Mt. Kilimanjaro, Jan. 2008

The Roads Unwound Project:

In July of 2010 I am embarking on the adventure of my life. I plan to ride my bike, solo, from Deadhorse, Alaska, the northern-most road accessible point in North America, to Ushuaia, Argentina, the southern-most road accessible point in South America. The Roads Unwound Project is my documentation of the journey. As I travel south, and the roads unwind before me, I will frequently post articles, updates, photography and short videos about the life and landscapes if the Americas. Aside from the Panama Canal and the Darion Gap in Columbia (and crossing the Straight of Magellan by ferry) I will be able to traverse the entire length of the Americas without lifting my feet higher than my peddles. I am intrigued by both the diversity of the Americas and the similarities.

My name is Justin Smith and I am the brainchild behind the Roads Unwound Project. I was born and raised in Colorado Springs, CO with the great Rocky Mountains just outside my back door. Life, for me, has unfolded in the great outdoors. Frequent family trips when I was growing up took me to all corners of the country to hike, explore and even get in some biking from time to time. As the tethers of childhood frayed, I found myself running all over Colorado to ski, bike, camp, explore, and climb some fourteeners. If my fascination with travel had not already begun, it sure had by the time I returned from a two-month summer trip to southern Germany when I was 16.

When I ventured off for college I knew that I needed close proximity to the mountains I had grown to love, and so I soon found myself enrolled at Montana State University. I dove headfirst into the grueling architecture program at MSU because I saw a connection between the places I visited and the architecture that was born from it. As much as the wild world of the great outdoors had inspired me, so had the wonderful diversity of the world’s architecture I had seen on my travels. During college I spent four months studying abroad in Europe, and I attribute my current passion for photography to that trip. My education continued to show me the incredible interconnectedness of everyone and everything: cultures to architecture, environment and landscape to cultures, and cultures back on our environment. The conclusion of my time at school was my Master’s Thesis: Environment, Place & Architecture, which looked at the impact of nature and landscapes on design in addition to the influences of people and cultures. As a pretense to the whole investigation was the understanding that globalization is having a major effect on how we design and build, resulting in a slow purging of culturally and regionally significant architecture.

Following college I spent a few years practicing the art of construction, some time in an architecture office, and more than a few trips abroad. During my travels to South America, China, Southeast Asia, Africa, Europe, and most recently to New Zealand, I still found myself contemplating the influences of the natural world on design and culture. While further investigation of my thesis could potentially involve further academics, I have also realized there are a few additional things I wish to pursue in my life. It should be obvious that I have always loved to travel, and in the process to photograph and write about the places and cultures I visit. This trip is my opportunity to further develop those passions, and to do so on a project that will allow me to study the influences of people and place on architecture and design. From above the Arctic Circle to the tip of South America there are numerous differences in place and culture, yet we still refer the the twin continents as the Americas. I want to capture in photos, sketches, words, and video what makes us so different, and what makes us so much alike.

I will certainly not be the first to attempt, or complete this trip, but I hope to go into it with a unique background that will shape how I see things. As stated above, I am incredibly interested in how cultures and communities interact with their natural surroundings. I am approaching this trip with an interest in conservation, community development and sustainability, local craft and construction, and preservation of place and culture. With that said, I want to use my interests to help inform the ways I communicate with each locale, and then use that to inform the information I pass on to you all. Throughout the adventure I will be reaching out to publishing opportunities for my articles, stories, and photography. The goal upon completion will be to publish a coffee-table book of images and stories, and potentially publish a full length book about my experience and analysis.

I hope the information contained here piques your interest, and that you will decide to follow along on my great journey. Feel free to subscribe to the post feed from the pull down menu at the top of the page and you will be notified via email when I post something new. Also, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me through the contact page on this website if you have any comments, questions or suggestions.