Have you thought about what your life could be like if you felt grateful every time you stepped outside? Ryan Van Duzer, a bike adventurer from Colorado, finds himself more grateful every adventure he takes. In this episode, Sonya and Ryan talk about gratitude, stepping outside your comfort zone, the bike community, inspiring others, positivity and more.
Ryan grew up in Colorado. He started as a runner and has learned to love the bike. He joined the Peace Corps and worked in Honduras for two years. At the end of his time there, instead of flying home, he opted to ride his bike back to Colorado. This sparked his love for bike adventures around the world, meeting new people and sharing those moments with others on his YouTube channel.
Some of his favorite adventures include that 4,000 mile bike ride from Honduras to Boulder, surviving the jungles of Venezuela on the TV show Out of the Wild Venezuela, the Leadville 100 ultramarathon, riding across the United States, and so many more.
He is committed to the environment and had his book, The Long Way Home, printed on 100% recycled paper, using algae-based ink.
“A good adventure to me is doing something new and exciting. But the most important elements are the people I meet. I love meeting people. And whether I’m riding the Great Divide mountain bike route down Montana, Colorado, Wyoming, and I’m meeting people in small town America and talking to them about what makes them tick. That’s the kind of stuff that excites me. And I share their stories, again, on my channel, because my viewers love meeting these people as well. So meeting people is probably the number one thing and of course, I like pushing my body. I like challenging myself, I like going fast downhill. I like beautiful sunsets and sunrises and rainbows. Being outside just makes me happy. Like, it really does.”– Ryan Van Duzer
- Experiencing gratitude
- Ryan’s time in the Peace Corps
- Stepping outside your comfort zone
- Riding his bike from Honduras back to Colorado
- Getting started – starting small and working your way up
- Finding your purpose
- Committing to creative pursuits despite the challenges
- Sharing his adventures with his community
- Finding glimmers of positivity
- Ryan’s commitment to the environment
- What makes a good adventure
- Learn more about Ryan Van Duzer
- Check out Ryan’s book
- Subscribe to Ryan’s YouTube channel
- Sign up for my weekly newsletter!
Sonya Looney: Ryan Van Duzer it’s so awesome to see you.
Ryan Van Duzer: So good to see you.
Sonya: That’s so funny. So I lived in Boulder, for those that don’t know listening, for about 10 years, and I moved away in 2013. And I don’t know how we met, it might have been like on the cruiser ride or something, but I always remembered you as a super optimistic fun guy that loved bikes and you always had a smile on your face and seeing you 10 years later, you’re still that guy, and everybody else seems to have this experience of your infectious energy and optimism.
Ryan: Thank you. Yeah, I’m the same guy. I just have more gray hair now. But I remember you too back in Boulder. You were like the boulder biker legend babe.
Sonya: Oh, geez. So speaking of gray hair, perspective is something that I’ve been thinking about. Yeah, perspective is something I’ve been thinking about. And I’m turning 40 this year. What has changed in your perspective over the years?
Ryan: I’m just more grateful for every little thing these days. Back when I was younger, I don’t think I appreciated the little things in life, like a sunny day, or a beautiful cloud in the sky. I just took that for granted that that’s just how life is every day. I grew up in Boulder and the weather’s almost always awesome. And it’s just the little things, I go on these long bike trips, or these ultra marathons, and even though they hurt, or they can be hard, I appreciate that my body is even able to get to the start line, and to spend months training, and to have the money to fly and travel and go to these exotic places and meet wonderful people. And I’m just loving life right now. That’s my perspective, it just keeps getting better.
Sonya: So why do you think the gratitude piece has developed more as you’ve gotten older?
Ryan: I have a very close friend named Dana. She’s on my YouTube channel a lot. And she’s a great mentor. She’s about 20 years older than me. So I’ve learned a lot from her. And she really leans heavy into gratitude. And it’s worn off on me. And it’s real, it’s genuine. It’s legit. I’m not faking it, like, oh, look at this cool cloud. No, I really like that cool cloud. And the older I get I realize that time is flying a bit. When you’re young, you sometimes think that you’re always going to be young, and you’re always going to be fit, and you’re never going to be injured. And that’s not really the case. So you know, it’s just like, you know, I’m just happy to wake up and the sun is shining, and my body feels good. And I’m gonna put on some running shoes and head out the door.
Sonya: Yeah, I can relate with the gratitude piece, especially some of the races that I’ve done have been in third world countries. And I know that you’ve been to a lot of developing countries yourself, and things that you just don’t even realize, like you have garbage pickup, people in other places have to burn their garbage, or you can let the water in the shower run all over your face and drink it. And I just never would have even known that that was a privilege until I saw the other people did not have that.
Ryan: Absolutely. You know, I lived for two years in Honduras in the Peace Corps, when I was 23 to 25 years old. And that was definitely eye opening after having grown up in Boulder, which is such a nice town. I lived in a small adobe house that sometimes had running water and most of the times didn’t, and I had to go out back to my well, and fill up buckets of water. And I took bucket baths for two full years. And it was always cold. And then years later, I did this discovery channel survival show. We were out in the jungles of Venezuela for a month and it was a complete sufferfest. And yeah, you kind of forget like how easy life is in the western world where you turn your faucet on, and there’s water that comes out that you can drink. And oh, you have a light switch on your wall and you can just flick it in the lights turn on. That’s amazing.
Sonya: And the power is reliable anytime you want. It doesn’t go out for hours at a time.
Ryan: Yeah, it really is quite incredible. And we really are privileged to live in this world.
Sonya: So what made you think to go into the Peace Corps?
