Walking on the side of a highway is a man trudging through the grass with an eight-foot 2-by-4 on his shoulders. Four bags and some bike wheels dangle from either end, resembling a perfectly balanced scale of justice.
Just a few days prior, with 200 miles to go on a bike trip from Maryland to Knoxville, Tennessee, Piotr Kuszynski’s bike frame snapped in half. But nothing would stop the Polish CrossFit athlete from reaching the Syndicate Crown Semifinal, where he was expected to volunteer in just a few weeks.
So he trudged on.
For the last decade, Kuszynski has traveled the world on his scooter bike. He has experienced everything from typhoons in the Philippines to bears in Canada. He has worked in Turkey and lived in the Philippines. He didn't stay in hotels or plan his meals. Everything was spontaneous. Setting up a tent each night and stowing it away on his bike the following morning, every day was a new adventure.
"To be honest, I don't even know where I am going to sleep (the) same day at 10 p.m. I'll start worrying (about that) at 10:30," he said. "But that's what makes me so excited about this type of traveling. I never know what will happen tomorrow."
Four years ago, when Kuszynski returned home to Poland after a bike trip around the Philippines, he met up with a friend, Maciej Maciejewski, who took him along to a fitness competition featuring local CrossFit athletes.
"I appeared there by accident, but I fell in love," Kuszynski said. "I saw these athletes, these emotions … they don't have weakness."
Watching the athletes compete sparked a flashback in Kuszynski's mind to when he wanted to be a professional basketball player. His dream of going pro had fizzled away after high school after he realized how difficult it was to make it to that stage. So he turned his focus to travel instead. But in CrossFit, he saw an opportunity. An opportunity to succeed no matter his age or talent — and continue traveling to boot.
"I felt like something was missing. I wasn't interested in just traveling like before. … I was jealous of the people who could compete and were athletes," Kuszynski said. "I was in between the worlds, being an athlete and being a traveler."
From that moment, he started a new lifestyle, one that would combine athletics and traveling. Kuszynski would drop into CrossFit gyms around the world along his routes. His new goal was to ride 10,000 km by scooter bike and visit 100 CrossFit boxes around the world in one year.
Kuszynski started his next journey in October 2021, a trip that would take him through Europe, to Columbia, and across the coast of the United States, starting in Miami and ending in Los Angeles before returning to Poland to recharge for his next trip. One hot day while he was in Columbia, he started to rethink the tropical weather of Florida. His finger landed on the outline of New York on the world map, and he booked a flight.
In March 2022, Kuszynski landed in New York with a plan to bike to Seattle, Washington, but a month later, after spending some time in New York and calculating the miles and days it would take to get to Washington, Kuszynski diverted to Maryland.
On April 22, 2022, Kuszynski found himself in 12 Labours CrossFit, the home of Wilson Pak and Luke Espe, who were getting ready to hold two of CrossFit's Semifinal events: the Syndicate Crown and the Mid-Atlantic CrossFit Challenge. Pak was at the gym the day Kuszynski stepped through the doors, and after hearing his story, he asked where Kuszynski was headed next.
"As long as I can keep working out, I don't care," Kuszynski replied.
To which Pak countered, "Why not Knoxville?"
Kuszynski decided to change his course once again and bike the 524 miles to Knoxville, Tennessee, to volunteer at the Syndicate Crown and the Mid-Atlantic CrossFit Challenge.
12 Labours CrossFit provided Kuszynski with two new pairs of NOBULL shoes to replace his pair that had two gaping holes and sent him on his way. He had just four weeks to get to the Knoxville Civic Coliseum.
Three hundred miles in, the trip turned for the worst, after his bike frame snapped. So, Kuszynski created his own contraption that resembled a barbell to carry his gear and remaining bike parts on his back.
"I went like this for days, just for a challenge," he said.
Two days went by before Kuszynski was forced to ditch his bike and find a nearby shopping cart, pushing his gear on foot and continuing on.
A few days before the Syndicate Crown competition, Kuszynski arrived at another CrossFit box — Boom Town CrossFit — which was almost a four-hour drive to the venue. It so happened that one of the members was getting ready to head to Knoxville the very next day. So, Kuszynski caught a ride to the event just in time.
Kuszynski stayed in Knoxville for the next few weeks, volunteering on the equipment crew for both the Syndicate Crown and Mid-Atlantic CrossFit Challenge Semifinals. He met athletes who had inspired him to continue dropping into CrossFit gyms around the world. He ate lunch with Mat Fraser, sat in the same room as Rich Froning, and gave Justin Medeiros a high five as he exited the competition floor. Fate brought him to Knoxville, he said, and it will forever leave a mark on his memory.
At the beginning of June, Kuszynski caught a flight home to Poland to go back to work as a kitesurfing instructor to fund his next big adventure. This time, he wants to start in Los Angeles and make his way to Cookeville, Tennessee, to drop into CrossFit Mayhem.
"If I hadn't had a hole in my shoe … if I had 10 more dollars in my account, then perhaps I would have stayed elsewhere other than at 1214 CrossFit. … If it had rained for a moment shorter the next day … if my friend's brother would have written back to me that day on WhatsApp … maybe I would be in Cleveland right now, maybe Detroit, but not Knoxville for sure," Kuszynski said in an Instagram post. "The very breaking of the (bike) frame, although unpleasant and complicated, changed (my trip) the least."
Video by Lindsey Miller