By Elise Modrovich
Special to the Sun
On Friday, November 10, 2017, Louis (pronounced “Louie”) Cole and Juan-Peter “JP” Schulze made a perfect landing in their Cessna 210 named “Baloo” to crystal clear skies but some very blustery conditions at Kernville Airport, disembarking to a joyous crowd. The reason for the cheers and warm welcome? The duo had just completed a round-the-world trek in only 90 days as part of their commitment to “Live The Adventure.”
Cole, 34, who hails from Surrey, England, started his extremely popular YouTube channel, FunforLouis, in December 2012, which documents his life and travels adventuring all over the globe, encouraging viewers to “Peace out, enjoy life and live the adventure.” The channel now boasts over 1.9 million subscribers, “a combined loyal audience of over 4 million,” and is one of the most followed travel video blogs, or “vlogs” on the Internet. Schulze, born in Namibia, but a native of New Zealand, is only 21 years old but has been flying since he was just 11 and has racked up thousands of hours of flight time in 30 types of aircraft in his young life. The two met just three and a half years ago in Schulze’s native New Zealand, when Schulze “was building a RV14 to fly around the world. I met Louis and he said, ‘I want in,’ and I said, ‘Well, we’ll need a bigger plane, then,” said Cole.
The duo decided that they could take their plan and do even more with it. They started a successful Kickstarter campaign to turn their expedition into a documentary. They called their project “Beyond Borders,” a film “celebrating global diversity…that intends to break down borders, illustrate how small our world really is and encourage others to travel and explore their world… and find the common humanity in all of us, no matter how different our lives and worlds might be.” With Schulze in the pilot seat averaging 1400 nautical miles and flying into over 22 countries on six continents in their 90-day journey, Cole would focus on filmmaking, making a daily “behind the scenes” vlog of the journey as well as utilizing a 360 degree Go-Pro mounted to one of the wings on the Cessna 210.
“Live the Adventure (LTA),” Cole’s adjunct travel site, whose “mission is to equip like minded aspiring travelers to achieve their biggest travel dreams,” for aspiring social media bloggers, photographers and filmmakers, helped to coordinate the expedition from the ground. While planning their global route, the LTA team knew they wanted to start and end in California, and their research led them to discover Kernville Airport. With its unique location and picturesque surroundings, “It was just perfect. Ideal,” said Cole. Kernville Airport manager Rick Lach, who helped guide the duo in last Friday, added, “They’re adventurous type of folks, and with all the nearby hiking, camping, and rafting, this is their kind of place.”
Further capitalizing on Kernville Airport’s unique features, Laura Thomas, LTA’s Managing Director, planned and executed a two-day LTA “Summit”, utilizing the airport’s on-site campground as a base camp. The event gave the online LTA community “of like-minded people a chance to meet face-to-face, celebrate, gather together, dream together, and bond as a group of people who want to live adventurously,” said Thomas.
In spite of various hiccups, the duo managed to stay on track for most of the trip, until the FAA threatened to throw a wrench in the works on the last, and longest leg of the journey. While in Hawaii and planning for the flight over the Pacific Ocean to Oakland, Schulze mounted a necessary extra large fuel tank that would enable them to make the estimated 15 to 17 hour trek safely, but then the duo were stuck in their tracks while waiting for the FAA to certify the heavy tank. “They did it at the very last minute,” said Schulze. “We almost had to scrap the return date.” But with the help of a “massive tail wind,” Baloo the Cessna, complete with a stuffed Koala talisman perched on the dashboard, made it safely to Oakland in just thirteen and a half hours. “We landed at 4 a.m.,” said Cole. “Exhausted, but right on schedule.”
While disembarking the small plane at 1:3 p.m. last Friday to a huge group of LTA supporters, media, airport crew and local fans, on the exact date and a mere one and a half hours off their planned return time, the men were all smiles. “This has been a lifelong dream since I was a kid,” said Schulze, adding, “I thought I’d be more emotional, but it just feels surreal. It was amazing.” Cole, beaming, took in the crowd. “At 6 a.m. this morning, I was dead tired. I didn’t know how I’d make it through today, but I have a lot more energy now. I’m overwhelmed.” He smiled and gestured at Schulze. “He had the hard part. He was the guy flying. I’m just the guy sitting there, filming. This was a team effort, for sure.”
When asked about their most memorable part of the trip, Cole and Schulze both agreed. “Pakistan was the most impactful,” said Schulze. Cole nodded, “I have never felt that kind of warmth and friendship before. They’re not portrayed like that in the media at all. It was a real surprise.” Schulze added, “We wanted to showcase how small the world really is, how we’re more alike than we are different, and we were successful.” With Kickstarter financing in place, look for the “Beyond Borders” documentary to be released as soon as they manage to edit 90 days worth of material. If you simply cannot wait, you can watch their daily “World Flight” escapades on Cole’s FunForLouis YouTube channel. “No adventure is ever easy,” Cole reflected. “But this was life-changing. Definitely the adventure of our lifetimes.”