Ryan: I’d always done volunteer projects, even through high school, I always had a very service-oriented mind. And maybe that was because I was raised in Boulder by a single mom, she had four kids, she worked her butt off, we didn’t have a ton of money. And people helped our family. There were times when people really stood up and helped us out. And I always promised myself as a little guy be like, oh, whenever I have the ability I’m going to give back because people have given so much to us. And so that’s why I wanted to join the Peace Corps and really live in a community for a long period of time and do good work. I volunteered in the Dominican Republic at orphanages and in Guatemala before I did the Peace Corps to get a taste of what it would be like, but this was only two weeks at a time, and you don’t quite have enough time to get to know the language and the people and the culture and build up trust with the locals. And I really wanted to see what it would be to live far, far away in a small village. And it was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. I mean, of course, it was hard. It was challenging, some of the most challenging moments of my life. But it was rewarding. And I loved it. And I’m still very close with all of the people I worked with. I’ve been back to Honduras four different times. And yeah, that’s kind of why I joined.
Sonya: Yeah, well, if anybody knows you, or of you, they know of your mom. And she’s awesome. She’s famous. I wanted to actually ask you, you mentioned some of the most wonderful, but also some of the most difficult times and I can imagine, age 23 going to Honduras, and you mentioned bucket showers, not having running water, completely different from how you grew up. How did you adapt to that change and not give up?
Ryan: Yeah, well, first of all, it was very hard to leave mom. I’m a total mama’s boy. I will never forget the moment at the airport where she drove me to DIA and she knew that she was dropping off her little boy for two years. And we barely talked in the car, not because we didn’t want to, but because we couldn’t talk without crying. And we get to the airport and we’re both sobbing, and I’m excited and scared. I’m excited that I’m going to join the Peace Corps and go live far away. But I’m also scared; it’s going to be very different and hard and uncomfortable. I’m going to be away from my support system. And that was a spooky moment. But right when I got on that airplane, and I landed in Honduras, things changed, and the excitement came back. And I’ll be forever grateful for that experience. I remember, months into my service, things weren’t going well, it was hard to get, get a foot in the community. didn’t know what my purpose was. And I remember chatting with my mom online. This was way before FaceTime or video chat. And it was AOL messenger or something and kind of complaining to her that I’m this is so hard. I can’t do this. This sucks. And she’s like, Ryan, you can do this. I’m far away and I know you can’t hear my voice, but I believe in you, you got this. And yeah, my mom’s been a driving force through a lot of the things that I’ve done in my life. Because again, she was a single mom raised four kids, life was very hard for her going to work all day and then taking care of kids. And I was like, if my mom can do all this hard stuff, and dig deep, I can do it too. It’s obviously in my DNA. And that really helped me through a lot of it.
Sonya: I need to listen to an interview with your mom, that’s my dream as a new parent is when my kids are older to be saying those types of things about me that I’ve helped them that in that way.
Ryan: Yeah, it’s like, I’m sure they will, you’re an awesome, but if you want to talk to my mom…
Sonya: So, it seems like that experience really set you up for life outside your comfort zone. And that’s something that you have seemed to pursue over and over and over throughout your life with Out of the Wild Venezuela and this bike tour that we’re going to talk about, and all these adventures and ultra-marathons. For people who are a little bit nervous about trying something out of their comfort zone or maybe they think I’m just not one of those people like Ryan and Sonya can do it, but I can’t do that, like what do you have to say for them to help them take that step?
Ryan: Well, I always say that you are one of those people. I’m not special. I’m not an elite athlete, I don’t have the most expensive gear, anybody can start and do this on their level. If you’ve never run before, if you’ve never bike before, you’re gonna want to start small, you don’t want to blow yourself up. Because at the end of the day, you want to enjoy what you’re doing. I love running. I love biking. There are times when it gets hard, but for the most part, I love it. Biking is freedom. It’s fun. It’s when you get to go out and play. So what I say to people is start small. If you want to run a 10k, you’re gonna start with a 5k first and then work your way up. And you don’t want to get injured because injuries are a big bummer. And just keep moving forward. I say that in a lot of my adventures. I might be going slow right now, I might be crawling, but just keep moving forward, step by step… Oh, look at that, like that. Nice.
Sonya: There’s a sign I held up that said keep F-word going, for sensitive ears.
Ryan: Absolutely. And I see people at these races, at ultra-marathons that you would, from the outside looking at them, you’re like, wow, there’s no way this guy’s gonna run 100 miles because they don’t have the typical body type of what you think somebody should be who’s an elite athlete that can pull off something like this. But again, it goes back to my saying, you don’t need to be an elite athlete. Know your own pace. You have your own experience, ultra-marathons and ultra-bike events, people are super supportive and kind, loving. I feel like the energy at the finish line of any race is some of the best energy on the planet. It’s like everybody is just out there cheering, supporting and loving. And it’s just, that’s how I want the world to be. I want the world to be a race finish line at all times, because that’s when humans are at their best.
Sonya: Yeah, the big finish line energy. I love that. Yeah, I mean, it sounds like the weight of expectations and comparison can be reasons why people are afraid to try something and they think I have to be an elite athlete, or I have to look a certain way in order to go after something that I’m interested in. But you’re saying that you definitely don’t have to do that. And if you want to be inspired, go to a finish line. And I personally love this myself. Anytime I’m at a race, I go to the finish line around when the cutoff time is so I can cheer on these people in the back because honestly those people are way more inspiring to me than any elite athlete.
Ryan: 100%, the Leadville 100, at the very end before the 29 hour cut off, like the final hour, it’s in the morning, so people have woken up and the streets are full of everybody who’ve run the race and all the people cheering and it’s it brings a tear to my eye every time I go to Leadville and watch that. And you see these people who are struggling, they’ve run for 99.8 miles, and they have 200 meters to go. And they’re crawling and their family’s with them and their kids are with them. And it’s such a powerful moment to be part of because you know that’s not the only story. They have been training for maybe years to get to that point to get into the lottery to be able to be there. And they’re accomplishing a giant lifelong dream. And that to me is the best of the best.
Sonya: So why the bike? You decided to ride your bike home from Honduras? Where did that come from?
