looming bad weather of rain and sleet when I passed a unique looking compound in the middle of nowhere. A big sign identified the ramshackle building as "Mr. Alaska." I couldn't get the image of the building, that weather and smoke out of my mind for days and truly regret not stopping to check out; perchance to meet "Mr. Alaska."
I wonder if he or the building is still there. Hmmmm.
Of all the places you covered in your book, which was the most awesome experience?
This is impossible to answer. I do know that I appreciated the blend of Latin and European culture in Buenos Aires, Argentina — great food, live music and a creative and artistic community. I loved Ethiopia for its rich culture, kept in tact, perhaps, due to it being the only country in Africa that never was colonized. And I be remiss if I didn't mention the hospitality, kindness and rich culture of the Syrians. I loved Syria. My stomach turns and tears fall when I think about what's going on there today.
With your grand journey completed, what's next?
I'm working hard on sharing my stories, the positive experiences, the beautify of humanity and the wonders of culture through my book FORKS: A Quest for Culture, Cuisine and Connection. My new mission is to get "FORKS" on more tables — coffee tables and kitchen tables — and into the hands of as many people possible so that each reader has a chance to experience and expand a broader worldview. After a year or so of promotion I'm looking at getting back on the road and possibly bringing new experiences through not only another book, but also possibly with a film documentary or television series.
What's one place in the world that you would go with a group of guys and who would you pick to join you?
Buenos Aires. There's no question. Great food, restaurants, access to adventurous day trips and more. It makes a great base of exploring South America, too. Plus, today, Buenos Aires and Argentina also provide excellent value for travelers with dollars.
Is there anywhere you haven't gone yet but are dreaming of visiting?
Iran. I made trips to three Iranian embassies/consulates as I made my way through the Middle East. Each time, I was turned down for a visa. I hope I get the chance to convince the Iranians to let me and my motorcycle into their country. From Iran I want to ride into Pakistan and travel, winding my way around the glorious mountains and through remote villages along the Karakoram Highway.
I also want to circumnavigate and criss-cross the wonderful island nation of Madagascar. I will do all of these journeys over the next few years!