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Ep. 327: How This Writer and Filmmaker Traveled Over 10,000 Miles by Horse and Mule with Bernie Harberts

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In this episode, I speak with Bernie, a travel writer, filmmaker, and one of the few people who has traveled over 10,000 miles by horse and mule. 

He is the subject of the Emmy award-winning PBS North Carolina program “The Mule Rider” and the filmmaker and star of the “Lost Sea Expedition” series that premiered on Rocky Mountain PBS.

He’s paid for his journeys by doing everything from sending his followers postcards from Tasmania and training horses in the Virgin Islands to picking pecans in New Mexico. His upcoming book “Two Mules to Triumph,” about his 7-month mule voyage from North Carolina to Idaho, is scheduled for release in 2024.

Listen on to find out how Bernie has traveled the world in the most unconventional ways.


Listen Below:

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Transcription:

Debbie:
Hey everyone! Thank you so much for being here.

I am really excited to speak with my guest today. I’m here with Bernie.

Hi, Bernie! How are you?

Bernie:
Hey, Debbie, good day, I’m well, how about you? I’m kind of chilly, I’m kind of chilly.

Debbie:
I know, we’re kind of in winter right now, but I was I was telling Bernie before, I was so excited to see him because he’s like in this cabin and he definitely looks like he’s living an offbeat life. So, talking about that Bernie, can you tell us a little bit more about you and why you live an offbeat life?

Bernie:
Sure. Yeah, well Debbie, thank you so much for having me on the offbeat life. I’m so excited to be with you and your listeners. I live, I’m talking to you and your listeners right now sitting on a little wood deck in Western North Carolina in front of our cabin on a sunshiny day. There’s a clothesline off my shoulder. We do not own a dryer. We’ve finally got a washer but it doesn’t work that well because we’ve only got a two gallon water heater and that doesn’t make clothes clean, so we live, my wife and I, Juliet, live a very simple life in about a 500 sq ft cabin, Western North Carolina with horses and mules and what I’d really love to speak with you guys today about is, a little bit kind of looking back at a life dipping in and out of travel.

Sometimes earning money on the road while traveling and then coming back to my home base and earning money here and sharing kind of the the look back and ahead and hopefully that will interest people. I’m 55 years old, got a beard, got a funky shirt and an old beat up hat. And some of the trips, you know, I’ve, I’ve got the the advantage of that is being able to look back and share some of the things I’d like to share about are like some of the early trips you know, solo sailing voyages on a beat up old sailboat, but how that worked, how I found the money on the on the seas and to traveling to pay for stuff like that. So, very exciting. That’s a long intro, I’m excited to be on the show!

Debbie:
I love your energy, Bernie and I really enjoy like listening to your excitement with all of this stuff because I think that’s what we need right now, right? We need something to be excited about and you’ve definitely, you’re definitely living a life where a lot of people sometimes may think it’s unattainable or it’s too hard because of certain circumstances in their life. How did you make this work for you and for your family to make this a lifestyle for yourselves?

Bernie:
Well, you know when you were mentioning what people trying to achieve, I would say people are running in the wrong direction. So, when, when we when you and I first got on, I was so excited to show you our cabin. So, just to describe it to y’all who are listening to this. We live in a small cabin, 500 sq ft, we have and I’m probably going to have like the health department and the building code people like to stand on me. So, if I suddenly have to leave, this is why, we cook on a 2-burner little stove, from northern tool. You know, it’s ah, it’s ah, you know, just a 2 burner propane stove that’s hooked to a propane tank by a hose that runs through the wall. We’ve got a little oven that’s cost probably one hundred and fifty bucks that we cook everything in. We just moved from a dorm fridge to a baby fridge.

Debbie:
Aww…

Bernie:
And not indigent. We do this by choice and the reason I say people are so, are often running in the wrong direction, it’s really easy and it’s happened to me, to start running with everybody towards everything we see on the internet. All the glamor stuff, the big vacations, the big house, the big lawn, the big boat, the big SUV and it’s like I realized early on, “Whoa, wait, wait, wait, wait, this is not for me. This is not for me, I want to go the other way, to save up money, take off on big trips in a small way.”. We’re going to get into that and that’s the way I’ve fashioned my life from my really my early 20s into my mid 50s now.