Ryan: Well, I was a Peace Corps volunteer for two years. And I thought that it would be weird to get on an airplane after my two years of service, and be home in a matter of five hours, same day. And I thought that would be too fast. It would be reverse culture shock after having lived in a tiny village in the middle of nowhere speaking Spanish living in adobe hut. I wanted time to think. And my best thinking happens on the seat of a bicycle, you can probably relate, anybody listening can probably relate. And I was like, you know what, I’m gonna ride my bike home. I want to process what I’ve done in Honduras, and also have time to dream toward the future and see what I want to do with my life. I was young, I didn’t have a career job at this point. I still was searching for what the next step was. And I knew that riding a bike would help me get there and maybe inspire me in some other ways. And it’s fun. I love adventure. I love the unknown. I love Latin America. I love speaking Spanish and I knew I’d have the time my life.
Sonya: Yeah, and you journaled through this process, which your book that we’re going to talk about in a minute, has incredible stories. And I like that it’s written in the present tense so it feels like you’re right there with you. And for anybody that wants just a taste of what adventure feels like through the eyes of someone in their 20s this is an amazing coming of age book.
Ryan: Definitely, I’m very grateful that I took the time to write very detailed journals every single day on this trip, and I was tired, there were times where I’d had did not want to put on my headlamp and sit in my sweaty tent, and be writing. But I knew that I wanted to write a book someday. And that’s why I wrote so much. And the book would not be possible without those journals.
Sonya: You said that there are days that you really did not want to put on your headlamp and get going. And so many people can relate with this on different scales, right? Like people that are trying to commit to just regular exercise. They know that they should, but they don’t want to get out the door and getting started is the hardest part. Or you’re in the middle of a big adventure like yours, or maybe a multi-day race and the last thing you want to do is get started. So how do you get started?
Ryan: That could be the hard thing. I mean, I’m sure you deal with it, I still deal with it. There are days where I don’t really want to put on running shoes and go outside. It’s cold or it’s raining or whatever. But once you do step outside the door just like on that bike trip once I started, I could just breathe easy, like I was in my spot. I was in my happy place. I’m comfortable. And it always feels good to get outside no matter what you’re doing. Maybe you don’t go on as long of a run as you were thinking, maybe you just get outside for 30 minutes and that to me can transform an entire day. I always tell people if you’re having a bad day, just get outside, take your shoes off, go walk in the grass, feel connected to nature, and it’s gonna make things a lot better.
Sonya: You’re someone that really goes big. Like, if I just think about the things that you do, it’s like I’m going into the Peace Corps for two years, I’m going to ride my bike all the way from Honduras back to Boulder. I’m going to go on these bike adventures where I have kind of a map charted out, but I’m just going to sort of figure things out as I go. And that sort of takes away this comfort blanket of well, I can just quit and just go home, and it’s easy to just go home or even in the context of having a race, I’ll just quit the race. And then there’s a SAG vehicle that will pick me up. So what do you attribute to doing these full commitment, go big mentality things versus something that’s little bit smaller?
Ryan: I started smaller obviously, growing up, I was a runner, I started running when I was six years old, and started running the Boulder Boulder 10k race, which was instrumental in my life and inspiring me to run almost every day and be an athlete. But as far as just starting and getting going, it’s kind of like my whole goal of my YouTube channel is get out there, to get off your couch and get out there. And it doesn’t have to be big, you can just be whatever, you can be on whatever gear you have, it doesn’t have to be expensive. And you just go out there and magic happens once you leave your house. I swear to God, like you meet wonderful people, or you’ll see something cool in nature, maybe it’s a rainbow, or whatever it is, and you feel better every time you leave the house and you get outside. Like there’s no doubt, you’re going to feel better. And that’s been the driving factor all of my life is yeah, some of my things are really big, and they’re months long. And most people will be like, wow, that’s crazy, 10k is enough for me. I don’t need to ride all the way across the United States on a cruiser bike, but I always like doing these just big things. And on top of it, it’s become my career. I don’t just like doing this, but this is how I make a living now. I document my adventures, I share them with the world in hopes of inspiring people to go out and challenge themselves. And that’s always been my dream with my content is just to inspire people like you, this podcast, it’s like, we want other people to be experiencing what we’re experiencing and showing them it is possible.
Sonya: Yeah, that you can do it too, no matter where you are or who you are. Something I took out of your book, it was a quote, it said, I set out to find my purpose in life, but it found me. Can you elaborate on that?
Ryan: Man, that’s deep, isn’t it? Yeah, I had no idea when I set out on this bike ride, that it would essentially turn into my career going on big bike rides, and documenting them and making a living from it. And when I was out there, I love just connecting with all the people in Mexico and Central America, people invited me into their homes and fed me meals, and took really good care of me. And I loved that feeling of humanity and generosity. Because if you watch the nightly news about Mexico, or Latin America, or a lot of developing countries, it’s just danger, danger, danger, don’t go there. People are bad. And I always wanted to show that no, there’s a lot of good people in the world. There’s a handful of bad people, but most humans are awesome. And I love that feeling on my bike ride home, it was three months all the way to get home from Honduras. And I was like, you know, I want to continue sharing the story of these wonderful humans I meet around the planet. And that’s essentially what it led to. And I finished the bike ride, I still didn’t really know what I was going to do with my life. And I started randomly doing a public access TV show here in Boulder, it was called Get Out There. I would run around with a little Sony video camera and film my adventures in hopes of inspiring people like, hey, you live in this awesome town and here’s some cool things that you can go do with your family or whatever.
Sonya: So where did this self-belief come from? Because a lot of people will say, Yeah, I want to do that. But I need to be whatever career I need to do the nine to five. I have my master’s in engineering, and I was doing engineering and then I was I don’t want to do this, I want to be a pro mountain biker and go travel the world. But not everybody has the like the go getter attitude. So how do you how did you do that or how did you come out of the confines of what you quote should do?
