Watch "Forsaken Circuit" here.
For many, adventure can be a daunting task. What looks good on paper doesn't always turn out how we hope. You get rained on, cars break down, the hotel doesn't have hot water, your funds run out before it even feels like you got started. These common bumps in the road keep many people from experiencing what there is to be had in the great wide world.
In their video "Forsaken Circuit", Alex McKenzie and Jon Sevik took the little free time they had before summer ended to make memories that will last until their next journey. Their travels are not dictated by the robotic voice of their GPS, they don't listen to the endless ramblings of a tour guide, they didn't find a treasure map in Davey Jones' locker. They found a few hard to believe locations thanks to the dense thicket of the internet and went for it. Like true explorers, the adventure did not go according to plan. And that was the point.
Where are both of you from?
Alex McKenzie stands amid the rubble of a forgotten Chinese restaurant
J: I'm originally from Maryland, and Alex is from Colorado.
A: I was originally born in Las Cruces, New Mexico and grew up in Highlands Ranch, Colorado.
When did you guys decide to start adventuring together?
J: We started our adventures when Alex moved to MD our freshman year of highschool, over six years ago at this point. We started local and found all the best spots our local city had to offer.
A: Weve been skating and been good buds for about 5 years now, but it wasnt until earlier this year in January when I decided to head up to Philly with Sevik and begin our adventures.
Your average person isn't too excited about venturing off into the unknown. What is the allure of finding these abandoned places for you?
- Jon Sevik among an impatient ghost audience
J: One of the best parts of doing this was that we didn't know what were going to find. Sure, sometimes we might have a goal of somewhere to be or something to see, but It's never as expected.
A: To me the coolest thing about exploring these forgotten structures is that, since they were abandoned, we were some of the last people to ever be there. Each place is scheduled for demolition, so you might as well go explore and appreciate the art/ beauty each one has to offer.
Have you ever had any run-ins with the wrong people? (i.e. police, security, crackheads)
J: People always think we run into police or homeless, but we actually have run into other photographers, adventurers, and locals alike at these kinds of places.
- Alex McKenzie makes sure the coast is clear
A: No run-ins with any crackheads yet, haha, but we came pretty close to getting arrested on this trip. On our last destination of the trip, we found ourselves in the largest Asian restaurant in the world. While trying to get in, we ran into an undercover cop, and he threatened to arrest us if we didnt leave ASAP. Jon and I didnt drive 4 hours out of the way for nothing, so we went back the next morning at sunrise and ended up creating a 15-foot ladder made of hay bales to climb onto the second floor and get in.
What was the hardest thing about going on a trip like this?
J: The hardest part about this trip specifically is that we are driving hours and hours to get to a location we might not be able to even get in.
A: The hardest part about going on a trip like this is getting the funding/ financial support. We camped at every location, but even then youre paying $30-40 a night for a campsite. After you realize each abandoned structure is located in a different state, you also have to account for gas. When traveling to 5-6 different states, youre looking at $250 plus in gas. After you throw food in, its close to a total of $500-600.
How often do tempers flare when traveling in close proximity?
- Jon Sevik lets out some steam
J: Luckily for this trip it was just us two, and we have known each other for awhile. It was quite easy to agree on where to go next.
A: We have been good friends for a while and realize how fortunate we are to have the opportunity to go on an adventure like this, so tempers arent a problem.
What has been your favorite place you have visited yet?
J: One of my favorite places had to be when Alex and I got into a very old church in the center of Philadelphia. The spot was just epic to stand in, especially with the history it held.
A: My favorite place was an indoor resort we visited towards the end of the trip. It was so unique and unlike any destination we had been to yet. This is the place at the beginning of the video with the indoor pool.
Have you ever had any creepy encounters? Ghosts? Ghouls? Jersey Devil?
- Alex McKenzie tests his balancing skills on a deserted swimming pool.
J: I'm glad I have not had that creepy of an encounter yet. We usually try to only go into these spots in daylight to avoid that. But I did once see a leprechaun in Alabama.