Debbie:
So how did you start? This were you working at a regular 9 to 5 or corporate, before you finally realized, “This is not for me.”.

Bernie:
I spilled a cup of coffee.

Yeah, so here’s what happened I’m in my 20s, I’ve graduated from NC State University, got a four year degree in wooden paper technology. It’s like ah, it’s like ah, an engineering degree, working with a great machinery company and in my, this is my late 20s and my job was working at a desk, I was in sales and did some ah, I was like doing a lot of graphic work and to undo the mistake on a on a piece of graphic work,  if I did it wrong I would hit control z which is, edit undo, on the windows machine, one day I spilled a cup of coffee and my fingers flicked for that control and z, like to unspill the coffee. I thought, “Oh my goodness! This is, like, this is horrifying! This is not good!”, and I’d always dreamt of taking a long ocean voyage and so I wrapped up my fares with this super company found a replacement, helped get, you know, get that person ready and I took off all my next phase in life which was buying an old sailboat and spending the next five years, slowly sailing around the world, doing different jobs to help pay for that trip.

Debbie:
That’s pretty amazing!

Bernie:
Ah do, do!

Debbie:
But why, why a sailboat, right? There’s people that do backpacking trips. They, they do like walking, like I’ve seen somebody do like a,

Bernie:
Um, yeah, yeah.

Debbie:
a bicycle trip, like why, why the sail boat? What made you decided to do, to do sailing, Bernie? Instead of other things.

Bernie:
One of the things I really wanted was be self-contained and I’ve, like I’ve, I’ve peddled a $10 bicycle around Tasmania for a half a year, we can talk about that later, it was a fascinating, fascinating voyage, but the sailboat, to me, was a pretty much self-contained capsule, that I could sustain on these long voyages at the time they were not expensive, now, they’re relatively even cheaper and we can get into all this whole sailing thing to talk about a box of Pandora worms, but I found this old boat and I don’t mind telling you know saying what I spent for it, people think, you know, “Oh to sail a boat you’re going to have to have hundreds of thousands of dollars.”, I paid $12000 for this old steel sailboat founded on Lake Norman called ‘Seabird’, had it shipped to the ocean, couple hundred miles and for $12000 I had this, kind of this floating movable home that I could take anywhere, I could catch fish, I could collect rainwater, I could sprout seeds. It was mobile and I wanted to see the world I was 31 at the time and the sailboat spoke to me, perfectly on that level. So, that’s why I chose the sailboat.

Debbie:
So with with all of that, have you ever sailed before?

Bernie:
I had, I had, and this is what I love about like, I would say scale your your travel dreams or your travel journeys. I didn’t just quit my job, buy sailboat, take off. Actually, you know, actually that would have been a great story, but it might have been a short story so, actually built up to it, so I was a steeple chase jockey of my um, early 20s and I couldn’t eat and so I was in Southern Pines North Carolina, I was based out of there, and my, and I wanted to build a little boat, but at the time, boats were, used boats were really expensive. They’re dirt cheap now.

Which should give anyone hope that wants to take off on a little 25 ft or you know, a lot of hope look at a 25 ft Catalina or a Bristol 27, I built this little sailboat from scratch out, of plywood and took it up to Canada. And sailed it down the East Coast of the Bahamas and so that was like a little baby step into the sailing, you know, picking up those skills and that was all low budget, I mean it built the boat out of plywood, I sewed the sales my friend in a hayloft. The first time I pulled it up, the sails up, like all this alfalfa fell out of that sail. Total low budget, but you know, we were on the road traveling.

Debbie:
So when, before you go into these new adventures that you’ve done, because you’ve definitely been through a lot. You’ve gone through a lot of adventures. Do you ever have any doubts before or during it? Because this, I mean, you know, it, it can be, it can be nerve-wracking and overwhelming, especially I guess, I’m talking about people who are not used to this, because you definitely have that adventure spirit in you, um, how, how did you feel about it?

Bernie:
Well, the the good news and the bad news is, you never get used to it. The first step on a new trip is always hard. The first trip is the hardest. But I’ve done lots of trips and to set out from my, you know, comfortable cabin with my, with where I live with my wonderful wife, Julie, it’s still hard. It’s not like I just like, “Oh got to go!”, and God, it’s not that easy and I’ve had trips where I’d set off like I, I took off with a mule here one day, and a pack pony. I was heading out just to go across North Carolina.

