This teenager cycled from Alaska to Argentina
He’d longed to go on a “crazy adventure” for years, and as Liam Garner’s high school graduation day grew closer, the teenager was more determined than ever to make his escape.
An experienced cyclist, Garner, who is from Long Beach, California, had previously ridden from Los Angeles to San Francisco, and realized that he could pedal across the continent without much difficulty if he chose to.
After reading a book by adventurer Jedidiah Jenkins, who biked from Oregon to Argentina, Garner decided that he would cycle from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, the northernmost point in the United States accessible by road, to Ushuaia, Argentina, the southernmost point of South America.
And while many of his school friends were preparing for college, Garner began preparing for the adventure of his life.
Garner was 17 when he set off on a KHS Zaca mountain bike with just a tent, a sleeping bag, around a day’s worth of food and water, some portable batteries, a medical kit, and extra parts for his bike.
He began his journey across the Pan-American Highway, a network of roads extending across the Americas, on August 1, 2021.
The teenager, who had already amassed a significant number of followers from his TikTok video series following his trip to San Francisco, decided to document the journey, which saw him cycle through 14 countries, including Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Colombia, Peru, Chile and Argentina.
Garner admits that his parents, who are separated, weren’t particularly thrilled about the prospect of their teenage son riding all the way to South America alone.
He says his mother refused to believe him at first and went through “probably eight months of terror” while he didn’t actually tell his father until after he’d set off, as he was so sure he’d be against it.
Garner left California with very little money, and says he’s been surviving on a budget of around $430 a month.
He notes that he’s heard people commenting that he’s only able to do what he’s doing “because he’s a straight white, rich guy,” and is keen to point out that this simply isn’t the case.
He says he was robbed at least five times and had to spend a month in hospital after coming off his bike in Colombia and landing on his head.
“The idea that you might get hurt, and something really awful might happen is in your mind traveling so much,” he says, before explaining that he received around 40 stitches and had to have plastic surgery to repair his ear and stitch it back together.
“But it wasn’t really a reality until I got hurt in Colombia. I was blacked out for about 15 minutes and it took me a few hours to even be able to speak again.”
Garner decided to write a will after the incident, and says that having to stay still for weeks took a huge toll on him.
He admits that he briefly considered giving up during a particularly difficult time after he was robbed in the south of Mexico and struggled with extreme heat.
For about two and a half weeks, he and his partner Logan had no connection to the outside world.
According to Garner, the pair were only able to bike for a few minutes before having to pull over due to the heat and discussed potentially taking the bus home once they reached Central America.
Thankfully, the weather was much cooler once they reached Guatemala a week or so later, and they decided to persevere.
During the last month of his journey, Garner thought of little else than his “wheel crossing the last inch of pavement” and sometimes got so emotional that he’d “start crying on the bike for no reason, even though it hadn’t happened yet.”
He finally arrived in Ushuaia on January 10, after cycling 32,000 kilometers over the course of 527 days.
However, Garner, now 19, says that the moment he had spent so much time imagining felt somewhat anticlimactic.
Feeling slightly dejected, he decided to head to a national park for a few days and spend some time reflecting on his time on the road.
Garner was soon joined by his partner Chloe, who he first met during his trip to San Francisco, and had stayed in touch with.
He says the pair were just friends at first, but their friendship blossomed into something more while Garner was on the road.
The couple are now backpacking their way back to California, taking pretty much the same route that Garner took on his way over – he’s shipped his bike to a friend in Chile, who is sending it on to Long Beach for him.
Once he returns home, Garner plans to write a book about his trip in the hopes of inspiring other young people to take on a journey such as this.
He says he regularly receives messages from people who’ve seen his story on Instagram or TikTok and have felt compelled to do something similar.
While he’s very much looking forward to catching up with his family and friends, some of whom have been busy studying while he’s been away, Garner has absolutely no regrets about taking a different path.