Two brothers are riding across the country on bicycles made of recycled parts, in search of Americans reviving a lost sense of local community. One of them is a writer, the other, a photographer. They are discovering this phenomenon through their multimedia project, AmericareCycled.
Noah and Tim Hussin began peddling away from their big city lives last November and into the homes of Americans who are trying to rebuild sustainable local communities and economies.
After three years of living abroad, Noah wanted to come home and explore parts of the United States most people don’t know. Tim - an avid bike rider - has worked in multimedia journalism for years, and felt it was time to pursue a personal project with his brother.
They are now more than 1,600 kilometers from the east coast state of North Carolina, where they began their journey. Along the way, the brothers have met Americans who are living in eco-villages, on an urban farm and running sustainable businesses.
But photographer and filmmaker Tim Hussin says they are not just riding by. "You know, it's not like we are staying nearby in a hotel or something, and just, you know, visiting everyday or every other day. We are actually sleeping in their houses and eating breakfast with them. So, we have very much become a part of whatever we are documenting," Hussin said.
They are documenting their experience through film and photography, and a blog, which incorporates local music of the places they have visited.
Noah says their journey began at a member-owned bicycle shop in Asheville, North Carolina , where they made their bikes from recycled parts.
"We discovered this bicycle co-op, which they are all over the country, kinda popping up everywhere. You can come in there and just sort through a whole garage of old parts, and they will teach you how to basically build a bike from the scraps," Noah said.
The Hussin brothers made a video at the bicycle recyclery to show one way Americans are turning their backs on decades of globalization and relocalizing culture.
Noah says it’s happening all over the United States.
"Small communities are falling apart, whether its towns that are losing their industry and all their jobs and people are having to move out. Or whether it's just people choosing the life in suburbs where there are not really public spaces and there really isn't the cultural infrastructure to bring people together. I mean, we sense that a lot of people are kinda starting to lament that loss of community in this country and this loss of kinda local culture," Noah said.
Their first stop was at an urban homestead, a city or suburban home where residents produce all their basic needs. In one of the Hussin's short films, the homesteaders explain how this type of sustainable living allows them to abandon their 9 to 5 jobs to pursue their creative interests, like building, sewing, cooking and playing music.
"Small community living has been lost in America. Families are much more isolated, individuals are much more isolated. And I do think a lot is lost,"
"People are living sad lonely existences. Why do we have to do that to ourselves? We don’t."
Tim says this North Carolina community is not alone.
"We have found there are lot of people creating spaces for to bring people to live the lives they want to lead and not to live they have been taught they should lead," Tim said.
The brothers are trying to live sustainably each step of the way, and are learning how from the people they meet. Noah says the residents of the urban homestead taught them how to find, rather than buy, their food while on the road.
"That was the beginning of us kinda realizing how much free food was out there, which has become a big part of our lifestyle on the road. Dumpster diving and road kill, which we never expected," Noah said.
Tim says there is plenty of food for the taking...if you know where to look. "It like blows my mind how much food, grocery stores throw away. If you start looking in the dumpsters, especially in America, and see how much they throw away because, you know, it expires in one day or a vegetable has like a tiny rotten spot on it," Tim said.
He says they are discovering ways of living very different from their suburban up-bringing in the southeastern state of Florida.
"There are lot of interesting communities that I had no idea existed. And a lot of people that are really passionate about changing the way we live. It’s really exciting and inspiring to see all these communities working individually but also together as sort of part of a larger movement," Tim said.
Noah says he and his brother have been inspired to change the way they live, and they hope their blog about their journey inspires others to consider it as well.
"Something about constructing a lot of things in your life with your hands and with your own friends…something about the process, the intimacy of living through people you are close seems to be feel a lot more authentic and a lot more human and I would much rather incorporate into my life going forward than I have in the past," Noah said.
Noah and Tim Hussin are now peddling through the culture-rich city of New Orleans, Louisiana, looking out for stories the city might turn up.