The first day out, the mule and the pack pony ran away with all my gear like it would go on and I’m standing on the road knot five miles from our farm and I’m like, “This is insane!”, like, “I should, I should just go home now.”, but I can’t, because I’ve lost my mule and pony. I can’t walk home. That’s what I started with and so, doubt does creep in and what, my coping strategy is to just get through the next, through the rest of that day, get through that day. Whatever horrible thing happens, your boat, you know, hits a rock and punches a hole in it. You might run out of money. Ah, your your mule might run away. You might, so you might miss, well you might miss a plane flight somewhere, I did that and spent a year stuck in Italy but the fact is just get through that day, get through the night and that little cooling off period, I’ve found is absolute magic to keep you going. Does that make sense? Like, just get through the next couple hours of what seems unsurmountable once you’ve set off.

Debbie:
I’ve definitely heard a lot of things in my podcast since I’ve been doing this for like 6 years, but I’ve never had anyone say, you know, “You just get through it even if your mule runs away from you.”.

Bernie:
Yeah, all you get? Yeah and you know and we need to embrace these, these unexpected things, like, I missed a plane flight once because I was, I was 21, I was just out of my head, most young men at 21 are just,  it’s like they on drugs and I screwed up and missed a flight, I was in Italy and I missed a flight home. And it actually, I decided to, so I was too proud to call my parents for money and I ended up spending a year working in Italy, to scrape together the money that was my excuse to come home. The point is just embrace some of this craziness, like the mule runs away and it just seems like the absolute end of the world. It’s, it’s not, you just have to stay out, stay out, stay out, stick with a little bit.

Debbie:
Yeah, and I think that’s where the adventure usually begins when you have a lot of doubts and then maybe it’s at the beginning middle or the end. There’s always something that doesn’t go right, if it does, I would be very surprised because there’s usually something that happens when you go off in your journey, you know, it’s, it’s what makes it more of a story though, right? It would be really boring if you were just like, “Yeah I did this and then the end.”.

Bernie:

Yeah, you know and that’s, it’s a really good point because there’s so much travel now, it’s such an an organized industry and, I’m, I totally respect that, I booked, my wife and I booked a hotel room in Oriental North Carolina where we’re going to go visit friends, we booked it ahead of time, but my go to way of traveling is don’t do any of that, just kind of set off and have a little bit of a plan to start, but then let go.

Let go and we can get into you know the phases of this and it will let, the the journey will define itself and so I’m not a huge fan of imposing, personally, really strict guidelines especially on these long form trips that might take weeks or months, I’m much more of like, “Well let’s see how far we get until dark.”, you know, if I’m, if I’m riding a bike, you know, and I do this in Tasmania, rode out of Cygnet Tasmania, I didn’t know where I was going to spend the night that night. I just left, started peddling and ended up, you know, like in a bush or somebody’s backyard on that trip and but the point was, don’t over plan, embrace this. It’s a little bit chaotic but the beauty is wrapped inside that chaos and you’ll never get that same beauty from a really tightly scripted trip. I mean does that make sense?

Debbie:
No, it absolutely makes sense and honestly that’s actually how I love to travel like I um, you know I used to travel a lot by myself, solo and one of my really good friends used to live in England in London.

And I would just book a flight to see her and then after that I would just book a flight anywhere that was like the cheapest and then I just go there and that’s usually where the adventure starts, when you don’t know everything that’s going to happen and it was honestly some of the best traveling that I’ve ever done because I met so many people and this is the thing, I mean it, it was my experience, I don’t know if this is how everybody else is, especially if you’re solo, people are so welcoming. They want to, you know, include you in things, you know, if you’re eating by yourself, they go talk to you and you meet the most incredible people along the way. So I’m definitely in, you know, I’m with you on that one, Bernie. I think it’s such a good idea, at least to do it once in your life just to see what it’s like.

