'One Life, One Chance' captures quintet's amazing journey through New Zealand

vmannix@bradenton.comFebruary 21, 2012 

PALMETTO -- Their names are Jesse Albritton, Ian Joiner, Josh Ross, Eric Stinson and Ryan Williams, 20-something Palmetto bachelors who did what most of us can only dream about.

They bagged their jobs and took off to see the world in 2009.

Or as much as they could afford to see in about six months.

It’s all there in Williams’ rollicking new book, “One Life, One Chance -- The Chronicles of Our Adventure-cation,” published by Sarasota’s Peppertree Press. There will be a book signing at 3 p.m. Saturday at McCabe’s Irish Pub.

“We always did these 4-5-6-day surf trips -- Nicaragua, Venezuela, the Bahamas -- seeing new cultures, new places, we loved it,” said the 27-year-old itinerant ballplayer and former University of Tampa outfielder. “But it seemed wherever we went, when we’d leave we didn’t have a long enough time. We wanted to stay. Finally we decided we need to go somewhere for as long as we possibly can.”

Somewhere really far away.

Like New Zealand.

For a guy who likes to travel -- Williams plays baseball in Germany -- he did a double-take when that destination came up.

“Eric and Jeff got the idea, but it took some time for the rest of us to agree to it. New Zealand? Wow!” Williams said. “We all got one-way tickets. We wanted to stay until we had to come home.”

Some people thought they were crazy.

Not their parents.

Like Ray and Vicki Williams.

“We encouraged it,” said Ray Williams, 55, and a Palmetto High School alum like his son. “When I was his age I was married and had two kids. So I’m glad he did it. I said if you don’t do it, 20 years from now you’ll look back and say you wish you had.”

Different members of the quintet spent varying lengths of time abroad -- one stayed four months, two stayed eight -- also visiting Australia, Fiji, Indonesia, Malaysia and European en route to America.

But they all spent three months in New Zealand.

“I’ve been to 19-20 countries and New Zealand is the most beautiful by far,” Ryan Williams said.

What was also nice was the fact the exchange rate worked in the quintet’s favor. Plus, they were able to buy a van and stretch their money further.

“We surfed day in and day out, bounced from town to town to find the best waves,” Williams said. “We slept in the van, camped on the beach and the woods. We met families who took us in, fed us and helped make the trip last longer.”

Not that there wasn’t some privation, especially toward the end when the funds were low.

“By one point we were eating one meal a day,” he said. “I lost 25 pounds on the trip, but would not trade it for anything.”

The trip not only broadened his horizons, but it helped his outlook on life.

“People there were easy going, nice as they could be,” Williams said. “No worries, no cares, no reason to stress out over small things. Seeing these other cultures was eye-opening and makes me realize sweating the small things is not worth it. There’s too much to enjoy in life.”

Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7055.

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