Ryan: That’s a tough one and everybody’s circumstances different. But I from a young age, built this life of travel and adventure where I could pull this off. And also, for many years, I lived in my mom’s basement for free. So I didn’t need to make much money because I wasn’t making much money. When you start off in the creative world whether it’s public access TV or YouTube, you’re not going to make a living for a long time. And so I kept my expenses very low. so that I didn’t really have to make much money. And I could go on these trips, and live kind of a dirtbag life to start off with. But yeah, it’s a tricky balance. Because people today they watch my videos, and they say, I’d love to do what you do. But I have a wife and four kids and a job. And it’s like, yeah, I get it, it would be much harder for you to transform now into what I do. But you can start on your own level, maybe just on the weekends, you go for a one-night bike trip, you sleep under the stars, you see what it feels like. And if you love it, then you save some of your money and your next vacation, you go out on a five-day bike trip, or whatever it is. But yeah, I was very fortunate that I saw the vision at a young age and crafted a life around this. And it took many, many years to build up my channel to the point where I am making a living doing it. And it’s an absolute dream come true. I’m incredibly grateful. For the first years of my career, 10 years, I worked in the TV world. I wanted to be a TV host. I tried to get jobs with travel channel and other networks. And I had some success, but it was very difficult to navigate the entertainment world. And about seven years ago, I said, okay, I’m leaving TV behind, and I’m gonna make a go at YouTube. And I’m gonna try to build up subscribers and so I can actually do this. And it’s today it’s all working out, which is awesome.
Sonya: Yeah, I wanted to ask you, well, actually, first, I have a comment of this as the same theme of getting out for a 10k run it starting where you’re at, and seeing what happens and not starting saying I want to be a YouTuber and saying I need to be making a full time living with however many thousandss hundreds of thousands of subscribers, it’s just starting and seeing what happens and being patient. But the second question I had was around YouTube, because with any creative endeavor, and any business actually that you’re starting, there’s the producer part where like your producer part is you’re out doing your bike rides, your runs, and you’re doing the filming. But then there’s the business part behind it of, okay, I gotta come up with YouTube thumbnail, I got to do like YouTube SEO, I got to make sure people are seeing this video, because there’s lots of people that put great content on YouTube, but nobody ever sees it. So that’s a second part of being a YouTuber, other than chasing these amazing adventure. So, how do you how do you manage that part?
Ryan: That’s tricky. I’m still managing it. I’m still learning. YouTube changes all the time. I go to schools a lot and talk to kids about my career, because it’s interesting and I want young people to know that there are other options in life than the typical routes. And I tell them about my career. And I tell them from starting at the very bottom and living in mom’s basement and making no money and slowly working my way up. Because a lot of young people see these big YouTubers, they’re like, I want to be a YouTuber, I want to be a millionaire, I want to be famous. And I have to remind them all that it takes a long time. You might get lucky, and have your first video go viral. But that’s probably not going to happen, the same chances of you going to LA and auditioning and being in the next gigantic action movie, the chances are not very high. So I always tell people that you have to be really patient and you have to love it. It comes down to that. I got a degree in broadcast journalism. So I had a background in storytelling and video editing. And so maybe my transition was a little bit easier. And it’s tricky, because you’re out on an adventure and I have a drone and I have two other cameras. And I’m always thinking of the story, because that’s what’s most important. How am I going to craft this into something interesting for my viewers, and when I get home, and then when I do get home, then I have to sit and edit for hours and hours. That’s where most of the work comes in. And then like you said, the little things like I need to come up with some sort of a pretty YouTube thumbnail, and a catchy title and all this stuff that still doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. But I kind of play the game, and I’m learning all the time. But it is definitely tricky, but I love it. Because now my channel is pretty big. It’s bigger than I ever thought it would be. I’m making more money than I ever did when I was a freelancer in the TV world. And the biggest thing though is I’m connecting with so many people around the world. And again, just like my days at public access, my goal has been to inspire people to challenge themselves and get outside. And I still do that with my YouTube channel. And people email me every day and send messages and DMs and I probably spend five to 10 hours a week just responding to people’s questions. Because I feel like that’s part of the deal. Like I’m here to help you on your adventure journey and if you have questions about gear, or whatever it is, I will take the time and respond to you.
Sonya: Yeah, yeah, sounds like that intrinsic motivation and love and desire of the things that you do. burns bright throughout all of this in the desire to help people to want to be there to inspire people to get outside and do their thing. But I’m sure that the extrinsic part, the part where you get a certain number of views, and it’s visible how many views you get on a video, or watching the number of subscribers tick up or even tick down, that can be really challenging. And I think a lot of people have some sort of relationship with that feeling because everybody’s on social media. And to a certain extent, you don’t have control over those things. So how do you manage that extrinsic kind of external validation piece, and not lose your inner fire?
Ryan: You’re really good at these questions by the way.
Sonya: I’m just listening.
Ryan: This is good stuff. It’s hard. I still have moments. I’m 44 years old now. And I’m like, can I keep doing this? Is this sustainable? Can I keep going from adventure to adventure? And beating up my body and then coming home and creating these videos? And oh my gosh, my last series didn’t do very well. Does that mean that my channels plummeting? And people don’t like me anymore? Whatever it is, and these games go through my head all the time. And it is tricky. And then you look at other channels that are similar, like, well, that guy has way more views than I have, why don’t I have those views. And it can be poisonous to ever compare yourself to other people. And that’s a big one I tell people not to do. Don’t ever compare yourself. You do what you do best and you throw your passion out there to the world. And that will make you a happy person. But if you start comparing yourself with the little nitty gritty numbers, then that’s going to drive you bonkers. I don’t pay any attention to the YouTube Analytics, I could, you could have no analytics about everything. But I know it would just drive me nuts. So I focus on creating content that I believe is bringing value to the world and inspiring people, and then connecting with people through the comment section. And I want my audience to know that I’m very available. That’s all part of this. And I’m building an online community with my channel. And it’s important to me to, like I said, to help people. But it is tricky, because I have a lot of young people writing emails say that they’ve started a YouTube channel, they learned a lot from me, they’ve been doing it for three months, but nobody’s watching their videos, and they get discouraged. And I totally get it. But my first two years of YouTube, I barely got any views. And I put just as much work into my videos then as I do now. And it is hard. It’s like, wow, do I need to go out and get a regular job because this obviously isn’t working. But I just stuck with it. And I’m relentless in a lot of ways and stubborn. And luckily little by little, my channel has grown and my channel hasn’t grown because of a viral video or anything that’s boosted it up like a lot of channels, it’s just been very slow growth. And connecting with the audience, I think, is big because people know, okay, this Ryan guy, he’s real. I can watch his videos, and I can make a comment, or I can ask him a question. And he’ll actually respond to me.
