When AJ Goodrich hatched a plan to trek from his home in Venice Beach to his fiancee in New
York, making a film about LGBTI issues along the way, he had beautiful intentions.
But the husbands-to-be broke off their engagement before Goodrich ever hit the road – and long before the US Supreme Court’s legalization of gay marriage nationwide earlier this year.
However, with his crew by his side, the plucky filmmaker decided to push on. ‘What started as a journey with a grassroots political intent,’ he says, ‘transformed into a deeply personal story about love and loss, friendship, and finding your footing in the world.’
Here, in his own words, he explains the stories behind these 19 inspiring images from his journey – images that will surely make you look at the world in a different way.
1 This photo is of me, crossing the Angeles National Forest out of LA and into the desert – the beginning of my walk across the country for LGBTI rights and identity.
It was a rough first week, with steep, windy mountain roads. Blisters began to set in after the first few days of walk – and it would take some time for our bodies to adjust to the wear and tear of the road. The area had been burned badly by wildfires and we had to take a few detours due to road closures.
2 This photos is from El Mirage, California. We stumbled upon an Islamic Youth Cemetery in the middle of the Mohave Desert – people from all around the world are laid to rest here. The caretaker of the cemetery showed us around, told us some stories of people buried there, and talked to us about how, in the 12 years he’d worked there, he’d learned that life is about love – that it’s the only thing that continues after we’re gone.
3 Looking back at Flagstaff, Arizona – this was the first day of walking after we lost a crew member, who flew home to take care of her mom after she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
4 Because we were making a documentary, and had a small crew and equipment, we had a supply vehicle that followed us – a rickety old RV we dubbed ‘The Gaylennium Falcon.’ We walked a straight line, but at night would stay at RV Parks, or sometimes gas station parking lots. Every day, the RV would take us back to where we left off on foot. This photo is from Arizona, and a day that we got the Falcon stuck in the middle of the desert off a side road.
5 Here are the ruins of some Native American cliffside dwellings near El Morro, New Mexico. A Native American shaman named Standing Feather told us that the area had always been a place for multi-tribe use, because it was the first water source in a 100 miles. He also said that America is a place of great beauty, with beautiful people, but it has a low vibration – we need to remember to keep love at the center of our work, because we are all created as one.
6 This is the drag bus at a Radical Queer Commune we stayed at in New Mexico. I learned there about the Radical Faeries, and the history of queer people as agents of change in culture. ‘Create and Be Who You Are’ is a phrase that’s stuck with me since.
7 This is a ghost town near Encino, New Mexico. It’s one of my favorite photos from the journey – a lot of places in America are desolate, but there’s a beauty to it, anyway.
8 Originally, I was going to walk across the country to get married to my long-distance boyfriend in New York. He and I broke up a few months before I was supposed to leave, but I was determined to do the journey anyway. This is my engagement ring, over a road on the eastern edge of New Mexico, and is from a section of the film that details the breakup.
9 This is my best friend, Mark Metivier, crossing into the border of Texas. In total, seven people walked with me for part of the journey. Mark is the only one who made it with me from start to finish – I couldn’t have done the journey without him.
10 One of the saddest, but most common sights along the road were roadside graves and memorials. It was a good reminder: you never know what’s coming around the next bend, so live every moment to its fullest.
11 This is Hope Underwood, from Brenham, Texas. Almost everybody we met was incredibly kind, and would stop to give us food, water, and conversation. Hope invited us into her home, took us on a tour of a locally famous ice cream factory, and to the Maifest – a traditional German festival the town holds every year.
12 Here I am in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, looking at the Mississippi River. It was blocked off because, right as we reached it, there was historic flooding and the Morganza Spillway was being opened to relieve pressure. Butte La Rose, a small town in Louisiana, was wiped off the map as a result of the flood.
13 This is Matt Chester in Biloxi, Mississippi. Matt is a firefighter and cab driver in New Orleans – after meeting us, he decided to take time off work and walked with us nearly 300 miles into Alabama.
14 Here’s the crew – myself, Mike Cox, and Mark Metivier, in Atlanta, Georgia. We walked the 26 miles around the entire Atlanta Beltline in a day – the Beltline is former rail corridor circumnavigating the city. It’s being converted into walking paths and parks.
We rescued our dog, Sonny, off the side of a busy highway in Alabama. He was sick and skinny, and I think had been abused or mistreated. I don’t think he would have made it much longer if we hadn’t found him. We tried calling local animal shelters, and took him to the vet to see if he had a chip in him, but nobody was looking for him. We fell in love with him, and he came with us the rest of the way.
15 This photo is of Mark and Andy, from the crew, with a worker at the ‘Clothier Shoppe’ in colonial Charlottesville, Virginia. She was more than happy to let us goof around with the Civil War outfits, and told us her own story of how she’d come to work there after the death of her child, who was multiply-handicapped and wasn’t supposed to survive birth, but had lived 13 years. She said that the most important thing in life is to live a life with purpose and dignity, and to find joy in each moment.
16 Here’s Andy Pacheco interviewing a mom and her daughter against the Washington Monument in D.C. Andy was a last minute replacement for a cameraman who had a heart attack in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. He finished the trip with us. He’s also a brilliant musician, and with his band Ugly, Ugly Words has composed over half the music for the film.
17 This next photo is from the New Jersey Buddhist Vihara Center in Princeton, New Jersey, on one of the last days of the walk. It’s the tallest Buddha statue in the United States. I happened to find it walking down a busy state road: I saw something white glowing through the trees in the distance and decided to check it out. I talked to one of the Buddhists who worked there; he told me that one of the most important things in life is to try to listen to other people, and understand them before passing judgment.
19 And here’s the main poster for our film. The walk took eight months. The editing process has taken four years, but we’re almost done and planning to submit to festivals for 2016. It’s a beautiful and deeply personal film with a message about LGBTI identity, discovering the true nature of love, and the importance of human connection. The final stage of post-production are costly, though – and we cannot do it on our own. We’ve started a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to raise funds to help us finish the journey.
For more information about The Road Less Traveled By, view the below trailer, or visit the official website by clicking here.