Ryan Newburn Interview

Ryan Newburn (06/12/2020)

Ryan Newburn has been through a transformative journey that changed the trajectory of his life. From 300 lbs when he was in his 20’s to a fit world adventurer and man of big dreams, Ryan shows that anything is possible with a positive attitude in this inspiring interview.

How did you get started?

Well I actually used to be extremely obese. Most of my life up until my 20s was spent at over 300lbs. I lost most of my weight, about 130lbs, from long distance runs starting out just being able to run to my mail box. After becoming fit, I decided that I would embark on a journey to cross Japan on foot and haven’t looked back since then.

What are your main adventure sports?

My main adventure sport is long distance hiking. I am interested in thru-hikes. Basically, I choose a country that interests me and I walk the north to south or vice versa distance across it.

Tell us about some of the greatest adventures that you’ve been on. What stands out for you? Where have you gone? What have you done? What are you proud of?

So far, I have crossed 3 countries on foot: Japan, New Zealand, and Iceland. Japan took me about 5 months to cross 3,000 km, New Zealand 4 months at 3,000 km and Iceland 3 weeks at 500 km. I also did the Arctic Circle trail in Greenland which was about 120 km from the ice sheet to the coast. All of these were my greatest adventures for different reasons. Japan was my first great journey and taught me a lot about the hardships of being a long distance walker and the shock of cultural difference in the world. New Zealand gave me my first real challenge of hiking in just the back-country on trails for most of the distance. Iceland brought about the challenge of extreme weather and lack of anything or anyone, similar to being on Mars if I had to put it into perspective. Each adventure has taught me different things and I have grown massively undertaking them.

Have you always enjoyed the outdoors? What brings you outside?

Actually I have not always enjoyed the outdoors. Like I said, before I was 20, my life revolved around gaming and being indoors. Nature didn’t really interest me too much and I could easily get lost in the digital world. I think that my eyes started opening more to nature when I would run outside each night as I was losing weight. That pushed me enough to attempt my first long distance walk in Japan and from that point, nature became my greatest passion. Now, I am a glacier photography guide in Iceland and spend my whole day hiking onto the ice and enveloping myself in nature.

Tell me about a challenge you’ve had while travelling and something you did to solve it.

I think that the greatest challenges I had were on my first long distance hike in Japan. I was completely new to this sort of environment that I was making mistakes from the beginning. The biggest mistake that I made though was prepping for that walk. I had amassed enough gear to have my pack weighing in at 25 kg. Hell I even decided to bring my laptop on that hike which I roll my eyes at now in hindsight. I also had decided to do the walk in hiking boots. This was not good since the entire walk was on roads and hard pavement. I had blisters and back pains within the first few days of walking. I unfortunately didn’t decide to change this though until I got about halfway across the country to Tokyo. However I did solve it in a fun way. I went to a Baby’s R Us in the city and bought a baby cart and some bungee straps to put my backpack on. Along with that, I started wearing my sandals mostly and ditched the boots so that my feet weren’t so burdened and could breath. This made the second half of my walk much more enjoyable. Plus I could store bentos in the undercarriage of the stroller.

What’s your favorite meal to have while on your adventures?

Well, I suppose since my adventures are always in different countries, this will change quite a bit. When I was walking across Japan, I would always stop at the convenience stores to get a bento and some rice balls. I imagine if they had those everywhere in the world, that would be all that I would eat! However, when I was hiking in the back-country, I would often create this mix of starchy goodness by boiling ramen and then adding instant mashed potatoes to the broth as well as sausages and cheese. That would definitely make me pass out after a long days hike.

What are your three favorite/most useful items to take with you on your journeys?

With my more recent adventure, I absolutely love the new Hillberg Soulo Tent that I invested in. It’s basically bomb proof and has more room than my previous tents. So I am able to feel more secure and have a better nights rest in my packable home. Although I don’t always use them, my trekking poles are lifesavers when I’m going across sketchy terrain. I can’t tell you how many times that I have thought to myself “I would have died there if I didn’t have these bad boys”. The third thing that is my biggest savior is actually my iPhone. Mainly because I can get lost in podcasts, music, or audio-books along my walks and it definitely passes the time by so much better when you have to walk an average of 30 km per day.

What are you doing now?

I actually just started a glacier photography company here in Iceland! My passion is taking people onto the ice, teaching them it’s history, and photographing them interacting with it on the adventure. The glaciers have become my passion and I want to do my best in sharing it with the rest of the world via tours or through my photography.

What are you planning next?

For now, my future plans are mainly centered around building up my company. I would like to promote it within the US since it’s my home country and try to get people here to educate them about glaciers and climate change. However, I am also devoting a lot of my time towards landscape photography so I will probably take some trips around the world to do some shooting. Unfortunately I don’t have any long distance hikes planned for the near future but I would like to try some shorter hikes in places like Patagonia and the Dolomites.

How can people reach you?

You can reach me anytime on my social media pages. My Instagram is TheStrawHatBackpacker and my Facebook page is The Straw Hat Backpacker. You can also book a tour with me through my company: IcePicJourney.is

Please share an inspirational quote which has been meaningful for you in life.

People watch movies in order to escape reality.

But the truth is, reality is your greatest movie.

Your life is the plot and the world is your set.

The music that grips and inspires you is the soundtrack.

The family, friends, and adversaries that you create for yourself are the cast.

But most importantly, you are the director, writer, and producer of the show.

The decisions that you make throughout the runtime will affect how the rest of the acts are played out.

There then just becomes one fundamental question that you should ask yourself.

Would you want to watch your own movie?

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