Sonya: Yeah, I mean, I’m asking this question because I can relate on lots of levels, wanting to maintain relevance and sometimes the money that you make is related to the number of views with the number of likes or the number of subscribers, and that can burn you out. Because one of the main drivers of burnout is not being able to have any control, like you work super hard, but you have no control over the outcome at all of what you’re doing. And you just see this plateau. So I think it’s important to hear that everybody goes through this. And that you mentioned multiple times, my purpose is connect with the audience. My purpose is to do these things. It’s not for the views, it’s not for the money. And certainly you want those things, but coming back to the why repeatedly, especially in a world where there’s external metrics, lots of comparison, and continually checking in on that. I’m sure that all these endurance adventures that you do help you continue to come back to that reason why you do it.
Ryan: It’s funny, yeah, I’m doing an endurance adventure, which is physically hard in the moment, whether it’s running or biking, but then YouTube brings me to the same place many times where it’s like, I’m right at the edge of wanting to quit, but I don’t, because I know that the finish line is three miles away, or whatever. And I keep moving forward, and maybe it’s slow, but I’m still moving forward. And that’s the big thing is like with any creative endeavor in life with it, whether you’re an artist or a podcaster, or whatever it is, there are always going to be moments where you’re second guessing yourself. You might have a really good year and then you’re on top of the world and then next year, you’ve plummeted for some reason out of your control totally. But you just got to go back to the why and why are you making this content are creating this art? And if you stick to that, your original mission, then I think you’ll be able to weather any storm. Last year last January of 2022, I was really burned out. And I made some videos talking about it. Where I was questioning YouTube. And I’ve been grinding for like seven years, one video a week, and my videos take a lot of production. And I felt like I was saying the same things over and over in my videos. And at least on my end, I was getting annoyed with myself, I’m like, man, you say the same stuff all the time. But I made these videos talking about this, and the audience is like, we love you, man. We love every adventure you go on. And yeah, you might have the same sentiments like gratitude and this is so beautiful, or whatever it is. But we love the people you meet on your adventures, we love that you show us the world. It’s a break for us to go watch your videos when maybe we’ve had a hard day or the weather’s bad and we can turn on a Ryan Van Duzer video and we know we’re gonna get a jolt of positive joy. And so hearing that was really important for me.
Sonya: Who needs puppy videos when you can watch Ryan Van Duzer?
Ryan: Well, I definitely liked puppy videos.
Sonya: Something else that I wanted to ask you actually, you mentioned the drones and the camera is how do you make sure that the filming of the adventure doesn’t take away from the actual adventure itself?
Ryan: This is the question of the century. And it’s hard. Because when I go on these adventures, I tell people the adventure is priority number one, I’m out there to have an experience. Number two is to document it. And that can be tricky, because there are moments where maybe you’re with somebody, you know, in 2018, I rode all the way across the country with my then girlfriend. And the whole purpose of the trip was to bond and to go on this amazing voyage together. And there were many moments, there’s a beautiful sunset or sunrise and I’m running out of the tent with the camera, and I’m filming, yet, I should really be sharing this moment with this person that I love. This is why we’re doing this. So it can be very tricky. But I’ve gotten pretty good at it to the point where I know what kind of shots that I need. And I try not to get too much in the way of enjoying the experience. I don’t want to…sometimes I ride with people or I have adventures with other people, I don’t want them to feel like this is just we’re on a job. And Ryan’s out there filming all the time. And this is I’m just along. I want people to feel like this is an experience that we’re having together. And it can be tough, because you need those awesome shots. That’s what sells YouTube, you need those amazing drone shots and those amazing sunrises in the perfect light. But you also want to experience it yourself and be out there in nature and maybe put the cameras away every now and then and just sit there and just be there and be present.
Sonya: Yeah, I mean, I can relate on this level as well. I don’t do YouTube, but I was sponsorships, you have to create content for your sponsors. And people have asked me how do you do it? How do you actually have good training when you’re stopping to like set up the cameras to take pictures or do whatever. And there can be a really negative connotation with it. But I found that there can also be really positive connotation with it in that, one of the types of gratitude practices is as taking photos, so like taking photos of things and revisiting. And because of that you start scanning for the beautiful shot that you want in your video, or pausing to take in that moment or to notice something that maybe you wouldn’t have noticed otherwise, if you weren’t pausing to take videos and photos. So yes, I think that there is a give and take and a balance there. But I think it can actually enhance the experience.
Ryan: That’s really true. And that’s a great point. If you’re like a viewer of my channel, you’ll know that I stop a lot and film flowers. Like I always have these flower breaks in almost every video where I get out my good camera and I get all these artsy shots of beautiful flowers and insects and stuff. And for me, it does slow me down in the moment from the hard charge in biking and like, okay, I’m gonna get off my bike 15 minutes, because I just found an awesome patch of wildflowers up in Montana. And I’m going to film them because in the moment, it kind of calms me down because flowers are just beautiful. And you get all these cool shots and you’re excited about it. And then you get to share that with people through the videos. And it’s also a reminder that yeah, you don’t always have to be hard charging, like stop and as they say, smell the roses. Like just get off your bike every now and then and just listen and listen to the wind through the pine needles and look at the cool clouds for a moment and catch your breath. And those five or 10 minutes off the bike can really help your mental state to keep going forward.