Bernie:
Yes, yes, yes, I think, I think those are I mean great words of, of wisdom or and encouragement. It doesn’t have to be forever and I think sometimes we put these burdens on ourselves like, “I’m going to spend half a year walking across whatever,”, “I’m going to take the perfect two week trip to Paris or stuff,”, and that’s fine, but just lighten up just do one easy one, just let it unfold, doesn’t have to be forever. It’s a real rush.

It can also be terrifying, but it makes for a good story and you will survive.

Debbie:
Um, yeah.

No, it’s true. It’s exhilarating. It’s exciting, but also really scary at the same time, right? but it’s what makes life worth living. It’s one of the things that we should be doing with our life if, you know, if you are able to do it, definitely do it. Um, and it’s a –

Bernie:
And it really shows this and I’ve learned this over and over and I, and I’d like to reassure that, you know, your listeners that, you will land on your feet. For whatever challenge that has smacked you in the face, it might, let’s say you’re out traveling, it might be the challenge of finding more money, it might be the challenge of finding your way. It might be your challenge of finding a meal or staying warm. You’re going to find it and that is powerful juice to sans, you know what this feels like it’s really powerful.

Debbie:
Yeah, absolutely. It makes you feel so much more independent, it makes you believe in yourself. It gives you a lot of confidence, self-worth and I think that’s really what a lot of people need, you know, especially when you doubt yourself and then you do things that you didn’t think you were able to do or the way you did it was pretty incredible. So, I think that’s one of those character building moments that you definitely experience in that journey.

Bernie:
And, and what it will do, and, and we get to specifics, if you’re interested, but what, what this lesson does is, this transfers, so, the gift of, of I think of pushing into these a little less scripted travels or ways of living, they really give back after the voyage, after the fact. I, every day I feel empowered by the stuff I learned, the stuff I screwed up but actually figure it out on the trail, like, when you get home and back into the 9 to 5 and you’re back in your routine that sticks with you, that becomes part of your, your fiber, your soul, your bones and that is I think, in many ways the even longer term bigger payoff, that power to know that you may have doubted it, but it worked out. Maybe not the way you thought it was, but it’s gonna work out and you’re gonna make it.

Debbie:
No, that’s that’s really true. That’s the power of, of all of this, right? So, let’s let’s go through your adventures, Bernie, because you talked about going on a sailboat, now you mentioned briefly the mule. Um, you also mentioned in Tasmania how you had your bicycle, how did these all align with each other? Did you do the sailboat first? Then the mule happened? And then the bicycle? Like take us through this, this wild adventure that you’ve had, because this is a lot of really unique things that most people probably won’t do.

Bernie:
It is and, and I really need to like, be like, “Whoa, hold back!”, and I need to put this, like, into context, I think the third time I’ve said this, like, I’m 55 now and so I’ve had a lot of like sea room. They call it in sailing, like a lot of distance to put to fit various phases into my life and to back it up even more, I mean, I went to and NC State, I had this very organized way of looking at things, planning things out, as like, I’ve got a budget, when I’m 30 I want to take off on a sailboat with x amount of dollars in the bank. It was very structured I didn’t just decide one day, “Oh I’m gonna do this and run away from a bunch of debts.”. No, I mean there was a very kind of organized framework that my life fits in, and then the reason I say this, and my wife too and I have talked about this a lot, is like I don’t want to deceive people by leaving key things out, to let them think that they can just quit their job and buy a sailboat and sail around the world and you know, walk away from, dance and, and or jump on a bike and ride around Tasmania, or saddle a mule and ride you know, across the country. It’s not that easy.

So, I do have like this home base. It’s a little cabin, that I come home to and so these journeys kind of slot into progressive, you know, steps so we left off with a sailing, which I did left in, when I was 31, came back when I was 36, that was a 5 year trip, and then I um, I sold that boat, so just to say numbers, I like, I sold that boat for $55000, which is a really good time, at the time that was like, the boat market was really hot.

And so I made some money, certainly got all the the rest, that everything I put into it, got that back, bought some land here in Western North Carolina, next to some family land that we have and then took off with a mule named, Woody, to just right across North Carolina, because I felt you know, I’d been away from, from here, where I grew up, for 5 years. I had a little newspaper column called, “Muleheaded”, which was one of the ways I paid for my trips on the sailing trip.

