Erick Prince is a hopeless junkie, and now he plans to teach vulnerable kids how to get hooked too. It really doesn’t get much lower than that.
Growing up in a rough area of Cleveland, Erick managed to stay clean despite his local environment. It wasn’t until he enlisted in the military after high school to support his first son that he received a taste of addiction.
He did ok through college, but once he graduated, he relapsed and it all went downhill. He now travels the world shooting photos, gambling, and writing about his crazy experiences on his blog.
But Erick is also on a mission. He plans to turn other young kids into future junkies through a non-profit organization he’s created called A World Beyond Youth Exploration.
It’s aimed at kids with low-income backgrounds and minority groups.
This unorthodox project will only get off the ground with donations, so if you’d like to see a group of low-income kids become desperate addicts like Erick (and myself), please donate whatever you can.
I sat down with Erick to discuss his tragic story.
Now Erick, I know this subject may be difficult to talk about. But you’re amongst friends here. Nothing that you say today will ever leave this room.
Share your darkest secrets with us, and let the healing begin…
When did you shoot-up with your first dose of wanderlust?
“When I flew from Cleveland to San Antonio for basic training. I had never flown before and that was my first real trip. Although a bit traumatizing given I had just joined the military, I still became enamored by travel. I felt more comfortable in the air than anywhere else.”
What made you run away from home?
“Growing up we received Section 8 housing assistance which allowed us to move into a decent area of Cleveland for a couple years. We moved next to an older Jewish woman that lived alone. In exchange for helping her with day to day things like carrying boxes, she would give me her husband’s old Readers Digest and National Geographic magazines. I was hooked and determined to meet naked African tribesmen.”
How did your family & friends respond to your unconventional lifestyle?
“I’ve always been different. I come from a community that doesn’t advocate travel at all. My family expected me to travel. My grandmother still freaks out and my mother is really laid back about it.”
Has your travel addiction changed you?
“Travel has really opened my eyes to how Americans and African-Americans are perceived. It’s hard to put into words. One minute people despise you and the next they worship you. Very surreal. Also made me far more tolerant of others’ viewpoints which has made me far better in debates. ”
What’s your seediest travel vice?
“Food. It’s ridiculous. I eat like a bear on the road. Far more than I do when back home. Also debating with other westerners. Apparently American’s that can carry a strong conversation are rare out here. I’ve spent many long hostel nights debating the merits of capitalism and why the hell Miley Cyrus matters (still arguing this one).”
Can you tell me about your biggest travel regret?
“That I don’t get to see my boys as much as I would like to. Luckily they’ll be traveling with me more in the future.”
How do you fund your addiction? Armed robberies? Prostitution? Stealing copper wire?
“Mainly my photography. I’m also quite good at stock trading and poker. A natural gambler I guess. My biggest asset is I’m not materialistic and never have been. So I’ve been able to save quite a bit of money. THINGS don’t mean much to me.”
Have you ever overdosed?
“Nope. Not at all. With all the drugs Uncle Sam pumped into me over my ten year military career I’m probably immune from every sickness known to man, including travel.”
Do you find it hard relating to normal people who are clean & sober?
“I sometimes feel like I’m bragging. I actually feel bad for my friends that can’t travel. It’s like they have a dark cloud over their heads. People that I used to hang with everyday, I can’t stand to be around anymore because they depress me. But I’ve had some friends that can’t travel who live through my adventures. I push myself to live life to the fullest for them.”
Has your addiction got you into any trouble?
“YUP. I was stripped naked in Thailand in front of 100 people, almost fell off a ship into the frozen Baltic in Russia, arrested in Argentina, and was almost married in Poland.”
If someone wanted to get a little taste of your addiction, what articles do you recommend?
Do you ever think you’ll be able to kick the habit?
“No way in hell. I’m only at 63 countries. Too many laws left for me to break. Foods to try. Photos to take. Animals to chase. I can’t stop. People call this an addiction but for me it really is. It’s life, it’s passion, it’s vision.
The primary purpose of my travels is to inspire and motivate low income students and people of color to travel. These kids have no one else of color to look at as a career traveler. As long as these kids keep sending me messages I’ll keep going as long as my body holds out. At 30 I think I still have some time. Until someone else comes along or I start meeting a significant number of minorities on the road, I’m going to keep moving.”
How do we find you to stage an intervention?
Thanks for sharing your experiences with us Erick. I sincerely hope your powerful story can help others