Our Interview With Jason Lewis, Explorer And Author Of The Expedition Trilogy

Published March 25, 2015
Updated March 21, 2015
Jason Lewis Tibet

Lalung Pass, Tibet. Source: Kenny Brown/Expedition 360

Savannah: How has that reintegration been? You’ve said that much of your trip was based on Thoreau’s maxim of “Simplify, simplify, simplify!”. But then you come back into a culture that tends to value the accumulation of possessions. What’s that process been like for you?

Jason: I always knew that it was going to be hard. I’d done a series of “dress rehearsals” throughout the trip: arriving off an ocean and then having to network in a new town and try to raise money. It takes a while to start normal life again. Your tiny universe of life on a small boat is suddenly blown open once you get to land.

Getting back to England after thirteen years away was like that times ten. I couldn’t deal with it. I found it very tough, because I hadn’t anticipated how quickly life moves on without us. I might as well have been dead for those thirteen years. I suppose it’s an element of my ego that I imagined that things might have…

Savannah: Slowed down?

Jason: Like everyone would be waiting for me. But people move on; they get married, they have children, their interests change. I experienced this massive disconnect and ended up homeless in California for a while, living in a car, trying to write this book that I’ve just finished. That was probably the worst part of the whole journey.

But through that re-integration process, I realize now that the physical journey prepared me for the writing journey. And the writing journey has allowed me to make sense of what I was doing for those thirteen years, and get over some traumatic experiences that were causing some psychological issues. I was eventually diagnosed with PTSD.

Savannah: What was that like for you?

Jason: For about six months after finishing the trip, I was not in a good way mentally. Up until that point I hadn’t had a chance to process some of the things that happened, like being run over by a car in Colorado and attacked by a saltwater crocodile in Australia. Then suddenly I was back, and that’s when these experiences came back to haunt me. So writing the book has allowed me to, essentially externalize a lot of this experience, put it on paper and walk away from it.

That’s one of the wonderful things about writing. Or about any art, I think. It allows you to distance yourself from your demons. And that can lead to wonderfully creative things. But if you don’t find a way to channel that energy, you’ll self-destruct. So I needed to write my own story. Thankfully I didn’t take the six-figure advance from Harper Collins, which would have resulted in my story being written a ghostwriter, and I wouldn’t have gone through that externalization process.

Savannah Cox
Savannah Cox holds a Master's in International Affairs from The New School as well as a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, and now serves as an Assistant Professor at the University of Sheffield. Her work as a writer has also appeared on DNAinfo.