I had a column called, “Ship to Shores”, like 35 installments, so Woody and I head off across North Carolina, we’re writing our little newspaper column and I decided to keep going, end up riding 13 months to San Diego and then, so that was the Muleheaded trip, wrote 2 books on that and then,

Debbie:
Wait, so Bernie, why did you decide on the mule?

Bernie:
It’s, I think, I guess for the same reason that I chose a steel sailboat over a fiberglass one, a mule is tough, just like a steel sailboat is tough. And I’m not the most careful traveler, I’m a little, some people call it absent minded, I call it “big picture”, and the mule is just, they’re just tougher.

They live longer, they eat less, they drink less, they’re stronger. You know, an eight hundred pound Mule will be, maybe, I don’t know, 23% stronger than the equivalent sized horse and there was something about the mules, people call them stubborn, but what that is, is just intelligence. They think, like, and I’ve had this happen, you know, walking across a bridge in Newfoundland with my mules before she put one step on it and just seized up, refused to cross and I thought, “I wish I had a horse, because this stupid mule is not doing it and this horse would walk across the bridge.”, well, she, and I, her name is Polly, I still have her, she’s out grazing right next to the cabin as we speak, I looked under the bridge and it was rotten and when she set her foot on the bridge, she could tell it was not right and so mules have this really innate sense of self- preservation. So, that’s why I like mules and so that really, that trip kicked off another trip that I went built a little wagon went from Canada to Mexico and filmed a um, documentary called, The Lost Sea Expedition, which I filmed it, edited it, produced it. It premiered on Rocky Mountain PBS, can be streamed on Prime, and then drove Polly across Newfoundland, six months, and then, my most recent trip was traveling by mule from North Carolina to Idaho. Which was by mules, break and cracker, that was 2300 miles and is now the subject of my new book, 2 mules to Triumph, which is about that trip. So, the mules are really kind of my, one of my modes of just, simple-ish travel, I call it simple-ish travel. But not everyone wants to buy a mule, can afford to buy, would even want to put up with a mule, so there are other trips I’d be very excited to talk about like going around Tasmania on a $10 bike. It’s another trip and it just kind of a range of possibilities.

Debbie:
Well, it seems like the mule will be a better companion than a bike.

Bernie:
Yeah, and you know, and I mean, and it’s nice and it’s fascinating. It’s fascinating, you, I will get a different reception, let’s say if I have a backpack and I’m walking up the road, I’ve had one backpack, I’ve had it for years, if I’ll walk up the road and I’m hitch hiking, I’ve done this, people look at you like you’re an axe murder they’re like, “No, not gonna talk to that guy with the beard and the backpack.”, and then if you put that same backpack on a mule and you travel with it, oh all of a sudden, it’s like this whole different things. “Oh, that you know, that guy, you know he’s an adventurer. He’s got a mule.”, so the mule completely changes the dynamic. Um, and it’s a, so it’s a magical amplification of that you know, that magic of, that kind of surrounds you when you’re, you’re traveling.

Debbie:
Also, I think we’ve seen, read, heard, too many of those hitchhiker serial killers, but you know what, Bernie, we’ve never heard of a person on a mule killing anybody, at least not recently.

Bernie:
Yeah, they you know with um, the opposite of that is true, like backpack down, nobody is ever going to mess with a guy on the mule.

Debbie:
No, that’s true!

Bernie:
No, no, I don’t want to freak all you backpackers out, because I’ve done a lot of backpacking and and now I’m creeping myself out.

Debbie:
I know!

But also when you see somebody with an animal, you automatically think, “Well, you know, they know how to take care of animals, they must be good people.”, you know, that’s, that’s automatically what you think when you see somebody who’s taking care of an animal. Um, and, and that’s a good thing.

But, I love that, Bernie. That’s pretty incredible and I could just, I can imagine the reception you get and also this is a good way to meet people because you don’t have to like go to somebody, they probably just come up to you and just really curious about what you’re doing.

