This summer, Oswego State’s former alcohol and other drug program coordinator embarked on the journey of a lifetime: an intercontinental motorcycle tour. The first few months of Winkworth’s trip have taken him all the way across the continental United States. So far, Winkworth’s trip has been far from a straight line drive.
“It goes west, it goes north up to the Dakotas, and then it goes to Utah, and then back through Colorado to Tennessee, to Georgia and then back around the bottom of the United States, up the coast of California,” Winkworth said. “Then it was back through Utah, down to New Mexico, and then back to Tennessee, then up here. Yeah, it’s been insane. I did this and laughed about how pointless it all seems.”
However, the trip has been anything but pointless in Winkworth’s eyes; it’s been a learning experience.
“Human beings are capable of so much. I knew it going out into it, but the stuff that we overcame, and I say we because I was riding with a guy at one point, and I have friends that I went on adventures with …we’re capable of so much,” Winkworth said.
The knowledge that he gained was equally as important to Winkworth as the experiences themselves.
“We are so used to having conveniences that fix our problems, and not having that is a really awesome experience. The other thing I learned is that people are legitimately amazing. I met people who, they found out I was on this trip and they kind of looked at me sideways and then they wanted to help. Like, they wanted to be a part of it, and they wanted to help push me forward,” Winkworth said. “I wouldn’t have been able to survive without them. So, that was another huge one, that we often talk about how ‘the people over there suck’ or ‘those are mean people’ or ‘those are jerks’, and when it comes down to it, most people are really, really awesome if you give them a chance to be, which is cool.”
Winkworth’s plan for his adventure was simple: to have no plan.
“I tried really hard not to have expectations. I’m lucky that I’ve gotten to travel enough where I know that nothing you imagine will ever pan out the way it’s going to be. It was incredible,” Winkworth said. “As it turns out, riding a motorcycle all day isn’t as freeing and exciting as you think it is; it’s more painful and annoying. Living off the land is difficult. You know, you get dirty, you’re cold, you’re tired, you’re hungry, and you’re away from the people you care about. It’s not necessarily as glamorous as it is when you’re imagining it, but at the same time it’s just as rewarding.”
This trip has remained inside U.S. borders, but there are still eight months left in the original time plan. Winkworth went on a community service trip to Jamaica through Oswego State in 2011. It introduced him to “legitimate poverty in the third world,” and ever since he has begun to realize how much is taken for granted by people living in countries like the U.S.
“I’ve always wanted to go and get more invested in that kind of lifestyle and to really kind of explore what it is to live in another country, and not have all of the conveniences that we have, and figure out how do people get by, what do they do, and how can I be a part of that,” Winkworth said.
Winkworth wants to visit El Salvador for at least four months and venture into South America if possible. Where he will go after that, he remains unsure.
The adventures he’s had are enough to sustain his interest in the trip.
Winkworth has been working on a novel since before he left his position at Oswego State and with this journey the novel has grown into something much more.
“I’ve been working on a book for a while, but now, all the people that I’ve met along the way have sort of been turned into characters for the book,” Winkworth said. “So now I’m writing this novel and that’s really kind of my main focus: go on adventures, write about the adventures, try to get people excited about what they’re capable of, and at the same time, write a novel where that’s sort of the key central theme to it. I’m so excited about that.”
Having no plan led Winkworth to a lot of unexpected opportunities. For example, on the spur of the moment he ended up enrolling in skydiving school. He was riding his motorcycle through Tennessee, he saw some skydivers and he went to the skydiving school to ask for a job. He was expecting them to laugh in his face, but they didn’t. He started doing his jump licensing and now he is a skydiver. He met hang gliders and parasailing through the job and ended up going parasailing in Utah with a man he met in jump school.
“I never thought I’d be in skydiving school. I never thought I’d be jumping out of planes, but it just happened,” Winkworth said.
Even though he describes his adventure so far as perfect, Winkworth still misses some things about being at Oswego State, like the people.
“I’m at a point where I left my job because I was ready to move on to the next thing. You know, but even just coming back, and seeing everyone, and realizing how much I’m cared about, and how much I care about people here… That’s a really hard thing to walk away from,” Winkworth said.
Winkworth’s parting message for Oswego State is similar to what he had said before he left.
“Get involved in all the opportunities that you have. I just talked to someone today who’s really on the fence about going on an alternative winter or spring break because they heard that it’s dangerous. They heard that there are armed guards, and well, what does that mean, and what have I heard about it. The experience of leaving this country, and doing it in a way that’s sanctioned by the university, is the most valuable thing I can think of,” Winkworth said.
“And, when you take into account all of the other opportunities you have through being a student here, whether it be getting invested in a club, or finding people that are from another culture that you might not know through the Hart Hall global experience, that stuff is huge, and so many people don’t do it because they either don’t understand the value of it, they’re scared of it, or they just don’t realize the pot of gold that they are sitting on that 90 percent of the world’s population don’t get to have, and it’s right here in Oswego, New York.”