Sonya: Yeah, it’s kind of like really taking time to acknowledge our inspiring moments, whether there are simple things or really grandiose things, and awe can really make us feel better. And I think that’s why people want to be outside is because you have the opportunity to experience these things.
Ryan: Yeah. And my whole my mission, my saying, is get out there. And that doesn’t mean that you have to get out there and be gnarly and be crazy. It’s like, get out there and just lay in the grass sometimes and look at the trees and, you know, sleep under the stars. And like those simple moments are some of my favorites on my adventures.
Sonya: Yeah, and like getting dirty and being okay. I never think about this, really, except for just right now. I’m used to having dirt all over me, and it’s just not a big deal. But a lot of people just like, oh my gosh, you get dirty, you get mud on you? That’s crazy. Because we stopped doing that at a certain point. Or our parents tell us like, you got dirt on you clean it off.
Ryan: Yeah, no, it’s good to be dirty. If you’re out there, and you’re getting dirty, you’re having a good day.
Sonya: So I have another quote from your book that I wanted to bring out is, I could always, always find a glimmer of positivity and that mindset will carry my shaking muscles across the finish line to success. So how do you always find a glimmer of positivity, especially in the type two fun parts of adventures?
Ryan: It’s gotten easier as time has gone on when I was younger, and I’d be running a race and it hurt, I’m like, oh this is the dumbest thing ever. I’m never running again. Like why did I choose to do this. But during those hard moments, and I’m editing a video right now of an ultra-marathon I did in Mexico a couple of weeks ago, where I’m having a hard time. But I have to stop and remember, okay, look where I am. Look where these look at these beautiful mountains in the Copper Canyons, and listen to the river down below, and just listen to my footsteps crunching the gravel as I move forward. It’s just those simple things where I’m like, okay, you might be having a hard time, but you’re gonna get through this, you’ve gotten through many, many hard times. And like I said, you just keep moving forward, and you appreciate the beauty around you. Also, in moments of hardship, I lean on the people around me. Community makes a big difference. In a lot of these running races, there’s always somebody around you can talk to, and it gets your mind off the pain. And in a weird way, I always have a camera in my hand when I’m doing this stuff. And I’m talking all this out as I’m having a hard moment. And people watch the videos. And they’re like, oh, you could probably go so much faster in these races if you weren’t always filming yourself. And I actually think it’s the opposite. I like being able to talk to my camera, because it helps just get it out. I can complain a little bit or talk about what’s going on. And it’s like my little buddy right there and I talk it out. And I’m like, okay, we’re moving forward. Let’s go. We got this.
Sonya: Yeah, I mean, being able to process your emotions and to label your emotions and so powerful. And you’re right, a lot of times, we just keep it in our head and it just pinballs around forever.
Ryan: Yeah. And then just take takes you to a dark place, when you just keep it in your head. And then you just start like, oh, this hurts so bad. Oh, this is gonna be my worst time ever. Why did I travel all the way here to do this? I’m gonna have blisters, whatever it is, and you can really go down a negative staircase that takes you to the basement. That’s not where you want to be. If you just get it out, then you’re like, oh, wait, Ryan, look where you are, when you finish this race, you’re gonna have a big pile of burritos, and all your buddies are gonna be there. And it’s gonna be awesome. So just keep moving forward and shut up.
Sonya: Yeah, well, you come back to the present moment, instead of all these things. And then coming back to that gratitude piece of looking around you. And then I did this too, with long 100-mile bike race or something. Just this sucks. Whenever it gets really bad, I just think in a couple hours, I’m going to be at the finish line. And it’ll be like this moment never happened.
Ryan: Totally. And that’s the thing with pain, humans go through pain a lot. Whether it’s childbirth, you know all about this, or in a race or whatever. In the moment, you’re like, this is the worst thing ever. I never want to feel this again. This sucks. And then you get to the finish line, and you feel great. And then like a couple months down the line, you don’t even remember that. I remember my first Leadville 100 was extremely difficult. And it was one of those moments where I’m like, this is crazy. Like, I’m never doing something like this again. And then a month after I was like, oh, I’m signing up for next year’s Leadville.
Sonya: I have a theory that that’s why we sign up for it is not consciously to experience those moments. But whenever you’re out there, and you’re having these extreme lows and these extreme highs, and then that feeling of overcoming it repeatedly, like that makes life have so much more depth. And without signing up for these events or doing some of these adventures, people might not have that experience in their life.
Ryan: That’s so true. And we are voluntarily doing these things that are hard. And it’s practice for life when life gets hard and you’re not choosing the hard moments because there are times when something happens, sickness or disease or death. And you didn’t choose that, but you’ve done so many hard things in your life, that you’re better equipped to deal with those tough situations. And for me, I really just keep calm. And that’s the biggest thing, it’s gonna be okay, no matter what it is, just keep your head balanced and somewhat positive. And you’re gonna be able to get get through these tough times, whether it’s like a relationship or a breakup, or whatever it is, there’s always a way out.
Sonya: So I want to shift gears a little bit and talk about the environment. First, tell us about how your book is so incredibly, environmentally friendly.
Ryan: So it was very important for me to make a book that was eco friendly, because a lot of books are printed in China, and use toxic glues, and they’re just really not good for the environment in many ways. And so I found a printer here in Boulder that prints with 100% recycled paper, no trees were cut down to create my book. The ink, and this is really cool, the ink is algae based ink. So it’s non toxic. And everything I do in life, I try to have a small footprint environmentally. I’ve ridden my bike for fun and as a commuting tool my entire life. I’ve never owned a car in my life. I’m a vegetarian for environmental reasons. My house is solar powered. And I try to invest a lot in trying to have a small footprint, but also knowing that I fly on airplanes quite a bit. Every month, I give money to reforestation projects. And so I just, our planet is so beautiful and I use mother nature and the planet as a backdrop for all of my adventures. And I feel like I have to do everything I can to preserve the planet so we can have it for a long, long time for all our children, your children. I just at a young age realize that this is this is serious business, what humans are doing to the planet. I remember the first Earth Day when I was a little kid, and it really hit me hard, like, oh, man, I gotta do everything I can to save mother nature. And I remember as a little kid, always, whenever I left a room in the house, I would flip the lights off, like constantly, because I remember, they’re like, uou got to turn the lights off when you’re not losing things. And it’s just really stuck with me.