Bernie:
It’s amazing and like it would be fascinating to compare 2 trips I’ve taken of six months each, six months pedaling and pushing this $10 bicycle around Tasmania and six months traveling from North Carolina to Idaho with 2 mules and it’s a totally different dynamic. It’s a lot easier to meet people with mules. But it’s a lot harder to find all the things the mules need, food, lodging and water. The mules care comes first and that in many ways, you’ve got this magnet, you know, to attract people and yet it comes at a cost. The mules come first, whereas, pushing and riding, and I say pushing, because it was a total piece of crap this bike in Tasmania, like I didn’t quite, people weren’t drawn to me as much, but come the end of the day, I didn’t check into a hostel, nothing wrong with hostels, but because I would just push the bike into a bush, unfold my hammock, crawl inside, that was it, like, you see like the difference in the dynamic? It’s fascinating to see them both and I, and I would really encourage, again listeners, who are, to not be, I don’t want to say discouraged or overwhelmed by like, “Oh here’s this guy talking about a sailboat or mule.”, no, no, no, I’ve done this with a $10 bike selling postcards and you can get out in these very simple ways and something I’d like to talk about more at some point and experience this thing that we talked about earlier about overcoming, you know, the unexpected. So, the the barrier can be very low to this entry. I mean, does that make sense?

Debbie:
Yeah, absolutely and that’s a thing that I love is that traveling and going to do these adventures doesn’t have to be so inaccessible, like, you don’t need to spend like a ton of money to experience the world. But I think there has to be a compromise, right? You have to think in a different way like, “Okay, I’m maybe compromising luxury but I get to experience something that I would never do if I just stayed in a nice hotel or doing a tour.”, um, and also there’s a beauty in a lot of ways, in doing that to see how you can go by doing that because it takes a lot of ingenuity and it takes a lot of effort.

Bernie:
Yes, and you, and the wonderful thing, and I love how you laid it out, because you know, you could book a 3 week trip to, let’s say, Australia or they know somewhere closer like you could book a 3 week trip to Nova Scotia and you could stay and organize rooms and B&B’s and have an amazing wonderful trip and that might be totally out your comfort range just to go on that trip, or you could take the same 3-week trip and take a bicycle trip and it would cost you alot less. It wouldn’t be as comfortable, or you could do a hiking trip which means you’d have even less possibility of carrying gear but it would still, there’s a whole range that I would encourage people to really look at, as you’re introduced so nicely from staying in rooms to, to doing less.

So really think about that. It’s, and I’ve experienced the whole, the whole range.

Debbie:
Yeah, and it’s wonderful to do that too because I think that’s, you know, I think in certain parts of your life you, you can experience different types of traveling, you could experience low budget, mid-budget, high and still have a really good time and honestly, I think it’s just your mentality, right? And the way you experience these adventures because you can have the best time spending very little money and have the worst time spending thousands of dollars.

Bernie:
Yeah, yes and I love and again I love how you’re laying this out in a range of let’s say, budget wise, high, medium, low. It’s, that’s really important for people to think about and don’t be guilty if you get a nice room. Or don’t be guilty if you’re sleeping in a bush like, don’t worry about it, like, don’t worry about it. It’s so easy for us to say, “Oh I’m a low budget traveler or I could only go, you know, if I had 300 count per cal sheets.”, which I know nothing about, but no, just go! Find your level, but go, but you got to go!

Debbie:
So, for you, Bernie, because you’ve done so many different things and you’ve done out of the box experiences and travel, what’s the next step for you? Like, what do you want to do next with your travel that you feel like you haven’t done yet? and maybe want to explore more?

Bernie:
Yeah, well so here’s, again I always keep going back to this um, the background. So right now I’m home in the cabin with my wife, Julie, I’m finishing these, the 2 mules to Triumph book and I feel an obligation, because I’m a writer, to finish writing, filming, doing whatever, finishing the book or the film, about 1 trip before I take the next, so, I’m wrapping that up and for my next trip, what I’m really toying with would be, I don’t think I’ve told anybody this yet, Debbie, except for my wife, but I’m going to, just between us, here’s what I would fantasize, here’s my fantasy trip like, I would travel by mule down the outer banks in North Carolina starting in Virginia, the outer banks is this chain of islands that goes down between the Pamlico Sound, the Albemarle Sound, the Bogue Sound, these are very shallow bodies of water between North Carolina and the ocean and I would to travel with a mule and talk with people about you know the wild horses that used to and still live on some of those islands. Corolla has, is a settlement up there that has wild horses.

