After 14 years, my dream is about to come true: My 11-part travel series, Pura Vía, is about to debut in The Tico Times.
Last April, I attempted a long bicycle trip in Central America. I don’t want to spoil the story, so that’s all I’m going to say about it. The physical journey was important to me, of course, and I relished the challenge. Friends saw some reports on Facebook—photographs of lakes and volcanoes, bits of text here and there—but I wanted to keep the particulars quiet, because I had bigger plans.
On Monday, Aug. 18, the first “episode” of Pura Vía will be published in The Tico Times, the region’s most distinguished English-language newspaper, and the most important reason I now live in Costa Rica. Pura Vía will have 11 “episodes,” which chronicle my odyssey and the people and places I encountered. The series will incorporate photographs, video clips, and original artwork by Tico Times’ brilliant designer, Haime Luna.
I pitched the idea to my editor, David Boddiger, in December of 2013, and I sculpted the concept with the Tico Times’ owner, Jonathan Harris. Both of these men have become my mentors and friends over the past year, and to work on such an ambitious project with them is a profound honor. Newspapers have a long tradition of serialized travelogues, going back to the days of Henry Stanley and Mark Twain. Nearly all of Ernest Hemingway’s “journalism” was actually first-person nonfiction written on the road for various newspapers and magazines. I have done this kind of thing before, but no publication had ever commissioned a serial. Now I could write a long-form story that invited readers to come back, every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
The Tico Times has undergone some significant changes lately, metamorphosing from a printed newspaper to a 24-hour news outlet. As far as I know, The Tico Times has never done anything quite like Pura Vía. Not only is the story a serial, but Haime designed a completely separate layout, which looks more like a magazine, and thanks to the technical wizardry of Matthew Caruana Galizia, the template will be dynamic and somewhat interactive.
Pura Vía has been an uphill battle and a massive collaborative effort, and I could never have done it alone. I was encouraged to drive around with Karlo Hurtado, an energetic Tico Times sales rep, to try and find advertisers. Pura Vía is tough to describe, especially when there’s nothing to compare it to, but Karlo understood the concept right away. The hours we spent driving around in his car felt nearly as adventurous as biking truck-infested Costa Rican highways.
Nine months after I pitched the idea, and 14 years after I dreamed it up in the first place, Pura Vía is about to become a reality. Never have I wanted so badly for a project to be successful, nor have I ever fought so hard to reify such an iconoclastic idea. In many ways, trying to film myself climbing the tallest mountain the continental U.S. was easy by comparison. But this team has astonished me like none I’ve ever worked with: David and Jonathan put complete faith in my abilities, despite their (realistic) concerns that I might get crushed beneath a passenger bus. Karlo used every resource he could find to forge partnerships with other businesses, and he succeeded. Matthew did back-end coding that I will frankly never understand but grandly appreciate. And Haime—well, he’s the most creative person I ever met, and the Pura Vía design looked so elegant the first time I saw it that I almost teared up.
I hope you’ll join me on my eccentric little adventure, as it is the proudest thing I’ve done all year, and because this is exactly the kind of thing I want to do for the rest of my life. Ever since I was a teenager, my most passionate desire was to travel and write about it. Pura Vía is about 300 miles in the right direction.