A: No ghosts, but we did visit an abandoned mental institution from the early 1900s that was used to house feeble-minded women. I got some super weird vibes there, and we didnt even get the chance to find the room with the morgue (not complaining). Our camera battery died halfway through after we got there, but we went exploring and found this building with an orange room in it; we were almost positive someone was living there.
What is the single most important thing to bring on these road trips?
- Alex McKenzie takes in the rays
J: On this trip, it was the tent. Rained in the first night and close to not getting a campsite the next. What's best to have is a great attitude on the road. We had to be extremely patient getting from location to location.
How did you discover these places?
J: I get this one a lot. A few of the spots, I'd seen pictures of or known someone who has been. Sometimes it takes hours of research and reaching out to get a location. But I usually never have enough info (security, accessibility, etc), which makes checking these places out in person dangerous yet exciting. Sometimes we pulled off the road for something we just passed or thought was in the area. This is when looking around with boards under our feet felt best: just venturing out into the unknown.
A: Jon picked the top abandoned places on the East Coast by finding them online, and we literally decided we were just going to get up and go three days later.
Do you find that skateboarding brings you to these places? Or do these places make you bring skateboarding with you?
- Alex scans the area for any glass monsters or needle equipped structure dwellers
J: We both got into skating before exploring. One time my friend Andrew and I skated an abandoned rooftop for hours. It just felt good to skate somewhere different and unique. Otangs came in handy for rolling over all kinds of surfaces and terrains, where a normal skateboard would fail.
A: These places definitely make me bring skateboarding with me.
Grossest thing you've seen out there?
- This skater and this abandoned pool brought to you by Skaterboarding
J: Most of the spots are pretty run down. I'd think the average person would consider just about every wall we saw gross, but I'm used to it. I'd say the grossest was seeing a huge pile of a hundred used needles where it looked like someone had just been there.
A: Lots of needles.
How does your family handle these adventures?
J: My family is aware. They are astounded by the shots I come back with, but I also usually don't give them details of how it was done. Some I play off like I walked up and took it when I actually had to climb though tiny windows and sketchy ladders to get to. I've yet to be arrested, so they're ok with it.
A: As long as I dont get arrested they dont mind.
What would be your most sought-after adventure in the world? What place do you feel you need to visit?
- Jon Sevik awaits his family in a forgotten 5 star resort
J: I have a couple secret locations I want to get to in person before I die. I want to skate around the old Six Flags in New Orleans that went under with Katrina. And just Europe alone has so much history compared to the states. Each country holds its own unique spots, whether I've heard of them or if I have to go find them myself.
A: Jon and I can both agree on this one: EUROPE! Theres so much more history and things to see over there.
What is the most difficult thing to overcome when you are on a trip like this?
- Alex McKenzie ready to test the waters
J: The most difficult thing would definitely be patience. There were many times I just wanted to get out and skate, but we had a schedule to stick to and had to be somewhere by sundown.
A: Fatigue/ being tired. Getting up at sunrise every day, driving 6-10 hours, sneaking into structures, exploring around, skating all day.
Pretend I'm a person who has never left his home town in his whole life and doesn't understand the motivation behind leaving and seeing scary new places. What would your advice to me be? How would you inspire someone like me to go out and find my own adventure?
- Jon Sevik checks his last candid portrait of a Giant Moth
J: I hope our video inspires you. Go skate that squiggly-ass road on Google Maps, even if it means driving an hour. Just getting out of your norm to somewhere you've never been
it's exciting. But running into things and meeting people that weren't planned is what makes life worth living. Seeing and being somewhere not many have had the chance to be (and appreciating it) really makes me happy to be alive.
A: My advice would be go online and look up crazy places that interest you. Most people dont mind not getting out, because they dont understand whats out there! If youre unhappy with your life or dealing with a rough patch, go travel!! It doesnt matter if its somewhere 20 minutes away or 20 hours away; exploring and getting out can get your mind off other things and do wonders!
Jon Sevik wonders how he got here but is thankful nonetheless