Let’s just cut straight to the point- who doesn’t like vacations? After all, for most of us, we work to enjoy those holidays even more- if possible. And back in 2015, Jonny Wheeler of Clinton showed the world that maybe work and vacation could go hand in hand. It has been 7 years since that revelation, and Wheeler doesn’t seem to stop! This genius has been sharing with other individuals how biking can be immensely fun. Interestingly, he has increased the tourism of the Connecticut River Valley- for it does serve as a great place to ride. His name isn’t a pun- but guess fate works in mysterious ways. And before you start surfing the net for this individual, he also goes by the name of Benedict. And lest we forget, he has a stage name- Ultra Romance. Why? We will definitely get into that.
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This certified madman/genius has subtly rejected the entire capitalist structure of ‘all work and no play’. This has led to him following in the footsteps of Alexander Supertram in Into The Wild. Benedict, Johnny Wheeler, or Ultra Romance (Call him what you will) is a part-time fishing guide for his father’s boat in Connecticut. He works there for about six months every year. For the rest of the year, he bicycles the world over spending as little as $10 every day. Benedict has just a single bank account- which he maintains to buy bicycle parts. The rest of his cash goes into plastic bags. He thinks- or rather, he thought back in 2015, that he could live comfortably on a sum of $10k a year. In the era of rising inflation rates- one wonders if that is still possible.
From Civilization To A Primordial State of Existence- The Story Of The Vacationing ‘Ultra Romance’
Speaking to Business Insider in 2015, Wheeler stated, “I went to college and got the degree and was trying to… do the hustle right out of college. Then it was like, I gotta get a house. I’m 24, I got all these student loans… Before you know it, things work out and you meet the right girl and you settle down and buy the house and have the mortgage payment and the cars. But ultimately, that was not going to be me. I don’t like to work. I like to ride my bike and I like to camp… I’m not going to spend the best years of my life doing something completely meaningless.”
This is when Benedict turned his life into a 21st-century replica of the hunter-gatherers. He believes that they spent 9 hours a week to get everything that they wanted. “The rest was all leisure time. This is what’s natural to us. Paperwork and bills don’t work for me. They were a big stressor in my life.” So he completely got rid of corporate life. Taking a step further, he pieced himself a bike and hit the road, hard.
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Johnny had a six-year grace period before him, where he completely shifted his life around. He also managed to find the perfect work/play balance. And to be frank, his lifestyle would have demanded such a compromise. The urban nomad is also not into budgeting but realizes that since he hasn’t gone without money- he must be doing something right. “I don’t think too far into the future[…] I have no real goal. I just ride. It’s riding, setting up a hammock, taking a siesta, and chilling out.”
In the beginning, it was all about gathering a group of cyclists at the gazebo for a mini vacation. The troupe would do a round of Chester on dirt roads, after which they would stop at Otto for pizza, wine, and beer. The tour would start at 6 pm Tuesday and would end by 11.30 pm. These rides attracted large swathes of individuals- all the way from 19 years to 50 years.
This started on his 35th birthday, and since people loved it so much, he decided to make it a weekly event. “It’s a way to meet like-minded individuals. It’s a social ride, we just take our time. A lot of people ride bikes with sturdy tires- that’s their fitness regimen. I’m all about going to the grocery store about 30 miles away. I want to promote a more relax-centric form of biking- less emphasis on speed, more emphasis on coming out and enjoying the spinning wheels, good friends, good food, and making coffee on the way.” Who knew that this would turn out to be a major lifestyle for Ultra Romance?
What Started As A Weekly Event Turned Into A Passion Project
Back in 2015, he spoke fondly about the Tuesday night bike rides. “There are lots of really cool dirt roads that I really like showing people. I try to stay away from the asphalt as much as possible.” Wheeler truly understood the biking way of life- as it was an obsession for him ever since he was a kid and had his first bicycle. “It’s a lifelong addiction. The coolest thing to do was ride your bike to school. I always had a thing against cars, motors in general. I never owned a car, got my license when I was 25. Not recommended that I use it.
The man takes perennial vacations and is definitely in for the long haul. “We have this preconceived notion of what success is in the modern world. I’m not ashamed that I don’t like to work. It’s just very unnatural.” And while he might have been simply looking for a really interesting way of approaching life, he certainly caught the attention of several fitness magazines. In the July 2015 issue of the Bicycling Magazine, he was the cover model. This, to him, was a victory. For he considered that this was a move by the bicycling community to move beyond simply celebrating the destination. This, to him, signified that the community had started valuing the ride even more. “It’s a big deal that they put a shirtless guy on the cover with a bunch of touring equipment.”
The nomadic, vacation-filled life certainly agrees with him. “I’ve never lived in one place longer than six months since I left high school. I love being able to pack everything on my bike, and just go. I’ve made a lot of friends along the way.”
Oh, and before we forget, let’s get back to the name ‘Ultra Romance’. There are a few possible theories as to why Benedict/Johnny Wheeler calls himself that. Some believe that the vacationing nomad was almost settling down with a woman before he broke free- which is where the name comes from. Or, it could also be the fact that he spends roving the world with another woman. Or, and this could be the most plausible theory- his life is a big adventure. And one can assume that the adventure is devastatingly romantic.
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- “35-year-old American who thinks modern life is too stressful works 6 months a year, then lives on $10 a day adventuring around the world on a bicycle.” Business Insider. Daniel McMahon. July 25, 2015.
- ” Clinton cyclist Jonny Wheeler puts simplicity, fun back into biking.” NH Register. Valerie Bannister. July 31, 2015.
- “Ultra Romance: This Man Left a Normal Life Behind to Find Adventure.” Bicycling. Ian Dille. July 2015.
- “ultraromance.” Instagram