Sonya: Yeah, I like that you point out that it’s not about being 100% perfect, but it’s about doing everything that you can, and everybody’s capacity is a little bit different. But knowing what some of those things are that you can do to make a lighter footprint.
Ryan: And you know, we all do our best. And I try my hardest just to tread lightly. And it’s really important, because I love our great outdoors, as do you and everybody listening. And humans are no doubt having a very big negative impact on the planet. And we’re finally realizing what we’re doing. And it’s time to make changes.
Sonya: Yeah, I think that environment of people that you live around really can help drive these decisions. Like when I moved to Boulder, that’s whenever I started becoming hyper aware of things around the environment, and all the different things that I could do. And being able to live somewhere where you can ride your bike everywhere, or use public transportation, that was such a special thing about living in Boulder. And yeah, again, being aware of the things you can do.
Ryan: Absolutely, just like with running or biking, if you’re listening to this, and you want to start a 10k you start small, you start with what you can do, and you build off of that. And we all have the capacity to do something. And so it’s important for me to lead by example, in that way. Even with my book, I bought all of these 100% recycled paper mailers, because a lot of books get sent out in plastic bags, plastic is bad. You can say that you can recycle plastic, but you really can’t. Less than 10% of all plastics are ever recycled. Plastic is a petroleum-based product like bad, bad, bad. And so I wanted the book, from printing to sending everything to be as environmentally friendly as possible.
Sonya: I want to throw out a resource for people if they’re like, well, I want to do something I want to start moving in that direction. There’s a website called drawdown.org and actually had the executive director on the podcast a while back to talk about all the different things that people can do to support the environment and they have a free course on there. One of the biggest surprises for me was that food waste is the number one worst thing for the environment. I thought it was maybe some of the fossil fuels or some of those are maybe methane gas, but no, it’s food waste. And that was a huge shock.
Ryan: That is true. And we have a program here in Boulder and there’s many around the world… They have people who go to the grocery stores, on bicycles with big trailers, and they get all of the grocery stores food that they are going to throw the throw away, but it’s totally fine. And they get this food, and they deliver it to different housing areas in Boulder to people who are maybe, low income or whatever. And they set up these no cost grocery stores to prevent food waste, but also to feed people healthy food.
Sonya: So we’ve talked a lot about you inspiring lots of people. So I wanted to turn it and say who inspires you? I mean, we know your mom.
Ryan: Mom definitely inspires me. I get inspired by just regular people. I always joke, I mean, a lot of my runner friends, they know about all the top runners and they follow all the elites. And I’m clueless to most of that stuff. It’s not even on my radar. But I will say one of the runners that really inspires me is Courtney Dauwalter, she’s a really cool human. And I think what she’s doing is incredible. But I think just the regular people out there that are just changing their lives for the better. And I have interactions with these people all the time through my channel, and they write me and they say, Ryan, I got a little bit overweight, and I’ve had a bike in the garage for 15 years, and I haven’t touched it and I want to get out and start riding my bike again. And so I’ll have a conversation with these people for months, and sometimes years. And they tell me about their progress and how much better they feel and the weight they’ve lost. And they show up in the world as a better, happier person with their family and their friends. And those people are the ones that really inspire me.
Sonya: I love that. And it’s great that you get to share their stories so that other people can see it too, because they might not have a means to share those stories.
Ryan: Yep, exactly. And I love sharing those types of stories on my channel, because it shows other people like, hey, you can do this, just start small and commit to it.
Sonya: So I want to ask you about the running and the cycling. So running is something I’ve been wanting to do for a while. And this year, I’m doing some ultra running. I don’t know what came first for you running or biking. Which one came first for you?
Ryan: Running did, yeah, running did.
Sonya: So what’s the difference for you between the running and the biking adventures? Like you’ve done some massive running adventures.
Ryan: Yeah, well, just really simply, running is harder. Biking is more fun. I’ve always been a runner ever since I was a little kid. And I love running. And I love the simplicity of running, all you need is a pair of shoes, and you head out the door. And I feel really good. And I think because of a lifetime of running, my body’s used to it, my knees are used to it, I don’t really get injured. And I love the freedom of it. But I also love the freedom of riding a bike because a bike can take you much further, much faster. You can carry all your camping gear and food. And I’ve ridden across the country four different times and across Cuba, all over the place. And the bike I use as a tool to connect with humans. I’ve met so many awesome humans in tiny villages in the middle of nowhere, and I show up on a bike and they’re like, whoa, what’s this guy’s story? It’s like a non-threatening thing to show up on there. Like, wow, this guy looks interesting. And that’s what my book is about. I interact with people the entire way home. So for me, I guess biking is more about travel and moving. And running is more about exercise, short term goals. An ultramarathon might be long, 100 miles as long. but it’s over in a day, whereas my bike adventures can be weeks to months long.
Sonya: It’s an interesting distinction that I’ve never thought of before.
Ryan: Yeah, and it’s funny, a lot of times, I’ll be running on a trail, a new trail somewhere and it’s just flowy and awesome. And I’ll be like, oh, man, I wish I was biking this. Because biking is fun. There’s no doubt biking is so much fun.
Sonya: There’s been lots of times I’ve been out running, thinking I’m so glad that I’m not on my bike right now because I’d be pushing my bike up this hill. I’m power hiking, but at least I’m not carrying my bike on my back.
Ryan: I did the Colorado trail two years ago on my bike with all my gear, it weighed like 60, 70 pounds. Yeah. And it was a lot of dragging my heavy bike up and down mountains.