Um, and I would just slowly work down the outer banks visiting with people, interviewing people, doing audio recordings and run kind of the whole chain after going, get on a ferry with the mules for a couple island hops and then if I really got lucky, I would do this by boat and take 2 trips and really document the ocean side of it. The seaside, the sound side, and the reason I would do that is these islands are changing so quickly due to sea rise and the new storms, parts of them will wash away and I think it would be a fascinating way to travel slowly and kind of document this, the outer banks of North Carolina.

So, that’s what I kind of fantasize about.

Debbie:
Aww, that’s so nice and I’m pretty sure you’re gonna get a lot of really interesting stories from from people that you meet.

Bernie:
Especially when my mules run away the first day, which has happened more than once.

Debbie:
It’s gonna be your tradition every time you start a journey, they run away because they know they’re like, “Oh my gosh, Bernie, really? we’re gonna do this again?”.

Bernie:
But it’s, you have to do it, like it’s our lucky thing, “You got to run away so we finish the trip.”, it’s happened more than once.

Debbie:
“If you don’t run away, I don’t know what could happen come on, this is good luck!”

Bernie:
“I know you got to take the stress off!”, so yeah, embrace chaos.

Debbie:
I love that.

Well, let’s look forward to maybe 30-40 years from now, Bernie, and you’re looking back in your life, what legacy would you like to leave and what do you want to be remembered for?

Bernie:
Yeah, you know I think what I’d like to be remembered for is exactly what I’m looking at. So, I’m looking at this beautiful hillside full of tulip popper trees, which is kind of the gray bark is shining, kind of like cement in the December light.

Um I’d really like to leave some land behind that’s been conserved and been protected for future generations, this property has had an easement conservation put on it and I really feel strongly about leaving something like that behind as a physical like, something physical, I leave behind and the other less tangible thing is, I just got an email today from a guy that read one of my books, 19 Million Mule Steps, which is a free photo book that people can download when they sign up for the riverearth.com newsletter, um and he said, “You know, your book,”, he said, “My mule died and I swore I’d never have another mule, I read your book and it gave me the faith to keep going to work with a new mule that I have and it gave me the faith and the hope to work out this grind, I’m the VP of a company in South Carolina until I retire and then I can do my thing.”, and I’m getting goose bumps right now because it’s like, when I read stuff like that, it’s like, that’s my calling in life and I know the flip side of this because there are some incredible books written by authors like Moitessier, Joshua Slocum, first guy to sail alone around the world, that really inspired me and they kept me going while I was in a corporate job that didn’t really maybe fulfill my ultimate dream which was to go sailing.

So, I think just that writing these books, doing these films, like Lost Sea Expedition, getting that out, just to give people hope, you know, it’s doable.

You can do this, you can do this. If this guy, if this, if this Bernie guy can do it with all these imperfections and mules that run away and boats that sink and you know sending postcards to pay for trips like, I could probably do it too, I’ll keep going.

That’s a long winded way, but I hope that kind of captures what I’d like to leave behind.

Debbie:
No, it’s It’s really true because I think in a lot of ways, especially if you want to do something different, it’s good to see other people do it too because it makes it feel like it can be done and you’re not alone and,

Bernie:
Yes.

Debbie:
And that’s what I love about that, that someone can reach out to you like this person did and they’re like, “Wow, you really gave me the push to to be able to do this.”.

Bernie:
Yeah, and I think and I hate to interrupt, I think it’s important for listeners to understand, sometimes they look at people who are doing these big trips and they’re like, “Oh that person’s, that man or woman, is just like a freak of nature. They’re totally so self driven.”. They’re not. Like, they’re not, like, you know, Moitessier and all these amazing sailors for example, they looked up to Slocum, Joshua Slocum, they all had their heroes.

It’s really important to remember and find those people in your life that are doing it. It’s very powerful, I have my own, boy, I’ve got a, you know, a lot of people that I really look up to and I’m so, so glad they wrote the books, produce the films. That’s a real gift that I like to give back.

Debbie:
It is, no it, it really is.

