With help from Alaskans, traveler gets visa to finish ‘Hasta Alaska’ adventure
The man who calls himself Ben Jamin, has spent the last seven years traveling the world. But perhaps his biggest adventure yet started when he bought an old Volkswagen Kombi bus in Chile, with the intention of driving it all the way north to Prudhoe Bay and documenting it for the world with videos posted to social media in a series called, “Hasta Alaska.”
In four years on the road, traveling more than 50,000 miles, he hit plenty of bumps along the way. The engine had to be removed and rebuilt 10 times. Once he finally arrived in Alaska, the bus broke down again in Haines.
The trip took so long, his visa was going to expire before he could finish his journey. So he left the bus in Alaska, and his trusty companion — his dog named Alaska — in Canada, and returned home to Jersey, an island off the coast of France to request an extension on his visa.
But the U.S. Embassy in London said no.
“Because I’ve been away for so long, they think that I’ve cut ties and am now a threat to U.S. immigration and I might actually try to live in the states,” he told KTVA during an interview over Skype in February.
Devastated and desperate, he turned to his more than 20,000 Facebook followers for help.
“Alaska has been in the title of my show, it’s the name of my dog , and it’s been in my mind for four years, ‘You must get to Alaska!’ and so I just have to see it,” he said. “I need to know what this is that’s been pulling me there.”
His followers, including Alaskans answered the call. In a recent video posted to his Facebook page, Ben said the U.S. Embassy in Vancouver granted him a 10-year visa. He thanked his followers for sharing the story and calling their lawmakers, and also mentioned U.S. Rep. Don Young.
KTVA reached out to Young’s office to find out what role he played in getting Ben the visa. His press secretary said Alaskans reached out to the congressman, and while it was a little unusual to get a request like this for a non-U.S. citizen, Rep. Young relayed the information to the Department of State on Ben’s behalf.
To make a happy ending even sweeter, he’s been reunited with his dog, Alaska, and she’ll be by his side when he finally ends his journey north.
And he’s already met his next challenge. In an email Tuesday, he told KTVA the bus caught on fire due to an electrical fault in storage. Now he’s on his way with a trailer to pick up the bus. He plans to take it to Vancouver to get it fixed, and then set out to finish his trip.
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