Sonya: Yeah, there’s over 150 miles of hiking your bike on the Colorado trail bikepacking adventure. It’s tough. So if you think about all these different adventures that you have, what makes an adventure stick out in your mind as a favorite? What are the elements of a good adventure?
Ryan: A good adventure to me is doing something new and exciting. But the most important elements are the people I meet. I love meeting people. And whether I’m riding the Great Divide mountain bike route down, Montana, Colorado, Wyoming, and I’m meeting people in small town America and talking to them about what makes them tick. That’s the kind of stuff that excites me. And I share their stories again, on my channel, because my viewers love meeting these people as well. So people meeting people is probably the number one thing and of course, I like pushing my body. I like challenging myself, I like going fast downhill. I like beautiful sunsets and sunrises and rainbows. Being outside just makes me happy. Like, it really does. People watch my videos, and they’re like, wow, you’re always psyched. Are you always positive? And the answer is, no, I’m a human, I have bad days. But when I’m on an adventure, usually I’m going to be pretty psyched at all times. Because what you don’t see is months and months of preparation, before I even get to go do this adventure, whatever it is. And when I’m out there, it’s the culmination of a lot of work. And I’m fulfilling a dream.
Sonya: Yeah, it’s like celebration of all the work is just being out there.
Ryan: Yeah. You know, even in ultra marathons when I did Leadville this past summer, it was hard, of course, it’s 100 miles, but I was like, you know what? This is like a special occasion. This is like a holiday because I don’t run many ultra marathons throughout the year, you just can’t, so maybe a handful. So when you get to do one, it’s a big deal. It’s like Christmas morning, man, like you’re out there doing something that you might not do for an entire year.
Sonya: Coming back to that optimism and positivity piece, I always hear it in everything that you say, and some people really have to work at it, but it sounds like that’s not something that you’ve had to work at.
Ryan: I do have to work at it, but I’m much better at it now. And a lot of it goes back to your very first question and it’s gratitude, just grateful to be there. And to be on the journey, to have trained for months and months and months. And, it just it feels really, it’s exciting to be on a start line with a bunch of people who are also fulfilling their dreams. The energy is really powerful. Everybody’s out there for their own mission on their own dream. And they support you, and you might not know them, and you might not ever see them again in life, but in that moment, you’re running three miles together, in Leadville. And you have this special connection. And it’s a good feeling.
Sonya: Let me ask you a question that I’m sure has been asked many times before. But, during the pandemic, there weren’t start lines, and possibly people weren’t having some of these adventures. So how did you wrestle with that not having that feeling available?
Ryan: That was tough, and I’m sure we can all relate. Yeah, there were definitely no races, and even doing an adventure was kind of a no, no, because you didn’t want to go out and go nowhere, and have the risk of getting injured, and then you need to go to the hospital, and you’re taking resources away from people. So it was tricky. So I just did really small adventures. One day during the pandemic, it was my mom’s birthday, it was early on, and I was like, I’m gonna get my bike, all dressed up, like I’m going on a giant adventure with all my camping gear, and I’m gonna ride across town, and I’m going to camp in mom’s backyard, which is only like four and a half miles away. It’s not a big adventure. And I filmed this whole adventure and I go camp mom’s backyard, so I can be with her on her birthday. And she’s talking to me in the backyard, we’re distancing ourselves. And so it was a lot of stuff like that. Just little things. Like I said, you’re having a bad day, take off your shoes, go walk in the grass, like it doesn’t have to be a gigantic adventure to feel connected to the earth and connected to yourself.
Sonya: And I guess taking it a step further about safety, like that’s something I think about whenever I think about going on a solo adventure or planning out a bikepacking route or something, I think, oh, is it going to be safe for me? How do you think about that whenever you’re planning something?
Ryan: I do a lot of riding in Mexico, because I love Mexico. But safety is definitely something you have to think about. There’s no doubt. And I know it can be spooky. Luckily, I speak Spanish and I’ve navigated the Latin American world for many years, so I’m pretty confident. And then my viewers watch these videos and they’re like, oh, man, you make it look so cool. When I watch the news, Mexico looks like this narco wasteland. What are you doing? What’s special about these routes you’re doing? Are they safe? And you just have to navigate areas that might be a little bit more safe. You know, and not do the silly things like don’t be out after dark and try to hide yourself well if you’re camping in the middle of nowhere. But for the most part, humans all over the world are friendly, and they want to help you and they want to take care of you. And I’ve rarely had negative experiences out there in the world. And I get a lot of, you know, young women who want to travel solo on their bikes, and they asked me these questions. And I know it’s a much different story for women, maybe you can speak to this as traveling as a solo female out in the world. And I know it’s hard. So I haven’t had great advice for them because I don’t know exactly what it’s like. I can just tell them what my experience has been. But yeah, fear and safety is definitely something to think about.
Sonya: Well, some themes that I’ve heard repeatedly in this podcast are gratitude, starting where you are, but making sure that you start and to build from there, and then the impact of humanity and having people around you and admiring just the humanity and people around you.
Ryan: Yeah, you nailed it. That’s what it’s all about. It’s what my life is all about. Just connecting with humans, bringing good vibes to the world and just being genuine and kind and honest. Everybody has a bad day or tough moments. And if we can help put a smile on somebody’s face, then we’re doing it right.
Sonya: Yeah, I wrote down some strengths that I thought related to you. And I wrote down authenticity, zest and gratitude.
Ryan: Those are good, thank you.
Sonya: So where can people find your channel? And what’s the name of your book? And where can people find it?
Ryan: The book is called The Long Way Home and you can find it at Duzerbook.com, D-u-z-e-r, and my channel is duzerTV. If you just Google my name, all this stuff will pop up. My YouTube channel is where I put everything that I truly care about. I have Instagram and other stuff, but YouTube was where I put my heart and my soul. That’s what I love sharing with the world.
Sonya: And if you want an infectious dose of positivity and an inspiration for adventure, check out DuzerTV. Well, thanks so much, Ryan. It was great to chat with you.
Ryan: Oh, this is the highlight of my day. Thank you.