It’s definitely a gift and it becomes um you know it becomes your legacy when you’re able to leave that to somebody and maybe who knows that if they have children or friends that they’re able to do it too and it gets handed down. Um and they also become somebody’s inspiration, which I think is pretty incredible when you can give an inspiration to somebody and they become an inspiration to somebody else and I think that’s the beauty of all of this, that it’s not just you, you’re also affecting other people and even people you didn’t know were affected by you.

Bernie:
Yeah, I mean and you have, you know and you don’t have to write books, my dad had this great saying, he was born in 1926, right before the dust bowl and he grew up in just abject poverty, they blew out the, in the dust bowl, you know, these horrific dust storms and he said, “Whatever you do, do it like someone’s watching.”, and what he meant by that is do it right because you never know who’s looking, and I would encourage everyone out there, like do the same thing, because you never know how you will inspire somebody by doing something as simply as you know, picking up a little piece of trash or taking a trip. You know, in a usual or unusual way. Very powerful.

Debbie:
I really love that mentality because I think um, especially in like this type of generation, we’re very much into instant gratification and just doing the bare minimum, I mean, I’ve definitely been, you know, like I’ve definitely done that,

Bernie:
Um, we all do I do.

Debbie:
but it’s yeah, but it’s true. No, it’s really true that you know doing the best that you can with whatever it is that you’re doing and taking pride and I think that’s what it is, you have to take pride in what you’re doing because it’s not just about the money you’re making or how it’s going to look to other people, it’s about how you feel about yourself right? and it makes you really feel good when you do something well, um and it makes a lot of difference with your well-being as well.

Bernie:
Right. No, you’re absolutely right. You’re at you’re absolutely right, and that’s such a challenge now and I know we’re both on social media. We both have such got a very popular website and so, on the one hand it’s like you know, you want people to come to your website, but on the other hand, I would you know, urge people, be selective pick good quality stuff, so you don’t just constantly compare yourself to what other people are doing, pull back a little bit have some of that pride, you know, think about what you’re doing a little bit, you can still go to tons of websites, you can still do plenty of social media, but really be aware of that pride, that quality of what you’re doing and I know we’re we’re straying from the travel a little bit but that also includes travel that really includes the way you travel. Like why are you doing this?

Debbie:
Yeah, absolutely no, it’s it’s true because when you have a like, a why with what you’re doing, it makes you have a purpose whether it’s life and travel whatever it is that you’re doing, if you have a why you have a purpose and it becomes a bit more. Um, so I really love that and I really enjoyed talking to you today, Bernie, thank you so much for being here!

Bernie:
Absolutely!

Debbie:

If our listeners want to learn more about you, where can they find you?

Bernie:
So, I blog at my travel website, it’s been there for 20 years, it’s called riverearth.com, so it’s river, like the Mississippi River, Earth like the planet Earth, riverearth.com and right now when people visit the site, you’ll probably, they’ll probably get one of these or you guys, I’ll talk right to your listeners, like you guys when you come to riverearth.com, you’re probably gonna, no, you are gonna get 1 of those annoying little pop ups that says, “Get the free ebook”, and what the ebook is, it’s a beautiful, it’s like a hundred and four page photo book of traveling from North Carolina to Idaho with 2 mules.

It’s totally free I just ask that you sign up for our newsletter so we can let you know when the 2 Mules to Triumph book comes out and the riverearth.com site has lots of great ideas on traveling whether it’s ultra low budget by as I mentioned earlier, you know, sending out a subscription service of postcards from Tasmania as you’re pedaling around it on your $10 bike to other interviews with travelers including a woman named, Adeline, who spent 3 years traveling through France and she started out pulling a cart with 2 dogs and a cat, it’s all she had, it’s a beautiful story, it’s a beautiful story and I’d encourage listeners to really check out Adeline’s story on riverearth.com, it’ll really inspire you.

Debbie:
Aww, that’s amazing!

Well, thank you so much, Bernie. We really appreciate you!

Bernie:
So fun!

Debbie:
Aww, thank you so much! We really appreciate you for being here!

Bernie:
Thank you Debbie! Thank you so much, been wonderful and I wish all of you listeners all the very best!


Listen to Bernie’s extended interview where he talks about making money through manual work while traveling.

What you’ll find:

In this episode, Bernie talks to us about how to create an income through manual work while also traveling the world!


Follow Bernie:


Show Credits:

Audio Engineer: Ben Smith

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