Your story is remarkable. On your travels, prior to getting arrested what where some of the places that you saw yourself traveling to and why?

I was forced to do this. I was setup on a crime I didn’t commit. I was going to do life for something I had nothing to do with. It was because of my prior record. Prior to getting arrested, I was thinking like every other typical American. You go on vacation… you go back home. When you go on a permanent vacation and need to create a new home, you are doing reverse immigration. You need papers and I didn’t even have a name. You need a name to get started. You need an ID . Once you’re in a country for a few weeks or a couple months depending on where you are, you can’t legally work. It’s the same problems that Latinos or other immigrants face
here in the states. When I was out traveling as a tourist, I never thought about that.
But when you’re a fugitive, everything is about ID. You can’t do anything, even entering a school. My first ID was under the name Jeff as a student actually since it was the easiest one to get.

Fast forward to the day of the arrest. How did it all go down? Was it something like the movies where you get surrounded and where do you feel there is so much fascination with crime stories these days.

I was kidnapped, I was not arrested. I was walking through the restaurant in my resort in Venezuela with one of my buddies. The place was sold out and I was trying to get him accommodations at another hotel. I looked out and saw some large guys with slacks sitting at the tables. Not exactly dressed for the beach. Then I saw three suburbans with dark tinted windows which was the same vehicle that the undercover Federalis used down there. I knew when I saw this it wasn’t going to be good. I walked outside and these guys got up and grabbed me, wrestled me down with pistols to my back and threw a black bag over my head. They tossed me in the back of one of the suburbans and we went for a wild ride. I never saw a judge or pled my
case in front of jury, I was just shipped back to the U.S. Within a few days I ended up in a jail cell back in Miami. It hasn’t been the same since. When you’re actually out there, it’s not like the movies. Your heart hits an indescribable pain. I didn’t see the sun for months, my hair turned white, and I was using a soggy toilet paper roll as a pillow.

Your book ‘Gringo’ is an international bestseller. Why do you feel the public as such a fascination with your story and the experiences you have faced on your journey?

My book Gringo went wild when the ebook came out. When the print book came out we got a lot of good reviews but when ebook came out it went #1 on Amazon in several categories. I think the reason the public is fascinated by the story is because most people haven’t lived it. I’ve done things that almost nobody else has. I was a white midwesterner surviving on my wits after being forced out of my home country.

I did a quick check I saw that there is movie titled Gringo. I kind of feel that it’s a quick rendition and yours is the real deal, but from your own words what’s the difference?

If I didn’t run I was going to be doing life in prison. I got my “get out of jail free card” once and I wasn’t going to mess it up. I didn’t drink, I didn’t do drugs and I didn’t break the law. I took it very seriously. I enrolled in several universities in Latin America where I studied languages and business trying to get contacts for a new life. I was fortunate enough to have funds to get me through it. Interestingly enough, I was fully self-rehabilitated while I was on the run. It was a wild journey. When you leave the country with only your wits you can do a million things right but one thing wrong and you’re screwed. The book is only about 300 pages but the manuscript I
wrote in prison was about 800 pages. It’s scary and lonely being on the run. For example, if someone is speaking English I would immediately turn and go the other way. You try to avoid anyone who is breaking the law and could put your freedom in danger regardless of your personal connection to them. Like when I was living with the cartel in Medellin, they were my friends but I knew their lifestyle was putting my freedom in danger. It was constantly spooky.

Obviously in prison, orange is the new black. Being locked up for 20+ years is no small task. I am sure that fashion trends have changed over the years, what was the biggest shock for you when you finally got out and walked the streets of life to see people again and their fashion tastes.

As far as fashion trends people seem to be way more out of shape. Back then it seemed like 200 pounds was big, now it's 300 pounds. Everything also seems much more casual. You don’t see suits anymore. When I was on the prison bus leaving the FCC in Miami, I was looking out of the window and saw much bigger, more casually dressed people. Everyone is dressed for comfort these days and that aspect seems like a switch for the best in my opinion.

Bonus Question: I see from your Instagram that you are traveling the world on a book tour. What’s that experience like and tell us how you got into the travel business? Lets face it, some of the places you are visiting aren’t necessarily hot travel destinations, its almost as if we are watching a season of Anthony Bourdain.

I’ve been on a world book tour after my book hit #1 on Amazon. I went around the world in 53 days and met a lot of interesting people like the Dalai Lama. Originally, I went to the hot cities like New York City, Paris, Tokyo, and Los Angeles. But I preferred going off the beaten path and away from where most people go. Everyone has gone on the mainstream routes. I thought I would garner more interest in places where nobody goes. I wanted to hit the spots less traveled and get some culture shock while promoting my book. I enjoy being off the beaten path and having new
experiences. I enjoy seeing different cultures and not just doing “canned tourism.”

For example, when I was in Nicaragua I did some volcano surfing where I met a writer named Morgan who introduced me to the Young Pioneer Tours. I found out about their Pilipino Crucifixion tour and I decided to sign up for it. The founder of that company, Gaz, was leading the tour and we hit it off. I enjoyed it so much that I immediately went off to their Unrecognized Countries tour which I am on right now. It’s been amazing. I love traveling so the second the federal judge let me off parole, I immediately went to the passport office so I could travel the world legally, this was the first time I could get a US Passport in my own name in 33 years!! I went to Mexico to get my teeth fixed then off to Cuba. I love hitting the places on the fringe
and I think they’re more intriguing for the people who follow me on social media and
my new travel blog at