Roadtrip Nation’s Willie Witte: Lessons from the Road

Willie Witte IMG_5672 (003)

Roadtrip Nation is sending three students on a cross-country road trip to interview inspiring people who have overcome struggles of all kinds to complete their education beyond high school. The Beating the Odds Roadtrip, fueled by ACT Center for Equity in Learning with advisory support from Better Make Room, hits the road later this summer. We’re excited to have Roadtrip Nation’s Video Creative Director Willie Witte talk to us about his experiences on the road with the road-trippers, including what he’s learned, his “fountain of youth,” and . . . pig wrestling. Get a sneak peek of life on the road from Willie, in advance of the documentary film about the journey, which will arrive in 2018.

What makes the Beating the Odds Roadtrip different from your other road trips?

The Beating the Odds Roadtrip will take us into some new and powerfully important territory. We’ll be showcasing the inspiring examples of young people who’ve been dealt a difficult hand in life, but didn’t let hardships or struggles stop them from getting an education and achieving their dreams. Our incredible team of road-trippers will be on the search for wisdom, guidance, and advice from others who have walked these roads. We’ll be exploring stories from underserved and low-income communities, first-generation college students, foster youth, immigrants, and more. Their raw, unfiltered life stories will shed light on what it actually takes to overcome the obstacles life throws your way. It’s going to get real. You’ll probably want some tissues nearby when you watch the film, but expect to walk away inspired by these awesome examples of hard work and resilience.

What have you learned from watching road-trippers go through the process?

This is an awesome question, because after nearly a decade with Roadtrip Nation, I’m still as fired up as I was on day one—and a major factor is how exciting it is to work with our road-trippers year after year. Capturing their stories never gets old because they always come from such dynamically different backgrounds and make the Roadtrip Nation experience their own. The main thing I’ve learned is the value of staying curious, allowing yourself to be vulnerable, and remaining open to new thoughts and ideas. Exploring the country with new groups of road-trippers every year has been a sort of fountain of youth for me, because I’ve learned that finding yourself isn’t only for people in their early twenties—the process of defining your road in life is never-ending.

What’s the most exciting thing about a road trip?

Getting the chance to explore, get outside of your comfort zone, expand your horizons, and see beyond what you know. I grew up in somewhat of a bubble in a small, rural town in Idaho. My early experiences with Roadtrip Nation were critical in broadening my perspective and helping me get to know myself better. Since then, I’ve learned that most people live in a bubble of some kind. The most exciting and most valuable thing a road trip can offer is the opportunity to be exposed to new places, new ideas about the world, new insights about yourself, and new possibilities for your life. That, and some really great food…

What’s the most surprising thing that’s ever happened on a trip?

Every day is a surprise! It’s impossible to choose just one. On two separate occasions I’ve pulled over for the night and woken up to find the RV literally surrounded by a herd of grazing cattle. On another trip, after spending a few nights parked in a nice Washington, D.C., neighborhood, we were approached by the Secret Service—turns out we’d been sleeping in front of Joe Biden’s house! But perhaps my favorite road surprise of all time came when we pulled into Jackson Hole, Wyoming, one afternoon. At a stoplight, the car next to us shouted, “Y’all headed to the pig wrestling?” We ended up following them and spending an unforgettable evening watching brave locals attempt to wrangle greased-up pigs in a mud pit. Over the years, I’ve learned to wake up each morning and let go of any illusion that I know what’s in store for me that day. At a certain point, you learn to just roll with it and enjoy whatever the road sends your way.

Willie Witte’s business card reads “Professional Roadtripper.” Seriously, it does. With more than 50,000 miles clocked in Roadtrip Nation’s Green RV, he has now set foot in 49 of the 50 United States. (Someday he’ll make it to North Dakota!) More importantly, as a cameraman for the Roadtrip Nation television series, and now video creative director, he has been behind the lens for nearly 200 interviews with inspiring people from all walks of life.

Join us, Roadtrip Nation, and Better Make Room on Wednesday, July 12, from 2:00 p.m.-3:30 p.m., ET; 1:00 p.m.-2:30 p.m., CT; and 11:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m., PT to learn more about the trip and meet the three Beating the Odds road-trippers when they take over the @ACTEquity, @RoadtripNation, and @BetterMakeRoom Twitter accounts. Follow along and participate in the conversation by using the hashtag #BTORoadtrip.